Once known as Rangoon, Yangon is Myanmar’s largest and most commercial city. It was the country’s capital until 1995 when the military decreed that newly built Nay Pyi Taw, in the centre of Myanmar, would be the new capital.
Although most government ministries can now be found in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon is still home to embassies and other important buildings. It also feels much more like a capital city than Nay Pyi Taw does, complete with traffic jams, pollution and people everywhere.
Ollie and I have now lived in Yangon for almost 18 months, where we’ve been working as English teachers. Despite the many frustrations of living here (which I’ll save for another post!), Yangon has an unmistakable energy that we’ve come to love.
This buzz is nowhere more apparent than in the downtown area, where pavements teem with food and flower vendors and colourful open-air markets, colonial architecture, temples, mosques and churches provide a constant visual feast.
This ultimate Yangon travel guide will tell you everything you need to know to prepare for a visit to the city. I’ll also share 46+ things to see in Yangon, which could keep you busy for a week or more!
Best Time to Visit Yangon
November – February:
The best time to visit Yangon, this is winter season when daytime heat is manageable and evenings are often cool. There’s also little to no rain during these months and skies are clear and blue. The only downsides: expect higher accommodation prices and more people. Book your accommodation and transport in advance.
March – May:
Probably the worst time to visit Yangon, this is hot season when daytime temperatures can climb up to 40°c, dropping only slightly at night. Expect hazy skies and, in the countryside outside Yangon, everything to be brown and dry.
‘Thingyan’, Myanmar’s water festival, occurs in mid-April and can cause severe travel disruptions. Local people head to their home towns or on vacation at this time, so accommodation and transport can get booked up weeks in advance. Also bear in mind that buses between cities often cease services during the five festival days and many restaurants, especially in Yangon, may close for a week or more.
June – October:
This is Myanmar’s wet season. Days can be overcast and dull or bright and sunny and showers, though heavy, are often short. Expect changeable weather and be prepared to get wet! The advantages of travelling during this time: cheaper accommodation and fewer people. Expect travel delays and inconveniences if travelling the rest of the country; in Yangon you shouldn’t experience too many problems.
Getting to/from Yangon
See below for information on getting to Yangon by air, road and rail.
Yangon International Airport is Myanmar’s main international gateway and also the hub for domestic flights. You can fly direct to regional destinations that include Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Kolkata (India).
Be aware that flights within Myanmar are relatively expensive. They are, however, a good option if you’re wanting to cover large distances or are travelling to/from Tachileik or Kyaingtong in eastern Myanmar. Foreign travellers are barred from taking the road from Kyaingtong to Taunggyi; therefore, the only way to connect Tachileik and Kyaingtong with the rest of Myanmar is by flight.
Yangon International Airport is around 17km from Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon.
Yangon has two main bus terminals – Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal and Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal.
Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal is around 22km from Sule Pagoda in the city’s northeast; allow at least an hour to get there by taxi (around 8,000ks) and ensure you reach the relevant bus office 30 minutes prior to departure.
Even though local buses do run to Aung Mingalar, including numbers 35 and 36, we recommend you take a taxi, which will not only save time but also a lot of hassle. Show your bus ticket to the taxi driver; he will know exactly where to drop you off. Aung Mingalar is a maze that you really don’t want to have to navigate when you’re short of time and have a bus to catch!
Buses run from Aung Mingalar to all the main destinations in Myanmar including Nyaung U (for Bagan), Mandalay, Kalaw, Taunggyi, Hpa-An, Mawlamyine and Kyaikto (for the Golden Rock).
Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal is around 25km from Sule Pagoda; it lies on Pathein Road across the Hlaing River. Expect the journey from downtown to take 45 minutes to one hour. You’ll need to come to this terminal for travel to the Ayeyarwady Division including Chaung Tha Beach, Ngwe Saung Beach and Pathein.
Tickets can be booked at most hotels/guesthouses/travel agencies, from bus ticket offices around town and from bus company offices near Bogyoke Aung San Stadium. You can also use online booking sites such as mm bus ticket and Myanmar bus ticket.
Yangon train station is just a short walk (1.2km) north of Sule Pagoda. You can purchase upper class tickets one day before from the Myanmar Railways Booking Office on Bogyoke Aung San Road (7am-3pm), just 600m from Sule Pagoda. Ordinary class tickets can be purchased on the day of travel.
Top Tip: Check departure times at the booking office a day or two before you intend to travel. There’s no reliable, up-to-date information online and timings seem to change often.
Daily departures from Yangon include Bagan, Bago, Kyaikto, Mandalay, Mawlamyine, Nay Pyi Taw, Taungoo and Thazi. Even though train travel is cheap in Myanmar, keep in mind that trains are slow, uncomfortable and often delayed.
In all of our travels in Myanmar, Ollie and I have taken a train just once. On that one occasion the train broke down, leaving us no option but to walk along the tracks with our big backpacks to board another train waiting at the next station! Unless you’re in no hurry or want a more scenic journey, we advise taking buses between destinations.
Getting around Yangon
Besides walking, there are numerous ways of traversing the city.
In the last two years, a new city bus system (YBS) has been introduced in Yangon that offers a huge number of routes all over the city. Lines ply as far north as Hlawga and as far east as Thanlyin and Kyauktan. Each journey costs 200ks, apart from the airport bus that charges 500ks per trip.
Board at the front of the bus, where there’s a payment box, and exit through the middle doors. Ensure you have the exact fare as there’s no way for the driver to give change. Check out YBS routes on the myanmore website; new routes have been added since this article was written but it remains the best source of information IN ENGLISH for YBS!
Taxis are everywhere in Yangon and are clearly marked; none use a meter so bargaining skills are a necessity. Try to ascertain the local price for your intended destination before approaching a driver; knowing how much the journey should cost makes it much easier to know if you’re being asked for too much.
