Considered one of the wonders of the religious world, the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda rises majestically over Yangon, casting a golden glow over the capital below. Over 2,500 years old and containing the relics of four Buddhas, the people of Myanmar consider the Shwedagon Pagoda to be their most sacred site.
Referred to as 'Paya' by the locals, this 100-metre high bell-shaped structure sits on an octagonal base. The Pagoda is entirely plated with gold and the upper dome is adorned with more than 5,000 diamonds and precious gems.
A large terrace surrounds the Pagoda offering an extensive view over Yangon. The terrace is decorated with an array of colourful shrines, pavilions, Buddha images and other objects of devotion.
Pilgrims traditionally walk clockwise around the main Pagoda before visiting one of the pavilions to pray, meditate or simply contemplate. The terrace tends to get very hot underfoot during the middle of the day so you might want to avoid visiting at this time.
Admission to the Shwedagon Pagoda
There are four entrances leading up to the shrine for locals. Once you're through the entrance, you'll need to remove your shoes and take a lift up to the terrace. There may be people on the terrace who present themselves as English speaking tour guides. They are usually certified by the Shwedagon Board of Trustees – ask to see their license.
Shwedagon is radiant by day and truly magical at night when lit up. However, it is no less busy at this time. The shrine is also especially busy on Buddhist religious days, which take place almost every month.
When visiting religious sites in Asia, you should dress modestly – it is the acceptable norm to cover up to at least your knees and elbows.