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21 Unique Things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar

21 Unique Things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar

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If you want to get the most out of exploring Mandalay, Myanmar then you’re going to need to do more than the typical “best 5 things to do”. In this blog, we reveal 21 unique things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar.

21 Things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar

Before arriving in Mandalay I was told that there was a ton of things to do and see. Since Dan and I have the benefit of time on our side (one whole month in Myanmar) we decided to book six nights in Mandalay in order to give us ample time to explore.

But when we got to Mandalay I had no idea what we were going to do with all of our time.

All of the blogs out there list the same handful of things to do in Mandalay, and to be frank, we did almost all of them on our first day!

So, we had to dig a little deeper and look around a little more and sure enough, we discovered a ton of awesome and unique things to do in Mandalay. In fact, we’ve discovered 21 different things to do in Mandalay! And although our list includes the “typical touristy” things to do, it also includes some more hidden gems so you can pick and choose what interests you while visiting Mandalay.

*At the bottom of this post I’ve also included some info about how to get around and see everything as well as some other essential Mandalay travel info!

Things to do IN Mandalay City

You don’t need to travel far to see some of the top sights in Mandalay. And the great thing is that most of these sights don’t charge an entrance fee.

You just pay a once-off ticket price of 10,000 Kyat ($6.50 USD) and it gets you access to every attraction listed below in Mandalay city! This is officially called the “Mandalay Archaeological Zone Ticket”, but for simplicity sake, I’ll refer to it as a “tourist card” in this blog.

You can buy this “tourist card” at any of the attractions in Mandalay. There is a ticket booth at each attraction and here you can initially buy the card, or if you already have purchased it, just get it stamped.

1. U-Bein Bridge

U-bein bridge at sunrise
U-Bein Bridge at sunrise.

U-Bein Bridge is a popular spot for tourists during the day and at sunset. If you want to visit without a ton of other tourists snapping pictures then consider getting up early and heading there for sunrise.

This bridge is a 1.2-kilometer long bridge made of teak wood. It was originally built in the 1850s but has had to be restored many times since then.

When we visited at sunrise it was quite fun because a ton of locals were going about their day, using the bridge as a footpath or even doing morning exercises.

There is no entrance fee to U-Bein Bridge and it is located about 9 kilometers from Mandalay city center.

2. Mandalay Palace

mandalay palace
Mandalay Palace

A visit to the Mandalay Palace is likely the most popular thing to do in Mandalay and to be honest, I’m not sure why. To me, it wasn’t overly impressive or interesting but I’m sure some would disagree. Plus, it is centrally located and included in the tourist card fee so you might as well check it out.

The Palace grounds are huge and surrounded by a large brick wall and mote. Access is only allowed at the east main gate. You must also provide photo ID at the ticket booth before entering (passport or foreign drivers license.)

Once in the palace grounds, it is an 800m walk or scooter ride to the actual palace. Tourists must remain on the main marked path at all times.

The Palace itself is a great place to wander around. There is quite a bit of history here as it dates back to 1859. My favorite part was at the very back of the palace where they have created a mini-museum of artifacts.

3. Mandalay Hill

the view from a top mandalay hill
The view from the top of Mandalay Hill.

Just behind Mandalay Palace is Mandalay Hill. This large hill is a common place for locals to come for exercise, but tourists come for the view.

You can walk up this hill (about a 30-40 minute climb) or take a tuk-tuk. Expect to pay around 7,000 kyat for a tuk-tuk ride to the top and back down.

Mandalay Hill is a beautiful place to visit at sunset. But keep in mind; this is also when it is the busiest!

There is an extra fee of 1,000 Kyats to enter the temple viewpoint.

4. Kuthodaw Pagoda

kuthodaw pagoda in mandalay
A visit to the Kuthodaw Pagoda is one of the best things to do in Mandalay

The Kuthodaw Pagoda is my personal favorite out of all of the things to do in Mandalay city! Basically, there are over 700 little pagodas, each pagoda has its own marble slab inside which is written on. All of these marble slabs read together to create a book, and in fact, it is the world’s largest book!

Since I don’t speak Burmese, this “book” was of no interest to me, but the setting of it was nothing short of incredible. Rows and rows of white temples as far as the eye could see all surround a huge golden pagoda. It was a very unique place to explore and since it was so large it didn’t feel very busy or crowded at all!

