General Information

Mrauk U is a little known archeological site in Western Burma. In the beautiful hilly landscape of the Rakhine state hundreds of ancient temples and pagodas, many of which are well preserved remain of the powerful empire that once flourished here.

The site used to be the capital of the Mrauk U Kingdom, a powerful empire that existed from 1430 until 1785.

Today Mrauk U is a small town where the centuries old monuments form the backdrop for everyday life of local people. Goat herders tend to their animals, farmers work their fields and women fetch water from the wells between the ancient temples and pagodas. Often the area is foggy, especially during the early morning hours, which creates a mystical atmosphere

Mrauk U
Tattooed woman in Mrauk U
Kow Taung Pagoda in Mrauk U

Things to see in Mrauk U

Mrauk U archeological zone

Centered on the town of Mrauk U is the Mrauk U archeological zone, an area of 7 km2 where hundreds of temples and pagodas were built between the 15th and 18th century. The capital of the Kingdom was protected by 35 kilometer long walls and moats; at the center of the city was the Royal Palace. While practically nothing remains of the palace, some remnants of the walls and city gates can still be seen today.

Impressive bunker like temples like the Htukkanthein and the Shite-Thaung built from stone and brick and surrounded by thick solid walls were constructed. As these temples were often built on top of hills, allowing people good views of the surrounding area and possible approaching enemies, they probably served as places of refuge during times of war.

In 1996 excavations and restoration works started. While a number of monuments have been restored to their original glory, many are still buried under soil and thick vegetation. Visitors to the zone are required to buy a Mrauk U archeological zone pass at US$ 10. The fee as well as a 3,000 Kyat light fee is collected at several places including the Shite-Thaung temple.

Royal Palace

The remains of the Royal Palace are found in the center of town, just east of the market. Very little is left of the teak wood building that once stood here; only parts of the walls remain. Located on the grounds is the Archeology Museum which opens from 9 am until 4.30 pm, admission is US$ 5 per person.

Temples and pagodas of Mrauk U

Over a period of more than 350 years countless temples and pagodas were built. Some of the best known are:

  • Htukkanthein temple
  • Koe-Thaung temple (shrine of the 90,000 images of the Buddha)
  • Le-myet-hna temple (four faced pagoda)
  • Ratana-Pon Pagoda
  • Shite-Thaung temple (temple of the 80,000 images of the Buddha)
  • Laungbanpyauk pagoda (colored tile pagoda)
  • Mahabodhi Shwegu temple
Chin Village

Besides a large number of wonderful temples, Chin Village is an interesting destination for something different in Mrauk U.

It takes a half-hour tuk tuk ride from Mrauk U town and about 3 hour boat trip on Lay Myo River to arrive at Chin Village. Along the river, you would see kids swimming and the local bathing and washing clothes. There are also fishermen, farmers and traditional sail boats.

Chin women are well-known for their strange facial tattoo custom. It is said that during war time, girls at 9 years old were tattooed so that invaders would not take them away. The whole tattooed face could be complete in a day and girls suffered terribly, especially the tender eyelid area. It is possible to tell where a female comes from based on her tattoo pattern since each area of Chin tribe has its own distinctive tattoo pattern.

There are only a small number of old tattooed women living now in the village. Some people might be shy and unwilling to be taken pictures. Therefore having a local tour guide is highly recommended for better bond and understanding of their lives.

Burmese government is no longer permitting the custom; neither is the young generation interested in partaking in the custom unfortunately. So take your time to get to know this soon-to-be-gone part of the Chin culture!

How to get to Mrauk U

Mrauk U is located between the Kaladan and Lay Myo rivers in Rakhine state in the Western part of Burma, near the Bay of Bengal. The journey to Mrauk U is an adventure and attraction in itself.  There are two main ways to get there, either the slightly faster and comfy way, or the rough and ready, longer way.

The comfy way is to catch a flight to Sittwe from Yangon. The flight usually arrives just before lunchtime. From here, you’ll hop on a boat ride upstream that takes between 4 and 6 hours, and will bring you into Mrauk U.

This is definitely our preferred way as the boat ride is simply gorgeous. You really feel like your trekking out into the jungle to view an old ancient kingdom.

The longer and rougher route is by bus. It’s possible to catch a bus from Bagan (the usual option), Mandalay or even Yangon. This trip will take around 18 hours from Bagan and a whopping 24 hours from Yangon. It’s not for the faint hearted as a result, but it is the cheapest way, with tickets costing about $30.