Myanmar seems to be the next rising destination in Asia. It has been on many people’s tongues lately for many reasons, but one of them – tourism. Officially Myanmar (previously Burma) opened its borders to tourists only in 2013, which makes it a mystical and a very new destination. We have created this 2 weeks in Myanmar itinerary for the adventurous, history and nature geeks and all passionate travelers. With Myanmar impressions fresh in our memory, let’s plan your best Myanmar trip! If you have less than 2 weeks in Myanmar, or even more than 2 weeks in Myanmar, we have a plan for that too! Stick around!
In this post
- 1 What to Know Before You Go to Myanmar
- 2 2 Weeks in Myanmar – The Itinerary
- 3 Off the Beaten Path Myanmar Trip – Itinerary Variations
- 4 Summary
What to Know Before You Go to Myanmar
It is very easy to apply for Myanmar E-Visa online! It costs $50 sharp and takes roughly 3 working days to process. We applied for the E-Visa a bit late but got it within 12 hours. Luckily! However, it is better to apply in time to be sure you are ready to board your flight stress-free. You can apply for the e-visa as early as 90 days prior to your arrival in Myanmar. Your visa application requires a registered hotel address, so make sure you are staying at an official hotel with a business license. Print the E-Visa, a digital version will not work. Also, have a return ticket on your phone, to prove you are not planning to stay in Myanmar.
Vaccines Required for Myanmar
There are no mandatory vaccines required for Myanmar. However, food and water sanitation is not the biggest worry for the Burmese so you should get a Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccine just to be sure. Many of us have had these vaccines when we were little, so check – perhaps you already have it. If not, do not drink tap water, do not even brush teeth with tap water and don’t wash your fruit in tap water. Do not drink iced drinks if you cannot confirm that the ice is not clean and be careful with the foods you choose.
Malaria and Dengue fever risk is present in Myanmar, yet mostly only in the jungle areas. Make sure to use mosquito repellant day and night, as Dengue carrying mosquitos are especially active during the day. There are no vaccines for these mosquito-borne illnesses (we do not mention anti-malarials on purpose as those are very bad for your body, taken long term).
Safety in Myanmar
Myanmar is very safe for tourists. We heard from some locals that there is a non-written law which makes tourists untouchable (in a sense that tourists should not be treated badly). As we were explained, tourism is very important to Burmese people as a great source of at least some extra income, thus tourists are very welcomed and greatly taken care of. Obviously, the “law” should be taken with a grain of salt, but rest assured that Myanmar is a really safe place to travel. There are strict no-entry zones around the border areas with China and India, but no tourist would want to go there anyway.
Travel Insurance in Myanmar
Make sure to get good travel insurance before visiting Myanmar. In case of an emergency, you will be taken to one of the few private clinics which are quite expensive. It’s better to travel with peace of mind. Just fill in the details to get your quote!
2 Weeks in Myanmar – The Itinerary
Yangon – 2 Days
Yangon is the cheapest city to fly into, the other major airport being in Mandalay. There are flights as cheap as $40 from Bangkok, Singapore , and Kuala Lumpur , so make sure to check the latest AirAsia deals.
Yangon is a great place to start your 2 weeks in Myanmar itinerary at. Contrary to what many say, there is some great food to be found in Yangon and Burmese cuisine is not as bland as it is painted. Make sure to drop your bags at the hotel and go explore the city. Depending on what time you arrive in Yangon make sure to do these things in Yangon on the day of your arrival and the next day before heading to the night bus to Bagan:
Visit Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda is the center of the city. It is also one of the most beautiful Pagodas in Yangon. Apparently, the Sule Pagoda was built more than 2,600 years ago and is an important point in contemporary Burmese politics, ideology, and geography. The Pagoda is located as centrally as possible so it is impossible to miss it and not to pay the Sule Pagoda a short visit.
