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Overview

Go beyond the culture and communities of the Golden Land to discover its stunning nature and biodiversity. Check out slow-moving tortoises and elephants before trying to spot much faster birds and fish in the air and water. Head to the country’s most popular destinations, as well as getting off the beaten track to meet with the locals and visit places that are far less explored.

Trip Highlights

Wild Myanmar

Get to know Bagan’s residents

Meet with the friendly residents and see traditional bullock carts, still used by farmers and locals throughout the country.

Visit the Burmese Star Tortoise Conservation Centre

Take a guided forest walk to track the tortoise at  Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary.

Remote island in the Mergui Archipelago

Spend time relaxing and exploring on and around the remote Boulder Island in the Mergui Archipelago.

Itinerary

1

Yangon, arrival

Upon arrival in Yangon, transfer to the hotel for check in (early check-in depends on availability).

After an afternoon of relaxation, get a taste of local life in the big city with a fabulous Yangon evening tour. Around 16:00, transfer to the jetty and board a boat for a 1.5-hour evening cruise on the Yangon River. Enjoy snacks and drinks while watching scenes of river life- with fishermen, local ferries and seagulls passing by.

After sunset, return to dry land and hop in a pedal-powered trishaw for a ride through the streets toward Sule Paya. This way of travelling is fabulous in the evening, passing the colourful street stalls and illuminated colonial buildings of downtown.

Arrive in Chinatown and say farewell to the trishaw. Take a short walk through this lively neighbourhood. Pass by Chinese temples and street stalls on the way to 19th Street where dozens of vendors set up barbeque stalls. This is a popular spot for locals to gather, have a drink and chat with new found friends. Enjoy a dinner of delicious grilled meats, seafood and vegetable dishes with traditional dipping sauces and side dishes while soaking up the bustling atmosphere.

The night comes to a close with a trip to a live music venue for a post-dinner drink. Depending on personal interests or the night of the week, the location may vary from a popular local bar to a more up-market expat hangout. (Extra charges may apply)

Following the nightcap, transfer back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

(Please note: guide and driver available until 23:00PM. After that time a taxi will be arranged at own account)

Overnight in Yangon.

2

Yangon

Today the tour starts at 09:00.

Meet with the guide and driver at the hotel to venture downtown and explore the city centre and its fabulous mix of architecture and sites. The streets are filled with historical buildings, many of which have a faded colonial charm not seen elsewhere in Asia. Start at the Post Office – a lovely historic building- and walk to Sule Paya in the middle of downtown. Along the way, pass by Strand Hotel, Mahabandoola Park and Independence Monument. Then visit Little India and Chinatown, a colourful cacophony of restaurants, temples and markets. Reach Bogyoke Market, formerly known as Scott’s Market, where there is time to browse through dozens of stalls and shops. This is Yangon’s best market for handicrafts and other goods, so be sure to pick up some souvenirs (Note: Market is closed on Mondays and public holidays).

Lunch at a local restaurant where delicious Burmese cuisine is served in a clean, comfortable environment.

After lunch, visit Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, home to a 70-metre long reclining Buddha. A visit to Kyaukhtatgyi provides a great overview of Buddhism with murals depicting the life of Buddha, and a statue carved with traditional symbols. Many locals often gather here to pay homage and pray.

Continue to a local tea shop for a chance to experience an integral part of Burmese life: drinking tea! Select from an array of snacks and enjoy a coffee or tea while sitting amongst businessmen, friends and families who gather at the tea shop to socialise or conduct business.

Next the guided tour goes to Kandawgyi Park, one of central Yangon’s greenest spots. Here, see the glittering Karaweik Barge, a replica of the royal barge, and the vast lake with views of Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. Depending on the day of the visit, Kandawgyi may be busy with local families who come here on the weekend to relax in the fresh air.

From here, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, local legend has it that the original structure was built 2,500 years ago then renovated several times before taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 metres tall, gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. Follow the guide’s lead while touring this massive complex and learn why it’s so revered among locals.

Overnight in Yangon.

3

Yangon – Mandalay

After breakfast, transfer to the airport at 08:00 for a domestic flight to Mandalay.

