Must see attractions in Mandalay

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mandalay

    Mandalay Hill

    To get a sense of Mandalay’s pancake-flat sprawl, climb the 760ft hill that breaks it. The walk up covered stairways on the hill's southern slope is a major part of the experience – note that you'll need to go barefoot in places, as you pass through numerous temples and pagodas. The climb takes 30 minutes, but much longer if you allow for stops en route. The summit viewpoint is especially popular at sunset, when young monks converge on foreigners for language practice.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mandalay

    Mahamuni Paya

    Every day, thousands of colourfully dressed faithful venerate Mahamuni's 13ft-tall seated buddha, a nationally celebrated image that’s popularly believed to be some 2000 years old. Centuries of votary gold leaf applied by male devotees (women may only watch) have left the figure knobbly with a 6in layer of pure gold…except on his radiantly gleaming face, which is ceremonially polished daily at 4.30am.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Jade Market

    Rock dust and cheroot smoke fill the air in this heaving grid of cramped walkways, where you'll find a mass of jade traders haggling, hawking and polishing their wares. There's a K2500 entry fee (often not collected), but you could always sit outside the market and observe craftspeople cutting and polishing jade in the area around 87th St. Be on the lookout for merchants furtively discussing deals over cigarettes and tea at spots such as the Unison Teahouse.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mandalay

    Shwe In Bin Kyaung

    A meditative departure from the usual Burmese 'douse-it-all-in-gold-and-pastels' aesthetic, this gorgeously carved teak monastery is beloved by tourists and locals. Commissioned in 1895 by a pair of wealthy Chinese jade merchants, the central building stands on tree-trunk poles and the interior has a soaring dark majesty. Balustrades and roof cornices are covered in detailed engravings, a few of them mildly humorous.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mandalay

    Yankin Hill

    Staring distantly towards Mandalay Palace, temple-topped Yankin Hill is worth climbing for views of greater Mandalay's rice-field setting and of the Shan foothills behind. After a 10-minute climb along the obvious covered stairway, you're likely to encounter a couple of domesticated stags – feeding them supposedly brings Buddhist merit. Pagoda walkways turn south along the ridgetop, eventually ducking into a rocky cleft where devotees splash water on tacky golden fish statues that lie at the feet of a Buddha image.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Shwenandaw Kyaung

    This fine teak monastery-temple is noted for its carvings, particularly the interior gilded scenes from the Jataka (past-life stories of the Buddha). The building once stood within the Mandalay Palace complex as the royal apartment of King Mindon, who died inside it in 1878.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Shwekyimyint Paya

    Founded in 1167 by Prince Minshinzaw, exiled son of King Alaungsithu, Shwekyimyint considerably predates Mandalay itself. Minshinzaw consecrated the central sitting Buddha image that's roughly life sized, encrusted with gold and jewelled raiments, and set in an intimately hushed little prayer chamber. The pagoda also hosts other images collected by later Myanmar kings that were relocated here for safekeeping after the British occupied Mandalay Palace.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Mandalay Palace

    The 1990s reconstruction of Mandalay's royal palace features more than 40 timber buildings constructed to resemble the 1850s originals. Climb the curious spiral, timber-walled watchtower for a good general view. The palace's most striking structure is a soaring multilayered pyramid of gilt filigree above the main throne room. Parts of the complex are in need of repair. Palace access for foreigners is only via the east gate, and you may be asked for ID.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Moat & Fortress Walls

    Viewable only from the outside, a 230ft-wide moat and well over 4 miles of crenellated 26ft-high walls form a vast square around the site of the former Mandalay fortress/citadel. Reconstructed in the original 1857 style, the walls are punctuated at regular intervals with gate towers topped by pyramidal creations of fancifully carved woodwork. While artful photography can make much of these scenes, the effect isn’t as impressive as you might expect, due to the length and regularity of the walls.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Kyauktawgyi Paya

    At the heart of this large 19th-century complex is a 900-tonne buddha, 26ft tall and dressed in royal attire. Carved from a single block of marble, it reputedly took 10,000 men 13 days to transport it from a canal to the present site before its dedication in 1865.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Gold-Pounders’ District

    Those 1-sq-in gold-leaf sheets that worshippers piously place on sacred buddha images are laboriously hand-pounded in dozens of specialist workshops in this two-block area. Two main-street souvenir showrooms, King Galon and Golden Rose, have English-speaking staff who'll patiently talk you through the process while muscled gold-beaters demonstrate the hypnotic (for observers), physically draining movements that sound like the rhythms of gamelan music. It’s free and fascinating, and the sales pitch is pretty casual.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Skinny Buddha

    Built in 2011, this remarkable 75ft-tall seated Buddha, with either most of his ribs or a 14-pack showing, is a 'meditation image' that falls stylistically somewhere between manga cartoon and Cubism. This Buddha gets marks for being a fairly unique representation amid Mandalay's thousands of almost identical representations of the Enlightened One.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Kuthodaw Paya

    Kuthodaw Paya, aka the ‘world’s biggest book’, draws tour-bus crowds to see its 729 slabs that retell the Tripitaka canon, which is effectively part of the Buddhist Bible. Note that many of the slabs are placed behind grated entrances in small stupas (and are written in Pali), so it's tough to make out the text. Nearby, the Sandamuni Paya (admission includes entrance here) has more such slabs.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Setkyathiha Paya

    Mostly hidden behind shopfronts, this large elevated pagoda complex includes a ‘golden rock’ lookalike and an enormous sacred bodhi tree planted by U Nu, Myanmar’s first post-independence prime minister. However, it is best known for an impressive 17ft-high seated bronze Buddha, cast in 1823 by King Bagyidaw.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Sandamuni Paya

    At this shrine, you'll find 1774 ensconced marble slabs inscribed with commentaries on the Tripitika (Buddhist scriptures). Along with the stone slabs at Kuthodaw Paya (admission includes entrance here), these stone tablets are often deemed the ‘world’s biggest book’.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Marble Workshops

    Lining the Sagaing–Mandalay road, just southeast of Mahamuni Paya, is workshop after workshop (an estimated 75 in total) where you can see (or purchase, if you're not concerned about airline excess-luggage fees) slabs of rock being blasted, chipped and polished into buddhas of all sizes.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Flower Market

    This small market takes up a few blocks, which by midday become littered with multicoloured clouds of blossoms and piles of cut stems and leaves.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Peshawar Relics

    Three tiny shards of bone, believed to be Buddha relics, were discovered in 1908 by British archaeologists at the site of a once-great ancient stupa at Peshawar (in today's Pakistan). For years they were displayed on Mandalay Hill, but after thefts of associated gemstones alerted authorities to their vulnerability, the relics were moved to a dusty little museum room in the U-Khanti Monastery at the base of the hill. It's best appreciated with a knowledgeable guide.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Eindawya Paya

    Ranged around a sizeable stupa glowing with gold leaf, Eindawa was founded in 1847 by King Pagan Min, whose princely palace once stood here. The complex offers a refreshing dose of relative quiet and serenity, given the bustle of nearby markets.

  • Sights in Mandalay

    Ma Soe Yein Nu Kyaung

    Across the creek from Shwe In Bin, the city's largest monastery lacks an ancient historical pedigree and is primarily a collection of modern dorm accommodation and lecture halls. It does sport a ‘Big Ben’ clock and a unique six-storey octagonal library tower topped with a great viewpoint. The monastery has long been noted for the politically forthright views of its monks, and it's the base of controversial monk Ashin Wirathu, figurehead of the anti-Muslim nationalist 969 movement.