Mandalay is usually the first stop on most people’s travels to Myanmar. It is the jumping point to famous places like Bagan – where thousands of ancient temples exist. However, Mandalay has its own famous temples and you’ll want to see them. Plan on spending at least a day or two in the city to cover it all.
Mandalay is the north most major-city of Myanmar. The known guiding markers are the Irrawaddy River to the west, the Mandalay Palace as the center, and the airport to the south. Its own international airport is easily accessible via Bangkok on a flight – with average flight prices $110 on Bangkok Airways (includes baggage) and $60 from Air Asia, and it’s close to Bagan by bus (See full post about Bagan). You’ll want to either secure a taxi for the day, or rent a scooter to drive around the city. Be careful about the crazy traffic and lax-to almost no rule system of the road. You should consider getting travel insurance. To figure out your way around the city, Google Maps works fairly well, although the app Maps.me does a better job. You can easily get a SIM card at any store to get service. Plan for a full day out west of the city – across the river – by crossing the bridge.
Mandalay is known for its famous temples all around the city and in the surrounding areas. On the flight in, you will see many temples from the sky. The hot and dusty, sun scorched earth below, will be speckled with these places of worship everywhere. The most famous of these is the Hsinbyume Pagoda – known for it’s beautiful white lace exterior, ascending towards the main tower. Another excellent choice is the Sandamuni Pagoda, featuring a golden stupa and 1774 white shrines for the buddhist teachings. Below is a list of pagodas to visit and accompanying photos.
Hsinbyume (White) Pagoda:
Sunset From Mandalay Hill (Pagoda):
Maha Sandar Muni Pagoda:
Pagodas near Saggaing Hill:
Other Things to Do:
Visiting the U Bein Bridge is worth a stop on the way down to the White Pagoda and that side of Mandalay. It’s the world’s longest teakwood bridge, stretching 1.2km in length.
A nice place to stop by and rent your moped is the Mandalay Motorbike Rental store. It’s run by an American who moved to Myanmar many years ago. He provides safe and reliable bikes, as well as information if you want to plan a visit to the other parts of Myanmar. Try to rent a motorcycle and drive it up north for more of an adventure.
If you have a lot of time, visit the Mandalay Palace in the center of town to experience the remnants of the last royal burmese monarchs. It’s a large complex that will take time to explore.
Where to Stay:
Ace Star Backpacker B&B Hostel is one of the best spots to stay. Rates are very cheap at around $5 or $6, which includes breakfast and a rooftop. Hotel Venus on Booking.com is a good choice for couples and runs $12 for a twin room. These are the best budget options if you are around town. But, if you have the money or are on a shorter trip, the Hilton Mandalay is an exceptional option due to its location right next to the Mandalay Palace and has an epic pool to swim and relax in after a hot day of exploring the Mandalay Pagodas.
More Myanmar Guides Here:
These are my other guides for Myanmar:
Explore the whole country: Your Travel Guide to Myanmar
Explore Bagan: Your Travel Guide to Bagan
Explore Inle Lake: Your Travel Guide to Inle Lake
Explore Loikaw: Your Travel Guide to Loikaw
Explore Hpa-an: Your Travel Guide to Hpa-an
Explore Yangon: Your Travel Guide to Yangon
Get Inspired for Myanmar: Top Five Reasons to Visit Myanmar