This very well-paced 11-day tour is designed for active travellers and offers an ideal introduction to Myanmar for first-time visitors. It takes in all the major destinations, starting in the former capital city of Yangon and travelling upstream along the Irawaddy river to Mandalay and Inle Lake, while stopping in the middle of the route to visit Bagan with its thousands of temples. It also includes many local cultural touches, bringing daily life up-close through home visits, home-hosted meals and many other opportunities for interaction with Burmese people.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit the famous golden stupa of Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • Ride a hot-air balloon and watch the magnificent sunrise over the Bagan archaeological site with its thousands of temples.
  • Visit a school and interact with teachers and students to understand about the education system in Myanmar.
  • Discover “a day in the local life” through visit to a village school and enjoy lunch at the home of a Danu ethnic minority family.
  • Enjoy the hospitality and friendliness of an untouched culture through visits to off-the-beaten-path villages and interaction with local people.
  • Admire the sunset and daily life activities on the Irrawaddy River and Inle Lake.

Day 1: Arrive Yangon (L,D)

On arrival in Yangon you will be welcomed by our local guide at the airport and transferred to Yangon (Rangoon), formerly the capital of Myanmar and still its largest city. After checking into your hotel and receiving a briefing about your itinerary, you will begin exploring the city in the afternoon. The city tour will introduce the main highlights of Yangon, including the revered Chauk Htat Gyi reclining Buddha and the Shwedagon Pagoda, which dates back over 2,600 years and is considered the holiest Buddhist site in Burma. Its huge golden stupa is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the upper section is encrusted with 4,351 diamonds. Later we will stop at a local open air tea shop to try the refreshing local drink as well as observing the method of making it. 

Overnight in Yangon

Day 2: Yangon – Bagan (B,L)

We’ll rise early this morning and take a short flight to Bagan, the “City of Four Million Pagodas.” Originally founded in 849 by the Burmans as the capital of their empire, this ancient city is one of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world – 5,000 temples, stupas (Buddhist dome-shaped monuments believed to contain relics of the Buddha himself) and pagodas lie scattered across an area of 42 square kilometres (16.2 square miles) on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River, testifying to the power and status of Bagan in bygone times. The most significant pagoda here is the golden Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed in 1057 by King Anawrahta, considered the founder of the Burmese nation, as a place of prayer and meditation. Enjoy a horse carriage tour here and you may be rewarded with the sight of a magnificent sunset over the temples.

Overnight in Bagan.

Day 3: Bagan - Hot-Air Balloon Ride - Sunset cruise on Irrawaddy River (B,L,D)

A pre-dawn start today for a 45-minute ride in a hot-air balloon to watch the stunning sunrise over the temples of Bagan. Then we take a stroll through the lively Nyaung Oo Market for a great photo opportunity as local people buy and sell fresh produce and colourful clothing. Later we return to the hotel for breakfast and spend the rest of the morning at leisure. In the afternoon we visit Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple featuring exquisite jataka mural paintings, and the elegant Htilominlo temple. Then we continue to the rural village of Minnanthu, one of Bagan's less-visited areas. This is a remote and quite poor area, but people are very friendly. Your visit here will attract curious looks and shy smiles when you greet or wave to the locals. You can explore more temples here before taking a sunset boat cruise on the Irrawaddy River.

Overnight in Bagan.

Day 4: Bagan – Mandalay (B,L,D)

After a short flight to Mandalay, we embark on a tour taking in the main highlights of the city. We start with Mahamuni Paya, the most sacred Buddhist religious site of all upper Myanmar. Then we visit the Myawaddy Convent, where you can observe more than 200 novice nuns taking their lunch and participate in informative discussion with the abbess. In the afternoon, our tour starts with a visit to the traditional Burmese wooden monastery of Shwenandaw Kyaung, continuing to Kuthodaw Paya, often known as “the world’s biggest book pagoda,” where the entire Tripitaka (Holy Buddhist canons) was recorded on 729-marble slabs in 1859. At the end of the day we will ascend the 236-metre Mandalay Hill to enjoy a commanding view of the city before returning to the hotel.

