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How to Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar: A Travel Guide

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The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, is the most important Buddhist temple in all of (the state formerly known as) Burma and a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site. The pagoda was built well over 2,500 years ago and has been renovated many times. It is considered one of the few original structures from that era that survived.

Its five-tiered gold leaf-covered stupa is the tallest of its kind globally, at nearly 100 meters. This Buddhist monument is also home to many other Buddhist relics, including a piece of the Buddha’s hair.

The temple complex is huge, with many different buildings and shrines. It is one of Yangon’s most popular tourist destinations, and visitors come from all over the world to see the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda.

About

Top of Shwedagon Pagoda and Skyline

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s holiest Buddhist shrine (also called Shwedagon Paya, Golden Pagoda, Great Pagoda, Shwedagon Zedi Daw, and Shwedagon Pagoda), is thought to date back to the 6th-10th century.

Still, legend has it that the structure is about 2,500 years old. Either way, it is the oldest Buddhist stupa and monument. An inscription dated 1485 is written on the eastern stairway telling the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and some of the native Burmese languages (the total number of languages is in the hundreds).

The building suffered damage from several earthquakes over the years, and the version we see today was constructed in 1769 under King Hsinbyushin. In 1871, a new hti (the decorative top) was added.

The structure has a religious significance, but during the drive for independence from the British Empire, the pagoda was the site of political demonstrations and gatherings. For many, it was a symbol of the nation’s struggle. Later, once independence was gained, the site continued to be used for national celebrations.

The pagoda has a 432.81-meter perimeter, is 98 meters high, and stands on Singuttara Hill, 50 meters above the city, which lives in the monument’s shadow. The huge structure demonstrates refined artistic skills in decoration and architecture.

The pagoda is decorated with gold and jewels, and 32 smaller pagodas surround it. Inside the pagoda, there are also many statues and images of Buddha. Visitors can buy flowers and offerings to the monks living at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

History

Shwedagon Pagoda and Yangon skyline in Myanmar
f11photo / Adobe Stock

The Shwedagon Pagoda, also known as the Golden Pagoda, is a Buddhist pagoda and is the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar (Burma). It is located in Yangon (Rangoon), the former capital of Myanmar. It is one of the most sacred places in Myanmar and a major tourist attraction, guarded by Cinthe statues, the Burmese mythological lions.

The Mon people built the Shwedagon Pagoda in the 2nd century BCE. It is one of the tallest buildings in Myanmar and is said to contain relics of the Buddha, including his hair and teeth.

It is 98 meters (322 feet) tall, and the stupa is surrounded by 64 smaller satellites. The Shwedagon Pagoda is Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist site and a major tourist attraction.

The pagoda complex includes many buildings and structures, such as temples, monasteries, statues, and ponds. The main shrine is the Shwedagon Pagoda itself. The complex also comprises the Zoological Gardens, home to some of Myanmar’s rarest animals.

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See Related: Best Tourist Destinations in the World

Notable Buddhas to See

Buddha statues at Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar.
Anton Ivanov Photo – stock.adobe.com

The pagoda holds the sacred Buddha relics of the four previous Buddhas: Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana, Kassapa, and Gautama.

Kakusandha

Kakusandha Buddha and visitors exploring  in Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
efesenko / Adobe Stock

Kakusandha is one of the four Buddhas who were present at Shwedagon Pagoda. He is often depicted with a halo around his head and is usually shown sitting in a lotus position.

He is known as the Buddha of purity and is said to have reached enlightenment after only seven days of meditation. He is also said to be able to travel through the air and is often shown surrounded by a group of disciples.

Koṇāgamana

Golden Standing Buddha Konagamana statue in Ananda Temple, Bagan, Myanmar against ornate arch backdrop.
boonsom – stock.adobe.com

Koṇāgamana, one of the past Buddhas, is represented at the Ananda Temple in Myanmar, a site of immense historical and spiritual significance. This temple’s stunning architecture and sculptures offer a profound glimpse into the Buddhist heritage, enhancing the Shwedagon Pagoda’s allure as a pilgrimage destination.

Kassapa

Kassapa Buddha and interior of Kassapa Buddhist Temple in Yangon, Myanmar
efesenko / Adobe Stock

Kassapa is one of the Buddha’s most famous and important disciples. He was a very accomplished monk and teacher and is said to have attained enlightenment before the Buddha. One of the most famous stories about Kassapa, the third Buddha, is his encounter with a young woman named Uttaralamba.

