Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda is the most popular and well-known pagoda in Yangon. The pagoda is one of the main tourist destinations in Myanmar. Located at No.1, Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Dagon Township, in Yangon, this pagoda is the most notable building in Yangon. The Shwedagon Pagoda is a great cone-shaped Buddhist monument that crowns a hill about one mile north of the Cantonment. The pagoda itself is a solid brick stupa (Buddhist reliquary) that is completely covered with gold. It rises 326 feet (99 m) on a hill 168 feet (51 m) above the city.


The perimeter of the base of the Pagoda is 1,420 fee and its height 326 feet above the platform. The base is surrounded by 64 small pagodas with four larger, one in the center of each side. There also are 4 sphinxes, one at each corner with 6 leogryphs, 3 on each side of them. Projecting beyond the base of the Pagoda, one on the center of each side are Tazaungs in which are images of the Buddha and where offerings are made.

There are also figures of elephants crouching and men kneeling, and pedestals for offerings all around the base. In front of the 72 shrines surrounding the base of the Pagoda, you will find in several places images of lions, serpents, ogres, yogis, spirits, or Wathundari.
On the wall below the first terrace of the Pagoda at the West-Southern Ward and West-Northern Ward corners, you will see embossed figures. The former represents King Okkalapa who first built the Pagoda. The latter is a pair of figures; the one above represents Sakka who assisted in foundation of the Pagoda, and the one below, Me Lamu, consort of Sakka and mother of Okkalapa.


There are 4 entrances leading into the base of this great Shwedagon Pagoda. No one is sure what is inside. According to some legendary tales, there are flying and turning swords that never stop, which protect the pagoda from intruders; some says there are even underground tunnels that leads to Bagan and Thailand.

The 10 Parts of Shwe Dagon Pagoda

  • The Diamond Bud (Sein-phoo)
  • The Vane
  • The Crown (Htee)
  • The Plantain Bud-Shaped Bulbous Spire (Hnet-pyaw-phu)
  • The Ornamental Lotus Flower (Kyar-lan)
  • The Embossed Bands (Bang-yit)
  • The Inverted Bowl (Thabeik)
  • The Bell (Khaung-laung-pon)
  • The 3 Terraces (Pichayas)
  • The Base

Reasons to Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda

The history alone might be enough to lure you to the gorgeous pagoda. It surely has a rich and vivid, exciting history, and would be fascinating to see on that basis.

But if you require more reasons to visit, you may be interested in the treasures. The relics are enclosed within, to be sure, and those relics are sacred riches themselves. In addition to that, just the stupa alone of the pagoda is covered with 8,688 solid gold blocks. The top of the stupa holds 5,448 diamonds and a combination of 2,317 sapphires, rubies and topaz. There is an emerald placed in the middle. It is there to capture the sun’s rays, and does that best at sunrise and sunset. Below the golden stupa are 7 more gold blocks, which are attached to 1,485 bells. Of those bells, 420 are made of pure silver, and 1, 065 are made out of gold.

It is rumored that even more riches lay hidden deep within, offerings made long ago to the relics of the Buddhas. This has never been proven, but it adds to the mystery and lore of this sacred site.

Architectural interest would be another reason to visit the Shwedagon. Constructed a massive scale, bejeweled and elaborate, the Shwedagon is a triumph of design. The main attraction, or stupa, where the primary gold and jewels adorn is in itself an enormous building. It measures 1,421 ft around (433 meters),and that is describing only the main pagoda. There are 8 sides to the Shwedagon, 64 stupas, 4 main stairwells, a giant central terrace measuring 902 ft (275 meters) from north to south and 705 ft (215) meters from east to west, and many surrounding pagodas lined all along the interior courtyard of the Shwedagon.

This fascinating, massive construction must be seen to be believed. Within its vast enclosures and walls lie sphinxes, Buddha statues, Bodhi trees, planetary posts, an area for wishing, a courtyard in which to feed pigeons, and many temples.

And that does not even begin to cover all of the wonders contained within. That is just a sampling of all the beauty and grandeur that awaits when you choose to visit this sacred and special place. If you are traveling to Myanmar, there are so many reasons to see this holy place, to let it amaze you, and to pay your honors to it.

Sightseeing at the Shwedagon Pagoda

It is recommended to travelers that the best times to view the Shwedagon are at sunrise or at sunset. This is because of the large, reflective emerald that sits in the center of the golden stupa. That emerald catches the changing light and reflects it out beautifully. The Shwedagon Pagoda is open every day from 4AM to 9PM. It is important to note that, though the Shwedagon opens at 4AM, tickets for entrance are not sold to foreign visitors until 6AM.

