Geography of Myanmar
Burma topo en.jpg
RegionSoutheast Asia
Coordinates22°00′N 98°00′E / 22.000°N 98.000°E / 22.000; 98.000Coordinates: 22°00′N 98°00′E / 22.000°N 98.000°E / 22.000; 98.000
AreaRanked 40th
 • Total676,578 km2 (261,228 sq mi)
 • Land96.94%
 • Water3.06%
Coastline1,930 km (1,200 mi)
BordersTotal land borders:
6,522 km (4,053 mi)
271 km (168 mi)
People's Republic of China:
2,129 km (1,323 mi)
1,468 km (912 mi)
238 km (148 mi)
2,416 km (1,501 mi)
Highest pointHkakabo Razi
5881 m (19,294.62 ft)
Lowest pointAndaman Sea
0 m (0 ft)
(sea level)
Longest riverAyeyarwady River
Largest lakeIndawgyi Lake
Exclusive economic zone532,775 km2 (205,706 sq mi)
Myanmar (Burma) map of Köppen climate classification
Myanmar (Burma) map of Köppen climate classification

Myanmar (also known as Burma) is the northwesternmost country of mainland Southeast Asia located on the Indochinese peninsula. With an area of 261,228 sq mi (676,578 sq km), it is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and the largest on mainland Southeast Asia.[1] The kite-shaped country stretches from 10'N to 20'N for 1,275 miles (2,050 km) with a long tail running along the western coast of the Malay Peninsula.[2]

Myanmar lies along the Indian and Eurasian Plates, to the southeast of the Tibetan Plateau. To its west is the Bay of Bengal and to its south is the Andaman Sea. The country is nestled between several mountain ranges with the Arakan Mountains on the west and the Shan Plateau dominating the east.[2] The central valley follows the Irrawaddy River, the most economically important river to the country with 39.5 million people, including the largest city Yangon, living within its basin.[3] The country is home to many diverse ethnic groups, with 135 officially recognized groups. It is strategically located near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes and was historically home to overland trade routes into China from the Bay of Bengal. The neighboring countries are China, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos.



Total land border length: 6,522 kilometres (4,053 mi)[1]

Total land area: 676,578 square kilometres (261,228 sq mi)

Border countries:

Bangladesh: 271 kilometres (168 mi), India:1,468 kilometres (912 mi), China: 2,129 kilometres (1,323 mi), Laos: 238 kilometres (148 mi), Thailand: 2,416 kilometres (1,501 mi)


Total coastline length:2,228 kilometres (1,384 mi)

Total water area: 23,070 square kilometres (8,910 sq mi)


See also: Climate of Myanmar

Tropical monsoon in the lowlands below 1,000 m (3,281 ft); cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April).

Myanmar has three seasons: the cool and drier northeast monsoon running from late October to mid-February, the hot and dry intermonsoonal season from mid-February to mid-May and the rainy southwest monsoon from mid-May to late-October.[2]Colloquially, they are called the winter, summer and rainy reasons respectively.[4] The alternating mountain ranges and valleys create alternate zones of heavy and subdued precipitation during the monsoon season, with the majority of the country's precipitation coming from the southwest monsoons.

Climate varies in the highlands depending on elevation; subtropical temperate climate at around 2,500 m (8,202 ft), temperate at 3,000 m (9,843 ft), cool, alpine at 3,500 m (11,483 ft) and above the alpine zone, cold, harsh tundra and Arctic climate. The higher elevations are subject to heavy snowfall, especially in the north. Distance from the sea also affect temperature and inland highlands can experience daily temperature ranges spanning 22'F (12'C) despite the tropical lattitude.[2]


Mount Popa, a dormant volcano rising out of the Central Lowlands
Mount Popa, a dormant volcano rising out of the Central Lowlands
Mountains near Pindaya, Myanmar in the Shan Plateau
Mountains near Pindaya, Myanmar in the Shan Plateau
Road through Dawna Mountains in Southern Myanmar
Road through Dawna Mountains in Southern Myanmar

Myanmar's mountains create five distinct physiographic regions. The Northern Mountains are characterised by complex ranges centred around the eastern ends of the Himalayas and the northeastern limit of the Indian-Australian Plate.[2] The ranges at the southern end of the Hengduan System form the border between Myanmar and China. Hkakabo Razi, the country's highest point at 5,881 m (19,295 ft), is located at the northern end of the country. This mountain is part of a series of parallel ranges that run from the foothills of the Himalaya through the border areas with Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram.

