Experience the Highlights of Burma (Myanmar) as you travel from Yangon (Rangoon) to Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. Starting in the former capital and waterfront city of Yangon with its crumbling colonial mansions and ancient stupas, marvel at the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda and wander the cobblestone streets of Bogyoke Market. Travel to Bagan for the highlight of the trip and one of Asia's most iconic sights. Gain a bird's eye view from Mount Popa, discover the intricate details of temples up close, and watch as the sunset highlights countless stupas from the comfort of your river cruise.
In Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma, jump on a trishaw to explore this historic city, experience a tradition Marionette show and visit Amarapura, Mahagandayon Monastery, and the Kuthodaw Pagoda. Complete your trip at Inle Lake with its floating gardens, colourful markets and famous leg-rowing fishermen, as well as a vineyard tour and tasting. Fly back to Yangon for your onward journey.
Our Highlight itineraries cover the key attractions at a relatively quick pace. Enjoy them as they are or extend them to create your perfect holiday. Discuss itinerary options and extensions with our Asia Travel Experts.
Day 1: Yangon
You will meet your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Yangon (Rangoon), answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Located in the fertile delta region of central Burma (Myanmar), the former capital and waterfront city of Yangon with its crumbling British colonial mansions and ancient stupas, thriving restaurants and lively bars, is a melting pot of old and new. Home to over four million inhabitants, it's a sprawling city, the streets interspersed with parks and lakes, much of its allure stemming from the colourful street life. Marvel at the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, wander the cobblestone streets of Bogyoke Market or simply watch the rickshaw drivers in their striped longyis (sarongs) peddle lazily through the streets as you sip on a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall.
Yangon has a good choice of restaurants serving both authentic Burmese cuisine and international choices. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Itinerary Option: If you’re arriving to Yangon in the morning, discuss additional day 1 activities with our staff.
Day 2: Yangon
Accompanied by your guide explore the sights of Yangon. Begin with a visit to the octagonal Sule Pagoda. Originally an Indian structure but now Burmese, it is thought to be over 2,000 years old and said to enshrine a hair of the Buddha. Stroll through downtown Yangon with its faded colonial buildings and leafy boulevards and visit the beautiful colonial style Post Office. Watch the locals going about their daily business as you pass Mahabandoola Park, named after General Maha Bandula who fought against the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War. The park includes the Independence Monument, an obelisk which commemorates Burmese independence gained from the British in 1948. Next visit Chaukhtatkyi and the Reclining Buddha which measures 70 metres (230 feet) in length.
In the afternoon you visit the National Museum, the principle museum of Burmese art, history and culture. The museum was founded in 1952 and houses an extensive collection of ancient artefacts, ornaments, art works, inscriptions and historic memorabilia, related to history, culture and the civilisation of the Burmese people.
Next stop is Bogyoke Market, one of the oldest markets in Yangon, with colonial architecture and cobbled streets. It offers Burmese handicrafts and gemstones but also has traditional Burmese and Chinese food stalls. After the market, head to the Indian Quarter for a very different view of the city. Here you will find Hindu Temples and street stalls selling Indian food. End the day with a visit to the breathtaking Shwedagon Pagoda, or Golden Pagoda, its stupa dominating the city’s skyline. This is one of the holiest places in Burma, and one reason why Burma is known as the "Land of Golden Pagodas". The pagoda itself is 99 metres (326 feet) high, studded with solid gold plates and decorated with diamonds and other precious jewels.
Day 3: Bagan
This morning fly from Yangon to Bagan where you meet your guide on arrival. Situated in central Burma on the plains adjacent to the Irrawaddy River, the city is dotted with thousands of ancient stupas and temples from various eras making it one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world. The ancient city of Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to 13th centuries and built over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries on the Bagan plains alone. Today around 2,200 of the original temples and pagodas remaining standing.
Head from the airport to start your tour with a visit to the Dhammayangyi Pagoda, Bagan’s largest temple. The temple is a square, single storey, pyramidal temple with six monumental ascending exterior terraces. The brickwork is perhaps the finest that can be found around Bagan. Continue to the Mingalazedi Pagoda, which is one of the few temples in Bagan with a full set of glazed terracotta tiles. The pagoda was built in brick and contains several terraces leading to large pot-shaped stupa at its centre, topped by a jewelled umbrella.
In the afternoon proceed to the Htilominlo Pagoda, famed for its original fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations which are remarkably well preserved. The temple was the last Myanmar style temple built in Bagan and stands 46 metres (150 feet) high. The temple houses four Buddha statues on the lower and upper floors with traces of murals barely visible.
