Myanmar, formerly Burma, possesses a special charm and magic. For too long it has been South-east Asia’s best kept secret, almost untouched by the modern world for decades. This timeless and unspoilt country is a hidden treasure for those seeking an authentic travel experience. Explore centuries-old traditions and culture, a wonderful natural environment and the rich heritage of Myanmar with many ancient pagodas, Buddhist shrines and a way of life devoted to Buddhist doctrines and philosophy. This is reflected in its charming people too. Expect generous hospitality, welcoming smiles and a genuine interest in wanting to meet people from other lands.
The road infrastructure is generally poor which means taking short internal flights to Heho, Mandalay and Began. Feel free to spend more time in a chosen location such as the evocative Lake Inle to chill out for another day and in the glorious former colonial setting of Kalaw where there are numerous hiking options! As a specialist and local tour operator we will configure the perfect tour to suit your interests and wishes. The emphasis is on history and culture with many temples and pagodas to visit that for the connoisseur is an experience not to be missed.
With safety and peace of mind uppermost, it is important to stress we use only registered and approved guides in a country still developing its tourist industry and democracy after years of military dictatorship. Apart from safety we ensure our clients enjoy a genuine travel experience. We do not take short cuts in standards and service. The benefit and bonus for the traveller is avoiding hordes of tourists, being able to get off the beaten track and being able to observe life at first hand.
Day 1 - Arrival Yangon
We will welcome you at Yangon International Airport for transfer to your hotel. Yangon is the former capital of Myanmar. In comparison with other Asian cities of similar size it gives the impression of being green and full of trees. Somehow, the shimmering pagodas seem to float above all the green foliage and vegetation. The centre of Yangon, where we start our tour, retains many impressive old buildings from the British colonial period.
Sule Pagoda: Situated in the very centre of downtown Yangon, the elegant and octagonal Sule Pagoda makes an excellent landmark. It is also the point from which all addresses to the north are measured.
Scott Market: This sprawling old market has the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts you will find under one roof, so enjoy strolling between the different stands.
Shwedagon Pagoda: This is the highlight of any trip to Yangon and indeed to Myanmar. The Shwedagon Pagoda is located midtown, between the People’s Park and Kandawgyi Lake. Reputedly 2,500 years old, the Pagoda is at its most beautiful during the early morning or evening, when you are able to enjoy this gilded sight in an array of colours.
Overnight is in Yangon
Day 2-Yangon Sightseeing
Kaba Aye Pagoda: The ‘world peace pagoda’ is fairly new and built in 1952 for the 1945-1956 Sixth Buddhist Synod. The 34m high Stupa measures 34m round its base. It is located approximately 11 km north of downtown Yangon, close to the Inya Lake.
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha: This Reclining Buddha is almost as big as the enormous figure in Bago, Myanmar’s tallest. It is located in a large metal-roofed pavilion, only a short distance east beyond the Shewdagon Pagoda.
Botataung Pagoda: Bo means “leader” and Tagaung is “1,000” – the Botataung Pagoda was named after the 1,000 military soldiers who escorted relics of the Buddha brought from India over 2,000 years ago. This ancient monument was completely destroyed during World War II and is one of the few pagodas in Myanmar which allows visitors to walk inside, instead of just around.
China Town: It is located west of the city centre, yet still within the downtown area. Here you can enjoy bustling street markets where you can buy nearly everything. We will also visit Kheng Hock Keong, the largest Chinese Temple in Yangon, and over 100 years old.
You then return to the hotel for your overnight stay in Yangon.
Day 3 - Yangon – Pindaya – Kalaw
After an early breakfast and check out from the hotel your driver will take you to Yangon airport for your flight to Heho and car journey to Pindaya.
The sacred Pindaya cave complex burrows into a limestone ridge overlooking Pindaya and features over 8,000 Buddha images made from alabaster, teak, marble, brick, lacquer and cement. The Buddhas may give the impression of a perspiring as condensation levels vary during the day and seasons.
