The second largest city in the country and the last royal capital, Mandalay is the cultural heart of modern Myanmar (Burma).
Mandalay is a vibrant mix of colonial British architecture, ancient Buddhist temples, and modern construction lining a network of gridded, easy to navigate boulevards leftover from Myanmar’s British colonial era.
The city was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min after the second Anglo-Burmese War. The second conflict with the British in less than 30 years had all but bankrupted the kingdom, and Mindon Min had the Royal Palace in Amarapura to the south of Mandalay dismantled and used as material for the construction of Mandalay Palace at the base of Mandalay Hill. Mandalay would be the final royal capital of the Kingdom of Burma, and the site of some of country’s greatest works of architecture. The Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885 ended with the British Crown annexing the entire country, and exiling the surviving royal family members.
Mandalay Hill is the city’s most easily recognized landmark, and the mystical heart of Buddhism in the region. A holy mount where animist spirits were worshiped long before the spread of Buddhism, Mandalay Hill is riddled with Buddhist temples, shrines, and iconography, and is considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country for Buddhists. The summit of the hill can be reached from any of the four stone stairways aligned with the cardinal directions at the base of the hill. The Su Taung Pyi Pagoda that caps the hill dates back to the 11th century, and the standing Buddha Image inside the shrine is said to have been created after Lord Buddha visited the area centuries before and prophesied the founding of Mandalay. Watching the sunset from the temple’s terrace is one of the most memorable sights on our luxury tours of Myanmar.
Kuthodaw Pagoda is located near the base of Mandalay Hill. The 19th century built temple was just one of the numerous Buddhist shrines built in the city of Mandalay by King Mindon Min. The temple features a 188-feet-high golden stupa, and 729 smaller white shrines containing stone inscriptions of Buddhist scriptures. The inscriptions comprise a massive Buddhist religious text commissioned by King Mindon Min during the 5th Buddhist Council of 1871.
The Maha Muni Pagoda (Mahamuni Paya) in Mandalay contains a nearly 13-feet-high golden Buddha statue believed to be over 2,000 years old. Legends surrounding the image, which has been covered in thick layers of knobby gold leaf by centuries of Buddhist merit-makers, claim it was one of only a handful of images cast of Buddha during the his lifetime. The Maha Muni image along with a number of bronze statues and other valuable spoils of war were taken from neighboring kingdoms.
Shwenandaw Kyaung is a teakwood monastery near the grounds of Mandalay Palace. This beautiful Buddhist retreat was built in 1878. It had been King Mindon Min’s royal apartments inside Mandalay Palace, but after his death his son and heir, King Thibaw, ordered the entire building dismantled and removed from the palace grounds after becoming convinced his father’s ghost was haunting the rooms. Mandalay Palace was incinerated during World War II after suffering direct bombing, and the monastery is the only building from the original palace interior to survive into the modern era.
Milder temperatures and clear skies between November and May make for the best sightseeing weather in central Myanmar. The temperature begins to rise in June, and the warmer weather lasts into October along with increased chances of rain showers that can cool the atmosphere considerably.
Vibrant, sacred, and ancient Mandalay is the beating heart of Myanmar’s palpable Buddhist culture. Monks clad in red vestments and nuns wearing pink robes are as common a sight while exploring the ancient palaces and shrines in this ever growing city. No Myanmar tour would be complete without exploring Mandalay’s secrets.
Mandalay is in the center of Myanmar. Our guests typically reach the city via a flight to its international airport.
Appropriate Attire :
As most of the sights in the city are thriving centers of Buddhist worship, it’s best to dress conservatively in keeping with local traditions of modesty. Dress for warm weather in light clothing that covers shoulders to knees while on holy ground, and be aware many areas within Buddhist temples will require you to remove your shoes before entering.