Ananda Pagoda Festival : the town of Bagan dresses up its many pagodas as processions and cultural performances fill the streets. This is good time to visit the town of 3,000 pagodas, as things rarely get more animated here than they do at this time.
Independence Day : Yangon is the best place to fully experience this display of might and patriotism, which in itself is bizarre enough to be interesting.
Sea Gypsies Festival : there are more than 800 islands in the Mergui Archipelago of southern Myanmar. Thanks to their near total isolation, a diverse range of plants and animals have flourished here. Each year the local sea gypsy community prays for a good fishing season with colourful rituals and processions.
Pindaya Cave Festival : the beautiful caves of Pindaya come alive during this popular festival, celebrating their unique beauty and religious significance. Buddhist rituals and cultural performances are planned both around the caves and in town. This is one of Myanmar’s best events, so don’t miss it if you’re in the area.
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival : the famously stunning pagoda in Yangon takes on a buzzing atmosphere during its annual festival. Religious ceremonies and colourful processions fill the grounds as the capital’s population comes out to make merit.
Thingyan Water Festival : this fun water festival celebrates Myanmar’s New Year. The entire country stops working to splash each other with water and cool off from the oppressive heat of April. Every town has some degree of fun, with larger towns sporting parades, beauty pageants and concerts.
Kason Festival : on the first full moon after Thingyan, the Kason Festival happens. This auspicious event honours the Buddha’s birthday, the day he attained enlightenment and the day he died. Temples buzz with activity as monks and locals make merit and hold processions through towns.
Waso : this full moon day honours the Buddha’s first sermon, a major event in the annals of Buddhism. Waso also marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent, when the monks retreat into their temples for the rainy season. Every temple in the country is full of activity at this time as fascinating rituals are carried out.
Wagaung : another of Myanmar’s full moon celebrations is also known as Maha Dok, after a poor man who became rich after making selfless offerings to the Kas-sa-pa Buddha. On this occasion, temples place huge alms bowls on their grounds and locals come to give a little extra of whatever wealth they have in the hope of gaining more in return.
Taungpyone Nats : one of Mandalay’s most energetic events is also known as Spirits Festival. For eight days, Taungpyone is the site of cultural performances and amazing spirit dances. As this site is only accessibly by water, the river is teeming with boats and people.
Tawthalin Boat Races : all over the country royal regatta festivals take place to commemorate boat races of the past. These races were once a major fixture in Myanmar’s cultural calendar and are now being actively revived by the government. Any town with a river will have lots happening along its water.
Buddha's Tooth Relic Festival : once each year, this sacred relic is brought out from its vault and paraded around the town of Paung-de on an elephant. Buddhists from all over Myanmar make a pilgrimage to the site to worship this relic, creating a truly amazing scene.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival : Inle Lake is the site of this popular festival where four sacred Buddhist images are pulled clockwise around the lake on a royal barge. One-legged rowers take three days to make the round, and leg-rowing boat races are held throughout the festivities.
Thadingyut Festival of Lights : this major event marks the end of Buddhist Lent, when monks are allowed to come out of their temples and rejoin society after retreat during the rainy season. Houses and streets in every town are brilliantly illuminated and pagodas are packed with people marking merit.
Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival : this interesting event presents a life-sized elephant made from paper, which dances through the town of Kyaukse near Mandalay carrying a replica of the Buddha’s tooth. A colourful parade follows the elephant.
Hot Air Balloon and Fireworks Festival : if you are near Shan State, stop by the town of Taunggyi to witness Myanmar’s hot air balloon competition. This is the country’s most popular winter festival featuring handmade paper balloons that float through the skies, backed by fireworks.
Karen New Year : the Karen people celebrate New Year, which ties into their harvest cycle. Wearing traditional costumes, the Karen observe this occasion with folk dance and song.
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