Although most drivers speak at least some English, it’s wise to have your destination written in Burmese to make things easier. Keep in mind that asking fares are usually higher at weekends and after sunset and are much higher late at night and in the early morning hours (11pm-5am) when the supply of drivers is less. You’ll need to bargain harder at these times!
A much better option is to download the Grab app on your phone, which works in exactly the same way as Uber and ensures you’re getting a fair price. However, it’s not always the best option.
On the rare occasion that we need to take a taxi, we’ll check how much Grab quotes first and then approach a regular taxi. More often than not, we’re able to negotiate a lower price. For example, our recent journey to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal cost us 6,000ks; Grab had quoted around 10,000ks.
You can take the Yangon Circle Line (non-AC/AC carriage 100ks/200ks) more for an off-beat experience than as an efficient means of circumnavigating the city. The full 30-mile circuit takes around 3 hours but you can disembark at any one of the 38 stations.
This is a great way to see local life and get a glimpse of suburbs rarely seen by tourists. Trains are least crowded between 10am and 4pm and at weekends.
Trains depart Yangon station from platform 6 or 7 and go in both directions; some don’t make the full circuit. Keep in mind that train times can be sporadic, so you may need to take a taxi or bus back into the city if you decide to disembark mid-circuit.
Try using the circle line to access northern attractions such as Meilamu Paya, which will enable you to avoid congested roads at least in one direction!
Yangon Water Bus
Ticket Price: 300ks (Local)/ 1,500ks (Foreigner) Please see the YWB website for departure times. Buy tickets at the jetty ticketing counters.
Yangon Water Bus is a commuter ferry service that has five jetties along the Yangon River, beginning at the Botataung Terminal in downtown and terminating at the Insein Terminal in the north of the city. The other three stops are at the Pansodan, Lan Thit and Kyemyindaing terminals.
YWB is a much slower means of getting from one place to another. We recommend, however, making the full trip once during your stay in Yangon, if you have time. It offers a great way to see life on the Yangon River, as well as the ports and businesses that operate close to the water.
Special trips are also available periodically; these include a sunset river tour and return journeys to Thanlyin and Twante. All special trips include drinks and snacks; enquire by phone, email or Facebook if you’re interested in booking tickets.
A trishaw is a fun way to make short hops within Yangon; expect to pay around 1,000ks for a quick trip. There’s enough space for two passengers, who ride back-to-back next to the driver as he cycles along.
Trishaws can zip along Yangon’s crowded streets at speed, so watch out when walking! We’ve had many near misses as oftentimes a trishaw will career into our paths, almost running into us, or be speeding down the road as we’re about to cross and it’ll be up to us to get out of the way. Stay alert!
Accommodation in Yangon
As with any commercial city around the world, Yangon offers plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets. From cheap dorm beds in hostels to luxury 5-star hotels, there is something for everyone.
If you’re coming to Yangon for the first time, we recommend you stay either in the heart of the action in downtown or close to Shwedagon Pagoda in Sanchaung or Bahan townships. Here are two places that we have personally stayed at and can recommend:
Mother Land Inn 2
Mother Land Inn 2 is located on Lower Pazundaung Road in the far east of the downtown area. It’s a bit of a walk to Sule Pagoda and the centre of the hustle and bustle (2.5km) but only a short 1.5km walk to Botataung Pagoda off Strand Road.
Rooms here, though on the small side, are clean and comfortable and staff are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Single, double, twin and triple rooms are available, as well as a 6-bed mixed dorm and all rates include a tasty buffet breakfast.
Prices range from $8 for a dorm bed to $30 for a triple room; AC and fan rooms are available. When we last stayed at Motherland Inn 2, we paid $20 for a double fan room.
Hotel Azure can be found on Bagaya Street in Sanchaung township; we stayed here for 10 days before moving into our apartment. Rooms are spotlessly clean and modern and come with a fridge, AC, kettle and toiletries that are topped up daily. A large buffet breakfast is included in room rates; expect a mix of Asian and Western foods and for it to fill you up all day! There are a range of different rooms on offer; we paid 40,000ks (around $28) per night for the cheapest option. Check on booking.com to check rates for your dates.
Hotel Vista, just two-minutes-walk from the Azure, also comes highly recommended and even has its own rooftop bar. We haven’t personally stayed there so are unable to comment on the rooms or service.
46+ Things to See in Yangon
There’s a LOT to see in Yangon! From colonial buildings and glistening pagodas to parks and lakes, Yangon is a great city to visit and to live in. Luckily for visitors, it’s possible to see the highlights in a day or two as many sights are close together and the city centre is reasonably compact. For those with more time, there are day trip options to places on the city’s peripheries.
Downtown is where Yangon is at its most vibrant. Though noisy, traffic-clogged and swarming with life in all its abundance, the downtown area has a real character and an infectious energy that can’t be found elsewhere in the city.
This is where you’ll see people of all religions and backgrounds rubbing shoulders with one another. Churches, mosques, Hindu temples, Chinese temples, pagodas and even a synagogue demonstrate how culturally diverse not only Yangon but also Myanmar is as a whole.
With the country’s recent political and economic liberalisation, decaying buildings and monuments are being renovated and new restaurants, bars and shops are constantly popping up. You’re sure to see evidence of this as you wander the narrow streets and weave in and out of the chaos that is downtown!
THE FOLLOWING SIGHTS ARE LISTED FROM EAST TO WEST IN AN ORDER THAT YOU COULD CHOOSE TO VISIT THEM.
