Blissful Beaches and Big Cities – A Destination Guide for South Central Myanmar

Chaung Tha 2
Idyllic scenery at the northern end of Chaung Tha Beach. (Photo: Marie Starr/The Irrawaddy)

Chaung Tha

This is the most casual and fun place in Myanmar’s seaside town. It’s popular with groups of families and friends from Yangon, and can get busy during holidays and weekends. After sea swims and water activities, you might see campfires or even impromptu karaoke at night on the beach.

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

stay at home

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

Overlooking Gawyangyi Beach from a height. (Photo: Marie Starr/The Irrawaddy)


This is Myanmar’s new beach destination. Until a few years ago, it was little more than a deserted beach and a white-sand cove, but now there are some low-key places to stay and eat, and hotels can arrange water activities to suit your level of adventure. The road to Gawyangyi is still very bumpy and puts off all but the most determined beachgoers, making it a peaceful and romantic getaway.

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


The commercial capital of Yangon is a thriving city and the center of modern Myanmar. While 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.

Twante 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, Twante feels like a million miles away. The town is known as a pottery center with workshops occupying entire blocks. Inside the workshop, you can witness a completely non-mechanized process from start to finish. There is also a snake temple and a pagoda complex with a thousand Buddha statues on the lake outside the town.

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


Pego, usually named after its colonial-era name, Pegu, is a massive and beautiful religious landmark that attracts large numbers of Buddhist travelers from far and wide. The majestic Shwemawdaw Pagoda is some 46 meters taller than Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and features two colossal reclining Buddha statues. In the Shwethalyaung 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 can be easily reached by renting a tuk-tuk or bicycle from most hotels.

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

Taungoo and Dan Dang Ki

Taungoo is a small town catering to tourists in Taunggyi, easily accessible from Yangon, and thus growing in popularity. Once the capital of a vast 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 border Karen State and are major attractions for tourists in the area.

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


The remains of the ancient city of Sri Ksetra, once a stronghold of the powerful Pyu Kingdom, are now part of Myanmar’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the countryside around Pyay. Bulky and simple in design, these temples are well-preserved and unique among other temple complexes in Myanmar. A short distance from Pyay City, Akauk Taung, a boat trip along the Ayeyarwady River, is a site along the riverbank where an impressive series of Buddha statues were carved into the mountainside in the 19th centuryday century.

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