Go on a Street Food Hawl
Remember, we just boldly overturned the theory that Yangon has no street food. It does! And its pretty good and mind-blowingly cheap. Visit Old Yay Tar Shay street before heading to Shwedagon Pagoda (close to Shwedagon Pagoda East Gate) and indulge in Samosa Salad, Savoury Chickpea crepes, Mohinga or just a simple fruit juice.
Another place to enjoy a huge BBQ cooked right in front of you or deep fried sweet and savory pastries is Sule Night Market. Also, the location is pretty convenient as the market is right next to Sule Pagoda at the very city center.
Tip: Always examine the street food stall before ordering depending on these criteria:
- Are the locals eating there? ✓ or ✗
- Is the vendor using gloves? ✓ or ✗
- Are the veggies and fruit washed and the ice clean? ✓ or ✗
- Is the food prepared fresh in front of you? ✓ or ✗
- The overall looks and feel of the place? ✓ or ✗
Visit Shwedagon Pagoda
This Pagoda is actually a huge religious complex (one of the most important ones in Myanmar) consisting of many Stupas and smaller religious buildings. The entrance costs 10,000 kyats or $9 / EUR 8. At first, the entrance price seems a bit steep compared to other tourism sites around Myanmar, however, the money is used to renovate and maintain the Pagoda. Make sure to visit Shwedagon Pagoda around sunset time as then, you will be able to catch the best light for the photos as well as see the main Stupa being lit up in beautiful golden colors as the night falls.
Explore the Kandawgyi Lake
Probably the most stunning destination in Yangon is Kandawgyi Lake. From afar the architectural masterpiece floating on the lake (Karaweik Hall) looks like a huge barge, however, it is more than that. Inside the Karaweik Hall, you will find traditional Burmese entertainment and buffet. You can enjoy different cuisines while watching a puppet show, traditional Burmese dances or the elephant dance. During the night the Karaweik Hall is beautifully lit up and you can even see the Shwedagon Pagoda from it.
Shop at the Colorful Bogyoke Market
Bogyoke Market is a huge bazaar popular among tourists. It has it all, antiques, fabrics, souvenirs, clothing, food, Burmese handicrafts, and jewellery. The market is recognizable by its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. The prices are always negotiable and you know the old saying “If you want to learn more about the country, visit its markets”.
Book a Night Bus to Bagan
After exploring Yangon and getting the first taste of Myanmar make sure to book a night bus to your next destination – Bagan. The bus ride takes roughly 9 hours and costs anything between $8 to $14, depending on the time and the comfort level of the bus. We recommend booking 2 + 1 seat VIP bus, which will have a blanket, water, a snack and sometimes a screen with movies and almost fully reclinable chairs. The bus company and agency you choose is not that important, just google “bus ticket” and go to one of the selling points to purchase your ticket!
Bagan – 4 Days
Bagan will be the highlight of your 2 weeks in Myanmar and probably the reason everyone wants to visit this gorgeous country in the first place. And, oh my, we had never seen anything like that before. At first, we thought that Angkor Wat in Cambodia is something absolutely unbelievable, but then we visited Bagan. We strongly recommend spending 4 Days in Bagan as there are so many Temples, Stupas and Pagodas to see (more than 2,500 buildings to be precise) and only as many sunrises and sunsets as you can get to enjoy the best views. Here’s what you have to do in Bagan:
Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Sunrise
How can you spend 2 weeks in Myanmar and not include the famous hot air balloon ride over Bagan? It will be the experience of a lifetime! We always advise you with the best prices and how to save on different occasions, but the hot air balloon ride is worth a little splurge! Usually the price is around $300 dollars, and if you have the budget to spare we encourage you take the ride! If not, watch the balloons taking off and painting the sunrise landscape from the ground and take amazing pictures with temples and balloons in the background!
Exploring the Temples of Bagan
Let us blow your mind – there are more than 2000 temples in Bagan! So visiting the best of them takes time! Thus, we allocated 4 days for Bagan as you want to make use of all the sunsets and sunrises and explore as many temples as you can! The temples vary in size starting from huge 3 story temples with multiple entrances and gardens as well as walls around and finishing with 2m high round stupas. If you have visited other destinations in Asia you know what “overwhelmed by temples” means. However, somehow in Bagan, you cannot get enough of them. There is some magic to this place. Sit tight as we are releasing our Bagan Temple Guide soon, for all the best sunset, sunrise and photo spots and the best times to visit them!
