Festivals are a highlight of travel in Myanmar, a country that is often referred to as the "Land of Festivals" due to the countless celebrations that take place all year round. Festivals may closely intertwined with Buddhism, but they may also be celebrations by the country's over 150 ethnic hilltribes—remote events that are a vivid glimpse into traditional cultures unlike anywhere else in Asia. And while noted below are larger scheduled events, there are always local ones, celebrating weddings and the like. If you are traveling with us, we will certainly find ones during your trip where you will be the only traveler attending (often as a guest of honor).
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda's Festival on Inle Lake is the country's largest, celebrated over nearly three weeks on sublime Inle Lake during October and November. The festival has been a feature of our Myanmar Photography trips for several years. Below is a schedule of other festivals by date and region. Some festivals are convenient for travelers, taking place in Yangon, Bagan, and Inle Lake, for example, while others, such as the Naga festival, require travel to remote areas of the country. Please contact us for more specific information on festivals and how we can arrange for them to be part of your travel in the country.
|January 8 - 10||Kachin Manaw Festival||Myitkyina - Kachin State|
|January 15 - 20||Ananda Pagoda||Bagan|
|January 12 - 18||Naga New Year Festival||Lahe/Lashi, Sagaing Division|
|February 5 - 19||Mahamuni Pagoda Festival||Mandalay|
|February 16- March 2||Maw Tin Zun Pagoda Festival||Near Pathein|
|February 14 - 20||Kayik Khauk Pagoda Festival||Thanlyin, Yangon|
|February 18 - 25||Pakhan Ko Gyi Kyaw Festival||Pakhan, Yezagyo|
|February 24 - March 3||Pyi Daw Pyan Festival||Zalun, Ayeyarwaddy Division|
|February 25 - March 1||Pindaya Cave Festival||Pindaya|
|March 4 - 13||Shwesayan Pagoda Festival||Pathein-gyi, Mandalay|
|March 11 - 15||Boe-Boe-Gyi Ceremony||Al-Lone, Monywa|
|March 14 - 30||Bawgyo Pagoda Festival||Hsipaw - Shan State|
|March 16-20||Shwedagon Pagoda Festival||Yangon|
|March 18||Pindaya Cave Festival||Pindaya - Shan State|
|March 18 - March 20||Kakku Pagoda Festival||Near Taunggyi|
|March 25 - April 6||Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival||Bago|
|March 30 - April 3||Ko Kyi Kyaw Gu-Ni Ceremony||Magwe|
|April 14||Popa Ceremony (Nat Festival)||Mt Popa, Near Bagan|
|April 13 - 16||Thingyan Festival||Countrywide|
|April 17||Myanmar New Year||Countrywide|
|April 7-9||U Shin Gyi Ceremony||Salt Island & Bown Island, Bogalay|
|April 29||Kason Full Moon Festival||Countrywide|
|April 29||Shwe Ket Yet Pagoda||Amarapura - Mandalay|
|May 15 to 18||Shittaung Pagoda Festival||Mrauk U|
|May 27 - 29||Thihoshin Pagoda Fesival||Pakokku|
|May 31 - June 30||Wicker Ball Ceremony - chinlone||At Mahamuni Precinct, Mandalay|
|July 16||Waso Chinlone Festival||Mandalay|
|July 19||Martyr's Day||Yangon|
|July 28 - 29||Shinbin Sagyo Pagoda Festival||Sale - Magwe|
|August 14 -16||Shwe Kyun Bin Tree Spirit Ceremony||Mingun-Mandalay|
|August 8 - 15||Taung Pyone Nat Festival||Taung Pyone, Mandalay|
|September 3 - 9||Yadana Gu Nat Festival||Amarapura, Mandalay|
|September 17 - 23||Bo Bo Gyi Nat Festival||Amarapura, Mandalay|
|September 28||Boe-Min-Gaung Memorial Day||Mt. Popa, Near Bagan|
|September 29 - October 16||Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival||Inle Lake, Shan State|
|October 9 - 13||Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda Festival||Mandalay|
|October 9 - 13||Indein Pagoda Festival||Inle Lake|
|October 12 - 14||Thadingyut, Festival of Lights||Throughout Myanmar|
|October 12 - 14||Dancing Elephant Festival||Kyaukse, Mandalay|
|October 23 & 24||Food offering ceremonies||Indein - Inle Lake|
|October 24 - Nov 12||Mya Tha Lun Pagoda Festival||Magwe|
|October 24||Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival||Kyaikhtiyo|
|November 4 - 12||Kaunghmudaw Pagoda Festival||Sagaing, Mandalay|
|November 5 - 11 (2019)||Hot Air Balloon Festival||Taunggyi|
|November 8 - 11||Shwezigon Pagoda Festival||Bagan|
|November 10 - 12||Pho-Win Taung Ceremony||Pho-Win Taung -Monywa|
|November 12||Tazaungmon Festival||Countrywide|
|November 17 - 22 (2018)||Hot Air Balloon Festival||Taunggyi|
|November 21||Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights||Taunggyi|
|November 20 - 22||Pyin Oo Lwin Balloon Festival||Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymo)|
|December 1||Karen New Year||Hpa An, Kayin State|
|December 3 (2018)||Mount Popa Nat Festival||Popa Mountain|
|December 4 - 11 (2019)||Shwemyetman Pagoda Festival||Shwetaung (Near Pyay)|
|December 11 (2019)||Mount Popa Nat Festival||Popa Mountain|
|December 17 - 24 (2018)||Shwemyetman Pagoda Festival||Shwetaung (Near Pyay)|
|December 12 - 17||Sandaw-Shin Pagoda Festival||West Pha-yan-ga Island, Rakhine|
|December 22 - 23||Thanboddhay Pagoda Festival||Monywa|
|December 22 - 23||Hpo Win Daung Festival||Monywa|
This five-day festival leading up to the full moon is most convenient if your trip to Myanmar is in late February to early March. During the festival, weavers compete to loom the most cloth for monks. Visitors come from all over the country to make offerings during the festival at the country's most sacred pagoda.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda's Festival in Inle Lake is the country's largest, celebrated over nearly three weeks on sublime Inle Lake during October and November. The festival has been a feature of our Myanmar Photography trips for several years.
