The city is a popular tourist day trip from Mandalay.
The city of Ava was established in 1364 at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and the Myitnge rivers, a site of considerable economic importance because it was the gateway to the vast irrigated rice fields of Kyaukse that lay south of the Irrawaddy and were drained by the Myitnge. Kyaukse had been first settled and developed by the Burmese prior to the Pagan Period. Since it was the economic base for upper Burma as well as the Burmese homeland, control of this area was of particular concern to the Burmese kings. Consequently, many of the post Pagan capitols in Upper Burma were located in this area on either side of the major westward bend of the Irrawaddy. Importantly, the Sagaign hills, just northwest of the bend, became an important location for monastic communities, a great center of Buddhist learning that also offered the possibility of sanctuary to townsmen in case of attack.
Ava did not officially become a capitol of the Burmese kingdom until1636 and it was not until the period between 1597 and 1626 that it controlled the major part of Burma. None the less, the capitol was repeatedly established there and until modern times Burma was often referred to by the outside world as Ava. Its official name was Ratanapura, the City of Gems, and several foreign visitors have written of its wealth and splendor. Ava was almost completely destroyed by earthquake in 1838, and was finally abandoned in 1841 when King Shwebo Min moved the capitol a short distance east to Amarapura.