Enjoy the classic sights of Myanmar, a land of ancient traditions, glittering stupas, Buddhist pagodas, stunning landscapes and friendly people. Experience these highlights on our 14 day itinerary, finishing the tour in this exotic land on the beautiful beaches of Ngapali overlooking the clear waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Saturday. Welcome to Myanmar and Yangon, the commercial and spiritual centre of the country. After your airport transfer to our hotel, the remainder of the day offers free time. Opt to discover the bustling streets of downtown Yangon or spend the afternoon relaxing. In the evening there will be a welcome meeting from your tour guide.
Today we explore Yangon which was once the capital city and while it is no longer the administrative centre of the country, it remains the commercial and spiritual heart of the country. In the morning we visit the city’s religious buildings including the peaceful Sule Pagoda in the heart of the city, and Botahtaung Pagoda, a riverfront complex with a 40m high golden stupa at its centre built 2,500 years ago. We will also wander through Maha Bandoola Park, a pleasant park which is encircled by a host of colonial buildings and heritage sites, including Independence Monument, City Hall and High Court. <br/><br/> Stopping for a lunch break at the Yangon Tea House you can enjoy a traditional cuppa and maybe a side of crispy gourd or flaky-pastry savoury buns before browsing the handicrafts of Bogyoke (Scott) Market. Then we visit the giant 70 metre-long reclining Buddha of Chaukhtagyi Paya at Chaukhtagyi Pagoda, which has a crown encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones <br/><br/> We save the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar, for the evening. The central stupa, reaching 90 metres tall and covered in gold leaf, dominates the downtown city skyline and is visible throughout most of the city. An iconic symbol of Myanmar which attracts thousands of pilgrims every year, join the locals as they make offerings, pray and pay their respects. The glistening gold stupa turns a kaleidoscope of vivid yellows, oranges and reds as the sun sets – a stunning sight.
Yangon – Mandalay. This morning we fly to Mandalay, Myanmar’s last royal capital before the start of the colonial era. Just south of Mandalay is the ancient city of Amarapura, a former capital of Myanmar. Here we visit the largest teaching monastery in the country, the Mahagandayon Monastery. <br/><br/> Travelling into Mandalay we explore the Royal Palace, visit the historic Shwenandaw Monastery and a local handicraft workshop, where we can watch bronze sculpting, gold leaf marking and wood carving. The afternoon is free to relax before an evening excursion to see the world’s largest book at the Kuthodaw Pagoda and visit Mandalay Hill, the city’s natural watch tower. Looking out over the sweepings vistas of the city, hopefully as the sun sets in a cloud free sky, is a delightful way to end the day.
This morning we cruise up the Irrawaddy River to Mingun. Here lies what was intended to be the world’s largest pagoda before the death of King Bodawpaya. Standing at an impressive 50 metres of the intended 152, it is still a striking sight with a dramatic crack snaking down the middle after the earthquake of 1838. <br/><br/> Travelling on to Sagaing Hill we take in the wonderful views over the river and the rolling hills, which are studded with pagodas and stupas. On the hill we visit the ancient hill top Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin pagoda, the striking Thirty Caves Pagoda which has its thirty doorways, and the dome shaped Kaungmhudaw Pagoda. <br/><br/> We return to ancient Amarapura this afternoon, to see how traditional fabrics are woven at a cottage industry workshop, before visiting the famous U Bein Bridge - the longest teak bridge in the world. Set over the enchanting Taungthaman Lake we see the bridge in all its magnificent glory, at sunset. Travelling back to Mandalay, spend the evening at leisure.
Mandalay - Bagan. This morning we transfer to the jetty to board an Irrawaddy Riverboat that will take us south to Bagan. Enjoy the picturesque journey along the peaceful Irrawaddy River, which runs from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, passing scenes of everyday life in Myanmar – villages of homes raised on stilts, bullock carts trundling along the roads and the top spires of pagodas poking out from the tops of trees. The journey takes approximately 9 hours and the riverboat we travel upon is the MGRG Express. Upon arrival to Bagan there will be free time and stay in our Bagan hotel this evening. <br/><br/> Please note: Between 01 Apr and 31 July each year the water level of the river is at its lowest which prevents cruises from operating. These dates do vary depending upon rainfall and the amount of water coming down the river. If travelling with us during this time we have included the cost of a flight between Mandalay - Bagan within our tour price. Day 5 arrangements during this period are morning at leisure in Mandalay before transferring to the airport for your flight to Bagan where we spend the night. Please also note that only breakfast is included when we fly to Bagan, lunch and dinner is excluded.
