Local Highlights of Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake - 8 Days

This 8-day itinerary provides a local perspective on the main highlights of Myanmar — Yangon, Bagan, and Inle Lake. You'll dine with a local family, visit lively markets and places of pilgrimage, and enjoy the company of knowledgeable local guides who will share their stories and insights.

Highlights

  • Discover the pagoda fields of Bagan by electric bike
  • Prepare and enjoy a traditional meal in a family home
  • Join local pilgrims at Mt. Popa's famous spirit shrine
  • Enjoy the cool highland air in Kalaw, a former British Hill Station
  • Take a sunset cruise of Inle Lake by private boat

Overview

Touching down in the former capital of Yangon, you'll encounter a mixture of old and new. Wander past fading colonial buildings, explore Shwedagon Pagoda and discover quiet side streets teeming with character. Then, it's on to Bagan where more than 2000 religious monuments dot the plains.

After seeing the temples, you'll learn to prepare a delicious Burmese curry with a local family. A sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River wraps up your stay in this charming town. Your last destination is the Shan State, an area famous for its fertile soil and diverse ethnic mix.  On the way stop by Mt. Popa, home of Myanmar's mythological spirits, and in the former British hill station of Kalaw.

A scenic train journey brings you to the edges of Inle Lake, your last stop before heading back to Yangon. Put your feet up as you cruise across the lake's waters in a typical long-tail motorboat. Pass by villages built on stilts and floating gardens, stopping in to see traditional craftsmen at work and to capture scenes of local life.

Overview map

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Yangon Arrival

Yangon
Sule Pagoda in the center of downtown Yangon

Welcome to Myanmar! After clearing customs at the Yangon International Airport, your driver will be waiting to greet you outside the doors and take you into the city to your hotel. The drive usually takes around 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic.

Day 2: Yangon's Highlights and hidden places

The historic Lawkanawt Building in downtown Yangon

Set off for a full day exploring the former capital of Yangon with an expert local guide. Spend an insightful morning in and around Myanmar’s most holy site: Shwedagon Pagoda. More than just a monument, this ‘insiders’ tour will teach you about the beliefs of the Myanmar people and put you in touch with the culture. Make donations to monks, meet a fortune teller and much more as you walk around the pagoda and its surrounding neighborhood.

After lunch, you will explore the diversity of downtown with its colonial buildings, leafy side streets and bustling street markets. Learn about the fascinating history of the city as well as get a taste for the more modern side of the city. If you wish, you can also jump on to Yangon's 'Circular Train', a slow moving commuter train that takes you through urban neighborhoods and showcases scenes of daily life. 

Day 3: Fly to Bagan, Explore Ancient Temples and villages

A view over the plains of Bagan

Wake up early and transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Bagan. Upon arrival, your local guide will be waiting to greet you.

Spend a full day exploring the temple plains, stopping in at famous monuments and some lesser-known sites. You will join your guide on bikes or electric bikes (like scooters) to cut through the smaller laneways and deliver a truly unforgettable experience. There are not enough words to describe the beauty of Bagan! If you wish, you can pop into a lacquerware workshop to see this labor-intensive craft being made by hand. This evening, head to a scenic spot to watch the sun set.  

Day 4: Bagan Cooking Class & Sunset Cruise

Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River
Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River

You will start the morning with a cooking class with a dear friend of ours. Meet with your host at the local market and together you will shop for ingredients for lunch. Then it's a short walk to her family home, getting a chance to see what life is like beyond Bagan's temple-filled plains.

Spend the morning cooking and chatting, learning about the local culture and culinary secrets of Myanmar. (Please note: this is a join-in activity so other guests will join but it is a maximum of six people so it is still a very intimate experience.)

After feasting on your dishes at lunch, return to the hotel for a swim or siesta to skip the midday heat. Late this afternoon, head to the banks of the Irrawaddy River for a private sunset cruise with cocktails and local snacks. Enjoy watching scenes of life on the river and seeing the sun dip low in the sky.

Day 5: Drive Bagan to Mt. Popa to Kalaw

Dawn from Mount Popa
Dawn from Mount Popa

This morning after breakfast travel by private car (no guide) to Kalaw, stopping at Mt. Popa on the way.  Arrive at Taung Kalat, a volcanic plug that is believed to be the home of Myanmar's nats (spirits). Join local pilgrims for the (barefoot) climb to the top, watching out for cheeky monkeys on the way. At the top, you will have spectacular views of the countryside and plains.

Then descend to the base and continue the drive to Kalaw. This is a long but scenic trip, taking you from the flat, dry zone into the lush highlands of the Shan State.

Arrive late this afternoon and check in to your hotel. 

Day 6: Kalaw - Nyaung Shwe by scenic train

Local market in Kalaw
Local market in Kalaw

Spend this morning exploring Kalaw, walking around the morning market and taking a light trek into the hills. After lunch, you will board the slow-moving commuter train for the scenic journey toward Inle Lake. For 3 hours, the train passes through farming villages, riced paddies and around scenic highland areas.

Upon disembarking, continue to Nyaung Shwe by car and check in to our hotel.

Day 7: Discovery Inle Lake by Boat

Inle Lake
A traditional Inthar fisherman paddling on Inle Lake

Take a short trishaw ride or walk to the Nyaung Shwe jetty where you will board a private, wooden motor boat for a full day excursion on Inle Lake.

Explore villages built on stilts and floating gardens, getting a chance to learn about the life and culture of the lake’s residents. The day unfolds as you wish- we suggest stopping into workshops making incredible hand-woven silks and fabrics created from the fibers of the lotus flower and a visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda where we can join local devotees as they come to pay homage to this sacred site. Or you can go ashore for a walk through a farming village or simply cruise across the waters all day!

Return to Nyaung Shwe late this afternoon and transfer back to the hotel.

Optional: Start the morning with a hot air balloon flight over Inle Lake, soaring over the floating markets and villages to gain a birds-eye point of view.

Day 8: Morning at Leisure; Fly to Yangon; International Departure

Karaweik Hall, Yangon
Karaweik Hall, Yangon

The morning is free at leisure until it is time to depart. Your driver (no guide) will collect you at your hotel and transfer you to the Heho Airport. 

Once landing in Yangon, connect to your international departure and bid farewell to Myanmar.