Myanmar a la Carte

14 days / 13 nights

For this 14-day tour of Myanmar’s undoubted highlights, we provide a series of optional tours that can be added to your program, as you wish. We begin in the city of Yangon, and visit Pindaya Caves on our way to the unique Inle Lake. You can try your hand at traditional cooking before you carry onto Mandalay, where local crafts, ancient cities and the world’s largest book await you. The extraordinary caves near Monywa are a sight to behold, perhaps bettered only by the dazzling array of stupas and dramatic scenery at the ancient Burmese capital of Bagan. We return to Yangon for our departure.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Yangon. Shwedagon Pagoda.
  2. Day 2: Walking tour and options.
  3. Day 3: Fly to Heho. Pindaya Caves.
  4. Day 4: To Inle Lake. Phaung Daw U Pagoda.
  5. Day 5: Free day with options.
  6. Day 6: Fly to Mandalay. Sunset.
  7. Day 7: Mandalay City Tour.
  8. Day 8: Ancient capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.
  9. Day 9: Monywa and Caves of Po Win Taung.
  10. Day 10: By boat to Bagan.
  11. Day 11: Bagan’s Ananda Temple and sunset.
  12. Day 12: Free day with options.
  13. Day 13: Fly to Yangon with options.
  14. Day 14: Departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Yangon. Shwedagon Pagoda.

We begin at the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 70 meter long reclining Buddha statuem stop by the Royal Lake and then head over to 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 considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese. 

Day 2: Walking tour and options.

We head into Yangon’s city center and visit the Sule Pagoda and Bogyoke Market during our walk. The rest of the day is at leisure. 

Option: Visit the National Races Village (half day)
Pay a visit to the ‘National Races Village’ at Thaketa Township, where you can discover the customs and lifestyles of the tribal groups of Myanmar, such as the Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan races.

Option: Fortune Teller Visit (1 hour)
Seers or mystics are a regular part of most citizens’ lives in Myanmar. They consult with their fortune tellers for most things, including health, business, travel, education, marriage or divorce. Try it yourself, the Burmese swear by it.

Option: Yangon Sunset Cruise (Late Afternoon)
Experience the Yangon River with a 2 hour Sunset Cruise, with cocktails and seeing the sites and glorious landscape. 

Day 3: Fly to Heho. Pindaya Caves.

After breakfast we take a domestic flight to Heho. From the airport it’s a 2-hour drive to Pindaya, a quiet town on the banks of the Botoloke Lake. Home to the local Danu people, we visit the renowned Pindaya caves, a unique site housing thousands of Buddha images. The opening of the cave involves a walk past the Shwe U Min Pagodas – giant white stupas which climb out of the ground. Pindaya is also known for its paper umbrella cottage industry and we stop at a family shop to find out more. The rest of the day is at leisure. 

Day 4: To Inle Lake. Phaung Daw U Pagoda.

After breakfast, we take a 2.5 hour drive to Nyaung, 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 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 5: Free day with options.

The entire day will be free at leisure.

Option: Cooking with the Intha Tribe (half day)
We arrive at our Intha family home on stilts over the Inle Lake by rowing boat and help prepare a traditional feast. We find out about the ingredients and cooking methods, as well as the lifestyle of the people, and enjoy a lovely home-cooked meal before returning to the hotel.

Option: Trek to Tribal Villages (full day)
We set off by boat but soon are on firm ground between the villages of Magyigone and Moe Gong. We find out more about the local Pao tribe, how and where they live before we stop for a local lunch in Hti-Nee. In the afternoon we encounter more villages on our way to Nampan market and our return boat trip. Total walking time is 6-7 hours.

Option: Inle Lake-Kakku (full day)
We take a boat ride and drive to Taunggyi, capital of Southern Shan State and then onto the ruins of Kakku, a mysterious site of small stupas and local legends. We also visit a huge monastery amongst the Pao tribal villages before making our return journey by car and boat. 

Day 6: Fly to Mandalay. Sunset.

After breakfast, we spend the morning at leisure around the lake before a return to Heho and the short flight to Mandalay. We end the day with a trip to the summit of Mandalay Hill for a spot of sunset viewing.

Option: Hidden Village of Indein (half day)
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 Pao 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.

Day 7: Mandalay City Tour.

Your morning is at leisure in Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar.

After lunch we begin with a visit to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only surviving structure from the 19th Century royal palace. We carry onto Kuthodaw Pagoda (where the 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures are called the ‘World’s Biggest Book’). Then we stop at Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves. We should still have time to explore the workshops of the master craftsmen of the city.

Option: Washing of The Buddha’s Face (early morning)
Get up very early this morning (4 am) and transfer to the Mahamuni Pagoda to witness the ritualistic washing of the Buddha's face. This ritual commences every morning at 4 am or 4.30 am when monks wash the face and brush the teeth of the Buddha image.

Option: Visit Mingun (half day)
Following breakfast, we depart by boat on the Irrawaddy River to Mingun. We’ll begin with the celebrated Mingun Pahtodawqyi, a construction that was halted after a soothsayer predicted the King’s death upon completion, and by an earthquake that hit in the 1800’s. We carry on to the alabaster Hsinbyume Pagoda, intended to remind you of the fabled Mount Meru, and then the Mingun Bell that weighs 90 tons and is thought to be the world’s largest un-fractured bell still capable of ringing.

Day 8: 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.

Option: Make you own Marionette (1 hour)
Try your hand at puppet-making. The local craftsmen are happy to teach you how to make your own, unique puppet. A great way to learn about their culture and handicraft. 

