Mingalabar and welcome to Myanmar! The former capital Yangon, also known as Rangoon, remains Myanmar largest city and continues to be the country's most important commercial hub and gateway for most of its international visitors. Its colonial background and religious legacy make it one of the most mesmerizing and genuine places in all of Southeast Asia. Upon arrival at the airport you will be warmly welcomed and transferred to you hotel for check in (check in possible from 2 pm. Subject to availability).
No Myanmar expedition can be considered truly great if it’s lacking a visit to the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. The visual delights present there alone, are worth the trip. Witness the colors transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. You will start at the eastern staircase where you will find a row of shops at the base of the temple selling various religious items. Here you will find monks robes, alms bowls, offerings, incense and other unique Buddhist objects. As your browse the stalls your guide will explain the use and rituals of Myanmar’s Buddhist people. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese; most visitors report that the trip is extremely memorable and still etched into their minds.
OPTION: OIL LAMP CEREMONY AT SHWE DAGON PAGODA PLATFORM
Offering oil lamps upon Shwedagon’s platform is a sombre and distinguished event that is steeped in the Buddhist belief in earning merit through performing good deeds. A typical ceremony begins with the local monks chanting “sutras”, a blessing that bestows a lifetime of good health and happiness. Subsequent to the completion of the ceremony, you can join the locals at the Pavilion and refresh yourself with some Myanmar Tea and traditional snacks. We will have to attain special permission to arrange this unforgettable experience in Myanmar. Therefore, please book at least 4 weeks in advance.
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight in Yangon.
You’ll be taken downtown and start your tour on Mahanbandola Road where the Immanuel Baptist Church, originally built in 1830, is located. Continue east passing a couple of alleyways crammed with food stalls and markets. Turn right onto Pansodan Street with its many stalls selling second-hand and photocopied books. You’ll pass the High Court Building, the grand Inland Water Transport offices and even grander Myanma Port Authority building until you’ll reach Strand Road. Your next stop will be outside of the majestic Strand Hotel and walk along Strand Road until you’ll see the Customs House and the Law Court, an impressive-looking colonnaded building. Turn north onto boisterous Bank Street and up onto Sule Pagoda Road, where you can consult one of the many fortune tellers who hang out under the trees. Be sure to make a photo stop at Sule Pagoda, downtown’s symbol whose construction dates back to over 2,000 years ago and have a glimpse of Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden. After a complete rotation seeing the twice rebuilt City Hall continue west down Mahanbandoola Road through the chaotic Indian and Chinese quarters. Explore the gold shops of Shwe Bontha Street and have a look from outside at the Moseh Yeshua Synagogue on 26th street. You’ll reach Theingyi Zei market, where you can engage in a little pickled-snake hunting. Exit onto Anawratha Road until you reach into the Sri Kali temple, Yangon’s most colourful Hindu temples.
Visit Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, which is home to a 72 meter long reclining Buddha statue that features detailed carvings on his feet. Afterwards, you continue through town in order to make a quick stop by the Royal Lake located in Kandawgyi Park which is very popular with local residents, especially in the early morning and around sunset. Catch a view of Karaweik Hall, a reproduction of a royal barge and enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Shwedagon Pagoda.
OPTION: HIGH TEA AT THE STRAND HOTEL
Take a break from touring and indulge in High Tea at The Strand Hotel. Built in 1901, this British-era hotel became the centre of expat life during the 1900s and the High Tea has become a Yangon institution. Situated on the edge of the Yangon River, the classical hotel is a nice retreat from the heat and buzz of the city. Relax in the casual yet elegant café while enjoying a full service High Tea of either Burmese or Western treats.
After sunset head on to Chinatown for a change of scenery and check out the dragons and incense of the colorful Khen Hock Keong Chinese temple. Explore the vibrant street stalls where vendors sell all kinds of fruit, vegetable and other goods or simply just walk around and soak in the atmosphere of this little China in Yangon.
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight in Yangon.
Yangon - Bagan
After breakfast at hotel, transfer to Yangon domestic airport with guide for flight to Bagan. Welcome to Bagan, known to be one of the greatest architectural sites in Asia. When Bagan was the centre of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries the monarchs built multitudes of massive stupas and pagodas, scores of which are still present on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. The majesty of Bagan with more than 2000 red brick temples on a plain of the size of Manhattan Island is one of the highlights of a Myanmar holiday that will soothe the eye of every traveller.
Discover the best of Bagan today! Not simply a chance to see the splendid Bagan temples, this excursion also introduces you to the Burmese culture and allows you to see traditional craftsmen at work.
