Highlights of Myanmar with Irrawaddy Cruise
At a glance
This ten-day discovery of Myanmar lets you appreciate its beauty from the water as you cruise along the Irrawaddy River before disembarking to explore its enchanting cities.
You’ll spend a night in Mandalay before boarding your luxury boat for a three-night cruise along the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan. The exact itinerary and length of the cruise will depend on which vessel you choose, but you can expect sublime scenery, fascinating land excursions and plenty of time to relax on board and enjoy life on the water.
After disembarking in the beautiful city of Bagan, you’ll take to the skies in a hot air balloon and drift across an incredible landscape littered with thousands of pagodas. This is a truly wonderful way to experience Bagan as the early morning sun creeps over the temples.
After a night in Bagan, you’ll fly to Heho and from there head to Inle Lake. The next two days will be spent admiring the renowned leg-rowing fishermen and seeing the lake’s floating markets. You’ll also head out to the Pa-O village of In Dein and the Alaung Sitthou stupas.
Your final two nights will be spent in Yangon, a beautiful and culturally fascinating city.
Example Trip Itinerary
Private transfer to your hotel in Mandalay
Accommodation in Mandalay
- 206 guestrooms and suites
- Five restaurants
- Swimming pool
- Two tennis courts
- Fitness centre
- Function facilities
Sitting at the foot of the Mercure Mandalay Hill, this luxury resort is a wonderful place to stay during a trip to the cultural city of Mandalay. Sweeping views of mesmerizing pagodas surround this ornate hotel which is based in twelve acres of landscaped gardens, with all rooms and suites enjoying views of the pagodas, the Royal Palace, Mandalay Hill, or the city. The handsomely designed accommodation here ranges from superior and deluxe rooms to lavish suites and the impressive Mandalar Villa. All varieties of guestrooms provide visitors with the space, modern-day essentials and complete comfort they’ll need to make their stay a pleasant one. Guests have a range of dining options to choose from, including international cuisine with a culture show at the garden restaurant, tasty tapas at Kipling’s Lounge, and delicious Chinese food at Ming’s. Massages at the spa and the gorgeous pool area offer opportunities for unwinding, while the fitness centre and tennis courts ensure active types get their exercise fix.
- 20 rooms
- 3 restaurants, 2 bars
- Spa, sauna, fitness centre & lighted tennis court
- Outdoor pool
Sitting on the eastern outskirts of Mandalay, about fifteen minutes drive from the city centre, this pleasant low-rise boutique hotel of just twenty rooms has an impressive set of facilities and a super team of staff. The rooms, and indeed most of hotel, is decorated with the typical and heavy use of teakwood with vibrant splashes of colour and ornate Burmese artefacts and furnishings. Alongside the traditional you have the modern, in the form of Wi-Fi, air conditioning, satellite TV, gym, sauna, spa and outdoor swimming pool. For a boutique hotel of this size there is an admirable three restaurants that each specialise in Burmese, Thai and European food for a very spoiling choice of daily dining options.
Spend a night in traditional and religious Mandalay. This is a very atmospheric city with lots of local culture and history to explore.
Private transfer from your hotel to the jetty
Irrawaddy River Cruise
Luxury Vessles on the Irrawaddy River
- 28 cabins and suites
- Restaurant and bar
- Swimming pool
- Spa and wellness centre
- Fitness room
- Butler service
Sister to the historic Strand Hotel in Yangon, the newly launched Strand Cruise embodies similarly refined values, combining a colonial charm with modern luxury for an unforgettable journey along the Irrawaddy River between Bagan and Mandalay. 28 sumptuous cabins and suites are tastefully decorated with Burmese craftsmanship and Teakwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, en suite bathrooms, complimentary Wi-Fi and round the clock butler service. The Strand Suites feature a private outdoor balcony and a personal butler for your every desire. The ship’s heart is the upper deck, where Myanmar’s passing landscapes can be viewed from the comfort of sun loungers, the cocktail bar or the swimming pool. It’s also the venue for entertainment in the evening. Relax in the spa, get invigorated in the fitness room, or delve into the region’s fascinating history in the ship’s library. Cuisine on board is another highlight of the journey – whether you chose to dine in the restaurant or alfresco at the BBQs on the upper deck – the Strand’s internationally renowned chefs work with the freshest and finest ingredients to offer up a delightful take on international and Asian cuisines. Get in touch with our expert travel designers to learn more about the Strand Cruise’s Irrawaddy cruise itineraries.
