- Mingle with local people at vibrant markets
- Enjoy sunrise at the mystical Golden Rock
- Explore the giant Sadan cave and admire the breathtaking landscape
- Discover the hidden treasures of the shrines of Kawhnat Village
- Cruise through lush vegetation and quaint villages at Bilu Island
Although Myanmar has seen visitor numbers swell in the last few years, there are still many quiet, local experiences to be had in the country. In five days you can visit the best of rural Myanmar, including remote caves, village craft workshops, and numerous colorful markets. Also get a chance to see the great lengths that the Myanmar people have gone to over the centuries to honor their religion: where else in the world will you find temples perched precariously on gold-encrusted boulders or limestone outcrops?
Day 1: Yangon – Bago – Golden Rock (Kyaikhtyio) (190 km/ 118 miles; 5 hours)
After an early breakfast in Yangon, drive to Bago, to the north.
First, visit the Thamanay Buddhist academy. The world renowned academy teaches Buddhist practices and philosophy to young monks from the surrounding countryside. Continue to the thousand-year-old Shwemawdaw Pagoda, with a spire even taller than that of the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Then, continue directly to Kinpun camp, located near the Golden Rock, today's ultimate destination.
The Golden Rock (or Kyaiktiyo Pagoda) is entirely covered in gold leaf. Its precarious location on a cliff-edge is a spectacular sight, but it is also a religiously significant spot, with a pagoda perched atop the rock. To reach the pagoda you must travel in a local open-air truck along a winding road to the top of a hill. The views from here are breathtaking, and pilgrims chant, light candles and meditate throughout the night.
Day 2: Golden Rock – Hpa An (115 km/ 71 miles; 2.5 hours)
Visit the Golden Rock again at sunrise to enjoy the serene, magical atmosphere. Then, after breakfast, travel to Hpa An via Kyauk Kalat, a pagoda that has to be seen to be believed. On an island in a lake is a limestone pinnacle that's topped with a small pagoda. Continue to Lakkhana village, situated in beautiful scenery, and observe the rural lifestyle of the residents.
Next, visit the cave at Kaw Ka Thaung, which is lined by more than 100 Buddhas. Across from the cave is a fantastic swimming hole, so bring your bathing suit if you're interested in taking a dip. Continue to the giant Sadan cave, where you can explore the surroundings via local boat.
After arrival in Hpa An, stop by the riverfront at Shwe Yin Hmyaw Pagoda and enjoy the sunset alongside the locals.
Day 3: Hpa An – Mawlamyaing (60 km/ 37 miles; 1.5 hours)
This morning, visit the bustling morning market, a colorful affair where you can enjoy a bit of shopping or just watch how locals start their day. Next, continue to Mawlamyine via Kawhnat village. This beautiful little place is home to some unique temples, which are often considered to be one of the most interesting sights in the country.
Continue to Mawlamyine. Although it's Myanmar’s third largest city it is a very sleepy place. It served as the capital of British Burma from 1827 to 1852. Take an orientation tour of the city and soak in the chilled-out pace. Visit the Queen Sein Don monastery to discover the exquisite wood carvings decorating the walls, and other old artifacts. If you're feeling energetic, take a brisk walk to the hilltop viewpoint for a magnificent sunset over the islands of the Salween River. Afterward, visit a local night market for a casual stroll.
Day 4: Trip to Bilu Island
After breakfast, take a typical local ferry to Bilu Island. This fascinating self-contained Mon island comprises 64 villages linked together by rutted dirt tracks. The ethnic group mostly lives in areas near the Myanmar-Thailand border, and have greatly influenced the culture of Myanmar.
On Bilu Island, take a tour in the quintessential Southeast Asian vehicle, the tuk-tuk. This is the ideal time to purchase some local handmade goods: some of the villages on the island produce goods out of coconut, including mats, cutlery, and teapots. Also, check out the small woodworking shops that make walking sticks and wooden pens. The ride continues through peaceful rice fields and villages. In the late afternoon, a local boat will take you back to Mawlamyaing.
Day 5: Mawlamyine – Yangon (300 km/ 186 miles; 6 ½ hours)
After breakfast, a scenic drive through rubber plantations and local villages will take you back to Yangon. In the late afternoon, you may want to visit one of Yangon's highlights, such as the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Ngahtatgyi Paya Buddha, or do some last-minute craft and textile shopping in the city's markets.