A typical holiday in Myanmar is more likely to be focused on culture than tropical beach time, but fulfilling travel should refresh as well as enrich, and a bit of downtime will let you recharge your batteries and reflect on everything you’ve seen. So we’ve shared a selection of the finest shorelines this tantalising country has to offer.
We love this intimate conservation resort on the edge of Lampi Marine Botanical National Park, in the superb Mergui archipelago (also known as Myeik). The resort has a barefoot luxury vibe, and is focused on responsible care for the environment. The resort has 10 interesting dive sites nearby, with its own PADI qualified instructors on hand to help you look for Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and Minke Whales, and explore a variety of corals. The island’s beautiful golden sands provide safe nesting for turtles, and its coastline is perfect for exploring by paddleboard, kayak and snorkel, with jungle hikes to lead you inland.
This spectacular stretch of sand is home to an equally remarkable place to stay - the Arakan Nature Lodge. This is a true eco-lodge, created by people who are genuinely passionate about low impact community-based tourism. Local builders and craftspeople were employed to use recycled and fast-growing materials, also locally sourced, and traditional techniques that are suitable for the area’s climate.
The result is unobtrusive and lovely accommodation which gives guests the opportunity to stay in what might as well be a local village home, albeit with 24 hour solar power and a luxury composting toilet (yes, that is a real thing).
Arakan has been designed to offer continued employment to locals, both as staff and also in regular replacement of the palm leaf roofs and other naturally degrading building materials.
Just inland, you’ll find swathes of protected forest, and your lodge is a step away from one of Myanmar’s entirely undeveloped beaches, where clean, safe currents offer great swimming in crystal clear waters, and the sandy shoreline is perfect for genuinely relaxing strolls.
One of the better known of Myanmar beaches, Ngapali is still one of our favourites. A long stretch of golden sand dotted with fishing boats, the beach is overlooked by just enough resorts to make it convenient, without feeling overdeveloped. Our Myanmar Specialist Lionel says ‘there are lovely seafood restaurants running along the road behind the resorts, very fresh and genuinely local in flavour and cost’, and particularly loves the Ngapali Bay Villas and Bayview Beach hotels when he stays there.
The newly opened Art of Sands Resort is also making waves with its stunning waterfront villas and luxurious amenities. And if the mainland beach isn’t enough, you can hop on a boat for a day trip (and an all-important picnic) on a nearby island. We’re also big fans of taking a hot air balloon along the Ngapali coast - although the Bagan ballooning experience is a far more famous attraction on the Myanmar tourist trail, this alternative easily rivals it. Some of us think it’s better!
This 600 metre secluded swathe of sand is washed by the Andaman Sea, and overlooked by the desirable yurts of the Awei Pila resort, which will be open from December 2018. Designed to have a minimal impact on the environment, the 26 luxurious pavilions offer the chance to be at one with nature, with creature comforts such as gorgeous bathrooms, outdoor showers and private terraces. When you’re not relaxing on the sand, you can snorkel or kayak in the clear tropical waters offshore, or hike inland to explore the jungle and visit the island’s village.
Myanmar’s beaches are not accessible all year round, closing during the height of wet season, which is July to September. If you visit immediately either side of these months, expect to find some resorts shut, or at least not fully up to speed. On reopening in October, service can still be on the slow side, as new staff learn the ropes and repairs are made to any storm damage. The best time to visit is between November and the beginning of May, when the long, warm days invite you to make the most of those picture-perfect sands.