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10 Best Things to Do in Mandalay

A woman sitting on a balcony decorated with gemstones and tiles looking out over a high viewpoint

10 Best Things to Do in Mandalay

Mandalay was once the capital city of Myanmar, in the years before it became a British colony. The country was formerly named Burma but changed its name to Myanmar in 1989. Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar meaning there are a lot of things to do there.

A woman walking along a ridge of white waves - part of a buddhist pagoda with the words "Best things to do in Mandalay" superimposed

Things to Do in Mandalay

There are a lot of religious sites dotted around all over Mandalay, including monasteries, temples, and pagodas. We’d suggest planning to spend 2 full days here, that should be enough time to see everything on our list.

A buddhist monastery with stone steps and statues leading to it

Tip: There is a ticket called the Mandalay Archaeological Zone Combo Ticket. It’s 10,000 Kyat which is around $7. It’s not really clear what’s included altogether on this ticket. Most places don’t even seem to check but they did at the Palace and Shwenandaw Monastery.

However long you decide to stay and travel around, we hope you’ll enjoy following our list of the very best things to do in Mandalay!

What is the Best Way to Get Around Mandalay?

The best way to navigate the city is to hire a motorbike. But if you’d rather not then it’s easy to arrange taxis in Mandalay or you could book a guided tour that visits many of the sites.

A set of small, detailed white buildings and a girl sitting in one

10 Best Things to Do in Mandalay

1. Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill is an absolute must when you get here. It has the most incredible view over a huge area in and around Mandalay.

A viewpoint from Mandalay Hill of the lush greenery

Some people opt to climb the huge set of steps that leads to the top. However, there’s a much easier alternative and that’s an elevator all the way! We chose the latter in the scorching heat.

2. Kuthodaw Pagoda – World’s Largest Book

The Kuthodaw Pagoda is famous for its nickname of the ‘World’s Largest Book’. It’s actually a Buddhist stupa surrounded by hundreds of small white buildings (729 to be exact!)

An aerial shot from a corner of a pagoda complex, hundreds of small white buildings surround the central golden stupa in square formations

Each building contains a page of the Buddhist scripture, the Tripitaka, inscribed on a stone tablet. The amount of work it must have taken to create this place is mind-bending.

Spend some time wandering around the small structures and the main stupa itself.

3. Shwenandaw Monastery

Shwenandaw Monastery is just around the corner from Kuthodaw Pagoda. You can see it from outside the gates, but it’s included in the Mandalay ticket if you get it. The monastery is a beautiful wooden structure.

An intricate wooden buddhist monastery

You can wander around the outside and admire the architecture and then head inside. There you’ll find intricate teak wood carvings of Buddhist lore.

4. Mandalay Palace

Sadly, the original Mandalay Palace and surrounding buildings were destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II. However, the Palace and many buildings have been rebuilt since. While it might not be the same as seeing the original in all its glory, it still stands as a piece of history about the region.

A red and gold palace complex with lawns and stone paths

There are some interesting museums and collections towards the back of the grounds worth seeing. Overall, the whole area lacks any information signs and so it’s hard to get the history of it. We’d suggest getting a local guide who can give you more of a background on the Palace and Royal Family.

5. Sagaing Hill

Sagaing is one of the former ancient capitals of Myanmar. It’s a beautiful green area, dotted with white and gold pagodas and boasts panoramic views of the region.

A viewpoint overlooking the lush green city of Mandalay

It’s located on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River on a sweeping bend that can be seen from many places on the hill.

A sky blue and gold pagoda with dozens of small doorways, a couple standing in two of them
A row of dozens of buddha statues sitting inside a green interior of a pagoda

Aside from the picturesque views, the highlight here is surely the magnificent Umin Thonze Pagoda. The pagoda was originally built in the 1300’s by the King of Sagaing. It houses 45 life size Buddha statues and is decorated with iridescent glass work.

6. Hsinbyume Pagoda

Hsinbyume Pagoda is located on the other side of the Irrawaddy River to the main city. This pagoda definitely takes the ‘Insta-famous’ title in Mandalay. The pagoda has a beautiful white, wavy design and usually a cloudless sky above, making it a very photogenic spot.

A couple hand-in-hand on a white wavy buddhist structure

If you haven’t seen the obligatory stepping photos already then just search the hashtag Mandalay. You can guarantee there’ll be at least a few in the top 20 to give you some ideas.

7. Mingun Pahtodawgyi

This unfinished stupa is also located on the west side of the river. This was one of our favorite things to see around Mandalay.

An enormous brick building that looks like a cliff with a huge doorway and a couple walking towards it

When we visited there was hardly anyone around so that may have added to the experience. There’s an almost haunting quality to it. There’s the pitch-black darkness beyond the open doors and enormous cracks through the whole structure. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Tolkien epic story!

8. Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Pagoda is in the Southern part of the city, so it’s a good place to stop on the way to or from Sagaing.

The temple complex is among the most important religious sites in all of Myanmar. The story says that Buddha visited the site and breathed his life into it, which is why it’s so important for Buddhists.

Thousands of Buddhist locals visit the temple every day to pray and a few even add gold leaves to the Buddha image.

9. Sanda Muni Paya

Very similar to the Kuthodaw pagoda but smaller in size. If you’re only going to see one of the two, then we’d definitely recommend Kuthodaw. But if you have time for both, this is worth a visit too.

As well as the hundreds of white stupas outside, the Sanda Muni pagoda has a large gold colored cast iron Buddha image. One benefit of this temple is it’s a lot less crowded than the more famous ones in the area.

10. U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge is a really popular spot for locals. It’s nice to visit here at sunset but don’t expect to be alone!

A wooden bridge over a shallow river with rowing boats

It’s an impressive length for a footbridge, apparently one of the longest in the world. You can start from either side of the river. We actually visited both sides at different times, the East in the morning and the West in the evening.

You can also get boat trips along the river right up to the bridge.

Mandalay FAQs

Where is Mandalay?

Mandalay is a city located in the central part of Myanmar, in Southeast Asia. It is the second-largest city in the country.

What is Mandalay best known for?

Mandalay is best known for its rich cultural heritage, including the Mandalay Palace, the last royal palace of the Burmese monarchy. It’s also famous for its skilled craftsmen and artisans.

What is the famous food in Mandalay?

Mandalay is renowned for its delicious street food, particularly its mohinga (fish noodle soup), Mandalay mutton, and a variety of traditional Burmese curries. Tea shops and snacks are also popular.

Why is Mandalay Hill famous?

Mandalay Hill is famous for its religious significance and panoramic views of the city. It’s home to various monasteries and pagodas, making it a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists.

Is Mandalay worth visiting?

Yes, Mandalay is worth visiting for its historical sites, cultural experiences, and the opportunity to explore traditional Burmese life. It’s a unique destination for travelers interested in Southeast Asian culture.

Is Mandalay safe?

Mandalay is generally considered safe for tourists, but it’s always important to stay informed about current travel advisories and exercise normal precautions. Be aware of local customs and respect local regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

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