From £2,971 pp incl. UK flights
A classic combination of a week of luxury cruising along the majestic Irrawaddy, mixing river life with day tours exploring some of the country's highlights, followed by 5 days (or more) relaxing on a beautiful Burmese beach.
Ngapali is Myanmar’s premier beach resort but if you’d rather finish in Thailand this can be easily arranged.
Day 1: Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Mandalay, Myanmar
Day 2: Private transfer to luxury Pandaw boat - 7 nights on Irrawaddy River. Mandalay City Tour
Day 3: Cruise the Irrawaddy River - visit Mingun, Sagaing & Amarapura
Day 4: Cruise to pottery village at Yandabo. Explore with guide and chance to experience first hand
Day 5: Cruise to Pakokku. Explore local market & town by Tuk Tuk. Visit Ayardaw charity clinic
Day 6: Drive to Tant-Chi-Taung mountain stupa. Sail to Salay - colonial treasures & teak monasteries
Day 7: Cruise to Bagan (2 nights on boat). Afternoon tour - introduction to this awe inspiring area
Day 8: Full day tour exploring the incredible collection of ancient pagodas & small villages
Day 9: Fly to Ngapali for 5 nights on the beach
Day 10-13: 4 days to relax on beautiful beach, take a swim, walk to fishing villages & explore coast
Day 14: Fly to Yangon for 1 night. Private guided city tour incl. evening at Shwedagon Pagoda
Day 15: Private transfer to airport in time for your overnight flight home
Day 16: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Mandalay
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Mandalay. There are no direct flights and so there is the chance to perhaps break your journey in Bangkok, Singapore or Dubai.
Day 2: Arrive Mandalay - Board Pandaw Boat for 7 Night Irrawaddy Cruise (L / D)
On arrival you’ll be met and transferred to the Irrawaddy jetty where you board the intimate Pandaw cruise ship with just 16 cabins. Designed to take you back to the 1880’s when these beautiful craft made use of their shallow draft to take produce and passengers up and down the river this a fantastic addition to any holiday. Settle into your cabin then join fellow guests for lunch looking out over the river.
Mandalay is the religious centre of Burmese culture and was the last of the royal cities, encompassed by smaller cities dotted around its edges. This afternoon enjoy a tour of the city.
Its centre piece is the reconstructed royal palace that’s surrounded by a large moat. Visit Mahamuni Pagoda with its statues created in Buddha’s true likeness and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. The statue was brought here in 1785 by King Bodawapaya after the invasion of the Arakan Kingdom in 1784. To pay respect to Buddha male devotees apply gold leaf to the image that’s now about 15 cm thick.
The walk continues along the street renowned for its marble carvers to the Shwe Kyaung (Golden Palace Monastery). Built in 1857 it was originally part of the royal palace before it was moved to the present site in 1879. Next stop is the Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to the largest book in the world made up of 729 marble slabs engraved with Buddha’s Parli Scriptures. After a brief visit to a gold leaf workshop, stop by the Royal Palace moat for a great photo opportunity with a backdrop of Mandalay Hill.
Back to the boat for cocktails & dinner. Moor overnight at Sagaing.
Day 3: Cruise Mingun - Amarapura - Sagaing (B / L / D)
This morning set sail to Mingun, famous for the gigantic, unfinished Mingun Pahtodawgyi stupa that was planned to be the largest in the world at over 150 metres in height, but now lies ravaged by earthquakes on the banks of the Irrawaddy. You’ll also see the largest uncracked bell in the world, the 90-tonne Mingun Bell was cast to go in the Mingun Pahtodawgyi and now sits close by.
Back to the boat for lunch, then this afternoon drive to the top of Sagaing Hill and enjoy the bird’s eye view from SoonU Ponnya Shin hill top-pagoda over the Irrawaddy River curving around Sagaing city. You’ll also stop at a nunnery for an insight into their life of service.
Drive on to Amarapura, another former capital (initially from 1783 to 1819 and subsequently from 1839 to 1852). You’ll be shown around the town and visit a silk and cotton weaving workshop. At sunset take a local boat on Taungthaman Lake to see U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge and one of the most photographed sights in the whole of Myanmar. Back on the boat for dinner and moor overnight at Sagaing.
Day 4: Cruise to Yandabo (B / L / D)
The morning the cruise starts over breakfast as you enter the rural heart of the country heading to the pottery village at Yandabo. Disembark with your guide who will take you through the hand-made, labour intensive processes that seem to involve the whole village from the moulding of clay blocks through to the firing of pots that line the riverbank waiting to be transported to market. You’ll see these drinking water pots throughout your holiday that hold the fresh water for villagers and passers-by. This is a hands-on experience and you're invited to have a go.
The village is also well-known as the place where the first Anglo-Burmese war ended when the peace treaty was signed here in 1826. You’ll also have the chance to explore the village and get a sense of the culture and lifestyle of rural Myanmar, including a visit to the Pandaw School that was built with donations from past Pandaw passengers. Back on the boat in time for lunch, then relax as the cruise continues. Moor overnight at Shwe Tan Tit village.
Day 5: Cruise to Pakokku & Ayardaw (B / L / D)
This morning continue down the Irrawaddy to Pakokku a quiet, traditional country town best known for tobacco trading, but also important for cotton, peanuts, Thanatkha (traditional make-up and sun lotion) and textiles. Tour the town and market by Tuk Tuk. Stop at a cheroot workshop and discover how traditional cheroot cigars are made.
