Tour the royal palace pagodas and temples, admire the city from Mandalay Hill and visit historic capital cities nearby for an insight into Myanmar’s rich past.
Mandalay was the last royal capital of Myanmar and is one of its main religious and cultural centres with numerous temples, monasteries and pagodas as well as a royal palace. A trip to the top of Mandalay Hill provides the best city views. In this region there are no fewer than three former capital cities with oodles of history between them plus the much-photographed U Bein Bridge, a graceful teakwood structure.
- Mandalay Hill: It’s worth climbing the stairway to the top of 240m Mandalay Hill for the panoramic views over the city, royal palace and Irrawaddy River, particularly fine at sunrise and sunset. There are many pagodas, stupas and statues on the hill including Sutaungpyei Pagoda at the top. Buddha is said to have climbed this hill and prophesied the creation of a great city on the plain below and the hill is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
- Royal palace: Mandalay Palace is the last of Myanmar’s royal palaces, built in 1857 and occupied by the final two kings. Much of the original structure was destroyed in the Second World War and was reconstructed in the 1990s. The moated complex includes a throne room, ceremonial halls, a library, watchtower, monastery, mausoleum and courtyards which give you a sense of its grandeur.
- Jade & gold: The huge jade market in the city centre attracts locals and international dealers where you can see newly mined jade being cut and polished as it is transformed into precious items of jewellery. More skills are on show in the gold leaf workshops near 36th street, where gold is hammered into slivver thin leaf used to decorate Buddha statues throughout the country.
- Three capitals: Facing Mandalay across the Irrawaddy River, Sagaing was the capital of the Sagaing kingdom in the 14th century and an important religious and monastic centre today with over 500 monasteries. Inwa, also known as Ava, was the capital of successive kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries until it was destroyed by an earthquake, with remnants of past glories still evident. Amarapura was the capital preceding Mandalay and although the palace buildings were dismantled and reused in the newer city its ruins are atmospheric and many stupas and temples remain.
- U Bein Bridge: Just to the east of Amarapura is U Bein Bridge, reputed to be the oldest and, at one time, the longest teak bridge in the world spanning Taungthaman Lake for 1.2km supported by more than 1,000 wooden pillars. It is best viewed when silhouetted against a flame-red sky at sunset which makes a striking photograph.