Finally, visit the huge Shwezigon Pagoda, one of the most significant buildings in Bagan which served as the centre of reflection and prayer. This grand temple is surrounded by many lesser temples and once marked the northern edge of the city.
End the day with a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River. Witness local life as you sail past small villages on the river banks. Local fishermen, small boats and the many riverside temples taking on provide fantastic photo opportunities with the beautiful evening hues. With a cocktail in hand gaze over the plains and watch the changing colours as the sun sets over the mountains on the far bank of the river. The view of the brick temples against the backdrop of a vast river plain is breathtaking and unforgettable. With the engine switched off, listen to the sounds of the mighty Irrawaddy River and watch the final light of the sunset paint the stupas deep red silhouettes.
After the cruise your guide will accompany you to check-in to your hotel. Bagan has a good choice of restaurants serving Burmese, Chinese and Western meals. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Itinerary Option: For the adventurous cycle around the temples. Discuss this option with our staff.
Day 4: Bagan
Set off with your guide for the drive to Mount Popa, a volcano rising 1,518 metres (4,980 feet) from the plains of Bagan in the Pegu Range, and considered to be the sacred home of the spirits. On the way, stop at a palm village to learn how palm sugar (jaggery) is produced. Continue to Mount Popa and the picturesque Taung Kalat Monastery which sits on top of an outcrop and holds a significant place in Burma’s history and religion. The Taung Kalat Shrine is home to thirty seven Mahagiri Nats, or spirits of Myanmar. Statues depicting the nats are displayed at the base of the shrine. The views from the top are spectacular, and on a clear day stretch back as far as Bagan and the Irrawaddy River.
Enjoy free time to explore Bagan on your own for the afternoon.
Itinerary Option: If you'd prefer not to have free time, you can upgrade to a full day tour to Mount Popa, including a trek around Mount Popa and lunch at the Popa Mountain Resort.
Day 5: Mandalay
This morning fly from Bagan to Mandalay where you meet your guide on arrival. With its numerous monasteries and pagodas and its rich history, Mandalay is the cultural and religious heart of Burma. Built on the shores of the Irrawaddy River at the foot of Mandalay Hill, this former royal capital of the Burmese Kingdom and last home of the kings is now Burma’s second largest city. Its name was made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s book "The Road to Mandalay" and evokes images of a bygone era and the city’s former royal glory.
The trishaw was invented in 1930 in Mandalay and became the most popular form of public transportation. Burmese trishaws are unique in that they have two passenger seats on one side of the paddler and are the ideal vehicle for travelling along the narrow laneways of Burmese towns.
With your guide, head by trishaw to visit the Shwenandaw Monastery, also known as the Golden Palace Monastery. This traditional Burmese monastery was built using part of the old Mandalay Palace. The teak structure in which King Mindon died was moved out of the Palace in 1880 and converted into the Shwenandaw Monastery. It is the only major building from the original wooden Royal Palace to have survived the bombings of World War II, and is the only authentic part of the Royal Palace which can still be seen today.
Then visit Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, built in 1853 and based on the Ananda Temple in Bagan. The temple houses a huge seated Buddha statue, cast from a single block of pale green marble. End the day at Mandalay Hill to enjoy the sunset and the panoramic views over the city of Mandalay.
Attend a short Burmese marionette show. The ancient art form of puppetry which once had a special place in Burmese culture is now struggling to survive and is fast becoming a dying art. The beautifully crafted puppets tell the stories of Burmese myths and folk tales. The performance presents Myanmar literature, history, religion, local life styles and customs through puppetry, music and dance.
Depending on time, either before or after the marionette show, check-in to your hotel. Mandalay has a good choice of restaurants serving traditional Mandalay cuisine as well as international dishes. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Day 6: Mandalay
Accompanied by your guide, drive to Amarapura, or City of Immortality, the former royal city and ancient capital prior to Mandalay. Although its royal palace, great temples and fortifications are now in ruins, many of the pagodas, temples and monasteries still remain. Visit the 150 year old Mahagandayon Monastery to witness the daily life of the one thousand Buddhist monks that live here.
Then walk along the famous U Bein Wooden Bridge, built in 1782 and the world’s longest teak bridge. The footbridge was constructed from teak columns salvaged from the old palace and spans 1.2 kilometres across the Taungthaman Lake. Visit gold leaf making or tapestry workshops to see the traditional methods used to make Burmese handicrafts, before lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon see the Mahamuni Buddha Image in Mahamuni Pagoda, the most ancient and revered of all Buddha images and the holiest pilgrimage site in Mandalay. Next continue to Kuthodaw Pagoda, at the foot of Mandalay Hill and home to the "World’s Largest Book". In the grounds of the pagoda there are 729 stone slabs, each slab with its own stupa, and inscribed on the slabs are the Buddhist teachings.
