Myanmar has a tropical climate, with the southwest monsoon bringing rain from May to October. Roads can become impassable, particularly from July to September. The central plains, however, receive only a fraction of the rain seen on the coast and in the Ayeyarwady delta. From October onwards the rains subside; the best time to visit most of Myanmar is from November to February, when temperatures are relatively manageable. From March to May, the country becomes very hot, particularly the dry zone of the central plains where Bagan and Mandalay often see temperatures in excess of 40°C.
Most festivals in Myanmar are based on the lunar calendar; check the official Ministry of Hotels & Tourism site for a more extensive list (w myanmartourism.org/festivals.htm).
Feb/March. The country’s biggest paya pwèh (temple festival) takes place at Shwedagon Paya in Yangon.
April 13–16. The water festival is the most popular in the calendar, marking New Year with a good soaking as temperatures soar. It also has a spiritual side, as it’s when the nat king visits the human world to record good and bad deeds. Hotels and transport are often booked solid.
Nov. Daytime parades at this three-day event in Taunggyi, east of Inle Lake, include impressive animal-shaped hot-air balloons. At night, balloons are released with huge gondolas full of fireworks strapped underneath them, sometimes with predictably explosive results.
Dec. Keep an eye open for the different ethnic groups’ new year celebrations around Dec and Jan. This one rotates between different Shan towns, and includes live bands, traditional dancing and – on Shan New Year’s Eve itself – fireworks and an inclusive party atmosphere.
Dec/Jan. The paya pwèh at Ananda Pahto is the biggest in Bagan, running for the fortnight leading up to the full moon of Pyatho. For the last three days, hundreds of monks chant scriptures day and night.