Mandalay is the second largest city and former royal capital in Northern Myanmar. I spent 3 days exploring the busy city, its ancient pagodas and beautiful waterfalls to put together this ultimate guide of the 10 Best Things To Do In Mandalay.
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MANDALAY
#1 MANDALAY HILL
A visit to the peak of Mandalay Hill is one of the best things to do in Mandalay. Located on the very northern end of town you can discover the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda that sits on the very top of Mandalay Hill.
HOW TO GET TO MANDALAY HILL
From the centre of town, it took me no more than 10-minutes to ride my scooter to Mandalay Hill. There is a parking fee of 300 Kyat (20c) and a further 1000 Kyat ($1) entrance fee to the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT MANDALAY HILL
Ride the elevator from the parking lot to the very peak of Mandalay Hill and you’ll soon see why it is one of the best things to do in Mandalay! At the top, you can expect to experience 360-degree views of Mandalay City and its incredible surrounding landscape of various mountain ranges and the Irrawaddy River.
The Su Taung Pyae Pagoda itself is a unique building with decorative mosaic tiles and colourful artworks throughout. I was so impressed by how much time and detail was put into the walls and shrines here on Mandalay Hill.
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Dee Doke Waterfall is a hidden gem, located high in the mountains just outside of Mandalay City, Myanmar. Get off the beaten Myanmar route and take the time to visit Dee Doke Waterfall and the incredible blue lagoons for I guarantee it won’t disappoint!
WHERE IS DEE DOKE WATERFALL
Dee Doke Waterfall is approximately a 1 hour 15 minutes drive south-east of Mandalay City. See the map below for the exact pin location of Dee Doke Waterfall.
The scenic drive out to Dee Doke Waterfall will take you through small local villages at the foot of towering cliffs and eventually running parallel with beautiful Myitnge River.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT DEE DOKE WATERFALL
I arrived at the gravel parking lot at Dee Doke Waterfall around 9am. I paid 3oo Kyat to park the scooter and there were no other entrance fees to visit the Dee Doke Waterfall. It is an easy to moderate 20-minute hike from the carpark to main falls at Dee Doke Waterfall.
You will come to an intersection along the rocky trail, one path leading down to the left and the other path up to the right. Take the path down to the left for a 2-minute hike down to the main swimming area at Dee Doke Waterfall. The other trail leads up to the blue lagoons which I will mention further down in this blog post.
The main swimming area at Dee Doke Waterfall has a number of rock pools and a small waterfall breaking through the rocks halfway up the valley. The water is a bit fresh until the sun reaches up over the mountains at around 10am lighting up the entire valley and providing some heat down in the rock pools. There is also a small cafe built into the side of the mountain selling cold drinks and snack foods.
I hiked back to the intersection on the trail and then took the path that leads off to the right. It is a further 5-10 minute hike to the blue lagoons at the top of the valley.
I was in awe when I laid eyes on this crazy lagoon. The colour of the water was fluorescent blue, getting its colour from the towering limestone cliffs that surround the lagoon. The lagoon was no more than 2 meters deep so I wouldn’t recommend doing any cliff jumping here, however, it would be rude not to go for a refreshing swim!
#3 KUTHODAW PAGODA
Kuthodaw Pagoda is an incredibly beautiful Buddhist stupa that is home to the world’s largest book and it is a must-see attraction on your list of things to do in Mandalay.
WHERE TO FIND THE KUTHODAW PAGODA
Kuthodaw Pagoda sits at the foot of Mandalay Hill on the northern end of town. I visited Kuthodaw Pagoda right after experiencing the 360-degree viewpoint at the top of Mandalay Hill.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT KUTHODAW PAGODA
When I arrived at Kuthodaw Pagoda, I was searching around like a headless chicken for this so called ‘world’s largest book’ but couldn’t seem to find it. I then asked a local man to point me in the right direction and he then began to explain that there are 729 marble slabs inscribed with Burmese script inside the white stupas and together these make up the ‘world’s largest book’. The script on the marble slabs contain the teachings of Buddha.
