This post was first published in 2015 and has since been updated in 2019 with even more great ideas for things to do in Yangon.
Yangon isn’t like other large cities in Southeast Asia. It doesn’t knock you off your feet like the organized chaos of Ho Chi Minh city’s scooter flocks. It doesn’t swarm you with tourists like the neighbouring Bangkok. Still, when it comes to things to do in Myanmar, Yangon won’t disappoint you.
We’ve never been huge fans of large cities, but Yangon’s old colonial charm, dazzling Buddhist temples, and fascinating day to day street life gave us a reason to linger longer than we typically do.
Perhaps it’s the lack of tourists or the lack of street sellers that pull you into their shops to buy some Aladdin pants, but 3 days in Yangon felt like an adventure off the beaten path in itself.
Being the largest city in Myanmar there are plenty of things to do in Yangon. If you’re wondering how many days in Yangon you’ll need, you can easily fit most of the must-see activities into a 3 day Yangon itinerary. We know because we did!
Everywhere we went during our 3 days in Yangon, we were greeted with nothing but genuine curiosity.
“What country?”, older men would ask, letting their betel nut rotten red teeth shine through their heartwarming smiles.
“Ah yes, yes”, they would nod, adjust their longyi (local sarong-like skirt worn by men and women) and continue waddling down the street shading themselves from the mid-day sun with an umbrella in hand.
Needless to say, we loved our 3 days in Yangon, exploring this fascinating city! If you are planning your Yangon travel and wondering what to do in Yangon for 3 days, then read on!
Using our own personal experience we’ve put together this list of the best things to do in Yangon to help you make the most of your Yangon itinerary.
Things to do in Yangon
Experience Authentic Street Markets
Exploring street markets are one of our favourite pastimes, and it was definitely one of our top things to do in Yangon. We felt like kids in a candy store! Every little street, every turn, and every stall are an attraction in their own right.
We weren’t hassled or bothered. No one tugged us on our shirts or offered us a slew of services/products like they typically in the nearby Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. Most vendors didn’t even bother to greet us.
These street markets aren’t here for the tourists. They are the lifeline of the locals, those unphased by the recent economic developments who are carrying on with life as if they are back in the late 1900’s.
Walking through the flurry of activity, we almost felt invisible. But not for long.
Discover Yangon’s Colourful Streets
Make your way along Maha Bandula Street and Shwe Bon Thar Rd and marvel at the brightly coloured decaying buildings, a prime example of what is left of the 19th century British Colonial architecture.
The streets are humming with activity. Pop up market stalls inhabiting the sidewalks peddle everything from fruits, to raw fish, and Myanmar’s deadliest addiction – the betel nut wraps. We could have easily filled all 3 days in Yangon with people watching on the streets!
Visit Bogyoke Aung San Market
At the end of Shwe Bon Thar Rd, is another type of market – a major bazaar and tourist destination, formerly Scott’s Market, but now known as Bogyoke Aung San Market. Today, the market is a major trading destination dominated by antiques, Burmese handicrafts and jewellery shops, art galleries, and clothing stores.
And though geared towards tourists, it’s a must on your list of things to do in Yangon. Buying from these local vendors helps the local economy and ensures you’re bringing home authentic souvenirs from Myanmar!
But despite being one of the most tourist attractions in Yangon, Bogyoke is still a great place to stock up on the local fashion must-haves (i.e. the longiys) and sample some great local street food. Oh- and you should definitely try the papaya salad and freshly squeezed orange juice!
Start the Day with a Cup of Tea
Mornings in Yangon were all about tea. If you ask us, it should be that way in every country, but in Myanmar, tea was unlike anything we’ve tasted before. It was dark, strong, and served with a spoonful of mind-numbingly sweet condensed milk.
Typical cup of tea in YangonTea houses are an institution in Yangon. For years they have been much more than a place to enjoy a cuppa, and to this day they remain a gathering spot where locals discuss the latest news and happenings. They are also typically a great place to try Mohinga, a rice noodle fish soup, that has long been a breakfast favourite in Myanmar.
