The last royal capital of the Burmese Kingdom, Mandalay remains the country’s cultural and religious heart, where some of Burma’s greatest historic landmarks and most beautiful pagodas rub shoulders with a diverse ethnic population and dusty market streets.
Located on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River with wide traffic-filled avenues and a fast paced way of life, modern Mandalay represents 'new Burma', despite the very name often evoking images of a Burma of years gone by.
Created by King Mindon Min in 1857, Mandalay may not hold the obvious charm of Yangon, but its diverse ethnic mix, historic relics, religious sites and addictive energy make for an exciting and interesting visit. Burma’s second largest city and widely considered to be its cultural capital, you will find as much nightlife in Mandalay as Burma offers, with plenty of streets lined with lively bars and restaurants.
Particular highlights in and around the city include the finely carved Shwenandaw Monastery, the Kuthodaw Pagoda, Burma’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site home to the world’s largest book, and U Bein Bridge, believed to be the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world and one of Burma’s most iconic sights. Famous for its arts and crafts, Mandalay is also a great place to pick up all manner of souvenirs, from traditional wooden puppets to an extensive array of precious stones.
Mandalay is surrounded by the remnants of three former royal capitals - Ava, Sagaing and Amarapura. Including Burma’s spiritual centre, ancient teak monasteries and a village best explored by horse cart, all are worth exploring in their own right and can be easily combined on a full day excursion.
The traditional ‘road to Mandalay’ as described in the Rudyard Kipling poem, Mandalay is a major starting and finishing point for cruises down the Irrawaddy River, whilst the airport has daily domestic and international flights, making Mandalay really easy to combine into almost any trip.