Mandalay is a beautiful and very interesting city in northern Myanmar, located directly next to the Irrawaddy River. With a population of around one million, Mandalay is bigger than you would think – as the city is spread over a big area and is home to thousands of temples and pagodas. In this blog post, I will tell you the best things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar – so you will not get lost while exploring this amazing city.[toc]
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How to get to Mandalay
Getting to Mandalay, Myanmar is actually super easy! You can easily take a flight to Mandalay International Airport (MDL), which is connected within Myanmar and also has arrivals from several international destinations. I personally arrived by plane from Bangkok, Thailand. To find the best deals, To find the best deals, I recommend using Skyscanner. Once you are at the airport, you can either take a private taxi or a shared taxi (cheaper).
If you plan to arrive from another city in Myanmar, you can simply take one of the many amazing buses, a train or in some cases, even a river cruise.
Getting around in Mandalay
Getting around in Mandalay is, as well, super easy and even better: affordable. Here is some of the best options you have for getting around in Mandalay:
- Taxi/Tuk Tuk: Taxis and Tuk Tuk are quite affordable. You can either go directly to them and negotiate a rate or use the app “Grab”.
- Bicycle: Mandalay is a perfect city to explore with a bicycle. The city is organized in squares and most roads don’t have crazy traffic. Simply rent a bicycle and start exploring Mandalay.
- Walking: Most of the main attractions of Mandalay are in similar areas, so it is even possible to do some Mandalay sightseeing by walking. This is obviously the most budget-friendly option – but only recommended if you stay in a good location.
Another option would be to rent a motorbike or take a motorbike taxi, however, it is the most dangerous option and I wouldn’t usually recommend it.
Tip: Book a Bike Tour through Mandalay with a guide
Things to do in Mandalay
Hike up to Mandalay Hill
Let’s start with the most famous tourist attraction in Mandalay. While there are many places to see in Mandalay, this one seems to be the most popular. It was the only place that I’ve visited, that was extremely crowded.
That being said, it is still worth hiking up to Mandalay Hill, which offers some incredible views over Mandalay, which is otherwise pretty flat. I recommend going there for sunset or, even better, sunrise, as it will be less busy.
Mandalay Hill is also home to dozens of beautiful pagodas and monasteries and has been a huge pilgrim site for Buddhists from Myanmar in the last centuries.
If you decide to visit Mandalay Hill, I recommend looking out for some younger monks, which go there frequently in search of tourists to practice their English skills. Talking to them was really interesting and gave me some new perspectives about Myanmar.
Visit Sandamuni Pagoda
As it is nearby Mandalay Hill, I recommend checking out the Sandamuni Pagoda too after or before you hiked to Mandalay Hill. The entire area hosts over 1700 shrines and the largest Iron Buddha in the world, made with over 40’000 pounds of iron. Sandamuni Pagoda is certainly not the most exciting in Mandalay, but it’s worth checking out when you are nearby!
See Kuthodaw Pagoda – The world’s largest book!
You probably already heard of the Kuthodaw Pagoda, as it is known as the world’s largest book! On its grounds, you can find 729 caves, each containing a page of the book. If you take all of them together, you could read the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. (Well, if you’d speak their language at least).
Other than that, the Kuthodaw Pagoda is simply stunning and is, in my opinion, one of the best places to visit in Mandalay. Stroll around the pagoda and indulge in its beauty – or take some stunning photographs to show your family.
Tip: If you want to take decent pictures, it is best to arrive early morning or during noon time (when it is super hot), as there will be fewer people. I took the picture below during noontime.
Cross U-Bein Bridge
Crossing the U-Bein Bridge is certainly one of the best things to do in Mandalay – yet I didn’t do it… why? I visited the U-Bein bridge with some friends I’ve met during my stay – and after walking for some minutes on the gigantic wooden bridge we found a lovely spot with chairs and a bar – so we were ready to enjoy the sunset from there! It was absolutely lovely!