Explore Temples around Yangon
Thanks to the fact that the majority of the Burmese people practice Theravada Buddhism, the oldest style of Buddha teachings, finding a temple or a pagoda in Yangon is easy!
There are at least 12 well known Buddhist Temples in the city, ranging from the famed Shwedagon Pagoda and Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha, to the lesser known Nga Htat Gyi and Baungdawgyoke Pagoda.
The Shwedagon Zedi Daw, otherwise known as the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Great Dagon Pagoda, or the Golden Pagoda, is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. It’s believed to play host to numerous sacred relics belonging to the four previous Buddhas, and it hosts the Shwedagon Pagoda Festival to celebrate Tabaung, the twelfth month of the Burmese calendar.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock, is a Buddhist pilgrimage site, and though it’s fairly small, it’s built on top of a large boulder precariously balanced at the edge of a cliff. It sees a fair amount of foot traffic and is an important site amongst Buddhists, though at the present time women aren’t allowed entrance beyond the outer balcony or the lower courtyard.
Sule Pagoda in the heart of downtown Yangon is a Burmese stupa, rumoured to be older than the first Buddha according to local legends. Outside of legends, Sule Pagoda has also been a focal point in Yangon and Burmese politics, serving as a rallying point for several revolts.
Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most impressive temples on our Yangon itinerary
Visit A Local Monastery
If you’re wondering what to do in Yangon and you want to take your Yangon travel adventure to a deeper level, pay a visit to the Vicittarama Buddhagaya Monastery.
Walkthrough the monk living quarters, watch the young and old monks go about their daily lives, marvel at the beautiful colonial architecture and listen to the students’ stories of living and working in the monastery.
Supporting local monasteries is extremely important in Myanmar because of the delicate political situation – they don’t get much funding from the government and therefore are an essential part of the non-government social system in need of more attention.
Their community spirit touched our hearts as we listened to their stories of helping out an orphanage just outside the city centre. They showed us photos of the children and invited us to stay at the monastery and help out at the orphanage on our next visit. (We’ll definitely be taking them up on that offer!)
Try Our Favourite Dish in Myanmar
Tea leaf salad, a local specialty quickly became our favourite dish in Myanmar and it certainly deserved a spot on our list of top things to do in Yangon!
Take fermented tea leaves (yes, that’s a thing), add cabbage, lots of crunchy bits, season with lime and fish sauce. The result is a simple yet incredibly delicious snack that you’ll find on every menu in every restaurant across the country. (If it’s not on the menu, simply ask… trust us, they all have it).
Experience the Yangon Circular Train
Some said that the most authentic, culturally rich experience a visitor can have in Myanmar, is the Yangon Circular Train, a local commuter train that serves the Yangon Metropolitan area. The ride promised to be slow, yet full of activity inside and outside the carriage.
We have to admit that we didn’t get to experience this for ourselves, but if you add it to your Yangon itinerary, let us know how it goes!
Visit Kandawagyi Park
Amidst the chaos of the city, Kandawgyi Park feels like a journey into another world. Peaceful, green, and perfectly manicured, it’s the place where young Burmese couples canoodle under palm trees, where teenagers gather to toss a ball, and young mothers and their toddlers stroll along the lily pads carpeted Kandawgyi Lake.
It’s the perfect place to escape the chaotic streets of Yangon without putting a strain on the local environment (the way a golf course or public pool might). The wooden boardwalk took us all around the lake, past the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel (which was destroyed by fires in 2007) and the iconic Karaweik, a replica of a traditional Burmese royal boat.
Yangon: The Perfect Introduction to Myanmar
Yangon was the first stop on our 2 week adventure in Myanmar, but it couldn’t have offered a better introduction to the country’s culture, its history, people, and their values.
We contemplated extending our stay, past 3 days in Yangon, worried that we hadn’t seen enough, experienced enough, or come to understand the role Yangon played as the economic hub of Myanmar. And the truth is, we probably didn’t.