Return to the boat for lunch and then sail on to Ayardaw. The main reason to visit is to be shown round the charity clinic supported by Pandaw, but also to explore the village with your guide.
Return to the ship for dinner and moor overnight at Tant Chi village.
Day 6: Cruise to Tant-Chi-Taung & Salay (B / L / D)
Enjoy breakfast then it's time to switch to four wheels as you're driven up the winding road of the Tant-Chi-Taung mountain to visit the hill top stupa and enjoy the view. On the way back watch a traditional paper-mache elephant dance performed by the villagers from Tant-Chi.
Lunch back on board then sail to Salay (just 20 miles from Bagan), a small town which was once a bustling trading port, but is now a sleepy village filled with colonial architectural treasures (reminder of the Burma Oil Company) and timeless teak monasteries. As an active religious centre there are approximately 50 monasteries and fewer than 10,000 residents. Walk to Yoke-Sone Kyaung, the best-known teak carved monastery in Burma.
From here visit the Salay House that was originally a trading company warehouse built in 1906, but has now been carefully restored to serve as a museum that offers an educational experience looking at the area's past and present day culture. Chance for a drink on the outdoor deck overlooking the river before returning to the ship for dinner. Moor overnight at Salay.
Day 7: Cruise to Bagan - Afternoon Pagoda & Village Tour (B / L / D)
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.
The first temple visited is Ananda, built in AD 1105 and known as the finest in Bagan (Pagan) in terms of ancient architecture. Enjoy the high standard of craftsmanship including niches with statues, glazed plaques, the standing Buddha statues and murals. Next stop is the Myingabar Gubyaukgyi temple built in AD 1113. Discover the well-preserved murals which also depict typical day-to-day life in Bagan.
End the day with a walk through Phwar Saw, a small village with just over 500 inhabitants. It was named after the very famous and influential queen for three consecutive Kings in Bagan’s late 13th century. The villagers rely on bean / pea farming, breeding cattle and producing small lacquerware handicrafts. A short stroll in the village under the shimmering sunshine in the late afternoon is the perfect way to gain insight into the villagers’ way of life as they fetch water, herd cattle back home and start to prepare dinner.
Back to the boat for dinner. Moor overnight Bagan.
Day 8: Bagan Day Tour (B / L / D)
Breakfast, then you’re off to further explore the wonders of Bagan. First stop is the Shwe San Daw stupa, one of only a few monuments that visitors are allowed to climb and in so doing enjoy a 360-degree view over the pagoda-studded plain. Next visit is to Shwe Zi Gone Pagoda, built in AD 1086 and believed to enshrine a hair relic of the Buddha.
Before returning to the ship for lunch, take a stroll around the Khay Min Ga pagoda complex to learn more about the different architectural styles that influenced their construction through the centuries - Indian, Sri Lankan, Myanmar-Mon hybrid and Myanmar.
This afternoon take a break from history with a visit to a lacquerware workshop to gain an insight into the process of making lacquer handicrafts which is the specialty craft of Bagan.
Your Bagan history course is completed with a visit to the unique Payathonezu, made up of three inter-connecting temples built in the late 13th century and Dhamayangyi from AD 1170, the widest and largest temple in Bagan. Watch the sun set from the top of Taung Guni temple before returning to the ship for dinner and exam (not really!). Moor overnight Bagan.
Day 9: Fly Bagan (B) to Ngapali Beach
Time to leave the boat and fly to the coast for a change of pace relaxing on the beach. Flying in Myanmar is part of the adventure as outside Yangon the airports are still very simple and the service is more like a bus service with coloured stickers denoting which flight you’re on. The flight will be by prop-plane. On arrival your private guide will transfer you to your choice of beach hotel for 5 nights (or less / more).
Days 10-13: Ngapali Beach (B) - Free days
Ngapali Beach is perfect place to conclude any holiday around Myanmar. A short flight from the country’s main destinations, even the airport overlooks a palm lined beach. Ngapali offers everything you could want from a beach destination: miles & miles of wide white sand beach, clear blue sea, discreet low rise upmarket beachside resorts and plenty of local restaurants. It seems to have reached the sweet spot, whereby the facilities mean you can relax in comfort but the development hasn’t ruined the reason you visit.
The most active part of the day will probably be watching the fisherman bringing back their catch, but if you want to explore more there are snorkelling trips to outlying islands, you can rent a bike or perhaps hire a car and driver to explore the largely undeveloped bays that form a ribbon down the coast.
Day 14: Ngapali (B) / Yangon - Private Guided City Tour
After breakfast you’ll be transferred to the airport for the short flight to Yangon. On arrival met and transferred to your choice of hotel for 1 night.
Time to check-in then you’ll be collected for a 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 15: Yangon (B) / UK Airport
Day free until your airport transfer a flight home. 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
- First class river cruise on full board
- 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.
Irrawaddy River Cruise Boats
Relax as you cruise in luxury aboard a beautiful Pandaw boat down the Irrawaddy River through Myanmar
Hotels on Ngapali Beach
Ngapali offers everything you could want from a beach destination
Hotels in Yangon
Perhaps more famous to us as “Rangoon”, Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city