Your first port of call is an elevated location amid the temple plains to see the fields and pagodas of Bagan. From here you will have a look around the Ananda Temple – one of the most exalted of Bagan’s temples. We will ensure that our tour reaches this point before the majority of tourist arrive, enabling you to enjoy the splendor of the temple in relative tranquility. Continue to various other temples dotted around the temple plains to experience a variety of architectural styles in the area as well as the artistic wonder of the 9-14th centuries. Traveling amid the temples you will get a taste of rural Bagan life in this ‘living museum’ setting where farmers and families work amongst the monuments.
You will be driven late in the afternoon to the jetty where a private wooden river boat awaits you. Sitting either under the shade or on the open-deck you’ll be treated to fabulous views as you cruise down the Irrawaddy River. You’ll cruise past several small villages, fishermen, local boats and of course many of the ubiquitous Myanmar Buddhist temples. The views of Bagan from the river are particularly spectacular and offer a different perspective from the land based tours. As you finish your delicious and refreshing cocktail and the sun begins to sink slowly from view, you will prepare to disembark before being driven back, greatly relaxed, to your hotel for the evening. The perfect end to a busy day of sightseeing in Bagan!
OPTION: IRRAWADDY SANDBANK DINNER
Prepare yourselves for an incredible dinner experience that you will never forget. Board a local boat that will take you to a mid-river sandbank where a private gala-style dinner will be served under a starry open sky, surrounded by Bagan's resplendent temples mirrored on the leisurely river. Look forward to exquisite local dishes in a stunning surrounding. A Myanmar harp player will enhance the romantic atmosphere
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight in Bagan.
OPTION: HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER BAGAN
The morning will start off with an exciting hot-air balloon ride above the Bagan countryside. You will observe one-of-a-kind views when the sun begins to rise over the Irrawaddy River and various stupas in the region. You’re simply not going to find many other opportunities like this on Earth. (Only available from October/November through March)
After breakfast at your hotel, your guide and driver will pick you up to start your Bagan excursion. It’s off to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market, where the locals come to trade fresh produce and other goods daily. From here you will start with a visit of the renowned Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as a religious memorial.
Learn more about the flavours and traditions of Burmese cuisine with a lunch time cooking class. Join the friendly, English-speaking host and take a short walk through the neighbourhood to her family house. Assist in preparing a range of dishes using local cooking methods and freshly grown produce. Enjoy lunch with the host, learning more about her life and the small library that the family runs for the community.
In the afternoon, you will journey on by horse cart for an excursion that passes Thatbyinnyu, the tallest temple in Bagan, gigantic Dhammayangyi Temple noted for its remarkable brickwork, and of course, Sulamani Temple. Take pleasure in an extraordinary sunset from the upper terrace of one of the surrounding temples.
Lunch at cooking class. Dinner on own account. Overnight in Bagan.
Bagan - Mandalay
A short flight takes you to Mandalay! Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar and one of the ancient royal capitals is often perceived and described in literature as Asia at its most traditional, timeless and alluring but those who go meet a booming and vibrant city located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. However, despite the energy and thriving business it's where the cultural heart of Myanmar lies and tradition of music, dance and drama are still alive. Upon arrival in you’ll be transferred (1 hour) to Mandalay city.
Your orientation tour of Mandalay will kick off with a walk up to Mandalay Hill, rising 240 meter above the city. At the top the reward is a full panoramic view, the hazy blue outline of the Shan Hills to the east, the Mandalay Palace (and the city sprawl) to the south and the Irrwaddy River to the west. Directly south of Mandalay Hill stands the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, known as the pagoda of the Great Marble Image. Admire the huge Buddha, carved from a single block of marble. It’s said that the colossal marble block took 10,000 men almost two weeks to transport it from the riverside to its current location. Proceed to Kuthodaw Pagoda, frequently dubbed as “The World’s Biggest Book” for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. Then it’s off to the Shwenandaw Monastery, the Golden Monastery which is the only enduring structure from the Royal Palace of the 19th century. This impressive structure is celebrated for its remarkable woodcarvings.
Your Mandalay guided tour continues with a visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves that are every day applied to the statue by male devotees.
There are also many craft workshops in Mandalay and, should you wish, we can stop for a visit to one making gold leaf, tapestries, wood carvings or marionettes if you are interested and if time allows.
Next drive to Amarapura, Myanmar’s penultimate royal capital. Amarapura means “City of Immortality”, though its period as capital was relatively brief. You will start Mahagandayon monastery, home to more than a thousand young monks and renowned as a centre for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Continue on foot or by bus a short distance to the legendary U Bein Bridge, which was built in 1782 when Amarapura was the Royal center of attention. It spans 1.2 km across the shallow Taungthaman Lake and is said to be the longest teakwood bridge worldwide. Enjoy this very special atmosphere as the late afternoon sun casts long shadows and illuminates the local people heading home. As a stunning day comes to an end head back to Mandalay for the night.