- 21 cabins & suites with private balconies
- A la carte lunch and dinner, with soft drinks and local beer included
- Sundeck & plunge pool
- Spa & fitness centre
- Talifoo restaurant
- Mindoon al fresco restaurant
- Children over ten-years-old are welcome
Sailing between Bagan, Yangon and Mandalay, the Sanctuary Ananda is a luxury boat styled in traditional Burmese fashion, but with all the modern amenities you’d expect of five-star accommodation, from iPads to butler service. The 21 suites are all air-conditioned and have private balconies; the Aloungpayah Owner’s Suite, the top accommodation option on board the Sanctuary Ananda, has private dining facilities, a private guide for its occupants, a full-size bathtub in its bathroom, a large living area, and sun loungers on the veranda. Communal areas on the boat include the sundeck and plunge pool, from which passengers can take in the Irrawaddy River views while relaxing in between stops. The onboard dining options include an a la carte lunch and dinner, with celebrity chef Michelle Bernstei having created a menu of Burmese fusion cuisine. Guests can take their meals outside in the Mindoon al fresco restaurant or inside, and the Kansi lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can take in the scenery even when you’re chilling out on one of the comfy sofas with an evening cocktail or your morning coffee. As you cruise down the sacred Irrawaddy River, you’ll be able to visit temples, monasteries and palaces on the way, and tour the ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay. Onboard activities include local performances, yoga and meditation sessions, lectures by professional guides, Burmese cooking classes, and spa treatments, so you can be as active or as inactive as you like.
*Please note - the exact length and details of your cruise will depend on which vessel you choose*
Settle into your cabin and relax as you start to sail along the beautiful and serene Irrawaddy River. After lunch, you'll stop in Mingun, one of the country’s former capitals. The unfinished pagoda here is one of the largest pagodas ever constructed in the history of Myanmar. Visit by tuktuk, a popular local means of transportation, and see the magnificent Mingun Bell, claimed to be the largest un-cracked hanging bell in the world. You will also visit Paya Hsinbyume, an impressive pagoda that rises in seven curved whitewashed terraces representing the seven mountain ranges around Mt Meru, the mountain at the centre of the Buddhist universe.
As the sun sets, admire the magnificent sights over the Irrawaddy River from the ship’s deck.
Your day begins with a visit to Ava, the ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Horse carts await the ship to transport guests for a delightful ride through the naturally preserved Ava landscape and key landmarks. A once prominent city, throughout history Ava has been ravaged by war and natural disasters and rebuilt numerous times. Today, all that is left are the ruins and remains of an abandoned kingdom forever imprinted in history. Here you will visit the Yadana Shemee and Wingaba, temples, as well as the Bopaya monastery and the brick monastery.
The rest of the day is yours to enjoy, relaxing on board your luxury vessel.
This morning sees your arrival into Bagan and the start of the much-anticipated Bagan Heritage Trail. Bagan is remarkable for the magnificent architecture of its buildings and the contribution they have made to Burmese temple designs. Marvel at Bagan’s wonders including the Ananda Temple, one of the most exquisite temples of the country, and the Shwezigon Pagoda, renowned for its gold leaf decor.
After lunch back on board, continue your day in Bagan with a visit to the magnificent Shwe San Daw temple, followed by a journey to the beautiful Sulamani temple and Gubyaukgyi temple. As twilight sets in, admire the sunset from the deck.
After a last breakfast, disembark in Old Bagan and take to the skies at sunrise in a hot air balloon where you'll gently float above the 2,000 pagodas of Bagan.
Private transfer to your hotel in Bagan
Accommodation in Bagan
- 114 guestrooms
- Four restaurants and bars
- Two swimming pools
- Art gallery
- Complimentary entry to the viewing tower
Aureum Palace is set in Bagan, home to majestic temples and ancient pagodas. Soak up these magical, sweeping views from the never-ending infinity pool where you can dine poolside, and watch the sun set over a fiery, shrine-filled landscape from the viewing tower, one of the highest platforms in Bagan. Within the spectacular grounds of 27 acres of tropical gardens and lake sit Aureum Palace’s spacious and decadent accommodations. These range from deluxe rooms to two bedroom lakeside villas. All boast elegantly romantic interiors, with the most lavish enjoying Jacuzzis, private swimming pools, plus entire living and dining areas. Artefacts, antiquities and local artwork adorn this expansive resort which is home to a vast list of facilities from the heavenly spa to an art gallery to an impressive gym and four different dining options. Meals can be taken both indoors and al-fresco with cuisines ranging from Asian to continental dishes. What’s more, the service at Aureum Palace is truly supreme: full-time, personal butlers are available and cultural entertainment is also on offer.
