By now you may have an idea of which places you would like to visit in Myanmar, and perhaps have an itinerary planned. But a trip to Myanmar is not just about sights, it’s also about experiences; and there’s no more typical Myanmar experience than a festival, or ‘pwe’. Thousands of festivals take place up and down the country each year and some are truly huge events. As an example, the Manau Festival in Myitkyina boasts dances performed by as many as 2,000 people – at one time. One of the highlights of travelling in Myanmar is spending time with the charming and hospitable Myanmar people. Festivals offer an unparalleled opportunity to interact with local people, having fun or making a pilgrimage. A festival is also an excellent opportunity to gain an insight into Myanmar life and traditions, culture and beliefs. While most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, Myanmar also uses its own traditional lunar calendar, and most festival dates are determined by this. The lunar year has 12 months (a thirteenth is added every four years). The lunar month begins (the waxing phase) the day after the dark moon day, peaks on the full moon day and then tails off (the waning phase) to the next dark moon. As an example 01st November 2009 is the full moon day of Tazaungmon in the Myanmar year 1371. We have listed some of the most important festivals here under each lunar month.

Should you wish your visit to Myanmar to coincide with a festival, please contact us as far in advance as possible to make hotel and transport reservations. Myanmar festivals are extremely popular and it is common for local accommodation to sell out prior to the event.

12 Months of Festivals

Tagu (March/April)

Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival, Bago.
Theatrical shows are a feature of the ‘pwe’ at this famous 376 feet high, Gold-covered pagoda. (8th waxing to 5th waning days of Tagu) *22nd March – 03rd April 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange transport to this festival via air-conditioned car from Yangon or Mt. Kyaiktiyo.

Mount Popa Nat Festival.
Pilgrims from around the country attend this festival celebrating the return of the Taungbyone Brothers from China. (Night of the 13th to noon of 14th waxing day of Tagu) *27th – 28th March 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange overnight accommodation in Mt. Popa or a daytrip by air-conditioned car from Bagan.

Thingyan Water Festival.
This is the biggest single event in the Myanmar calendar and lasts up to five days in Mid-April, culminating on Myanmar New Years Day. A similar celebration is also held in other Buddhist South East Asian countries but Myanmar’s water festival is the longest and most famous of all.

It is believed that Thagyamin, the king of the ‘Nat’ and Lord of Thingyan descends to earth on the second day of Thingyan (Descent Day) to record the good deeds, and the sins of humans in his book. His departure marks the beginning of New Year. Thus, this is a time for doing good deeds such as making donations to monasteries. Some Myanmar people spend this period at their local monastery, meditating and following the eight Buddhist precepts. Most, however, take to the streets for a week of fun; music, drinking, dancing and water-throwing.

Business shuts down and the streets are filled people using water pistols and dousing each other with buckets of often ice-laced water. ’Pandals’ (stages) are set up along roads all around the country. Groups hire these stages to stand on and spray water hoses at cars and passers-by. At night, the stages host concerts and dancing. Yangon and Mandalay in particular become party cities for a few days. On New Year’s Day Buddhists throughout the country perform meritorious deeds such as offering alms to monks or paying homage to their elders.

Myanmar Cycling Tours recommends spending Thingyan in Yangon or Mandalay; it’s an amazing experience. Also, as shops, businesses and transport services close down over this period it becomes difficult to travel around the country. Should you wish to escape the excesses of the cities we would recommend spending Thingyan at a beach resort such as Ngapali Beach or Ngwe Saung or in the Myeik Archipelago. Thingyan is celebrated from the 12th – 16th April 2010. Myanmar New Year is celebrated from the 17th – 21st April 2010

Kason (April/May)

Shittaung Pagoda Festival, Mrauk U.
Mock boat-races on land and real boat races and splashing in the Mrauk U canal on the full moon day. Traditional wrestling competitions take place at the foot of the pagoda, with the final taking place on the Full Moon day. (8th waxing day to full moon day of Kason) *20th – 27th April 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a trip to the ancient city of Mrauk U by air and riverboat from Yangon or Ngapali Beach.

Full Moon of Kason. The Buddha gained enlightenment whilst meditating under a Bodhi tree on the full moon day of Kason. The festival of offering water to sacred Bodhi (banyan) trees is celebrated throughout the country. *27th April 2010

Nayon (May/June)

Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival, Pakokku.
The pagoda contains an 800 year old Buddha image and the festival features traditional plays. This is a huge country fair, the most important festival on the West bank of the Ayeyarwady River held in the traditional old town of Pakkoku. This is the place to pick up local specialities such as jaggery, dried chilli and thanakha, the facial cream worn by Myanmar women. (8th waxing to the 10th waning day of Nayon) *20th May – 06th June 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange a visit to the fair from Bagan by car and private boat.