1. Botataung Pagoda
Entrance Fee: 6,000ks Opening Hours: 6am-9:30pm Location: Strand Road, Botataung
Unlike most pagodas in Myanmar, which are solid, 131ft Botataung is hollow with a gold leaf-coated maze in its interior that you can walk through. The dazzling zig-zag corridor contains many ancient relics and artefacts that are displayed inside glass cases. A small gold cylinder containing a strand of hair, said to have belonged to the Buddha, and two small body relics are believed to still be housed within.
Within the compound, look out for a large gilded bronze Buddha that was cast during the reign of King Mindon Min, and a large pond full of hundreds of terrapin turtles.
2. Sri Varada Raja Perumal Temple
Opening Hours: 6:30am-11:30am and 6pm-8:30pm Location: 51st Street, Botataung
This lavish South Indian style temple, with a gopuram (entrance tower) covered with Hindu deities, is dedicated to Vishnu. It dates back to 1928 and was built by the Indian businessman Dr S Ramanatha Reddiar. Come here in May/June for the temple’s main festival that includes a flower procession.
3. The Secretariat (Ministers Office)
Guided Tour: $10/15,000ks (foreign adult), 3,000ks (local adult), $5/8,000ks (foreign child), 1,000ks (local child) *Child = Under 12 years of Age Opening Hours: 9am-5pm Location: Thein Phyu Road, Kyauktada
This stunning red-brick complex, which takes up a 16-acre block, was the British seat of government for Burma and where General Aung San and six of his colleagues were assassinated in 1947. The Secretariat also housed independent Burma’s first National Assembly.
Renovation is currently ongoing but guided tours are available that offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the history of this stately building. Tours are available every hour from 9:30am-4:30pm and can either be booked online in advance or arranged on-site (depending on availability).
A small part of the complex, including Aung San’s old office and the room where he and his colleagues were assassinated, is open to the public (free) on Martyr’s Day (19th July). The public entrance for the Secretariat is through the east gate on Thein Phyu Road.
4. St Mary’s Cathedral
Opening Hours: Daily Mass Times: 6am and 5pm plus 8am and 10am Sun Location: Bo Aung Kyaw Street, Botataung
An impressive red-brick building that dates to 1909, St Mary’s is Myanmar’s largest catholic cathedral; the neo-Gothic edifice was designed by Dutch architect Jos Cuypers. The floridly decorated interior is a cool respite on a hot Yangon day; sit for a moment and notice the red, white and green-brick patterns and the many painted statues.
5. Armenian Apostolic Church of St John the Baptist
Location: Bo Aung Kyaw Street, Kyauktada
Built in 1862 and consecrated a year later, the Armenian Apostolic Church of St John the Baptist is Yangon’s oldest church. Though modest and sparsely decorated, it’s an attractive building and the interior is well-maintained. The church was constructed to serve Yangon’s Armenian trading community, who have been in Myanmar since the 17th Century. There is only a very small minority left today, however.
6. Colonial Buildings
Wander the streets of downtown Yangon and you’ll notice many colonial buildings in various states of repair. The Strand Hotel sits on Strand Road between 38th Street and Seikkantha Street with many other colonial structures in the surrounding area. Many photogenic examples can be seen on Pansodan Street and off Mahabandoola Road near Sule Pagoda.
Below is a list of architectural gems that you should look out for:
- Strand Hotel
- Central Post Office
- Customs House
- Yangon Divisional Court
- Myanma Port Authority
- Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank
- Inland Waterways Department
- Sofaer’s Building
- Myanma Post and Telecommunications
- Ayeyarwady Bank (formerly the Rowe and Co. department store)
- City Hall
- High Court
- Yangon Stock Exchange
7. Yangon Heritage Trust
Opening Hours: 9am-5pm Mon-Fri Location: Pansodan Street, Kyauktada
Come to this small gallery on Pansodan Street to see an exhibition of historic photographs, giving you an idea of how downtown Yangon used to look. From the open balcony, there’s also a view of the grand facades opposite, especially of the bomb-damaged Yangon Region Court and the art-deco Myanmar Economic Bank.
Yangon Heritage Trust also organises heritage walking tours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays that last for approximately 2.5 hours ($30-$40/person). Check out their website for details of the four different routes on offer and to make a booking.
8. Immanuel Baptist Church
Location: Corner of Mahabandoola Road and Mahabandoola Garden Street
Originally built in 1885 by an American missionary, the Immanuel Baptist Church is one of the oldest of its kind in Yangon. The area where it sits is one of architectural splendor; the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar lies beside it while opposite you’ll notice the grand façade of the City Hall and the old Rowe and Co. department store, now a branch of Ayeyarwady Bank.
9. Mahabandoola Garden and Independence Monument
Opening Hours: 6am-6pm Location: Mahabandoola Garden Street, Kyauktada
This small park in the heart of downtown makes a pleasant spot to break a day’s sightseeing; outdoor exercise equipment is available as well as a children’s playground. The northern end of the garden is the best place to photograph the surrounding historical buildings, including the red-and-yellow-painted High Court with its prominent clock tower.
The most notable feature of Mahabandoola Garden, however, is the 165ft Independence Monument, a large white obelisk surrounded by two concentric circles of chinthe (half-lion, half-dragon deities).
10. Sule Pagoda
Entrance Fee: 3,000ks Opening Hours: 5am-9pm Location: Middle of Sule Pagoda Road and Mahabandoola Road
Sule Pagoda is the unofficial centre of downtown Yangon, a major landmark and meeting place as well as a milestone from which all addresses to the north are measured. This 46m-high 2,000-year-old pagoda occupies the city’s most prominent roundabout and looks especially striking when lit up at night.
Said to be older than Shwedagon, Sule Paya is a perfect example of how an Asian city manages to blend modernity with ancient tradition. Come at sunset for the most atmospheric photographs.