Overnight in Mandalay

Day 5: Mandalay – Inwa (B,L)

Today we will travel to the ancient city of Inwa or Ava, located 22 kilometres (13 miles) southwest of Mandalay on an artificial island. Inwa literally means “city of gems,” and it served as the imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Highlights of our tour of the city include the 27-metre Nanmyin watchtower, also known as the “leaning tower of Ava;” the Maha Aungmye Bonzan, a brick-and-stucco monastery which tries to imitate the traditional wooden style; and the famous Bagaya Kyaung teakwood monastery with its 267 wooden pillars, the largest of which measures 18m in height and 2.7m in circumference. Later we return to the hotel where the evening is spent at leisure.

Overnight in Mandalay.

Day 6: Mandalay - Heho - Pa-O village - Walking tour of Kalaw (B,L,D)

Today we take an early flight to Heho and start our tour by visiting a Danaw ethnic minority village. Then we continue to the charming hill station of Kalaw, a popular destination with trekkers as well as a gateway to the Inle Lake. The walking tour in the afternoon includes: several Buddhist monuments; a thriving town market where traders from ethnic minority villages meet every five days; the old Railway Station used by the British; a Christ the King Catholic Church; and an optional climb uphill for a panoramic view of the town.

Overnight in Kalaw

Day 7: Kalaw - Danu village visit (B,L)

A diverse group of ethnic minorities lives in small villages nestled among the hills that surround Kalaw, including Palaung, Danu, Pa-O, Taung Yo and Danaw. Our tour starts at the Kalaw morning market, then we visit the Myin Ma Htie village of the Danu ethnic group. We meet with a Buddhist monk to learn about Buddhist life and philosophy, visit a school to learn more about education system, and tour a vegetable plantation that supplies the village with food. Then we visit a Danu home and sample the authentic taste of local food prepared by our host family. Finally we return to hotel in Kalaw where the rest of the day is spent at leisure

Overnight in Kalaw

Day 8: Kalaw - Inle Lake (B,L,D)

This morning we transfer to our hotel in an Intha village on the northwest shore of Inle Lake. Surrounded by scenic mountains, tranquil villages and Buddhist monasteries, Inle Lake is Burma’s second-largest lake, measuring about 116 square kilometres with an average depth of 3 metres. The population of the area consists predominantly of Intha, with a mix of other Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O, Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. Most are devout Buddhists and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers. After some leisure time at the hotel to enjoy its picturesque surroundings, we take a short canoe ride on the waters of Inle Lake to observe the daily life of fishermen and floating villages. You will also have an opportunity to view a spectacular sunset on the lake

Overnight at Inle Lake

Day 9: Inle Lake - visit to the “long neck” Paduang ethnic group (B,L,D)

After breakfast we depart by boat to visit some local workshops that produce Shan paper and traditional umbrellas. Here we'll meet with some women of the famous Padaung hill tribe, interacting with them and learning about their ancient tradition of wearing heavy brass ornaments around their neck and limbs. Then we will visit the lakeshore village of Inthein, where we will view the mysterious hilltop ruins of many hundreds of ancient pagodas cloaked in thick vegetation.

Overnight at Inle Lake

Day 10: Explore Inle Lake - Visit local craft workshops (B,L,D)

Today we will continue our exploration of Inle Lake by taking a boat ride to Nga Hpe Kyaung, home to a stunning wood temple and Buddhist monastery built on stilts. Then we’ll continue to Nampan, a village built on stilts over the water. Here we’ll learn about boat building and also visit a cheroot factory to learn how they make these popular local cigars, wrapped in tree leaves. We will also visit a blacksmith’s workshop and a lotus fabric weaving workshop, where women process fibres from the stems of the lotus plant. In the afternoon our tour continues to Tha Ley village, where we visit the 11th-century Phaung Daw Oo Paya, one of the most sacred sites in Burma. Four ancient Buddha images reside in a pavilion inside the pagoda – images that are so laden with gold that their features are unrecognisable!

Overnight at Inle Lake

Day 11: Inle Lake – Yangon (B,L)

This morning we transfer to Heho for our flight back to Yangon. If time permits, we will take a short train ride through Yangon's outskirts to witness the colorful scenes of daily life in the city suburbs, disembarking at Kyi Myin Daing to visit an authentic local market and interact with the friendly locals before returning to the city centre. Then you will transfer to the airport for your onward departure flight.