From here we visit the Umbrella Factory for a detailed look at the making of the famous Shan paper and beautiful Burmese umbrellas. From Pindaya we drive to Kalaw, a former British hill station situated on the western edge of the Shan plateau. This beautiful and quiet town is 1,320m above sea level with glorious scenic views and with an atmosphere reminiscent of the colonial era. The market is a good place to watch hill tribe people and local people, including Nepali, Indians, Ghurkhas, Bamar and Shan, and to admire the wide of variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in this busy market. We then drive the short distance to visit Nee Paya, holding a gold lacquered bamboo Buddha, before transfer to the hotel for your overnight stay in Kalaw
Day 4 - Kalaw – Inle Lake
In the morning we drive from Kalaw through the magnificent Shan Plateau to Nyaung Shwe at Inle Lake where you will board a boat to be ferried to your hotel on the lake. This picturesque and peaceful lake is surrounded by high plateaus and is overlooked by the misty Shan mountains. It is also the home of the Intha people, who have adapted to their environment by building entire villages rising on stilts from the shallow waters. Lake dwellers grow an array of flowers and vegetables in picturesque floating gardens and fields. They are tended by workers in canoes who have become famous for their unique one-leg rowing technique. Today we will visit a pagoda and monastery before observing a range of traditional arts and crafts.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: This complex is the holiest religious site in the southern area of the Shan State. It hosts five gold-leaf-covered statues, three of which are Buddha images and two reputedly Arahants (historical disciples of the Buddha). The gold leaf on the figures has become so thick that the images have become almost unrecognizable.
Nga Phe Monastery: This is also called the "Monastery of the jumping cats," as the monks have trained their cats to jump through hoops. The different ancient Buddha images inside make this monastery a worthwhile stop quite apart from cat displays.
Traditional crafts on the Inle Lake: You will be able to see silk weaving at Inbawkhone village, Gold & Silver Smiths and Paper Making at Ywama village and Boat Making and Cheroot manufacture at Nam Pan village. Overnight is on Inle Lake.
Day 5 - Inle Lake – Indein – Kaung Daing
In the morning we will start our sightseeing tour on the Inle Lake by boat to appreciate daily life from floating gardens to villages.
Five-Day-Market: These bustling markets around Inle Lake are of interest for the variety of different products offered, mainly grown on the floating gardens. The local culture and way of life is enriched by different tribal groups such as the Pa-Oh, coming from far and wide to sell their goods. The market rotates between different villages over five days.
Indein Village: Indein is located half way along the western side of the lake and is very interesting as over 1,000 Stupas surround Inthein Pagoda, the original home of five famous Buddha images of Inle Lake. Some of the Stupas were built during the 11th century and feature beautiful stone carvings.
Kaung Daing Village: This village on the northwest shore of the lake is famed for the production of rice crackers, tofu snacks and fried beans. Enjoy a walk to the hot springs about 40 minutes from the village, a popular bathing place for locals and tourists alike. Overnight is on Inle Lake
Day 6 - Inle Lake – Mandalay
After breakfast and check-out your tour guide will take you to Heho airport for the flight to Mandalay. This is a bustling city with many interesting and different things to see with an ancient history and a more modern one too in colonial times and under Japanese rule. We will explore its fascinating and fairly recent history and view some wonderful buildings and the superb backdrop of Mandalay city.
Royal Palace: You can stroll through reconstruction of the miniature palace that houses many of the original artefacts. Constructed in teak wood between 1857- 1859 it was part of King Mindon’s founding of the new royal capital of Mandalay and is sited in the middle of a square citadel. Afterwards, climb the 33m high watchtower with its golden seven tiered roof for wonderful views over the city and massive palace complex, including the Great Audience Hall where figures of the King and Queen sit proudly at the entrance.
Mahamuni Pagoda: The 4m high image is cast in bronze but over the years has been covered with a thick layer of gold leafs. In the courtyard there are six bronze Khmer figures brought back from Mrauk U and have their actual origins in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Shwe Inbin Kyaung Monastery: This monastery, built by Chinese jade merchants in 1895, invites calm and reflective meditation. A special feature is the exquisite wooden carvings along the balustrades and roof cornices.
Shwe Nandaw Monastery: This “Golden Palace Monastery” is a fragile reminder of the old Mandalay Fort and is regarded as a fine example of 19th century wooden monastery building in Myanmar. It lies just outside the Royal Palace and used to be part of it.
