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Myanmar's cities and charming countryside - Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mrauk U

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What's Included

  • Completely private tours in Pyin Oo Lwin, Hsipaw, Mandalay, Mount Popa and Bagan
  • Scenic train journey to Hsipaw
  • Private tour options in Ngapali Beach
  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Meet and greet airport service
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

This epic 17-day exploration takes you to Myanmar‘s elegant and fascinating cities and out to the charming countryside where oxen still plough the fields and life goes on as it has done for centuries.

Your journey begins in Mandalay where you’ll visit iconic sights such as Kuthodaw Pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery and the U Bein bridge. You’ll also get to experience the daily alms giving ceremony and the buzz around the buying and selling of precious stones at the jade market.

Pyin Oo Lwin is the next stop, which you’ll disover by horse and carriage before catching the train to Hsipaw which follows a beautifully scenic route. You’ll spend two days exploring the Shan countryside before catching a short flight to Bagan.

The pagodas that litter the plains are one of Myanmar‘s most spectacular sights and an early morning hot air balloon ride is the perfect way to see it. You’ll then head to Kalaw, via the caves of Pindaya before spending two nights by Inle Lake. Watch the renowned leg-rowing fishermen, explore the morning market and discover the stupas of Alaung Sitthou.

It’s then a short stopover in Yangon before heading to the wonderfully atmospheric Mrauk U, where temples are strewn across the hills, often cloaked in mist. Visit the Lay Too Chin villages then head back to Yangon for your final two nights.

 

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-3

Mandalay

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Mandalay

Accommodation in Mandalay

mandalay-view
Two nights in Mandalay Two nights in Mandalay

Spend the following few days in traditional and religious Mandalay. Here you have the chance to visit the impressive pagoda, Mahamuni Paya, head to Mandalay Hill for fantastic views and see the masterpiece of traditional Burmese wooden architecture at the Shwenandaw monastery.

Alms giving Alms giving

Watch the daily alms collection of the monks. Clothed in red robes and carrying their alms bowls, a solemn line of barefoot monks walks along the streets to collect offerings from the locals. The morning alms collection is an important part of daily life for the monks and for the Burmese people as it symbolizes ‘making merit’ and reminds people of their mutual inter-dependence.

myanmar-jade
Trading jade Trading jade

Mandalay's Jade Market is an experience that brings history, culture and modern Myanmar to life. Located along 86th Street in downtown Mandalay, the market is rarely visited by tourist, making it one of the few markets in Southeast Asia where an authentic experience can still be found.

Mandalay has become a bustling city with a flourishing jade trade as merchants from China, India and Thailand coalesce. Walk the vibrant streets and visit the market, discovering white, yellow and green jade. The precious gem can be found in all forms, from its raw, unpolished state to beautiful handcrafted jewellery. Watch as skilled craftsman cut and polish the stone on wet saws and sellers and buyers haggle over price. Our visit coincides with the busiest time of the day at the jade market. Your guide will help you negotiate if you wish to bring one of the precious gemstones home.

Having built up an appetite from haggling with jade merchants we will transfer to one of the surrounding tea shops for a local lunch.

Kuthodaw Pagoda and Shwenandaw Monastery Kuthodaw Pagoda and Shwenandaw Monastery

Visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’, then walk onwards to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace.

sone-oo-pone-nya-shin-myanmar
Visit the former capital of Sagaing Visit the former capital of Sagaing

Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious centre of Myanmar. It is home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centres and you will visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae. Visit Sagaing’s local market, a typical Burmese market that few tourists visit. Here you will find a range of items for sale including locally made pottery, silver and other handicrafts.

u-bein-bridge-myanmar
U Bein Bridge U Bein Bridge

The famous U Bein bridge was constructed in around 1850 out of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace. Its 1.2 kilometers (1300 yards) length make it the world’s longest teak span. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Pyin Oo Lwin

Days 3-4

Pyin Oo Lwin

Accommodation in Pyin Oo Lwin

One night in Pyin Oo Lwin One night in Pyin Oo Lwin

Pyin Oo Lwin is home to many ethnic tribes as well as a considerable numbers of Nepalese and Hindu who migrated during the British occupation, famous for its cool climate. Enjoy your days here exploring the many reminders of the colonial era still present here, including brick and timber houses.