Uttaralamba was a very devout Buddhist. She had been praying for many years to be reborn as a man so that she could become a monk. One day, she met Kassapa and asked him to teach her the path to enlightenment. Kassapa refused, saying she was not ready yet and needed to focus first on developing compassion and wisdom.

Gautama

Gautama Buddhist Temple in Shwedagon, Yangon, Myanmar
efesenko / Adobe Stock

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a sacred Buddhist shrine in Yangon, Myanmar. It is said to be the country’s most important religious site.

It is visited by faithful Buddhists from all over the country. The pagoda is also a popular tourist destination, offering visitors stunning views of the cityscape and surrounding countryside.

But the Shwedagon Pagoda is not just any old temple. It is said to house sacred Buddha relics of Gautama, the fourth Buddha. These relics are believed to have miraculous powers and are said to bring good luck and prosperity to those who visit them.

For this reason, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites for Buddhists worldwide. The Gautama Buddha is said to be enshrined and to have visited the pagoda and left his footprint on one of the pillars.

Communal Buddhist Practices

Monk on a Pagoda

The communal Buddhist practices at Shwedagon Pagoda are based on the Theravada school of Buddhism. This includes morning and evening chanting, walking meditation, and precepts ceremonies. Many monks and nuns also live at the pagoda and carry out these practices daily.

One of the most important aspects of communal Buddhist practice is giving alms to monks and nuns. There are also timeless Buddhist teachings.

It is seen as a way of accumulating merit, and it is believed that the more merit one has, the better their next life will be. Almsgiving also helps support the monastic community, which relies entirely on donations for survival.

Another important aspect of Shwedagon Pagoda’s Buddhist practices is a pilgrimage. Pilgrims come from Myanmar (and even further afield) to circumambulate the pagoda and pay respects to the Buddha image inside. It is believed that this helps to purify oneself and accumulate merit.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Old Lady and a Kid on a Festival Lighting Candles
grandma & son” by shootlah! is marked with CC BY 2.0.

The festival is a religious festival held at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. It celebrates the full moon of Tabaung, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar. Thousands attend the festival annually, a time of prayer and celebration.

Highlights of the festival include religious ceremonies and processions, fireworks displays, and other traditional entertainment. The Shwedagon Pagoda is a sacred site for Buddhists in Myanmar, and the festival is an important time for pilgrims to visit the pagoda.

The Shwedagon Pagoda Festival is a significant event in the Burmese calendar and is one of the most important festivals in Myanmar. The festival is when people from all over the country come to Yangon to pray and make offerings at the Shwedagon Pagoda. The pagoda is a sacred site for Buddhists, and the festival is an important time for pilgrims to visit.

The festival lasts five days and includes a range of religious ceremonies and celebrations. On the festival’s first day, Buddhists take part in a procession to the pagoda, making offerings and praying.

The second day of the festival is dedicated to the memory of those who have died, and Buddhists visit the pagoda to make offerings and prayers.

On the third day, there is a ceremony to bless the animals, and on the fourth day, there is a procession of monks around the pagoda. The fifth and final day of the festival is a day of celebration when people come together to enjoy traditional entertainment such as music and dance.

The Shwedagon Pagoda Festival is an important event in Myanmar that attracts visitors from all over the world. If you plan to visit during the festival, it is advisable to book your accommodation and travel arrangements in advance.

See Related: Best Festivals Around the World

How to Get There

Tourists exploring the Shwedagon Pagoda Complex  in Yangon, Myanmar
efesenko / Adobe Stock

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a popular tourist destination in Myanmar. It is located in the heart of Yangon and can be easily reached by taking a taxi or bus. If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver to take you to the Shwedagon Pagoda. The fare should be 1500-2000 kyat (US$1.50-2.00).

If you’re taking the bus, take bus number 8 or 11 and tell the driver to drop you off at the elegant Shwedagon Pagoda. The fare is only 200 kyat (US$0.20). When you’re ready to leave, you can take the bus or taxi back to your hotel or guesthouse. Alternatively, you can walk about a 30-minute walk back to downtown Yangon.

Travel Tips for Visiting

Tourists exploring the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
efesenko / Adobe Stock

The pagoda is located on Singuttara Hill and can be easily accessed by taxi or bus from downtown Yangon. Admission is free, but donating to the temple is customary if you wish to enter.