The Kuthodaw Pagoda entrance fee is also included on the tourist card. It is located only 3 kilometers from the Mandalay Palace or 5 kilometers from the city center.

5. Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung

exploring the wooden temple in Mandalay
Just exploring!

Only a couple hundred meters down the road from the Kuthodaw Pagoda sits a very unique temple, Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung. This pagoda is special because unlike most of the pagodas around Myanmar, this one is made of wood!

The wood has carefully been carved to create images and unique shapes everywhere you look.

Entrance to Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung is also included on the tourist card and it is literally right around the corner from the Kuthdaw Pagoda (you can walk in less than 5-minutes!)

6. Atumashi Kyaung

Atumashi Kyaung in mandalay
Atumashi Kyaung

Right beside the wooden pagoda (Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung) is Atumashi Kyaung. This is a large white pagoda with gorgeous huge doors and marble floors.

It only takes a couple of minutes to explore this pagoda but it is totally worth it especially since it is literally accessible from the same parking lot as Shwe Nan Daw.

7. Mahamuni Buddha Temple

golden buddha temple mandalay
The HUGE golden Buddha!

This temple is often missed by tourists. We actually never had even heard about it until the private tour guide we hired one day told us about it (he once was a monk so he knows where all of the best pagodas are!)

This pagoda is special simply because of all of the gold inside. In the temple, there is a golden Buddha reported to weigh up to 12 tonnes because of all of the golden “leaves” placed on it! A huge weight considering it weighed 6 tons before covering it in gold!

When we visited, men were allowed to purchase a “gold leaf” (a piece of gold paper essentially) to place on the Buddha. I’m not sure why women cannot also do this but it is the rules.

The gold leaf cots 2,500 kyats and is totally optional. Entrance is free but they will charge you 1,000 kyats to bring a camera inside.

8. Eat at a BBQ Restaurant

bbq in myanmar
One of the best things to do in Mandalay is eating BBQ!

By the time we arrived in Mandalay we had been in Myanmar for two weeks already and we were already sick of fried rice and fried noodles. Luckily, in Mandalay BBQ is popular and it is really good!

You choose from different skewers made up of meat and vegetables and they grill them up for you right there on the BBQ!

Many restaurants do BBQ (for dinner only) and some are quite cheap and more of a street food style while some are quite fancy. We found one place that was on the fancier side but still reasonably cheap and so tasty. Union BBQ and Bar was fantastic! They actually had a refrigerator to keep everything cold before it was cooked and tap beers only cost 800 kyats each. We could both eat there and have plenty of beers for around 15,000 kyats.

Eating a BBQ meal is definitely one of the best things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar!

9. Drink “Myanmar” Beer on a Rooftop Bar

myanmar beer
While in Myanmar you need to drink Myanmar beer!

They have some epic sunsets in Mandalay and if you aren’t out exploring one of the pagodas for sunset then consider going to the Sky Bar for a drink. Having an ice cold Myanmar beer on a rooftop bar is the perfect way to end a busy day of checking out the city if you ask me!

Things to do in Inwa

If you really love ancient ruins then a trip to Inwa is a must! Inwa is located only 11 kilometers from Mandalay city center, but due to limited roads, it is best accessed by boat. The boat costs 3,000 kyats per person for a return trip and only takes 10 minutes each way.

the boat to inwa
The boat to Inwa

Once you’ve reached Inwa on the boat you can hire a horse and cart or motorcycle to take you around to some of the sites. It is possible to walk but it is quite far and would add a few extra hours onto your day.

Expect to pay about 10,000 kyats for a two-hour tour of Inwa. There are a few different things to see at Inwa, but below are some of our personal favorites.

10. Bagaya Monaestry

bagaya monastery wood
The wood of the Bagaya Monastery

Bagaya Monastery is one of the most famous attractions in Inwa. This monastery is made of teakwood (similar to the Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung in Mandalay city.) It is very old, actually 426 years old to be exact! It isn’t huge, but it is tall at 18 meters high and it is beautiful – definitely worth a short walk around in my opinion.

This monastery is included in the Mandalay tourist card fee. It is a little far, about 2 kilometers, from the Inwa boat dock so it is best to organize a mode of transport (horse or motorbike) if you want to see it.

11. Yadana Hsenee Pagoda Complex

Yadana Hsenee Pagoda Complex
Yadana Hsenee Pagoda Complex – one of the top things to do in Mandalay!