- 82 rooms and three suites
- Restaurant and two bars
- Swimming pool
Close to Bagan’s ancient wonders, this charming, stylish hotel offers an excellent location for those wishing to experience the world’s most enchanting temples and pagodas. After a day of exploring the 11th-century marvels, guests can relax in their chic, comfortable rooms which are styled in an old, colonial fashion, featuring giant, leather-strapped travelling chests at the foot of each bed, brass tripod lamps, and gorgeous bathrooms. Each room has a private balcony, too. Continue your relaxation at Bagan Lodge’s spa where a variety of massages and treatments are available, while the pool offers another tranquil spot in which to unwind with a leisurely swim, or a refreshing cocktail at the pool bar. The open-air Tiffin Box restaurant ensures all culinary desires are covered, serving up both authentic Burmese cuisine and western dishes.
Enjoy your time in this magnificent part of Myanmar, famous for its thousands of pagodas and charming countryside.
Visit a historic lacquerware workshop, an ancient art form where today's master craftsmen have been honing a craft with centuries of tradition.
Private transfer to Bagan airport
Flight from Bagan to Heho
From Heho, a scenic one-hour drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, stop at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings Buddha images. You will also stop in Nyaung Shwe for a short walk around town and visit to the colourful market if it is being held that day.
Then, board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake.
Accommodation in Inle Lake
- 27 villas
- Restaurant & bar
- Organic vegetable garden
Tucked away under the ‘Blue Mountains’ of the Shan Plateau along the eastern shores of Lake Inle, the Villa Inle Resort offers a private and romantic experience, with some wonderful cultural attractions in the nearby area. The 27 spacious villas of the resort are made to blend harmoniously with the natural environment, favouring a traditional design and local materials. High ceilings, sweeping silk curtains and expansive teak flooring give these villas a luxurious feel and make for a blissful couple’s hideaway; large bathtubs, private terraces with lake views and soft lighting complete the experience. The hotel also proudly participates in a conservation programme, planting trees in the nearby area, using recycled materials wherever possible, and growing their own organic plants for use in the kitchen.
- 97 rooms and suites
- Restaurant and bar
Located in Maing Thauk Village, half of which is set on dry land while the other half sits on stilts over the waters on Inle Lake, the Inle Sanctum Resort blends a minimalist monastic style with all manner of modern comforts. 96 bedrooms range from stand-alone villas located in the resort grounds to rooms within the main building. All are beautifully designed featuring natural wood floors, high ceilings and spacious bathrooms. The Cloister is part-bar, part-lounge, serving traditional favourites and a wide selection of Myanmar-brewed beers or enjoy an afternoon cocktail, whilst The Refectory serves a delicious menu from noodles to fresh garden salads, taking inspiration from traditional Myanmar dishes. After a day exploring the lake and its fascinating surroundings, the Sanctuary Spa offers a chance to fully unwind with a range of treatments and therapies.
- 45 chalets
- Restaurant, bar and wine cellar
- Artisan’s Village
Found on the eastside of Inle Lake, this traditionally designed resort houses idyllic wooden chalets with magnificently scenic views. While some look out to the flourishing garden and others overlook the mountains, many of the rooms enjoy lovely lake terraces where you can sit back and watch fisherman pass by. Besides scenic vistas, the accommodation also provides cosy comfort thanks to fireplaces and lots of mod cons. All culinary tastes are covered here with the restaurant serving a range of Chinese, vegetarian, European, Thai and traditional Shan dishes. However for a truly atmospheric experience, you can dine in the resort’s wine cave where an Inle Long Boat acts as a table and romantic seclusion is perfectly created. With an on-site artisan’s village there’s heaps to get involved with at this environmentally conscious property. Try your hand at Shan Paper making, wood carving or meditation – what’s more the lake offers plenty to do and the town of Nyaung Shwe is just a twenty minute boat ride away.
Enjoy the following days in this peaceful region, watching the renowned leg-rowing fishermen and seeing the lake's floating markets.