U Bein Bridge is actually 1,2 kilometers long and spanning over Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay. It is believed to be the oldest and also the longest teakwood bridge in the world.
When you visit U-Bein Bridge you have different options. You either cross it, find a good spot to chill out like we did or hire a boat – which will bring you on the water and allows for the best views. I personally wouldn’t recommend it though, as the boats were just lined up next to each other on the water during sunset – we had a better view and more space from the little spot we found.
Tip: If you want to enjoy the U-Bein Bridge with fewer people, come here for sunrise instead of sunset.
Explore Mandalay Palace
If you are in Mandalay, you definitely have to visit Mandalay Palace too! Mandalay Palace dates back to 1859 and was used by King Mindon as his primary royal residence. It is the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy.
Nowadays, you can visit it as a tourist and explore the whole grounds. Like always in Myanmar, you can, of course, find beautiful pagodas and temples, as well as some pretty cool architecture, historical buildings and a small museum with more information about the place and the history.
Tip: Climb the watchtower, as it offers some stunning views over the palace itself and the city.
Visit Shwendanaw Monastery
The Shwendanaw Monastery (Golden Palace Monastery) is a beautiful monastery dating back to 1878. It is located nearby Mandalay Hill and is the only remaining original structure of the former Royal Palace. It was originally used by the king for his mediation routine.
For me, the Shwendanaw Monastery was one of the most interesting buildings I’ve visited in Mandalay, as it has a super interesting architecture and is an original building of the royal times – unlike the others.
It is rather small and can be explored in just a few minutes. Still, visiting the monastery is one of the best things to do in Mandalay in my opinion!
Head to Mingun
Across the river and a 60-90 minutes journey from Mandalay, is the town of Mingun. While I was in Mandalay, I kind of stumbled upon it while talking to a local guy – and eventually decided to visit it the next day. I did not regret it!
In Mingun you can see some incredible attractions, which are absolutely worth the journey. One of the main attractions is the Mingun temple, which is an uncompleted stupa. Its construction started in 1790 but was later stopped due to an astrologer claiming that the king would die once it’s completed. It is absolutely huge and one of the most impressive stupas I’ve seen on my trip through Myanmar.
Additionally, you can find the Mingun Bell, which is the largest ringing bell in the world, weighing over 90 tons. The bell was supposed to be used for the giant stupa, which was never finished.
Another exciting thing to see in Mingun, Mandalay, is the Hsinbyume Pagoda, which is the most beautiful I’ve seen in the whole of Myanmar. It looks like a huge white cloud and is absolutely lovely. It was built in 1816 and is honestly the perfect spot to take some stunning pictures.
In my opinion, Mingun is one of the coolest places to see in Mandalay!
Tip: Book a tour to Mingun or hire a driver with some friends to get there efficiently.
Where to stay in Mandalay
Mandalay is full of great options for your stay. No matter if you are looking for a hotel in Mandalay or prefer a budget-hostel, you will find something! Here are 3 amazing options for you:
- Hilton Mandalay: International top hotel with high standards, a super location and everything you could think of! If you want to stay in a luxurious place in Mandalay, this is probably your best bet!
- Hotel Aurora: Budget-friendly hotel (40-50$/night usually) in a great location. A great mix of comfort and great value!
- Ostello Bello: Amazing hostel with cozy rooms (dorm rooms for under 10$ & single rooms like in a hotel) with community events and group trips. If you are traveling alone and want to stay in a clean & comfy place while meeting tons of other people, this is your place!
If none of these options is something for you (which I highly doubt!), you can find all options for hotels in Mandalay right here.
There is also plenty of options for apartments in Mandalay, which you can find on Airbnb. Use my invitation link to get over 40$ off on your first stay.
Best time to visit Mandalay
The best time to visit Mandalay is definitely during the dry season from November to February. The temperatures are quite pleasant and there is almost no rainfall, which makes it a great time to visit Mandalay as a visitor. However, most tourists will visit Mandalay during that time, so if you prefer to be there with fewer tourists, you might want to consider another season of the year.
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