This popular, spectacular well-attended festival hosted by the Pa-O tribal community is famous for its competition of gigantic, hand-made and painted hot air balloons that are released into the air. The event takes place during the October and November near Inle Lake in the Shan State capital Taunggyi during the new moon on the 8th month of the Buddhist Taunggyi Hot Air (Fire) Balloon, Myanmarcalendar and is celebrated as a national holiday in the country, marking the end of the rainy season. It also marks the end of the Kathina (Kahtein in Burmese) period, during which monks are given new robes and alms.
At the festival, the fiery and colorful balloons which can come in various shapes such as birds, tigers, and some are big as a house are prepared and launched into the night sky. The balloons are released as an offering to the Sulamani Cetiya in Tavitisma, a heaven in Buddhist cosmology and home of the devas, or as a way to drive away evil spirits. However, the origins of the balloons launching tradition dates back only recently to 1894, when the British held the first hot air balloon competitions in Taunggyi, capital of the Shan State, soon after the annexing Upper Burma. There are also parades, carnival games, concerts, feasts, and massive fireworks with the last two days being the most interesting. Villagers from around the region congregate for this important festival and we have arranged travelers to attend the festival in Taunggyi for many years.
View a video of the festival below by photographer Richard Curtis.
Myanmar's second most popular national festival, after Thingyan, celebrates the end of the Buddhist lent, the three-month Buddhist period time, during which all monks and novices must remain in their temples and typically marks the end of the rainy season.
The 3-day event is held on the full moon day of the Burmese Lunar month of Thadingyut in September/October. The event takes place at pagodas all over the country but is most spectacular in Yangon and Inle Lake. Feasting and performances compliment the lighting of lanterns and candles.
A one day full moon festival during the eighth month of the lunar calendar falls within the month of November. The celebration is marked by monk's robe weaving competitions and parades, and lighting of candles set adrift on waterways.
Kachin is location of the delightful Manaw festival. Kachin, the hill people or the "Scots of Myanmar," celebrate this most popular March event, a celebration of the new year, victories in battle, and the reunion of the tribes. Events include line dancing around traditional poles (similar to totem poles of North American Indians). Colorful tribal costumes are on full display. Manaw festival is held in Myitkyina and Putao in Kachine State. It's also an ideal time and location to visit the Himalayan foothills around Putao, for light hiking and clear views of the mountains.
This is a convenient and popular festival in Bagan during January. Celebrated during the first full moon, evening entertainment includes traditional zats (a variety of dance, song, short and long plays) and anyeints (a performance of jokers and jesters who caricature current social and politicial topics). The festival also hosts a large flea market where all kinds of goods, some of them are locally produced, are sold. The most popular event at the festival is the parade of bullock carts into the pagoda compound. It is most popular around the peak full moon day the second week in January.
High up on the mountains of remote Northwest Myanmar are the Naga, one of the over one hundred and fifty different ethnnic tribes in Myanmar.
During this 5-day New Year celebration, cups of rice wine are toasted and emptied as bison and wild boar meat are roasted. Powerful tribal dances are performed to the loud beating of drums (right). Visitors are not only welcome but to join in as honored guests as is the traditional custom of the Naga. This festival is as off the grid as you can get, with overnight in traditional tents or hut.
The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival is a special festival of lights celebration taking placce on the Full Moon Day of Thadingyut when locals proceed with the lighting of 9,000 candles and 9,000 flower offerings to the Buddha. On the next morning, rice, sweets and other snacks are offered. The platform and passage of the pagoda are usually filled with visitors from all over the country. A visit to the Golden Rock and pagoda are part of this side trip. Thadingyut usually falls in October, depending on the lunar calendar when the weather can be cooler up on the mountain.
Similar to fire kites of the Loi Kratong festival in Thailand, lights, usually candles are released onto water as a ritual for bringing good luck, a picturesque sight to view the floating candles float away. The day long festival features boat racing. traditional dances and songs performed from boats on the Shwe Kyin River. In the evening, fireworks light up the sky over the river. In Located in the small town of Shwe Kyin north of Bago, an ideal festival to combine with the Belmond Orcaella cruise.
Southeast Asia's most raucous festival, as in Thailand and Cambodia, Thingyan celebrates the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year. The festival, which has traditional roots as a cleansing celebration, takes place annually in mid-April. when locals take to the streets dousing each other with water as they welcome in the Buddhist new year with a fresh beginning. Mostly younger people eagerly participate in water throwing by buckets, water guns, hoses or any method possible.
It's an especially boisterous time in Yangon and Mandalay, where the celebration has become virtually unrecognizable from its past traditions. In these places, cars and trucks full of young people, playfully throw water onto each other, the backdrop of water and celebration primarily serving to facilitate courtships. Indeed, ask any young Burmese when they met their partner and the answer is likely to be Thingyan. During your trip, however, we'll plan celebrate the annual festivities in small villages where the festival is more subdued and traditionally expressed.