Yadana Hsenee Pagoda Complex is located only a few hundred meters north of the Bagaya Monastery in Inwa. Here you will find ruins of old temples which is an interesting sight in comparison to all of the pristine golden pagods that are usually seen around Myanmar. This complex of pagodas was built in the 1400’s!

Entrance to this complex is also included in the tourist card.

12. Maha Aung My Bom San Monastery

Maha Aung My Bom San Monastery
Maha Aung My Bom San Monastery – AKA “The Brick Monastery”

This monastery is a large multi-level brick building which is commonly referred to as the “brick monastery”. It was originally built in 1818 but was destroyed in the earthquake in 1838 which required it to be reconstructed several years later.

You could reach the Brick Monastery by foot from the Inwa boat dock as it is only a few hundred meters away. But, if you do go on a horse cart or motorbike tour then this is a very common last stop in Inwa.

It too is included in your tourist card entrance pass.

Things to do in Mingun

I personally love Mingun and I would highly recommend visiting here while you’re n Mandalay!

Mingun is about a 45 minutes drive from Mandalay or an hour boat ride. You can either take the ferry from the river’s edge near the city Waterpark (the ferry ramp is marked on the app Maps.Me) or hire a driver to take you there.

Once in Mingun, you must pay a 5,000 kyats visitor fee and this covers your entrance fee to all of the places I mention below.

Mingun was once a vacation place fo the king, and when you arrive you’ll understand why. It sits alongside the Irrawaddy River and there are some pretty impressive places to check out around Mingun. My favorites are:

13. Hsinbyume Paya (Mya Thein Tan Pagoda)

Hsinbyume Paya
Hsinbyume Paya – the famous white temple near Mandalay! It is simply stunning!

This temple was made famous thanks to Instagram. But the truth is it is even more impressive in person than in photos. Here you can climb the various levels of the temple and get an impressive view from the top. And while you’re there, you might as well take your own Instagram photo!

But in all honesty, Hsinbyume Paya is truly beautiful. It is one of my personal favorite spots in Myanmar. Even if you’re not interested in the temple itself, climb to the top and enjoy the view!

14. Mingun Bell

the mingun bell
The Mingun Bell

The Mingun Bell is actually the third largest bell in the world (it says the second on the sign at the bell but it’s not true) weighing in at over 90 tons! The bell was completed in 1810, but like many historical structures in Myanmar, fell in the 1839 earthquake. It was once again suspended in 1896 to where it remains now. Today, the bell is hanging again and read for visitors to see for themselves.

15. Mingun Pahtodawgyi

Mingun Pahtodawgyi
Mingun Pahtodawgyi is one of the places you just have to check out in Mingun.

Mingun Pahtodawgyi is one impressive ruin. It was never finished and only stands at one third of its planned height (50m tall.) It was originally built for a king in 1790 but construction stopped once the kind died.

It suffered some large cracks also from the earthquake of 1838. Today it is a stupa with Buddha inside and an all-around impressive ancient structure to tourists to explore.

Things to do in Sagaing

Sagaing is an area just opposite the river of Mandalay city and is a very religious place. It is estimated that over 5,000 monks live in Sagaing and there are more than 600 monasteries.

For tourists, it is a place that offers some unique views from up on the hillside as well as various monasteries to explore.

Sagaing is easily reached by car only a 20-kilometer drive from Mandalay city.

16. U Min Thinze Caves

Caves in sagaing is one of the best things to do in Mandalay
Me, exploring U Min Thinze Caves

These aren’t exactly what I call caves, but there are 45 buddhas all in a row here in a building constructed on the underside of a cliff. It is really a beautiful setting and building. When we were there we were the only tourists and many of the local visitors were thrilled to take photos with us!

There is no entrance fee to visit U Min Thinze Caves.

17. Soon U Ponya Shun Pagoda

Soon U Ponya Shun Pagoda
The view from Soon U Ponya Shun Pagoda

On a clear day, this lookout would be incredible. Unfortunately for us, we had a very foggy day but the pagoda was still interesting the explore.

Entrance was free but we did have to pay a 1000 kyats camera fee

Things to do in Pyin Oo Lwin

In all honesty, I loved Pyin Oo Lwin, and if you have time I recommend staying at least a night here.

Pyin Oo Lwin is a small city only an hour and a half from Mandalay. For only 5000 kyats a person, you can get a spot in a shared taxi there.