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight in Mandalay.
Mandalay (Sagaing – Ava)
Cross the Irrawaddy River in to Sagaing. With 600 ivory colored pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is generally seen as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and claims residence to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. You’ll visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae and Shin Pin Nan Gyaing Shwe Taung Oo Maw. Continue to Sagaing’s local market, a less visited tourist site. We’ll head over to a small pottery village which is recognized for manufacturing ubiquitous water pots to observe the tradesmen here applying their traditional methods for producing their goods.
You will go to one of the many convents in Sagaing where you can make a donation of raw fruits and vegetables. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal served by the nuns. This is an amazing experience that allows you at the same time to help the nuns to ensure a better future. Please keep in mind that the convents rely on donations to provide for their needs. Many religious are orphans or from poor families and sent by their parents to receive an education.
Return back to the eastern side of the river in the afternoon, making a stop in Kan Daw village en route. Here you will see a small village where all of the families produce longyis and other textiles. Although no longer made 100% by hand, the production is still fascinating and is a unique photo opportunity in contrast with the delicate weaving you will see later in Inle Lake. Tea and a light snack will be served in the family home before returning to your vehicle (Note: this village may not be accessible from May – September due to the monsoon rains)
Next it’s on to Ava which was the standing capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. Cross the small river by ferry and travel in a traditional horse and carriage to the wooden Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings. Be sure to check out the Nanmyint Watch Tower - also called “the leaning tower of Ava“ - which is what’s left from the remnants of the ancient palace and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery.
Return back across the river to the city centre in the early evening and transfer by road to your hotel.
Nunnery lunch at Sagaing Hill. Dinner on own account. Overnight in Mandalay.
Mandalay – Heho – Inle Lake
After breakfast at hotel, transfer to Mandalay airport with guide for flight to Heho. From Heho you will experience a lovely scenic one-hour drive (32km – 1 hour) which leads to Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, you will have an opportunity to visit rural workshops that specialize in traditional Shan paper and unique handcrafted umbrellas. Also, be sure to stop in at the teak monastery of Shweyanpyay to witness the intricate wood carving artwork and craftsmanship of the monks there.
Upon reaching the edge of the lake, you will board a private motorboat and begin heading out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular and breathtaking sights. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic hills provide the perfect backdrop. Along the way you will pass several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’, which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. You will also visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses loads of early Shan Buddha Images. In the past this temple was known for its ‘jumping cats’ but these days there are only a few felines roaming around and none are jumping any more. Yet the Buddha images are still worth the visit. Proceed to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. There are also many traditional crafts originating on Inle Lake and, should you wish, we can stop for a visit to one making incredible woven items from lotus silk, boat builders (depending on the time of year), a cigar making workshop, blacksmiths or even silver smiths. The tour will come to a close with a return trip by boat back to your hotel.
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight at Inle Lake.
Inle Lake (Excursion to Indein)
This morning begins with an excursion to experience the traditional agricultural methods of the Inle Lake area. Take a scenic walk through Thalae U, a typical lakeshore village, to enjoy the scenery and observe the traditional ways of life here. Continue to Alae Myaung village, where the residents rely upon the fertile soil to grow an abundance of vegetables which are then later sold and distributed throughout the Shan State. With the lake to the east and the hills to the west, the setting is one of the most picturesque in all of Myanmar. Join farmers in the fields to pick vegetables and learn more about the day-to-day activities of these communities. Afterwards return to the lake shore where your boat is waiting to continue the day’s sightseeing.
OPTION: LUNCH ON RICE BOAT
Hungry? You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience culinary delights on Inle Lake: a typical Shan lunch on a rice boat in the midst of the beautiful Inle Lake scenery. You will truly enjoy the fantastic food that is served on a rice boat which was renovated into a fully equipped restaurant. Relax and enjoy a fantastic meal while watching the life at the lake from your private swimming boat.
A 1-hour boat ride down a small canal will take you to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, positioned on the western shores of Inle Lake. Take a leisurely stroll around the village before ascending to the top of a hill. Once you’ve arrived at the summit, you will be greeted buy an iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. Here, from the peak, you will also be rewarded with mesmerizing views of the placid surroundings. The Indein Pagoda complex is undoubtedly one of the most amazing sites around the shore of the lake and it consists of hundreds of small stupas which are overrun by moss and greenery. On your boat ride back, should time allow, you'll stop at the Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake's indigenous people and enjoy a delicious coffee and cake (snack break not included).
Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight at Inle Lake.
Inle Lake – Heho - Yangon Departure
After breakfast at hotel, transfer to Heho airport with guide for flight to Yangon. Upon arrival at Yangon domestic airport, your car and guide will waiting you for trasfer to international airport.
Note: Car and guide will be at disposal until departure flight time.