In December, Myanmar is at the height of the cool season. Depending on where you are in the country, the temperature can range anywhere from 70 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It is coolest in the mountains—Pyin Oo Lwin and Kalaw average about 70 degrees while Inle Lake hits about 75 degrees. Bagan and Mandalay in the north are in the middle at about 82 degrees.
The hottest parts of the country are in the south in Yangon and the beach towns along the Bay of Bengal. However, even there, the average temperature is a moderate 88 degrees which is much cooler than other times of the year. On the coast especially, the sea breeze makes that feel even cooler and it's a great time for swimming in the ocean.
Precipitation in December is practically non-existent with very rare exceptions. In Yangon, for example, the chance of a wet day (defined as at least 0.04 inches of precipitation) is 3 percent at the beginning of the month and only one percent at the end, according to Weatherspark.com. The average sliding 31-day rainfall is 0.5 inches at the beginning of the month and 0.2 inches at the end.
Crowds and Costs
It's crowded in Myanmar in December—there's no getting around that. Even in the less touristy areas you'll find fellow travelers walking through the streets, checking out the temples, and trekking along the hiking trails. That said, the nice thing about traveling in Myanmar is that even at its busiest, it's much less crowded than other countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand or Vietnam.
On that same note, costs are higher this time of year. Most hotels will be charging special high season rates and it's rare to find deals or discounts for December lodging. Likewise, things like food, transportation, and activities can be more expensive in December, too.
Where to Go
You can go basically anywhere in the country in December and find great weather with lots of available activities. All of the restaurants are open, the hotels are in service, and the guided tours are all in operation.
Yangon has a great variety of museums, temples, and architecture. With pleasant temperatures, it's a good month to stroll around admiring the colonial buildings or walking through the bustling markets sans the scorching heat.
Up at Inle Lake, the migratory birds have arrived and the town morphs into a bird-watcher's paradise. In the winter, there are more than 20,000 birds on the lake which you will see flying along the water or wading along the shorelines. With the sun shining brightly, it's a magnificent time to ride around in a long-tail boat and explore the scenic canals.
Up north in the upper central plains, both Mandalay and Bagan are exceptional destinations in December, too. It's a great time to wander through the ancient ruins or hike to the top of Mandalay Hill to soak in the views of the city. At the beaches, the water is turquoise with beautiful white sand and gentle sea breezes. All of the luxury resorts are buzzing with activity this time of year, and you can treat yourself to a massage or lazy poolside cocktail.
What to Do
In Yangon, wander through the famous Bogyoke Market, exploring all of the food and culture, or stroll through Kandawyi Park for some excellent people-watching. Visit the shimmering Shwedagon Pagoda or pour holy water over a Buddha at the sacred Sule Pagoda.
Visitors to Inle Lake can see the Kayan ("longneck") women who make intricate handwoven scarves, or pop by the shop where the famous cigar ladies roll their tobacco. Take a long-tail boat out to the gilded Hpaung Daw U Pagoda or the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery where the cats stroll in and out of the sacred temple. Up the mountain about 30 minutes, the Red Mountain Estate Vineyards overlooks the valley, offering a space to sip Merlot while watching the sunset.
If you go to Mandalay, check out the Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun, a striking all-white temple, or go to nearby Bagan and walk through the Shwesandaw Pagoda. If you'd rather not hassle with planning, this five-day "Highlights of Mandalay and Bagan" tour makes stops in both cities where you'll visit the world's longest teak bridge and take a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River.
At the beaches in the south, Ngapali and Ngwe Saung are both great beach resort towns. Snorkel in the clear blue ocean water or take a sea kayaking trip. If you feel like pampering yourself, many of the hotels offer luxurious massages and spa treatments. Or, you can simply pull up a lounge chair and soak up some sun by the pool. If you like scuba diving, this seven-day Diving the Myeik Archipelago tour explores underground caves and gives you the chance to spot marine life such as whale sharks, stingrays, and cuttlefish.
Events in December
Kayin New Year: Not to be confused with the Kayan ("longneck") people, the Kayin (also called Karen) live in the southeastern part of the country and celebrate New Year in December or early January every year in Hpa-An. The occasion is a national holiday and, even outside Hpa-An, festivities take place with dancing contests and lots of sticky rice. During the celebrations, many participants wear traditional Kayin clothing with woven tunics over red longyis.
Akha New Year: Similarly to the Kayin, the Akha indigenous hill tribe people typically celebrate their New Year at the end of December. In the town of Kyaing Tong in the Shan State, villagers host the celebrations with dancing, food, and festivities.
Mount Popa Nat Spirit Festival: On the full moon day of Nadaw (the ninth month of the Burmese calendar), thousands of devout pilgrims head to Taung Kalat on Mount Popa (also known as the Popa Mountain Monastery) to honor Burmese spirits called Nats. The festivities include dancing, food, and lots of palm wine.
Traveling to Myanmar in December? Check out this great itinerary
Essential Myanmar – 8 Days: This eight-day journey features stops in Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, and Yangon where you'll visit a pagoda with 700 engraved marble slabs and take a wooden motorboat to see silks handwoven from lotus flower fibers.