Day 7: Inle Lake
This morning fly from Mandalay to Heho where you'll meet your guide and travel by road to Inle Lake. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Inle Lake and Nyaung Shwe.
At an altitude of 880 metres (2,900 feet) the freshwater lake of Inle is not only one of the highest lakes in the country but is one of the biggest. The lake is home to the Intha people who have lived, worked and survived off the lake for generations. They live in wooden and woven bamboo stilt houses surrounded by floating gardens. Inle’s constant source of moisture and its climate permits the Inthas to grow crops throughout the year. The most distinctive part of the Intha culture is the unique way they row their small wooden boats using their legs.
This afternoon, set off with your guide to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard in Aythaya. Located on the side of Inle Lake, close to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan state, this vineyard was established in 1999 and is located at an elevation of 1,300 metres (4,265 feet). The vines were imported from France and Spain and the wines are made in the tradition of western wines, but the climate and the soils give the wines their distinctive flavour.
Take a tour through the vineyard conducted by the winemakers and then enjoy a tasting of several wines along with some snacks. Learn how the wine is made from varieties such as Shiraz, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Return to your hotel late in the afternoon.
Inle has a good choice of restaurants which serve both traditional Shan cuisine and Chinese dishes. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Day 8: Inle Lake
Accompanied by your guide, take to the water on a boat trip on Inle Lake to look at the beautiful scenery and observe the local way of life. See the large floating gardens where the Intha grow their fruit and vegetables. The floating garden beds are made from lake-bottom weeds which are formed into garden beds and anchored by bamboo poles. These fertile floating gardens rise and fall with the changing water levels. There are also floating markets where fruit, vegetables and handmade products are sold from small boats. Lunch is taken on the shores of the lake.
In the afternoon visit the Indein Pagoda Complex. Located on the western bank of the lake. Following a small covered path from the Pa O tribal village brings you out at a monastery and the impressive ruins of hundreds of ancient pagodas, some hidden under vegetation and dense foliage. Built during the 17th and 18th centuries, there are nearly one thousand stupas and pagodas in the area. The main stupa area on top of the hill offers breathtaking views over the surrounding area and into the valley, with the lake in the far distance.
Day 9: Yangon
This morning drive from Inle Lake to Heho where you fly back to Yangon for your departure flight from Burma.
Personalise Your Trip
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
Ideas to upgrade or extend your itinerary:
- Yangon: Visit Bago, an ancient Mon capital and home to the reclining Buddha at Shwethalyaung including a visit to Taukkyant Allied World War II cemetery that honours many thousands of predominately Commonwealth troops that died in the Burma campaigns.
- Yangon: Travel with the locals by ferry and visit pottery and weaving workshops with your guide and watch the artisans at work.
- Yangon: Attend a Burmese market and cooking class.
- Yangon: Enjoy Yangon by night, walking through the busy markets sampling authentic Burmese foods.
- Yangon: Other options include countryside cycling tours and visits to surrounding towns, including monasteries.
- Bagan: Glide through the skies in your hot air balloon, witnessing the thousands of temples scattered across the vast plains of Bagan. Champagne breakfast and sunset options available! (seasonal)
- Bagan: Trishaw tour around the Nyaung U area of Bagan.
- Mandalay: Learn about Burma's ancient capitals as you spend a day touring the ruins of the three royal capitals of Amarapura, Ava (Inwa) and Sagaing that preceded Mandalay.
- Mandalay: Enjoy a relaxing day trip to the hill resort of Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) and Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens boasting many hundreds of exotic species of flora. Visit a pagoda with a short, but interesting history and Peik Chin Myaung caves.
- Mandalay: Visit Aye Yeik Mon Orphanage run by Burmese nuns on a half day trip.
- Inle Lake: Visit the British colonial hill station of Kalaw for the day.
- Inle Lake: Head off on full day trek to local hill tribe villages around Inle Lake.
- Inle Lake: Visit the local Five Day Markets to witness the locals trading their produce.
- Inle Lake: Visit Kakku to see the stupas still revered by the Paohs tribes, including a visit to the large hill town of Taunggyi with its cool mountain climate, on a full day trip.
- Inle Lake: Head off on a full day trip to the limestone caves of Pindaya with their 8,000 Buddha statues left by pilgrims over the last few centuries.
- Inle Lake: Enjoy a cooking class focusing on the cuisine unique to this area of Burma.
- Ngapali beach: Why not visit complete your trip to Burma with a great value, short stay at Ngapali beach with its palm fringed white sandy beaches on the Bay of Bengal.