The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in the world and it is certainly the main attraction of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city.
Locally known as Shwedagon Zedi Daw The, it sits atop of a hill and is 99 meters high. It can be seen from most places of Yangon day and night as the golden roof illuminates the city. According to some, the pagoda is 2,600 years old, making Shwedagon the oldest pagoda in the world. However, no official documents attesting its construction exist and its age is still a matter of debate.
The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, the whole giddy concoction offset by a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun.
There is little wonder that the Shwedagon is referred to in Myanmar as “The crown of Burma.”
As Myanmar’s most revered shrine it has always been customary for families, mendicants and followers of the Buddha to make the pilgrimage to the Shwedagon in much the same way that Muslims feel compelled to visit the Kaaba at Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
Such is the potency of the Shwedagon that Myanmars generally hold it to be indestructible. Despite a major earthquake in 1769, several smaller quakes in the 20th century and a major fire in 1931, it still stands imposingly on the top of a hill.
Visitors are required to remove their shoes upon entering the Shwedagon and negotiating the scalding floor tiles between the shaded sanctuaries is not an easy process.
The pagoda is said to contain eight hairs of the Buddha, a fact that only adds to its prestige. The stairways and bridges leading into the main sanctuary serve the thousands of pilgrims who flock here, and flower and book stalls, peddlers of religious souvenirs and tea shops do a brisk trade during the Shwedagon’s long hours of opening.
“The Shwe Dagon,” wrote Somerset Maugham in 1930, “rose superb, glistening with gold, like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul.”
Travelers will see temples everywhere they go in Myanmar, and will doubtless be struck by the wealth and profusion of building styles. At Pagan for example, there is an ancient plain containing over 2,000 temples and pagodas, surely one of the most remarkable ensembles in the world. Yet still, assessed on their individual merits, the Shwedagon Pagoda remains unrivaled as temple, meeting place and symbol of national identity.
Getting into Myanmar’s largest city is easier than ever before. There are flights from surrounding countries but Yangon is easily accessible from Bangkok by bus as well.
The Yangon airport is situated about 30 minutes from the town centre. Low cost carrier, Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines has flights to Kuala Lumpur. Air Bagan, a local carrier has many domestic flights as well as international flights to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Nok Air, Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways International and Thai Airways also have flights to Bangkok. Myanmar Airways has flights to other neighboring countries as well. Once you arrived at the airport your best bet is to take a taxi to the center of the city. It will cost you about 8,000 kyat ($8 USD).
Once you are in the city, there will be plenty of taxis and trishaws available. Your hotel will most likely arrange a taxi for you to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Taxis from the Shwedagon to the center of Yangon should not cost more than 3000 kyats (around $3 USD).
Bus no 204 also stops next to the pagoda.
Shwedagon Pagoda Tourist Info
Shwedagon Pagoda Photo Gallery
The Shwedagon Pagoda is open every day of the year from 04:00 AM to 22:00 PM. Last admission is at 21:45.
On two days of the year, the Waxing Day of Tabaung – the day before full moon day of the Myanmar Lunar month Tabaung in March and on the Waxing Day of Wakhaung – the day before full moon day of the Myanmar Lunar month Wakhaung the pagoda is open 24 hours a day.
The visitor centre is open from 08:00 AM to 21:00 PM.
Entrance fee to Shwedagon is $8 per person.
A guide will cost an additional $5.
Donation boxes are also available throughout the pagoda.
*Note: Tickets can’t be purchased online.
When visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda, it is advised to dress modestly. You have to wear trousers or at least knee length shorts or skirt; t-shirts with elbow length sleeves are also expected. You must enter the Shwedagon barefoot.
Myanmar’s tourism sector is growing as more and more people discover the beauties hidden in this south-east Asian country.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Myanmar’s international arrivals have shown spectacular growth over the past two years, especially in June 2013 when arrivals rose 67 per cent from June 2012.
Comparatively, international visitor numbers into Asia and the Pacific grew by 6 per cent year-on-year.
Although in terms of infrastructure, the travel industry is still in its infancy in Myanmar, this is offset by the beauties that this country provides.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is undeniably the most iconic building in the country. But there are more pagodas worth a visit. Sule Pagoda is also found in downtown Yangon and is a major pilgrimage site.
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or the Golden Rock is a gravity-defying pagoda that sits atop of a rock on a mountain top.
In Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay, one can find the Mahamuni Buddha Temple.
But if one wants to see many temples, Bagan is the obvious choice. Located in the Mandalay region this former city still hosts over 2,200 Buddhist temples.
Besides temples, there are many natural wonders to be found as well. Inya Lake in central Yangon is a popular recreational area in the largest city. Just 35 km from Yangon you can find the Hlawga National Park, a popular day-trip destination where you can find many deer and monkeys.
Whatever your choice, Myanmar will surely not disappoint you.