Yangon is an amazing city, rich in history, culture and architecture that is slowly modernising. Here’s our pick of things to do in Yangon.
Shwedagon Pagoda during the Blue Hour © Justin Vidamo
Sitting 99m tall on top of Singuttara Hill, this immense stupa rules the skyline in Yangon. Some say it’s 2600 years old which would make it both the oldest and tallest pagoda in the world. It’s also the most sacred in Burma too. The main dome is gold plating and shines both day and night. The stupa is encrusted with 7,000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires.
Sule Pagoda © Mauro Gambini
This pagoda is said to be older than Shwedagon. Legend says the ancient nat (spirit), who revealed the site for the Shwedagon, resided where the Sule Pagoda now stands. It’s as central to the road system laid out by the British during colonial times as it is to the political and ideological landscape in the present day. It’s been both a focal rallying point, a centre of organisation for revolt and sadly the site of brutal force too.
Reclining Buddha in the Chaukhtatgyi Temple © Esme Vos
Chaukhtatgyi Temple and Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda
Across the road from each other, these two house fantastic Buddha statues. Chaukhtatgyi Temple is home to an immense reclining Buddha. If you have been travelling in Asia a while, it’s likely you have come across one of these before, but this one is special. (See our separate article about the Giant Reclining Buddha Of Yangon). It’s slightly away from the general hubbub and apart from being just awe-inspiring it will evoke a serene feeling. It’s open air and not on the general tourist route. You’ll find worshippers, locals napping and ordinary life unfolding all around. This feels very different from the chaos that can surround Wat Po in Bangkok and an altogether different experience. Across the road, in Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda is an impressive 14m high 5 tiered pagoda.
Walking Around Yangon © Peter Halling Hilborg
Free Yangon Walking Tours
Whether you have just arrived and want an orientation or have very limited time and simply want to get a flavour of the city, the free walking tours are a great idea. No bookings are required, just turn up to the car park opposite city hall. Tours leave at 4pm on Monday, Saturday and Sunday and 9am on Wednesday. Each tour last two hours and will guide you around the city through the history from pagodas to colonisation. Notice some of the vast and diverse architecture from ancient Burmese to Victorian. You’ll also see some of modern-day Yangon and discover some great spots to eat and drink.
Bogyoke Aung San Museum
General Aung San was the father of Aung San Suu Kyi and modern Burma. This museum is set in the colonial house where he lived at the time of his assassination. Its exhibits show the lifestyle of a general at this time and many personal items which will give you an insight into his life and that in which his daughter grew up.
Strand Hotel © Shaun Dunphy
The Strand Hotel
This hotel was opened in 1901 by the famous Sarkies Brothers. At that time, it was one of the most luxurious hotels within The British Empire. It’s had a fantastic history and many owners since. Today its fully restored to its true original glory, think teak, marble, canopied beds, period bathrooms and mahogany furniture. It’s a great place to see colonial glamour in all its glory.
Buddha Relics © Jason Eppink
The Botataung Pagodas legend dates back 2000 years when body relics of the Buddha arrived from India and were enshrined within it. That pagoda was left in ruins by a bombing raid in WWII. During the restoration, a relic chamber was excavated containing some 700 artefacts and actual body relics of the Buddha were found. Other objects dated the pagoda to the time of the Mons and verified its link to India. Understandably this makes this site one of the most revered sites in Burma. Today’s pagoda, uniquely, is hollow and allows visitors to wander around the inside where they will find theses relics displayed.
Kandawgyi Lake, Yangon, Myanmar © Romain Pontida
The lake was made by the British to provide water for the city, water is piped from Inya Lake. It’s 8km in circumference and averages about 1m in depth. Today, it’s a relaxing spot for all within the city, take a stroll or a picnic and enjoy the peace. Around the lake, you will also find a nature park, zoo, aquarium and amusement park. More renowned than the lake is the replica of the royal barge which lies on its shores. It’s actually made from concrete and today functions as a buffet restaurant. It makes for some incredible scenes and great photos as the sky changes colour and is reflected in the lake.
Inya Lake © Thrillseekr
Inya Lake and Aung San Suu Kyi House
Inya Lake is even larger than Kandawgyi Lake. It too is an artificial lake and has become popular with dating couples. It’s slightly outside the city and is a pleasant place to watch the sunset or have a stroll. Aung San Suu Kyi’s House is here too. During her years of house arrest, visitors were off limits and the house could only be view from across the lake. Now you can drive straight passed but its surround by high walls with very little to see.
Display at National Museum © Cliff
The National Museum of Myanmar
Visitors can investigate 14 galleries displayed on 5 floors. While not as modern as many cities national museums the displays are organised and interesting. Artefacts are labelled in Burmese and English and offer an insight into Burmese history. Discover the origins of Burmese script, see The Lion Throne, fashions, culture, painting and much more.
The Drug Elimination Museum
Slightly odd and leaning towards ironic, if you have the time to spare, head over to this very under-visited and seemingly forgotten museum and wake the staff up. Exhibits cover the history of drug wars, drug paraphernalia and an unusual ‘show’ about addiction.
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue © Esme Vos
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
This is the last remaining Jewish house of worship in Burma and dates back to the 1890s. Before WWII, the Jewish community was over 2000, now there are just 20, many fled during the Japanese occupation. It’s an interesting slice of history.