Waso (June/July) *A second Waso is added every four years.

Chinlon Festival, Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay.
This competition attracts the best Chinlon ball players from all over the country to Mandalay. Chinlon is a Myanmar sport where teams pass a woven cane ball between its members without touching it with their hands – An extremely skilful sport. The final week is the most interesting time to visit as this is when the best teams compete. (One month to the day after the Full Moon Day of Waso) *28th June – 27th July 2010. This event is easily reached from your Mandalay hotel.

Full Moon of Waso.
Also known as Dhammasetkya Day, this marks the start of the Buddhist Lent period and commemorates the time when Buddha gave his first sermon to five monks. New monks are ordained at this time and Buddhists offer monks new robes, parasols and shoes. Monks are confined to their monasteries and it is traditional not to marry at this time. *26th July 2010

Yadana Labamuni Pagoda Festival (Snake Pagoda), Paleik.
This festival features dramatic performances as well as volleyball, football and bullock cart races. (14th waxing day of Waso, for a month) *25th July – 24th August 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a daytrip to this festival from Mandalay.

Wagaung (July/August)

Taungbyone Nat Festival.
This is Myanmar’s most famous ‘nat’ festival. This busy, boisterous festival is in honour of the two Taungbyone brothers, executed in the 11th century who became powerful spirits after their death. The event is attended by thousands of ‘nat-gadaw’ or mediums. A specific ritual is conducted each day. Flowers, toddy, whisky, rum, grilled rabbit, fried chicken and coconuts are offered to the gilded shrine of the Princes. Orchestras play for the mediums who dance to make the spirits joyful. (8th waxing day to the full moon day of Wagaung). *18th – 25th August 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange daytrips to this fascinating festival by air-conditioned car from Mandalay.

Irinaku Nat Festival, Amarapura.
Following the Taungbyone festival the ‘nat-gadaw’ move here for this festival honouring Popa Madaw, the mother of the executed brothers. She is also a powerful spirit and the protector of women. (10th waning day of Wagaung to the new moon day) *04th – 09th September 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a visit to the festival by car from Mandalay.

Tawthalin (August/September)
Thadingyut (September/October)

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival, Inle Lake.
At this famous festival the four highly revered Buddha images from Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda are taken from the site and ferried around Inle Lake from village to village in a gilded barge shaped like a legendary ‘Hintha’. The full tour takes 18 days. The festival is an excuse for leg-rowing races between the villages. (1st waxing day to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut) *09th – 26th October 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange visits to Inle Lake to coincide with this spectacularly scenic festival.

Visitors can follow proceedings from their own boat. This is one of the most popular and oft-requested festivals with foreign visitors so please make your booking with us well in advance.

Sand Stupa Festival, Kyaikkami and Setse Beaches.
Local villagers gather on the beach on this day to construct Stupas made of sand to enshrine offerings of money. The Stupas are washed away by the high tide only hours later. (5th waxing day of Thadingyut) *13th October 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a day with the villagers here by air-conditioned car from your Mawlamyine hotel.

Thadingyut Festival of Lights.
This festival ,marking the return of Buddha to earth is celebrated throughout the country and marks the end of Buddhist lent. As Buddha descended to earth at night people decorate their houses with coloured lights or lanterns. Between Thadingyut and the next full moon,Tazaungmon, ‘Kahtein’ offerings of robes and other necessities are donated to monasteries as well as ‘Padetha trees’ adorned with elaborately folded money and gifts. (14th waxing to the 1st waning day of Thadingyut) *22nd – 24th October 2010

Kyauktawgyi Pagoda Festival, Mandalay.
This is one of the largest ‘pwe’ of the year in the Mandalay and celebrates the huge marble Buddha image at this pagoda. (14th waxing day to the 2nd waning day of Thadingyut) *22nd – 25th October 2010

This festival, in the shadow of Mandalay hill is easily reached from your hotel. Matho Thingan robe weaving contest, Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. Starting at 5 p.m. teams of weavers compete to finish a monks robe during the night to be offered to Buddha images on Thadingyut full moon day. (Eve of the full moon day of Thadingyut) *22nd October 2010. This event is easily accessed from your Yangon hotel.

