- Marvel at the 8000+ golden Buddha statues of the Pindaya Caves
- Cruise past floating gardens on Inle Lake, and see the sunken stupas
- Wander through the temples of Kakku Pagoda
- Visit vibrant local markets in small villages
- Enjoy the view over hundreds of stupa ruins at Pa-Oh village
Besides experiencing the things Myanmar is most famous for — landscapes dotted with stupas, golden Buddha statues, and cruising on serene Inle Lake — this tour will take you off-the-beaten-path into eastern Myanmar. This region is home to tribes that still follow a traditional way of life, moss-and-jungle-covered Buddhist sites that will make you feel like an intrepid explorer and geologically ancient cave systems that are still used as a place of worship today.
Eastern Myanmar is also home to some of the most spectacular and memorable sites in Myanmar and is a great place to begin your explorations of Myanmar — or to pick up where you left off.
Day 1: Heho – Pindaya – Kalaw
In the morning, you'll fly to Heho. Although just a small town, this is the gateway to the Inle Lake region. After arriving, you'll head to Pindaya along a small, scenic road. This quiet town is on the banks of the serene Botoloke Lage, and there's a chance to visit the colorful local market.
Next, head to the famous Pindaya caves, around 200 million years old. The Buddhist pilgrimage site houses over 8000 golden Buddha statues. The earliest dates from 1773 and new images continue to be left in the caves. To visit the caves you have to pass the pagodas of Shwe U Min, believed to have first been built in the 12th century, but with more modern details.
In the afternoon, you reach the hill town of Kalaw, a place with leafy streets, great trekking routes, and fresh air. As this was once a British holiday retreat, there are many attractive colonial-era buildings to admire.
Day 2: Kalaw-Ayetharyar – Taunggyi – Kakku – Loikaw
Your day starts with a drive to Ayetharyar. If time allows, you can make a stop at the Ayetharyar Vineyard for a wine-tasting tour.
From there, you'll continue driving to Taunggyi and then to Kakku, enjoying the hilly scenery along the way. At Kakku, you can stop at the magnificent Kakku Pagoda complex, arguably one of Myanmar's greatest sites, with more than 2000 beautifully decorated stupas packed tightly into an area of about one square kilometer. The indigenous Pa O tribe believe that the Kakku Pagoda has been here for more than 2000 years.
You'll then head to the scenic village of Loikaw for the night.
Day 3: Loikaw – Pan Pei – Loikaw
You'll spend some time this morning exploring Loikaw and its surroundings in this remote part of the country. You can visit the lively morning market, then head to Pan Pei village. In this traditional village, you'll learn about the Padaung tribe. They are a sub-tribe of the Karen, famous for the thick neck rings worn by the women. In the afternoon, you'll visit the Loikaw Museum, which houses informative exhibits on Kayah State.
At the end of the day, make your way to the Taung Kwe monastery and pagoda. This beautiful temple situated on the top of rocky peaks offers spectacular views of the city and surrounding areas, especially at sunset.
Day 4: Loikaw – Sagar – Inle Lake
This morning, you'll drive to Khone, stopping en route at Padaung villages. When you reach the village of Phae Khone, you'll board a long-tail boat headed north to Inle Lake.
The first part of this boat ride visits a remote area of Inle Lake where tourists hardly ever visit, then the village of Sagar. The sunken stupas are considered by many visitors to be the highlight of the day; the 108 16th-17th century stupas are partially submerged for several months of the year, as their bases are beside the banks of the river.
Day 5: Inle Lake
Today is all about exploring Inle Lake. After breakfast, you'll board a wooden motorized boat and head out onto the lake. 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 built on stilts over the lake.
You can observe the local leg-rowing fishermen, see their ‘floating gardens’ and visit the lake's rotating morning market. Also, stop at the Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses dozens of early Shan Buddha images, and the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, which contains five sacred images of Buddha. The area around the lake is also home to many traditional crafts, and silversmith and pirogue (wooden canoe) workshops, which you can visit if you are interested.
Day 6: Indein
After breakfast, head to the Pa-Oh village of Indein by boat. You can take a leisurely stroll around the village before climbing to the top of a hill. At the top, you'll find an iconic Buddha image sitting among hundreds of stupa ruins, all overrun by moss and greenery. This is one of the most amazing and atmospheric places around the lake, and you will be rewarded with mesmerizing views of Inle and beyond.
If there's time on the boat ride back to your accommodation, stop at the Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake's indigenous people, and enjoy some coffee and cake.
Day 7: Inle Lake – Nyaung Shwe – Heho - Yangon
Early this morning, you'll take a motorized boat to the village of Khaung Daing, on the west shore of the lake. This traditional Intha village is famous for its tofu made from yellow split peas, as well as for its rice cakes and fried beans. Finally, head back to Nyaung Shwe (where you may have time to explore the vibrant market, depending on your flight time), and then onwards to Heho and Yangon.