A sacred hair relic of the Buddha is believed to be enshrined within the stupa, while the exterior base is surrounded by small shops selling a range of non-religious paraphernalia.
11. Mogul Shia Mosque
Location: 30th Street, Pabedan
Completed in 1918, this is the largest of a number of Shia mosques in Yangon; it’s easily spotted by its twin minarets. The entrance is on 30th Street, while the mosque itself occupies a wide plot on Mahabandoola Road between 29th and 30th Streets.
12. Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque
Location: Shwe Bon Tha Street, Pabedan
Built in the 1860’s, Surti Sunni Jamah is thought to be Yangon’s oldest surviving mosque; look out for its pair of large minarets that flank an equally imposing arched entrance tower. The street on which the mosque is located used to be known as Mughal Street and was at the centre of the city’s Indian sector.
13. Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
Opening Hours: 10am-1pm Mon-Sat Location: 26th Street, Pabedan
Built in 1896, the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue was once the focal point for a community of Sephardic Jews from India and Baghdad that numbered 2500 at its height in the early 20th Century.
The interior is well-maintained and contains a bimah (platform holding the reading table for the Torah) in the centre of the main sanctuary; there’s a women’s balcony upstairs. Look out for the original blue-and-white Star of David motif on the wooden ceiling.
Services are held here very occasionally, usually only on Jewish high holidays. The building itself is protected by the Yangon Heritage Trust and has one of the recognisable blue plaques. It’s the only synagogue that remains in Myanmar.
14. Kheng Hock Keong Taoist Temple
Opening Hours: 5am-9pm Location: Strand Road, Latha
Yangon’s largest Chinese (Taoist) temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu, who resides in the central altar. She is flanked by Guan Gong, the embodiment of loyalty and bravery, to her right and by Bao Sheng Da Di, the god of medicine, to her left.
The temple is supported by a Hokkien association and is most lively in the early mornings (6am-9am) when worshippers come to offer candles, flowers and incense to the Buddhist and Taoist altars.
15. Sri Kali Temple
Opening Hours: 5am-11am and 3pm-9pm Location: Konezdan Road, Pabedan
Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, this temple was built in 1871 before a wave of Indian migrants came to the city during colonial rule. You can’t miss the brightly painted, highly decorative gopuram and the gold railings that surround the compound. Flocks of pigeons rest on overhead power lines, creating a worthy photo-op.
16. Bogyoke Aung San Market
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm Tues-Sun Location: Bogyoke Aung San Road, Dagon
The most tourist-oriented among Yangon’s many markets, Bogyoke Aung San nevertheless makes for a fascinating wander. This sprawling covered market has more than 2,000 shops, as well as some restaurants and snack stalls, and is the best place to head in Yangon if you’re looking to buy Myanmar handicrafts or souvenirs.
It’s also a good place to pick up a ready-made longyi (perfect for pagoda visits); tailors are plentiful if you prefer to buy the fabric and have one made to fit. Even if you don’t have the cash for shopping, it’s still an intriguing place that offers a window into Burmese culture.
17. Holy Trinity Cathedral
Location: Bogyoke Aung San Road, Latha
The Holy Trinity Cathedral can be found opposite Junction City, one of Yangon’s biggest shopping malls. Designed by India-based architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm, this red-brick-painted neo-Gothic edifice took nine years to construct, opening in 1895.
18. Yangon Alley Art
Location: Various alleyways in downtown
Stretching from 27th Street to 42nd Street, there are eight completed alley gardens in downtown Yangon with a further two ongoing. Within the city, back alleys are mainly used as rubbish dumps that attract pests. Set in motion by the NGO Doh Eain in 2016, the projects’ aim is to turn these back alleys into recreational spaces that feature gardens, street art and children’s playgrounds.
We spent an enjoyable morning finding and photographing the alley art; I took over 150 photographs! See below for a few examples but to get a real idea of what the project is all about and to see all of the wonderful work that has been achieved, you’ll have to check out the alley gardens for yourself.
19. Dargah of Bahadur Shah Zafar
Opening Hours: 8am-8pm Location: Ziwaca Street, Dagon
Part of a functioning mosque, the mausoleum of India’s last Mughal emperor is a place of pilgrimage for Indians, Muslims and others interested in the history of the Raj.
Reputedly a talented Urdu poet, Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon (along with his wife and family) in 1858 following the failed Sepoy Rebellion in Delhi. He passed away four years later in November 1862.
20. National Museum
Entrance Fee: 5,000ks Opening Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm Tues-Sun Location: Pyay Road, Dagon
Ollie and I aren’t usually big fans of museums, preferring to be outside in the great outdoors. However, one day last year, as monsoon rains pelted down, we decided to give Yangon’s National Museum a chance. We were actually pleasantly surprised and ended up spending over two hours exploring the cavernous interior, which has multiple rooms and five floors.
Founded in 1952, the Yangon National Museum has an extensive collection of ancient artefacts, ornaments, works of art, inscriptions and historic memorabilia that celebrate the history, culture and civilisation of the country’s people.
We personally found the upper floor galleries most interesting, which focus on natural history, performing arts, ethnic cultures and Buddhist art; there’s also an impressive picture gallery. Another highlight of the museum is the 26ft-high jewel-encrusted Lion Throne that belonged to King Thibaw Min, the last king of Myanmar.
Shwedagon Pagoda and Around
21. Shwedagon Pagoda
Entrance Fee: 10,000ks Opening Hours: 4am-10pm, 9am-4pm Tues-Sun (museum) Location: Singuttara Hill, Dagon
The most famous sight in all of Myanmar, Shwedagon Pagoda stands at 325ft and is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites. The stupa is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other precious gems; it is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas.
