For any adventurous traveler, getting off the tourist track is a must and there’s truly no better place to do this than Myanmar.
Burmese people are so kind and accepting, there is a seemingly endless amount of land to explore, and the country’s vibrant culture is just bursting from every corner of the country. There’s plenty to soak in on a trip here, especially in places you’d least expect it.
If you’re looking for the best off-beat things to do in Myanmar, look no further! Here are 10 alternative activities in Myanmar that will deepen your understanding of local life and lead to some crazy fun, too!
Cross into Myanmar by Land
When traveling to Myanmar, most people fly into the major airports in Yangon or Mandalay, but if you’re looking for a more scenic journey, consider crossing the land borders.
There are several points where you can cross the border into Myanmar from Thailand without a permit, making for a gorgeous journey off the beaten path. You’re able to cross at Mae Sot, Mae Sai, Ranong or Phunaron in Thailand. The most common crossing point is Mae Sot as there are frequent buses from Chiang Mai and Bangkokm
Just remember that you still need a visa crossing a land border and there are certain crossing points that only remain open to Thai and Burmese nationals.
Enjoy a Local Festival
If you’re really looking for a taste of local life, plan your travel around one of the many festivals happening in Myanmar throughout the year. Some festivals take place country-wide while others are contained to a specific place, but no matter what, a fun time is guaranteed!
The most popular festival in Myanmar is Thingyan Water Festival in April where everyone takes to the streets to soak each other in water, similar to Songkran in Thailand.
You can also find other festivals like Kachin Manaw and Ananda Pagoda Festival in January, and Kason Festival in May. If you’re planning to travel in October, be sure to send a lantern to the sky for Thadingyut, the Festival of Lights!
Snack Your Way Through a Morning Market
Speaking of local life, waking up early for a stroll through a morning market is a great glimpse into many Burmese people’s regular routines. Wander between the grannies selling vegetables and the fishermen with their daily haul. This is a great place to find snacks for your day and put yourself right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of things first thing in the morning.
Morning markets are abundant throughout Myanmar, with large ones in Hpa An, Myinkabar Village in Bagan, and 26th Street in Yangon.
Not sure what to try at the markets? Our guide to Burmese food can help!
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Meet Locals at a Beer Station
Once in Myanmar, you’ll quickly realize that once the sun goes down, locals often gather at the common watering hole: the neighborhood beer station. Beer stations are outdoor areas with tables, chairs, and cold ones flowing freely.
Head to a beer station to drink like the Burmese and munch on typical snacks. You never know, friendly local may strike up a conversation with you!
Sip Wine at a Vineyard
If wine is more your style, Myanmar is actually home to a couple of super cool vineyards that you’re able to visit.
One of the vineyards, Red Mountain Estate is easily accessible from Inle Lake, making it easy to fit into an itinerary. The other winery, Aythaya, is located near Taunggyi, just a little further north.
Each have their own unique landscapes, but you can expect to find rolling hills, lush greenery, and grapes growing in abundance. Both vineyards also offer tastings so go enjoy some beautiful views while sipping on Myanmar’s finest wines!
Travel By Horse
It’s no surprise that Myanmar is pretty old-fashioned, but nothing shows this better than a good old horse-drawn cart carrying eager passengers from one place to another.
If you end up in the ancient city of Mrauk U (totally worth visiting, by the way), the only way to get around besides motorbike is by horse carriage! A ride through the city costs roughly $9 USD, and you’ll get to roam around the streets the way people have for thousands of years before you!
Visit Pagodas by E-Bike
On the other end of the spectrum, speed things up with an electric bike! E-bikes are super common in Bagan and seriously one of the best ways to get around. You can rent one for less than $10 USD, a day which is perfect for hitting one pagoda after another.
Besides pagodas, e-bikes are a great way to soar through local villages (be respectful and careful though!) and get from point A to point B with absolute ease. Plus, e-bikes are an awesome option if you’re not comfortable on a motorbike but are looking to travel without spending energy.
Wander Through the Burmese Cat Village
As far as off-beat things to do go, visiting the Burmese Cat Village may be the most out of the ordinary. That being said, cats are far from unusual in Myanmar as they’ve been roaming the lands for more than 1,000 years as pets to royals or monastery companions.
However, purebred Burmese cats nearly disappeared during the colonial period, which is why Inle Heritage started an initiative to get the breed back to what it once was. While this program started with just 7 cats, there are now more than 40 cats living in the Inle Heritage village.
If you make your way here, you’ll be able to see different charts documenting each cat’s health, vaccinations, and other tracked indicators as you wander around searching for them.
Head to Nay Pyi Taw
In 2005, the government of Myanmar built a new administrative capital about 200 miles north of Yangon. The entire city was built completely from scratch, and is more than four times bigger than London. However, the population nowhere near makes up for the amount of space, which is why Nay Pyi Taw is more like a ghost town than a country’s capital.
Despite the few people living in this mammoth city, you’ll find loads of modern amenities that are strikingly uncommon compared to the rest of the country. There are golf courses, shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels all with reliable electricity, unusual even in Yangon.
But most surprising of all, the six lane highways are practically empty during rush hour, an absolute anomaly compared to the jam-packed streets and tortuous traffic throughout the rest of the country.
Take a visit to this off-beat place to get a taste of something different from the other large cities in Myanmar. It’s sure to be full of surprises…
Chill Out at a Spa
Finally, remove yourself from the madness that is Myanmar and take some time to relax at a spa. There are hundreds of places to get massages throughout the country, but there are certain spas that go the whole nine yards for a fraction of the price of a Western country.
Inya Day Spa in Yangon is the perfect place for a day of relaxation on the most humid days. Cool off with one of the many spa packages offered, and even indulge in smoothies and other treats offered! If you’re in Mandalay, stop by La Source Beauty Spa which has killer facials, unbeatable massage deals, and manicures!
The one commonality in all the off-beat things to do in Myanmar on this list is that they’ll each put you in contact with some crazy cool people.
As mentioned, Burmese people are some of the kindest, most full-hearted people I’ve ever met traveling, so removing yourself from the tourist track and seeking more local life will be more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
Want more on Myanmar? Check out these articles
- Budget Backpacking in Myanmar: Everything You Need to Know
- Bagan Itinerary: See the Best of Bagan in 3 Days!
- What to Wear in Myanmar | The Ultimate Packing List
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