Myanmar is characterized by its Central Lowlands running north-south between several different mountain ranges. This was deeply excavated by many rivers and today forms the basin for major rivers like the Irrawaddy, Chindwin and Sittaung Rivers. The Bago Yoma (Pegu Range) is a prominent but relatively low mountain chain between the Irrawaddy and the Sittaung River in lower-central Myanmar. Many smaller mountain ranges run through the lowlands like the small mountain ranges of Zeebyu Taungdan, Min-wun Taungdan, Hman-kin Taungdan and Gangaw Taungdan.[5]

The Western Ranges are characterized by the Arakan Mountains running from Manipur into western Myanmar southwards through Rakhine State almost to Cape Negrais in the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Ayeyarwady Region. The mountains reappear as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands further within the Andaman Sea. These mountains are old crystalline rocks separating the Arakan Coast from the rest of the country.[2] The Arakan Range includes the Naga Hills, the Chin Hills, and the Patkai range which includes the Lushai Hills.[6]

In eastern Myanmar, the Shan Plateau rises abruptly from the central lowlands in single steps of some 2,000 feet (600m). The highest point of the Shan Hills is 2,563 m high Loi Pangnao, one of the ultra prominent peaks of Southeast Asia.[7][8] The Shan Hills form, together with the Karen Hills, Dawna Range and Tenasserim Hills, a natural border with Thailand as well as the Kayah-Karen/Tenasserim moist forests ecoregion[9] which is included in the Global 200 list of ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as priorities for conservation.[10] The plateau was formed during the Mesozoic Era and are a much older feature than the other ranges of Myanmar, creating a series of elevated ranges and valleys.[2] The most notable being the Salween River basin, covering 109,266 sq mi (283,00 sq km).[11]

Myanmar's Coastal Areas consist of the narrow Arakan Coast and Tenasserim Plains with western shores backed by the high Arakan Range and Tenasserim Range respectively.[2] The Tenessarim Plains consists largely of the western slopes of the Bilauktaung, the highest part of the Tenasserim Range, which extends southwards forming the central range of the Malay Peninsula.[12] The Dawna Range also stretches along the northern parts of the Tenasserim tail of Myanmar. Both areas have multiple island archipelago with coral reefs, especially in the Mergui Archipelago.

Main peaks

See also: List of mountains in Myanmar


The shores of Irrawaddy River at Nyaung-U, Bagan
The shores of Irrawaddy River at Nyaung-U, Bagan

The Irrawaddy, the main river of Burma, flows from north to south through the Central Burma Basin and ends in a wide delta. The Mekong river runs from the Tibetan Plateau through China's Yunnan and northeastern Burma into Laos. The basin has significant mining resources and forest ecosystems. Its fertile delta also create 60% of annual rice harvests. The river is historically significant with the Bagan temples on their banks and the Kachin people's homeland near the river's source- the confluence of the N'mai and Mali rivers.[13][3]

Salween river at Mae Sam Laep on the Thai-Myanmar border
Salween river at Mae Sam Laep on the Thai-Myanmar border

In the east the Salween and the Sittaung River run along the western side of the Shan Hills and the northern end of the Dawna Range. The Salween begins in China, where it is called the Nu River Chinese: 怒江; pinyin: Nù Jiāng, and runs south through 17 degrees of latitude through the Shan Plateau. The Salween runs is called the angry river in Mandarin due to its fast running waters snaking through mountainous terrain for almost the entirety of its 1,491-mile (2,400 km) long length.[11] In the narrow southeastern part of Burma, the Ye, Heinze, Dawei (Tavoy), Great Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) and the Lenya rivers are relatively short and flow into the Andaman Sea. Further south the Kraburi River forms the southern border between Thailand and Burma.[14]

Maritime claims

Grandfather Island, Dawei
Grandfather Island, Dawei

Myanmar has the 50th largest exclusive economic zone of 532,775 km2 (205,706 sq mi). It includes more than 16 islands and the Mergui Archipelago.