Archaeologists believe that the original stupa on Singuttara Hill was built by the Mon people sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries. However, due to a serious of unfortunate events, including earthquakes and fire, Shwedagon has been rebuilt many times.
This pivotal stupa was also the scene of much political activity during the Myanmar independence movement. It was from here that Aung San Suu Kyi addressed massive crowds in 1988; it was also at the centre of monk protests in 2007.
The main terrace on which the stupa stands is accessed by four covered walkways, each of which is flanked by a pair of 30ft-tall chinthe at its entrance. There are also lifts at the south, east and north entrances and sets of escalators at the western approach.
The best time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda is in the early morning or just before sunset Monday-Friday. Once dusk has fallen, the stupa is magnificently lit up; this is the best time for photographs.
Spend at least an hour exploring the main terrace, where there are many smaller shrines, pavilions and worship halls, as well as a small museum full of Buddha statues and religious ornaments. The photo gallery is also worth checking out; it contains historic images and some close-up snaps of the top of the stupa.
22. Mausoleums of U Thant, Suphayalat, Daw Khin Kyi and Thakin Kodaw Hmaing
Location: Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Dagon
Lying just south of Shwedagon Pagoda are four mausoleums, all set in one peaceful compound. The one closest to the stupa is that of former UN-secretary-general U Thant, who was buried in 1969.
Next along is the mausoleum of Suphayalat, Burma’s last queen. Having been exiled to India with her husband and daughters in 1885, she was allowed to return to Rangoon 1919, three years after King Thibaw’s death. She was, however, kept under house arrest by the colonial authorities until her death in 1925.
The final two mausoleums are those of Aung San’s widow, Daw Khin Kyi, and the famous poet and intellectual, Thakin Kodaw Hmaing.
Below Left: Mausoleum of U Thant Below Right: Mausoleum of Suphayalat
23. Maha Wizaya Zedi
Entrance Fee: 200ks Opening Hours: 4am-10pm Location: U Htaung Bo Street
Just south of Shwedagon Pagoda and connected to its southern gateway by a pedestrian bridge, Maha Wizaya Zedi was built in the early 1980’s on the orders of General Ne Win to commemorate the unification of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar.
Unusually, the stupa is hollow, its interior decorated with a forest of fake trees and a blue dome depicting star constellations. The king of Nepal donated sacred relics for the relic chamber and General Ne Win ordered for it to be topped with an 11-level hti, two more levels than the one at Shwedagon.
24. Kandawgyi Lake
Opening Hours: 4am-10pm Location: Kan Yeik Tha Road, Dagon
Kandawgyi Lake makes for a great place to relax and go for a stroll at any time of day, although it is most atmospheric at sunset when Shwedagon Pagoda is reflected in the calm waters. Built by the British as a reservoir, Kandawgyi is free to enter and enjoy on the southern and western sides, where there is a newly renovated boardwalk.
The northern side of the lake is also free to wander, though you’ll have to pay 200ks to climb to the viewing deck on the fifth floor of Utopia Tower, a building resembling a pile of artificial rocks that houses bars, karaoke and an art gallery.
You’ll only need to pay an admission fee if you choose to enter the eastern side of Kandawgyi Lake, where there is a children’s playground and Karaweik Palace, a huge concrete reconstruction of a royal barge that’s painted gold and shaped like two birds.
A dinner buffet (around $20/person) is available inside Karaweik Palace, the cost of which includes a variety of traditional Burmese entertainment, such as a puppet show and Burmese dancing.
25. Bogyoke Aung San Museum
Entrance Fee: 5,000ks Opening Hours: 9am-5pm Tues-Sun Location: Bogyoke Museum Lane, Bahan
Established as a museum in 1962, this colonial mansion served as the home of General Aung San and his family for just over two years, before he was assassinated in July 1947. The museum plays homage to the general, displaying furniture, clothing, books, old family photos and even his car.
You can visit for free on Martyrs’ Day (19th July) but be sure to get here for 6am (special opening hours on Martyr’s Day) if you want to beat the crowds.
26. Ngahtatgyi Paya
Entrance Fee: 2,000ks Opening Hours: 6am-8pm Location: Shwegondine Road, Tamwe
The real reason to visit Ngahtatgyi Paya is to see the stunning, 46ft-tall seated Buddha image that sits in calm gold-and-white repose against a lovely carved wooden screen. It’s likely to be one of the most beautiful Buddha images that you’ll see in all of Myanmar.
The statue is housed in a large iron hall, its golden dome topped with a multi-tiered hti (ornamental spire shaped like an umbrella). The covered walkway that leads to the temple, meanwhile, is lined with Buddhist murals.
27. Chaukhtatgyi Paya
Opening Hours: 6am-8pm Location: Shwegondine Road, Tamwe
Chaukhtatgyi Paya is home to a stunning 213ft-long reclining Buddha that lies in a large metal-roofed shed in a complex that’s opposite Ngahtatgyi Paya. The statue’s calm face, with glass eyes, is topped by a crown encrusted with diamonds and other precious gems. The soles of the Buddha’s feet, meanwhile, contain 108 red-and-gold segments that depict images that represent the 108 auspicious characteristics of the Buddha.
Near the feet, look out for the small shrine to Ma Thay, a holy man said to have the power to stop rain and grant sailors a safe passage. The Shweminwon Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre, where many locals go to meditate, is attached to the temple complex.
28. Martyr’s Mausoleum
Entrance Fee: 3,000ks Opening Hours: 8am-5pm Tues-Sun Location: Ar Zar Ni Street
Near the north entrance to Shwedagon Pagoda lies the Martyrs’ Mausoleum that houses the remains of General Aung San and his six colleagues, who were assassinated on 19th July 1947.