Pyin Oo Lwin by traditional horse and carriage Pyin Oo Lwin by traditional horse and carriage

Today you will enjoy a traditional horse cart and carriage ride through town. Stop at the botanical gardens, 432 acres of leafy gardens home to a diverse mix of botanical species from around the world. The gardens were established by Sir Harcourt Butler, the former Governor of Burma. Continue onto the local market to browse what's on sale and see daily life unfold.

Scenic train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw Scenic train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw

One of the very best experiences to be had in Myanmar, enjoy this scenic and wonderfully atmospheric three-hour train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw. This includes crossing the famous Gokteik Viaduct which spans a 300-meter deep gorge in the Shan mountains. The views from the train are spectacular, so be sure to have your camera ready. After the Gokteik Viaduct, alight at Naung Pin Village where your driver guide will be awaiting to take you onto to Hsipaw by car.

Days 4-6

Hsipaw

Accommodation in Hsipaw

Two nights in Hsipaw Two nights in Hsipaw

Spend your time in the charming and off-the-beaten-track Hsipaw visiting the Shan Palace, Bawgyo Paya Pagoda and taking in the sunset from the Five Buddha hill or Nine Buddha Hill. This area is also great for hiking and trekking with lovely waterfalls and hot springs located nearby.

Light trek through the Shan countryside and boat ride on the Dokhtawady River Light trek through the Shan countryside and boat ride on the Dokhtawady River

After breakfast at a local tea shop with your private guide, you will begin a light trek around Hsipaw. The trek passes over gently rolling hills that are home to many hill tribes, such as Palaung and Pedung. You will pass paddy fields, seasonal cultivations, green mountains and stop in several villages along the way. Stop to enjoy a picnic lunch during the trek, then return to Hsipaw by local boat on the Dokhtawady River.

Shan Palace and sunset from Nine Buddha Hill Shan Palace and sunset from Nine Buddha Hill

Wander around the town and chance to pay a visit to the descendants of the Shan Palace to learn about the history of late Shan Prince of Hsipaw then enjoy the sunset views over the river from one of the many hilltop temples

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Mandalay airport

Flight

Flight from Mandalay to Bagan

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Bagan

Days 6-8

Bagan

Accommodation in Bagan

Two nights in Bagan Two nights in Bagan

Enjoy your time in this magnificent part of Myanmar. Spend your days witnessing the spectacular temples and pagodas on bike or by horse and cart, cruising along the Irrawaddy River on an idyllic sunset boat trip and visiting the mountain-top monastery, Mount Popa.

bagan-scwezigon-pagoda
Full-day tour of Bagan Full-day tour of Bagan

Your journey begins with a visit to an elevated temple where you will witness a panoramic view of the magnificent plains of Bagan. Continue to the colorful Nyaung Oo Market, and take a walk here to the local village where you will see the product of pone yeh gyi and other local treats. Then continue to the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for an introduction in to Bagan’s rich history.

Nearby is Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with exquisite jataka mural paintings and the elegant Htilominlo Temple noted for its fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations. You'll also visit a traditional lacquer ware workshop where you can observe the production of one of Myanmar’s best-known handicrafts. Continue to Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece and one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples. Take a break for lunch and to escape the midday heat.

This afternoon, travel by horse cart for a tour passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, the massive Dhammayangyi Temple and Sulamani Temple. Then round off this memorable tour with an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of one of the temples.

Early morning hot air ballooning over Bagan Early morning hot air ballooning over Bagan

Start your morning with a hot-air balloon flight over the plains of Bagan. Enjoy the fabulous views as the sun rises over the endless stupas and Irrawaddy River. This is truly an unforgettable and unique experience.

Cooking class Cooking class

Start the day with a visit to the Nyaung U market. Armed with a shopping list prepared by the chef, wander through the colourful stalls to purchase fresh ingredients for lunch. Learn about the various items on sale, from exotic fruits to fiery chilies, and rub shoulders with the local shoppers who come every day to buy the best goods.

With bags full of ingredients, you'll head to a local restaurant for the main event: a hands-on cooking class. Meet your teacher, a Bagan local with 15 years’ experience as a chef, and start cooking! You'll help prepare lunch using traditional techniques such as mortar and pestle to grind, chop and pound the ingredients. Cook several dishes using recipes handed down from generation to generation. Throughout the course the chef will talk to you about the cuisine of Myanmar, its influences and the typical eating habits of the local people.

