Myanmar hotels can be hit or miss, so it’s best to plan before any trip. The effort is worth it, though. Days can be spent exploring the spike-topped Shwedagon Pagoda, admiring the leg rowers of Inle Lake or crossing the rickety-looking U Bein Bridge. Whatever you come for, there’s a hotel to suit your needs and budget.
Unlike some of the other hotels on stilts, the luxurious Sanctum Inle Resort has a European villa vibe with a whitewashed exterior, romantic arches, a swimming pool and spa services. It’s one of the most popular hotels in the region, thanks, in no small part, to the reasonable prices and gorgeous views over Inle Lake.
Inle Heritage is one of the most unique retreats on the lake as it’s run as a not-for-profit vocational training centre. That means students are receptionists and chefs-in-training. There are only six rooms, but each comes with a shower heated by green energy, courtesy snacks and drinks and binoculars and a bird guidebook, so you can spot the local wildlife. You’ll also get a chance to pet the Burmese cats that stay here – all 34 of them.
Song of Travel is a cute and chilled hostel located in the main town of Nyaung Shwe, around a 30-minute drive to the shores of Inle Lake. You won’t miss it – the façade has been painted to resemble a giant boombox. It has comfortable dorm-style bunk beds, each with a hanging drape for privacy. There’s also a good breakfast every morning, and you’ll have access to free snacks, coffee and water.
Aureum Palace Hotel is found in the archaeological zone of Bagan, and that’s a big deal. From one of the two swimming pools, you can gaze over pagodas or, for a more expansive view, climb the on-site tower to get a panorama of this ancient city. The rooms and villas come with stripped flooring and Myanmar-inspired decor; book the Island Villa for a hideout on a private island that comes with a personal butler, swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Another Bagan favourite, this hostel offers traditional dorm beds and private rooms. Budget travellers will adore the freebies: breakfast, Burmese cigars, tamarind candies, coffee, tea and water. The Ostello Bello brand originates from Milan, Italy, so you’ll also get complimentary pasta. The happy hour saves a few kyats, too. The hotel sits in New Bagan, a short stroll to the pagodas of the archaeological zone, although you may just want to meet people in the rooftop chillout area or at one of the Burmese language or traditional dance lessons.
Paradise, oasis, sanctuary… these are just a few of the recurring themes when one thinks of Belmond Governor’s Residence. The authentic 1920s colonial-style building is coupled with two superb restaurants, a spa and a gorgeous swimming pool that wraps moat-like around the hotel.
Found in an all-white standalone high rise, the Home Hotel is far more characterful inside. The 20 rooms come in a traditional style, but it’s really the location that sets this hotel apart. You can walk to the golden spires and grand Buddha statue of the Mahar Thatkyarthiha Pagoda and visit the Jade Market, where international traders purchase the green gemstone. A free breakfast will set you up right for a day of exploration.
This collection of gorgeous lodges is located in Hpa-an, a place heaving with caves and nature and overlooked by the imperious Mount Zwegabin. It’s arguably the best place to stay in the region, mostly thanks to the scenic pool area, where you can lounge in your swimmers while admiring the peaks. There are 18 individual lodges, two of which have been reserved for families.
While Loikaw isn’t one of the most visited destinations in Myanmar, it’s an excellent base for exploring the natural beauty of Kayah State and the surrounding local villages. Base your adventure at Loikaw Lodge, a homely boutique retreat, which opened in late 2016. This family-run getaway has 12 rooms with teak floors, tribal fabrics and air conditioning, plus there’s a handy cafe serving a mix of local and international delights.
Emma Sparks contributed additional reporting to this article.