Upon arrival at Mandalay airport, meet with the guide and driver and head to Ava, the capital of Myanmar from the 14th to 18th centuries. Take a short ferry ride across the river to a waiting horse and carriage and hop aboard. Visit the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace and Fort. Along the way, pass by charming little villages nestled between Ava’s and get a glimpse of local life in the Burmese countryside.

Stop for lunch in Ava before returning to the car.

Return toward the city and stop at Amarapura, a former capital whose name means ‘City of Immortality’. First, visit a silk weaving workshop, then head to U Bein Bridge. This 200-year-old teak wood structure is constructed of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace. At more than a kilometre in length, it’s the longest teak wood construction in the world. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge soaking up fabulous views of the Taungthaman Lake and the surrounding countryside, then prepare for something special – U Bein Bridge’s real claim to fame rests in its legendary sunsets. As the sun dips below the horizon the entire area becomes bathed in golden light, making for one of the best photographic opportunities in all of Asia. Be sure to take advantage of it by taking a few snaps.

Overnight in Mandalay.

4

Mandalay – Popa

This morning the tour begins at 08:00.

Meet with the EXO guide and driver at the hotel and set off to discover the first wildlife of the tour. After around 2.5 hours of driving in a southerly direction from Mandalay 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 true 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 Mt Popa.

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

5

Popa – 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, while watching monkeys eating and playing on and around the staircase. 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 in Salay.

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.

6

Salay – Bagan

After breakfast return to the vehicle to transfer to Bagan at 09:00.

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

After lunch (client’s own account) set off on a fully-guided Bagan half day tour. This program includes a range of sites, providing a great overview of Bagan’s history, culture and local lifestyles.

The journey begins with a visit to Shwezigon, one of Myanmar’s holiest sites. The gilded stupa-shaped pagoda became the prototype of the ‘typical’ Myanmar stupa. Learn how its design inspired kings to build similar structures throughout the country, including famous Shwedagon Pagoda. On the same compound is a small hall that houses an impressive collection of carvings representing the nat spirits.  Make a short stop here to learn about this unique aspect of Myanmar spirituality.

Then, visit nearby Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi to examine the beautiful mural paintings found inside. Step back outside and admire its incredible plaster carvings found on the exterior. These two pagodas reflect the architectural diversity found throughout Bagan.

After this introduction to Bagan’s famed pagodas, take a closer look at its culture with a visit to a selection of traditional workshops. Witness skilled artisans making lacquerware and wood crafts, using techniques handed down from generation to generation. The remarkable skill of the artisans is sure to impress! However, the guide will be happy to continue the temples tour if that is preferred over the workshop visits.

A final stop will be made in a local village for a glimpse of what life is like for Bagan’s residents. Meet with the friendly residents and see traditional bullock carts, still used by farmers and locals throughout the country.

Afterwards, transfer back to the hotel.

Overnight in Bagan.

7

Bagan – Heho – Pindaya – Kalaw

This morning, transfer to the airport for a flight to Heho in Shan State. Upon arrival, drive one hour to the beautiful lakeside town of Pindaya. Just outside of the town, visit the famous Shwe-Oo-Minn limestone caves with their thousands of Buddha images etched into the cave’s inner wall. Afterwards, visit a small-scale traditional Shan paper workshop to observe the making of this unique and colorful paper using mulberry tree fibre and flower petals. Shan paper is used to make various products such as notebooks, envelopes and the famous Burmese parasols which make for great souvenirs to take home.

Lunch at a lovely local restaurant by the lake in Pindaya.

After lunch, briefly visit Pone-Ta-Lok Lake to see local ways of life and then proceed on another 1 hour drive to Kalaw to explore the former British hill station’s colonial architecture before the sun sets.

Overnight in Kalaw.

8

Kalaw – Inle

This morning after breakfast at 08:00, drive to Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Magwe village. Upon arrival, transfer 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 sugar cane will be brought out and some time will be enjoyed feeding the elephants. Afterwards, get dressed in traditional Shan garments to prepare for the elephants bathing. 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. 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 the camp’s elephants will come into view. The elephants will likely be enjoying a refreshing swim in the stream. There is an option to 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 to Inle.

