Myanmar is a country with a deep and fascinating culture. Beginning and ending in Yangon, discover the spiritual heavyweight of Shwedagon Pagoda, journey through Bagan and its thousands of pagodas, cross the longest teak bridge in the world near Mandalay and enjoy life lakeside at Inle Lake, where floating markets, leg-rowing fishermen and ethnic minorities make for a unique destination. Mix in delicious food, breathtaking landscapes and people both curious and welcoming, and you have a place that will keep you coming back for more.
Myanmar People & Heritage
Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your Guide who will accompany you as you transfer to the hotel. Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a relatively quiet and charming city. Its impressive colonial and spiritual heritage makes it one of the most fascinating cities in Southeast Asia.
This afternoon, your journey begins with a visit through the city to introduce you to the people, culture and heritage of Myanmar. You’ll start at the post office – a lovely historic building- and walk toward Sule Paya in the middle of downtown, passing by Strand Hotel, Mahabandoola Garden and Independence Monument along the way. Stop in at Let Yway Sin tea shop, a popular local café with a retro vibe and delicious, fresh roasted coffee. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or sweet Burmese tea and the famed semolina cake for which the shop is known. If time allows, continue to Bogyoke Market, formerly known as Scott’s Market, to browse through the dozens of stalls and shops. This is Yangon’s best market for handicrafts and other goods. (Note: Market is closed on Mondays and public holidays).
Late this afternoon, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, the local legend states that the original structure was built 2500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas and your guide will show you around the massive complex, explaining why this temple is so revered. Enjoy breathtaking views of the golden stupa from this vantage point before transferring back to your hotel.
Overnight in Yangon.
After an early breakfast at your hotel, transfer to Yangon's Mingaladon Airport for the flight to Mandalay. Upon arrival, begin your sightseeing tour of Mandalay with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, has been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost ‘lumpy’ texture. Mandalay is well known for its skilled craftsmen and as you tour traditional workshops, you will learn more about the city’s cottage industries. Observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court.
OPTION: Make your own marionette! Visit a local craftshop, choose your marionette’s design (clothes, face, body) and make your own unique souvenir. The entire process takes around 1 hour and is suitable for adults and children.
Take a midday break for lunch (client’s account). We recommend joining the locals at Too Too or Daw Lay May, two fabulous Burmese restaurants that are teeming with businessmen, students and others at lunch time. Continue your tour of Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’. Continue to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving. Head to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun begins to set to enjoy magnificent views of the city and Irrawaddy River.
Overnight in Mandalay.
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for an excursion around Mandalay to explore the surrounding towns of Mingun, Amarapura and Sagaing. Before departing the city centre, visit the morning market for a short walk. Here you will see many vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, spices and steaming bowls of noodle soup. Then take a drive across the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar. It is home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers and you will visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae. You’ll also visit Sagaing’s local market, a typical Burmese market that few tourists visit. Here you will find a range of items for sale including locally made pottery, silver and other handicrafts. We will also stop at a small pottery village to see the process of making the ubiquitous water pots found throughout Myanmar. Drive parallel to the Irrawaddy River to Mingun. Your visit begins with the famous Mingun Pahtodawqyi. This huge brick structure was left unfinished after an astrologer predicted the King’s would die should the temple be completed. In the 1800s, an earthquake left several large cracks in the structure. Continue your visit at the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda whose distinctive style is meant to resemble the mythical Mount Meru. Then, see the Mingun Bell which weighs 90 tons and is considered the world’s largest uncracked ringing bell. Return to city by boat with lunch served on board. This relaxing cruise gives you the chance to view Sagaing and other sights from a different perspective as well as observe the activities of the fishermen and boats on the river.
This afternoon drive south to Amarapura, a former capital whose name means ‘City of Immortality’. First visit a silk weaving workshop which produces exquisite handmade products and then visit Mahagandayon monastery, when over one-thousand monks reside. Continue to U Bein Bridge, a 200-year old bridge constructed of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace. It is 1.2 kilometers in length making it the world’s longest teak span. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams as the sun begins to set. Return to Mandalay late this afternoon.
Overnight in Mandalay.
After breakfast at the hotel, scenic drive to Mt Popa begins (approximately 6 hours). Along the way, you will have an opportunity to visit local villages in order to learn about Myanmar culture, tradition and lifestyle of local people. Stop as often as you like to take photos. A lunch stop will be made at a local restaurant en route (Own account). Arrive in the mid afternoon at Popa Mountain Resort. This hilltop resort is the ideal place to relax after a driving day- take a dip in the pool, go for a light trek through the surrounding forests or simple relax on the balcony and enjoy the views.
Overnight at Mount Popa.
