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Overview

From Mandalay to Yangon, discover the many faces and smiles of local Burmese people. Explore the ancient capital of Bagan and Mandalay, visit responsible elephant camp in Kalaw and cross Inle Lake to meet with the local Inthar people. Covering the iconic sites and hidden villages, get to know all about Burmese history, culture, traditions and the people’s warm and friendly nature.  

Trip Highlights

The Many Faces of Myanmar

Explore Mandalay and its surroundings

Visit the former royal capital of Mandalay and see its historical and cultural highlights.

Discover beautiful Bagan

Visit another former capital, Bagan and behold its ancient temples and local cultures. 

Meet with the locals of Inle Lake

Experience the natural and cultural wonders of Inle Lake and get to know the Inthar people. 

Itinerary

1

Arrival Mandalay

Meet the guide and driver at the airport and transfer to the hotel.

Late this afternoon, take a  tour of Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’. Continue to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving.

Head to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun begins to set to enjoy magnificent views of the city and Irrawaddy River.

Overnight Mandalay.

2

Mandalay – Sagaing

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Mahamuni Face Washing - Wake up early this morning (around 0400) and catch a local taxi to Mahamuni Pagoda. Every morning before dawn, the monks wash the face of the ‘lumpy’ Buddha image with special fragrant water and brush its teeth. The ritual takes around one hour and is a unique insight into Buddhism.

Return to the hotel around 0730 for breakfast.

This morning the tour starts at 08:00.

Begin today’s sightseeing tour of Mandalay with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, have been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost ‘lumpy’ texture. Mandalay is well known for its skilled craftsmen and during a tour of the traditional workshops, learn more about the city’s cottage industries. Observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court.

Afterwards, cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar.  It is home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers, visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae.

Also go to Sagaing’s local market, a typical Burmese market that few tourists visit. Here, find a range of items for sale including locally made pottery, silver and other handicrafts. Then, stop at a small pottery village to see the process of making the ubiquitous water pots found throughout Myanmar.

Return to Mandalay this afternoon.

This evening, cruise out to see the comedic styling of local legends, the Moustache Brothers. A mixture of comedy and traditional Burmese dance, this show is quite bizarre and absolutely unique to Mandalay. Jailed for telling jokes against the government 20 years ago, the Mustache Brothers have been entertaining Westerners from their garage since their release.

3

Mandalay – Bagan

Day cruise to Bagan

Today the journey continues at 07:00.

Transfer to the jetty to board a day cruise to Bagan along the Irrawaddy River. The cruise is a great chance to see life along the rivers of Myanmar. Lunch is provided on board and the cruise will the most of the day.

Along the way, the boat will dock at a small village. Take a stroll through the town, learning about life along the Irrawaddy. Then continue back down the river to Bagan.

Upon arriving at Bagan, transfer to the hotel.

Overnight in Bagan

4

Bagan

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Balloon Experience Over Bagan - Start the morning with an incredible hot-air balloon flight over Bagan’s temple-studded plains. Pastries, croissants, coffee and tea are provided while the balloon is inflated.  Climb aboard before gently rising above thousands of gilded stupas and earthen temples all back-dropped by the impressive Irrawaddy River.  A truly unforgettable and unique experience. (Note: available only from late- October to late-March; all flights weather permitting

Today the sightseeing begins at 08:00 with a visit to an elevated viewpoint for a panoramic view of the magnificent plains of Bagan. Continue with a visit to the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for an introduction into Bagan’s rich history. Then, visit to nearby 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.

For lunch today, transfer to a typical Burmese village to have lunch at a local home. With the guide as an interpreter, chat with the locals or just enjoy the peaceful surroundings.  The lunch itself will be typical Burmese food catered by a restaurant in town.

This afternoon begin with a visit to a traditional lacquer ware workshop to 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.  Built in the early Mon-style, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending on the distance from which the statue is viewed.

From here, travel by horse cart for a tour passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, massive Dhammayangyi Temple, noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple.

Enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the one of the viewpoints.

Overnight in Bagan.

5

Bagan

This morning the tour starts at 08:00.

Embark with on a drive through the plains to Mt Popa. Mt Popa is a place of great importance to the Burmese as they believe it is the home of 37 Nats, ancient Burmese animist spirits. The spirits predate the arrival of Buddhism in Myanmar. The shrine is located on a volcanic plug, Taung Kalat. Taking over 800 stairs to the top, learn about nats and nat worship while climbing past many shrines and see many local pilgrims.  The hard work is rewarded as the view over the Myingyan Plain from the top of the volcanic peak is quite impressive.