However, if you don’t have time you could hire a driver and go on just a day trip there and see some of the places I mention below:

18. Visit an Organic Farm

coffee farm in pyin oo lwin is one of the best things to do in Mandalay
Croft Organic Farm in Pyin Oo Lwin

For coffee lovers Pyin Oo Lwin is paradise. Since it is located 1000m higher than Mandalay the temperature us much cooler and is a better environment for growing particular crops including coffee beans, strawberries, and passionfruit.

At the Croft Organic Farm, you will get a tour of the farm, a coffee, some strawberries and a couple of cookies for a fee of 2,500 kyats. You can also pick some fresh strawberries if you want and of course, get a photo of the cutest red barn ever!

19. Explore the Botanic Gardens

one of the best things to do from mandalay is visit the pyin oo lwin botanic gardens
Beautiful gardens!

Pyin Oo Lwin is famous for its beautiful botanic garden – and they are impressive. Centered around a huge lake you’ll walk on boardwalks, see an aviary, butterfly museum, and some pretty gardens in general.

It’s a very popular place for tourists to visit but does charge an entrance fee of $5 USD for foreigners. Keep in mind that the gardens do close every day at 6 pm so it is a place you want to visit during the day.

20. Swim at Dee Doke Waterfall

Dee Doke Waterfall
Photo credit: Gil Gover

Dee Doke waterfall is conveniently located between Pyin Oo Lwin and Mandalay making it the perfect stop for someone who has hired a private driver or tour.

Because of its remote location, there is never too many people at Dee Doke making it the ideal place to cool off on a hot day going for a swim.

21. Hike to Anisakan Waterfall

things to do in Mandalay anisakan waterfall
This place is just magic!

Anisakan Waterfall is amazing. It is a massive waterfall with a blue pool at its base and even a pagoda nearby. This waterfall is only a ten-minute drive from Pyin Oo Lwin but it will take you about an hour to walk there and back so allow plenty of time.

Make sure to bring your bathing suit as swimming here is super refreshing!

Getting Around Mandalay

Mandalay is a huge city so if you want to go sightseeing you will need a plan as to how to get around.

There are three ways you can get around Mandalay:

1. Rent a Motorbike

Hire a motorbike for the day and explore. This is the cheapest way at 10,000-15,000 kyats a day for motorbike rental, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend taking a motorbike all the way to Pyin Oo Lwin because the highway is quite busy and steep, but for all other trips it could be suitable

2. Take a Taxi

If you just want to go to a couple of sights in the city then just take a taxi or Grab. Grab is better in Mandalay as it is very cheap and you don’t need to haggle the price. Just download the app Grab and you can get to most locations in the city for only a couple thousand kyats.

3. Hire a Driver for a “City Tour”

Tons of drivers or tour guides will want to take you on a tour for the day. They call these tours “5 City Tour” or “4 City Tour” depending on what you want to do and see. We hired a driver one day to take us to Sagaing, Inwa, Mingun and U-Bein Bridge. This full day tour only cost us 40,000 kyats which is pretty good considering it was with an English speaking driver in a car with air conditioning!

Where to Stay in Mandalay

As I said before, Mandalay is a huge city! Most tourists stay in the area of 28th Street. But that being said, it is a huge area on its own and everything in Mandalay seems to be very spread out so no matter where you stay you will likely be taking taxis very often.

Personally, we stayed at Yandanar Yoma Inn and it was a cheap place with amazing owners and staff. We also liked the neighborhood as it was more authentic than the touristy areas.

Some other places we’ve heard are great are:

  • Royal Yadanarbon Hotel (budget) – This hotel is a great central budget option for couples as rooms only cost about $15 USD a night and include breakfast. It isn’t anything fancy but definitely good value!
  • Ostello Bello(mid-range budget) – This is the go-to hostel for solo travelers or those looking to meet other backpackers. Ostello Bello isn’t the cheapest place to stay in Mandalay but it is really nice and has a rooftop bar (and plenty of parties!)
  • Ayarwaddy River View Hotel (high budget) – If you want a bit of luxury while staying in Mandalay then this is the place for you. Rooms all have air conditioning and come with a beautiful garden view. There is also an outdoor pool and restaurant on site.
Ayarwaddy River View Hotel
Photo by Ayarwaddy River View Hotel

And there you have it, 21 unique things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar! I hope this blog has helped you plan your time in Mandalay, and if you have any questions please leave them below and I’ll get back to you!

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