Early this morning there's the opportunity to float over Bagan in a hot air balloon for those that have booked our Ballooning over Bagan add-on. Nothing can quite prepare you for the spectacular sight of stupa-upon-stupa that fill the dusty plains of Bagan. Over 2,000 temples and pagodas dating back some 800 years creates one of the world’s most impressive skylines. <br/><br/> Our sightseeing begins in the bustling river town of Nyaung-U to see the lively market in action and visit the glittering Shwezigon Pagoda, the simple Kyansittha Cave Temple and Manuha Temple which houses gigantic Buddha’s. Close by is the Nanpaya Temple, which was built by captive Thaton Kingdom King Makuta, and Ananda Temple, an existing masterpiece of the Mon architecture with four gold-leaf Buddhas. <br/><br/> The towering Thatbyinnyu Temple provides wonderful photo opportunities before heading over to Dhammayangyi Temple, a massive 12th century temple visible throughout Bagan. This is the best preserved of Bagan’s temples, hiding mysterious inner passageways and a dramatic history of death and murder. The temple’s bad karma may be the reason it remains one of the few temples not to have undergone restoration of be pillaged by thieves. The magnificent Mingalazedi pagoda, the pinnacle of Burmese pagoda architecture with its bell-like dome and intricate Jataka tiled terraces, is the last site of the day and a wonderful representation of Bagan’s architectural skills.
Bagan – Mount Popa – Kalaw. We make our way to Kalaw today, stopping off at Mount Popa along the way. An extinct volcano in the centre of Myanmar which has not erupted in some 250,000 years, Mount Popa is famous for being home to 37 Burmese spirits called nats which are represented by statues at the base of the volcanic outcrop. The crowning glory of the volcano is the Popa Taungkalat Monastery the popular pilgrimage site for Burmese people perched atop of a huge rocky outcrop, the gold temples shimmering in the sun. It is a steep climb to the top of the 777 steps but the ascent is rewarded with stunning 360 degree panoramic views, stretching for miles beyond the surrounding lush forest area. On the way up, there are many temples and shrines to stop and have a rest to catch your breath. <br/><br/> From here we continue our drive onto Kalaw, arriving in the peaceful former British hill station in the afternoon. There is much to do in this colonial town including visiting Thein Taung Pay pagoda for great views over the market area.
Kalaw – Palaung Hills – Pindaya. Starting early we embark on a light trek through the Palaung Hills. This easy trek route takes us through beautiful Burmese countryside, past plantations of tea-leaf and cheroot-leaf and rice paddies, before arriving at Painaebin a small village of indigenous Danu people. <br/><br/> On arrival back in Kalaw we drive to the quiet town of Pindaya, enjoying the striking views of the scenery along the way. Pindaya is known for its extensive network of caves set in a limestone hill and filled with thousands of Buddha images from different eras, starting in early 18th century Konbaung dynasty era through to present day. The afternoon ends with visits to an ancient 250 year old Banyan tree and small local factories producing Mulberry paper and bamboo hats.
Location: Inle Lake
Pindaya – Inle Lake. Today we drive to the beautiful Inle Lake, a vast freshwater lake fringed with marshes and dotted with stilt-house villages, floating gardens, timeworn stupas and Buddhist monasteries. As we use wooden boats to get around, we see everyday life on the lake in action. We pass Intha fishermen using their unique one-legged paddling technique to balance at the front of the boat and gracefully use their other leg wrapped round the oar to propel themselves forward whilst catching fish with their conical nets – a skilful exercise and spellbinding to watch. We also sail past floating gardens holding fruits and vegetables as Intha farmers paddle up and down the mats of vegetation tending to their rows of crops. <br/><br/> While here we visit the Nga Pe Chaung monastery, also known as the jumping cat monastery due to the felines who leap through hoops to pass the time in-between scripture recitals. This floating pagoda is home to a collection of ancient Buddha images held inside a huge wooden meditation hall. After the silversmith and silk weaving factories, our day exploring Inle Lake concludes with the area’s largest pagoda - Paungdaw Oo, the five Buddhas becoming slightly more rotund over the years due to the sheer amount of gold leaf applied by devotees. <br/><br/> Day 10 is spent at leisure as you wish in Inle Lake. You could take advantage of the lush surrounding countryside and partake in canoeing or cycling. You could opt for an excursion to an Indein village to learn more about the ethnic tribes of the region or to Kakku, a valley of more than a thousand stupas to admire the intricate ancient carvings. Other options include a visit to Taunggyi, capital of the Southern Shan state and former British hill station, or to Sagar to see the sunken stupas that lay underwater for part of the year with local village visits along the way. These activities are all bookable and payable locally.
Inle Lake - Ngapali Beach. After a leisurely breakfast we leave the Inle Lake region for the airport in Heho for our flight to Thandwe. On arrival we will be transferred for check in at our hotel in Ngapali where we will spend the next three nights. The beauty of Ngapali is dazzling, the untouched beauty beaches, crystal clear waters and swaying palm trees making the perfect place to relax after a culture rich adventure. Enjoy a massage on the beach, organise a boat trip with stops for snorkelling and eat some of the freshest seafood.
Friday. Ngapali - Yangon. This morning we fly from Ngapali to Yangon. Arrival to Yangon airport marks the end of our adventure. From here you can take your onward international flight back home. International flights should be booked after 2pm.
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