Why You Need to Visit Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago Now

written by local expert Jane Elmets

Jane always knew she wasn't destined for a desk job... She has travelled all over the world and is passionate about noodles, sloths and her hiking boots! When she isn't busy adventuring around the world, you can find her reviewing travel gear and dishing out travel tips to all the places she's visited.

Have you ever dreamed of visiting a place that isn’t even on Google Maps? To be a pioneer, setting foot on land that barely anyone has visited before? 

Now imagine this land is filled with the most beautiful beaches known to mankind, dense forests filled with roaming animals, and no people at all besides the rare sea gypsy looking for his latest catch. If this sounds appealing to you, it’s time to start planning your trip to Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago.

waterfall over ocean water

The Mergui Archipelago is made up of more than 800 islands, most of which have never seen a human footprint before. The archipelago is remote and distant, barely traveled except for those hungry for adventure. 

It’s nothing short of paradise here as tourism infrastructure is yet to reach the shores and humans haven’t had the chance to spoil the islands yet… So visit now, before it’s too late!

How to Get to Mergui Archipelago

The journey to the unspoilt paradise that is the Mergui Archipelago is a long one, but well worth it. You’ll have to take a combination of transportation including buses, planes, cars, and boats to reach your final destination.

The main gateway to the Mergui Archipelago is Kawthaung, Myanmar, which has its own airport, but you’ll generally need to be in Yangon already to fly there. The flight takes about two to three hours. 

Alternatively, and surprisingly, the easier way to get to Kawthaung is from Ranong, Thailand.

If you’re coming from Thailand, you can take an overnight bus, plane or private car to Ranong from Bangkok and then take a boat across the river to Kawthaung. Keep in mind you still need a visa to cross the border by land (or water), so have your documents prepared for immigration! 

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Where to Stay in the Mergui Archipelago 

Since tourism infrastructure is close to nil throughout the Mergui Archipelago, the most common (and best) way to see the islands is through a sailing tour on a chartered yacht or liveaboard ship. 

This means you get the comfort of the western world (think air conditioning, hot showers, and guaranteed meals), combined with the ability and convenience to travel between the islands. You’ll also have an experienced guide on board who will be well-versed in the Archipelago and all that it holds.

If you prefer to be based on land, there are a few resorts scattered throughout Mergui. They’re generally situated around Lampi Marine National Park, which is the only protected area in the Archipelago, and Boulder Bay. They range in style and accommodation type but you can expect something between a bungalow, a treehouse, and a villa. 

wooden houses on stilts on the beach in front of a forest

Some of the best ones include Wa Ale Island Resort, Boulder Bay Eco Resort and Victoria Cliff Resort at Nyaung Oo Phee.

Staying at a resort in Mergui definitely has its perks as many of them specialize in snorkeling and diving and offer guests unique excursions. They also provide the opportunity to take out kayaks or hit the best hiking routes.

But no matter which option you choose, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for accommodation as staying in one of the most untouched places in the world doesn’t come cheap — ironic, right?

It’s also worth noting that all travelers headed to the Archipelago are required to obtain permission from the government before their visit. This helps prevent masses of people coming at once and keeps the ecosystem widely untouched at the same time. 

Permits for Kawthaung & Environs costs $100 USD for 5 days and 4 nights, and $150 for Myeik & Environs. If you wish to stay longer, it costs an additional $20 per day. 

To apply, you need to fill out an application and submit a scanned copy of your passport. The total process takes between 15 and 20 working days. 

Why You Should Visit Mergui Archipelago

There are countless reasons why you should visit the Mergui Archipelago, the main one being it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Not yet convinced? Here are 5 reasons why you should visit the Mergui Archipelago.

It’s a Pristine Island Paradise

While the Burmese government opened up the Mergui Archipelago to tourism in 1997, it’s still widely untraveled and remains in gorgeous condition. This hidden paradise is sitting off the coast of Myanmar, just waiting to be discovered by those brave enough to travel the wild waters. 

A visit to these islands grants you access to the most pristine paradise you could ever imagine. Most of the islands in the Mergui Archipelago remain untouched by humans, and have had little to no man-made influence on its shores.

Those who do take a chance on this remote vacation destination will be faced with the world’s most perfect, unspoilt beaches spanning as far as the eye can see.

With crystal clear water, lush green surroundings and the softest, whitest sand you can imagine… Just without the hordes of tourists this kind of setting typically attracts. Run wild on your own private beaches here. It’s unlikely you’ll see anyone else your entire time on the archipelago! 

There are endless places to visit, like Lampi Island, Myanmar’s first marine national park, and Myauk Ni Island where you can get a taste of local life.

Go jungle trekking and sea urchin spotting throughout 115 (or Frost) Island or travel to Nyaung Wee Island to visit Moken villages.

