Travel over land from Mandalay to Bagan on an educational journey. Visit Star Tortoise Conservation Centre to learn about the unique conservation efforts. Enjoy a traditional Burmese lunch in a small village near the Irrawaddy River and take a village tour to explore local life before visiting a former colonial port town.

Trip Highlights

Mandalay To Bagan With A View

Burmese Star Tortoise Conservation Centre

Go on a guided forest walk to track tortoises in the save haven of Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary.

Overnight stay in remote Mount Popa

Spend a night in the shadows of Mount Popa and Taung Kalat and appreciate the stunning views.

Experience authentic village life

Visit a village untouched by the modern world and a beautifully crafted old wooden monastery in a nearby former colonial port town.



Mandalay – Star Tortoise Project – Mt Popa

This morning the tour begins at 08:00.

Meet with the EXO guide and driver at the hotel and set off to explore some fascinating sites between the famous destinations of Mandalay and Bagan. After around 2.5 hours of driving in a southerly direction stop to visit the Burmese Star Tortoise Conservation Centre at Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary. This species is classified as highly endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and can be found only in Myanmar. Although this tortoise is now thought to be ‘ecologically’ extinct in the wild, with the technical support of the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance) towards captive breeding efforts, a  remarkable increase in numbers has resulted, and as of  late 2017 there were 2,815 Star Tortoises.

EXO Travel is starting to bring travellers to the forest area where the rehabilitation program is taking place. This is a responsible ecotourism project because the contribution from the visit will be used to feed the tortoises, to hire guards to safeguard the tortoises from illegal poaching for food, medicine and pet markets, and to protect the breeding area from habitat destruction. From an educational point of view, visitors will have a chance to take part in a guided forest walk to observe natural breeding, acquire general knowledge on wild species and ultimately reintroduce this extinct species to the community.

After this truly unique experience drive a short distance and take a break with lunch at a local restaurant before continuing the overland adventure with a 2.5 hours drive towards Mount Popa National Park. Arrive at the hotel in time for check-in and a sunset view of both Mount Popa and Taung Kalat, the volcanic plug nearby.

Overnight at Popa Garden Resort.

ECOLOGICALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL: The visit to the Star Tortoise Conservation Centre includes a contribution to the centre to help with its conservation efforts.


Mt Popa – Magyeekan Village – Salay

This morning the journey continues at 08:00.

After breakfast take a very short transfer to Taung Kalat, the volcanic plug that is believed to be the home of the nats. Since ancient times, the people of Myanmar have believed in nats, or 37 spirits who serve as guardians. As Taung Kalat is the home of the nats, it is a very popular pilgrimage spot. Get a glimpse into this unique aspect of Myanmar culture at a small museum where statues of each nat are displayed. Then climb the stairs to the top of the shrine, joining local pilgrims on the way. On the way, learn more about the nats and the role they play in Myanmar society. Upon reaching the top, relax and enjoy the views.

(Note: The climb to the top involves 777 steps, many of which have to be climbed barefoot to respect the site’s spiritual significance; monkeys might also be present during the walk up but the guide will advise on how to keep them at a friendly distance).

Descend back down to the base and return to the vehicle for the onward drive to Magyeekan Village, a traditional Burmese village close to the town of Salay. The drive takes around 1.5 hours and allows time to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the vehicle. Upon arrival in the village the local community will serve a delicious Burmese meal. Then, learn about the villagers’ lives while wandering through dusty paths leading from house to house in the small but charming village.

Afterwards drive 10 minutes to the former colonial port town of Salay. In the early 20th century, large oil deposits were found here and the city became one of the most important ports on the Irrawaddy. Today, the industry has moved upstream to the town of Kyauk, leaving Salay a sleepy town full of colonial charm. After arriving in Salay the first stop is Yoke Sone Kyaung Monastery, one of the oldest wooden halls in the area. Exquisitely carved, the monastery is one of the finest examples of Burmese craftsmanship in the country.

(Note: Yoke Sone Kyaung Monastery is closed on Mondays and public holidays).

Then, take a short 30-minute walking tour through Salay. Walk under the shade of 100-year old trees while exploring the faded colonial buildings. Along the way, pass by several monasteries and ancient pagodas before arriving at Salay House. This colonial building situated by the Irrawaddy River has been renovated into a restaurant and museum. Start by taking a tour of the museum for some historical background on Salay. Then head next door to the beautiful guest house which will be home for the night.

Overnight at Salay River View Inn.

SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL: The lunch at Magyeekan Village is arranged by a community-based tourism enterprise ensuring that the economic benefits are shared throughout the village.


Salay – Bagan

After an early breakfast head back to the vehicle to transfer to Bagan at 08:00.

Drive on a road adjacent to the Irrawaddy River to Bagan. From the 11th to 13th centuries, when Bagan was the capital of Myanmar, rulers constructed thousands of huge stupas and temples, many of which are still standing today on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. 

The drive lasts around 1.5 hours and there is the chance to visit Kyauk market along the way for those that are interested. Upon arrival in Bagan transfer to the hotel (early check-in dependent on availability) and the rest of the day is at leisure, or available to begin exploring the ancient rich cultural heritage.

Important Information

Our services Include:

  • 2 nights accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room with daily breakfast
  • English-speaking local guide
  • All transfers with private vehicles and driver
  • Meals mentioned (B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for the visits mentioned in the program
  • Group donation to Star Tortoise Conservation Centre
  • Donation to Magyeekan Village Fund
  • Drinking water while touring

Our services do not include:

  • International ticket to/from Yangon
  • Meals others than mentioned (B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Visa arrangements for Myanmar
  • Bagan Zone Entrance Fee
  • Other entrance fees for visits not mentioned in the program
  • Drinks and personal expenses
  • Camera Fees
  • Tips and porters at the hotels
  • Any other items not mentioned
  • Credit card fees (2-3%) or bank transfer fees for non-cash payments

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