Tazaungmon (October/ November)

Shwesandaw Pagoda Festival, Pyay.

This is one of Myanmar’s biggest Buddhist pilgrimage sites. During the festival the sacred tooth hall (said to contain a Buddha tooth relic) is opened. (5th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon) *11th – 22nd November 2010.
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a day at this festival in conjunction with a visit to Pyay.

Hpo-Win Daung Festival, Monywa.
The cave temples of Hpo-Win Daung date from the 14th century and play host to the area’s biggest ‘pwe’ of the year. (14th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon) *20th – 22nd November 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange accommodation in Monywa and transport to the caves.
Alternatively we can arrange a daytrip by air-conditioned car from Mandalay.

Hot-Air Balloon Festival, Taunggyi.
This famous Pa-O festival features the construction and launch of hundreds of hot-air balloons. Groups compete to build the most attractive balloon or to reach the greatest height. Fireworks and rockets light up the night. (10th waxing day to the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmon) *16th – 21st November 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours arranges transport and entry to this famous, and very popular event from your hotel in Taunggyi or Inle Lake.

Please ask us to arrange your hotel and transport as far in advance as possible as accommodation can sell out during this period.

Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights.
Lanterns and candles are lit throughout the country and buildings are illuminated. Treasure hunts are organised for children and donors hand out money, sweets, food and gifts. (Full Moon day of Tazaungmon) *21st November 2010.

9000 Candles Ceremony, Kotatgyi (9-storey pagoda), Yangon. 9000 candles are ceremoniously lit on the Tazaungmon Full Moon Day. At midnight visitors are served with a mixed salad of mezali buds (Cassia siamea), mixed with sesame, groundnuts, fried garlic and sesame oil, which is believed to possess powerful magical and medicinal properties if eaten on this occasion.

Kotatgyi Pagoda is easily reached from your Yangon hotel.

Kaunghmudaw Pagoda Festival, Sagaing.
Pilgrims converge on this festival from surrounding villages by ox-cart to watch the famous puppet shows. (Full Moon day of Tazaungmon to the 6th waning day) *21st – 27th November 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange to visit this pagoda festival by air-conditioned car from Mandalay.

Nadaw (November/December)

Mount Popa Mahagiri Nat Festival, Mt Popa.
The two spirit figures on either side of Tharabar Gate, Bagan, are the brother and sister ‘nat’ Lord of the Mountain and Lady Golden Face. This festival is in honour the two who protect home or country. (Full moon day of Nadaw to the 6th waning day) *01st – 07th December 2009 *21st – 27th December 2010.
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange overnight accommodation at Mt Popa so that you can make the most of this festival. Alternatively we can arrange a daytrip here from your Bagan hotel.

9000 lights festival at Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Kyaiktiyo.
Fruit and rice are offered at dawn, and candles are lit after dark illuminating the mountaintop. (10th waning day of Nadaw) *11th December 2009 *31st December 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange accommodation on the mountain and private car transport from Yangon.

Pyatho (December/January)

Karen New Year celebrations in Hpa-An.
Group dancing and traditional kick-boxing competitions. (1st waxing day of Pyatho) *16th December 2009
Myanmar Cycling Tours can provide accommodation in Hpa-An or Mawlamyine as well as transportation by private car.

Manao festival, Myitkyina.
This the most significant festival of the year in Kachin State. The festival is held at the permanent Manaw field, an 18 acre site with huge painted totem poles. Manao, meaning ‘peace and unity’ is the coming together of the various tribes to celebrate their culture. The main attraction for visitors is the mass dances, performed in tribal costume. Some of these dances involve 2000 people – a similar number to an Olympic opening ceremony event. The event can attract a crowd of over 300,000 people. (January)
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange flights to Myitkyina and local accommodation during the event.

Naga New Year. Celebrated in Leshi.
Lahe or Hkamti in the Naga Hills border region. Oxen are slaughtered in sacrifice, the Naga Pole is erected, games competitions take place and the partying continues through the night around bonfires to ward off evil (and the cold). The various tribes perform dances wearing traditional costume, ceremonial headdresses and carrying spears. This is the only time of year foreign travellers are allowed to visit the area. *12th – 16th January 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a place on the Naga New Year charter flight to Hkamti and Naga celebration Tour.