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.
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.
Private transfer to Heho airport
Flight from Heho to Yangon
Private transfer to your hotel in Yangon
Accommodation in Yangon
- Restaurant, cafe, bar & lounge
- Business centre
A relic of Myanmar‘s colonial history dating back to 1901, The Strand played host to Rudyard Kipling during his journey through then-Burma, amongst many other famed writers and travellers. Today, many things have changed – there’s Wi-Fi in all the rooms and the complimentary mini-bars are refreshed daily – but the hotel’s elegant charm and the first-rate, attentive service remain constant with butlers manning every floor 24-hours-a-day, each armed with an unfailingly sunny and helpful disposition. The four suites types are spacious and airy, with teak wood floors, antiques to decorate, ceiling fans, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel also features a spa, where travellers can go for a massage to ease away jetlag or perhaps to prepare for a long flight. Guests can dine in the sophisticated Strand Grill, with its black-and-white marble floor, chandeliers, and local music accompanying the international cuisine. The Strand Cafe is a little more casual, and the breakfast menu offers a fantastic choice of cereals, pancakes and eggs, to name but a few options: we recommend the eggs benedict. Being an old colonial hotel, it’s no surprise that high tea is also on offer, later in the evening, you can join the local expats in the grand bar for a cold G&T.
- 30 rooms and suites
- Massage rooms
- Swimming pool
- Business centre
Overlooking Yangon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda, The Savoy is a boutique hotel in an old colonial mansion, just ten minutes away from the city centre. Service is a stand-out feature, with enthusiastically helpful staff available 24 hours a day. The rooms are very spacious, with wooden floors, polished wooden furnishings, and large windows; the suites have living areas, and are the best options for those staying for more than a couple of days, where the extra space will be appreciated. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in all rooms and suites. The pool and adjacent lounge area make for great places to unwind away from the city bustle. You can dine at Kipling’s Restaurant, which serves a combination of western and regional cuisine, complimented by a view of Shwedagon Pagoda; there’s also a terrace, so you can make the most of the balmy evenings. Le Bistrot offers French food and is situated right next to the pool, affording guests a peaceful al fresco dining spot. For a more upbeat atmosphere, Captain’s Bar has live music on a weekly basis.
- 45 rooms & three suites
- Restaurant, lounge & bar
- In-room spa
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Lotus ponds & gardens
Set in verdant gardens, the restored teak mansion of the Governor’s Residence dates back to the 1920s, capturing a by-gone era with its classic design, manicured lawns, and location in the desirable embassy district of Yangon. As you'd expect from a Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) hotel, the 45 rooms are spacious and tastefully appointed, with teak floors, earthy-toned silks and hand-carved furniture. Alternatively, you can choose from one the hotel’s three suites and benefit from a palatial amount of space and views of the private lotus garden. The Governor’s Residence offers a range of dining options, from the Mandalay Restaurant, serving local cuisine, to aromatic curries at the Burmese Curry Table, and on balmy evening, you can sip a refreshing cocktail in the open-air Mindon Lounge.
Explore this energetic city with our full list of recommendations. From the enormous Shwedagon Pagoda, stroll through shaded parks and lakes and dine on delicious street food in bustling Chinatown at night - Yangon is a fascinating place to discover.
The Chinatown neighborhood is extremely lively in the evening and we’ll take a short walking tour along 19th Street, famous for its barbeque restaurants. Dozens of vendors set up satay stalls and other snack stalls here in the evening and it is a popular spot for locals to gather, have a drink and chat with friends. Enjoy a dinner of delicious grilled meats, seafood and vegetable dishes with traditional dipping sauces and side dishes
Discover the colonial city centre and its faded colonial buildings, busy street markets, and glittering temples. Visit the Aung San Old House, the former residence of independence leader General Aung San, home now to fascinating memorabilia, then enjoy a lunch of Burmese cuisine at the House Of Memories Restaurant, a historic colonial home filled with relics from Myanmar’s history.
After lunch, visit former U.N. Secretary General U Thant’s house, Yangon University’s Convocation Hall, where violent protests of the past contrast with Obama’s historic address in November 2012 and see Aung San Suu Kyi’s house. End the day with a visit to the National League for Democracy headquarters and discussing Myanmar’s past, present and future at a local tea shop.
Private transfer to Yangon airport
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Highlights of Myanmar with Irrawaddy Cruise
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