But we can almost guarantee that this won’t be our last Yangon travel experience. We feel like our 3 days in Yangon were just skimming the surface, and there are plenty more things to do in Yangon that will warrant a return trip soon! While we made a point of visiting some of Myanmar’s top sights and attractions, we haven’t seen it all yet.
Myanmar’s tourism is developing faster than ever with more and more areas of the country opening up to intrepid travelers from all over the world. We’re excited to see the ecotourism sector grow and flourish in this country.
It won’t be long before there is a reason to come back to picturesque Myanmar again, and a return trip to Yangon will definitely be on our list!
ESSENTIAL YANGON TRAVEL INFO
The Best Time to Visit Yangon
Yangon is hot, and humid year-round. As temperatures range from average lows of 17-24 degrees Celsius to average highs of 30-37.
Winter in Yangon is from November to February. It is best to visit during the peak winter months of December and January when average temperatures hover at a comfortable 25 degrees. However, this is also the busiest time of the year for tourism.
The rainy season is from June to October, which means the humidity is often high but often cut with short showers throughout the day.
Visiting Yangon during the dry season is not for the faint of heart. Humidity is high and temperatures sometimes soar to over 40 degrees Celsius. Drink lots of water if you are planning your Yangon 3 days at this time of year.
Getting Around Yangon
Walking is the best option for spending 3 days in Yangon. All the major things to do in Yangon are relatively close together, the public transport is not very developed, and you get the best feel for the city by wandering around! Plus walking is so much greener than traveling via car or scooter.
Monastery in Yangon, Myanmar
What to Wear in Yangon
Most people dress rather conservatively in Myanmar and while dress codes are typically not very strict day-to-day, they can be strict at religious sites. It is important to note that both men and women should have their shoulders and legs covered when entering pagoda’s or temples in Yangon. A scarf or longyi wrapped around your shoulders or legs will do the trick. So, try to always have one handy in your daypack at all times.
Shop in Yangon
Where to Eat in Yangon
If you want something that will taste incredible but you’re in the mood for something casual, then Nourish Cafe could be exactly what you’re looking for. It has a plant-based menu, with vegan-friendly and gluten-free options. You can come in and sit down, or take advantage of their all-day take-away option.
For some excellent Burmese food, Taing Yin Thar has an authentic menu, including vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options and gluten-free options. Some items on the menu can get a bit pricey, though.
If you’re in downtown Yangon and you’d like a show to go with your food, then LinkAge Restaurant and Art Gallery can scratch that itch. It’s in the name: the restaurant, which has amazing food already, also doubles as an art gallery for Myanmar fine art. It’s part of a social project linked to the Tha-Nge-Chin-Myar volunteer group, and you can find vegan-friendly, vegetarian-friendly, and gluten-free options on the menu.
Where to Stay in Yangon
If you are staying in Yangon 3 days then you’ll need a good base to explore all the things to do in Yangon. Yangon’s bustling downtown area can be a great spot, or if you go a little further north, you’ll find yourself surrounded by Yangon’s fascinating temples. Since sustainability is a major factor in our lives, we tried to make our Yangon travel as eco-friendly wherever possible and that includes our Yangon accommodation.
Eco-Friendly Hotels in Yangon
- Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake: is a great option that’s both luxurious and eco-friendly. The Chatrium mission states that they aim for “Staying socially in sync and environmentally caring” throughout their hotel operations.
- Inya Lake Hotel: sits on a stunning 27-acre property. We like it for its award-winning sustainable practices and great value. Inya Lake Hotel, along with the following hotels were also among the first hotels in Yangon to be named ‘Green Standard’ hotels by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
- Belmond Governor’s Residence: is another luxurious hotel with award-winning sustainable practices. It is located in the quiet embassy district of the city, within a historical mansion.
- Sedona Hotel: is located close to Inya Lake. This eco-friendly hotel has a 5-star rating for its gorgeous rooms and great service.
- Sule Shangri-La: (formerly Traders Hotel) is an iconic symbol of Yangon. The views from the hotel are amazing, and the rooms are spacious and clean.
BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Myanmar. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or ever skydiving), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.
Have you ever visited Yangon? What is your favourite thing to do in the city?
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