Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city, and by far the most exciting place in the country to be right now. A mix of British colonial architecture, modern high-rises and gilded Buddhist pagodas define its skyline.
Best Time to Visit
November to February is the best time to visit Yangon. This is the winter season and Shwedagon Festival is also held in February or March each year at this shimmering pagoda.
Top Places to Visit in Yangon
1. Shwedagon Paya
One of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, the 325ft zedi (stupa) here is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former buddhas. Four entrance stairways lead to the main terrace. Visit at dawn if you want tranquillity; otherwise, pay your respects when the golden stupa flames crimson and burnt orange in the setting sun.
2. Chaukhtatgyi Paya
Housed in a large metal-roofed shed, this beautiful 215ft-long reclining buddha is hardly publicised at all, even though it’s larger than a similar well-known image in Bago. The statue’s placid face, with glass eyes, is topped by a crown encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. Close to the buddha’s feet is the small shrine to Ma Thay, a holy man who has the power to stop rain and grant sailors a safe journey. Attached to the temple complex is the Shweminwon Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre, where large numbers of locals gather to meditate. It’s not hard to find someone to show you around the adjoining monasteries.
3. Ngahtatgyi Paya
One of Yangon’s, if not Myanmar’s, most gorgeous Buddha images is this 46ft-tall seated one at the Ngahtatgyi Paya, sitting in calm gold-and-white repose and adorned with a healthy splash of precious stones. It’s worth seeing for its carved wooden backdrop alone.
4. Botataung Paya
Botataung’s spacious riverfront location and lack of crowds give it a more down-to-earth spiritual feeling than Shwedagon or Sule Paya. Its most original feature is the dazzling zigzag corridor, gilded from floor to ceiling, that snakes its way around the hollow interior of the 131ft golden zedi (stupa). Look out for a bronze buddha that once resided in the royal palace in Mandalay, and a large pond full of hundreds of terrapins.
5. Sule Paya
It’s not every city where a primary traffic circle is occupied by a 2000-year-old golden temple. This 46m zedi (stupa), said to be older than Shwedagon Paya, is an example of modern Asian business life melding with ancient Burmese tradition. Just after the sun has gone down is the most atmospheric time to visit the temple. The gilded zedi is unusual in that its octagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl. The exterior base of the temple is surrounded by small shops and all the nonreligious activities that seem to be part of every zedi in Myanmar.