The Soviet-style concrete complex, painted a vivid red, is surrounded by manicured grounds and explanation boards (Burmese language only). Entrance is free on Martyrs’ Day but expect crowds.
29. Korean Martyr’s Memorial
Location: Ar Zar Ni Street
To the east of the Martyrs’ Mausoleum lies the Korean Martyrs’ Memorial that pays tribute to 17 South Koreans who were visiting as part of a delegation and died in a North Korean terrorist strike on the original timber Martyrs’ Mausoleum in 1983. The intended target was South Korean general Chun Doo-Hwan, who survived the attack.
30. People’s Park, Resistance Park and Thein Gottara Park
Entrance Fee: 500ks (People’s Park) Opening Hours: 7am-7pm Location: U Wisara Road, Pyay Road and Ahlone Road, Dagon
People’s Park offers a great view of the west side of Shwedagon Pagoda. With well-maintained flower gardens, ponds and fountains, it’s a popular place for locals to hang out.
People’s Square and the separate adjoining park are free to enter and are, in our opinion, much nicer than the part that requires a ticket. In this quieter section, look out for the decommissioned Myanmar Airways plane that you can climb inside, an old steam train and a planetarium.
The north-west corner of People’s park contains a (horrible) amusement park with rides including a roller coaster and log-flume; there are also restaurants in this area. You’ll hear it before you see it!
Resistance Park, with entrances on Dhammazedi and U Wisara Roads, is free to enter and has a military theme. It was recently renovated (March 2020); a children’s playground has been added, the grounds tidied up and new pathways and benches erected. Walls separate this area from People’s Park.
Thein Gottara Park can be accessed from near the western and northern entrances to Shwedagon Pagoda on U Wisara Road and Ar Zar Ni Street. This is our favourite park in Yangon, a place that few tourists seem to know about and that is frequented mainly by locals and expats.
The grounds are kept immaculate, a variety of plants and flowers can be seen, and there’s a large pond with a Shin Upagot shrine at the centre. Upagot is a Buddhist saint, said to protect human beings in times of mortal danger.
31. Happy World
Opening Hours: 9am-9pm
Happy World is a small park with three pretty lakes and a kids’ amusement park on the east side; there’s also the Golden Duck Chinese restaurant and the Myintzu Yi Café on site. Come here on a weekday for a quieter experience.
The grounds are a pleasant place for a stroll and there are benches under shady trees to break a day’s sightseeing; the café is decent enough – probably the best place in the area to grab some lunch.
32. U Thant House
Entrance Fee: 5,000ks (Donation) Opening Hours: 10am-5pm Fri-Sun Location: Panwa Street, Kamayut
The former home of U Thant, the UN secretary general from 1961-1971 and one of Myanmar’s most respected international politicians, is now open as a memorial museum. His grandson, Thant Myint-U, discovered the house in 2012; it was in a terrible state of disrepair.
Restored by Yangon Heritage Trust, the museum now displays archival photographs, video footage and personal memorabilia that once belonged to U Thant. Lectures and events are also periodically held within the house and its gardens.
33. Rangoon War Cemetery
Opening Hours: 7am-5pm Location: Off Pyay Road, Sanchaung
Containing 1381 graves, 86 of which are unidentified, the smaller of Yangon’s two cemeteries dedicated to the fallen soldiers of WWII in Burma can be found down a quiet lane near the Jasmine Palace Hotel. Superbly maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this was the first burial ground to be erected after the liberation of Yangon from Japanese forces in 1945.
34. Coconut and Banana Wholesale Market
Opening Hours: 24 Hours Location: Kyemyindaing Kanner Road, Kyemyindaing
Head to this riverside wholesale market to see more bananas and coconuts than you’ve ever seen in your life! This is a great place to snap some arty photos; branches of bananas, towering piles of coconuts, bales of sugar cane and huge amounts of mangoes (in season) make this an off-beat attraction with plenty of local flair.
The riverside area near the coconut and banana wholesale market makes a great spot from which to watch the sun set. There’s a small park just down from the Kyemyindaing water bus terminal that attracts hordes of locals every evening.
Inya Lake and North Yangon
35. Inya Lake
Location: Pyay Road, Hlaing/ Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Yankin
Created by the British as a reservoir in 1883, Inya Lake is roughly five times the size of Kandawgyi but not nearly as picturesque. The only real areas from which to view the lake are the strips of park on Pyay Road and Kaba Aye Pagoda Road; the former is slightly better, being wider and having an abundance of flower beds.
The area around Inya Lake is one of the most exclusive areas in Yangon to live; University Avenue Road on the southern shore is the site of Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, where she spent her many years of house arrest. Myanmar Plaza, one of the city’s largest shopping malls, sits opposite the lake on Kaba Aye Pagoda Road.
36. Kaba Aye Pagoda
Entrance Fee: 3,000ks Opening Hours: 5am-9pm Location: Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Mayangone
This glitzy ‘world peace’ pagoda was built for the 1954-56 Sixth Buddhist Synod; the 118ft-high hollow paya has five gateways, each guarded by a Buddha image. In the centre lies a statue that is said to be the largest Buddha cast from silver in Myanmar.
Opening Hours: 24 Hours Location: Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Mayangone
A 5-minute-walk from Kaba Aye Pagoda will bring you to Mahapasana, an artificial ‘cave’ where the Sixth Buddhist Synod was held in 1954-56 to coincide with the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
The building, which can apparently hold up to 10,000 people, took only 14 months to build thanks to 63,000 volunteer labourers. Important religious ceremonies are still held here.
