Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon
"Then a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon - a beautiful, winking wonder that blazed in the sun."
Rudyard Kipling's first view of Burma was of the towering Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon (now Yangon). This astonishing 2,500 year old Buddhist shrine still dominates the skyline of the modern city and is the best place to start off your tour of the country.
The marvellous solid gold central zedi (stupa) of the Shwe Dagon is regilded every year and is the best known of the site's monuments but there is much more to see around the surprisingly large complex; all around the central stupa devotees walk (always in a clockwise direction), passing a profusion of mosaic-covered pavilions, images of Buddha and smaller filigreed pagodas. The smell of incense hangs in the air and a light tinkling of bells can always be heard. This is the most revered site in Burma and is said to house relics from the four Buddhas who have so far appeared on earth.
Sunset is a magical time to visit the Shwe Dagon, as the colours turn to crimson gold and orange, and the mighty diamond at the stupa's summit casts beams of light into the surrounding sky.