Magical Myanmar (Burma) offers so many varied highlights for the adventure traveller, from the temples and pagodas dotted throughout the country to the remote tribes, rivers and trekking opportunities ever present in its endless array of natural landscapes. Below our South East Asia specialist Nathan highlights his favourite reasons to plan a trip to Myanmar:
1. Untouched Beaches and Sea Gypsies
For the lucky few who get to visit the Mergui Archipelago you will be astounded by the beauty of the islands and stunning turquoise seas. The local sea gypsies offer a cultural flavour to the area and it is undoubtedly somewhere to visit sooner rather than later. There is a luxury glamping resort due to open next year and we offer a fantastic Southern Burma and Islands of the Andaman Sea tour to this stunning part of Myanmar.
As with all Asian countries Myanmar loves a festival and has some amazing options. One of our favourites is the boat rowing races which occur on the penultimate day of the annual Phaung Daw U Pagoda Festival in Lake Inle – the only race of its kind in the world! There are a number of other great celebrations worth visiting including the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights, held at the end of the rainy season, and the Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival (above), during which hundreds of balloons are released into the night sky to ward away evil spirits.
There are a wealth of fascinating remote villages across Myanmar and the intrepid traveller can climb the country's highest mountain, Mount Victoria. Other fantastic experiences involve trekking to hill tribe villages or walking in the countryside near Kalaw and staying in local monasteries – well worth dusting off and lacing up your walking boots!
A few years ago at the Travel Photography of the Year Awards it seemed as though every other image was of Myanmar – and with just cause. The temples of Bagan at sunrise and sunset are simply stunning and even the most rookie photographer can take good images. The iconic U Bein Bridge at sunset (above) is another iconic sight and sitting in a boat with a glass of wine watching the locals commute back to the city is a wonderful moment to capture. My top tip for Bagan is to go in late March/early April, as that is when the dust levels offer a lovely hazy sunset.
5. The Perfect Mix
The diversity of activities on offer in Myanmar is outstanding and everyone is sure to find something they love. Just some of the highlights on offer include cultural tours around the outskirts of Yangon to see real city life, taking a train over a viaduct, cycling amongst the temples, trekking through villages, kayaking on Inle Lake, cruising down the Irrawaddy, relaxing on stunning beaches and enjoying a balloon flight over Bagan with a glass of champagne at sunrise (above).
6. Go Before It Changes
As is the case in so many locations in the world, western influence is taking its toll. Currently you will still see the locals wearing the traditional longyi and thanaka (local form of sunblock) on their faces. However, this will begin fading out, so it's better to go sooner rather than later whilst it's still possible to get off the beaten track and explore some amazing places.