Rent an E-Bike and Cruise Around
Motorbike use by foreigners is banned in Bagan due to several accidents that have happened over the years. At first we thought it is a conscious environmental move, but … locals ride all the motorized vehicles possible, so – not really. The e-bikes are so simple to ride, so smooth and so cheap! A full day rental will set you back 8000 kyats (EUR 6 / $7) and the battery of an e-bike lasts the whole day. It is certainly easier to ride an e-bike than a motorbike and it is slower, safer and somehow feels very smooth. (Perhaps because it runs without making a sound.) Rentals are open as early as 5 am and close late you can easily rent a bike before sunrise, go explore and return it after sunrise so the renter can put it to charge overnight.
We highly recommend getting your e-bike from Bagan Sun Travel, as well as your bus tickets and whatever else you might need! We befriended the owner and he is a very smart, young man. He was very nice to us and he knows the best sunset and sunrise spots around Bagan!
This is the main local market of the town and is located right in the downtown of Nyaung-U. The market is mostly local meat, fish, vegetables, and spices. You cannot find many souvenirs here, however, it’s well worth a visit in the early morning. The market is another great place to observe local life and also a great place for street photography.
Visit Ancient Minnanthu Village
The village is very close to Bagan, roughly 10 minutes away with the e-bike. In the village, you can see the locals making handicrafts and souvenirs to sell in front of Pagodas and observe the traditional sesame and peanut oil making process. If you do not have plans to visit any other of the small villages around Myanmar, make sure to visit at least Minnanthu Village. It’s so close to Bagan that it would be a shame to skip it!
Mandalay – 2 Days
Mandalay has to be one of our favorite cities in Myanmar and to be honest, we prefer Mandalay over Yangon. However, every traveler has a different opinion and we were not surprised to hear that some people did not enjoy Mandalay that much but headed straight for nature and history sights in Myanmar. Well, look at what Mandalay has to offer and decide how many days of your 2 week Myanmar itinerary you should spend in Mandalay.
Day 1 – Roadtrip Outside Mandalay
U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in Mandalay. The bridge is 1.2 km long and was built in 1850. Interestingly, it is considered the oldest teakwood bridge in the world! It was once the longest one as well! Depending on the season the water level might be high and you can only cross the bridge. However, if the water level is low (dry season) you can walk under the bridge and explore the small islands and even a sunflower garden under the bridge. Then you can cross to the other side with a motorbike as well. You can watch locals fishing and leisurely passing their days. We recommend visiting during sunset as then you can capture some amazing pictures.
Aung Myae Oo Monastic School
We found this Monastic School by accident while looking for another Pagoda to visit. We took the wrong turn and were greeted by countless young monks in pink robes. In Myanmar, monks wear pink robes, unlike the orange robes that are seen across Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We walked into the Monastic School to see how the young monks live and learn a bit about their education. The school is filled with laughter, energy and little monks are very open to greet tourists. If the Aung Myae Oo Monastic School is on the way, make sure to visit it and learn a bit about the religios education in Myanmar.
The giant rock. Full stop. Mingun Pahtodawgyi is a giant rock. Okay, okay, it looks like a giant rock from afar but actually, Mingun Pahtodawgyi is an incomplete stupa. It is remains of an intentionally abandoned project of King Bodawpaya, he was famous for his eccentric actions. He used many slaves and war prisoners as builders and somehow came to the conclusion that if the stupa will be finished, he will die. So, among many other reasons, this was one of the most important ones to stop the building process. An earthquake in 1839 caused the huge rock to crack so it is quite an interesting place to visit on your way to Hsinbyume Pagoda.
