Myanmar is a tropical country in Southeast Asia, whose climate is affected by the annual patterns of the monsoon. Temperatures and rainfall levels depend on the season, and also differ between highland and lowland locations. On average, the northern, mountainous region is the coolest, while the delta and coastal regions are the wettest.
Despite being off the radar for most tourists, Myanmar has a fairly steady climate. As in many other equatorial Asian countries, Myanmar has two broad seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. (The dry season can then be further divided into the cool and hot seasons for a total of three distinct seasons.)
With pleasant temperatures, less rainfall, and several festivals, the dry season is a great time to visit anywhere in Myanmar. Bagan, Mandalay, and other central plains regions will rarely see rain. If you plan to visit multiple regions, the consistency of the dry season will make travel easier.
Cool Season (November to February)
The cool season in Myanmar is the most comfortable, with mild temperatures ranging from 70-80℉ (20-30℃) depending on the region. Overlapping with the winter holiday season, this is one of Myanmar’s busiest times for tourism. We recommend planning your trip in advance during these months to ensure you get the hotels of your choice. Despite Myanmar’s overall warm weather, bringing a few extra layers for the evenings or sunrise watching is highly recommended. Some areas, especially in the central plains (Bagan) and the eastern region (Inle Lake area), can dip down to 50℉ (10℃) at night and through the early morning.
Hot Season (March to May)
As the cold and dry season ends at the end of February, temperatures start to climb. The heat reaches the central plains region first, which can result in highs up to a scorching 100℉ (40℃) at this time. In addition, the continuing dryness combines with warm air to create clouds of dust. If you visit Myanmar during the hot season, going to any of the numerous beaches is a good idea.
Rainy Season (June to October)
From June to October, Myanmar is wet and humid. The beginning of the season will see some of the highest temperatures of the year: average highs in Mandalay and surrounding upper interior regions remain around 95℉ (35℃). Precipitation is common, especially in the coasts, delta, and mountains outside the central plains.
Downpours often occur, especially at the height of the season from July to September. Roads can sometimes become washed out, making travel difficult and inconvenient. Although rare, there also exists the risk of larger flash floods. It’s good to check on these conditions before traveling to Myanmar during these months.
That being said, you can still have an enjoyable experience visiting Myanmar in the rainy season if you plan well. First off, know what places will be worth your time. Beaches like Ngwe Saung and Ngapali will be closed at this time, as will most southern resorts and activities. Heavy downpours hit hard in Dawei, Kyeik, and Kawthaung, while Hpa An, Mawlamyine, and Golden Rock will see slightly less intense but still ever-present rainfall. Instead, visit the temples of Bagan, Mandalay, Inle, and other interior central regions.
Monsoon rains also revitalize flora and fauna, and miles of green landscape cover the countryside. This means that if you manage to come across a drier day or are willing to handle slippery routes, trekking can be a great option to explore the surrounding nature.
Second, arrange most of your activities in the morning, when rain is less common and the weather is more pleasant. The end of the rainy season will see cooler temperatures and less rain, as well. If you’re able to visit in October, conditions will usually be much more in control and you will avoid peak season crowds.
Myanmar’s colorful culture includes hundreds of festivals and local celebrations. Travel during the dry season, and you’ll most likely be able to see one of these spectacular sights for yourself. Keep in mind dates may change annually depending on the cycles of the Burmese calendar. Here are just a handful of the main festivals celebrated both regionally and nationwide:
Independence Day (January 4)
Primarily a more modern and patriotic national holiday, so not as culturally insightful or spectacular as some of the others on the list. However, seeing the decorations and all the people wearing national clothes such as the aingyi (shirt) and longyi (skirt) is a captivating sight.
Ananda Temple Festival, Bagan (January)
An important Buddhist festival that reaches its height on the full moon, the Ananda Temple Festival celebrates the largest temple in Bagan. Pilgrims flock in to pay homage to the Buddha, and street markets spark with excitement. Many people from other parts of the country also visit in anticipation of the celebrations.
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival, Yangon (March)
People give offerings to celebrate the full moon of Tabuang. The other main day of celebration at the Shwedagon Pagoda other than Tazaungdiang.
Thingyan Water Festival (Mid-April)
The traditional new year festival is one of Myanmar’s best-known celebrations. Most restaurants, shops, and business will be closed, and transportation and hotels will be harder to come by and raise prices. However, visiting during Thingyan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Over a range of 4-5 days, music, dance, and the game of water-throwing can be seen everywhere, especially on the second day (akya nei). Villagers celebrate casually with family, while those in cities deal with heavy traffic to come together in large, bustling crowds.
If you’re a thrill seeker, nothing can compare to the water throwing in Kandawgyi Park, Yangon. In the largest game in the country, young people spray each other with hoses as music blasts throughout the city. Even if you choose to celebrate in Bagan, Mandalay or Inle, be prepared as children everywhere get involved in the game and you’re bound to get soaked! If someone pours water on you, the best thing to do is pour water on them in return in order to return the favor of “washing their soul” for the new year.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Inle (October)
The splendid pagoda next to Inle Lake contains five sacred images of the Buddha. During this festival, decorated royal barges carry four of the images and circle across the lake as pilgrims gather to celebrate. One image remains, as it was once lost in the lake and thought to have brought about bad luck. Boat races also occur, with up to 50 rowers competing at once. If you are interested in Burmese culture and religion, you will surely be in for a treat at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.
Tazaungdaing Light Festival (November)
One of the largest and oldest festivals in Myanmar, Tazaungdiang (Tazaungmon full moon) can last up to 18 days. Buildings all over Myanmar are lit up and decorated. Some locations will have their own special customs that are definitely worth experiencing. At Shwedagon Pagoda, yellow monk’s robes are woven and worn. At Taunggyi, hot air balloons in all shapes and sizes are released at night to the melodies of traditional Shan music.