After the class, it’s time to sit down and enjoy a feast of freshly prepared delights.

irrawaddy-river-sunset
Private Irrawaddy sunset cruise Private Irrawaddy sunset cruise

Board a traditional wooden river boat for a private cruise along the Irrawaddy River, enjoying magnificent views of the temples of Bagan as the sun begins to set. Sit back, relax and sip a refreshing cocktail as the boat makes its way past Shwezigon Pagoda and scenes of life on the water, small villages on the river banks, fishermen, local boats and other riverside temples.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Bagan airport

Flight

Flight from Bagan to Heho​

 
Private transfer to Kalaw visiting Pindaya en route Private transfer to Kalaw visiting Pindaya en route

Transfer from Heho Airport to Kalaw, visiting Pindaya en route, an impressive cave that is home to over 8000 golden buddha statues.

Days 8-9

Kalaw

Accommodation in Kalaw

kalaw-hills
One night in Kalaw One night in Kalaw

To the west of Inle Lake lies the old British hill station of Kalaw. Surrounded by misty rugged mountains, this small and serene town offers some of Myanmar’s finest treks including an off-the-beaten-track journey to Inle Lake. Walks and treks through rolling countryside offer an unusual insight into hardly visited hill tribe villages, while a visit to Thein Taung Padoga’s Buddhist monastery offers fabulous Kalaw views.

Though remnants of the town’s colonial past can be still seen through the likes of the Anglican Church and colonial style houses, today Kalaw enjoys a cosmopolitan population of Nepalese Gurkhas and Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. This fusion of residents is echoed in the morning market and its culinary delights, with a delicious blend of Nepalese and Indian food available in abundance.

kalaw-market
Visit Kalaw's morning market and light trek Visit Kalaw's morning market and light trek

Visit Kalaw's morning market, a colourful mix of produce and local crafts and where the nearby hill tribes come to trade wares. Next, embark upon a light trek into the surrounding hills, passing through farms and small villages that are home to the area's ethnic hill tribe groups such as the Danu, Palaung, Pa-Oh and Shan. Lunch will be in a village house.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private road and boat transfer from Kalaw to your hotel in Inle Lake

Days 9-11

Inle Lake

Accommodation in Inle Lake

Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar
Two nights by Inle Lake Two nights by Inle Lake

Enjoy the following days in this peaceful region, watching the renowned leg-rowing fishermen and seeing the lake's floating markets. You can also visit the famous pilgrimage site Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.

Red Mountain Vineyard Red Mountain Vineyard

Your guide will collect and transfer you to Red Mountain Estate, one of Myanmar’s finest vineyards. Along the drive look out for farmers who may be planting or harvesting depending on the time of year. At the vineyard you will enjoy a wine tasting, lunch and wonderful panoramic lake and mountain views.

Inle Lake morning market Inle Lake morning market

Visit the lake’s morning market. The market rotates its location around the lake’s villages in a five-day rhythm and is visited by lake inhabitants and surrounding hill tribes who come to sell and trade their wares. Wander around the stalls where your guide will explain the local produce and goods for sale.

Pa-O village of In Dein and ​Alaung Sitthou ​stupas Pa-O village of In Dein and ​Alaung Sitthou ​stupas

You’ll start your day with a short walk around one of the local villages scattered throughout the rolling green hills surrounding Inle Lake. From the middle of the lake, continue down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of In Dein. Explore the area on foot, strolling around the village and wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area. Alaung Sitthou is filled with picturesque ancient stupas and has magnificent views of the lake below.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Yangon

Days 11-12

Yangon

Accommodation in Yangon

One night in Yangon One night in Yangon

Explore this energetic city with our full list of recommendations and any private tours we've organised for you. From the enormous Shwedagon Pagoda, stroll through shaded parks and lakes and dine on delicious street food in bustling Chinatown at night. Speak to your travel designer about how you wish to spend your time here.

yangon-colonial-building
Architectural walking tour of Yangon Architectural walking tour of Yangon

Explore Yangon on this half-day walking tour around the central districts of downtown. Highlights include City Hall, the old railway station and the former Minister’s office where General Aung San was assassinated. Interspersed in the guided walk are various religious sites such as the St Mary’s Cathedral, built in 1899, and the Buddhist landmarks of Sule Paya and Botataung Pagoda.

