Of all of the holiday hotspots and must-see destinations in the world, few have got the travelling community as excited or as intrigued as Burma.
Ruled by a military junta for almost 50 years, this mysterious Asian country, once an important trading outpost of the British Empire, became almost completely cut off from the rest of the world.
However in 2011 the junta was officially dissolved, leaving Burma free to re-join the international community and take its rightful place as one of the best holiday destinations in the world.
If the unique culture, friendly population, stunning scenery and air of mystery aren’t enough to tempt you to Burma, nothing can.
The isolation that Burma experienced for most of the latter half of the twentieth century prevented much of the rapid development experienced by other neighbouring nations.
As a result the cities and countryside of this beautiful country have been uniquely preserved, offering visitors a glimpse into a world that otherwise would have long-since disappeared.
The natural world
A great example of this preservation can be found hiding in the Burmese jungles. Here whole herds of elephant – almost eradicated from other regions – live happily and undisturbed.
The recent BBC documentary Wild Burma: Nature’s Lost Kingdom showed just how elusive, yet majestic these creatures are. The programme also gave viewers a tantalising look at the Burmese countryside and the people who inhabit this unique landscape.
Another must-see attraction on Burma’s long list of natural wonders is Inle Lake, a shallow 13.5-mile long waterway in the Thanlwin River Basin.
This beautiful spot is the ideal place to relax and unwind, or take a boat trip out to visit the floating villages that make their living selling souvenirs to visiting tourists.
If it’s culture that you’re after, Burma won’t leave you disappointed. In fact, the country has a huge amount of both history and heritage. One of the most important centres for Burmese culture is the ancient city of Bagan, around 170 kilometres south west of Mandalay.
Between the 9th and 13th centuries Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, and during the height of its power saw the construction of around 13,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries.
Today, around 2,200 of these structures remain, dotted across the city. Many of the religious buildings are incredibly well preserved and make for a fascinating afternoon’s exploration.
The two main cities in Burma are Rangoon and Mandalay, both of which offer visitors a whole host of sightseeing opportunities and cultural delights. As the largest city, Rangoon is unsurprisingly busier than Mandalay, but it still manages to retain a certain old world charm. Founded in the 11th century, the city has a thousand years of history just waiting to be discovered.
Mandalay on the other hand is a fairly modern city, dating back just 150 years to 1857. Quieter and more relaxed than Rangoon, Mandalay is the ideal stopping off point for first time visitors to the country.
To help you get your bearings, head up to the top of Mandalay hill for a fantastic view over the skyline, before visiting some of the city’s beautiful pagodas, monasteries and temples.
Full of charm, character and surprises, Burma is a truly unique country that’s just waiting to be discovered. And with so many travellers chomping at the bit to explore this emerging nation, now’s the time to get in there first and experience Burma before it changes.