There are a few options one can take for entering the Shwedagon. Some choose to walk up the stairways, which are at the north, south, east and west points of the building. Most commonly used is the south entrance, because that stairway comes in off of the city’s center. This stairway has 104 steps. The west entrance was closed for many decades, as this is the one that suffered fire destruction in 1931. It is now reopened, and is the longest of all the staircases, with 166 steps. At the north entrance, the stairway was constructed in 1460 and has 128 steps. Finally, the eastern entrance comes in off of the street bazaars below. There are 118 steps here, and the area suffered much damage during the British attacks in 1852. This staircase is still open, however, and is the one closest to all of the vendors and shop carts below. There are even teahouses on the stairway along this entrance.

If one chooses not to walk up, there are elevators that take you straight to the pagoda itself, and to the area where tickets are sold to foreign visitors. It can depend on the size of the crowds waiting for the elevator, and one’s own physical fitness, whether it is more or less preferable to choose an elevator over the stairs. However, if you do avoid the stairs, you will also miss out on some valuable history that can be located along the way on the 4 great staircases.

There is much to see and experience at the Shwedagon Pagoda, and it is an unforgettable sightseeing opportunity that should not be missed during any trip to Myanmar.

Respect for Culture While Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda

There are rituals and cultural sensitivities that must be understood and respected during a tour of the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is important to keep in mind at all times that this is a sacred and holy place and as such should always be approached with the highest respect.
Of course, it goes without saying that any visitor would always want to keep their voice lowered and at a respectful tone while within the walls. There are temples here, and there are monks, and the sanctity of their prayers and meditation should be honored.

Also, no matter how much one might feel that any small piece or trinket from around the building might not be missed, please do not remove anything. There will always be places that are designated for the purchasing of gifts, souvenirs, mementos, etc. It is correct to utilize those options, but it is never alright to remove any piece of the pagoda, from the ground or from any other location.

There are other behaviors of respect to observe as well. Dress should always be modest. One may dress comfortably, but avoid revealing or skimpy clothing, as it can come across as disrespectful and immodest. Footwear should be removed before stepping onto any sacred ground. This includes shoes, socks, and even sandals. None are permitted on sacred ground. Keep this in mind, as you will need to walk over uneven or perhaps even uncomfortable terrain barefoot during your entire visit to Shwedagon. It is important to know that ahead of time so you will not be surprised when you arrive. There are one or two locations at Shwedagon that are off-limits to women, but only those. The main location where women cannot go is to the eastern upper platform of the pagoda, where a Buddha statue stands who is believed to be able to grant wishes. However, there is one wishing Buddha that women can go to in the eastern prayer hall. He is noted by his palms in an upturned position, suggesting he is able to give something away.

A woman should not touch a monk in any way, even to hand him something. Monks may not touch women, nor take anything from their hand. If visitors want to photograph any people of Myanmar, they need to ask that person’s/those persons’ permission first.

It is considered an insult to point one’s feet at anyone or at any holy place or object. When kneeling in prayer or sitting, the feet should be tucked under, or turned inward. And, of course, any visitor should always be respectful of the hours in which they are permitted to visit the Shwedagon, and should not try to break that rule. A visitor should always remember that this is a holy place, and one should always conduct oneself peacefully, quietly and respectfully.

Wildlife in the area of the Shwedagon Pagoda

As the Shwedagon Pagoda is located within the city of Yangon, it is not a location heavy in wildlife. To view wildlife, one would wish to be further removed from the city, into more rustic or forest areas.

As for wildlife in Myanmar itself, there are many species of animals living there. Among them are monkeys, mountain goats, wild buffalo, red deer, wild boar, civet cats, leopards, tigers and elephants. Also, there are many flying squirrels, porcupines, insects, reptiles, birds, snakes, black bear and rhinoceri, among others. They are all there in Myanmar; however, you’ll likely not find them in the city anywhere.

Where to Stay around the Shwedagon Pagoda

As the Shwedagon is located in the capital city of Yangon, there will be a number of options as to where you can stay. It is more than likely that, especially if you have flown in, you have arrived in Yangon to begin your trip.

In and around Yangon are many places to stay, and the prices can vary greatly. At the high end there are luxury hotels where a room will run the equivalent of $200 US and above. These hotels will include greater amenities and more facilities, to be sure. Rooms there will be spacious and will include private baths. For the traveler’s comfort, they may also include restaurants, on-site internet access, room-service, gift shops, a concierge to assist in travel planning, and even spas and beauty salons.

At the next level are hotels considered expensive by Myanmar standards at approximately $80 US and above. These hotels are noted for being comfortable, clean, spacious and welcoming, but the offered amenities are not as elaborate as at the luxury hotels.

Following these are mid-priced, or mid-range hotels where the cost is $20 US and up.
Many of these are converted homes with rooms available. Finally, there are the budget accommodations, for less than $20 US per night. In these, you will likely find an available bed and a place to store your belongings. In both of these types of accommodations, a shared bathroom is to be expected.

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