From £2,756 pp incl. UK flights
This holiday combines 2 of Myanmar’s world famous destinations (Yangon & Bagan) with a foray off the main tourist trail south to discover a less visited side of this beautiful country full of wonderful sights and authentic experiences.
The tour south starts in “Golden Rock”, the 3rd most important Buddhist site in Myanmar. You'll travel with thousands of Burmese on their pilgrimage to the top of this beautiful mountain ridge to pray as the sun sets and stay overnight. From here head down through dramatic limestone Karst countryside to Hpa An, a colourful laid-back town and home to Kyauk Kalap, a unique pagoda set on top of an unusual rock formation. Continue on by boat down to Mawlamyine, a former regional capital under the British and a land of rich colonial history, pagoda-dotted hills & dramatic river scenes.
Day 1: Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Yangon, Myanmar
Day 2: Private transfer for 1 night in Yangon. Private city tour incl. evening at Shwedagon Pagoda
Day 3: Fly to Bagan for 4 night stay
Day 4: Full day private guided tour of Bagan’s incredible collection of ancient pagodas
Day 5: Day to relax, add a tour or rent electric bikes to explore the sandy paths & pagodas
Day 6: Private full day to Mount Popa, walk along the “Mother Hill” and visit toddy palm farm
Day 7: Fly to Yangon. Private tour of south. Stop Taukkyan War Cemetery - 1 night Bago
Day 8: Private tour up into the hills to the dramatic Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) for 1 night
Day 9: Watch sunrise from top of ridge with thousands of pilgrims. 2 nights Hpa An
Day 10: Private day tour to Hpa An incl. Sadan Cave and Shweyinhmyaw Pagoda
Day 11: Take private river boat through dramatic limestone scenery to Mawlamyaing for 2 nights
Day 12: Private City & Bilu Island Tour. Fly home.
Day 13: Transfer back to Yangon Airport. Overnight flight home.
Day 14: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Yangon
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Yangon. There are no direct flights and so there is the chance to perhaps break your journey in Bangkok, Hanoi, Singapore or Dubai.
Day 2: Arrive Yangon - Private Guided City Tour
On arrival you'll be met by your private guide and transferred to your choice of hotel for 1 night. Most flights arrive in the morning and so we've included just 1 night with early check-in. If you'd rather add a night and have a rest day on arrival we're totally flexible.
Time to settle in at the hotel and take a rest before re-joining your guide for an afternoon private city tour. Although the city is no longer the official capital of the country it’s the most dynamic and forward facing city in the country. There are many cultural and historical highlights to be found in between the hustle and bustle of city life here. Visit Botahtaung Pagoda, the colossal reclining Buddha Chaukhtatkyi and Kandawgyi Lake. Lunch will be in a local restaurant at own expense. Walk through old streets lined with colonial buildings and do some shopping at Scott Market. In the evening take in the spectacular view of Shwedagon Pagoda all lit up. This is the most important Buddhist site in the country and is said to hold strands of Buddha’s hair and other relics. The spire reaches up to 99m and is encrusted with diamonds and covered by gold plate. Join the hundreds of locals who pray here as the sun sets and you get an indication of how Buddhism is the keystone of Burmese life.
Day 3: Yangon (B) - Fly to Bagan
This morning you'll be transferred to the airport in time for the short flight to Bagan, home to one of the world's most visually stunning collection of religious temples. On arrival met and transferred to your choice of hotel for 4 nights. Afternoon free.
Day 4: Bagan (B) - Private Guided Pagoda Tour
Bagan in is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, a sight to rival Angkor Wat. The setting is sublime, a verdant 26 square-mile plain, part-covered by palm and tamarind, caught in a bend of the Irrawaddy and framed by the hazy silver-grey of distant mountains. Today you will enjoy a tour of some of a selection of the 3,000 plus monuments and take a horse and cart to watch the sunset over this wondrous landscape from the Shwesandaw Pagoda. Lunch will be in a local restaurant at your own expense.