While each island is diverse, all offer rich diversity in species on land and in water, all waiting to be explored. Enjoy the most colorful hard corals around Phi Lar Island and hit the Burma Banks for some of the best diving in all of Southeast Asia.

No matter where you end up in the Mergui Archipelago, you won’t be disappointed with the natural wealth overflowing from these islands.

Get Closer to a Thriving Natural Ecosystem

Since there has been little to no human contact with these islands, the natural ecosystem is one of the most vibrant in the world. Life on land and in the water is in its purest form, with nature running its course completely uninterrupted.

This means that there is a great deal to explore and see on these islands by way of natural ecosystems. 

Underwater, you’ll experience some of the best diving in the entire world with thriving marine life below the surface. You’re bound to see creatures beyond your wildest dreams and the most brilliant corals imaginable. Sharks, rays, and giant schools of fish; shrimps, oysters, clams, lobsters, and colorful critters… It never ends!

colorful sea creatures underwater

Diving in the Mergui Archipelago is one of the most thrilling adventures to be had around the islands.

Since this area sees so few visitors, everything underwater has remained pristine and intact, unlike dive sites around Thailand and Bali that see massive amounts of people every single day. Plus, the conditions here are virtually perfect (outside of monsoon season, of course), meaning warm, calm waters with thriving ecosystems waiting to be discovered. 

The diversity throughout the Mergui Archipelago is what makes these waters so captivating. Beneath the surface, eagle and manta rays roam freely, accompanied by ribbon eels, false pipefish, frogfish, and other Southeast Asian natives. 

The best dive sites include the Burma Banks where you’re guaranteed a shark sighting and Black Rock which is filled with silvertip, whitetip and blacktip sharks, along with sting and manta rays.

Finally, round out your diving tour of the islands with a dip below Little Torres Island for some of the most whimsical and colorful corals you could imagine. It’s truly some of the most remarkable marine life in the entire world.

One day, the marine conditions here will attract loads of divers, hungry for their glimpse of paradise — but for now, the waters are all yours. To fully explore all that this region has to offer, a diving liveaboard is the ideal choice.

On land, there are dense forests to hike through, exotic birds soaring above your head and creatures lurking in the darkest corners. 

Thrilling, exciting and everlasting: the untouched nature here is out of this world.

Bask in Complete Seclusion

While the beauty of Southeast Asia is undeniable, it’s recently been overrun with tourists. There’s seldom a silent beach for personal enjoyment and always loud hostels with a crowd of drinking foreigners. 

The Mergui Archipelago is the exact opposite. Here, you’ll enjoy complete seclusion – an off-the-grid vacation at its finest. There will be no one to bother you early in the morning or keep you up at night. Instead, you’ll have the islands to yourself for complete, peaceful serenity.

A visit to the Mergui Archipelago also gives you the chance to unplug. It’s unlikely you’ll have cell service and there’s certainly no WiFi. So your only choice here is to kick back, relax, and enjoy. 

Meet the Moken People

The vast majority of the Mergui Archipelago is uninhabited. However, it is home to a special people: the Moken sea gypsies. 

There are about 3,000 Moken people who are indigenous to Mergui, and they are best known for being able to hold their breath longer than possible by any human. They’re expert divers and have survived here for hundreds of years by living off the land and learning to read the sea. 

The Moken people generally live on boats and travel between different islands in the archipelago. They’re shy, but you may spot a few if you’re lucky! Besides them, you can count on having the entire place to yourself.

Have An Experience Unlike Anything Else

Above all, a trip to Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago is an experience unlike anything else. 

Imagine sailing empty seas in search of the next sandy cove or paddling through the waters on the hunt for secret caves. Sandy beaches that stretch for miles and miles on end all to yourself and the freshest seafood you could ever imagine.

A trip to Mergui is an adventure for sure, and not for the faint-hearted. But those who take the opportunity to visit before the islands become overrun with tourists will have an unforgettable experience. An experience of peaceful solitude, and a look into what the world once was in a time long ago…

canoe on empty beach in front of forest and clear water

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in the most beautiful place possible, a trip to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar is just what the doctor ordered. There’s truly no better place to unwind as there will be no one to disturb you, both on land or via your cellphone or laptop.

As one of the least traveled places in the world, visiting the Mergui Archipelago now is an opportunity that should not be missed, but also one that comes with great responsibility. As pioneer visitors, it’s of the utmost importance that those who reach this paradise leave it exactly as they found it and encourage others to do the same. 

In acting this way, we can preserve these sites for years to come and the Mergui Archipelago will be able to retain its beauty, now and always. 

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Why You Need To Visit Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago | For a trip truly off the beaten path, head to Myanmar's remote Mergui Archipelago for the trip of a lifetime. Here's why you need to visit ASAP!

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