Also at Kuthodaw Pagoda is a large gilded pagoda in the centre of the grounds, surrounded by the hundreds of white stupas and offers great views upwards of Mandalay Hill.
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#4 SANDAMUNI PAGODA
The Sandamuni Pagoda bears a slight resemblance to the nearby Kuthodaw Pagoda because of the hundreds of white stupas and gilded pagoda on the grounds. One of the best places to visit in Mandalay!
WHERE IS SANDAMUNI PAGODA & WHAT TO EXPECT
The Sandamuni Pagoda can also be found at the foot of Mandalay Hill and a short 2-minute walk from the Kuthodaw Pagoda.
Sandamuni is world-known for its endless white stupas (1174 shrines to be exact) each inscribed with teachings of Buddha. It is also home to Myanmar’s largest iron Buddha statue weighing approximately 20 tonnes and covered in a layer of gold. Sandamuni too offers great views between the shrines upwards of Mandalay Hill.
Drone shot of Sandamuni Pagoda – Places to visit in Mandalay
#5 ROYAL MANDALAY PALACE
The Royal Mandalay Palace is housed inside of a walled fort and surrounded by a moat of water. Built in 1859, the Mandalay Palace is the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy.
The Royal Mandalay Palace is in the centre of the citadel and it seems Mandalay City has since been built around the boundaries of the fortress.
The entrance fee to the Royal Mandalay Palace is 10,000 Kyat ($7.50)
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Royal Mandalay Palace – @thisistherightplace
#6 U BEIN BRIDGE
The U Bein Bridge is an old teakwood bridge that spans across the Taungthaman Lake and it is one of the best things to do in Mandalay during your visit.
WHERE IS THE U BEIN BRIDGE & WHAT TO EXPECT
The U Bein Bridge is located approximately a 30-minute drive southwest of Mandalay City centre, near Amarapura village.
U Bein Bridge was built in 1850 and it is believed to be to oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. The U Bein Bridge is a tourist hotspot, especially around sunrise or sunset to witness the incredible reflections on the lake and to see the daily commute of locals and monks that use the bridge as a passageway.
I arrived at U Bein Bridge at around 6:30 in the morning to find a good spot to take photos at sunrise. There was a lot of low lying fog on this morning but the sun did show itself for about 5-10 minutes and I was able to get a few good shots in the short time window. When the sun disappeared again I took some moodier shots of the monks making the commute across the U Bein Bridge. This particular morning was one of my most memorable moments in the 3 days that I spent here, so make sure to add it to your list of things to do in Mandalay.
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Early morning fog on the U Bein Bridge – What to do in Mandalay
#7 MINGUN PAHTODAWGYI
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is an ancient ruined Buddhist temple in Mingun Village. Exploring the Mingun pagoda was one of my favourite things to do in Mandalay.
WHERE TO FIND THE MINGUN PAGODA & WHAT TO SEE
Mingun Pahtodawhyi is located north-west of Mandalay City and it is approximately a 1.5 hour drive from the centre of town. I visited the Mingun pagoda right after watching the sunrise at U Bein Bridge.
Before entering the grounds of the Mingun temple there is a checkpoint on the side of the road for foreigners to pay an entrance fee of 5000 Kyat ($3.5). This ticket will also allow you entry to the Mingun Bell and the Hsinbyume Pagoda (Myatheindan).
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is essentially a big pile of bricks that is said to hold the record of the biggest pile of bricks in the world. It was intended to be a 500ft stupa but the construction of Mingun Pahtodawgyi was abandoned when the king died. Mingun Pagoda was then later hit by an earthquake, leaving cracks up the face of the stupa and one whole corner of the monument broke off and now lays in debris.
Mingun Pagoda is quite a popular point of interest in Mandalay so it can get quite busy, although if you take the time to walk around the backside of the temple you will most likely have uninterrupted awe-inspiring views of the ancient monument.
Don’t forget to stop in to see the Mingun Bell, located right next to the Mingun Pagoda. The Mingun Bell is the second largest bell in the world and it can be rung by striking the outside with a wooden baton.
