This holiday is designed for those who would like to explore a little of the country on foot whilst still visiting Yangon, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Bagan & Mandalay plus a few nights on the beach. Also chance to overnight in monastery.
We would encourage everyone to get a little of the beaten track, as many of the most rewarding holiday experiences are the everyday interactions you enjoy in the countryside whilst tramping village to village through the verdant valleys and over rugged hills. Perfection if you can travel from October to December when the countryside is alive with crops and flowers. Ngapali is Myanmar’s premier beach resort but if you’d rather finish in Thailand this can be easily arranged.
Day 1: Depart on your choice of overnight flights to Mandalay
Day 2: On arrival private transfer to your choice of hotel for 2 nights in Mandalay
Day 3: Private guided city tour of Mandalay
Day 4: Private guided day tour to Bagan via Amarapura, a former capital. 4 nights Bagan
Day 5: Full day private guided tour of Bagan’s incredible collection of ancient pagodas
Day 6: Day to relax, add a tour or rent electric bikes to explore the sandy paths & pagodas
Day 7: Private full day to Mount Popa, walk along the “Mother Hill” and visit toddy palm farm
Day 8: Fly to Heho and private guided transfer up to the hill station of Kalaw for 2 nights
Day 9: Full day walking tour of the beautiful surrounding countryside, farms and villages
Day 10: Kalaw to War Gyi Myaung walk through stunning countryide. Overnight monastery
Day 11: Walk on to Inle Lake via Indein. Private longtail boat to Inle Lake hotel for 2 nights
Day 12: Full day private guided longtail boat tour of Inle Lake highlights
Day 13: Visit Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung monastery. Fly to Ngapali for 3 nights on the beach
Day 14-15: 2 days to relax on beautiful beach, take a swim, walk to fishing villages and explore coast
Day 16: Fly to Yangon for 1 night. Private guided city tour including evening at Shwedagon Pagoda
Day 17: Private transfer to airport in time for your flight home.
Day 18: 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
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the city centre where you check in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights.
The rest of the day’s free to recover from the journey and explore the city under your own steam.
Day 3: Mandalay (B) - Private City Tour
This morning your guide will collect you for a full tour of the city. Mandalay was the last of the royal cities and is encompassed by smaller capital cities dotted around its edges. The centre piece of the city is the reconstructed palace that’s surrounded by a large moat. Visit Mahamuni Pagoda with its statues created in Buddha’s true likeness. Lunch will be in a local restaurant at own expense. You then visit a marble stone carving and an artisanal gold leaf workshop. See the largest book in the world at Kuthodaw Pagoda, where stories are etched on 79 stone tablets. End the day watching the sunset from high up on Mandalay Hill.
Day 4: Mandalay (B) to Bagan by car with Amarapura Visit
After breakfast your guide will collect you for the 5 hour drive to Bagan with a lunch stop along the way (own expense). 11 kilometres south of Mandalay you’ll find Amarapura, one of Myanmar’s former capitals. It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1783 and served as the centre of power until 1857, when the capital moved to Mandalay. One of the main highlights will be the Mahagandayon Monastery that was founded in around 1914 and is one of the largest teaching monasteries in Myanmar; home to up to 2000 monks at any given time. The other will be the nearby U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teakwood bridge. The bridge was made from wood salvaged from the city’s dismantled teak palace when the capital moved to Mandalay and remains a central part of the community with hundreds of locals and saffron-robed monks walking their bicycles home along it and fishermen going about their daily work in its shadow. From here continue on to Bagan for 4 nights at your choice of hotel.
Day 5: 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 6: 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.
Day 7: 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 8: Fly Bagan (B) to Inle Lake
Early morning airport transfer and short flight to Heho Airport. 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 flights will be by prop-plane.
On arrival your guide will meet you and the drive to Kalaw takes about 90 minutes. On the way to the hotel you will stop at a local market (assuming market running) where various hill tribes meet to sell their produce and wares and buy supplies. Kalaw grew up as a hill station during the British colonial times and is now most famous for its cooler climate and the great trekking that can be enjoyed in the surrounding hills and countryside. As you drive through Kalaw you’ll still find remnants of our time here, such as the post office, railway station and plenty of hedged gardens!
