Myanmar (Burma) Holidays
With its complex culture and astonishing beauty, this is a country with soul. A holiday in Myanmar does require forethought, and we strongly encourage those who travel there to enhance their experience by supporting some of the country's inspiring community-based tourism projects.
But get it right, and you'll find yourself rubbing shoulders with some of Asia's most inspiring people, supporting impressive sustainable projects, admiring some of Asia’s finest heritage, and trekking in hauntingly beautiful landscapes.
Heritage highlights. Old Bagan is Myanmar’s answer to Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu, drawing people from across the world to admire its 3,800 ancient temples. Other famous sights include Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, its gilded stupa topped with a massive diamond, and Golden Rock, a much-loved Buddhist shrine. Beyond these, Myanmar brims with impressive heritage, from the colonial-era buildings of Yangon to the regal palace of Mandalay.
High impact eco-projects. We’re talking about the real deal — a crop of legitimately sustainable lodges, resorts and initiatives which have sprung up across the country. They’re all unique, but have in common big hearts and a well-considered approach to tourism. Created with local communities on board, and designed to have a minimal impact on the country’s ecosystem, they’re an ideal way to support the people who live here.
Cultural contact. Burma’s diverse mix of people makes the country both fascinating and infamously conflicted. Your travels will include many opportunities to meet the locals. Sit down in a Yangon tea house or hike up to a mountain village, and you’ll glean a far broader sense of life in Myanmar than you can possibly get from the news.
Amazing trekking. Combine a strikingly beautiful natural landscape with ancient temples, active monasteries and remote communities, and you’ve got some really interesting trekking. Several great routes lead from and around Inle Lake, and we’re also big fans of trekking in Kayah State, where a community-inclusive guiding project helps to involve locals in your visit.
Take a boat upriver. Travelling along one of Myanmar’s rivers lets you witness daily life on the riverbanks whilst enjoying a change of pace from road travel. Routes range from the classic two-night hop between Mandalay and Bagan to more extensive voyages such as the one up the Chindwin River to Homalin, near the Indian border.
Coastal beauty. Whether you’re admiring it from your beachfront veranda or the basket of a hot air balloon, Myanmar’s shoreline is largely undeveloped and ruggedly handsome. You can find truly sustainable island resorts in the beautiful Mergui Archipelago, in Burma’s far south..
Things to love in Myanmar
What to do in Myanmar: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Home to the elusive Moken sea-nomads, teeming with wildlife; the Mergui Archipelago is one of the most beautiful and thankfully lesser-visited destinations in South-East Asia. Whilst a small number of islands are now home to responsibly focused resorts, for many the ultimate experience is cruising between rarely visited islands fringed with white sand and capped with monkey-filled jungle.
The Irrawaddy Dolphins respond to the fishermen’s calls by steering shoals of fish into their waiting nets, and are rewarded with a share of the day’s catch - a symbiotic relationship dating back hundreds of years. Discover more about this responsible dolphin encounter a few hours from Mandalay.
Travel comes in many shapes & sizes and from a variety of vantage points, however there surely aren't many that can improve on an aerial view enjoyed over the lip of a wicker basket. Launched (ahem..) first in Bagan but now available over a number of sites, a sunrise balloon flight is one of those pinch yourself travel moments not to be missed.
The three day trek between Kalaw and Inle Lake provides memorable panoramas and the opportunity to visit traditional Shan villages away form the heavy tourist footfall. Challenging but not to the point of demanding, walk promises a glimpse in ‘behind the scenes’ rural life; eating with local people and witnessing first hand the traditions and customs that make Myanmar such a remarkable place to visit.
There's no better way to explore a country than with your taste buds in our experience. And, whilst this can be undoubtedly be achieved in the restaurants, tea shops and on street corners across Myanmar, we prefer to get into the kitchen. Spend a relaxed morning learning to create authentic Myanma dishes, cooking up - and eating - Shan, Rakhine and Myanma recipes.
Discover your Myanmar
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Perfect straight ‘off the peg’ or as a source of inspiration allowing us to start with blank canvas. You decide.
The Selective difference
With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
Our Brighton-based Destination Specialists spend each day working closely with colleagues and partners across Asia. This ensures we stay several steps ahead when designing inspiring holidays, staying up to date and overcoming obstacles, which means your holiday will be crafted using both local and international expertise.
