This 12-day trip makes for an excellent introduction to the cultural highlights of Myanmar. You'll tour pagodas and temples, visit cities and tiny villages, and get a real sense of the country's strong ties to Buddhism and of its British colonial past. You'll roam the buzzing streets of Yangon, watch the sunset over the temples of Bagan, take a long-tailed boat tour of Inle Lake, and so much more!

Highlights

  • See the faded grandeur of British colonial architecture in Yangon
  • Visit a mountaintop temple on sacred Mt. Popa
  • Tour the temples of majestic Bagan
  • Explore the floating villages and ethnic communities of Inle Lake
  • Marvel at the Pindaya Caves, filled to the brim with statues of Buddha

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Yangon Yangon
Day 2 Explore Yangon Yangon
Day 3 Yangon — Mandalay Mandalay
Day 4 Day Trip to Mingun Mandalay
Day 5 Visit Mt. Popa and Discover Local Villages Bagan
Day 6 Explore the Archaeological Sites of Bagan Bagan
Day 7 The Temples & Villages of Bagan Bagan
Day 8 Bagan — Shan State; Pindaya Excursion  Inle Lake
Day 9 Explore Inle Lake Inle Lake
Day 10 Visit Indein Village Inle Lake
Day 11 Return to Yangon; Free Day Yangon
Day 12 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda

Fly into Yangon, where you'll be welcomed by a guide at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Take the rest of the day to settle in and perhaps explore your immediate surroundings. 

Day 2: Explore Yangon

A lively outdoor market in Yangon
A lively outdoor market in Yangon

This morning you'll visit some of Yangon's highlights, including the massive Reclining Buddha at Chauk Htet Gyi and Myanmar's National Museum. Then head downtown, where you'll notice the British colonial architecture and other vestiges of British rule. Wander down Pansodan Street to find numerous bookstalls selling literary gems amid crumbling colonial-era buildings.

In the evening, make your way to the cobblestoned bazaar at the Bogyoke Aung San Market for some souvenir shopping. Here you'll find some of the best antiques, Burmese handicrafts, jewelry, art galleries and more. End your day with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists across the globe and the most important religious structure in Myanmar.

Day 3: Yangon — Mandalay

The U Bein Bridge is an excellent place to watch the sunset
The U Bein Bridge is an excellent place to watch the sunset

Board a quick one-hour flight to Mandalay today, where you'll explore the last royal capital city of the Burmese Empire. You'll roam the colorful markets of Mandalay, including the food market, the gem market (where you can find jade, raw gems, and jewelry), and a handicrafts market. 

Head to the town of Amarapura to see the nearly mile-long U Bein Bridge spanning the Taungthaman Lake. Built around 1850, it's believed to be the oldest teakwood bridge in the world, and was made with reclaimed wood from the former royal palace in Inwa. It's also an excellent place to watch the sunset.

Day 4: Day Trip to Mingun

The unfinished pagoda in Mingun
The unfinished pagoda in Mingun

Today you'll board a small boat for a short ride up the river to Mingun. This is the site of what would have been the world's largest pagoda, but it was left unfinished and later partially destroyed by an earthquake. The enormous base of the pagoda remains and is still incredibly impressive as you approach from the river. You'll also visit the Myathein Than Pagoda and the Mingun Bell. It's believed to be the largest un-cracked hanging bell in the world. 

Return to Mandalay in the afternoon for a sightseeing tour including the Mahamuni Pagoda, a gold leaf craft shop, and the Shwenandaw Monastery, which is famous for its exquisite wood carvings. You'll also see the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which holds 729 stone slabs containing the entirety of Buddhist scripture. Head to the top of Mandalay Hill for another spectacular sunset.

Day 5: Visit Mt. Popa and Discover Local Villages

Mt. Popa
The monastery on top of the volcanic plug on Mt. Popa

This morning you'll drive to the sacred Mt. Popa. The mountain is believed to have been pushed up out of the ground during a massive earthquake in ancient times and is known as the home of the spirit gods. On the way, you'll visit Sint Luu village to see how local toddy palm farmers produce juice and sugar from its fruits.

Once you arrive at Mt. Popa, you'll have the option of climbing to the temple at the top of a volcanic plug, but either way, you're sure to enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding tropics.

In the afternoon you'll head to Min Nan Thu village to see the complex of three interconnected shrines known as Payathonzu Pagoda. You'll also visit the Tayok Pye Temple and stop in at the village of Phwar Saw, known for its lacquerware cottage industry.

Day 6: Explore the Archaeological Sites of Bagan

The many temples of Bagan
The many temples of Bagan

An expert guide will provide insight as you tour several of the 2,000 temples and archaeological sites towering over the ancient city of Bagan. Visit the Nyaung U Market before seeing Shwezigone Pagoda, which was used as a prototype for many Burmese stupas.

You'll wander around the 13th-century cave temples at Wetkyi-in-Gubyaukgyi as well as the Ananda Pagoda and other temples in this complex. Your guide will show you the perfect spot to watch Bagan's legendary sunset over the ancient temples.

Day 7: The Temples & Villages of Bagan

Min Nan Thu
The women of Min Nan Thu village

After breakfast, you'll head back to Min Nan Thu village to explore more in depth. This agricultural community specializes in sesame and peanut oil production, and its residents are very welcoming to visitors. Continue on to the Tayoke Pyay temple, known for its plaster carvings.

In the afternoon, you'll check out highlights including Manuha Temple, and Nanpaya, the cave shrine in Myinkaba village complete with well-preserved paintings. Next, you'll visit a lacquerware workshop to see how these beautiful handmade dishes are crafted before settling down to watch another brilliant sunset with your guide.

Day 8: Bagan — Shan State; Pindaya Excursion

Buddhas inside the Pindaya Caves
Buddhas inside the Pindaya Caves

Board a short 40-minute flight from Bagan to Heho in Shan State this morning. When you arrive, you'll set out to the Buddhist pilgrimage site at the Pindaya Caves, traveling through several small villages and past cultivated mountain rice fields on the way. Inside the caves, you'll discover nearly 8,000 of statues of Buddha placed inside over the centuries into every nook and cranny as far as the eye can see.

Later in the afternoon, drive to Inle Lake. The lake is known for its stilt-house village and floating gardens, as well as the unique way of life led by the local Intha people. The surrounding hills are home to many ethnic minority groups.

Day 9: Explore Inle Lake

A floating village on Inle Lake
A floating village on Inle Lake

Step aboard a long-tailed boat for a cruise on Inle Lake to the village of Thale Oo. This farming village offers an authentic glimpse of agricultural life on the lakeshore, with abundant rice fields and pretty views.

Next, you'll visit Inn Paw Khone village to learn about the lotus and silk weaving industries, before stopping in the village of Nanpan to observe traditional boat making and tour a cheroot factory where Burmese cigars are made.

Then head to the Phaung Daw U Pagoda for a tour of the most sacred monastery in the Inle Lake area. You'll discover five ancient gold leaf-covered images of Buddha.

Day 10: Visit Indein Village

Indein Pagodas
Indein Pagodas

Make your way to Indein to see its fascinating collection of 17th-century pagodas. To get there, you'll take a boat ride up a small creek off the lake, stopping by the floating village of Ywama, where you'll find a gold and silversmith workshop. Arriving in Indein feels like going back in time, with its ancient stupas that have so far evaded restoration. There is also an outdoor market here, where you can buy spices, tea, and other flavorful products.

Day 11: Return to Yangon; Free Day

Yangon
Historic apartments in downtown Yangon

After breakfast, you'll board an hour-long flight back to Yangon for a free day in the city. 

Perhaps visit the Sule or Swal Taw Pagodas, wander around one of the city's many parks, and enjoy an informal afternoon tea at a local tea house. Hop on the Circular Train to get an insider's glimpse at local life on a loop of the city, explore some of Yangon's many art galleries, or spend time browsing the markets.

Make sure to sample the local cuisine, which is heavily influenced by Indian, Chinese, and Thai food. Popular dishes include tea leaf salad, a fish soup with rice noodles known as mohinga,  or deep fried snacks like samosas.

Day 12: Departure

Buddhist monks and nuns at Shwedagon Pagoda
Buddhist monks and nuns at Shwedagon Pagoda

Enjoy one last breakfast at your hotel and take time to reflect on the unforgettable sights and sounds you encountered here in Myanmar. Then make your way to the airport for your departing flight.