Our Mandalay highlight and the most well know location among tourists coming to Mandalay is Hsinbyume Pagoda. Its popularity probably comes from the many Instagram pictures shot here. And, indeed, Hsinbyume Pagoda is very picturesque. This Pagoda is the furthest destination from Mandalay on a day trip around Mandalay. Even though it is only 10 km outside the city, you have to take the longer road as there is no direct river crossing. The great white Pagoda is made as a physical symbol of the Buddhist mythological mountain – Mount Meru.
After visiting Hsinbyume Pagoda head back to Mandalay for dinner at Aye Myit Tar or Shan Ma ma, both of which rate very highly in Mandalay as amazingly good budget places to eat at! You won’t spend more than $8 for two for a generous, filling dinner. (Look at the Google pictures and you’ll know what we mean.)
Day 2 – Things to See in Mandalay
Kuthodaw Pagoda is yet another Buddhist stupa, however, this one is special. It contains the world’s largest book. Now you probably are thinking, “Guys, what?”, let us explain. In Kuthodaw Pagoda you can find hundreds of shrines housing inscribed marble slabs and several pavilions. There are 729 marble slabs to be precise and they all are inscribed with Buddhist teachings. The teachings are inscribed in old Burmese and it would take years to go through and read them all. Also, the Kuthodaw Pagoda is located right at the base of the Mandalay Hill so you cannot miss it.
Sanda Muni Pagoda
Sanda Mundi Pagoda is located right next to Kuthodaw Pagoda and is distinguishable by its darker white marble slabs and considerably fewer visitors. However, we still think it is well worth a visit. It houses the largest iron Buddha image. Entrance in Kuthodaw Pagoda is free, however, entrance in Sanda Muni Pagoda is $5.
Mandalay Hill is a must for the sunset! And as it is so conveniently located right next to the other points of interest it’s easy to end your day with a beautiful sunset here. The hill is 230 m high and offers a beautiful view over the city. As you climb up you will pass Su Taung Pyi Pagoda and will see the beautiful view of the city rise from behind the trees step by step. Mandalay Hill is a very special and sacred place for Burmese and there’s a saying that if you want to live long, you have to climb all the 1,729 steps!
Important: Tuk-Tuks cannot go up the Mandalay Hill (even though the map shows a road)! So you’ll have to climb the stairs or use the escalator!
Book a Night Bus to Inle Lake (Nyaungshwe)
Next stop – Inle Lake! As you did in Yangon and Bagan, visit one of the ticket offices ( just google bus office) and purchase a ticket to Nyaungshwe. Make sure that the destination is Nyaungshwe as some buses go to the city before it – Shwenyaung. It creates a bit of a hassle as then you have to take a minivan in the middle of the night to get to Inle Lake. But the agents at the bus office will know what you mean when you just say “Destination – Inle Lake”.
Once again you have many different options to choose from, regarding time, the type of bus and the comfort level. We highly recommend going for the VIP 2+1 seat bus as it has very wide, comfy chairs, blankets, drinking water and snacks offered. The price varies between $11 – $15 depending on the departure time and the bus company you choose. The ride takes roughly 7 hours so you will arrive at Inle Lake around 5 am. Most of the guest houses allow early check-in as they are used to tourists arriving early, but make sure and check with your guesthouse if they will be able to arrange it for you.
Tip: It gets COLD around the lake area during the night if you are traveling from October till May, around 7-10°C (50°F), so wear layers!
Kalaw – 1 Day
You have two options when it comes to Kalaw. If you prefer to see some more of rural Myanmar and how the locals live you can pay a short visit to Kalaw and then head further to Inle Lake for a relaxing 3 days spent around the Inle Lake. Kalaw is only 2 hours away from Inle Lake, so if you do not want to, you can make it a day trip as well.
However, you can also trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake in 3 days, if you are up for an adventure. The trek can be arranged in no time, so you do not have to book in advance, just arrive a day before, spend a night in Kalaw and leave early the next day for your trek to Inle Lake. However, then you would have to leave the Inle Lake shortly after you arrive, due to the fact that you have only 2 weeks in Myanmar. If you can plan to spend 17 days in Myanmar you can trek to Inle Lake AND spend 3 days around Inle Lake. Otherwise, you will have to leave the trek for the next time.