After returning to the base of the shrine, begin the drive back to Bagan. After around 20-30 minutes, stop in Shwe Hlaing. The people here make their living producing various items from toddy palm trees. Observe traditional production of toddy palm—from the collecting of the liquid to the creating of the drinks and sugars.

Then enjoy lunch under the shade of the toddy palm trees. A traditional Burmese lunch will be served in this local setting: a memorable meal and chance to experience local lifestyles.

Then transfer back to Bagan.

This evening, transfer to Nanda puppet show. Enjoy dinner while watching beautiful puppets act out ten traditional scenes. Accompanied by a live orchestra, the show is one of the best puppet performances in Myanmar.

Overnight in Bagan.

6

Bagan – Heho - Kalaw

This morning, transfer to the airport for a flight to Heho in the Shan State. From Heho, take a two- hour drive to Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Magwe Village. Upon arrival, a guide from the Green Hill will show the way to the main camp. Enjoy a welcome drink while receiving a briefing on the day’s activities, the background of the camp and the history of elephants in Myanmar.

Following this, embark on a short walk to the river, passing through a reforestation project set up by the camp and villagers. Be greeted by the elephants – the guide will explain their name, age, and how they ended up retiring at the camp. Trays of bananas and sugarcane will be brought out and some time will be enjoyed feeding the elephants. Afterwards, get dressed in traditional Shan garments to prepare for bathing the elephants. Walk to a natural pool, located between two small falls in the stream, and join the elephants for a bath. 

OPTION FOR SHORT TREK: This morning, transfer from Kalaw to the Wet Pyu Ye Junction where a guide from the Green Hill Valley Elephant camp will be waiting. Embark on a walk to the camp. The walk is mostly downhill and passes through a variety of forest types - teak, bamboo, etc - which is home to a variety of flora and fauna.  After 45-90 minutes of walking, encounter the camp’s elephants. The elephants will likely be enjoying a refreshing swim in the stream. Join the mahouts to bathe these gentle animals. Enjoy refreshments here or by a waterfall.

Return to the reforestation area to plant a tree before heading to the main camp for lunch. There is time in the afternoon to explore more on foot with the local trekking guide or interact with the elephants.

In the late afternoon, say goodbye to the elephants and mahouts and transfer back to Kalaw.

NOTE:  For the wellbeing of the animals, elephant riding is not allowed.

Overnight in Kalaw

7

Kalaw – Pindaya - Inle

This morning the journey continues at 08:00.

Embark on a scenic drive through Shan State, first stopping at Pindaya before continuing on to Inle Lake. The route is stunning, and there will be time to stop for photos along the way.

Upon arrival, visit to the Pindaya Market, a typical rural market selling an array of food and dry goods.

Then, take a short drive east of Pindaya and, upon arrival, continue on foot to a small village. In the village, observe the daily activities of local people. If it is dry season it is possible to see the drying of cheroot leaves or weaving of cotton. In the rainy season, activities such as the weaving of wood or bamboo mats and making of brooms can be seen. This quaint village is filled with friendly locals and some curious kids offering a welcome to their town.

Next, continue to a local farm for an interactive cooking demonstration. Learn about the local ingredients used in some of the regional cuisine (Danu, Shan and Pa-Oh) and the techniques used to cook the tasty dishes of the Shan State. Have a chance to visit a small plantation where some herbs or other ingredients are being grown.

After cooking, sit down to enjoy a delicious lunch of freshly prepared dishes.

After lunch, head to the Pindaya Caves to explore this incredible complex. Then, transfer to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway to Inle Lake, and on to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Overnight in Nyaung Shwe or Inle Lake

8

Inle

Today the sightseeing begins at 08:00 and embark on a day trip around Inle Lake.

Start with a visit to the morning market, which rotates locations on a 5-day basis (note: there are no markets on full moon or dark moon days). This daily market attracts people from all over the lake’s shores who gather to buy and sell their wares. In one day it’s possible to see Pa-Oh, Inthar and Shan people all in their traditional outfits. Wander amid the stalls and listen to the guide’s explanation of local produce and goods that are sold there.

Then continue across the lake, passing through villages with stilted houses and floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. Along the way, see the famous leg-rowing fishermen who steer their boats with incredible balance.

Afterwards, head to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images and houses several royal barges used during the pagoda’s annual festival.

Proceed to the village of Inpawkhone to observe the traditional silk-weaving techniques of Inthar people. Inpawkhone is also known for weaving with the stems of lotus flowers, a time-consuming process that results in high quality materials famous throughout the country. Also visit a cheroot factory where local Burmese cigars are rolled by hand.