38. Meilamu Paya
Opening Hours: 6am-8pm Location: Thudhamma Road, North Okkalapa
A short walk from Tadakalay Station on the Yangon Circle Line, this kitschy pagoda contains 3D stucco depictions of the Buddha’s life, as well as a giant crocodile housing a gallery of the legend of Mei La Mu, after whom the temple is named.
There are teahouses to the rear of the complex that overlook the Nga Moe Yeik creek and you can take a boat across the water to another cluster of stupas.
39. Kyauk Daw Kyi Temple
Opening Hours: 6am-6pm Location: Mindhama Hill, Insein
Not far from the airport, this enormous seated Buddha was carved from a single slab of marble that was found outside Mandalay in 1999. The partially finished statue was carefully transported to Yangon by boat and train a year later, events that are depicted in modern murals within the complex.
40. Taukkyan War Cemetery
Opening Hours: 7am-5pm Location: Pyay Road, Mingalardon
Opened in 1951, this huge beautifully maintained cemetery contains the graves of 6,374 Allied soldiers who died in the Burma and Assam campaigns of WWII. In the centre of the site there’s a memorial that bears the names of the almost 27,000 soldiers who died with no-known grave. The number 37 bus passes the cemetery on route to its final stop near Hlawga.
41. Hlawga National Park
Entrance Fee: 1,000ks (Local)/ 5,000ks (Foreigner) Opening Hours: 8am-4pm Location: Off Pyay Road, Mingaladon
Situated 35km from downtown Yangon, Hlawga is a 1,540-acre site that encompasses a wildlife park, mini-zoo and buffer zone; it was established in 1982 as an environmental education centre. The park’s aim is to protect the forest in the Hlawga Lake area and to provide a protected natural environment for a range of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Once you’ve purchases your tickets, you’ll need to jump aboard a buggy to access the park; buggies leave periodically from near the ticket office. Note that you cannot enter the park on foot; it took us a good amount of wasted time to figure this out! Staff don’t speak much English and signs are only in Burmese, so protocol isn’t obvious to foreign visitors.
The buggy will take you through large metal gates into the wildlife park; it will then stop at a number of picnic sites and other stops, where you can get off and explore. If you don’t disembark, you will be back at the entrance after around half an hour; buggies make a circular loop.
We recommend you to get off at picnic site 1, take time to enjoy the area, and then walk round to picnic sites 2, 3 and 4, exploring each one as you go. Away from the loop road there are pretty lakes, boardwalks and grassy areas to relax in; take your time and spend a whole day in this slice of nature outside Yangon. At picnic site 4, you can wait for a buggy to come around and take you back to the entrance. Buggies operate a hop-on, hop-off service on an hourly basis.
Deer and wild boar are the mammals that you’ll most likely spot, while depending on season, as many as 145 species of bird call the park home. The mini-zoo should be avoided as the few animals that are there look sad and poorly cared for; their enclosures are also dilapidated and overgrown.
42. National Races Village
Entrance Fee: 500ks (Local)/ 3,000ks (Foreigner) Opening Hours: 9am-5:30pm Location: Yadanar Road, Thaketa
Located just north of Thanlyin Bridge on the Yangon side of Bago River, the large landscaped National Races Village displays the traditional houses of the Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan peoples, as well as replicas of some of Myanmar’s most famous cultural sights. Handicrafts and souvenirs are sold beside each respective house.
The site is not too large to walk around, though bicycles/auto bikes are available for 500ks/1,000ks/hour if you’d prefer to have a set of wheels. Come on a weekday if you want to avoid the crowds; traditional dances are, however, performed on Sundays starting from 2pm in the Union Hall.
After entering the park, you’ll find yourself at the Union Hall; from there head to the Nan Myint Watch Tower to get a panoramic view over the complex and surrounding area. The scene encompasses the Bago River, a greenish lake, Thanlyin Bridge and mangrove forest. You can then use the guide map (included with your ticket) to explore each of the mini villages.
Below Left: The Myint Watch Tower at the National Races Village Below Right: One of the Ethnic Houses at the National Races Village
Historic Thanlyin lies east of Yangon across the Bago River; it was once a major port until it was eclipsed by Yangon in the late 18th century. In addition, Thanlyin briefly served as the base of the French East India Company and was the first place in Myanmar to accept Christian missionaries and have its own church. In colonial times, Thanlyin was known as Syriam and was the site of a major oil refinery.
There are two main sights near Thanlyin; the first is the ruins of a Portuguese-built church that dates to 1750. It can be found a short distance from the Thanlyin Bridge.
The second is Kyaik-Khauk Paya (2,000ks entrance fee), a gilded Mon-style stupa that lies about 5km south of Thanlyin’s centre on the main Thanlyin-Kyauktan Road. The paya is similar in design to Shwedagon and is said to contain two hairs of the Buddha.
YBS buses 31, 32 and 34 run from Yangon to Thanlyin (200ks/person). If you hire a taxi for a half-day tour expect to pay roughly 40,000ks to visit both Thanlyin and Kyauktan. It takes around an hour to reach Thanlyin by car from downtown Yangon, longer by local bus. In Thanlyin, you can take a motorbike taxi to Kyaik-Khauk Paya for 1,500ks or to Yele Paya in Kyauktan for 5,000ks.
Entrance Fee (Yele Paya): 2,000ks Tourist Boat: 5,000ks (Return)
Kyauktan lies 14km southeast of Kyaik-Khauk Paya, a small town with a famous pagoda – Yele Paya – that sits on an island in the middle of the river. Said to have been built in the 3rd century, the pagoda is one of the oldest religious monuments in Myanmar.
Even though it is only small, sparkling Yele Paya is picturesque and atmospheric in its unusual setting. Locals enjoy feeding the huge catfish that splash about at the water’s edge. Unfortunately, foreign visitors are barred from taking the small local boats and must pay 5,000ks/group for a larger one. Expect locals to climb aboard, however! Shoes cannot be brought onto the islet; leave them on the boat.