This morning after a leisurely breakfast, drive down to the base of Taungkalat – a volcanic plug referred to by most tourists as Mt Popa- that plays an important role in Burmese spirituality. Its shrine is dedicated to the worship of the 37 Nats, the Burmese ancient animist spirits. Learn about nats and nat worship as you climb the stairs to the top with your local guide. The view over the Myingyan Plain from the top of the volcanic peak is impressive (and the climb is optional!). Then continue with a drive to Bagan, taking around 1 hour. You’ll pass through many local villages in the planes as you make your way into town. Stop at a toddy farm en route to see the unique way the farmers collect and process the juice of the palm fruit. Check in to your hotel and enjoy a chance to relax and freshen up.
Late this afternoon you’ll take a relaxing horsecart ride through the temple area, passing by many monuments of historical and cultural significance. Stop as often as you like to take photos or visit some of the temples. This is a fabulous introduction to Bagan and its 2000 pagodas. Return to your hotel after sunset for an evening at your leisure.
Overnight in Bagan.
OPTION: Start your morning with a hot-air balloon flight over the plains of Bagan. Enjoy the fabulous views as the sun rises over the stupas and Irrawaddy River. This is truly an unforgettable and unique experience! (Note: available only from October to March)
After breakfast at your hotel, your Exotissimo guide and driver will pick you up to start your Bagan excursion. You’ll first visit the Nyaung U market, a busy morning market where locals gather from surrounding villages to buy and sell produce, crafts, spices and other goods. Stop for a cup of tea in a local teahouse, a key part of daily life in Myanmar and a great place from which to observe the busy morning activities. The temple touring begins with a visit to Thagyar Pone Temple, a temple with spectacular views over the surrounding plains. This is the perfect introduction to the grandeur and scope of Bagan’s architecture. Next continue to Ananda Temple, one of the most revered temples in Bagan and which is quiet in the morning, before all the tour buses arrive. Afterwards we will go to Myinkaba Village and visit Gubyaukgyi Temple which is noted for its beautiful mural paintings on its inner walls and well-preserved plaster carvings on its exterior. Nearby is Manuha Temple and Nan Paya Temple, two smaller temples with nice Buddha statues and stone work. Take a break for lunch and return to your hotel for a short rest, escaping the extreme heat of the midday sun.
This afternoon get to learn more about the local culture with a visit to two workshops producing Bagan’s most famous products: lacquer ware and wood crafts. Watch as the skilled craftsmen use techniques passed down through generations to create beautiful items. Continue to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery and explore the temple’s caves to observe about local tradition and spiritual beliefs of the Burmese. And then stop at a monastery to receive a special blessing by the local monks. This serene ceremony is a great experience and chance to learn about local Buddhism practices. Return to your hotel late this afternoon and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.
Overnight in Bagan.
After breakfast, transfer to Nyaung Oo Airport for a flight to Heho. From Heho, a scenic one-hour drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, stop at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images. Upon reaching the edges of Inle Lake, board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. Pass villages built on stilts over the lake, inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the leg-rowing fishermen and see their floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. We make our way to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains 5 sacred Buddha images and the royal barges used during the pagoda’s annual festival. Proceed to the village of Inpawkhone to observe the traditional silk weaving techniques of Inthar people. Inpawkhone is also known for its weaving from the stems of lotus flowers, a time consuming process that results in high quality materials famous throughout the country. We also visit a cheroot factory where local Burmese cigars are rolled by hand. If time permits, enjoy a short walk through one of the lakeside villages.
Overnight on Inle Lake.
After breakfast, we’ll start with a visit to the morning market, which rotates locations on a 5-day basis. (note: there are no markets on full moon or dark moon days) This daily market attracts people from all over the lake’s shores who gather to buy and sell their wares- if you are lucky you may see Pa-Oh, Inthar and Shan people in their traditional outfits. Wander amid the stalls where your guide will explain the local produce and goods for sale. From the middle of the lake, continue down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of In Dein. Explore the area on foot, strolling around the village, visiting a local school, and wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area. Climb the covered stair way to the top which is filled with picturesque ancient stupas and has magnificent views of the lake below. Should time allow, we’ll stop at Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake’s indigenous people and enjoy a delicious coffee and cake (snack break not included). After today’s tour, drive to the Heho Airport for the flight to Yangon and upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Yangon.
This morning, after checking out from your hotel, transfer to Yangon Railways station to take a unique ride on the city’s circular train ride through the outskirts of town (20-30 minutes ride). This slowly traveling train gives you unique opportunity to observe the lively, colorful lifestyle of the local people. Disembark at the Kyi Myin Daing market where you can peruse the various stalls and interact with the friendly vendors before transferring back to Yangon. Enjoy lunch in town (own account; we recommend Feel Myanmar, an excellent Burmese restaurant popular with the locals) before transferring to the airport for your departure flight. If you have more time, ask your travel consultant about extending your holiday with one of unique Yangon excursions which will further immerse you in the culture of Myanmar.
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