I can’t help but pause each time when people ask me about the best country that I’ve visited in Southeast Asia (aside from my home country, The Philippines).

It is difficult to narrow it down to just one country, so I end up sharing my top picks. Most are surprised and get curious when I mention Myanmar.

First off, I often have to mention “Burma” because not everyone is familiar with its modern name. Secondly, most people don’t have it on their bucketlist, probably because it’s not the easiest to travel or they haven’t had a compelling reason to go yet.

Why Myanmar? The ancient temples here are breathtaking! Definitely enough to rival Angkor Wat & Borobudur.

I also loved its off-beat vibe! This former military-controlled state had only recently opened up to the outside world. So, you can still witness traditions & local culture that are not heavy influenced by the globalized world. Burmese people are very genuinely friendly and love to chat with tourists to practice their English.

If your itinerary permits, book a flight to Yangon & exit out from Mandalay (or vice-versa). Spend at least a week to visit travel-worthy sights in between. Including ancient cities, sacred Buddhist sites, and natural landscapes.

Inspire your trip with these beautiful places to see in Myanmar.

1. Bagan

Sunrise at Shwe Sandaw Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar

Sunrise at Shwe Sandaw Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Why go — If there’s one place in Myanmar that you should take the time to visit, it’s definitely Bagan. The sheer scale of this ancient city is comparable to the leagues of Angkor Wat. The later may have more massive single structures but Bagan one-ups it with a landscape filled with thousands of pagodas and temples that are extremely scenic at sunrise and sunsets.

How to go

Bagan is located in Northern Myanmar. Most tourists arrive here by land from Yangon and Mandalay. The bus trip usually takes around 6 hours if you are coming from Mandalay and 10 hours from Yangon. You can also travel by train or private car. The most convenient way to get to Bagan is by booking a flight to Bagan-Nyaung U Airport, which serves flights from Yangon, Mandalay, Heho, Monywa & Homalin. Flights are served by Yangon Airways, Myanmar National Airlines, Golden Myanmar Airlines, Air KBZ, FMI Air & Mann Yadanarpon.

From the Philippines, there are no direct flights to Myanmar. Consider booking a connecting flight via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

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Bagan travel tips

2. Mandalay

Mandalay Royal Palace and Mandalay Hill in Myanmar

Mandalay Royal Palace and Mandalay Hill in Myanmar (Burma)

Why go — This major gateway in Northern Myanmar is worth at least a day tour. See the Mandalay Fort, the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy, and some of the country’s most sacred Buddhist sites including the Mahamuni Buddha Temple and Mandalay Hill. Extend your visit with a nice excursion to the four ancient cities of Mingun, Sagaing, Amarapura, and Innwa.

How to go

Mandalay along with Yangon are the main international gateways to Myanmar. Mandalay International Airport serves direct flights from Bangkok, Hong Kong & Singapore. Bangkok to Mandalay flight duration is around 1 hour and 45 minutes. By land, buses and trains are available from major tourist spots. Land travel to Mandalay takes around 9 hours from Yangon, 6 hours from Bagan & 8 hours from Inle Lake.

From the Philippines, book a connecting flight via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Cebu Pacific & Philippine Airlines fly directly to from Manila to Bangkok. Flight duration is 3 hours and 20 minutes. Then, fly from Bangkok to Mandalay on AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways or Myanmar National Airlines.

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Mandalay travel tips

3. Yangon

Sunset at Shwedagon Paya (Pagoda) in Central Yangon, Myanmar

Sunset at Shwedagon Paya (Pagoda) in Central Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Why go — Yangon is not only Myanmar’s primary international gateway and capital city, it is also a fascinating destination to explore. The main attraction here is the Shwedagon Pagoda, an architectural icon famous for its massive gold and diamond decorated spire. The city center is an interesting place to explore as well. Take your time to visit its many pagodas and well preserved British-era colonial buildings.

How to go

Yangon is the most popular gateway to Myanmar. Yangon International Airport serves direct flights from Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei & Doha. Flight duration from Bangkok to Yangon, the busiest route, is 1 hour and 15 minutes. From Kuala Lumpur, flight duration to Yangon is 2 hours and 40 minutes. Popular airlines include Nok Air, AirAsia, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways & Myanmar National Airlines.

From the Philippines. In addition to flying via Bangkok, you can also arrive in Yangon on a connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. KL-Yangon flights are served by AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines & Malindo Air. Meanwhile, SG-Yangon flights are served by Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways International, Myanmar National Airlines, AirAsia, Thai Airways & Lion Air

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Yangon travel tips

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4. Hsipaw

View of the Goteik Gorge aboard the Mandalay to Hsipaw train in Greater Mandalay, Myanmar

View of the Goteik Gorge aboard the Mandalay to Hsipaw train in Greater Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Why go — After knowing about the vintage train ride from Mandalay to Hsipaw as one of the best railway journeys in the World, I knew I just had to experience it. Before reaching this small town in Northern Myanmar, the train crosses a steel bridge that spans a massive and very picturesque gorge. Hsipaw itself is an excellent place to get a feel of rural Burma and go on nature treks.

How to go

The best way to get to Hsipaw, in North Myanmar, is to go abroad the scenic train from Mandalay. Travel time by train takes around 10 hours. On your way back to Mandalay, take the faster bus ride. Travel time by bus is around 6 hours.

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Hsipaw travel tips

5. Kyaiktiyo

Sunset at Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock Pagoda in Myanmar

Sunset at Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock Pagoda in Myanmar

Why go — Before my first trip to Myanmar ended, I traveled a few hours south of Yangon to visit Kyaiktiyo. This place is famous for the gravity-defying Golden Rock Pagoda perched on top of a mountain. It is considered as one of the most sacred Buddhist sites by Burmese people. Sunset views here are unreal!

How to go

Kinpun, the starting point of the trek to Mt. Kyaiktiyo, is 4 hours south of Yangon by bus. Kinpun is the base camp village where you can find hotels & places to eat. From Kinpun, public trucks ferry pilgrims & tourists half-way to the summit. Then, it is another 45-minute hike up to the site of the Golden Rock Pagoda. If you want to skip the hike, you can pay human carriers to take you to the top, literally, on a throne.

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Kyaiktiyo travel tips

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

Got places in mind that should be on this list? Share your photos and videos and tag #detourista on Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t stop here

Check out these pages for more inspiration on places to go in Asia: