- Venture to Yangon’s outskirts by pedal-powered trishaw
- Bike through the temple-filled plains of Bagan
- Encounter colorful hill tribes with a trek through Pindaya’s highlands
- Take a scenic, slow-moving train through northern Myanmar’s hills
- Listen to the rhythmic evening chants of monks at a monastery
- Explore the many wonders of Inle Lake by boat and kayak
Day 1: Arrival in Yangon
Your holiday begins in Yangon, the country’s former capital and biggest city. There are no planned activities today, giving you time to recover from your international flight.
Day 2: Yangon
Today, set off on an in-depth tour of Yangon, getting to see local ways of life and learn about Myanmar’s rich culture. Start with a trip to the city’s central train station and board a slow-moving train. Travel to the suburbs, rubbing shoulders with the local commuters and enjoying the scenes of life passing by. Disembark and take a walking tour through a typical neighborhood, seeing vibrant markets, busy noodle shops and kids on their way to school.
In the afternoon, the Yangon exploration continues with a visit to Dhala, a charming village. Take a local ferry boat across the Yangon River to reach Dhala. Although geographically not far from the city, Dhala feels like a completely different world: tranquil, undeveloped and exuding an old-world charm. Climb aboard a pedal-powered trishaw to explore the quiet streets and local neighborhoods. Sip tea at a local shop then board the ferry to head back to Yangon.
Day 3: Yangon to Mandalay; Evening chants of the monks
Take an early morning flight to Mandalay for an exciting excursion around this historic city. Start with a visit to the top of Mandalay Hill for an orientation to the city’s history and layout. Then explore the many sites located at the base of the hill, including the giant marble Buddha image at Kyauktawgyi and the ‘World’s Biggest Book’. The final stop of the morning is Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building of the Royal Palace.
After lunch, continue exploring the sprawling city with a trip to Mahamuni Pagoda. This magnificent Buddha image is one of the country’s most revered statues and is covered in layer upon layer of gold leaf. The day comes to a close with a memorable trip to Yankin Hill. Located east of the city, the area around the hill is filled with Buddhist monasteries. Climb to the top of the hill for views over the rice paddies and mountains then descend to a monastery in time to hear the evening chants of the monks. Enjoy this serene ceremony and gain a deeper understanding of Buddhist culture.
Day 4: Sagaing by car and Ava to Amarapura by bike
Start the day with a trip to Sagaing. With more than 100 meditation shrines and 600 other religious buildings, it is no wonder why Sagaing is considered the spiritual center of Myanmar. Explore some of the most important sites and, if you are lucky, meet monks or nuns and learn more about their life.
This afternoon it’s time for a bit of adventure. Take a biking trip through farms and villages where, instead of fighting traffic, you will be encountering friendly smiling locals and farm animals wandering around the roadside. Pedal to the historic sites of Ava, also known as Inwa, which served as Myanmar’s capital several times between the 14th and 19th centuries. Continue by bike to Amarapura, arriving at U Bein bridge just in time for sunset. Enjoy a drink while watching the light fade over the world’s longest teak bridge.
Day 5: Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin (80 km / 2 ½ hour drive)
Venture into the hills today! Travel by car from Mandalay to the town of Pyin Oo Lwin. Located in the Shan Mountains, Pyin Oo Lwin has a cooler climate than Mandalay and was thus used by the British as a hill station. Spend the afternoon exploring this charming town by horse and cart. Admire colonial-style buildings, colorful fresh market and quiet side streets. Then take a walk around the sprawling botanical gardens, an immaculate collection of plants and flowers from around the world.
Day 6: Pyin Oo Lwin to Gokteik Viaduc to Mandalay
Today you will take an adventure of a different kind. Around 8 am board a train for a scenic 4-hour journey on the Mandalay-Lashio railway. As the train slowly makes its way north, you will enjoy scenes of local villages, endless farms and the occasional waving child. The highlight of the journey is crossing the Gokteik Bridge, an impressive bridge hovering 300 meters above the valley floor. Enjoy spectacular views as the train slowly makes its way across the gorge. Disembark in a small town where your car will be waiting for the drive back to Mandalay.
Day 7: Mandalay to Bagan by public boat (8-10 hours)
Grab a good book and charge your camera batteries! Today you will take a scenic cruise from Mandalay to Bagan. The full day boat trip passes some of the Irrawaddy River’s most scenic stretches. Cast off from Mandalay and watch the temple-dotted hills of Sagaing fade from view. Small riverside villages pop up on the shoreline as the ship cruises slowly down the river. See fishermen casting their nets, kids splashing in the water and other glimpses of local life.
Late this afternoon the temple spires of Bagan will begin to appear in the distance. Approaching Bagan from the river is a truly remarkable site: watch as more and more pagodas come into view as you approach the shores, getting a first look at the city’s 2000 religious buildings.
