It can still be rainy at times in Myanmar in October; however, the precipitation lets up significantly compared to July and August. After being closed for months due to washed-out roads, the beach resorts open back up and visitors begin trickling in. The temperatures start dropping to more pleasant levels, averaging around 86 degrees countrywide.
The beaches and central plains are closer to 90 degrees and in the mountains (in towns like Kalaw, Pyin Oo Lwin, and Inle Lake), it's only 75 to 80 degrees. All told, it's a season of transformation when the country moves from the rainy season to the cool season in preparation for the peak time of year ahead.
Crowds and Costs
The crowds are medium-sized in October. Being a shoulder season, it's much more mellow than December or January; however, it doesn't have that ghost town feel of mid-July either. You'll definitely contend with some crowds around the main temples and attractions but there's more room to stretch your legs than during high season. This makes it a "best of both worlds" time to visit.
Not only that, you can occasionally snag deals on hotels, too. While many resorts will have already shifted to high-season rates, there are nevertheless good prices to be found, especially at the beginning of the month when it's still fairly rainy.
Where to Go
By October, most places in Myanmar are dry enough to enjoy—especially in the second half of the month. In Bagan and Mandalay, there are rain showers many days in the afternoons but you'll still have your fair share of sunny days without rain. The weather is hot but not oppressively so, and the tourists haven't yet arrived in droves.
It's a great time to wander through Bagan's archaeological ruins or watch sunrise over Mandalay. Among other activities, this five-day "Highlights of Mandalay and Bagan" tour features a tour of ancient Inwa by bicycle, a trip to the Kuthodaw Pagoda, and a hike up Mandalay Hill at sunset.
Inle Lake, Kalaw, Loikaw, and other parts of the Shan State are also great places to visit. They will feel refreshingly cool in the 75 to 80-degree range, and the weather offers a mixture of sunshine and rainstorms. If it's not too wet, this is a great time of year to do the trek between Kalaw and Inle Lake. When you arrive at the latter, you'll be greeted by misty, scenic mornings with sunshine on the lake and birds swooping down on the water (although many of the migratory species don't arrive until November). The evenings may have storms some nights while other times you'll have stunning sunsets.
Yangon is pleasant this time of year, too. It is still fairly hot and muggy—about 88 degrees on average—but it's not sweltering. The rains haven't fully let up but the city has a large number of museums and indoor activities anyway. Plus, even on days with precipitation, the mornings are usually clear.
Toward the middle and end of the month, the beaches start opening up again and you can check out places like Ngapali or Ngwe Saung. It won't be extremely hot yet but at roughly 90 degrees, it's more than warm enough for things like snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving.
What to Do
In the northern central plains cities of Mandalay and Bagan, check out the exquisite temples and ancient ruins. In Mandalay, climb the 1,729 steps of the Sutaungpyei Temple to the top of Mandalay Hill where you can take in one of the most breathtaking views in the city. Outside of town in Mingun, about an hour or two north, try visiting the Hsinbyume Pagoda, a spectacular white temple surrounded by lush green trees and mountains. In Bagan, walk through the archaeological ruins and check out sites like the Dhammayangyi Temple or Shwezigon Temple.
If you head to Inle Lake, cruise around the fantastically scenic waterways and thick, reeded canals by long-boat, weaving in and out of houses on stilts. You'll see floating markets with cigar ladies rolling tobacco and a famous "cat monastery" (aka the Nga Hpe Kyaung Monastery) where the monks and cats live side by side. Around sunset, go wine tasting at the Red Mountain Estate Vineyards on top of the hill, or eat dinner at one of the many restaurants in Nyaung Shwe.
Yangon offers tons of sightseeing opportunities in October including the Shwedagon Pagoda which draws thousands of visitors, and the Sule Pagoda where you can pour holy water on your the head of one of the Buddhas. Stroll through Kandawyi Park or check out the sights, sounds, and culture of the Bogyoke Market. On the coast, Ngapali and Ngwe Saung both offer high-end beach resorts with activities like massages, spa treatments, and all manner of pampering. This 10-day Explore Myanmar itinerary features stops in Yangon, as well as Ngapali and Bagan.
Events in October
Thadingyut Festival: For three days during the full moon of Thadingyut, the seventh month of the Burmese calendar, the entire country celebrates the Thadingyut Festival. This festive event, which is also called the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, commemorates the Buddha’s descent from the heavens. It begins the day before the full moon and ends the day after, throughout which various celebrations involving lights occur countrywide. Apart from Thingyan, the Burmese New Year's water festival, it is Myanmar's largest celebration.
Elephant Dance Festival: On the eve of the full moon, the town of Kyaukse near Mandalay holds one of the most famous events of the Thadingyut Festival called the Elephant Dance Festival. People gather to watch as men dance around a giant, brightly lit paper-bamboo elephant. There's traditional dobat drumming outside the Shwethalyaung Pagoda and people come in from all around to watch.
9,000 Lights Festival: On the full moon day of Thadingyut, the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (also known as Golden Rock) comes alive as villagers light 9,000 candles in honor of Buddha. It addition to the candles, they offer 9,000 flowers as a sacred offering and in the morning, people disperse rice and sweet treats.
Shwe Kyin River Floating Light Festival: On the Shwe Kyin River in Bago, big crowds get together on the full moon night to send floating lamps into the water for good luck. In addition to the glowing evening spectacle, daytime celebrations include boat racing, dancing, food, and fireworks.
Traveling to Myanmar in October? Check out this great itinerary
Essential Myanmar – 8 Days: This eight-day itinerary, which takes you to some of Myanmar's most iconic sites, includes exploring Mandalay's countryside, touring Bagan by bike, and checking out Inle Lake's Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.