January is slightly warmer than December but it's still cool overall, at least by Southeast Asian standards. Temperatures at Inle Lake usually remain steady at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit—the perfect conditions for paddling long-tail boats around the lake or exploring the lush river canals. Mandalay and Bagan average in the early 80s and, in the south, Yangon and coastal towns like Ngapali hover around 88 degrees. High river levels allow for boat travel almost everywhere, and the skies are almost always clear.
Crowds and Costs
January is one of the busiest times to visit Myanmar and it's difficult to escape the crowds at most of the major tourist towns. Expect to see large tour buses lined up at sunrise at the major temples in Bagan, and big crowds around Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda). The same will hold true in places like Inle Lake, Mandalay, and Yangon.
This is also a time when the weather is perfect at the beach so resort towns like Ngapali and Ngwe Saung will be at capacity. High season rates will also apply so hotels will cost significantly more than other times of the year. Tours, bus tickets, and domestic flights typically book up sooner this time of year, so if you're planning a January visit make your reservations ahead of time.
Where to Go
One of the things that make Myanmar so popular in January is that it's a great time to visit almost every part of the country. The central plains are warm but not scorching hot, and the mountains are dry and pleasant. On the coasts, the temperatures are hot and sunny, offering perfect sunbathing weather.
If you head to Inle Lake or other parts of the Shan State, you'll be greeted with temperatures in the mid-70s with excellent conditions for exploring the lake or checking out out the winery. The mornings will feature beautiful sunrises over the water with dew and mist rising from the lake. Just note that the temperature drops in the evenings, so be sure to pack a warm jacket.
In Bagan and Mandalay, temperatures will be hot but not sweltering so it's a wonderful time to check out the ancient ruins or take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. Just keep in mind that both of these locations experience significant crowds this time of year.
As you move south, it will get hotter (but not miserable) around Yangon where temperatures will average in the upper 80s. This is an excellent time to visit the city; however, the hotels in Yangon book up quickly in January and they also cost more, so arrange your lodging ahead of time.
If you're craving sunny tropical beaches and lazy poolside time, it's a fabulous time to go to Ngapali or other coastal resorts, too. The weather will be warm and the oceans will be clear and blue.
What to Do
In the misty mountains of Inle Lake, January is a great time to take a boat ride to visit the famous cigar ladies who roll tobacco leaves, see the shop where villagers sell hand-woven silks, or visit the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery where cats wander in and out of the temple. You can check out the gilded Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda or drive up the hill to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyards to sip Syrah at sunset. It's a great time for his 10-Day Highlights of Myanmar tour which includes a visit to the Nge Phe Chaung Monastery, as well as the stupas of Indein.
The Bagan and Mandalay areas offer beautiful temples and ruins this time of year, many of which are located amid rolling hills and beautiful landscapes. Head to the top of Old Bagan's Shwesandaw Pagoda at sunrise and you'll be able to soak up panoramic views of dozens of ruins spread out before you. The Hsinbyume Pagoda, which is painted a striking white color, towers over lush green trees in rural Mingun outside the city near the Irrawaddy River.
In the south, Yangon offers beautiful colonial architecture with shiny golden pagodas sprinkled throughout the city. You can find the Buddha that corresponds with your birthday at the Sule Pagoda and pour holy water on his head, or wander through the Bogyoke Market to shop and eat. From Yangon, head west to the coast where the towns of Ngapali and Ngwe Saung showcase luxurious resorts to pamper yourself with spa treatments and poolside lounging. This 10-Day Explore Myanmar itinerary includes visits to both Yangon and Ngapali.
Events in January
Ananda Pagoda Festival: In Bagan, a week-long festival takes place in January to honor the Ananda temple. Villagers arrive in traditional bullock carts and there are theatrical performances, including a large celebration the night of the full moon.
Manaw Festival: In the Kachin State, the various tribes gather together on Jan. 10 at the Manaw field to dance, eat, drink, and celebrate Kachin State Day. The festival, which sometimes last several days, includes tribal costumes and ceremonies with Manaw poles (similar to totem poles).
Mahamuni Pagoda Festival: In Mandalay, crowds gather on the full moon in late January (sometimes it occurs in early February) to celebrate. The festivities typically involve bonfires and people cooking sticky rice with ginger and coconut for the monks.
Naga New Year: In the remote Lahe village in the northwestern part of the country, people from the Naga tribe get together once a year to drum, dance, and dress in elaborate costumes in honor of the New Year. The grounds feature western-style toilets and electric lights to make visitors more comfortable.
Traveling to Myanmar in January? Check out this great itinerary
Essential Myanmar – 8 Days. Explore the markets and countryside of Mandalay, tour Bagan by electric bike, and visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in Inle Lake.