The Shwedagon Pagoda was the absolute highlight of our day in Yangon with kids, and I would go as far as to recommend a day in Yangon just to be able to spend some time at this magnificent pagoda.
This is Myanmar’s most sacred pagoda, and consequently one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world, and it is believed to enshrine eight hairs of Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas.
We were pretty tired when we arrived here, after a full day of sightseeing in Yangon but if there’s ever a cure for temple fatigue – then this is it. And don’t think that visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda with kids will be boring for them – my kids (aged 5 and 3) managed a couple of hours here with absolutely no complaints. Even a massive rainstorm couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the Shwedagon Pagoda.
There is plenty to be impressed about at the Shwedagon Pagoda – the golden stupa that forms the centerpiece of the pagoda is a full 99 metres tall and is entirely covered with gold plates. The umbrella crown at the top is encrusted with more than 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies – and is finished off with a 76-carat diamond. No wonder it shimmers so much!
But the shimmering golden stupa is just a part of the Shwedagon Pagoda. There are also dozens of pavilions, stupas and worships halls, hundreds of Buddha statues, cast iron bells and general kaleidoscope of colours and sparkly mosaics to admire. And once the sun goes down there’s even a whole host of flashing neon lights!
A fun thing to do with the kids is to research their Burmese Zodiac sign. This is based on the day you were born. I’ll even make it easy for you:
Tuesday – Lion
Wednesday morning – Tusked Elephant
Wednesday afternoon – Tuskless Elephant
Thursday – Rat
Friday – Guinea Pig
Saturday – Naga (snake/dragon)
Sunday – Garuda
Once you know which is your zodiac sign, you can hunt down the corresponding planetary post in the pagoda, and pay your respects by pouring water on your zodiac sign animal statue. Both my kids are Friday babies, and loved tracking down the guinea pig to pour water on it.
Both my kids loved finding all the cast iron bells to ring, and my daughter also loved doing the scavenger hunt in her Leap & Hop book, where she had to track down various statues and Buddhas throughout the temple. Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance, as the pagoda is huge. Note that it is customary to circumnavigate Buddhist temples in a clockwise direction.
Sunset is definitely the best time to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. Although this is probably when it is at its busiest, the light is magical at this time of day, and getting to see the lights come on and watch the stupa glow in the darkness is truly an amazing experience.
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We visited the Shwedagon Pagoda as part of our full-day private tour with THAHARA – read all about it in our article A Day in Yangon with Kids. If you are traveling around Myanmar, don’t miss our article about visiting Myanmar with Kids.