When visiting Shwedagon Pagoda, be respectful and dress appropriately. Women should wear long skirts or pants, and men should avoid shorts or sleeveless shirts. The pagoda is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., so you can easily fit a visit into your schedule.

Once you’re inside, take some time to explore the temple complex. The gold-plated main stupa is over 2,500 years old and is covered in gold-plated leaves; make sure to take a picture in front of it! You’ll also find several smaller stupas, eight small shrines, and statues scattered throughout the complex.

Spend some time walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of this incredible place. When you’re done, be sure to stop by one of the many street food carts outside the pagoda for a delicious snack before returning to your hotel!

Things to Do in Shwedagon Pagoda

Golden Stupas of Shwedagon Pagoda Myanmar
Rui Vale de Sousa / Adobe Stock

Built over 2,500 years ago, the Shwedagon Pagoda is covered in gold leaf and houses numerous precious stones and artifacts. The view from the top of the pagoda is breathtaking.

Visitors can also explore the many temples and shrines on the grounds. The Buddhist monument is a huge complex, and it’s hard to miss. A park surrounds it, and there are many food stalls and souvenir shops in the area.

The complex has no entrance fee, but you must remove your shoes before entering the temple. Shoe racks are near the entrance; you can leave your shoes there for free. Inside the temple, you’ll see many Buddha statues and images. There are also several stupas (Buddhist shrines) in the complex.

The main attraction of the Shwedagon Pagoda is the central stupa, which is covered in gold. The stupa is said to contain relics of the Buddha, and it’s a sight to behold.

The complex also has many other temples and shrines, so there’s plenty to see and explore. You can easily spend a few hours here. Here are some of the best sights you’ll see when visiting the pagoda.

  • The five-tiered gold-plated leaf-covered stupa is the tallest, at nearly 100 meters. The temple complex is enormous, with many different buildings and shrines.
  • It is one of Yangon’s most popular tourist destinations, and visitors come worldwide to see the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • The Buddhist monument also contains many other sacred relics, including a piece of the Buddha’s hair.
  • The pagoda has a 432.81-meter perimeter, is 98 meters high, and stands on Singuttara Hill, 50 meters above the city, which lives in the monument’s shadow.
  • The huge structure demonstrates refined artistic skills in decoration and architecture.

1. Explore the interior and rich history

Godlen Structures of Shwedagon Pagoda and Skyline

The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of Myanmar’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason—it’s a stunning sight. Circumnavigate Buddhist stupas and admire their beauty.

The pagoda is said to contain relics of the Buddha, and its golden stupa is a real marvel to behold. You may join a spiritual tour or an evening Pagoda tour.

2. Climb to the top of the pagoda

The top of the Shwedagon Pagoda architecture at night
pjjaruwan / Adobe Stock

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not climb to the top of the pagoda? The views from the top are definitely worth the effort!

3. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere

Happy gil traveler in Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
olezzo / Adobe Stock

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a special place, and spending some time there is a truly unique experience. Take a few minutes to relax and take in the peaceful atmosphere.

4. Visit the surrounding temples

Tourists exploring the Temples of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Aleksandar Todorovic / Adobe Stock

There are several other temples and pagodas near the Shwedagon Pagoda, so be sure to explore them too!

5. Learn about the pagoda’s history

Huge crowd of tourists  exploring the Temples of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Delphotostock / Adobe Stock

The Shwedagon Pagoda is an ancient structure with a fascinating history. Many resources are available to learn about its past – books, guides, etc. – so use them.

Nearby Attractions

Inle Lake

Woman Facing a Market on a Lake

Inle Lake is a picturesque body of water in Myanmar, home to floating villages and markets. The lake is approximately 22 kilometers long and has an average depth of 3 meters.

Inle Lake is unique in that it is home to many Intha people who live in stilt houses and floating gardens.

The Intha are known for their leg-rowing technique, which they use to propel their boats through the water. In addition to being a popular tourist destination, Inle Lake is an important source of fish and vegetables for the Intha people.

Every morning, the Intha people can be seen fishing and farming on the lake. In the afternoon, the floating markets come to life as vendors sell everything from fruits and vegetables to clothes and souvenirs. Inle Lake is a mesmerizing place that should not be missed on any trip to Myanmar.

