Myanmar’s Himalayan region is described as one of earth’s “last frontiers”. The allure of experiencing a cranny of the world very few have seen certainly motivates at least a handful of adventurers to go each year.
A flight to Putao, the northernmost town in Kachin State, will get hardcore hikers one-step closer to Myanmar’s most rugged and secretive mountain. Hkakabo Razi is an impending 5,881 meters high. But, just the journey to its base camp from Putao takes weeks, and so little is known about this peak.
The gorgeous landscape surrounding Putao provides mountaineers with plenty of shorter, challenging ascents. The best time to trek around Putao is from October to April. A government-issued permit is required to hike.
Delicious cuisine and scenery both come from Shan State, Myanmar. Saturated greens blend with vibrant valleys as fields upon fields run alongside tiny villages overflowing with rural life. There’s much to discover in Shan State.
Perhaps one of the most isolated must-see attractions, Keng Tawng Falls, still goes mostly unnoticed by tourists due to its remoteness. Arrange a private vehicle and pack a lunch for a picnic as the nearest town is approximately 15 miles away. Heading to Keng Tawng from Taunggyi may take up to five hours by car.
Few scenes compare to the view of Bagan, Myanmar, from the basket of a hot air balloon high above. An aerial shot of the region provides a better glimpse of its historic vastness. Bagan’s thousands of ancient temples and pagodas can be seen dotting the landscape every which way.
While much of what’s on the surface of Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago has yet to be discovered, seemingly endless pristine stretches of completely colorful and utterly exotic coral reef lie just below. The coastlines of hundreds of islands that make up one of the world’s last remaining paradises beckon to be explored both on and offshore. Dive in!
Sunset seekers have various beautiful Myanmar beach destinations to choose from when looking for the perfect sandy perch to take in a sunset. The Bay of Bengal laps against Myanmar’s western coast as the scene of one of its many stunning sunsets unfolds. Pick between a lavish sunset viewing party at Ngapali, drinking it in at a beachside bar in Ngwe Saung, or sharing the moment with locals at Chaung Tha.
Myanmar’s ancient city of Mrauk U in northern Rakhine State isn’t ventured to nearly as much as Bagan, even though its misty mornings with hundreds of ancient pagoda-tops poking through the fog are just as iconic.
Mrauk U appeals to explorers looking for a less touristy site that still functions as a sacred place of worship for locals. Its signature bell-like stupas and spiralling temple tunnels lined with statues of Buddha beg to be experienced. The best way to get to Mrauk U is by plane from Yangon to Sittwe, and then by boat up the Kaladan River.
A boat ride on Inle Lake takes travelers down narrow canals, through stilted villages and upon massive floating gardens. Produce such as cucumbers, tomatoes and gourds can be grown in the lake. Inle’s floating gardens thrive off nutrients found in the water and have become strong enough masses of roots and grass to be able to bear the weight of the local creators and cultivators.
Look for what appears to be wooden poles sticking out of the water haphazardly. These are actually rods of bamboo anchoring the gardens in place.
A train ride across Myanmar’s longest railway bridge, reaching over 300 feet in height and nearly 2,300 feet in length, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Completed in 1901, the Gokteik Viaduct, located approximately 30 miles from Pyin Oo Lwin on the way to Lashio from Mandalay, gives rail commuters time to look out over the stunning gorge as the train crawls slowly over it.
Hpa-An’s immense Saddan Cave is truly a sight to behold. Wandering under its naturally vaulted ceilings with colossal stalactites dangling like chandeliers brings cavers to an even bigger surprise out the other side. Resounding darkness opens up to Hpa-An’s tranquil secret lake as it reflects a ring of surrounding lush jaggedness.
Yangon’s colonial buildings are captivatingly beautiful. The tarnished walls and gritty exposed brick of the city’s architectural grandeur add to its overall charm.
A few masterpieces have already been renovated and turned into swanky restaurants and art galleries. Some like the remarkable Secretariat building, one of Southeast Asia’s largest colonial structures, are set to be restored. Others remain abandoned, in a state of dilapidation. For an up close and personal encounter with Myanmar’s decaying past, try getting approval to enter or at least peek inside.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is special at any time of day, but its colors truly shine at dawn, dusk, and glow golden at night. Locals waiting to give foreigners a tour of the Shwedagon Pagoda will dish this insight. At certain points around the main stupa of the Shwedagon, moonlight reflects through a large 76-carat diamond nestled at the very top of it. Different colors can be seen by taking a step forward or back.
Endless beauty abounds in Myanmar, and the more this once closed-off country opens up, more beauty found nowhere else in the world is revealed.