Next, stop at Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake’s indigenous people and enjoy a beautiful Shan lunch.

The afternoon will be at leisure. Continue sightseeing on the Lake, take a stroll through one of the lakeside villages, or return to the hotel to relax.

Overnight on Inle Lake

9

Inle Lake – Sagar - Loikaw

Today the journey continues at 08:00.

Set off this morning for Sagar, the far southern region of Inle Lake. Very few tourists make the trip down to this region yet it is one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State, with the mountains forming a backdrop for the small villages and fishermen on the water.

The boat journey takes 2.5-3 hours but is full of fabulous views and glimpses of exotic species of birds. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Upon arriving in Sagar there are several stops that will be made (the order will depend on the time, other tourist boats and activity in the villages). The main highlight for many travelers are the ‘sunken’ stupas of Sagar- 108 stupas from the 16-17th centuries that are partially underwater for a few months a year. There is also a local monastery and village that can be visited here.

Continue to the village of Thaya Gone, home to Pa-Oh, Shan and Inthar people and known for its production of local rice wine. Watch the process of distillation and then sample some of the local brew. In Thaya Gone there is also the chance to climb to the top of a small hill which provides great views of the lake and surrounding villages.

Another stop is made in Sae Khaung Pottery Village to see the crafting of oil and water pots as well as the natural, underground kilns used by the villagers. On the western shores of the Sagar area is Tar Kaung, a series of more than 200 stupas which also makes for a fabulous photo stop.

Lunch will be arranged along the way (either picnic lunch or local lunch at a small restaurant)

Around 14:30, the boat continues down the lake to the small town of Phe Khone. Here, transfer to a car for the final hour drive to Loikaw.

Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, abounds with natural wonders, spellbinding tribes and unending wonders.  Bisected by the Bilu River, Loikaw is blessed with rolling mountains, lakes, markets and hill tribes – the most famous being the Padaung or ‘long-neck’ ladies. The area was only recently opened to tourists in 2013, and is still very much off the beaten path.

On arrival check in to the hotel.

10

Loikaw

This morning the tour starts at 08:00.

If it is a market day, head about 30 minutes outside of Loikaw to the Demawso Market (Only open Mon, Wed, and Sat). This very local market attracts tribes from the surrounding area to sell their wares. Most interesting is the local khayung yai wine.  The local women line up with batches of homemade wine, each offering free samples to any interested customers. After deciding on a particularly tasty one, customers will make their purchase, filling up containers they brought from home. Quite often just an old water bottle, many are empty again before making the journey home.

Following the market, drive out to the countryside. From here, take an easy walk through local villages and farmland, with the mountains of Kayah state in the background. After an hour, reach Pan Phet village. Most of the inhabitants of Pan Phet are of the Padaung tribe. Locally referred to as “long neck ladies”, the Padaung women are famous for the many golden neck rings they wear. Though the tradition is dying out, most women over 40 in the village can still be seen wearing these heavy accessories.  There will be a chance to interact with these ladies while strolling through the simple village. A few roadside stalls have opened to cater to tourists, here there will be it is possible to buy some locally sourced souvenirs and refreshments.

After leaving the village, take the hour return back to the car and head for a late lunch.

Return to Loikaw for an afternoon at leisure. Shortly before sunset, head into downtown Loikaw to visit the Taung Kwe Pagoda. Perched on a spectacular rock formation, this pagoda is Kayah State’s most famous sight. The rock formation itself is said to be the origin of the town’s name (‘loi kaw’ is Shan for ‘Island of mountains’). With great views of the surrounding area, the pagoda is the perfect spot to end the day.

Overnight in Loikaw.

11

Loikaw – Yangon

This morning, enjoy some leisure time before transferring to the airport for a flight to Yangon. Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a relatively quiet and charming city. Its impressive colonial and spiritual heritage makes it one of the most fascinating and authentic cities of Southeast Asia.

From the airport, transfer downtown to embark on a half day of sightseeing in the colonial area.

Head to the heart of downtown, where East meets West with a mix of pagodas, monuments and colonial buildings.  Walk around Sule Pagoda, City Hall, Victory Monument and some of the nearby colonial buildings. Take in the Colonial charm of the city that was once the capital of British Burma.

