With centuries-old pagodas, rustic rural landscapes, and hospitable locals, Myanmar holds an enigmatic attraction for travellers with a taste for the exotic. Jodi Ettenberg, founder of travel blog Legal Nomads, reports being “absolutely blown away by the resilience and beauty of the Burmese people, and inspired by the mountains and rice fields.”
The country’s largest city and crown jewel Yangon boasts the highest number of colonial-era buildings in Southeast Asia. Home to sprawling parks and huge man-made lakes (legacies of its colonial history), Yangon’s historic buildings have also enraptured holiday-makers and travellers both past and present.
Bookmark this guide to the city’s most compelling photography spots, and increase your chances of capturing the beauty of Yangon with a fresh pair of eyes.
||Inya Lake, Yangon
As Yangon’s largest lake and hotspot for dating couples, Inya Lake dominates the northern, more exclusive area of the city. Wander along its shores, and let your eyes gaze on locals or perfect your photo composition. Zoom in on interesting flora or zoom out to capture the water’s reflections.
To shoot the best views of the lake, take the paths situated along Pyay Rd or Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd. You can also have dinner at one of the restaurants by the lake, or sample local Burmese fare at the small food stalls dotting the southwest corner.
INSIDER TIP: Do you know that a 10-minute walk from the southern part of the lake brings you to the house of Myanmar’s venerated leader Aung San Suu Kyi? Affectionately known as “Mother Suu”, she spent her years of house arrest here. (It’s unlikely that you will be able to spot her though as she now resides in Nay Pyi Taw.
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||1, Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Dagon Township
|Opening Hours||4:00am to 10:00pm daily
In his book From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches published in 1899, Rudyard Kipling described the Shwedagon Pagoda as “a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun.”
Towering over Yangon’s cityscape at 99 metres, the Shwedagon Pagoda is known as the “holy of holies” of Myanmar. Constructed more than 2,500 years ago, it is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world, and could well be one of the priciest. According to Myanmar Times, its main stupa alone is plated with some 22,000 solid gold bars, so a visit here is literally worth its weight in gold.
At sunset, the Pagoda is a spectacular sight to behold. Try to arrive at least an hour before and stay till dark to bask in its golden glow. Remember to dress modestly and wear pants or a longyi (a gender-neutral traditional Burmese dress) as a sign of respect.
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||4:00am to 10:00pm daily
Kandawgyi Lake is a scenic garden-lake that offers the perfect escape from the constant buzz of downtown Yangon. It is also a great location for your Instagram photos and selfies.
Take the lake boardwalk to get panoramic shots of the lake together with Karaweik Palace–an edifice built in the form of a royal barge. Framing your photograph with the boardwalk fanning out also creates interesting visual lines.
The best time to visit is in the evening, where you can go trigger-happy, shooting what might just be the quintessential Yangon photograph: a greenery-framed view of the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset.
The eastern side of the lake houses plenty of cafes and restaurants, which are good spots to tuck into local Burmese delights.
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||Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Kin Pun, Myanma
For those with a thirst for the divine, a trip to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, one of Myanmar’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, offers a heavenly reward.
Perched precariously at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, the Golden Rock is replete with religious meanings and legends of old. It is believed that the Rock enshrines a strand of Buddha's hair, and it is this strand that keeps it from falling off the edge. Whether you believe the story or not is irrelevant; the Golden Rock receives as many tourists as it does Buddhist pilgrims. These travellers are drawn to its miraculous power and jaw-dropping views of the landscape.
This journey is not for the faint-hearted; it takes approximately 5 hours by bus from Yangon to Kinmun, a village near the foot of Mount Kyaiktiyo, and another 25-minute journey up the mountain in the back of a truck.
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||Hpa An, Myanmar
Further south of Kyaiktiyo (and a 6-hour bus ride from Yangon) lies the quaint, photogenic town of Hpa An (pronounced Pa Ahn.) Nestled on the Thanlyin River, this magical town is surrounded by Karst landscape–a unique limestone topography formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, and characterised by mountains and caves.
Venture upwards on short, scenic treks up the mountains if you wish. However, the biggest draw of Hpa An is its limestone caves, many of which have been transformed into Buddhist temple shrines.
You can book various cave tours upon arriving at Hpa An. It is advisable to allocate at least two days in Hpa An to fully appreciate its esoteric sights.
If you need assistance with your travel itinerary, PARKROYAL Yangon offers an in-house tour desk. Let its Myanmar travel experts help you plan your day trips and provide you with insider tips on how to experience the best of Yangon.
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