Photos: Burma's Sacred Sites | Travel | Smithsonian
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Monastery in Nyaungshwe in the Inle Lake region. (Photo by Arthur Teng)
The plains of Bagan are home to 4,000 sacred stupas. Hot air balloon flights take place October through March to avoid rainy season. (Photo by Khairel Anuar Che Ani)
Bago, a city filled with Buddhas and temples, makes an easy day trip from Yangon. (Photo by Arkar Tun Kyaw)
One of the many temples in Bagan. The morning sunlight only enters this way one week each year. (Photo by Khant Zaw)
A fisherman on Inle Lake. Traditionally the Intha people wrap a paddle around one leg to row their boats. (Photo by Aung Pyae Soe)
A monk and seagulls on Inle Lake. Boats are the primary mode of transportation in the area. (Photo by SauKhiang Chau)
The Mya Tha Lyaung reclining Buddha in Bago is uniquely uncovered and close to the larger, indoor reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha. (Photo by Ye Tun)
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, one of the most famous sites in Burma. Its nearly 350-foot gold-plated dome and diamond encrusted tip is visible from almost everywhere in the city. (Photo by Pyiet Oo Aung)
Fog rolls over the stupas in Bagan. (Photo by Han Tha)
A young monk reading. (Photo by Chee Keong Lim)
Temples on the plain of Bagan are connected with dirt roads and trails. (Photo by Hoang Long Ly)
Rural roads. (Photo by Chee Keong Lim)
Monks celebrating Full Moon Day light thousands of small oil lamps around a pagoda in Pindaya, a small town near Inle Lake. (Photo by Khant Zaw)
Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun. (Photo by Mike Blank)
A woman navigates her canoe among the lotus flowers of Inle Lake. The flowers are harvested for making delicate woven textiles. A monk's robes can take over 100,000 stems to complete. (Photo by Michael Sessions)
A monk watches the sun set in Bagan. (Photo by Dominic Burdon)
Golden Rock Pagoda in Kyitehtiyo is a holy site every Buddhist in Myanmar strives to visit. One of the most exciting but crowded times to visit is during pilgrimage season from November to March. (Photo by Sai Kham Hein)
Mingun's unfinished temple was intended to be over 150 meters tall. Large cracks are visible, caused by a 1839 earthquake. (Photo by Tom Cheatham)
A monk at prayer in Bagan. (Photo by Zeyar Minn)
Temple near Kyaukse in the Mandalay Region. (Photo by Zaw Zaw Tun)
Buddhist monastery near Yangon. (Photo by Ye Tun)
Traditional instruments played by Mon women in Yangon. (Photo by Zaw Zaw Tun)
A monk clears litter outside of an old Buddhist monastery near Monywa. (Photo by Tom Cheatham)
Ancient temple in Bagan. (Photo by Aung Myint Htwe)
The 1,200-meter U Bein Bridge, supposedly the longest teak bridge in the world, spans the Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay. (Photo by Teng Hin Khoo)
Lighting festival in Yangon. (Photo by Zeyar Minn)

Photos: Burma's Sacred Sites

Take a trip through this emerging destination with beautiful photos submitted to our annual photo contest

smithsonian.com

Since the transition of power from military to civilian leadership in 2011, Burma has become an increasingly popular destination to visit. And for good reason. The country, which is 90 percent Buddhist, is home to thousands of unique and dazzlingly ornate temples and holy sites. Visit one of the most sacred and spectacular in the capital city of Yangoon: the 350-foot-tall Shwedagon Pagoda is covered in gold and topped with a jewel-crusted spire studded with over 4,500 diamonds. 

Outside the capital, see the many Buddha sculptures of Bago, before heading north to float over the 4,000 sacred stupas on the plains of Bagan in a hot air balloon, or glide among the water lilies on Inle Lake in a narrow wooden boat, expertly rowed in the traditional manner by a paddler balanced on one leg.

In Mandalay, the country's second-largest city, walk across U Bein Bridge, the world's longest teak footbridge, before enjoying a traditional meal with lephet, a tea leaf salad. Take an hour trip across the Ayeyarwady River to Mingun to see the colossal, though never fully completed, temple scarred by dramatic cracks from an 1838 earthquake, and visit the beautiful Hsinbyume Pagoda, ringed by white, waved terraces.

Wherever you choose to go, be sure to pack your camera.

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