Ananda Pagoda Festival, Bagan.
Farmers travel by bullock carts from around Upper Burma to fill the alms bowls of long lines of monks. A festival market boasts local produce including woven baskets and glazed pots. (8th waxing day of Pyatho to 14th waning day) *23rd December 2009 – 13th January 2010 The festival is easily visited from your Bagan hotel.

Tabodwe (January/February)

Shwesettaw Pagoda festival, near Minbu, Magwe.
This is a huge, three month long festival. The Buddha is said to have visited this site around 610 BCE and the Pagodas here preserve his footprints. Over 700 shops open during the festival as well as 450 temporary bamboo accommodation huts lining both sides of Mann creek. (5th waxing day of Tabodwe to the New Year). *19th January – 17th April 2010.
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a visit to this festival by private car from Bagan or Pyay. A visit requires an overnight stay at the festival site.

Please contact us well in advance as a permit may be necessary.

Kyaik-khauk Pagoda festival, Thanlyin.
(8th waxing to the 1st waning day of Tabodwe). *22nd – 30th January 2010. This is the most accessible traditional country Pagoda ‘pwe’ from Yangon and can be visited by private car. The drive is less than one hour. Mr Myanmar Travel can arrange a daytrip combined with a visit to the island Pagoda of Yele.

Payagyi Festival, Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay.
Glutinous rice cooking contests are held late on the 14th waxing day. On the following morning incense is burnt in a symbolic gesture to the gold-covered Buddha image. (14th waxing day of Tabodwe and the Full Moon Day) *28th – 29th January 2010.
This festival is easily reached from your Mandalay hotel.

Tabaung (February/March)

Mingun Nat Festival.
This is a celebration in tribute to the Brother and the Sister of the Teak Tree, who drowned in the Ayeyarwady River clinging to a tree trunk. The trunk took root and the late children became ‘nats’ in its branches. (5th to 10th waxing days of Tabaung) *17th – 22nd February 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange a visit to this festival via an enjoyable boat trip along the Ayeyarwady river from Mandalay.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival, Yangon.
This is one of largest ‘pwe’ of the year in Myanmar, a ceremony to celebrate the enshrinement of the Sacred Hair Relic. (6th waxing day to the Full Moon day of Tabaung) *18th – 27th February 2010. This event is easily accessed from your Yangon hotel.

Indawgyi Pagoda Festival,Kachin State.
This is the biggest pagoda festival in Kachin State, very popular with the local people. Shwe Myitsu Pagoda, located on an island in the lake is connected to the shore by two causeways. One is for humans, the other, incomplete, is for spirits. (8th waxing day to full moon day of Tabaung) *20th – 27th February 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a full-day visit to this unique festival via private car or jeep from Myitkyina.

Kakku Pagoda Festival, Kakku, near Inle Lake.
This is a traditional festival of the Pa-O tribe of the Shan hills and features theatrical performances and singing contests. The collection of pagodas at Kakku dates back to the 17th century. (From the 9th waxing day to the full moon of Tabaung) *21st – 27th February 2010.
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a daytrip to the festival site by private car from your Inle Lake hotel, via Taunggyi.

Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival, Pindaya.
A typical festival of the Taung-yo hill tribe featuring dancing and fairground attractions. The event is also attended by many of the other Shan tribal groups such as the Danu and Pa-O. (10th waxing day to the full moon of Tabaung) *22nd – 27th February 2010. The event can easily be attended from your Pindaya hotel. Alternatively Mr Myanmar Travel can arrange daytrips from the Inle Lake area or Kalaw.

Full moon Day of Tabaung.

This moon is said to be the most beautiful of the year and this month sees the greatest number of festivals in both large and small pagodas throughout the country. These include the Manuha Pagoda, Bagan; Mt. Zwegabin, Hpa-An and the Alaungdaw Kathapa shrine. *27th February 2010
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange trips to the three locations listed above.

The Alaungdaw Kathapa shrine is located in a National Park in a remote area. We recommend combining a trip here with a visit to the Park as an overnight stay is necessary. Please contact us well in advance.

Shwe Nattaung (Golden Spirit Mountain) Pagoda Festival, near Pyay.
This is one of the largest ‘pwe’ in this part of Myanmar and many local pilgrims arrive by bullock cart from the surrounding villages. The Pagoda is said to date from the Pyu period.(8th waxing day to Tabaung Full Moon day) *20th – 27th February 2010.
Myanmar Cycling Tours  can arrange a visit to the festivities from your Pyay hotel.



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