Day 5: Bagan (B) - Free Day
Today has been left free but extra tours can be added locally if interested, but we would recommend that you rent an electric bike and explore the myriad sandy tracks that cover the plain and wind past the pagodas and go through the villages. It’s a very popular thing to do and yesterday’s tour will have given you a good orientation of the area. Alternatively a choice of day tours can be suggested or you could just relax by the pool and enjoy Bagan's fantastic winter weather.
Day 6: Bagan (B) - Private guided tour to Mount Popa
This morning your guide will collect you for a day tour to Mt Popa, strikingly perched on the top of an extinct volcano and the highest landmark in the central zone of Myanmar. On arrival climb the 777 steps to reach the mountain top Taungkalat monastery where powerful nats (Burmese spirits) are said to live. From here you can enjoy a panoramic view of Bagan and the surrounding countryside. Watch out for the macaques that live here and are protected, as they may steal hats, sun glasses etc.
Lunch (own expense) will be at the stunningly located Popa Mountain Resort and then your guide will take you on an hour’s walk along Taung Ma Gyi (Burmese for ‘Mother Hill’). The plunging valleys around the peak are dramatic and on a clear day you can enjoy views stretching past Bagan and the Irrawaddy River. On your way up you’ll also find the best views of Popa Taungkalat Monastery, as well as an impressive array of flora and fauna, including many different species of birds and butterflies in a striking array of colours and sizes.
On the way back to the hotel break the journey with a stop at a local toddy palm farm. This day will also show you more of the Burmese countryside as you get to see a little more of rural life and villages along the way. Back the hotel late afternoon.
Day 7: South Myanmar Private Tour (B) - Taukkyan War Cemetery - Bago
This morning fly back to Yangon for the start of the South Myanmar private tour. On arrival meet your guide and the first stop is the Taukkyan War Cemetery that contains the graves of 6,374 soldiers who died here in the 2nd WW, 52 who died during the 1st WW and memorial pillars with the names of over 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave. From here the city starts to change to countryside and time permitting we will break the journey with a walk around a local market.
Continue on to Bago, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant and then this afternoon enjoy a short tour. Highlights include Shwethalyaung, a colossal reclining statue of Buddha (181 feet long), the thousand year old Shwemawdaw Pagoda, whose spire is taller than that of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and the dazzling Kambawzathardi Golden Palace, a reconstruction of King Bayinnaung's 16th century palace that reminds us of Myanmar's historical wealth. Overnight Han Thar Gardens in Bago.
Day 8: Bago to Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) (B / D)
This morning leave urban life totally behind. As soon as you turn off the main road south the scenery starts to become more bucolic as you weave your way into the hills passing through river lined villages, road side stalls and family farms. The adventure really starts when you arrive at the Kyaikhtiyo base station. From here the road up to Golden Rock is steep and windy, so to accommodate the masses you join the locals in adapted open air trucks that have rows of bench seating for up to 60 people. It’s great fun as the trucks hit the lowest gear and you start the climb up the steep, forest clad hills, enjoying fantastic views down towards the coast. A cable car opens soon for part of the journey, but by travelling by truck you share the journey with the Burmese pilgrims.
Disembark on top of a mountain ridge that’s wide enough to have houses and shops on both sides and a wide walkway that runs all the way to Golden Rock. You soon get a sense of Golden Rock’s importance as the 3rd most important Buddhist site in Myanmar (behind Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon and the Mahamuni Temple, Manadalay) and as such it's a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world. According to legend the boulder is placed over a strand of Buddha's hair and this keeps it from rolling. Those who visit the holy site three times will be blessed with wealth and acknowledgement of their goodness.
