Rangoon, Mandalay, the Irrawaddy River and Pagan are names steeped in legend. This is a land of great beauty, whose cultures retain traditions held for millennium. The most incredible memories are of the temples and pagodas including the first sighting of Shwedagon Pagoda whose pure gold spire towers above Rangoon encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. The trip includes a 3 day adventure to the Pyu ancient cities between Mandalay and Bagan. Thanks to traveller, Olga Kempo, for these fabulous photos of her trip in 2015.
Why Book with Tours of Exploration?
- We specialize in customized, personalized tours that can suit your needs, interests, and hobbies. Whether you are in Myanmar for research, photography, or pursuing another hobby, we will ensure you leave your trip fully satisfied with how your vacation time was spent.
- We choose to work with local partners, not only to guarantee an immersive, culturally and naturally authentic experience; but also to economically support the area's local population.
- Book with confidence as deposits are risk-free and refundable.
2021 Departure Dates and Cost
Daily departures with local guides based on 2 or more persons from October to July
Due to extreme popularity we suggest making bookings at least 6 months in advance of intended departure.
Tour cost: $ 2,635 USD per person (based on twin)
Single Supplement: $ 350 USD
** Includes airfare from Heho/Yangon and train travel from Yangon/Mandalay and Kalaw / Inle Lake
Tailor made itineraries in Myanmar available from 5 days to 16 days
DAY 1 Arrive Yangon
Arrive and transfer to the hotel. Flights available from Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. In the afternoon, visit to Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the world’s most spectacular religious monuments in the world rises majestically over Singuttara Hill to the city Yangon, casting its golden gleam over the low-lying capital. This 2,500-years old structure, which contains the relics of four Buddhas, is the guardian temple of Yangon and the most sacred site for the people of Myanmar. Overnight Best Western Chinatown or similar. An extra night in Yangon can be added.
DAY 2 Yangon - Mandalay (B)
A morning city tour including the old colonial city centre with the Sule Pagoda (octagonal golden stupa dating back 2000 years) and Victoria Park as well as the colonial district. Also see Botathaung Pagoda and the wonderful Bogyoke Market. Return to the hotel for a rest. In the afternoon transfer to the train station for the overnight train to Mandalay (4 berth sleeper).
DAY 3 Mandalay (B,L,D)
Arrive Mandalay and transfer to your hotel. Shortly thereafter depart for a city exploration. Visit Mahamuni Pagoda, home to a spectacular Buddha image covered with thick layers of gold leaves. Near the river lies visit Shwe-im-bin, a wooden monastery over 100 years old which is known for its lovely carving. There are local workshops to see kalaga tapestries being made, gold leaf being beaten into paper-thin pieces, and Burmese sweets being made. Also of interest is Kuthodaw Pagoda, where the Theravada Buddhist scriptures are inscribed on 729 marble slabs, giving rise to its nickname ‘the world’s largest book’. There is a beautiful teak-carved Shwenandaw Monastery, the only Royal Palace building to survive World War II bombing. At Kyaukdawgyi Pagoda you can see a large Buddha statue carved out of a single block of local marble. Walk up or take the elevator up (a new addition) to the top of Mandalay Hill a glittering glass-studded temple that provides a nice place to watch the sunset over Mandalay. 2 nights Bagan King or similar
DAY 4 Mandalay (B,L)
From Mandalay, drive towards the former royal capital of Innwa (Ava) located on an island between the Ayeyarwady and the Myitnge Rivers. A local ferry carries you to the island where your horse cart and driver await you. Pass through the ancient city walls to visit the brick and stucco monastery of Maha Aungmye Bonzan (also known as Ok Kyaung) before continuing to the impressive wooden monastery of Bagaya Kyaung. If time permits, visit some village homes to see local handicrafts such as silk weaving, cane mats and alms bowls. In the afternoon, visit picturesque Sagaing, perhaps the living centre of Buddhist faith in Myanmar today. The hills here are dotted with numerous pagodas and monasteries. Return across the Ayeyarwady River to the third former capital, Amarapura, via the Ava Bridge, built by British engineers. Take a sunset stroll on U Bein Bridge,which at over a kilometre is believed to be the longest teak bridge in the world. Return to Mandalay.
DAY 5 Mandalay - Monywa (B,L)
This morning, drive to Monywa (150 km, 4 hours) and check into your hotel. In the afternoon, drive across the bridge over Chindwin River to visit a sandstone cave system in the Po Win Hills, named after a famous ‘zawgyi’ (alchemist) who once lived here. The Caves of Po Win Daung, numbering more than one hundred, are full of Buddhist statues and murals. Most of the images are in the 14th – 16th century Ava (Innwa) style, but some may be earlier. Nearby, visit Shwe Ba Daung which features unique pavilions cut from the surrounding sandstone and filled with Buddha images. Also visit a village whose main business is the extraction of copper.
DAY 6 Pyu UNESCO Site (B,L)
Early morning, drive to Shwebo (100 Km, about 3 hours). Shwebo is famous for production of Thanaka and this place is the area where one can sight locals selling Thanaka and other products. Visit to Shwebon Yadana Mingalar Palace which is the royal palace of King Alaungpaya who is the founder of Konbaung dynasty. The palace has 54 apartments and halls which are fabulously decorated with ten kinds of art in detail. A stop at Aung Mye (Victory Land) to make your own wish. The chronicles show the fact that King Alaungpaya used this spot as a gathering point before his battles. Afterwards, proceed another 13km drive to visit to Halin. Halin is a village near Shwebo in Sagaing Division which is considered as World Heritage site by UNESCO for the archaeological heritage dated back to years during 200 BC and 900 AD. Hanlin Archaeological Zone has 32 excavation sites which have yielded many potteries, ornaments, weapons and coins. Then, visit Hanlin Village which has its own attraction with unpaved ox-cart tracks linking to old stupas. Also, Nyaung Kobe Monastery which features a small museum displaying ancient artifacts, unlabeled finds of Pyu era.
DAY 6 To Bagan (B,L)
Early morning visit the local market. Then visit Thanboddhay Pagoda, about 20 Km from Monywa. The richly decorated central stupa has no less than 845 smaller stupas around it. Inside the pagoda compound are thousands of Buddha images (reportedly over 500,000) decorating every wall, archway and niche. Also see beautiful wooden carvings of the ‘Jataka Tales’ (stories from the Buddha’s life) and a huge Reclining Buddha nearby. Drive to Pakkoku, an unspoilt small town famous for its tobacco trade and weaving workshop to see how characteristic Myanmar checked cotton blankets are made. Stop at a local market and a cheroot maker’s where skilled young women can make hundreds of cheroots in a day. Visit a small thanaka market (traditional makeup and sunscreen for Myanmar people) and a workshop where traditional slippers and incredible woodcarvings are made. Later in the afternoon take a private boat on the Ayeyarwaddy River downstream to Bagan as the daylight lowers over the many pagodas. Drop off at the hotel for 3 nights.
DAY 7 Bagan (B,L)
Day of sightseeing in Bagan. Visit the busy local market at Nyaung Oo and the most important pagodas and temples such as Shwezigon, Bagan’s most important reliquary shrine (look out for images of the 37 ‘nats’ housed in a small hall) and Gubyaukgyi (Wetkyi-Inn village), a ‘cave’ temple with fine frescoes of the ‘Jataka Tales’.
Htilominlo, the last Bamar-style temple built in Bagan, which boasts old murals and friezes. Ananda Temple, a masterpiece of Mon-style architecture with four huge standing Buddhas and an adjacent brick monastery with well-preserved 18th century murals. Bagan’s tallest temple; 61 metre-high Thatbyinnyu, known as the ‘temple of omniscience’ and dating from 1144. Dhammayazaka, built in 1196 and the largest pentagonal-based stupa in Bagan. Lemyethna Temple, topped by an Indian-style apex. The Payathonzu Complex (if open), a set of three interconnected shrines linked by passages and adorned with Mahayana-style or Tantric mural paintings. Nandamannya Temple with fine frescoes and an unexpectedly erotic mural. Due to new UNESCO rules, it might not be possible to enjoy sunset atop the temples. There may be a temple or two that will continue to allow sunrise visits.
DAY 8 Bagan (B,L)
Day of leisure in Bagan. You may wish to explore by bicycle.
DAY 9 Bagan - Kalaw (B,L)
Transfer to bus station (approximately 08:00/13:00) for Kalaw. On arrival transfer to the heritage Hotel Kalaw for overnight.
DAY 10 Kalay - Inle Lake (B,L)
Transfer to Kalaw Station for the departure on the ‘slow train’ from Kalaw to Shwe Nyaung (train time to be provided locally), a wonderfully scenic trip across the forested slopes of the Shan Hills and pretty patchwork fields. The train is picturesque and simple – your open window carriage is of wooden-slatted benches shared with villagers laden with fruit and vegetables to sell. At country stops vendors of snacks and drinks ply their goods through the open windows. (Please note that the train can frequently be delayed, so consider this a local adventure! In case of cancellation you may travel by car instead.) Arrival at Shwe Nyaung Station, transfer to Nyaung Shwe on the edge of Inle Lake. Accommodation at Cherry Queen Hotel or similar.
DAY 11 Inle Lake Boat Tour (B,L)
Breakfast at hotel. Today, enjoy a boat trip on Inle Lake - a photographer’s dream, its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic high hills provide the perfect backdrop. See the lake’s unique leg rowers - the Intha people row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar. Visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the holiest religious site in southern Shan State. Visit the boat construction workshop at Nampan village. See traditional handicrafts - silk weaving on wooden handlooms, umbrella workshop and a blacksmith shop. Lunch at Nampan Restaurant. In the afternoon, pass endless floating gardens, where fruit and vegetables are grown. Continue by boat to visit Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries on the lake. One can see ancient Buddha statues which are more than 200 years old.
DAY 12 Sagar (B,L)
Pick up from the hotel. Travel by boat via Nampan to Sagar (approximately 2½ to 3 hours) and Thakong, a rarely visited area south of Inle Lake. Explore one of the 5-day rotating market (if your visit coincides with the schedule) and Kyauktaing, a Shan village where earthenware pottery is produced. At nearby Kyainkhan visit a family who produce monk’s robes made of fabric woven from thousands of lotus stems. In Thakong, observe local methods of producing alcohol fermented and extracted from bran rice. The day offers an insight into the unspoiled culture and traditional life-style of the ethnic Pa-O and Intha inhabitants around Sagar. Enjoy thebeautiful landscape, trees and numerous settlements dotted on both sides of the canal. Late afternoon return to Inle Lake.
DAY 13 Inle Lake - Heho - Yangon (B)
Breakfast at hotel. Leave your hotel by boat/car and transfer to Heho Airport for domestic flight to Yangon (approx. 0935/1045 direct). Upon arrival in Yangon, the tour guide and car remain at your disposal for further sightseeing or shopping Yangon around until your International departure flight in the evening.
What our clients say...
I have just returned from your trip to Myanmar and felt obliged to call. It was memorable, fantastic, one of the best trips I have done and I travel a lot. J. Redento
The images and experiences of being at Swedagon return to haunt me in my dreams - in a very nice way. C. Smith