Day 9: Monywa and Caves of Po Win Taung.

It’s a 3 hour drive to Monywa on the eastern banks of the Chindwin River and en route we call in at Thanboddhay Pagoda, an enormous Buddhist temple that happens to be endowed with more than 500,000 images of Buddha. The Boditahtaung Pagoda houses the biggest Buddha likeness in Myanmar, measuring in at 100m long x 27m high.

After lunch we cross the Chindwin River and carry onto the dramatic Po Win Taung by jeep. The 947 sandstone caves that have been hollowed out of the surrounding hills, contain what is considered to be the best collection of mural paintings and Buddhist statues in SEAsia. We then head to Shwe Ba Taung, carved into the cliffs, to end the day. 

Day 10: By boat to Bagan.

After breakfast, we travel along the calm eastern river, stopping at traditional villages before we reach Pakokku, with its history of craft work. In the afternoon, we board a local boat for a relaxing two hour journey downriver to Bagan, and the next stage of our adventures. 

Day 11: Bagan’s Ananda Temple and sunset.

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 12: Free day with options.

The entire day is at leisure. 

Option: Sunrise over the Bagan Temples (1-2 hours)
Start your day with an evocative and time-honored horse-cart ride to the majestic Ywa Haung Gyi Temple in order to watch the sunrise over the plains.

Option: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Bagan (half day)
The morning will launch off with a hot-air balloon ride above the Bagan countryside. You will observe one-of-a-kind views when the sun begins to rise over the Irrawaddy River and various stupas in the region. (Only available from October/November through March)

Option: Cycling Tour to Myinkaba (half day)
The first port of call on this half day cycling tour is the village of Myinkaba where you can find out more about local crafts such as lacquer ware and wood crafts. Here you will visit the Gu Byaukgyi Temple with its beautiful frescos and then Nanpaya - one of the oldest temples in the region. Your next stop will be the Myazedi (Jade) Stupa, with twelfth century inscriptions written in Burmese, Pyu, Pali and Mon, giving rise to the stupa’s nickname of ‘Myanmar’s Rosetta Stone’. The final stop of the tour will be a chance for you to look around the Bamar temple at Sulamani with its famed seated Buddha images.

Option: Nyaung U Village Tour (half day)
An opportunity to find out more about village life in the settlement of Nyaung U and the adjacent villages. We investigate the process to create poneyay (pea powder paste) and also see how plum jam is refined. We also visit local craftsmen in lacquer ware and wood crafts. You can also find out how customary bullock carts are made which are still being used by farmers all over the nation. Today’s activities are very much hands-on and the craftsmen have no problem with sharing their secrets with you.

Option: Salay and Mount Popa (full day)
We begin the day with a 2-3 hour boat journey along the Irrawaddy River to Salay and uncover the Yoke Sone Monastery with its extraordinary woodcarvings. Then we’ll take a drive to Mount Popa (1½ h), an inactive volcano with stunning views. The shrine itself is dedicated to the spirits known to the locals as "nats", and we’ll climb the 777 steps that lead to the holy summit. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views from top of the volcanic peak over the Myingyan Plain. On our return we’ll find out how people make wine and molasses from the fruit of the palm tree. 

Day 13: Fly to Yangon with options.

After breakfast we take a short domestic flight to Yangon. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Option: Visit National Museum (half day)
Visit the National Museum featuring exhibits of Burmese history, art and culture. You will learn everything there is to know about Burmese history, culture and religion. (Please note that the National Museum is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays).

Option: Yangon Charity Tour (half day)
Our support tour will start out with a look into the Hninsigone home for the aged, where there are around 175 elderly people in residence. Then you will carry on to a school for the blind (Yangon Education Centre for the Blind, established by the Myanmar Christian Fellowship). Here, young blind children get the opportunity to receive an education as well as future career training. The cost of the tour includes a donation.

Option: Yangon Art Tour (half day)
Our art tour is centered on traditional and contemporary Myanmar fine arts. Start off your tour at the “Golden Valley”, a residential area and pay a visit to the New Treasure Gallery set up by U Min Wai Aung, a very well-known Myanmar artist famous for his painting of monks. Continue to Pansodan art gallery where you will be exposed to Traditional, Realism, Surrealism and Classic Paintings by celebrated Myanmar artists. Then head to Lawkanat and New Zero Art Space gallery to discover entirely different styles that Myanmar masters use to express their vision and dreams. Bring the day to a close with a refreshing cocktail at the House of Memories Restaurant, an aged colonial manor once used as the headquarters for the Burmese army. 

Day 14: Departure.

The day is at leisure until its time to head to the airport for your departure.

Option: Yangon Train Adventure (half day)
We start the day by taking a ride on the Yangon circular train (40 minutes) for an unusual view of the city, ending with a visit to Insein Market.

Option: Thanlyin Excursion (half day)
Thanlyin (aka Syriam) was once a trade haven (both in the 14thand late 16th centuries) for the infamous Portuguese explorer Philip De Brito. There is even a 270 meter long bridge straddling the BagoRiver that is accessible via a 45 minute drive from Yangon. After breakfast we drive to Thanlyin, visit the market and the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda on top of the hill. The it’s off to Kyauk Tan, and the celebrated Yele Pagoda which rests in the middle of the Hlaing River. You can only get here by boat; the Yele Pagoda is a serene sanctuary, where many guests feed the fish surrounding this holy place of worship. Then we return to Yangon.