Contiguous zone: 24 nmi (27.6 mi; 44.4 km)
Continental shelf: 200 nmi (230.2 mi; 370.4 km) or to the edge of the continental margin
Exclusive economic zone: 532,775 km2 (205,706 sq mi), 200 nmi (230.2 mi; 370.4 km)


Land use and natural resources

Natural resources in Myanmar are petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, and hydropower.

Arable land 16.56%
Permanent crops 2.25%
Other land 81.20% (2012)
Irrigated land 21,100 km2 (2004)
Total renewable water resources 1,168 km3 (280 cu mi) (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal, total (domestic/industrial/agricultural) 33.23 km3/a (7.97 cu mi/a) (10%/1%/89%)
Freshwater withdrawal, per capita 728.6 km3/a (175 cu mi/a) (2005)

Natural hazards

Natural hazards include destructive earthquakes and cyclones. Flooding and landslides are common during the rainy season from June to September. Periodic droughts also occur. The most damaging cyclone that hit Myanmar was the Cyclone Nargis in 2008; with ongoing climate change, oceans will become warmer, which may lead to cyclones becoming more intense and devastating for Myanmar.[15]


Environmental issues include deforestation; industrial pollution of air, soil, and water; inadequate sanitation and water treatment that contributes to disease.

An IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Assessment was conducted for Myanmar in 2020 that assessed 64 terrestrial ecosystem types across 10 biomes. Of these 64 ecosystem types, 1 was confirmed as collapsed, 8 were considered Critically Endangered, 9 were considered Endangered, 12 were considered Vulnerable, 3 were considered Near Threatened, 14 were considered of Least Concern, and 17 were deemed Data Deficient.[16] The 64 terrestrial ecosystem types included five brackish tidal systems, one dry subterranean system, one lake, five palustrine wetlands, four polar/alpine systems, twelve savannas and grasslands, two shoreline systems, two supralittoral coastal systems, seven temperate-boreal forests and woodlands, and twenty five tropical and subtropical forests.[17]

A recent global remote sensing analysis suggested that there were 3,316km² of tidal flats in Myanmar, making it the 8th ranked country in terms of tidal flat area.[18]

Environment – international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94

See also


  1. ^ a b "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Myanmar". Britannica. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Irrawaddy River Basin". WLE Great Mekong. WLE Greater Mekong. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  4. ^ "Myanmar Climate Strategy and Action Plan (MCCSAP) 2016–2030" (PDF). 2 December 2018.
  5. ^ Myanmar in brief
  6. ^ "Rakhine Mountains" Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. ^ "Loi Pangnao (mountain) – Region: Shan State, Myanmar". Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  8. ^ Peaklist – Burma and Eastern India
  9. ^ Kayah Karen Tenasserim Ecoregion Archived 26 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  11. ^ a b "Salween River Basin". WLE Great Mekong. WLE Greater Mekong. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  12. ^ An Introduction to Burma (Myanmar)
  13. ^ Scott, James George (1911). "Irrawaddy" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 839.
  14. ^ Avijit Gupta, The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia, Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-924802-5
  15. ^ Stokke, Kristian; Vakulchuk, Roman and Indra Overland (2018) Myanmar: A Political Economy Analysis. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). Report commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  16. ^ Murray, N.J.; Keith, D.A.; Tizard, R.; Duncan, A.; Htut, W.T.; Hlaing, N.; Oo, A.H.; Ya, K.Z.; Grantham, H. (2020). Threatened Ecosystems of Myanmar. An IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Assessment. Version 1.0 (PDF). Wildlife Conservation Society. ISBN 978-0-9903852-5-7.
  17. ^ Murray, Nicholas J.; Keith, David A.; Duncan, Adam; Tizard, Robert; Ferrer-Paris, Jose R.; Worthington, Thomas A.; Armstrong, Kate; Hlaing, Nyan; Htut, Win Thuya; Oo, Kyaw Zay; Grantham, Hedley (2020). "Myanmar's terrestrial ecosystems: Status, threats and conservation opportunities". Biological Conservation. 252. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108834.
  18. ^ Murray, N.J.; Phinn, S.R.; DeWitt, M.; Ferrari, R.; Johnston, R.; Lyons, M.B.; Clinton, N.; Thau, D.; Fuller, R.A. (2019). "The global distribution and trajectory of tidal flats". Nature. 565: 222–225. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0805-8.