Drone shot of Mingun Pagoda – Things to do in Mandalay Myanmar
#8 HSINBYUME PAGODA (MYATHEINDAN)
The Hsinbyume Pagoda is a large white stupa that was built in 1816 to represent the Buddhist mythological mountain, Mount Meru. The Myatheindan Pagoda was my favourite location to shoot photos and it is one of the best things to do in Mandalay for sure!
WHERE IS HSINBYUME PAGODA & WHAT TO DO
Hsinbyume Pagoda is located north-west of Mandalay City and it is approximately a 1.5 hour drive from the centre of town. It is a short 2-minute drive from the Mingun Pagoda and the Mingun Bell, so you can potentially visit all of these 3 locations on the same day.
The Hsinbyume Pagoda is a multi-tiered stupa that can be explored on every level. Be sure to get that classic shot walking across the arches.
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#9 SUNSET AT SKY BAR
Arguably the best place to watch the sunset in Mandalay is at the Sky Bar, the best rooftop bar in the city and one of the best things to do in Mandalay!
WHERE IS SKY BAR & WHAT TO EXPECT
This particular rooftop bar is attached to the Eastern Palace Hotel, located north-east of Mandalay City centre. The Sky Bar has 360-degree views at the top with spectacular views of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace, Irrawaddy River and distant mountain ranges. The Sky Bar is open to the public, just notify reception when you arrive at Eastern Palace Hotel that you want to visit the rooftop bar for sunset.
Happy Hour at Sky Bar is between 5pm – 7pm where they offer 2 for 1 cocktails, spirits and beer. There is nothing better than sipping on an ice cold beer while watching the sunset over the second largest city in Myanmar. A perfect end to a perfect day!
Incredible views from Sky Bar – What to do in Mandalay
Sunset beers at Sky Bar Mandalay
#10 NOVA COFFEE SHOP
If you are a coffee connoisseur like myself then you don’t want to miss out on trying some of Mandalay’s best coffee from the legends down at Nova Coffee Shop.
Nova Coffee is located in the centre of Mandalay City. Hanging out at Nova Coffee is about as hip as Mandalay gets. Let the friendly staff take care of you with their excellent coffee, great food and hi-speed wi-fi. It was the best co-working space I found in Myanmar and I spent a good 6 hours in the comfort of the lounge chairs, sipping on fine coffee and working away with no disturbances.
Mandalay’s best coffee at Nova Coffee Shop – What to do in Mandalay
Mandalay has dozens of accommodations to choose from so I have narrowed it down to a few of my personal favourite places to stay that caters for luxury travellers to budget backpackers. See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Hilton Mandalay
Mid Range: Eastern Palace Hotel
Budget: Hotel Venus
GETTING AROUND MANDALAY
#1 Rent a scooter – Renting a scooter in Mandalay is very affordable and the most efficient way to get around self-guided. I rented a scooter from Mandalay Motorbike Rental and Tours for 10,000 Kyat ($7) per day. The bikes are in great condition and the guys at the rental shop were very friendly. Alternatively, your accommodation may be able to organise a scooter rental for you.
#2 Grab taxi – Grab taxi is another mode of transport in and around Mandalay City. Download the Grab app from the App Store on your smartphone in order to use Grab taxi services.
HOW TO GET TO MANDALAY
There are 3 ways of getting to Mandalay and that is either by bus, train or plane.
Whether you are on a budget or not, I recommend travelling by bus throughout Myanmar. The main bus companies (JJ Express, Elite, Ok Express) are very efficient and will get you comfortably from A to B.
The cost of bus transportation between cities in Myanmar is on average around $10-$30.
Bus duration times: Yangon to Mandalay – 12 hours, Bagan to Mandalay – 4 hours, Inle Lake to Mandalay– 8 hours.
To check timetables, prices and to book online in advance click HERE. Alternatively, you can book buses one day in advance through your accommodation in each destination.
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OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST IN MYANMAR
For more Myanmar backpacking adventures, you may want to read my other travel guides below:
Thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions about Mandalay please leave me a comment below.
Happy Adventuring 🙂
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