Myanmar has never been considered a top destination for beaches in Southeast Asia, especially given the previous tourist-ban around coastal areas. However, as the country opens its borders to tourism, many hidden coastal treasures have been discovered.
While Ngapali is the most developed beach in Myanmar, it’s got nowhere near the level of infrastructure in Phuket – and let’s hope it stays that way.
If it’s nightlife and frantic tours you’re after, you might want to book a trip to Thailand.
Ngapali isn´t known as a backpacker destination. But, up the northern end of the beach, I was able to find a handful of affordable lodgings for less than US $20/night.
Thanks to the increase in visitors to Ngapali, many local agencies now offer cycling tours, hiking in the nearby mountains, scuba diving, snorkeling, or kayaking.
If culture is more your thing, hire a motorbike and ride to the fishermen’s village at the southern end of the beach. Observe the traditional way of life here and you'll get a sense that things really haven’t changed much in the past decade.
At the end of the day, take a walk along Ngapali beach as the sun sets, and stop in at one of the local restaurants to taste delicious seafood.
Getting there: Thandwe is the main city around Ngapali, and it's where buses arrive.
Chaung Tha is the most popular beach among locals. For a truly local experience, this is the place to go – plus you´ll find affordable accommodation.
Chaung Tha hasn’t got infrastructure like Ngapali, but you’ll still be able to go snorkelling, horse riding, or cycling in the area.
If you’re there on a national public holiday or a long weekend, it’ll be far more crowded with locals from Yangon who’ve ventured here for a bit of relaxation.
Ngwe Saung has a lot of potential, and it´s destined to grow since it’s the closet beach to Yangon.
You’ll find middle-range accommodation and white-sand beaches here. Hire a motorbike and ride across the long stretch of sand, stopping at local restaurants to enjoy some more fresh seafood.
If you venture to the southern end of the beach, it’s far more deserted, and you might even have the whole beach to yourself!
If you’ve got a loose budget, boats and guides can be hired to explore nearby islands, where you’ll snorkel in crystal-clear waters that are teaming with bright-colored fish.
To see a less-explored and unspoiled side to Myanmar, head to the Andaman Sea. Dawei is the main city in this area on the banks of a river, but not far from the coast.
You’ll need to take a bus ride, or hire a motorbike and ride half an hour before you reach the first beach, Maungmagan.
If you’re feeling up for an adventure, take the journey one and a half to three hours from Dawei to reach a few of the most amazing beaches in Myanmar. Grandfather’s, Sin Htauk, and Paradise beach are among them.
These three have a few bamboo bungalows right on the beach, with basic facilities (no electricity, just solar power, and no Wi-Fi) for US $20–$30/night.
For more information and tips about beaches in Dawei, read more here.
With a lack of infrastructure, this place isn’t quite ready for backpackers yet.
Though the Myanmar government can see the potential of this archipelago – with more than 800 islands, crystal clear waters, and unique diving spots – development is moving slowly.
So far, there are a few luxury resorts on some of the islands, and the most convenient way to visit the archipelago is by daily tours from Myeik, which costs US $60–$100.
The top thing to do in Mergui Archipelago – without a doubt – is snorkeling and scuba diving. Many cruises and yachts come from Thailand and stay for a few days around the archipelago to enjoy its unique diving spots, full of untouched submarine nature.
If you’d rather stay above the water, go kayaking through the mangroves, or trekking through the jungles of the biggest islands.
This archipelago of islands is home to the Moken people, one of the many minorities of Myanmar – informally called the “sea gypsies”. They live off the life in the sea, with a nomadic lifestyle jumping from island to island. Some of the Moken people can even see underwater after years of diving beneath the salty seas to fetch their food!
“How on earth do I get there?” That's a phrase you’ll commonly hear travelers mumbling once you tell them to venture to one of Myanmar’s beaches.
While these beaches aren’t easily, or cheaply, accessible compared to other beaches in Southeast Asia, it’s this inconvenience that’s left the beaches unspoiled and untouched.
Plus, a difficult journey makes reaching your destination all the more worthwhile.
There are two main regions for beach tourism in Myanmar: the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Trains aren’t well developed for either of these regions – for some, you won’t even have the option, and for others, the slow journey won’t be worth taking – unless you’re up for the experience.
Unfortunately, the most expensive (as well as the most comfortable) option is to catch a flight. There are airports near Myeik (Mergui Archipelago), Dawei, and Ngapali.
The final option is to get there by bus. From Yangon, the most accessible beaches are Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung, which will take around six to eight hours. A bus to Myeik will take approximately 26 hours, Dawei it’ll be 16 hours, and Ngapali around 14 hours.
With over 2,200 temples and pagodas, there is no better way to take in the incredible history spread across the plains of Bagan.
Take the trip from Yangon to Bago to see the ancient palace, a shining pagoda taller than Shwedagon, and a slew of golden relics.