Continue to climb out of the town and you reach the Kalaw Hill Lodge, your home for 2 nights. Afternoon free to enjoy the spectacular setting, looking out over a beautiful rural valley. From the hotel you can explore some of the tracks that lead straight out from the garden, take part in a spot of Burmese farming or relax with a massage ahead of tomorrow’s hike. The hotel supports the local community including the school next door and they encourage you to see the work they do.
Day 9: Kalaw (B / L) - Private Walking Day Tour of Hills, Villages & Countryside
Today you’ll join a local walking guide for a day exploring the surrounding countryside, farms and villages. Head straight out of the back of the hotel and you’re immediately out in the countryside, following a well-established track south along the side of the valley. You might meet locals using it to commute into Kalaw or farmers leading their buffalo to the surrounding fields (look out for buffalo water holes in which they wallow in the mud that protects their skin from the sun).
As you’re over 5,000 feet above sea level you’ll walk through pine forest and see the conservation schemes that are trying to re-forest the valley sides. Down below you’ll see a patchwork of fields that grow a bewildering variety of vegetables, fruit and of course rice. Walk for about 2.5 miles to Lutpyin a farming village mainly inhabited by the Taungyoe tribe. On the way enjoy the stunning view of the surrounding countryside. Your guide will show you round the village and you may get the chance to enjoy some local food from a village eatery. From here follow another track to Taunggyiche (1 mile). Here you’ll enjoy a packed lunch and perhaps spend some time mixing with the local community and watching everyday life.
Then head north-east towards Myin Ma Hti Mountain (1.8 miles) and visit the winding complex of natural caves and tunnels, filled to bursting point with Buddha images in an astonishing variety of shapes and sizes. From here head north and start back towards Kalaw (4 miles, approx. 2 hours) crossing Minelong Mountain ridge at elevation 4,776 feet. From here the trail goes generally down all the way to Nanthe (2.5 miles) on a further 20 minutes to the lodge.
Please bear in mind that the exact day may vary slightly and are fully flexible, so can be adjusted to your fitness / interest levels. The local guide and hotel manager know the hills very well so please feel free to talk to them about the day. I did the walk as far as the Myin Ma Hti Mountain and found the variety of landscapes and access to rural life fascinating. The tracks are good and not too strenuous.
Day 10: Kalaw to War Gyi Myaung Overnight Trek (5 hours walking) (B / L / D)
This morning you’ll be collected by your guide and driven about two hours on a narrow bumpy road through scenic hills to reach the trekking starting point at Bawningone Village, located 4,400 feet above sea level. The day will take you across beautiful, rugged and varied countryside and through a range of different tribal villages, including Pa’o, Danu and Palaung. One of the real joys of the day will be the children you meet along the way and we’d encourage you not to bring sweets but perhaps the occasional small gifts like balloons, bubble blowers or small rubber balls for your favourites along the way would be gratefully received.
Along the way your guide will show you the crops that are being grown in the village gardens, the culture of village life and local specialist cottage industries. For example in the Pao Village of Pattu Pauk you will have a chance to see bamboo weaving and the baskets and mats they produce. Lunch will be a local meal. The day ends at the Pao village of War Gyi Myaung where you’ll stay in the monastery. Your guide will explain more about life in the monastery and you will have a chance to look round the village. If you still have energy, you can cross the paddy fields and climb the small nearby hill to enjoy dramatic panoramic view down towards Inle Lake. Dinner is served by your guide.
The accommodation is very simple in a communal room with other guests (not monks) within the monastery on mats (not mattresses). They will provide bedding and mosquito nets can be provided. You will need to bring a small towel. Bathroom facilities will also be simple and shared with other guests. If you'd rather enjoy more comfort we can arrange for you to stay in a simple hotel close by.
