This 5-day Myanmar introduction showcases the best of the two cities plus ensures you forge a genuine connection with the people and culture. Whether as an introduction to Myanmar or as an add-on to a Yangon stopover, this trip is sure to satisfy the history-loving traveler.

Overview

Mandalay and Bagan are two of Myanmar's most mesmerizing heritage destinations. Located just a 4-hour drive apart, these two places combine into the perfect short holiday. Ancient history? Check. Rich cultural traditions? Check. Beautiful heritage monuments? Check!

Brief itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Mandalay arrival and Local night out Mandalay
Day 2 Mandalay countryside, nunnery lunch and city tour Mandalay
Day 3 Ancient Inwa by bike, U Bein Bridge and drive to Bagan Bagan
Day 4 Bagan's Temples, Villages, and Waterways Bagan
Day 5 Bagan sunrise and departure from Mandalay  

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Mandalay arrival and Local night out

Welcome to Myanmar! Upon landing at the Mandalay International Airport, your English-speaking guide and driver will be waiting to greet you and transfer you to your hotel.

Then it’s time to for a local night out. Travel by open-air truck around the Palace moat, listening to Burmese music and stopping for photos of the illuminated palace and Mandalay Hill. Then, stop in at a Buddhist pagoda, joining worshipers who come to make offerings in return for good luck. Learn about Myanmar’s spiritual beliefs while enjoying this serene setting.

Next, continue to a popular restaurant for dinner, enjoying delicious food while rubbing elbows with the locals.

Day 2: Mandalay countryside, nunnery lunch and city tour

We hop on bikes or on the backs of motorbikes this morning and head to the countryside where rice paddies and villages await. We’ll stop often to chat with the locals and take photos.

Around 10:30 AM, we will reach a Buddhist nunnery where we can learn about the activities of the nuns and the key role the play in Burmese society. Then sit down for a simple but delicious lunch prepared by the nuns, a meal that contributes to their social welfare programs.

Return to the hotel for a chance to freshen up then resume your Mandalay exploration. We head to a quiet corner of the city and explore a typical residential neighborhood on foot or by trishaw, a pedal-powered rickshaw.

After observing the scenes of life in the city, we continue to Shwenandaw Kyaung and Kuthodaw Pagoda. The former is a gorgeous teak building and the last remaining structure of the Royal Palace. The latter is dubbed ‘The World’s Biggest Book’, thanks to its 729 inscribed marble tablets. The remainder of the evening is free at leisure.

Day 3: Ancient Inwa by bike, U Bein Bridge and drive to Bagan

We pack our bags and check out this morning, driving out of the city to the quiet back lanes of Inwa where our bikes await. Also known as Ava, this town served as the royal capital numerous times between the 14th and 19th centuries. We pedal past crumbling ruins and through charming neighborhoods untouched by time.

From the dirt trails and small roads, we pop out by the Dohkthawaddy River and take a ferry boat to the opposite side where our car awaits. We drive to the town of Amarapura, stopping here to enjoy a snack while admiring U Bein Bridge. Spanning 1.2 kilometers, this is the world’s longest teak bridge and is steeped in history.

Then we drive to Bagan, passing through small villages and farmland. We will reach Bagan in the early evening, perhaps in time to see the sunset.

Day 4: Bagan's Temples, Villages, and Waterways

Irrawaddy River boat
Enjoy a sunset trip by boat along the Irrawaddy River

Pagodas, pagodas, and more pagodas! Spend a full day visiting the temples of Bagan by bike, electric bike or car. Visit the main highlights as well as some hidden gems with a local expert.

There are also vibrant fresh markets, lacquer ware workshops and small villages to explore. The exact itinerary will depend on your personal interests and your guide will be sure to get you away from the tourist trail.

Around 4 PM, you'll be transferred to the Irrawaddy River for a private boat trip, enjoying local snacks and drinks on board as the sun sets.

Day 5: Bagan sunrise and departure from Mandalay

Start the morning with an unforgettable sunrise from one of Bagan's elevated pagoda platforms. This serene experience is the perfect lasting memory of your holiday in Myanmar. Depending on the time of year, there may be an option to catch a hot air balloon flight over the temples at sunrise.

Return to the hotel for breakfast, then transfer by private car from Bagan to the Mandalay airport in time for your international departure.

Map

Map of Highlights of Mandalay and Bagan - 5 Days
Map of Highlights of Mandalay and Bagan - 5 Days

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Highlights of mandalay and bagan - 5 days, Myanmar - Dec 30 - Jan 6, 2018

Traveler: Terry B. - Local specialist: Anne Cruickshanks

We loved the trip to a Myanmar, especially our guides in Bagan (Ankar) and Ny Ny in Inle Lake. We loved doing the little canoe trip with Ny Ny in his village and tea with his family. Of course, Bagan was amazing.

Ankur

Highlights of mandalay and bagan - 5 days, Myanmar - Dec 7 - Dec 11, 2017

Traveler: Ankur G. - Local specialist: Anne Cruickshanks

What an amazing experience! My local specialist Anne was incredibly considerate, intuitive and very detail oriented. She helped me plan the trip to Mandalay and Bagan down to the last detail including guided and unguided portions per my request (for the latter she offered several suggestions on things I could do based on my interest level). She tailored my days to balance my interest in seeing a lot with my desire to do it all within a certain budget. She was very patient in back and forth... read more

What an amazing experience! My local specialist Anne was incredibly considerate, intuitive and very detail oriented. She helped me plan the trip to Mandalay and Bagan down to the last detail including guided and unguided portions per my request (for the latter she offered several suggestions on things I could do based on my interest level). She tailored my days to balance my interest in seeing a lot with my desire to do it all within a certain budget. She was very patient in back and forth emails, and even intuited from an email that I would not be as comfortable doing an all day motorcycle trip, and suggested a little more expense may be worth the mix of using a motorcycle and car - and she was absolutely right! She stayed on top of everything throughout the trip - I could always reach her, she always confirmed guides/itinerary beforehand, answered all my questions and even took the time to invite me out for drinks!

The guides she picked for both cities were also great! In Mandalay, Wine Wine was very attentive to my safety and comfort, while making sure I didn't miss any key attractions at each stop. We got an earlier than normal start and had some extra time, and he was great at improvising the agenda and coming up with new sights he thought I would enjoy. After I arrived in Bagan, I had the first day to explore on my own and that was lovely - I basically followed a suggested self-guided itinerary Anne had provided - including restaurant suggestions based on my dietary preferences and sunset cruise locations etc. The second day I had the pleasure of touring around with Arkar - he was AMAZING! Very knowledgeable and tailored the tour to my interests - he took me to is local breakfast place after I opted out of the hotel breakfast in lieu of spending more time e-biking around! We also skipped a couple markets as I had seen a few in Mandalay and was more interested and excited by the sight of pagodas! I took several side roads on a whim and he gladly followed me and provided history and insights - of course, he took me to some amazing hidden gems I could have never found on my own or with a big tour group.

Overall, I fell in love with Bagan. You think after two days I'd be tired of pagodas, but I was not. I was giddy at every side road that led into them - just to see myself in a sea of pagodas with different architecture and designs. The local people are incredibly nice and thoughtful - and the food is great! On the day I was self-touring in Bagan, e.g., there were several times I had stopped next to a pagoda and was looking at google maps on my phone, and each time a local stopped to ask me if I needed help!

Thank you for such a memorable trip!