Essential Myanmar

8 days / 7 nights

Our eight day snapshot of Myanmar begins in the shimmering city of Yangon, followed by the ancient Burmese capital of Bagan, with over 4,000 stupas satisfying your temple desires amidst dramatic scenery. In Mandalay, local crafts, ancient cities and the world’s largest book await us, before the unique leg rowers and dazzling floating gardens of Inle Lake. We return to Yangon before departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Yangon. City tour.

On arrival check into your hotel.

Our first stop will be at the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 70 meter long reclining Buddha statue before we head into Yangon’s city center and visit the Sule Pagoda and Bogyoke Market. Then it’s onto the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. Witness the colors transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese. 

Day 2: Fly to Bagan. Ananda Temple and sunset.

After breakfast we take a domestic flight to Bagan, the center of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries and home to 4,000 evocative stupas and pagodas on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. We start at the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for a closer look at Bagan’s affluent past. Continue to Wetkyi-In, Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with beautiful wall paintings and the stylish Htilominlo Temple.

This afternoon will begin with a visit to a traditional lacquer workshop followed by Ananda Temple, certainly one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples, housing two distinctive Buddha images. Their expressions transform, according to your viewing point. By horse cart we visit Thatbyinnyu, the tallest temple in Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple. We watch the extraordinary sunset over the plains from the higher verandas of one of these 3 temples. 

Day 3: Markets, school visit, village life and crafts.

We start the day at the Nyaung U market, followed by a drive to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery and the chance to explore the temple’s caves, with a visit to the Monastic Primary School where you can observe the children in their classrooms. NOTE ( School visits are not possible on Saturdays and Sundays). *An optional tour could be a memorable hot air balloon ride over Bagan (only available Oct-March).

This afternoon we begin with a walk through Myinkaba village where you’ll have the chance to see local craftsmen at their lacquer workshop. We carry on to Manuha Temple (constructed in 1059) and investigate the Nanbaya Temple, a distinctive sandstone shrine, which according to myth, was the bastion of King Manuha. Then it’s off to Bupaya Pagoda or Mingala Zedi Stupa to catch the sunset over the celebrated Ayeyarwaddy River. 

Day 4: Fly to Mandalay. City tour.

We take a domestic flight to Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar, and begin with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves. We carry onto Kuthodaw Pagoda (where the 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures are called the ‘World’s Biggest Book’). Then it’s off to Shwenandaw Monastery, before we reach summit of Mandalay Hill to catch the stunning sunset views. 

Day 5: Ancient capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.

We begin with an expedition to investigate the previous capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing, starting at Amarapura’s Mahagandayon, home to more than a thousand monks, and a busy alms collection. Then it’s on to Ava which was the standing capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. By horse and carriage, we visit Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings and the Nanmyint Watch Tower - also called “the leaning tower of Ava“ – the remnants of the ancient palace, and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery.

After lunch we cross the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing, with Sagaing Hill known as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and which claims residence to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. We stroll along the legendary U Bein Bridge which at 1.2 kms is said to be the longest teakwood bridge worldwide, before we return to Mandalay. 

Day 6: Fly to Heho and onto Inle Lake. Phaung Daw U Pagoda.

After breakfast we take a domestic flight to Heho. After an hour’s drive we reach Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. En route, we’ll stop at the teak monastery of Shweyanpyay to witness the intricate wood carving artwork. We take a boat out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. We’ll pass several stilted Intha villages built over the lake, and observe the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’.

We’ll check into the hotel and then visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses many early Shan Buddha Images. It’s also famous for its unique ‘jumping cats.’ We continue onto Phaung Daw U Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. A stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where traditional Burmese cigars are handmade, will close the day.

Day 7: Inle Lake and Indein Pagoda. Fly to Yangon.

After breakfast we visit the lake’s morning market, the location of which changes every day.A 1-hour boat ride will take you to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, on the western shore of Inle Lake. We ascend the moss-covered stairway to the top of a hill, and the Indein Pagoda complex with its iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. We return to Heho Airport for a short flight back to Yangon, with the rest of the day at leisure. 

Day 8: Departure.

The remainder of the day is at your leisure until your departure flight. As an option and if you have time, you may wish to take a ride on the Yangon circular train for an unusual view of the city.