Inle Lake – 3 Days
A beautiful natural, peaceful lake so many visitors come to enjoy. Inle Lake was one of our Myanmar highlights as well. We decided to take it easy towards the end of our trip so planned to spend 3 days around the lake, enjoying the laid back life and exploring the nearby places. There are many restaurants and Spa’s in the city so Inle Lake is the perfect place to slow it down a bit.
Note: All tourists have to pay an environmental conservation fee of $10 upon entering the Inle Lake area.
Hire a Boat and Cruise Around the Inle Lake
The most important thing you have to do when visiting Inle Lake – hiring a boat and exploring the lake. A private boat costs roughly $12 for the whole day. The private boat fits up to 4 people, it is a bargain. Shared tours cost $5, but you have less freedom to explore as you would wish, as you have to follow along with the group. Do not accept offers from boatmen approaching you as they will charge around $40 for a private boat. They will rely on the fact that you do not know the real price. Head to one of the biggest tourism offices on the main street and book an official tour or rent a motorbike, or arrange your bus to the next destination! Make sure to arrange the boat so you see the sunrise on the lake! It’s cold but you will not regret it!
When it comes to exploring Inle Lake, it deserves a separate blog post! We promise it’s coming soon! Meanwhile, the highlights of Inle Lake (can be done in one long day cruising around the lake) are :
- See the traditional fishing techniques
- Visit Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery,
- Learn how silver is made at a silversmith workshop,
- Understand where silk comes from at a silk weaving workshop,
- Explore boat and cigar making factory,
- Be amazed by the floating gardens,
- Soak up the atmosphere at Shwe Inn dein Pagoda and
- Shop for the best souvenirs at Inn Thein Market.
Have a Spa Day
This was ours and has to be your favorite day too! After climbing the dusty Pagodas and exploring busy cities as well as waking up for the sunrise to explore the Inle Lake it is finally time to relax! Well, Inle Lake is the perfect place to do that. The streets of Nyaungshwe are full of little Spa’s where you can get a massage, manicure, pedicure and even a hair cut. The price differs depending on how modern the establishment is so you will find a place perfect for any budget.
Up for some more natural Spa activities? Head to Khaung Daing Nature Hot Springs. The hot springs are located in a hotel and cost $10 for 2 hours for a personal pool. While it might not be the most “natural” experience it is a nice way to warm yourself up and a reason to rent a motorbike and travel around the area to explore.
Rent a Bicycle or Motorbike and Explore the Area
Another great thing to do in Inle Lake is to rent a bicycle or motorbike and explore the surroundings. Motorbike rental costs a bit more than you might be used to – $11 per day (15 000-20 000 ks). A bicycle rental costs $2 (2500 ks) for an old school cruiser or $4.50 (6000 ks) for a proper mountain bike.
One of the places you can visit if you have a motorbike is Maing Thouk Wooden Bridge, which is similar to U Being bridge in Mandalay. Visiting in the afternoon is best when children are coming home from school and the sun is low, gives you a great local feel and amazing photo opportunities. As we mentioned before if you rent a motorbike or a bicycle you can visit the Khaung Daing Nature Hot Springs. Also, the benefit of renting a motorbike is that you can explore the local villages and stop on the way wherever you want.
Loikaw – 1 Day
Loikaw is on your way back to Yangon and takes roughly 6 hours from Inle Lake (Nyaungshwe). The place is famous for the Kayan women, one of the many tribes living in Myanmar. Kayan women are often called Long-Neck Women, however, it seems a bit disrespectful to use the latter. We would highly recommend not visiting the Loikaw Karen Women tourist village but rather encountering them in the Loikaw village itself. See them shopping at the market, taking kids to school and just going by their daily lives. Also, if you have heard about the Karen Women in Chiang Mai, you must know that these ladies originally come from Myanmar. We highly recommend avoiding Chiang Mai Karen Women village as it goes against any ethical tourism standards and rather meeting the gorgeous ladies at the place they come from – Loikaw.