Kuthodaw Pagoda: This was built the same time as the Royal Palace. The 729 marble slabs surrounding this pagoda are inscribed with the entire Tripitaka (the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings), earning this pagoda the title of "the world's biggest book".
Kyauktaw-Gyi Pagoda: The pagoda is famous for its huge seated Buddha image, carved from one single block of marble. Until a couple of years ago it was the biggest single carved image in the world.
Mandalay Hill: After a pleasant climb, this hill, topped with a temple style pagoda of mirrored hallways, offers a fantastic view all over the city and the central plain. The Mandalay Hill is a must see and can be visited all day long, but enjoying the sunset from the pagoda on top of the hill is always a nice ending to a hot day. (Driving up halfway, missing no important sights, cuts the walk to only 20 minutes). You then transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay in Mandalay.
Day 7: Ancient Cities
After breakfast you will visit the three Ancient Cities of Ava, Sagaing and Amarapura:
Baga Yar Monastery: built by King Bagyidaw in 1834 this monastery is made entirely of teakwood and supported by 267 teak posts.
Nanmyin: this is a 27-meter-high watchtower, the only remains of the palace, built by Bagyidaw. It tilts precariously so it is known as the "Leaning Tower of Inwa".
Maha Aung Myay Bonzan: it is one of the few brick-and stucco monasteries and was built in 1818 by Meh Nu, the chief queen of Bagyidaw, for her royal abbot U Po.
Umin Thounzeh: an abbot built this semi-circular building, housing 45 Buddha images seated in a long row. The 30 entrances are designed to create the impression of caves.
Soon U Ponya Shin Paya: constructed in 1,312 it commands outstanding views over Sagaing, Irrawaddy River and a landscape dotted with pagodas.
U Bein Bridge: old teak posts were taken from the palace in Inwa at the end of the 18th century to construct the longest teakwood bridge in the world (1.2 km). Built by U Bein, the former mayor of Amarapura, the bridge is curved to withstand the wind and waves. The most rewarding view of U Bein Bridge is at sunset.
Overnight in Mandalay
Day 8 - Mingun
Our guide will meet you at the hotel after breakfast. Today you will cross the Irrawaddy River by a ferry boat and visit Mingun, home to one of the largest intact bells in existence and the earthquake ravaged base of an unfinished pagoda which would have been the tallest in the world.
Pondaw Paya: this is a 5m high working model for the gigantic Mingun Paya and gives a clear picture of what it would have looked like if completed.
Mingun Paya: work on this gigantic structure was started by King Bodawpaya in 1790 and halted in 1819 when he died. If finished, Mingun might now have the world's largest Zedi. The Stupa base sustained heavy damage in the earthquake of 1838 which left a deep crack scarring its façade. It is now 50m high, a third of the projected height of 150m. From the top there is a fantastic view of the Irrawaddy River towards Mandalay.
Mingun Bell: in 1808 the King had a gigantic (90 metric tons) bell cast for the Mingun Paya. It is thought to be the largest uncracked bell in the world.
Hsinbyume Paya: this was built in 1816 by Bagyidaw, before he became king, in memory of his senior wife, princess Hsinbyume. It is a white, round shaped Zedi with one nicely decorated stairway guiding up to the top terrace.
We return to Mandalay where the rest of the day is free to enjoy at leisure. Overnight is in Mandalay.
Day 9 - Mandalay – Monywa
After an early breakfast you will be driven by car from Mandalay to Monywa, a journey of about three hours. Monywa is a lovely town, situated on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River and a major trade centre for agricultural products from the surrounding Chindwin Valley. Monywa is the gateway to the magnificent Thanboddhay pagoda complex, with 7,350 statues and almost 600,000 sacred images of the Buddha, as well as the world`s highest standing Buddha. This colossal figure measures about 130m in height and is hollow inside. About two hours driving time from Monywa are the impressive sandstone caves of Hpo Win Daung. Depending on your time and your choice, these caves may be visited today or tomorrow.
Overnight is in Monywa
Day 10 - Monywa – Pakokku – Bagan
This morning you will be driven by car from Monywa to Pakkoku. This trip will take about four hours. In Pakokku you can relax on the boat journey to Bagan. The cruise down the famous Irrawaddy River will take approximately two hours. On the way you will observe charming rural villages which typify a river community. You will also pass the confluence of the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin River.