Mandalay Hill

Shrine on the Top of a Hill
Mandalay Hill” by D-Stanley is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Mandalay Hill is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar. Located in the center of Mandalay, the hill provides stunning views of the city below. Mandalay Hill is also home to several temples and Buddhist pagodas, making it a popular spot for religious pilgrimages.

Mandalay Hill is an easy walk from Mandalay Palace and other attractions in the city center. Visitors can reach the top of Mandalay Hill via a staircase or an elevator. From there, they can enjoy panoramic views and tours of Mandalay and the surrounding countryside.

Bogyoke Aung San Market

Busy Street of Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market, or Scott Market, is a major bazaar in Pabedan township in central Yangon, Myanmar. The city’s historic architecture and interior cobblestone streets have earned it a place in history.

Bogyoke Aung San Market was built in 1926 and was initially named after the British colonial governor, Sir George Scott. After the country’s independence in 1948, it was renamed in honor of General Aung San, the father of modern Myanmar.

Bogyoke Aung San Market is a popular tourist destination. It is home to more than 2,000 shops selling various merchandise, including traditional Burmese arts and crafts, textiles, jewelry, and paintings. The market also features several restaurants and food stalls offering local Burmese cuisine.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Big Golden Rock of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda” by jasoneppink is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock, is a sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar. The pagoda is perched atop a massive golden boulder, which is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha’s hair.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar. It is said to be a place of great power and pilgrimage. Visitors can hike to the summit of the pagoda, where they can enjoy incredible views of the surrounding countryside. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is an unforgettable destination for anyone who visits Myanmar.

Yangon Zoo

Aerial view of Yangon Zoo in Yangon, Myanmar
Yangon Zoo / Facebook

Yangon Zoo is located in Yangon, Myanmar, and is home to tigers, elephants, and other exotic animals. It is one of the largest zoos in Asia and covers an area of over 200 acres.

The zoo has many animals, including lions, tigers, leopards, bears, elephants, rhinos, and crocodiles. Yangon Zoo also has several rare and endangered species, such as the critically endangered Yangtze River dolphin. Yangon Zoo is a popular tourist destination and receives over 1 million visitors.

National Museum of Myanmar

The National Museum of Myanmar houses an extensive collection of artifacts from Myanmar’s long and rich history, from Prehistory to today. Visitors can see everything from ancient tools and weapons to traditional clothes and jewelry.

The National Museum of Myanmar also houses an extensive collection of Buddhist art, including statues, paintings, and sculptures. Guided tours of the museum are available.

Mahamuni Pagoda

People Praying at Mahamuni Pagoda

Mahamuni Pagoda is a sacred Buddhist temple in Myanmar home to a giant Buddha statue. The Mahamuni Buddha is one of the most revered Buddhas in Myanmar and is said to be over 2,000 years old. The Mahamuni Pagoda complex also includes several other temples and shrines, making it a popular tourist destination.

Visitors to Mahamuni Pagoda can expect to see the Mahamuni Buddha and several other beautiful Buddhist sculptures and paintings. The complex is also home to some monks who live and study at the temple. Mahamuni Pagoda is an essential stop for anyone interested in Buddhist history and culture.

Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda at Night in Myanmar

The pagoda is one of the most iconic landmarks in Yangon, Myanmar. It is over 2,000 years old and sits in Sule Square, the heart of Yangon city center.

The Sule Pagoda is octagonal and stands over 50 meters tall. It is covered in gold-plated leaves and has a large stupa at its center. The pagoda is a popular spot for tourists to visit as it offers a glimpse into Myanmar’s rich history and culture.

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is a major Buddhist temple in Yangon, Myanmar. The Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha statue is a reclining Buddha that measures over 200 feet long and is one of the largest in Myanmar.

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda also has a sizeable gold-plated stupa and smaller temples and shrines. The pagoda and its grounds are popular with both locals and tourists alike.

Visitors can explore the temple complex, admire the Buddha statue, and learn about Buddhism and Burmese culture.

Kandawgyi Lake

Woman Strolling along the Kandawgyi Lake

Kandawgyi Lake is one of two major lakes in Yangon. The other is Inya Lake, a man-made reservoir created in the early 1900s by damming a creek. Kandawgyi means “great royal lake” in the Burmese language. The lake is home to several species of fish and attracts many waterbirds.