Overnight on Inle.

9

Inle

This morning the tour starts at 08:00. Travel away from the main body of Inle Lake to Nampan, a typical village located on the lake’s southern edges.

Depending on the day, there may be the opportunity to visit Nampan’s morning market. This colourful market is held every five days and is a good place to see members from different hill tribe groups. A stop will also be made at a local workshop to see the production of local cigars. Also, known as cheroot, these cigars are beloved by the Myanmar people. Watch the skilful workers as they precisely hand-roll each cigar.

Then it’s time for the adventure to explore the Inle Lake Wetland Sanctuary to begin. After a safety briefing, begin the Inle Lake kayaking tour with a paddle around the quiet waters of Nampan. Weave through the back canals that serve as roads, passing residents as they paddle their canoes to the villages’ shops and schools. Enjoy the serene atmosphere, moving at a slower pace and seeing life from a local point of view. This offers a chance to look for some of the wide range of wetland birds and amphibians going about their business in the waters.

Then cross the main part of Inle and paddle onwards to Mine Pyo Village. On the way, get an up-close look at Inle’s iconic leg-rowing fishermen. Observe how they use one leg to balance the boat, the other leg to support the fishing cage, one arm to aim the fishing cage and the other arm to steer.

Upon reaching Mine Pyo stop for a rest and to get a glimpse into Inthar life. Be welcomed into a family home, seeing the inside of a typical Inle Lake house. Sit down for a cup of tea and some local snacks, enjoying this memorable opportunity.

Hop back into the kayaks for the paddle to Se Sone village, winding through more channels and passing by stilted houses. The Inle Lake kayaking tour concludes at another local house where there is time for another cup of tea before returning to the hotel by motorboat.

This afternoon, enjoy some leisure time. With some luck, observe woodland birds from the hotel.

Overnight on Inle.

10

Inle

This morning get ready for another adventure at 07:00, this time away from the waters of the lake and onto two feet for some trekking to discover more of the Sanctuary’s diverse wildlife. The hills surrounding Inle Lake are full of spectacular trails and beautiful villages begging to be explored.

Take a short transfer away from town and then it’s time to hit the trails! Head into the hills, using a series of switchback trails to gain elevation. Pass through fields growing everything from tea to cabbages, pausing to learn about the Shan State’s agricultural culture. Depending on the time of year, the fields may be busy with farmers planting or harvesting crops. There is plenty of time to stop for photos and to take in sweeping views of valleys and distant hills.

In addition to beautiful scenery and wildlife, trekking Inle Lake also showcases the cultural diversity of the Shan State. Pass through villages inhabited by different ethnic groups and discover how the people have maintained their own distinctive culture, traditions and, quite often, their own language!

Lunch will be served in one of these villages - either in a local house or monastery. This is a great way to get a closer look at local life and learn about the wildlife that local people have seen in the surrounding area.

Continue the Inle Lake trek after lunch, enjoying more spectacular views before heading back to the hotel to relax.

Overnight on Inle.

11

Inle – Yangon – Bago

This morning, transfer to Heho for a flight to Yangon. Upon arrival in Yangon, head to the nearby city of Bago, the capital of the 16th century Mon Kingdom, about a two hours drive away.

Upon arrival in the city enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Then begin the tour of Bago at Shwethalyaung Temple which houses a beautiful 55-meter long reclining Buddha. Continue to the Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda, one of the most venerated in Myanmar and whose 114 meter spire is taller than the one at Shwedagon Pagoda. While in Bago, take time to visit the city’s local sites, including the town market and a traditional Mon neighbourhood for a short stroll around the village.

Overnight in Bago.

12

Bago – Moeyungyi – Yangon

After breakfast at 08:00, head to the natural splendours of the Moeyungyi Wetlands - a vital shelter for both resident and migratory waterfowl. The wetlands cover 67 square kilometres and are a permanent residence for an astonishing 55 bird species. As if that wasn’t enough, the wetlands are also a primary migratory stop for millions of birds, around 70 species in total, which pass through the area while flying along the East Asian-Australian Flyway. Of additional interest, the area is also home to a unique group of people who live off of the land, making it an interesting cultural stop as well.

