Bali, Bangkok, and Beijing have long been favored destinations for travelers embarking on a trip around Asia. With their rich history, culture and tradition, it is easy to see why such places attract millions of visitors each year.
However, for tourists who don’t want to follow the crowds, but instead wish to experience unspoiled natural beauty, Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is the best place to visit in Asia.
How Many People Visit Myanmar Each Year?
A country recently opened up to Asia’s tourism, Myanmar receives relatively few annual visitors. With less tourism, Myanmar offers unblemished natural beauty that neighboring destinations are unable to provide.
In 2018, the total number of visitors to Myanmar was just 3.55 million. Compare this to Bali’s 15.7 million and Thailand’s staggering 38.27 million tourists and it becomes clear that Myanmar remains undiscovered by mass tourism.
What Does Myanmar Offer that Other Asian Countries Do Not?
With far lower tourist numbers than neighboring countries, Myanmar offers the opportunity to live a more authentic experience.
Below are just some of the reasons why tourists in Asia should add Myanmar (Burma) to their itinerary.
Myanmar unrivalled natural beauty
Myanmar’s myriad of landscapes offers visitors the chance to explore. From rugged mountains to white sandy beaches, the Asian country has much to offer nature enthusiasts.
Some natural places not to miss in Myanmar:
- Ngapali beach: white sand, stunning sunsets, and leafy palm trees.
- Inle Lake: floating gardens and local fishermen bring in the daily catch using their traditional fishing method.
- Putao: an isolated town surrounded by snow-capped mountains and boasting an incredible array of wildlife and rare orchids.
- Keng Tawng Falls: so remote that few tourists set foot here. This breathtaking waterfall is evidence of the beauty of unspoiled nature.
Myanmar’s rich cultural offering
Myanmar is currently home to 2 cultural UNESCO world heritage sites:
- Pyu Ancient Cities
The ruins of 3 brick-walled settlements, Pyu Ancient Cities is a partially excavated site with remains of ancient palace citadels, burial grounds and ritual structures from the Pyu Kingdom.
Bagan, granted UNESCO status in 2019, is a sacred landscape boasting Buddhist art and architecture. Comprised of 7 separate sites, Began offers a stunning collection of temples, monasteries and archaeological remains.
There are also 5 tentative UNESCO Heritage Sites in Myanmar, all of which tourists should consider exploring.
Ethnic Diversity in Myanmar
Myanmar recognizes 135 ethnic groups. Neighboring Thailand acknowledges around 30. Over 100 languages are spoken, belonging to 4 language groups. Such vast ethnic diversity makes for a rich cultural experience.
Main ethnic groups in Myanmar
Some of the principal ethnic groups in Myanmar are:
- The Bamars: the largest group, this Burmese speaking group makes up 68% of the population.
- The Shan: the second largest group making up 9% of the population.
- The Kayin (Karen) and Kachin: unlike most of Myanmar, this group is mainly Christian.
- The Rakhine and Chin: these groups make up around 4% and 1% respectively.
What is the official language of Myanmar?
The official language of Myanmar is Burmese, spoken by over two-thirds of the population. Many people in Myanmar can speak English, which is the second national language.
Traveling around Myanmar
Tourists in Myanmar can take advantage of or relatively developed roads and efficient domestic flights to travel through Myanmar.
Traveling around Myanmar by car
Although Myanmar’s road network is less developed than those across Europe and the US, it is relatively complex compared to that of some neighboring countries. With 9 highways running between towns and cities, travelers are able to travel across Myanmar by car.
There is also a major expressway that connects Mandalay and Yangon.
Taking domestic flights in Myanmar
Domestic airlines such as Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways, and Air Bagan are commonly used to travel between cities in Myanmar.
Public transport in Myanmar
In larger towns, the best transport options are the city buses and taxis. Other options available include ‘thoun bein’, a 3-wheel vehicle similar to tuk-tuks, and motorbike taxis.
Outside of the bigger towns, motorcycle taxis and trishaws are the most common forms of transport in Myanmar.
Including Myanmar in a Trip around Asia
Myanmar can easily be included in a trip around Asia with direct flights from several other Asian territories to Yangon International Airport.
Asian countries with direct flights to Myanmar
- Hong Kong
Visiting Myanmar from Thailand
An interesting option for travelers is to go to Myanmar after visiting Thailand. There are a number of options for accessing Myanmar from Thailand, both by air and by land. The best choices are detailed below.
Flying directly from Thailand to Myanmar
Direct flights arrive in Myanmar from the following cities in Thailand:
- Bangkok Don Mueang (Air Asia, Nok Air)
- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways International) Myanmar National Airlines (Thai Airways International)
- Chiang Mai (Air Bagan, AIr KGZ, Bangkok Airways)
- Mae Scot (Nok Air)
Myanmar/Thailand land border crossing
Four of Myanmar’s land borders are open for foreigners traveling from Myanmar to Thailand, of which the following 3 can be crossed with an evisa:
- Mae Sot/Myawaddy
- Mae Sai/Tachileik
As permission is required to access some areas, tourists are advised to check restricted areas for foreigners in Myanmar prior to travel.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Myanmar?
The tropical climate of Myanmar means that it is warm all year round.
Any time outside of the wet season (May to October) is a good time to visit Myanmar with temperatures being optimal for exploring from November to February.
Although March and April are outside of the wet season, high temperatures make it uncomfortable for holidaymakers.
How to Obtain a Visa to Travel to Myanmar
Most foreign travelers require a visa to travel to Myanmar. However, applying online for the Myanmar evisa is by far the quickest and easiest way to obtain the permit. It takes just a few minutes to complete and it saves travelers the need to visit an embassy or consulate in person.
Tourists should check the Myanmar visa application requirements carefully before applying.