There are also several large islands which are popular picnic spots. Kandawgyi Lake is a popular tourist destination, and there are several restaurants and hotels located around its shores. Visitors can take boat rides, fish, or simply enjoy the scenic views.

Places to Stay Near Shwedagon Pagoda

Best Luxury Hotels

Governor’s Residence, A Belmond Hotel, Yangon

Pool and Building Structure of Governor's Residence, A Belmond Hotel, Yangon
Photo by Booking.com

Governor’s Residence is a luxury Belmond hotel near the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. This five-star hotel offers travelers the opportunity to stay in luxury while enjoying the nearby pagoda and other attractions in Yangon.

The Governor’s Residence features 63 guest rooms and suites, each uniquely decorated to reflect the hotel’s colonial history. The hotel has two restaurants, a bar, an outdoor swimming pool, and a spa. Governor’s Residence is the perfect place to stay for travelers who want to experience the best of Yangon.

WYNDHAM GRAND YANGON Hotel

Room with a Queen-sized Bed
Photo by Booking.com

WYNDHAM GRAND YANGON Hotel is a luxury hotel that offers quality services and is perfect in Yangon. The hotel rooms are comfortable, clean, and spacious. 

The staff is very friendly and helpful. The breakfast buffet was very good, with a wide variety of food.

The hotel has a lovely swimming pool, gym, and spa. Its location is perfect, close to many restaurants, bars, and shops. Overall, WYNDHAM GRAND YANGON Hotel is an excellent option for travelers seeking a luxurious and comfortable stay in Yangon.

See Related: Do Hotels Take Cash? Things to Know

Best Mid-Range Hotels

Novotel Yangon Max

Shower and Bed in Novotel Yangon Max
Photo by Booking.com

Novotel Yangon Max is a modern hotel located in the heart of Yangon. The hotel offers travelers a variety of amenities, including an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a spa. Novotel Yangon Max also has several restaurants offering both international and local cuisine.

The hotel is within walking distance of many Yangon attractions, including the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda. Novotel Yangon Max is the perfect choice for travelers who want to experience all Yangon has to offer.

Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon

Building of Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon
Photo by Booking.com

Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon is the perfect base for exploring the city’s most iconic sights. The hotel is just a short walk from the Shwedagon Pagoda and offers stunning views of the country’s largest Buddhist temple.

In addition, Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon is within easy reach of many other attractions, including the National Museum of Myanmar and the Bogyoke Aung San Market. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon is the perfect place to stay in Yangon.

Best Budget Hotels

Hotel Shwe Yee

Spacious Double Bed Room
Photo by Booking.com

Hotel Shwe Yee is a popular budget hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, just a short walk from the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Hotel Shwe Yee offers clean and comfortable accommodations at an affordable price, making it an excellent choice for budget-minded travelers.

The hotel features a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and fitness center. It is also within walking distance of Yangon’s best shopping and dining options. If you’re looking for a budget hotel in Yangon that is close to all the action, Hotel Shwe Yee is a great option.

Hotel H Valley Yangon

Spacious Bedroom with Living Area
Photo by Booking.com

Hotel H Valley Yangon is a budget hotel that offers excellent value for money. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and helpful.

The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of many Yangon attractions, including the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Bogyoke Market. Hotel H Valley Yangon is an excellent choice for travelers looking for an affordable place to stay in Yangon.

Vacation Rentals Rentals

Koo Art Boutique

Building Front of KOO Art Boutique
Photo by Airbnb.com

Koo Art Boutique is a rental place close to Yangon International Airport with high-end amenities. The rental has a studio and one bedroom decorated with contemporary Myanmar artwork. The studio has a kitchenette, while the bedroom has a king-sized bed and an ensuite bathroom.

Koo Art Boutique also offers a laundry service, airport shuttle, and concierge service, making it the perfect base for exploring Yangon. The rental is close to the airport and many city attractions. It also offers a comfortable place to relax after a long day of sightseeing. Koo Art Boutique is the perfect place for travelers who want the best of both worlds.

Samadhana Inn

Romantic Bedroom with Red Linen and Two Pillows
Photo by Airbnb.com

Samadhana Inn is a cozy rental home in Yangon. It is located near many attractions, such as Bogyoke Market and Sule Pagoda. The rental has three bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and two bathrooms.

Samadhana Inn has laundry services, and Wi-Fi is included in the rental price. This rental is perfect for families or groups of friends looking for an affordable and comfortable place to stay while exploring Yangon.

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