UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
UNESCO provides the World Heritage designation to cultural and natural sites that are of invaluable importance to humanity and need to be protected for the sake of future generations. At present, Myanmar has 2 sites included in this list – Bagan, added in 2019, and Pyu Ancient Cities, included in 2014.
In central Myanmar, about 290 kilometres southwest of Mandalay and 700 kilometres north of Yangon.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Bagan is well connected by road and air from the rest of the country. You can also take a ferry from Mandalay to Bagan, which will travel along the Ayeyarwady river. It is the most enjoyable way to get to this historic city.
The newest entrant to the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, Bagan is a town with approximately 2,000 temples dating back to 9th–13th centuries. During this time, the town was the capital of the Pagan empire, and about 10,000 temples were built. The temples have endured difficult times in history, surviving terrible earthquakes and other natural calamities. Today, 2,000 of them remain, big and small, which are of tremendous historical importance.
The 3 Pyu cities – Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra – extend from south-central Myanmar to northern Myanmar.
HOW TO GET THERE:
These cities are well connected to all the major cities of the country by road. You can hire a taxi or travel by bus to see the cities. Halin is in the Sagaing Division, Beikthano is in the Magway Division and Sri Ksetra is in the Bago Region. There are specialised tours that take you around the towns, explaining the history of the place.
The three Pyu ancient cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are remnants of the golden days of the Pyu Kingdoms, which flourished from 200 BC to 900 AD. The cities were founded once the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu people migrated southward and created settlements on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River. Starting off as villages, the settlements slowly grew into urban areas with fortifications and central palaces. Soon, they became a centre for Theravada Buddhism. Today, you can see the remnants of these towns – palace structures, broken walls and evidence of human settlement.
UNESCO BIOSPHERE RESERVES
UNESCO initiated the Man and the Biosphere Programme to establish a scientific basis for the sustainable use and conservation of biological diversity, with the ultimate aim of improving the relationship between people and their environments. As part of the effort, various sites across the world are identified as Biosphere Reserves. At present, two natural sites of Myanmar have been included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves – Inle Lake in 2015 and Indawgyi in 2017.
Located in Shan State, Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Inle Lake can be reached by road, train and flight. Heho Airport is the nearest airport from Inle, which is well connected to the rest of the country. It can also be reached by bus from Yangon (12 hours), Mandalay (9 hours) or Bagan (9 hours). The train from Yangon leaves for Inle Lake at 11 AM every day.
Inle Lake is a self-sustaining ecosystem surrounded by picturesque mountains. It is home to several ethnic groups whose livelihoods depend on the lake and its shores. The lake shows distinctive features such as internal navigation, floating vegetable gardens, floating villages and waterways. At least 267 species of birds – of which 82 are wetland birds – 43 species of freshwater fish, otters and turtles can be found in the lake and the surrounding banks.
Indawgyi Lake Biosphere Reserve is located at Indawgyi Lake, the largest lake of Myanmar.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Indawgyi Lake can be reached by train, road and flight. The easiest way to reach Indawgyi is by flying to Myitkina in Kachin State and taking a taxi from there. Buses are also available from all the major locations of the country.
This biosphere reserve is home to 10 globally threatened bird species and a major stop for migratory birds from November to February. According to surveys, there are 448 bird species, 41 reptiles, 34 amphibians, 64 species of fish and 50 species of butterflies in this reserve. Reports reveal the presence of white-rumped vulture and slender-billed vultures in the forests.
MEMORY OF THE WORLD REGISTER
The Memory of the World Programme by UNESCO has been conceptualised to safeguard, protect and facilitate access to and usage of documentary heritage such as texts, non-textual items, and audiovisual and electronic files that are of significance to the world. At present, Myanmar has 4 sites listed in this programme.
MAHA LAWKAMARAZEIN OR KUTHODOW INSCRIPTION SHRINES
LOCATION: At the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay city. HOW TO GET THERE: Mandalay Hill is located 10 kilometres away from Mandalay city. You can drive down National Highway 31 to reach Mandalay Hill. The Kuthodow Inscription Shrine was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2013. It is a collection of 729 inscribed stone slabs where all the Buddhist scriptures are inscribed. These inscriptions are of tremendous religious and social significance in Asia. They also record the 5th great religious congregation convened by King Mindon – a significant event in Buddhism.