Geography of Myanmar

World / Asia


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With a surface area of 676,577 sq km, Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. It is bounded by Bangladesh and India on the northwest, China on the northeast, Laos and Thailand on the east, the Andaman Sea on the south, and the Bay of Bengal on the southwest. The highest peak in Myanmar, Hkakabo Razi, is also the tallest peak in Southeast Asia. It is 5887 m (19,314 ft), and located at the far north of the country, close to the border with Tibet.

Brewing palm liquor
Brewing palm liquor (26 November 2003)
© Timothy Tye using this photo

75% of Myanmar population lives in the rural villages. The capital Yangon (Rangoon), with a population of 3 million, is by far the largest city in Myanmar. Coming in a distant second is Mandalay (pop 700,000), Pathein (Bassein, pop 350,000) and Mawlamyaing (Moulmein, pop 300,000). The country can be divided into Upper Burma, centred around Mandalay and Bagan, and Lower Burma, around Yangon and Bago.

The Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River runs though the central region. It enters Myanmar from the Himalayas, and makes a journey of 2170 km to empty into the Andaman Sea. Along the way, it passes places like Bagan and Mandalay, where the earliest Myanmar kingdoms first appeared. The British called it the "Road to Mandalay" because it is Myanmar's transportation route. Steamers can navigate the Ayeyarwady for 1500 km, all the way to Bhamo in the north, close to the border with China.

View of the Inwa Bridge on the Ayeryawady River
View of the Inwa Bridge on the Ayeryawady River (24 November 2003)
© Timothy Tye using this photo

9 out of every 10 tourists visiting Myanmar explore central Myanmar. The major tourist destinations include the capital, Yangon, the ancient capitals of Bagan, Bago and Mandalay, the ancient cities near Mandalay, such as Amarapura, Sagaing and Mingun; major pilgrimage sites such as Mount Popa, Pindaya Caves and the Golden Rock, and scenic countryside around Inle Lake.

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