Day 11: War Gyi Myaung (B) - Walk to Inle Lake via Indein (3 hours walking)
The day starts early in the monastery and this morning you’ll have the chance to see how monks and locals live their lives. After an early breakfast start the 2nd day’s walk and like yesterday the day will be an informal journey experiencing Burmese life and the guide will stop to show you villages and areas of interest along the way. By the end of the day you’ll realise how perfect the soil and climate is for farming, as they seem to grow every type of crop you can name plus a few new ones!
During this morning’s walk the landscape will start to change as you descend from the hills towards Inle Lake and Indein town on its shore. Indein is famous for the thousands of stupas that cover the hillside above the town. The origins of the site are believed to date back to the 3rd Century BC, when the Indian emperor sent monks to spread Buddhism. It wasn't until the 17th and 18th century that the majority of the pagodas were commissioned during the reign of King Narapatisithu. Like others found across the region, the stupas feature fantastical creatures like chinthe - mythic lion-like beings that protect sacred spaces. These were sites for contemplation and meditation and many contain relics inside their bases. Lunch will be in Indein at own expense.
Approached by a long covered walkway although some have been restored most are in various stages of decay, or being taking over by vegetation, to create at atmospheric weather beaten maze almost akin to an ancient exaggerated cemetery. Great for photographers.
From here the lake beckons and this is one of the best places from which to enter. Board your private longtail boat and set off along the Inn Thein Creek, a long narrow foliage-cloaked canal that winds its way on an atmospheric ride to the lake. As you approach, villages become more obvious and wooden bridges cross more frequently, then you’re on the lake itself and you get a sense of its size and what life on the lake is like before docking at your choice of hotel for 2 nights. The rest of the afternoon is free and after 3 days of walking you may like to take advantage of the spa.
Day 12: Inle Lake (B) - Full Day Private Guide Day Tour of Inle Lake
This morning your guide will collect you for a day exploring the lake by private longtailed boat. As you enter the lake keep your eye out for the iconic one-legged rowing style used by local fisherman and the many small floating gardens filled with vegetables and plants. The lake is also home to many species of bird that use the area as a breeding ground or a stop on their migration routes.
The morning starts with a visit to one of the local markets. It’s held daily but the location of the event rotates through five different sites around the lake area, thus each of them host a roaming market every fifth day. This is a great way of getting to understand tribal life and your guide will talk you through the wares on offer. The rest of the morning will be spent exploring local cottage industries that dot the area including craftsman at work building wooden boats, workers hand rolling Burmese cigars and silk and lotus weaving on traditional looms. The latter is used especially for ceremonial dress as the lotus is a divine symbol of their Buddhist faith. At an appropriate time lunch will be in a local restaurant at own expense.
This afternoon you’ll visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda that was believed to have be built by King Alaungsithu of Bagan, who reigned from 1112-1167AD, one of the longest rulers of Bagan Dynasty. The centre shrine in the main hall houses five small golden Buddha images that have been covered with so much gold leaf that it’s impossible to see their original structure. Back at the hotel late afternoon.
Day 13: Fly Inle Lake (B) / Ngapali Beach
Early morning your guide will pick you up for the 45 minute transfer by longtailed boat to the northern edge of the lake where the car will be waiting to take you to the airport.
On the way (time permitting) you’ll make a short stop at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, a two hundred year old Shan style teak monastery. At first glance it may appear to be a slightly tumbledown structure but it’s a working monastery that’s worth exploring and great for photos. Across from the stilted ordination hall you’ll find a white building whose brick and stucco corridors contain thousands of small Buddha images and beautiful floor tiles.
On arrival at the airport check-in and take the short flight to Ngapali. On arrival met and transferred to your choice of beach hotel for 3 nights (or more). Afternoon to relax on the golden beach, take a swim or explore the surrounding area.
Day 14-15: 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 16: 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 17: 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
- 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 Mandalay
Choose from a wide range hotels in Myanmar's cultural capital
Hotels in Bagan
Often at the top of a visitors’ wish list, Bagan’s 2,500 stupas and temples won’t disappoint
Hotels in Kalaw
Former British Hill station set amongst beautiful mountain scenery
Hotels on Inle Lake
Explore by private longtail boat and discover a water world dotted with stilted houses, floating gardens and ancient pagodas & temples
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