6 Places to Go for Myanmar Travel Off the Beaten Track
Usually, offbeat travelers don't settle for exploring the most popular attractions in Myanmar. The ancient temples on Bagan plain, Shwedagon Pagoda towering the skyline of Yangon, and one-leg-rowing fishermen on Inle Lake are amazing. However, Myanmar is more than that!
To help you better appreciate the old world charm and understand the authentic culture of Burma, there are some off the beaten track destinations introduced. The hidden places like Rakhine and Chin State in the west and northern Shan State see little footfall, offering you unforgettable experiences.
Hpa An - Soak Up in the Postcard Setting
Located 5 hours southeast of Yangon, Hpa An is a small town that lies in Kayin State. This town is famous for its picturesque landscapes. You can expect the mysterious Buddhist caves, sacred mountains, and enchanting rivers and lakes of the surrounding countryside.
Get up early to get to the small lake in the town centre for a stunning sunrise with Mount Zwegabin reflected in the water. In the morning, see the locals walking the streets with baskets on their heads to carry food and fruit, and monks dressed in red or pink robes passing the houses in lines to collect breakfast.
Take a boat ride to cross the lake to explore Saddan Cave where a pagoda sits and then enter a small ditch in the middle of the rice fields. Usually, there is no sound around, just absolute silence. It is such a wonderful experience to relax your mind.
Take a boat ride to explore the stunning nature of Hpa An.
Or hike up Mount Zwegabin that is 722 meters above sea level. The hike takes two and a half hours, with concrete stairs that zigzag the way up to the top of Mount Zwegabin. You will be rewarded with the beautiful overlooking views of Hpa An.
Hsipaw - Experience the Most Exciting Train Ride in Myanmar
Hsipaw is a scenic town located in the lush valley of northern Shan State. There is so much to offer, ancient ruins, breathtaking nature, rugged rural scenery and authentic village life.
You can hang out with the locals to see their daily life, going to the fields or walking around the Central Market. Take your time to head for Myauk Myo to listen to the whisper of the ancient pagoda complex. Or spend a day trekking to Nam Hu Nwe Waterfall. The pretty waterfall is nestled in the jungle and there is a deep pool at the base that you can cool yourself off after the walk.
Most visitors travel to Hsipaw from Mandalay by train. The train between Mandalay and Lashio, stopping at Hsipaw, is probably the most thrilling ride out of all railway expeditions in Myanmar. Gorgeous landscapes are promised along the trail, especially at Goteik, where you can get the best view of the viaduct.
Expeience the thrilling train ride from Mandalay to Hsipaw.
Indein - Find the Lost Pagodas
Located in the west of Inle Lake, Indein is a small village, known for two groups of pagoda ruins and its market. To get there, you need to take a boat through the Inn Thein creek.
The pagoda complex of Nyaung Ohak dates back to the 16th century, where you can see the traces of time clearly. These pagodas have been abandoned, and plants and trees spring up over these pagodas.
From Nyaung Ohak, a 700-meter covered walkway leads up to Shwe Inn Thein, where you can see hundreds of pagodas in the 17th and 18th centuries. You can also get a stunning view of Indein village and the surrounding area.
Indein is one of the villages that host the Inle "5-day market". The market is held in a five-day rotating cycle in five villages around the lake. Go to Indein on a market day should add a lot of fun.
Sagar - Discover the Well-kept Secret
Inle Lake is one of the most well known scenic spots for Myanmar travel with its extravagant beauty and unique one-leg-rowing fishermen. However, with a surge of tourism, Inle Lake is quite touristy. Lying far south of Inle Lake, Sagar is a hidden small village untouched by time. There are very few tourists in Sagar.
Take a boat from Inle Lake to Sagar to explore the tranquil villages and ancient stupas. As you wind down the weed-choked narrow lanes, you can see farmers working the fields at the edge of the water. Roads are unpaved. Along the dusty roads, you can meet buffaloes and sheep wander around and many dogs and cats that are peacefully sleeping.
Sagar is a well-kept secret far south of Inle Lake.
The stupas in Sagar are very similar to that in Indein but on a smaller scale. The complex of about 300 stupas lies on the bank of the lake, so some of them have been flooded.
Mrauk U - Explore the Hidden Kingdom of Rakhine
To get to Mrauk U, you can fly from Yangon to Sittwe and then take a boat trip. It’s not easy. But you will be rewarded with a real hidden gem of Myanmar. Mrauk U is an ancient kingdom of Arakan located in northern Rakhine State that has been abandoned for over two centuries.
There are more than 700 temples and fortresses. Compared with the temples and pagodas in Bagan, much fewer tourists are found here. And the temples in Mrauk U are different from those you find in Bagan.
These temples and fortresses were built from stone, not brick, as they were made to protect from fierce winds. They are also smaller in size than those in Bagan. The locals live in the villages, so you can see farmers work in the rice paddies and animals graze in the land.
Chin Villages - Visit the Facial-tattooed Women
Every year, only a few thousands of tourists are allowed to visit Chin Villages. And the truth is there are just a few face-tattooed women left in the tribes because this custom is no longer permitted. So nowadays, in the Chin Villages, you can only see the facial tattoo on the older generation of Chin women.
Go to the remote Chin villages to visit the facial-tattooed women.
As for the reason that the Chin women are tattooed, legend tells in ancient times, in order to protect their daughters from being selected as the Burmese King's harem, the parents in Chin State deliberately make the young girls unattractive.
Different villages in Chin State have different tattoos. You can stroll around the various villages to find and talk to the facial-tattooed ladies. Normally, they are happy to share with you their stories. You need a local guide as most tribes do not speak Myanmar language, let alone English, only that of their region or tribe.
Except for these less-touristy attractions, the not so off the beaten track travel in Myanmar destinations that you must visit anyway include Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon.
Mandalay also deserves a visit, with marvelous cultural landmarks like Hsinbyume Pagoda and U Bein Bridge. If time permits, take your time to get some beach fun in Ngapali as well.