Many people who visit Myanmar describe it as having an almost magical quality about it. Seeing the beautiful and historic temples, hearing about the rich culture of the various groups, and smelling the fragrance of the delicious cuisine is wonderful. There’s certainly no bad time to visit Myanmar. However, if your visit coincides with a festival, you’ll get a special look into a unique aspect of the country’s culture.
There are many festivals celebrated annually all over Myanmar. Here, we’ll talk about ten of the most fascinating festivals in Myanmar, that you just can’t miss.
Festivals in Myanmar You Can’t-Miss
All year round, Myanmar offers many different festivals all over the country. Many of these are steep in religion and spirituality, with festivals held at all different pagodas. However, each one is unique and an amazing sight to see. Here are ten of our favorites, although there are many more!
1. Thingyan Water Festival
Like a number of countries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar marks the beginning of the New Year with a water festival. This is because water is considered to signify the cleansing of any past mistakes, and so just about everybody gets squirted at some stage! Don’t be upset if you end up getting splashed, it’s all in good fun. Also, it’s said to be good luck for the coming year.
Kids in particular love to run around, dumping water on their friends and playing with water pistols. Only older people and monks tend to escape wrath! It’s a fun and memorable way to start the New Year, and definitely one of the most enjoyable festivals in Myanmar.
It’s usually held in mid-April with the biggest being held in Yangon.
2. Kachin Manaw Festival
This festival in Myanmar is held around the beginning of January, in the Kachin state. Kachin has many different hill tribes, and this festival sees them come together to celebrate the New Year and honor the past victories in battle. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn more about the people of Kachin, and the customs and traditions that they have handed down for many years.It is an exuberant, colorful affair with traditional food, dancing, and performances. It is one of the most interesting festivals in Myanmar, and definitely an amazing experience if you visit in January.
3. Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Festival
One of the best festivals to attend in Myanmar, the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Festival is a festival celebration held in Yangon, the largest city of Myanmar. During this festival, people celebrate the harvest at one of Yangon’s most famous pagodas. People come from all over Myanmar to attend the festival and often arrive via traditional ox-cart to give their offering at the pagoda.
At the festival, you’ll find lots of people selling all kinds of beautiful handicrafts and wares, as well as lots of delicious traditional food. This festival in Myanmar is typically held in February for about a week and a half.
4. Mahamuni Pagoda Festival
The Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay is one of the most significant Buddhist temples in all of Southeast Asia. It is believed to be made during the lifetime of the Buddha, in his image. As such, each year tens of thousands of people make pilgrimages to the Mahamuni Pagoda to pay their deep respects to Lord Buddha.
Each February, people gather at the Pagoda for this festival. It is an incredible experience for the senses; the sound of Buddhist monks reading sacred texts, the smell of incense and sticky rice, and the sight of traditional dances, songs and plays. It’s certainly a wonderful sight to see in Myanmar.
5. Naga New Year Festival
Each January, the Naga New Year Festival in the northwest is one of the most incredible cultural events in Myanmar. The event sees all the different subgroups of the Naga people come together to share their hopes for the coming year, and be reunited.
It is a marvellous festival of Myanmar, with traditional dress, dances, food, and performances. Not many tourists are able to experience the festival, but those who do, see a genuine and miraculous cultural event. Note that you can only visit with a guide, such as Pro Niti Travel!
6. Waso Chinlone Festival
This festival of Myanmar is a little bit different, as although it is held at the Mahamuni Pagoda, it is mainly about the sport. It involves players demonstrating an ancient game which has been played in Myanmar for centuries.
The main object is not to let the ball touch the ground, and the players show fantastic skill and enthusiasm for keeping it up in the air! If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to give it a go! There’s also a lot of food and a generally festive atmosphere to enjoy.
7. Yadana Gu Spirit Festival
Held during Wagaung, which is the fifth month of the Burmese calendar (roughly August), the Yadana Gu Spirit Festival is one of the most interesting festivals in Myanmar. Thousands of people visit Mandalay to pay their respects and honour to the animist spirits called “nats”.
In order to do so, there are many performances including singing and dancing, while the traditional food is offered up at the pagoda. It is a splendid festival of Myanmar that really allows you to learn more about the traditions and customs of the local people.
8. Thadingyut Festival of Lights
The sight of thousands of lights and lanterns filling the night sky is surely one of the most magical views that you could imagine. Luckily, you can see this with your own eyes if you visit the Thadingyut Festival of Lights, which is held throughout October all over Myanmar.
It signifies the beginning of winter and the return of the Buddha. Lights that range from small tea light candles to huge lanterns can be seen all over Myanmar, and you are welcome to leave your own if you wish.
9. The Full Moon Festival of Tazaungmone
Another of the most beautiful festivals in Myanmar is the Full Moon Festival of Tazaungmone, held in Taunggyi of Shan State. This festival is only held for one day, but it is absolutely spectacular and attracts thousands of locals and visitors. The most famous highlight of the festival is the release of a large, colorful hot air balloon that is filled with lights and offerings.
Koehtatkyi Pagoda is also decorated with 9,999 lights, as 9 is seen as a lucky number. Other highlights of the festival include hearing the beautiful sound of traditional harp music and eating delicious food. It is one of the most beautiful festivals in Myanmar and a true delight.
10. Ananda Pagoda Festival
As you can see from this list, there are many festivals held at pagodas all around Myanmar each year. The Ananda Pagoda Festival is one of the largest and most famous. Held at the Ananda Pagoda in Bagan, the festival sees thousands of people visit the Pagoda to pay their respects to Buddha.
Everyday people leave offerings such as food, while perhaps the most wondrous aspect of the festival is hearing the Buddhist monks chant for 72 hours straight. It is really a magnificent festival of Myanmar and an amazing event to experience.
Because the festival is so popular and widely attended, many stalls are set up nearby selling different handicrafts and traditional food. It’s certainly an enchanting festival to see in Myanmar.
Tips for Attending Festivals in Myanmar
- Above all, always be respectful of the people and culture that you are visiting, for example by refraining from using flash photography. If you are unsure of what is appropriate, please ask your guide who will be most happy to make sure that both you and the local people feel comfortable.
- Note that some of the festivals (such as the Naga New Year Festival) can only be attended in the company of a licensed guide. Pro Niti Travel is a licensed tour company and we delight in introducing visitors to the festive culture of Myanmar.)
- Most festivals are held according to the Lunar calendar, which is different to the calendar used in the Western world. As such, the dates can vary quite a bit from year to year – it’s best to confirm the exact date about 6 – 12 months out from the festival.
- Visiting Myanmar to attend a festival gives you a great excuse to explore more of this beautiful country! Pro Niti Travel can work with you to help craft an itinerary that takes in the festival you want to see, as well as other highlights of Myanmar. Just contact us for more information.
- While these are ten beautiful festivals in Myanmar, there are many more. If you have a particular interest, or none of these festivals match the dates that you are traveling, please contact us and we can discuss what other options you may have. There’s nearly always a festival on in Myanmar!