Bagan is Myanmar’s greatest wonder. This deserted ancient city alongside the Irrawaddy River is home to over 2,000 temples and pagodas, covering an area of around 40 square km. It is by far the biggest attraction in Myanmar and home to one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Asia. It is true to say it represents the spiritual heritage of ancient Burma and is on par with Angkor Wat as a site of huge importance worldwide.
On arrival your guide will transfer you to the hotel for check in. Overnight is in Bagan
Day 11 - Bagan
Option: You have the opportunity for a unique adventure by taking a breath-taking ride in a hot-air-balloon over the ancient temples and pagodas of Bagan at sunrise! Depending on weather condition the flight usually lasts around 45 to 60 minutes. Early booking is advised as there are a limited number of places only.
After breakfast there is a full day of fascinating explorations within the temple and pagoda plain of Bagan. These are some of the outstanding sights:
Shwezigon Pagoda: the graceful bell shape of the Stupa became the prototype for Myanmar's pagodas.
Ananda Temple: this is one of the finest, largest and best preserved temples of Bagan. This perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and beginning of the Middle period. There are four large wooden Buddha figures and two appear to change their facial expressions the closer you get.
Htilo-Minlo Temple: The massive complex was built in 1,218 by King Nantaungmya. It features traces of old murals, original fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations.
Gawdawpalin Temple: Considered the crowning achievement of the Late Bagan period, this is one of the largest and most imposing of the Bagan temples. It was badly damaged in the 1975 earthquake and its reconstruction probably represents the biggest operation undertaken after the earthquake.
Thatbyinnyu Temple: This temple was built by Alaungsithu in the 12th century and at 61m is the highest building in Bagan. Its monumental size and vertical design make it a classic example of the Middle Bagan period.
Dhammayangyi Temple: The temple was built during the 12th century by Kalagya Min, the king who was killed by the Indians. Dhammayangyi resembles a pyramid from the side with impressive mortar-less brickwork.
Gu-Byauk-Gyi Temple: Dating from the 13th century this temple features amazingly fine frescos showing scenes of Buddha’s life.
Dhammayazika Pagoda: Built by Narapatisithu in 1196 the temple appears to resemble the Shwezigon Pagoda. It was, however, built on a pentagon terrace with five little temples, each containing a Buddha image. The pagoda offers a pleasant view over the Bagan Plain.
Shwesandaw Pagoda: to end the day we will catch the beautiful sunset from the top of Bagan’s famous ‘Sunset Pagoda.’ The Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to circular stupa top.
You will then transfer to hotel your hotel for an overnight stay in Bagan.
Day 12 - Bagan – Salay – Mt. Popa
After breakfast you will be taken by car to Salay, a vibrant and ancient religious centre of Central Myanmar, 1½ hours south of Bagan. In between, visiting the numerous ancient monasteries, adorned with beautiful woodcarving, you can enjoy the beauty of this compact city containing colonial buildings, monasteries and Stupas. Here, you will visit a 150-year-old wooden monastery with wood carved figures and beautiful wood carved ceilings.
At the Mogok Vipassana Yeiktha, a meditation centre, you will be able to look into the hollow Lacquer Buddha (Nan Paya). We will continue the trip through middle Burma towards Mount Popa, the "flower mountain". 777 steep stairs lead up to the 737 meters (2,417 ft) high peak of its extinct volcanic vent (Taungkalat) with pagodas and small temples perched at the summit. Mount Popa is the home of the country’s most powerful Nats (sacred spirits) and offers an entrancing view across the plains of upper Myanmar.
Overnight is in Bagan
Day 13 - Bagan – Yangon
In the afternoon you will be brought to the Bagan Airport and fly back to Yangon. We will bring you to your hotel in Yangon for a last night in the South East Asian Garden City. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure or maybe do some shopping and further sightseeing.
Overnight is in Yangon
Day 14 - Yangon Departure
The end of an unforgettable tour with happy memories! You transfer to the Yangon International Airport for your departure from Myanmar to your chosen destination.