By walking through the streets you’ll also have a chance to witness the lifestyles of the locals - from the busy bus and boat stations to the tea shops and hidden street markets. There are plenty of chances to interact with Yangon residents and learn more about the Burmese culture. Finally, stop for a cup of tea or coffee at a popular local tea shop.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Yangon airport

Flight

Flight from Yangon to Sittwe

 
mrauk-u-boat
Boat transfer to Mrauk U Boat transfer to Mrauk U

Upon arrival, you will be transferred to Sittwe jetty and board a private boat to Mrauk U. The journey takes about 5-6 hours, travelling upstream on the Kaladan River, and lunch will be served on board.

Days 12-15

Mrauk U

Accommodation in Mrauk U

Three nights in Mrauk U Three nights in Mrauk U

A former capital of Arakan - an area now known as the Rakhine State - at it's peak it was centre a kingdom which stretched from the shores of the Ganges to the western reaches of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The city was once one of the richest in all Asia, with an estimated population of 160,000 people in the early seventeenth century. This period was one of prolific building and today Mrauk U is a major archaeological site.

Sunrise over Mrauk U Sunrise over Mrauk U

Awake early and depart hotel before dawn to enjoy the sunrise over the misty hills and temples of Mrauk U.

mrauk-u-temple
Explore the temples of Mrauk U Explore the temples of Mrauk U

An early starts means you can enjoy the breathtaking sight of the sun rising over the misty hills and temples of Mrauk U. After breakfast back at your hotel, you’ll continue on to the local market and the ruins of the Royal Palace. At the peak of Mrauk U’s power, the Palace loomed high over the city but today just a small brick platform remains. You will also visit several of the temples that are scattered among the hills. After lunch you’ll explore the Shitthaung Temple which contains a remarkable collection of Arakanese Buddha images and reliefs, as well as the multi-spired Andawthein Ordination Hall, the circular Ratanabon Pagoda and the fortress-like temple of Dukkhanthein.

Visit the Lay Too Chin villages Visit the Lay Too Chin villages

After a short drive to a small village jetty, you’ll continue by boat along the Lay Mro River to the Lay Too Chin villages. Chin people are well known for their colourful fabrics as well as the tattooed faces of the women. According to legend, one of the Burmese kings believed Chin women were the most beautiful and would travel to the state and pick his favourite to take back with him. As a means of making themselves less attractive, the girls would tattoo their faces in the hope they would not be chosen by the king. Nowadays you mainly see elderly women with the tattoos as the tradition begins to die off.

Boat transfer to Sittwe Boat transfer to Sittwe

After an early breakfast, board a chartered local boat to travel back from Mrauk U to Sittwe. Along the way - a journey of around 4 hours - you will have an opportunity to enjoy the riverside lifestyle of local people in Rakhine State.

Flights & Transfers

Flight

Flight from Sittwe to Yangon

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Yangon

Days 15-17

Yangon

Accommodation in Yangon

Yangon Myanmar Skyline
Two nights in Yangon Two nights in Yangon

You're back in Yangon to explore this fascinating city some more - the perfect end to your trip.

shwedagon-pagoda-yangon
Evening visit to Shwedagon Pagoda with oil lamps Evening visit to Shwedagon Pagoda with oil lamps

This evening you will be taken to the Shwedagon Pagoda to see it glitter in the light of oil lamps. This special lighting ceremony takes place with the locals as night falls and incense and seemingly endless rows of golden light fills the air.

myanmar-street-food
Yangon food tour Yangon food tour

This morning set off with your guide to explore the best of Yangon’s food. Start with a visit to one of downtown’s main morning markets where vendors gather to sell everything from fresh vegetables and fruits to fish and meats. Try out morning treats popular with the locals, such as noodles, pancakes, steamed sticky rice with beans and fried donuts and samosa.

Next, visit Seikkan Tha Street, another morning market area with many stalls selling palata (thick pancakes), flowers and fruits. Having worked up a thirst, make a stop at Maung Aye Tea Shop to enjoy a cup of sweet Burmese tea. Across the street is a popular stall specialising in Burmese tea leaf salad. Finally transfer to Feel Myanmar for lunch, a popular local restaurant, to sample an array of local curries all accompanied by dozens of vegetables, dips and a soup. This is very traditional, tasty Burmese lunch and a perfect way to complete your culinary exploration of Yangon.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Yangon airport

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