Enjoy a delicious lunch surrounded by nature at the Moeyungyi Wetlands Resort.

After lunch take a boat excursion through the wetlands, discover buffalo bathing in the shallow waters, see a vast number of birds, and encounter local fisherman.  Afterwards, head back to the resort and take some time to explore the area on foot (time permitting) before transferring back to Yangon.

Overnight in Yangon.

13

Yangon – Kawthaung – Boulder Bay Eco Resort

This morning transfer to Yangon airport for a flight to Kawthaung at the southern tip of Myanmar. From the airport transfer directly to the jetty and at midday depart from Kawthaung jetty towards Boulder Bay Eco Resort on Boulder Island.

Lunch will be served during the five hour cruise through the Andaman Sea. As the busy port area of mainland Myanmar fades into the distance the true beauty of the Mergui Archipelago surrounds the boat as it travels slowly over the calm waters on the way to Boulder Bay Eco Resort.

Arrive at the island just in time to enjoy a welcome drink while watching the sun set from the community area which will be the location for all meals during the island stay. Then be escorted to an exotic Eco Bungalow in the most natural of settings behind Boulder Bay.

Overnight at Boulder Bay Eco Resort. 

14

Boulder Bay Eco Resort

After breakfast, today is at leisure to explore Boulder Island.

The main highlight is the marine life surrounding the main island and there are several stunning bays, all within 20-30 minutes walking distance of each other, to explore – Boulder Bay, Moken Bay, Bamboo Bay and Sisters Bay. A local guide is always present to lead the way through the forested walks and to point out the best spots for snorkelling in each of the bays. Vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish are present throughout.

For those that prefer to stay on top of the water rather than under it, sea kayaks are also available to explore the hidden bays around the island. As the sun begins to set the more adventurous can scramble up to Eagle Point for the best view, while others can walk just 5 minutes from the resort to another beautiful view point with great views over the boulders that give the island its name.

Overnight at Boulder Bay Eco Resort. 

ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL: Electricity for the entire resort is supplied from an on-site solar farm.

15

Boulder Bay Eco Resort

Today is another day spend at leisure to explore beautiful Boulder Island.

Not only is the island home to walking trails through the forest and exceptional snorkelling, it is also an Eco Resort that acts as a leading example of sustainable development in the Mergui Archipelago. An on-site marine biologist is able to take guests through the science of coral reef regeneration and what is being done by the resort to protect the precious nature surrounding the island.

Overnight at Boulder Bay Eco Resort.

16

Boulder Bay Eco Resort – Kawthaung – Yangon

Early this morning at 6am head directly from the Eco Bungalow to the boat for the leisurely cruise back to Kawthaung. Breakfast will be served onboard during the six hour ride as the sun rises over the remote islands of the Mergui Archipelago.

Upon arrival in Kawthaung transfer to the airport for a flight to Yangon.

On arrival in Yangon, transfer to the hotel or to the airport for an onward flight.

Important Information

Our services Include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room with daily breakfast
  • English-speaking station guide
  • All transfers with private vehicles and driver
  • Meals mentioned (B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner) 
  • Ferry For Ava Visit
  • Horse-Cart tour in Ava
  • Group donation to Star Tortoise Conservation Center
  • Donation to Magyeekan Village Fund
  • Boats in Inle Lake & Moeyungyi Wetland
  • Sunset Cruise in Yangon
  • Cultural Kayaking Tour in Inle Lake
  • Trekking Around Inle Lake
  • Porter Charges at airport and jetty
  • 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 (Please refer to the supplement table below)
  • Meals others than mentioned (B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Boat transfer to and from Boulder Bay Eco Resort outside of Tuesday & Saturday
  • Visa arrangements for Myanmar
  • Other entrance fees for visits not mentioned in the program
  • Drinks and personal expenses
  • Camera Fees
  • 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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