While it was the cultural and historical sites that first attracted me to Burma, since then I’ve discovered that there’s a world of amazing scenery there too. So, today I’m going to focus not on the destinations that are the most significant in terms of the country’s past or people, but on places that are the most aesthetically appealing – though admittedly these often overlap.
In my opinion, all of the below are must-visits on your holiday to Burma, but I appreciate you might not be able to get to them all! Booking yourself on to a well-organised tour will certainly help, but if you really can’t see every single one then you can, of course, simply select whatever appeals to you the most.
Topping my list is the exquisite Inle Lake. This shimmering body of tranquil water is surrounded by ruggedly beautiful hills and, perhaps most scenically still, is dotted with stilt villages and floating gardens.
Stay here for a few days you can look forward to enjoying some of Burma’s most tranquil landscapes. Plus, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the locals’ unique one-legged rowing style, as well as visit a monastery where the monks have trained resident cats to jump through hoops!
You’ll find Pindaya close to Inle Lake, and it’s most famous for the stunning Pindaya Caves. Before I talk about those, though, I’d just like to point out that it’s well worth taking some time to explore the town itself, and to admire Pone Ta Iote Lake, which it sits next to (as a quick tip, Shwe U Min Cave offers the best views of the latter).
The caves themselves are just as pretty, being beautifully lit and home to an incredible 8,000 (ish) Buddha statues, all of which vary massively in terms of size and style. Plus, they’re made from lots of different materials, including marble, gold and silver.
Bagan is probably my favourite scenic landscape in Burma, even though what dazzles me is man-made rather than a natural wonder. Home to around 4,400 temples and stupas, Bagan is an ancient city, crumbling in places, that has an irresistible magic about it.
Perhaps it’s because of the sheer volume of buildings clustered in such a small space (just 26 sq km for all those temples!). Perhaps, though, it’s the fact that they are so wonderfully varied, or that the whole place has a quiet, peaceful atmosphere that’s such a stark – and welcome! – contrast to the crowded tourist attractions we’re all used to.
Burma might not exactly be a renowned beach destination, but that’s not to say there aren’t some seriously scenic stretches of sand here. One of the best is Ngapali Beach, which is on the gorgeous Bay of Bengal in the Rakhine State. In my opinion, this is everything you’d want a beach to be – think impossibly clear waters, white sand and pretty little fishing villages dotted close by.
Last on my list is Shwedagon Paya, which is in the former capital, Yangon. Like Bagan, this temple provides a stunning vista of the man-made variety – but it’s still one of the most impressive you’ll see while you’re here.
This golden stupa sits atop a hill, where it glitters at all hours of the day. Encrusted with precious gems, it is said to be the oldest stupa in the world, and it really does have to be seen to be believed.
Burma has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in culture, wilderness, architecture or beaches, you can find it all here in this fantastic country.
For more information on travelling to Burma, check out our Budget Backpacking Guide To Burma.