As you walk join the stream of thousands of pilgrims that continue on to where a plaza opens up at the Golden Rock. You’ll see monks and nuns as well as hermits who have left the forests to visit here. According to legend Buddha gave the strand of hair to Taik Tha, a hermit. Most are groups of friends and families who have travelled up together and the excited chatter adds to the experience. They will bed down here as you can’t travel back down until morning. Here you also get a real sense of where you are as you enjoy a panoramic 360 degree view of the surrounding Mon State mountains. Spectacular and made all the better as you witness the sun setting behind the Golden Rock
When the sun drops the Golden Rock is lit up in the night sky for all to see and the evening gets into full swing as the families and groups socialise and eat. Children run around excited and local food stallholders sell their wares. You leave with a feeling that you’re in the midst of a Burmese charabang. Overnight at the Mountain Top Hotel.
Day 9: Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) to Hpa An (B / D)
This morning it's worth getting up for sunrise which can either be enjoyed from the hotel or with the pilgrims in the main plaza. After breakfast it's time to leave your lofty perch and head to Hpa An, a picturesque river-side town surrounded by majestic karsts, unique rock formations and home to ethnic hill tribes. Discover the hot-spring lake of Bayint Nyi Cave, before visiting Kaw Gun cave, home to thousands of etched stone tablets from the 7th century and hundreds of Buddha statues. Continue to a lovely Karen village nearby and explore local life. At the end of the day, enjoy sunset at Bat cave which is one of the must-sees in Hpa An and it’s the home of an endless stream of over 100,000s bats. Overnight Keinnara Hpa-An.
Day 10: Hpa An - Private Day Tour (B / D)
The morning starts with a visit to Sadan Cave. The entrance looks unremarkable but you soon realise you’ve entered a stunning naturally formed tunnel that’s filled with Buddha images. The walk takes about 15 minutes and at the end you’re rewarded with a spectacular view over a meadow and hidden lake on which you can enjoy a short canoe ride. From here head into town to walk round the local market and visit the Cultural Museum of the Karen. This afternoon visit Shweyinhmyaw Pagoda, one of the country's most photogenic as it sits precariously on a dramatic limestone karst outcrop on the banks of the Thalwin River. Back a the hotel for dinner.
Day 11: Hpa An - River Boat Tour to Mawlamyine (B / D)
This morning take to the river for the scenic 3 hour boat journey through the limestone karst scenery to Mawlamyine, the capital city of Mon State. Stop half-way at Kadoe Village a typical Kayin village where you’ll be introduced to traditional local life and visit U Nar Oak Monastery. Famous as it was donated to the township by a teak merchant called U Na Oak who is still admired as a man who was brave enough to take on the commercial might of the British colonial Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. He unfortunately lost but his wealth was used to help the local population and is reflected in a monastery richly decorated with glass mosaic decorations and teak Buddha images.
Back on the boat continue on to the former capital of British Colonial Burma, Mawlamyine, a main port and trading hub. Immortalized by the poetry and prose of literary greats, Kipling and Orwell, this riverside town still has a few vestiges of its colonial past. The day ends as you enjoy the panoramic sun set view of the city from Kyaik Thanlan Pagoda, where Rudyard Kipling’s poem begins: “By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea/ There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me…”. Overnight at the Hotel Queen Jamadevi.
Day 12: Mawlamyine - Private City & Bilu Island Tour (B / D)
The morning starts with a visit to Mawlamyine market, then cross Aung San Bridge to Bilu Island. Swap the car for a tuk-tuk tour of some of the over 60 villages, rice paddies and rubber plantations. The island maintains a remarkable range of traditional cottage industries including slate, sickle, smoking pipes, walking sticks, rubber bands and cigar rolling. Continue on to Win Sein Tawya, the world's biggest reclining Buddha image and visit Mudon’s hand weaving workshops. Return to Mawlamyine for final night.
Day 13: Mawlamyine (B) - Transfer to Yangon - Flight Home
This morning you head back to Yangon airport for your overnight flight home. It's a 5 hour drive and we'll put in a few breaks along the way. Alternatively you could continue south for a beach break or stop off for another night in Yangon. Arrive back in UK the following morning.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation with breakfast
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas (if applicable)
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Yangon
Perhaps more famous to us as “Rangoon”, Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city
Hotels in Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)
Set on a dramatic mountain top ridge, Golden Rock is the 3rd most important Buddhist site in Myanmar