The Best Things to Do in Mandalay

January 15, 2024 - 3212 views

Visitors to Mandalay may get a little disappointed by the outlook. There is little left of the historical city due to extensive WWII bombing and recurrent fires, and modern Mandalay may at first seem far removed from its reputation. But don't judge a book by its cover! Mandalay is still a fascinating city, and there are many places where you can rediscover the enchanting atmosphere of old Burma. Just wander around and you will see so many best things to do in Mandalay.

1. Balloon Rides

There is no better way to see Mandalay, than flying with Oriental Ballooning. On Mandalay flights, you will have the unique opportunity to see this expanding city from a totally different perspective and experience the busy life on the streets. Balloons provide the best filming and photographic platform for capturing the pulsating life of this city and to appreciate that Mandalay is one of Myanmar’s most rapidly developing towns. You will be served tea, coffee, and pastries before your flight and fresh fruit and a celebratory chilled sparkling wine afterward.

Balloon Ride Over Mandalay

Balloon Ride Over Mandalay

Oriental Balloons are built in the safest and highest standard of the British aerospace industry by Cameron Balloons Ltd which is the world’s largest hot air balloon manufacturer. Pilots, technicians are all qualified and registered and all crews are trained to international standards.

Flights will cost 320 USD per person, which includes insurance through an international provider.

2. Sightseeing

Visitors looking for a variety of cultural attractions in Mandalay will be not left disappointed with so many options to choose from. There are plenty of beautiful attractions and places in Mandalay to take a visit. Relive your life again and add a little spice to it with exciting Mandalay travels. Mandalay is a place like no other on the world. Many sights are around the Mandalay Hill area. Visitors can look forward to discovering its rich and diverse culture in the many historical places.

Go around Mandalay and discover its rich culture

Go around Mandalay and discover its rich culture

3. Climb Mandalay Hill

The slopes of Mandalay Hill are dotted with temples, pagodas, and monasteries, and it is a very important place for local Buddhists. Visitors can climb Mandalay Hill, calling into several of the lovely buildings on the way to the top. The peak is home to Sutaungpyei Pagoda and you can enjoy incredible views over the city and hills. When visiting Mandalay you need to commit and make the journey up the steps to experience the amazing views. Whilst it is free to climb Mandalay Hill, you may need to pay to go inside some of the temples unless you have a Mandalay Zone ticket. The Mandalay Zone ticket costs 10,000 MMK (approximately 10 USD). It includes admission to several city attractions, including the Royal Palace, Sandamuni Pagoda, Maha Atulawaiyan Monastery, Shwenandaw Monastery, Kuthodaw Pagoda, and Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda. The ticket is valid for five days.

Mandalay Hill - The City Landmark.

Mandalay Hill - The City Landmark.

4. Combine Burma’s ancient capitals with U Bein Bridge

The Mandalay area is home to not one but four former capitals of Burma: Mandalay, Inwa (Ava), Sagaing, and Amarapura with illustrious histories of their own. Whereas Mandalay is a large and important city, the other three are now small, rural settlements in the suburbs of Mandalay. A guided day trip taking in all three capitals is a fantastic way to discover some of the rich histories of the Mandalay region, with highlights including stunning views over hundreds of white stupas from Sagaing Hill, a horse-and-cart ride through the ruins of Inwa, a visit to the atmospheric Bagaya Monastery, and a walk across U Bein Bridge – the world’s longest and oldest teakwood bridge, stretching for about a mile across Taungthaman Lake. It’s a popular spot to view spectacular sunsets, and monks often come here to take a walk and get lost in their thoughts. Sounds good, yeah? Take a boat out on the lake, or just stroll over the bridge to visit the bars and street food vendors waiting at either end.

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge – The World’s Longest And Oldest Teakwood Bridge

5. Take a ferry to Mingun

The ferry to Mingun leaves every morning from Mandalay at about 9 a.m. It only runs once a day so you better make sure to be on time. It takes just 1 hour to reach Mingun. First, you will see the huge Mingun Pahtodawgyi Pagoda. The unfinished pagoda would have been the largest in the world if the king of that time would have not decided to stop building as an astrologer told him that he would die once the stupa is finished. With its big cracks from an earthquake, the construction still is so massive and most impressive.

Take a ferry to Mingun

Unfinished Stupa

6. Take a cruise on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady River)

Mandalay is the starting point for numerous wonderful cruise options on the Irrawaddy River. Ranging from short trips to nearby locations such as Mingun, home to the impressive unfinished pagoda of King Bodawpaya, to longer journeys taking as far as Yangon in the south of Bhamo in the north. These longer expeditions allow you to penetrate far into Burma’s rural regions, offering an insight into areas rarely visited by tourists. Taking a boat ride on the Irrawaddy River offers a whole new perspective on the city, and there are many places that can be accessed from the water.

Take a cruise on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady River)

River Cruise on Irrawaddy River - A Floating Hotel

An overnight cruise to the spectacular plains of Bagan is an excellent mid-length option that we highly recommend. There are various different companies offering cruises on the Irrawaddy River, but the RV Pandaw or RV Paukan cruises are some of the best.

7. Biking in Mandalay

For those who enjoy the wind in their hair and don’t mind getting a little sweaty, cycling is a great way to explore and experience Mandalay properly. Bikes are available everywhere and very cheap. A lot of the attractions within the city are easily accessible by bicycle and the traffic is not too bad. The beauty of exploring the city by bicycle is, that you are totally flexible and free to do what you like. In terms of food, this means you can just cruise down the road, look for a place that seems inviting and sample some of the local street food.

Biking in Mandalay

Cycling is a great way to explore and experience Mandalay.

Several companies offer bicycle tours in the Mandalay area, with Grasshopper Adventures and Bike World two of the more popular ones; they employ local guides with thorough knowledge of the area and offer good bikes and equipment.  Tour times can vary with the season, so make sure to double-check availability before planning a trip.

8. Visit the local market in Mandalay

Mandalay prides itself on vivid and colorful markets – The perfect place to dive into the bustling life of this city, far away from the tourists!

Visit local market in Mandalay

Zeigyo Market is a nondescript building full of colorful clothes and fabrics, but it is probably the outdoor markets you will want to discover.  

The Flower’s Market is your best bet for the largest quantity of Chrysanthemum you’ve ever seen, and the neighboring fish market for testing your senses to the uttermost.

The Jade Market in Mandalay is a hive of frenetic commercial activity. Myanmar is known for quality jade. The locals, and surprisingly the men, love trading Jade. Here, you will see how jade stones are cut, polished, and then traded over a cup of tea.

The Night Market in Mandalay is unremarkable for tourist shopping, it’s a very local market experience where young people head to buy clothes or swap and buy second-hand books. It is excellent for local street food. It’s really simple, sit down on a plastic stool and pick the food of your choice.

Street Food At Night Market

Street Food At Night Market

Given these points, it wasn’t love at first sight but eventually, you will see why so many travelers throughout the ages have fallen under the spell of magical Mandalay and spend time exploring this captivating city. It’s great to have a guide you can ask any question to and it made it much easier to see everything we wanted, plus a few sights we may have missed had we done this alone.

You may also like: Useful Local Tips In Mandalay


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