Top Events

Water Festival (Thingyan), mid-April

Taungbyone Nat Pwe, August or early September

Independence Day, 4 January

Tazaungdaing, October or November

Ananda Pahto Festival, January

January

Peak season and, if Chinese New Year falls within the month, even busier with local tourists and those from the region. Note New Year’s Day is not a public holiday in Myanmar.

Independence Day

Celebrating the end of colonial rule in Burma, this major public holiday on 4 January is marked by nationwide fairs, including a week-long one at Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon.

Manao Festival

Costumed dancing, copious drinking of rice beer and 29 cows or buffalo sacrificed to propitiate nat (traditional spirits) are part of this Kachin State Day event, held in Myitkyina on 10 January.

Ananda Pahto Festival

Stretching over a couple of weeks in January (but sometimes in December, depending on the Myanmar lunar calendar), this is one of the biggest religious festivals in Bagan.

February

A busy travel season, with the weather beginning to get warmer. If Chinese New Year happens to fall in this month, watch out for a boost in travel activity.

Shwedagon Festival

The lunar month of Tabaung (which can also fall in March) signals the start of the Shwedagon Festival, the largest paya pwe (pagoda festival) in Myanmar.

March

A great month for travelling around Myanmar, with generally fair weather in most locations and only a low chance of rain.

Yangon Photo Festival

This celebration of photography (www.yangonphoto.com) is held at Yangon's Institut Française and other venues across the city, and includes exhibitions, a conference and workshops.

April

It’s steaming hot and with many locals off work and on the move during the New Year celebrations, securing transport, booking hotels and even finding a restaurant open for a meal can be tricky.

Buddha’s Birthday

The full-moon day of Kason (falling in April or May) is celebrated as Buddha’s birthday, the day of his enlightenment and the day he entered nibbana (nirvana). Watering ceremonies are conducted at banyan trees within temple and monastery grounds.

Water Festival (Thingyan)

Lasting from three days to a week, depending on whether the holiday falls over a weekend, this celebration welcomes in Myanmar’s New Year.

Dawei Thingyan

The male residents of the tropical seaside town of Dawei (Tavoy) don huge, 13ft bamboo-frame effigies and dance down the streets to the beat of the kalakodaun, an Indian drum.

June

Pack your raincoat and a sturdy umbrella, as Myanmar starts to be doused by monsoon rains. Roads can be flooded and flights to coastal destinations are sharply reduced.

Start of the Buddhist Rains Retreat

The full moon of Waso is the beginning of the three-month Buddhist Rains Retreat (aka Buddhist Lent), when young men enter monasteries and no marriages take place. Prior to the full-moon day, a robe-offering ceremony to monks is performed.

August

The monsoon is still in full swing so be prepared for damp days and transport hitches.

Taungbyone Nat Pwe

Myanmar’s most famous animist celebration is held at Taungbyone, 13 miles north of Mandalay, and attracts thousands of revellers, many of them homosexual or transgender.

October

Rain is still a possibility but that means everything is very green – making this a great time to visit Bagan, for example.

Thadingyut

Marking the end of Buddhist Lent, this festival of lights celebrates the descent of Buddha from heaven. People place candles in their windows and it’s a popular time for weddings and monk pilgrimages.

Tazaungdaing

The full-moon night of Tazaungmon (which can also fall in November), known as Tazaungdaing, is a second ‘festival of lights’, particularly famous for the fire-balloon competitions in Taunggyi.

November

The start of the main tourist season sees cooler weather and still-lush landscapes.

National Day

Held on the waning of Tazaungmon (usually in late November), this public holiday celebrates student protests back in 1920, seen as a crucial step on the road to independence.

Irrawaddy Literary Festival

Launched in Yangon in 2013, since 2014 this festival (www.irrawaddylitfest.com) has been held in Mandalay. Local writers are joined by celebrated international literary and media figures, including the likes of Jung Chang, Fergal Keane and Tan Twan Eng.

December

Peak travel season with many visitors heading to the country over the Christmas–New Year break. Christmas itself is celebrated by many Christian Kayin, Kachin and Chin people.

Kayin New Year

On the first waxing moon of Pyatho (which can also happen in January), the Kayin New Year is considered a national holiday, with Kayin communities (clustered in Insein near Yangon and Hpa-An) wearing traditional dress.

Paya Pwe

Nearly every active paya (Buddhist temple) or kyaung (Burmese Buddhist monastery) community hosts occasional celebrations of their own, often called paya pwe (pagoda festivals). Many occur on full-moon days and nights from January to March, following the main rice harvest, but the build-up can last for a while. All such festivals follow the 12-month lunar calendar and so their celebration can shift between two months from year to year.

To check dates of these and other festivals, go to the festival calendar of the Britain-Myanmar Society (www.shwepla.net/Calendar/ThinkCal.mv).