You can spend just a couple of hours exploring Loikaw, or half a day and then take a bus to Yangon, your final destination. There are many stunning Pagodas in Loikaw as well, they should not be missed. Especially, because tourism is close to none here, so you will feel immersed in an absolutely different world.
Yangon – 1 Day
After arriving from Loikaw or Inle Lake with a night bus early in the morning you will be a bit tired. Book yourself a cheap hostel to get some sleep. Shower and prepare for your flight or head and explore the places you missed while visiting Yangon for the first time. Make sure to buy the last souvenirs and Burmese goodies to bring back home. If shopping is not your thing, just laze around a cafe or two, read a book and prepare for your flight. We loved Craft Cafe in Yangon for its speedy Wifi (a rarity in Myanmar), great coffee and reasonably priced western food menu!
Off the Beaten Path Myanmar Trip – Itinerary Variations
If you have more than 2 weeks in Myanmar and you want to adjust your Myanmar itinerary a bit or just explore Myanmar off the beaten path you have to head to the South of Myanmar. You will be greeted by local villagers and able to observe the local life where no tourist has set foot before. In South of Myanmar, you will also be able to discover some beautiful beaches. Yup, Myanmar has some white sand beaches but without the tourist crowds and the resorts ruining the authentic vibe. So, when visiting South of Myanmar make sure to travel to Ye, Dawei, and Myeik. Let’s have a quick look at each of them:
Ye – 1 Day
Ye offers some interesting walking tours that you can do. You can explore the city’s market in the morning and then head to the lake and walk around it in the afternoon. A trip to Banana Mountain (Ko Yin Lay) can also be included in the day’s activities. It is a very beautiful place overlooking the lush hills. Ye is a very laid back city and would be your first stop on the way to Dawei. We would recommend allocating only 1 night for Ye, so you have more time to enjoy the beaches in Dawei.
Dawei – 2 Days
Dawei is famous for its beaches. So if you thought there are no beaches in Myanmar, you have to head to Dawei. The city is also famous for its seafood, due to the proximate location to the sea. Rent a motorbike and go explore the remote beaches. Stop at the streetside restaurants for some fresh seafood and keep going. The beaches will not disappoint.
Spend a day on the sea. Snorkel and see the amazing sea life and visit Moscos Wildlife Sanctuary. The full-day tour with a wooden boat costs around $50, and will fit at least 4 people. If you are traveling alone, however, it will be hard to find fellow travelers to chip in for the boat.
Myeik – 2 Days
The furthest Southern point you will visit in Myanmar is Myeik. And you will feel like the ONLY tourist in the city. That’s probably because you will be THE ONLY tourist in the city. Also, everyone will look at you, because, the locals are not used to seeing tourists. So be prepared for that and just smile, you will be greeted with a huge smile back.
The top places to visit in Myeik are Thein Taw Gyi Pagoda, which is an amazing sunset spot. Paw Daw Mu is worth a visit as well. However, the highlight of Myeik has to be the Mergui Archipelago. It has to be one of the least visited and most beautiful beaches. Yet, it comes with a price and a day trip around the islands comes at $100 per person. Also, the water is clearer the more down South you go. There are accommodation options and Safaris but, damn, they are costly! We still think it would be an amazing experience, just out of our budget. The tours can be arranged in Myeik city, don’t forget to haggle a bit!
Your 2 Weeks in Myanmar will be packed with adventures. As well as many night bus rides (or domestic flights, yay) and so many amazing experiences. Are you ready? From Yangon to Bagan and off to Mandalay with a great closure of the 2 week Myanmar itinerary in Inle Lake before heading off back to Yangon to catch your flight home. However, if you have 3 weeks in Myanmar or you want to travel off the beaten path South of Myanmar will not disappoint. We assure that if not the kindness of the locals then the beaches will leave you speechless. This 2 week Myanmar itinerary takes care of everything you might need to plan your trip. Just pack your bags and book the flight!