After seeing the sights, take a food safari through downtown by local open air trishaw and experience the culinary delights of Myanmar’s most bustling city. The tour begins at a local tea shop where guests enjoy Burmese tea and a taste of the city’s traditional culture. The tradition of drinking strong tea with condensed milk and sugar was brought to Myanmar by the British more than a century ago. However, people still drink green tea, which is complimentary in most of the local tea shops, to wash away the sweet flavor. The tea shop visited today is popular with locals and serves a variety of traditional Burmese snacks and noodles, all of which can be sampled. Some of the famous dishes are mont pyar tha let (rice pancake), mont leit pyar (wanton-like parcels of bean and jaggery), shwe htamin (golden sticky rice), mohingar (rice noodles with fish soup - Myanmar’s national dish) and own noe khauk swe (yellow noodles with chicken and coconut soup).

Trishaws will be waiting outside to continue the evening journey. Everyone gets their own trishaw and local driver. Take a short ride through the downtown area and head past St Mary’s Church and the former Minister’s Office. Once known as the Secretariat, this beautiful red brick building was built by the British in the late 1800s and takes up an entire city block. Famous as the location where national hero General Aung Sang was assassinated in 1947, the inside of the building has been closed to the public for over 50 years.

After about a 15 minute ride, head down a small alley off the main road to get to one of the most famous noodle shops in Yangon, 999 Shan Noodle. It is possible to pick from a variety of dishes, though the restaurant is popular for its Shan noodles.   Typically eaten for breakfast, Shan noodles can be had as a soup or salad and are fantastic any time of day.

From here, go on foot through the heart of downtown, past landmarks like Mahabandoola Park, city hall, and Sule Pagoda, each lit up like a beacon in the middle of town. This short stroll should work up an appetite for next stop, a local Indian restaurant. During British rule, Yangon was populated with more Indians than Burmese. Many of their descendants still live here today with their influence being seen on the local dishes.  Try some of the Indian-influenced snacks that are still popular with Burmese people.

From here, it’s back on the trishaws. Take a ride through Little India, with its colorful temples and make one last stop at Chinatown. Continue through a bustling night market before heading to 19th street. Famous for its barbeques, 19th street is a lively place to enjoy meat and vegetable satays, washed down with draught Myanmar Beer.

Transfer back to the hotel. Overnight in Yangon

12

Yangon

Today the sightseeing begins at 08:00.

Transfer to the Nanthida Jetty to board a ferry to cross the Yangon River to Dhala. The jetty is often buzzing with activity as a mini-street market is there to sell snacks and other items to the ferry passengers. The boat ride to Dhala takes 15 minutes and offers great views of the waterways. It is a fun chance to interact with the curious locals as they make their way across the river.

Upon reaching Dhala, travel by local trishaw through the town. The scenic town is remarkably different from nearby Yangon, with many trees, local neighborhoods and quiet side streets filling the area. While in Dhala, visit the market and have plenty of opportunities to stop and interact with the friendly locals.

After visiting the village and market, proceed to the monastery to learn about monastic life in Myanmar. The monastery also serves as a community centre and is an important part of rural Burmese life.

Return by boat to Yangon, observing life along the river and reflecting back on the excursion to Dhala. Upon returning to the Yangon jetty, transfer back to the hotel for an afternoon of rest.

An hour or so before sunset, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar and a fantastic spot to finish up two weeks in this amazing country. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, local legend states that the original structure was built 2,500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 metres tall, gilded with gold leaf and surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. Take a tour around the massive complex, learning why this temple is so revered. Enjoy breathtaking views of the golden stupa from this vantage point as the sun sets -a truly memorable ending to an unforgettable journey through Myanmar.

Overnight in Yangon.

13

Yangon - departure

Transfer to the airport for a departure flight home. Alternatively, extend the trip to visit some of the other remote tribes in Myanmar such as the Chin or Naga.

Important Information

Our services include:

  • 12 night’s accommodation in a shared twin room or shared double room with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the program (B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • English-speaking guide station guides (1 guide per location)
  • All transfers and excursions with private air-conditioned vehicles with drivers
  • Horse cart tour in Bagan
  • Trishaw in Yangon & Dala
  • Private local boat for Inle Lake excursions
  • Porter fees at airports
  • Entrance fees for the visits mentioned in the program
  • Drinking water while touring

Our services do not include:

  • International ticket to/from Yangon
  • Domestic flights (rate: please refer to our flight tariffs)
  • Meals other than mentioned (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Visa arrangements for Myanmar
  • Fuel Surcharge for domestic flights
  • Visits not mentioned in the program
  • Drinks and personal expenses
  • Tips and porters at the hotels
  • Credit card fees (2-3%) or bank transfer fees for non-cash payments
  • Any other items not mentioned

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