A sensational little-known beach resort

If Ngapali was anywhere else in the world, this curving stretch of sugar white sand, fringed by swaying palms and lapped by azure waters would likely be overrun with crowds. However, this is Myanmar and although the country has opened up to visitors in recent years, this serene slice of the tropics is still very much under-the-radar.

Traditional fishing villages bookend the hotels, beachfront restaurants serve up the freshest seafood and there are kayaks for hire to paddle out in the bay – all of which adds up to an idyllic, low-key getaway.

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The best laid-back activities in and around Ngapali

Even though there’s little to suggest Italy about it, Ngapali (pronounced Napaly) is said to be named after Naples. Instead of a city, what you get here is roughly 5-miles of picture-postcard beach linking up several hyper-relaxed fishing villages on the Bay of Bengal coast.

For most visitors, drifting from sun lounger to the sea is about as active as it gets. When you do want to stretch your legs, stroll to the village of Gyeiktaw at the southern end of the central stretch of beach and watch locals laying out small just-caught fish to dry on bamboo and tarpaulin mats. A further 15-minute walk south along the beach and you will arrive at Lontha village; climb the hill to the landmark white stupa for sweeping views.

As you might expect, Ngapali is great for watersports such as snorkeling, diving and kayaking. Ask one of the fishermen for a boat ride to Pearl Island (you will need to negotiate the price), where you can snorkel straight off the beach or book a day trip with the Ngapali Water Sports Center to go snorkeling and kayaking off nearby Maung Shwe Lay beach.

Alternatively, swap the sea for the coast’s jungle interior and go trekking and mountain biking through rice fields and mangroves with Ngapali Concierge. Their rafting tour is particularly brilliant, especially for beginners: the Thandwe River is so gentle that this is an easy float rather than a furious paddle through rapids. As well as lush countryside, you will likely pass villagers transporting their goods by boat (everything from vegetables to timber).

A fun option for half-day trip is a tuk-tuk ride to the low-key town of Thandwe, around four miles inland north of Ngapali. The main attraction is the lively central market which spills out from the former colonial-era jail. Green chilies are piled high in round bamboo baskets, sacks of rice are stacked up in the corner and fish are weighed on old-fashioned scales.

Locals also believe that the three golden stupas crowning the hilltops around the town enshrine bodily remnants of the Buddha: in Nandaw Paya, the tallest of the temple trio, is one of Buddha’s ribs; in Sandaw Paya, a hair from his head; and in Andaw Paya, a tooth. Back on the beach, The Green Umbrella is the best of a lo-fi bunch of restaurants and bars, where grilled platters of barracuda and squid, and chicken curries are served up under raffia umbrellas on the sand.

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