Beach Bliss and Big Cities – A Destination Guide for South Central Myanmar

Beach Bliss and Big Cities – A Destination Guide for South Central Myanmar

The idyllic scenery at the northern end of Changda Beach. (Photo: Mary Starr/The Irrawaddy)


This is the most casual and fun beach town in Myanmar. Popular with groups of families and friends from Yangon, it can get busy during holidays and weekends. After swimming and water sports in the sea, you might see a bonfire or even an evening karaoke session on the beach.

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Sunsets at Ngwesaung Beach are often spectacular. (Photo: Mary Starr/The Irrawaddy)

stay at home

A bit more upmarket than neighboring Chaung Tha, Ngwesaung is known for its quiet, clean beaches and clear waters and has yet to be taken over by city dwellers. Around the village, you’ll find vendors selling seafood and water sports equipment. The farther along the beach you go from the village, the easier it is to find your own private beach paradise.

View of Gawyangyi Beach from a height. (Photo: Mary Starr/The Irrawaddy)


This is Myanmar’s new beach destination. A few years ago, it was just deserted beaches and white sand coves, but now there are some low-key places to stay and eat, and hotels can arrange water activities to suit your adventurous spirit. The road to Goyangyi is still very rough and daunting to all but the most determined beachgoers, but this makes it a very quiet and romantic getaway.

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Sule Pagoda is the center of the bustling city of Yangon. (Photo: Htet Wai/The Ayeyarwady)


The commercial capital, Yangon, was a thriving city and the center of modern Myanmar. Despite being hot and crowded at times, this vibrant, diverse city also boasts some of the best hotels, restaurants, galleries and cultural events in the country. The gleaming Shwedagon Pagoda overlooks it all.

Tuante is one of the largest pottery centers in Myanmar. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)


While only a short distance from the hustle and bustle of downtown Yangon, Te Huante feels like a million miles away. The town is known as a pottery center and workshops occupy the entire area here. Inside the workshop, you can witness a completely non-mechanized process from start to finish. There’s also a snake temple on a lake outside town, and a pagoda complex with a thousand Buddha statues to wander through.

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The Naungdawgyi Myathalyaung reclining Buddha in Bago is 82 meters long. (Photo: Mary Starr/The Irrawaddy)


Often named after its colonial-era name, Pegu, Bago is a massive and beautiful religious landmark that attracts Buddhist travelers from near and far. The majestic Shwedagon Pagoda is about 46 meters taller than the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and has two huge reclining Buddha statues. On Shwethalyaung, the indoor reclining Buddha, you will see a huge wall with the names of donors from all over the world written on it. All parts of town are easily accessible by tuk-tuk or bicycle, and most hotels can rent bicycles.

View from Thandaunggyi Hill with Naw Bu Baw Prayer Hill on the right. (Photo: Myo Min Soe / The Ayeyarwady)

Taungoo and Dan Tonggyi

Taungoo, a town serving tourists to Thandaunggyi, is easily accessible from Yangon and is therefore growing in popularity. Once the capital of a sprawling kingdom far beyond Myanmar’s modern borders, Taungoo is now a sleepy town surrounded by rice fields and a few crumbling colonial mansions that have been dramatically taken over by nature. The peaks of Thandaunggyi and the nearby Naw Bu Baw Prayer Mountain (actually across the Karen State border) are major attractions for tourists in the area.

Bawbawgyi in Sri Ksetra is currently the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Myanmar, located just outside the city of Pyay. (Photo: Mary Starr/The Irrawaddy)


The remains of the ancient city of Sri Ksetra, once a stronghold of the mighty Pyu kingdom, are now part of Myanmar’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the surrounding countryside of Pyay. These temples are huge in size, simple in design and well preserved, making them unique compared to other temple complexes in Myanmar. A boat ride along the Ayeyarwady River from Pyay City leads to Akauk Taung, a site along the coast where an impressive series of Buddha statues were carved into the mountainside in the 19th century.the th century.

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