Mandalay Travel Guide

Mandalay is Myanmar’s second city and arguably its prettiest, with wide lanes and numerous religious sites. It is known as the ‘City of Gems’ and comes with much to see and do for the tourist.

Mandalay is several hundred kilometers north of Yangon and sits on the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. It takes its name from the city’s main landmark, Mandalay Hill, and features many moneyed Burmese and numerous monks. It is also one of Myanmar’s most historic cities and was at a time the country capital owing to its positioning on important river routes between India and China.

There are more monasteries and markets than you could poke a stick at in Mandalay. A climb to the top of Mandalay Hill will give a wonderful overview of the city and its sights. Major sights in Mandalay include Kuthodaw Paya temple complex at the foot of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Fort, the Royal Palace walled city within a city, and Zegyo Market.

There’s also much to see within a short drive of Mandalay, including the small town of Pyin U Lwin, with its colonial architecture; Mingun, with its unfinished pagoda and huge working bell; and the former capitals of Amarapura and Ava.

Accommodation options in Mandalay are really good with everything from cheap guesthouses, to hotels, resorts, and top-end quality places. The options for getting to Mandalay are also good, with an international airport, a major rail terminus, and good highway access.

Getting There & Away

The best way to reach Mandalay is to fly. You can get here from other cities in Southeast Asia, although it is often easier to fly into Yangon and transfer there - flight time from Yangon to Mandalay is a little over an hour. Mandalay International Airport has decent facilities and transfer options include taxis and reliable public buses - numbers 10 and 12. The airport is a fair way out of the city.

The other main method for getting to Mandalay is by train from Yangon. There are three services per day that take about 16 hours. Express trains are the best option and come with the best facilities and comfort levels. Trains also come in from other towns and cities in the region. Buses are the most common form of travel but are not recommended for extended journeys due to the lack of comfort on inevitable bumpy roads. The drive from Yangon to Mandalay is about 600kms via Highway 1 and the town of Meiktila.

Things to Do

Mandalay Attractions

Mandalay Hill

Offering the best views over mandalay, this hill can visited by pickup truck or you can walk up. a pagoda resides up top.

Kuthodaw Paya

Sitting at the foot of mandalay hill, kuthodaw paya features a main pagoda surrounded by stupas and contains the world’s largest book, the tripitaka text - the most sacred book in theravada buddhism.

Maha Myat Muni Paya

This is the country’s second holiest pilgrimage site, a lofty gold buddha statue adorned with precious jewels.

Mandalay Fort

Built in 1860 by king mindon, this sizeable fort was constructed to protect the wooden palace. it has walls that are eight meters thick and can be found at the base of mandalay hill.

Royal Palace

This is actually a separate walled city within mandalay and was also built by king mindon in the 1860s. it is certainly worth a look, although visitors may baulk at the fact that forced labor was employed to renovate it.

Zegyo Market

One of mandalay’s star attractions, this market actually features several bazaar street markets and can be found near the city center.