The welfare of our destinations and their communities is incredibly important to us. We are focused on ensuring that your money makes a positive impact, as often as possible, by supporting communities and wildlife conservation through dedicated initiatives and by very carefully choosing our partners in Asia.
We may be partial to the occasional bad pun, but we don’t joke around when it comes to designing first class travel experiences. Over 90% of our clients rate us 5/5 after their holiday, and we're not ashamed to crack a proud grin on behalf of our award-winning teams in the UK and Asia.
We know your time is precious, before and during your trip. We want you to have a smooth and relaxing experience so that your main concern on holiday will be whether to order noodles or rice. There will be no hidden extras, and your holiday will be orchestrated seamlessly by your Destination Specialist plus our local guides and behind-the-scenes crews in your destination.
Explore Burma's highlights
Myanmar’s largest & most internationally famous metropolis is relatively undeveloped compared to other large Asian cities, and despite seeing a boom in foreign investment over recent years this charming city still retains its character, with decaying colonial-era buildings and traditional shop-houses, somewhat balanced by an effort to conserve the city's historic properties.
Only recently reopened to visitors, Kayah State's capital of Loikaw is one of those places that once experienced, you immediately long to return to. Unassuming and punching well above its weight in many ways, it's the focal point for any travellers' visiting the Kayah region. Surrounding villages are home to Padaung and Kayah tribal communities, who maintain many ancient customs.
The tranquil, other-worldly beauty of Inle Lake captivates even the most jaded traveller. Populated by at least eight different tribes, and one of Myanmar’s most visited tourist destinations, the region has come under pressure from the growth of tourism. However, there are areas of the lake, especially in the south such as Sagar, that we prefer to take you to; ensuring you reduce your impact on the region with the added advantage of an enhanced travel experience.
Responsible Travel in Burma
We are endlessly inspired by Myanmar, from its awe-inspiring natural and cultural scenery, to its enterprising, resilient people. They've endured considerable troubles over the years, so it's great to see the impressive grassroots initiatives that are now coming through. The time you spend in Myanmar can make an unusually huge impact on local people's lives, so travelling 'the right way' here is particularly crucial. We're excited by the recent growth of legitimately responsible enterprises such as (and to shine a light on just a few of our favourites) the low-impact community-based Arakan Nature Lodge, the thoughtfully beautiful Wa Ale Island Resort, and 9 Generation Force, a community-inclusive guiding project in Kayak State. Despite growing out of challenging times, these projects are leading lights for responsible tourism in Asia, and they have our wholehearted support.
We’re strong believers in travelling as an informed responsible tourist, and in supporting projects that have a genuinely positive impact on their communities and habitats. We are hugely excited about these, and if you do decide to visit Myanmar and want to make a difference, these are the places we’ll encourage you to visit.
We know that making the decision whether to travel in Burma can raise questions. Learn more
It’s hard to think of anyone more sincerely friendly and welcoming than the people of Myanmar. Constantly surrounded by smiles, you feel like their guest, rather than a source of income, which makes it a really nice place to be.
Myanmar’s transport network is a romantic hotchpotch of river boats, rattly old trains, ox carts, bikes - locals get around, but not quickly - just patiently.
So much more than a place for a cuppa, Myanmar’s teahouses are a social institution - a hub of activity & an important meeting place.
There are 135 ethnic tribes recognized by Myanmar’s government. The main tribe is the Bamar, which make up 70% of the population.
Made from grinding the bark of a tree with water, thanaka paste is applied to the face to prevent sunburn, acne - and ageing!
Don’t be surprised to see Burmese people with red stained teeth - a side-effect of chewing the betel nuts and tobacco all day long!
Myanmar has the highest percentage of monks in the world, and more than 80% of the population are Buddhist.
Try out this local method of getting someone’s attention - it’s more of a sucking noise than kiss-blowing.
The traditional dress for men and women of all ages – think sarong, tied at the waist for men, and at the side for women.
Temples, temples everywhere!
Over 2,000 temples are scattered over the plains of Bagan – it’s a magnificent sight to encounter, especially at sunrise or from the swaying basket of a hot-air balloon.