Whilst in Kyauktan, you can also visit a small pagoda, which is perched on a hill beside the river, and the large local market in the centre of town. YBS number 33 runs from Yangon all the way to Kyauktan, passing through Thanlyin on route.
Estimated Time for Dalah: 2-3 Hours Ferry: 4,000ks (Return), 5am-9pm Ferries depart from the Pansodan jetty (at the end of Pansodan Street) every 20 minutes; the journey across the Yangon River takes around 20 minutes.
The township of Dalah lies across the river from downtown Yangon and was one of the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. There are minimal sights to see in Dalah; the attraction of a visit lies in the stark contrast between the urban buzz of Yangon and the sleepy, rural atmosphere of Dalah. Wandering the dusty narrow streets, it feels as though you’ve suddenly been transported to small-town Myanmar, very far from the big city hustle. It’s hard to believe that downtown is just across the water.
Being one of the poorest areas in the Yangon region, everyone seems to want to make money out of foreign tourists and there are many scams being thrown at unsuspecting travellers. It’s not unusual to be approached by a trishaw or motorbike taxi tout on the ferry, or even in the terminal before boarding. Failing that, you’ll definitely be bombarded by touts the moment you reach Dalah; many quote exorbitant prices for a tour while others have ruthless scams up their sleeves.
The best practice is to walk away from all those vying for your attention and find a motorbike taxi or trishaw parked up in the designated area; the going rate is around 5,000ks/hour. You can also explore Dalah on foot; it’s not a huge township.
Check out the lively daily market, a shipbuilding yard and an array of colourful Hindu temples; there are also a number of quiet pagodas and churches and a mosque.
Located 26km (a 45-minute-drive) west of Dalah past seemingly endless rice paddies, Twante is a small town in the Ayeyarwady Delta. A visit here makes a logical follow-on from Dalah.
The main sight to see in Twante is Shwesandaw Paya, a Mon-built stupa that is believed to be as old as Shwedagon and is said to contain two hair relics of the Buddha. Look out for the 100-year-old seated bronze Buddha with eyes staring straight ahead that can be found near the southern entrance. Old bronze buddhas also line the western side of the stupa.
Whilst you’re in Twante stop by the Oh-Bo Pottery Sheds, which supply much of the delta region with containers of all shapes and sizes. When we visited, we weren’t able to view the process in action but you may be lucky enough to see the craftsmen casting pots on human-powered wheels and firing them in kilns. We did, however, see plenty of the finished products littered around the area, some of which were available to buy.
On the way to or from Twante make a detour to Mwe Paya, otherwise known as the Snake Pagoda. As its name intimates, Mwe Paya is famous for its huge pythons that inhabit the central shrine, which is set in the middle of a square water tank; the snakes are cared for by Buddhist nuns. It was interesting to see this unusual pagoda but we sure didn’t hang around for long!
A return trip to Twante from Dalah, including stops at the sights, costs approximately 10,000ks by motorbike taxi; taxis charge around 30,000ks. YBS buses also ply the route and cost only 500ks/person.
You can jump off the bus near the turn-off to Mwe Paya, visit the temple (3km round-trip), then wait on the side of the road, flagging down another bus to resume your journey to Dalah or Twante.
47. Swe Taw Myat Pagoda (Golden Tooth Pagoda)
Entrance Fee: 3,000ks Opening Hours: 9am-10pm Location: Swe Taw Myat Road, Mayangone
Identical to the Golden Tooth Pagoda in Mandalay, Yangon’s Swe Taw Myat enshrines a sacred tooth relic, said to have belonged to the Gautama Buddha. Construction of the pagoda was funded by donations from Burmese people and Buddhists from all over the world.
A large white building with golden ornamentation, the pagoda was constructed to resemble the ancient Ananda temple in Bagan that was built in the late 11th century. There are four entrances to the pagoda, each one flanked by a pair of white-and-gold chinthe; stalls selling flowers, incense sticks and other items to pay homage to the relic line the surrounding area.
Combine a trip to Swe Taw Myat with Meilamu Pagoda; the temples are just 1.5km apart on foot; you could also visit both on route to the airport, if hiring a taxi. Kaba Aye Pagoda and Mahapasana are also in the area.
Yangon Top Tips
- Get a local sim card as soon as you arrive in the country; Telenor, Oredoo and Mytel are the most popular networks though be aware that Oredoo does not work in Chin state. Data and calling credit are cheap and easy to load. 1GB of data costs around 1,000ks (0.6 GBP)
- Be careful when walking on pavements (many are wobbly) and when crossing roads (drivers don’t look before they pull out)
- Keep a cool head when asked at least 20 times/day if you want a taxi; drivers don’t expect ANYONE to walk ANYWHERE
- Most restaurants close by 10pm at the latest; teahouses generally stay open later
- Remove your shoes before entering a pagoda and ensure your shoulders and knees are covered
- Be careful not to point your feet towards a Buddha image
- Stay hydrated – Yangon is hot all year round!
- Ensure you have plenty of small change, especially for local buses, markets and street food
- Always check the price of something before purchasing, unless it’s clearly marked (some locals will try to overcharge foreigners) Note: It’s OK to haggle in markets.
- Double-check your bill at restaurants and cross-reference it with menu prices if possible
- Don’t give money to any beggars, even if they’re dressed as monks. Legitimate monks should never ask for money.
- Don’t bring up politics or the military when conversing with locals; they are very sensitive subjects
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Any questions about Yangon? Leave us a message in the comments below! If you’re embarking on a trip around Myanmar check out some of our other posts: