Following the lifting of Western sanctions, Burma - also known as Myanmar - has become a magnet for tourists. It has some wondrous sights - a thousand temples scattered across the countryside in Bagan, the incredible leg-rowers and floating gardens of Inle Lake, and majestic rivers like the Irawaddy, where you enjoy a two night cruise. But the big draw of this tour is seeing a country where the 21st-century world has barely intruded.
On arrival in the capital city Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, you will be met by one of our tour representatives and taken to your hotel in the city. Tonight meet your tour leader, or local guide, and the rest of the group in the reception area of your hotel for a welcome drink and briefing about all that you will be seeing and doing over the next 15 days. This is a great chance to get to know your fellow travellers and talk about the adventures ahead.
Yangon to Bagan
Take an early morning flight to Bagan and start your discovery tour with some of this magnificent ancient city’s most important monuments such as Shwezigon Pagoda, and famous Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece. Built 1105 AD, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending on the distance and angle from which the statues are viewed. End the day with a short climb to the top of one of Bagan’s monuments for a stunning sunset view of this vast ancient city.
Eat breakfast as the locals do and enjoy delicious noodles at a tea house. Then continue your exploration with a visit to the charming Minnathu village, where the friendly people will greet you with warm smiles as they go about their business. Stop at the village blacksmith who still makes wagon wheels by hand and later see the imposing 12th century Dhammayazika Paya, known as ‘the bad luck temple’, before stopping at a workshop or two to see how some of the local handicrafts are made such as lacquer ware and wood carvings.
A change of pace and a change of scene today when you begin your memorable cruise along the mighty Irawaddy River. After breakfast you will be picked up from your hotel in Bagan and driven the short distance to the jetty to board your charming boutique cruise ship for a two night journey on the legendary Irrawaddy. After a delicious lunch on board, enjoy your first shore excursion to Pakokku where you travel around the town in a traditional trishaw.
Today you arrive at the picturesque village of Yandabo, which entered into the history books as the site of the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo, the peace treaty that ended the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826. Today it is better known for its pottery and you spend time wondering through the town, stopping at workshops to learn about the methods used to create the pottery which is the community’s main source of income. You also visit the school built with donations from past passengers. Back on board tonight enjoy a farewell gala dinner.
Leave your cruise ship after breakfast and start your visit to Mandalay at the lively Jade Market buzzing with traders and workers. This is a great place for people watching and getting a feel for local life. Then wander through the backstreets and see cottage industries which have been operated by the same families for generations. In the afternoon visit the Royal Palace, Golden Palace Monastery and Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to The World’s Largest Book, a collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings.
Head out of Mandalay to Sagaing Hill, widely regarded as the religious centre of Myanmar, which is covered with more than 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, and home to more than 3,000 monks and nuns. Visit a nunnery where you contribute food at the daily alms offering before joining the nuns for lunch. There will be a chance to interact with them and learn about their lives of spiritual devotion. Continue to U Bein Bridge - a 200 year-old teak bridge which offers fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.
Mandalay to Kalaw Hill Station
This morning catch a flight to Heho airport, then drive for around two hours to Pindaya. The drive passes through rolling hills used as farms and depending on the time of year, there may be a lot of activity planting or harvesting the crops. In Pindaya, visit the town’s famous multi-chambered caves set into a cliff, filled with hundreds of Buddha statues, both old and new. Continue overland to Kalaw, a former British hill station tucked amid the Shan Hills. Enjoy the cool, refreshing air and relaxed atmosphere of this charming town.
Kalaw Hill Station
Enjoy a day at an elephant sanctuary in the Shan hills where you will learn about these magnificent creatures which are endangered in Myanmar and the camp’s work to save and protect them. Start with a short walk to the banks of a river and waterfall where you can watch mahouts washing and feeding their elephants – you may even like to lend a hand! Return to the main camp base for lunch and in the afternoon there will be some free time to explore the area with the elephant camp’s guide. Return to Kalaw late afternoon.
Kalaw to Inle Lake
After breakfast visit Kalaw’s colourful morning market where people from the different hill tribes which call this region home, gather to buy and sell fresh produce, handicrafts and other goods, making it a good place to pick up some souvenirs. Then travel by train through the picturesque landscape of the Shan Hills – a fabulous local experience! On arrival at Shwe Nyaung, continue by road to Nyaung Shwe then by boat to your next hotel which is on the shores of Inle Lake.
Explore the lake by boat stopping to see Inthar fishermen at work. Their technique is intriguing – using one leg to balance the boat, the other to steer, leaving their hands free to manoeuvre the nets - a skill unique to the region that must be seen to be believed! Continue to the lush floating gardens and learn how farmers use ingenious methods to grow crops suspended in the water. Later visit a family home for an in-depth insight into life on the lake before cruising to the village of In Dein to explore the beautiful ancient stupas.
Start today with a visit to the region’s morning market, which rotates its location around the lake’s villages. The market is not just a place for trade, but an important central meeting place for the locals. Visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary which contains five sacred Buddha images whose shapes have been distorted by the enormous amount of gold leaf applied to them by devotees. Also stop at some villages known for their crafts. The afternoon is free for you to relax by the lake or take a Shan cooking lesson.
Inle Lake to Yangon
Today you say farewell to beautiful Inle Lake when you are picked up early from your hotel and driven back to Heho airport for your return flight to Yangon. On arrival you will again be met by one of our tour representatives and driven to your hotel. Relax after the journey then make a late afternoon visit to the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon’s crowning glory. Here you can watch the changing colours of this stunning temple as the sun sets behind its enormous spire.
Continue your exploration of Yangon with a walking tour, taking in a number of the best examples of the city’s magnificent colonial architecture. Wander the fascinating backstreets of the downtown area and end up where there are a number of restaurants where you can sample authentic Burmese specialities. The rest of the afternoon is free for some souvenir shopping at the famous Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market and perhaps a relaxing cruise on the Yangon River. Then enjoy your last evening together with your group at a farewell dinner.
End of Tour
Today your wonderful 15 day tour around Burma comes to an end where it began in the capital city Yangon. You may have some time for more last minute souvenir shopping or sightseeing before you are picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport to continue your holiday adventures or catch your flight back home. Burma is one of the world's most colourful and fascinating countries and this 15 day tour is bound to leave you with so many great memories.