Published on November 28, 2023
The largest country on the mainland of Southeast Asia, Myanmar is chock-full of cultural wonders. Its long history is made up of a tapestry of different cultures that have culminated in a collection of jaw-dropping ancient temples, myriad unique customs, and other unparalleled cultural wonders. From the establishment of the Pagan Empire in the eleventh century to British and Japanese rule in more modern history, Myanmar has a fascinating past, a fact that is still evident in its attractions. In Myanmar, intrepid visitors will find archaeological ruins, spectacular landscapes, centuries-old marvels and more, making it the perfect place for those interested in history and culture.
Join us as we guide you through five of Myanmar’s most fascinating cultural wonders.
Pyu Ancient Cities
An archaeological marvel that gives visitors a look inside Myanmar’s ancient roots, Pyu Ancient Cities is made up of the ruins of the three cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra. In their heyday, the cities were the jewels of the Pyu Kingdoms, which flourished for over a millennium from the second century BC. The cities are known for their sophisticated urban planning, cultural advancements, and well-preserved state; they were crucial trade hubs and centres for Buddhist learning. These cities represent some of the first evidence of Buddhism’s introduction into Southeast Asia and the economic, political and sociocultural changes that came with it, making them a peerless trove of history.
The remains of the Pyu Ancient Cities include everything from burial grounds and palace citadels to reservoirs and religious structures. These intricately designed cities provide an intimate glimpse into Myanmar’s past and ancient prowess. From incredible architecture to a deep sense of history, the Pyu Ancient Cities offer something for everyone.
Located in the central Mandalay Region of Myanmar, Bagan is an iconic landscape that served as the capital of the Bagan Kingdom from the 9th to the 13th century. Bagan — or Pagan — Kingdom laid the foundations for modern-day Myanmar as the first unification of the regions that now constitute the country. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bagan is a testament to the artistic and architectural prowess of the Burmese people.
Boasting over 2,200 surviving temples and pagodas, Bagan is a spectacle of unparalleled beauty, a treasure frozen in time. From red plains to the banks of the Irrawaddy River, vaulted pagodas to imposing gates, the landscape of Bagan is nearly unbelievable. Thanks to its sheer singularity and geography, it truly captivates the hearts of all who visit.
A true cultural wonder, Bagan is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Myanmar.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, a.k.a. Golden Rock
One of the world’s most well-known Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, is a 7.3-meter structure built atop a golden rock. This gravity-defying attraction is not beholden to the laws of physics. Located in Myanmar’s southern Mon State, part of Kyaiktiyo’s name means ‘carried on a hermit’s head,’ one of the legends behind the pagoda and boulder is that they are held up by a strand of the Buddha’s hair.
Pilgrims and tourists alike are drawn to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda for its spiritual significance and breathtaking panoramic views — including the nearby Tenasserim Coast. To get to this site, you must trek from Kinpun Village, located at the base of Mount Kyaiktiyo. The journey is one of faith and wonder and culminates in the transcendence of witnessing the shimmering surface of the golden boulder.
Those who want to explore the spiritual side of Myanmar’s past and present should consider visiting Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, a monument to the country’s long-standing Buddhist faith.
Not only are the Chin Hills a cultural wonder, but they are also a major natural attraction that can be found in Myanmar. This mountain range extends from northwestern Myanmar into India and is known for its natural beauty and cultural diversity. Home to a myriad of ethnic groups, each with unique traditions and customs, the people of this mountainous region are primarily known for their weaving skills and traditional ‘nose flute’ playing. The Chin people are also famed for their tradition of intricate face tattoos, symbolising beauty and strength. A notable holiday for the Chin people is the New Year, which is celebrated in May; traditional dances and festivities mark the celebrations.
This region offers an immersive cultural experience, capturing these unique communities’ daily lives and age-old customs. Its tropical and subtropical climate makes for verdant scenery, home to thousands of species of flora and fauna. Hiking through these lush landscapes and interacting with locals allows visitors to forge strong connections with Myanmar’s cultural heritage.
Mrauk U, a town in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, a region on the western coast, is one of many important archaeological sites in the country. From the 15th to the 18th century, Mrauk U was the capital of a powerful kingdom of the same name; nowadays, it is a major tourist destination full of temples, ruins and pagodas. It is often referred to as the ‘Second Bagan’ because of the similar scope of its cultural treasures.
Mrauk U is unique for its fusion of Burmese, Indian and Southeast Asian cultures and architectural styles, as well as its Buddhist heritage. It perfectly showcases the cultural and social exchanges and movements that have shaped Myanmar’s history and present day. Prosperous, culturally vibrant, lively and historic, Mrauk U offers visitors a serene yet exciting journey into the past, from its intricate architectural marvels to its fascinating culture.
Myanmar has a long, unique history that has culminated in many cultural attractions, perfect for the adventurous, curious visitor. From the beautiful Chin Hills to the spectacular Pyu Ancient Cities, each corner of this Southeast Asian Nation is well worth a visit.
Plan your trip to Myanmar today with the help of Visit Southeast Asia.