Day 8: Bagan by bike
Spend a full day exploring the wonders of Bagan by bike. Take advantage of the network of small trails that criss-cross the pagoda plains to get an up-close look at the historic monuments. See highlights such as Ananda, Shwezigon, and Dhammayangyi as well as lesser-known temples. There is also a chance to visit the vibrant market and cruise through charming villages and farms.
Day 9: Bagan
With more than 2000 monuments to explore, you need another day in Bagan! Continue touring around the temple plains, seeing the diversity of the architecture and getting up close to remarkable mural paintings and carvings. This afternoon travel by horse cart for a different perspective. Travel along trails used by farmers to pass by the tallest temples of Bagan and to enjoy the tranquility of the area. As the day comes to a close, climb to the upper terrace of a pagoda to watch the sunset.
Day 10: Bagan to Heho to Pindaya
Leave the flat, arid plains of Bagan this morning and travel to the hills of the Shan State. A short flight will take you to Heho where a car will be waiting for a scenic drive to Pindaya. Pass through fertile fields growing cabbages, pumpkins and other seasonal crops and keep an eye out for members of the Pa-Oh and Danu ethnic groups in their distinctive traditional dress.
Upon reaching Pindaya, head straight to the market. Mingle with the locals as you browse the stalls selling everything from fresh produce to dried fish. Then, after checking in, venture through town to a quiet neighborhood. Meet with a local family at their tea plantation. Take a short walk through the plantation, learning how to identify fresh leaves ready for harvest. Walk to the family’s house where they will serve tea from their plantation and local treats.
You will also have the opportunity to learn how to prepare tea leaf salad, one of Myanmar’s most beloved snacks. The final visit of the afternoon is the renowned Pindaya caves. Arrive in the late afternoon, long after the day tour buses have left, and wander through the massive cave to admire then thousands of Buddha images found inside.
Day 11: Pindaya
Fuel up with a good breakfast before setting off on a full day trek into the hills. Leave the town on foot and walk up dirt tracks that lead to charming villages. The gentle slope of the trail takes you higher and higher into the hills and offers fabulous views of the town and its surrounding fields. Stop on the way at another cave filled with Buddha images and in small villages inhabited by the Danu ethnic group.
Around midday arrive at Si Kya Inn. Enjoy a simple but filling lunch in this village, getting a chance to see the ways of life and traditions of the Danu people. After a short rest, resume the trek, following a different route down to Pindaya. The mostly downhill trek offers more fantastic views of the Shan Hills. Return to your hotel late this afternoon for a well-deserved shower and rest.
Day 12: Pindaya to Inle Lake
Continue your excursion through the Shan State with a beautiful drive to Nyaung Shwe. Upon arrival, take a short tour of this charming town before hopping into a long-tail boat for a trip on Inle Lake. Spend the day cruising around the calm waters, soaking up the splendid mountainous landscape that surrounds the lake. Explore villages built on stilts and floating gardens, getting a chance to learn about the life and culture of the lake’s residents. Stop in at workshops making incredible hand-woven silks and fabrics created from the fibers of the lotus flower. You will also visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda where you can join local devotees as they come to pay homage to this sacred site. If time allows, there will also be a stop at Nge Phe Chaung, a wooden monastery with a remarkable collection of Buddha images.
Day 13: Roundtrip from Inle Lake to Indein
Return to the lake today for an exciting kayaking adventure. Paddle through the quieter side canals of the lake, getting an up-close look at the iconic stilted villages and floating gardens. Pass by canoes carrying children on their way to school and, if you are lucky, see the famous fishermen who steer their boats with their legs. Kayaking is the perfect way to experience the wonders of the lake.
Following the morning’s kayaking adventure, switch to a motorboat for a trip to Indein. Travel down a jungle-covered canal to reach the jetty. Take a leisurely walk around Indein, a village inhabited by the Pa-Oh ethnic group. Climb to the top of a hill where hundreds of small stupas cover the land. Enjoy mesmerizing views of Inle Lake from this elevated viewpoint and relax in the tranquil surroundings, a perfect way to end your exploration of Inle Lake.
Day 14: Inle Lake to Yangon
Return to Yangon this morning, taking off from the Heho airport and flying over the Shan State and back to the south. On arrival, resume your Yangon sightseeing starting with a visit to Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda. Admire the 70-metre reclining Buddha image at this pagoda then continue to tranquil Kandawgyi Park, one of the city’s largest parks.
Then, as the day comes to a close, head to a small market to see dozens of stalls selling monks robes and offerings. Then walk up a long staircase to the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda. You will be awestruck by the sheer size and beauty of this 99-meter high, golden stupa. Stroll around the pagoda’s platform, witnessing devotees at prayer and absorbing the serene atmosphere.
After sunset at Shwedagon, head to Chinatown for a change of scenery. Check out the dragons and incense of the colorful Khen Hock Keong Chinese temple, then browse the busy street stalls selling fruits, barbeque, and local snacks. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this busy neighborhood, getting one last look at the wonderful diversity of Yangon.
Day 15: Yangon Departure
Today is departure day and there are no activities planned. A driver will pick you up at your hotel in time for a transfer to the international airport for your onward flight.