Off-limits for years but now back on every intrepid traveller’s wish-list, Burma (now known as Myanmar) is the enigmatic “golden land”. Everything about this south-east Asian country demands exploration: gilded Buddhist temples, trekkable landscapes, celebrated life-giving rivers, pristine beaches, sublime historic cities, tribal communities, and some of the world’s most impressive monuments. Best of all, it is fabulously untouched by mass tourism, meaning a holiday to Burma at this time will offer a true unspoiled gem.
Burma’s doors are finally open, giving travellers the chance to experience the cultural treasures, architectural marvels, and natural splendour of this South-East Asian gem.
Your temple-spotting odyssey starts in the ancient city of Bagan. Whilst it is great to explore by bicycle, it is far better to take to the sky in a hot-air balloon at sunrise or sunset to see some of the 3,000 temples that dot the landscape below. Take a pilgrimage to the volcanic Mount Popa, where you can climb the 777 steps up to its sacred monastery.
For a heavy dose of colonial-era architecture, tree-lined avenues and traditional shop houses, visit Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon). Here, you can marvel at Burma’s most sacred site - the astounding and iconic 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda that rises over the city in golden splendour.
In the heart of the country lies Mandalay, Burma's former royal capital and spiritual centre that wows with pagodas, monasteries and Buddhist monks. Marvel at the Royal Palace, climb the 230-metre-high Mandalay Hill, and see U Bein Bridge glisten at sunset.
For a uniquely Burmese journey, cruise from Mandalay to Bagan along the Irrawaddy River, stopping at the small villages and gilded stupas that dot its banks. Equally sublime is Inle Lake, the most scenic spot in the Shan State. Meet the Intha people and discover floating villages before discovering the lakeside village of Indein and its ancient pagodas.
More back-to-nature thrills await at the hill station of Kalaw, an emerging trekker’s paradise to the west of Inle Lake. Trek to your heart’s content, and stop off at the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, a conservation area that protects elephants in 150 acres of natural habitat.
For those looking to explore away from the common tourist trail, Hsipaw and Hpa An provide the ultimate rural retreats, both surrounded by a wealth of natural attractions including rolling green hills, winding rivers and ancient caves.
With 2,000-kilometres of coastline, it is little wonder that Burma is primed to be one of Asia's beach hotspots. For sun-soaked perfection, hit the white sands at Ngapali Beach and ease into beach mode at the end of a busy trip exploring this enchanting destination.
Magnificent temples abound in Burma, dotting the horizons of its verdant landscapes up and down the country. From the temple studded lands of Bagan to the glittering pagodas of Yangon, the holy sites of Burma are simply mind boggling both in size and beauty. Whilst stupas are solid temples, said to house remains of Buddhas or monks, Pagodas are open to enter for worship. Having evolved from the shape of a stupa, the two often look similar yet their significance is marked by their history.