What To Do In Mandalay – Your Ultimate Mandalay Guide

We arrived to Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar, at the end of our trip. We had a few days to spend here and after visiting Bagan and Inle Lake we thought we’d already seen the best of Myanmar’s attractions.  Boy, we were wrong because we LOVED our time here and we couldn’t get enough of the colorful markets and the day trips to nearby villages (not to mention the Indian restaurant we have visited 3 times). Mandalay is located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River which provides a wonderful setting for many Instagram-worthy  pictures.  Allow for at least 3-4 days to explore Mandalay and its surrounding area if you can include it in your Myanmar itinerary

Things to See and Do in and around Mandalay

Take a Ferry to Mingun

Mingun is a small village which is situated on the western bank of the Irrawaddy River. We took a small boat to get there and for a moment felt like trainee pirates because we had to cross long  planks to get on and off the boat. The next couple of hours we spent strolling around Mingun and browsing the numerous souvenir stands, visiting the Mingun Bell (the biggest hanging bell in the world) and the Pahtodwgyi Pagoda. Our favorite attraction in Mingun was without a doubt the Hsinbyume Pagoda (the pagoda of love). It is very unique in its bright white color and the design that is similar to waves or as someone else described it – “a great white meringue style pavlova”.

Watch the Sunset at U Bein Bridge

The famous U Bein Bridge (the longest wooden bridge in the world) is located in Amarapura. It is such a beautiful sight to watch the sunset from one of the boats on the river. We arrived here about two hours before the sunset and had some time to cross the bridge and hire a boat to watch the sunset.  Since many tourists have this attraction on their Myanmar bucket list, make sure to make a reservation in advance with one of the local boats because sometimes there are no more boats to hire (yep, talking from experience). An important tip – even if there are no more boats available, ask around and perhaps share a boat with someone who has already hired one. For a more romantic experience you can also hire one of the small boats which provide drinks and a bite to eat in this stunning setting. Just before sunset dozens of boats dock in front of the bridge in a long chain-like structure, almost touching one another while waiting for the sunset to color the sky in golden hues. 

Visit the Family-Owned Workshops

If you have been following our Myanmar itinerary then you already know we love the local family-owned workshops. We really loved the unique small factories/workshops in the villages around Mandalay because it was a great opportunity to experience the every-day life of the villagers. We found out that most of the villages here choose to concentrate on one kind of specialty such as clay or terracotta. Each family makes a different kind of item such as clay candle-holders or vases  and people from all around the area know they can find every clay item they need in this specific village. We strolled around the different workshops with our guide and viewed the various phases involved in making such items. In the first village we learned about the different stages of making clay vases and money boxes for children.

In another workshop just at the outskirts of Mandalay we saw the different stages of making paper mache toys.

One of our most memorable experience form Myanmar is our visit to the hand-made broom workshop. You can see these lovely colorful brooms all over Myanmar. What made this visit so memorable was the fact that we were the main attraction there. After all of the explanations about the production process and spending some time taking pictures, the workers got over their shyness and asked us to pose with them for selfies. By then we were already used to these kind of requests but this time we had to spend about 30 minutes posing with everyone, making videos and joking around.  It was such a fun experience and this small factory has such an old charm to it we just loved our time there.

When you are in Mandalay, make sure to visit one of these workshops that specialize in producing the gold leaves which the locals place on the Buddha statues everywhere in Myanmar – it is the specialty of this area.

Visit a Local Monastery in the Evening or Morning Time

From the start we knew we would like to visit one of the local monasteries in the area in the morning or just before sunset and witness the long line of monks who are on their way to the evening pray which is followed by supper. The problem is we’ve heard many mixed reviews about such visits since many times there are so many other tourists around you can’t really enjoy the experience.  Therefore, we asked our guide to take us to a relatively less-known monastery in the afternoon since most tourists arrive in the mornings, and apart from us we saw perhaps 4 other tourists around. So our recommendation is to come in the afternoon to a smaller monastery if you want to enjoy your visit.

Visit Shwenandaw Kyaung

The Golden Palace Monastery (Shwenandaw Kyaung) is a historic Buddhist monastery located near Mandalay Hill and it is the only major original structure of the original Royal Palace. Both the exterior and interior of the monastery are decorated with intricate wood carvings. It is hard not the admire this beautiful monastery and the craftsmanship required to build it.

Visit the Mandalay Markets

If you are a market person (as we are) Mandalay is blessed with many great markets such as the fish market, flower market and fresh produce market. Our guide was wise enough to understand that just one visit to one of the markets was not going to satisfy our thirst and we came back a few times because markets are a little bit like Disneyland for us… Before choosing which market to visit, you’d better consult your guide or hotel regarding the best time of day to visit each of the markets. We couldn’t get enough of the sights and sounds (though we could do without the fishy odor of the fish market) of these market. We just strolled around, taking pictures, trying to spot unfamiliar fruits and veggies and basically inhale the richness and liveliness of these markets.

Watch the Sunset on the Banks of the Irrawaddy River

To finish your visit in the beautiful Mandalay, buy some snacks at the local market and sit to watch the sunset at the viewpoint just above the village of bamboo weavers. The villagers are weaving the bamboo which is used to build everything from roofs and walls to fans. The sunset is spectacular from here, coloring the scene in golden hues and it is a great spot to take some sunset pictures. Another bonus – many couples come to have a romantic evening here and many local kids and families come to enjoy the small park and playground.

As you can probably tell we really enjoyed our time here and it was a great city to finish off our Myanmar adventure. 

For the foodies among you, you need to check out Indian Tadka – this super amazing Indian restaurant that was so great, we couldn’t help ourselves but come back for more….

 So if we sparked some wanderlust in your bones, check out our tips to help you plan your perfect Myanmar trip!

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Fruits at Mandalay market
sunset on u bein bridge
A monk sitting in the Hsinbyume Pagoda

12 thoughts on “What To Do In Mandalay – Your Ultimate Mandalay Guide”

  1. Mandalay is so close to my native land in Northern East India. When I lived in India, Mandalay had not opened up to tourists, like it is now
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post- it makes me want to visit this country soon

    1. Chasing Lenscapes

      Thank you so much Mayuri, our pleasure! We’ve always wanted to visit India. Hopefully, we’ll get there soon 🙂

  2. I’m impressed that you found Mandalay worthy of three or four days! I was happy in just a day and a half – one day to visit the surrounding historical towns and major temples, and half a day in the city itself. I think I was able to see all of the sites you mentioned in one day (with a car and driver).

    1. Chasing Lenscapes

      Thanks for commenting Carly. We actually had a driver too but we spent at least 1-2 days driving around Mandalay visiting the small artisan workshops – we just found them so unique and charming. Plus visiting the markets more than just one time. We had maybe a very busy 3-3.5 days itinerary there.

  3. Absolutely stunning photography. You’ve absolutely make me want to visit this unique area. Just wonderful. Someday, I will make it here and hope it hasnt changed too significantly culture-wise.

  4. Gorgeous photos and they show such exuberance and charm of Mandalay. As a market person myself, I also love your feature on the colorful markets of Mandalay.

    1. Chasing Lenscapes

      Thank you so much Danial, it’s a pleasure to hear! Mandalay’s markets were just so packed with colors, fresh produce and a commotion of people we just had to spend there a few good hours!

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