Before I start telling you all about the best beaches in Myanmar I need to make a bit of a confession. When I began my seven-week trip trip through this gorgeous country I knew there would be a lot of temples, and I mean a lot of temples. I knew there would be some off the beaten track village experiences, hiking opportunities and some colonial architecture to admire… but I must confess, I didn’t really realise there would be quite so many fabulous beaches.
But really when you look at a map of Myanmar that should come as no surprise. I mean it is a huge country (did you ever know it was this big?!) and look at that huge western coastline looking out onto the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, when you look at southern Myanmar it actually looks like nothing more than a big fat beach!
But remember, this is a country that is still so very undiscovered – it only really opened up to tourism five years ago and as a result huge swathes of the country are still off limits – not necessarily because they are dangerous, but because the bureaucratic government only allows tourists to areas with tourist permits and licensed hotels. The result? There are miles and miles of untouched beach which as of the moment is basically unreachable. What a tease!
But for now, allow me to present you with the top three beaches in Myanmar:
1. Ngapali Beach
When I arrived at Ngapali Beach on the central west coast, a short flight from Bagan, Inle Lake or Yangon, I am not sure what I was expecting. But I’m sure it was not this. I was greeted by a delightfully wide, golden bay that screamed: “Take your shoes off and run all over me and then throw yourself into my water.” And so I happily obliged. Whilst paddling around in the clean, warm sea I looked back at the beach and squinted, looking for signs of over-development or some nasty distasteful hotel. But instead all I could see was a palm tree fringed beach with natural looking thatched roofs nestled into the trees. This is actually a fairly well developed area by Myanmar standards. There are about 20 hotels along the large bay, but because they are all in keeping with the natural surroundings and no taller than about two storeys, they are almost invisible. The result? Luxurious hotels with lots of eating options but a beach that feels undiscovered and relatively undeveloped. That is serious point scoring in my books!
Where to Stay at Ngapali Beach? There are lots of lovely luxury options – one of my favourites was Ngapali Bay Villas and Spa, which is absolutely stunning. The clever design of the bungalows mean that every bungalow has a sea view (which is such a winning feature on the beach). What’s more, all the showers have glass panels, which allow you to look across the bedroom and out of the sea-view window, right out to the sea while you are showering. What’s not to love?
2. Sailing in the Myeik Archipelago
What could possibly be better than lying on a beach all day? Well, maybe sailing to small, undiscovered idyllic beaches on tiny islands that make you feel like Robinson Crusoe himself. Yes that might do it. Welcome to the Myeik Archipelago, home to more than 800 islands of lush green forests, white sandy beaches and water so clear you can see your toes wiggling in the seabed below. It is also home to an indigenous group, known as the Moken people or “sea gypsies”, who have lived in this area for more than 3,500 years and have traditionally led a nomadic, sea-faring life depending entirely on fishing to be sustainable.
I was very lucky to be able to join a three-night cruise on the latest boat in the Burma Boating luxury fleet (MY Drenec) in this undiscovered corner of the world.
And wow…. what an experience! Firstly, ‘she’ was a beauty. Burma Boating specialise in sailing boats, but MY Drenec is a spacious, high-end exploration vessel, so a little different to the rest of the gang – she even has a submarine engine fitted, which I presume means she could travel the world a couple of times without stopping?! But in all seriousness, she is a beauty of a boat with handsome, large cabins and extremely ample living space. Our three night cruise was a very memorable and special experience. There may be other places with karst-like mountain scenery emerging from the water, but I would challenge you to find anywhere else quite so isolated. As we passed island after island, the only other boats we met were fishing boats and the only settlement we stumbled upon was a small Moken village on a larger but very isolated island.
The daily activities involved snorkelling, swimming, making sand angels (this is a thing – right, like snow angels in the sand?!) and enjoying a beer or two as the sun set from wherever we had docked for the night.
This is an untapped area that is going to explode in the future – how can it not? But right now, Burma Boating is one of the few companies offering cruises here (and they’re doing it in style), leaving hundreds of idyllic islands (and stunning beaches) all yours for the taking.
3. Ngwe Saung
This is the perfect option for those who want to cut down on a flight or two during their time in Myanmar. With it being such a large country it is hard to avoid flying on a holiday here. But I often get requests to cut down on flights and Ngwe Saung is the perfect no-flight beach option in Myanmar.
It takes about five to six hours from Yangon in a private car or direct bus and once you are there, you can choose from a selection of hotels, making it a popular option for Yangonites and expats. The beach is also lovely and wide but the sand is more solid and hard – the downside of this is that it makes a great ‘road’ and while I was there, there were some locals going up and down the beach on motorbikes and quad bikes which was a bit disappointing. But that aside, it is a splendid beach (worth avoiding at weekends for this reason).
Where to stay in Ngwe Saung? I stayed at the luxurious Bay of Bengal Resort, which has fabulous and spacious villas that step right out onto the beach – it was a wonderful option. I inspected hotels up and down the beach and my other favourite was Palm Beach Hotel, which had a lovely garden and pool with pretty little rooms with four-poster beds – this is definitely a favourite with families.
It’s no surprise that all three beach destinations have sunset photos above – with all the beaches being on the west coast of Myanmar, you’re pretty much guaranteed a pretty sky of colours every night as the sun sinks into the horizon.
So, there you have it – a country of gorgeous beaches, as well as everything else! And with that snaking coastline something tells me this is just the beginning of Myanmar’s beach destinations!
PS I am on a seven-week trip of Myanmar as a research trip for the travel company I work for. We are very exciting to be launching Myanmar holidays in the next couple of weeks! For more details about booking a holiday in Myanmar please contact me via my contact page (in the ‘about’ menu) or take a look at my travel agency site Fleewinter – which will soon be selling luxury holidays to Myanmar.