The Ultimate Burmese Road Trip
Burma Holidays in 2017 / 2018
The biggest country in mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar offers ample scope for epics. This ambitious circuit covers many bases. As well as famous sights and spots like Bagan and Inle Lake, the journey takes in lesser-known highlights such as pretty Hpa An and the hill retreats of Hsipaw and Pyin Oo Lwin.
Book our amazing Burmese Road Trip itinerary and you’ll soon be jetting off to enjoy your amazing Burma holiday package.
Depart the UK for your indirect flight to Yangon, arriving the following day.
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport you will be greeted by your guide and driver who will transfer you to your hotel for check-in. After freshening up, set off for a tour of the city’s highlights. First visit Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, which is home to a 70 metre long reclining Buddha. Continue through the city, stopping as you wish to take photos or relax with a drink at a local tea shop. From here, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar.
Depart Yangon this morning for the scenic drive to Bago, the capital of the 16th century Mon kingdom.Your visit in Bago begins at Shwethalyaung Temple which houses a beautiful 55-meter long reclining Buddha. Continue to the Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda, one of the most venerated in Myanmar and whose 114 meter spire is taller than the one at Shwedagon Pagoda. This afternoon, arrive at Kyaikhtiyo base camp. Travel by local, open-air truck along a winding road (45 minutes) where you be dropped off a short five minute walk from Golden Rock. A huge boulder covered by gold leaf and delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff, Golden Rock is one of Myanmar's main pilgrimage sites. The pagoda here is said to hold a hair of the Buddha and Buddhist from across the country come here to pay homage. (B)
This morning there is the option to visit the Golden Rock again to see the rising sun casting its rays upon the rock. Starting from the pre-dawn hour, local pilgrims gather by the rock to make offerings in the solitude of the morning.Return down to base camp by the same route by open-air truck. This afternoon, continue two hours drive by road to Hpa An, a small town surrounded by beautiful limestone rock formations and is the capital of the Karen state. En-route visit to Bayint Nyi Cave and Kaw Gun Cave. The former has a hot spring lake, from which you get a beautiful view of the temple complex and cave. Kaw Gun Cave is also fascinating, with over 2000 stone tablets with Mon inscriptions and hundreds of Buddha statues in the cave. Arrive in Hpa An and check in to your hotel. If you wish, take a leisurely walk on the road along Thanlyin River: a pretty scene with boats and mountain backdrops. (B)
Today’s first stop will be Sadan Cave. Typically only accessible from November to March, this cave will bring out our inner Indiana Jones. Sadan starts off as a typical Myanmar cave, full of Buddah images and even a reclining Buddah. From here, you’ll hire one of the local boat men to take us on a tour around the lake (client’s sit on the bamboo floor of the boat as there are no seats) and through another cave accessible only by boat. Then continue to Kyauk Kalat Pagoda, a small stupa perched on top of a club-like rock formation on a small island in a lake.Continue the drive to Mawlamyaing , which is about one hour. Arrive this afternoon in the Mon State capital of Mawlamyaing, formerly known as Moulmein. Situated near the mouth of the Thanlwin River, this attractive town is surrounded by leafy, tropical areas and has a hilly ridge serving as a backdrop. The town was also the capital of British Burma between 1827 and 1852 and it retains some of the atmosphere of the colonial times. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.(B)
Spend today touring the sites of Mawlamyaing. Proceed to Mahamuni Pagoda, built in traditional Mon-style, and Kyaikthanlan Pagoda, the city's tallest and most visible stupa. Continue to the beautiful Seindon Mibaya, a wooden monastery over 100 years old. Walk along the town’s Strand Road for a glimpse of the impressive Kaladan Mosque which was built during the colonial era when many Indians came to work for the British in Mawlamyaing.This afternoon, board a private boat to visit Khaung Sae Kyun (Shampoo Island). It is said that Mon Kings used to came this place to announce water festival, then also make hair washing ceremony on the island.Come back to Mawlamyaing and end up your tour at “view point” from where you can see the charming town of Mawlamyaing together with the gorgeous view of Thanlwin River and Belu Island at the back drop, while you are enjoying your time during sunset.(B)
After breakfast, depart Mawlamyaing for the drive towards Yangon. Arrive in Moeyungyi wetlands by mid-afternoon. Moeyungyi is a vital shelter for both resident and migratory waterfowl. A recent census revealed that there are 125 species of birds. The wetlands, designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1988, covers 40 square miles. The wetland is a permanent residence for 55 bird species. It has also become a primary migratory stop for millions of birds, around 70 species, traveling the East Asian-Australian Flyway. The area is also home to locals living off the wetlands, and a variety of other flora and fauna. This afternoon, take a boat excursion through the wetlands. You’ll discover buffalo bathing in the shallow waters, see a vast number of birds and encounter local fisherman. Afterwards you will have time to explore around the resort on foot.(B)
This morning, the trip heads back to Yangon, arriving around lunch time. Transfer to the hotel for a couple of hours of rest before going to colonial downtown, where East meets West with a mix of pagodas, monuments and colonial buildings. Walk around Sule Pagoda, City Hall, Victory Monument and some of the nearby colonial buildings.Around sunset, begin a trishaw food tour of Yangon. A melting pot of ethnicities and nationalities, Yangon is the perfect place to taste a wide selection of food. This tour samples traditional Burmese, Shan, and Indian dishes, before ending at the lively 19th street for an outdoor barbeque. The entire journey is done on local trishaws, a great way to experience a city caught between the past and future. (B,D)
This morning, enjoy some leisure time.Midday, stop for lunch at a restaurant of your choice. We can suggest many great Burmese restaurants in downtown where you can mingle with the locals and sample delicious, authentic dishes.Around 13.30 transfer to Yangon Railways station for your trip to Pyay. You’ll be seated in reclining seats in an air conditioned cabin, with windows on either side of the carriage. Sit back and relax while crossing scenic landscapes and observing villages alongside the train tracks. The journey takes around 6.5 hours. (B)
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, visit the Pyay jetty and the colourful market. It’s a great place to interact with the locals and learn more about daily Burmese life. As an introduction to the city, visit Shwe Sandaw Pagoda, a pagoda of great religious importance to the Burmese people as it contains twelve relics from the Buddha and is the only temple in the country with two umbrellas at the top of its stupa. Nearby is a massive seated Buddha Statue which was recently renovated and from this point you will have views of the Irrawaddy River in the distance. This afternoon venture away from the city centre (8 kilometres) to visit the ancient city of Sriketra. Also known as Thayeikhittaya, the area was once the largest and most elaborate city in the area and spans 19 square kilometres. These days the ruins of the city walls and brick temples are hidden amid thorny bushes.End your day with a stroll along Strand Road, Pyay’s main street, and browse the night market. The town is small and easy to get around on foot. There are many restaurants in the city centre as well. (B)
After breakfast at the hotel, drive north to Magway (200 km/ 4 hours drive). The road passes through more beautiful rural scenery dotted with small towns.
Along the way we will stop at Beikthano, another ancient city more than 2000 years old. For those with a keen interest in history and archaeology, Beikthano is a real delight. From here continue on to Magway Division where, on arrival, we’ll stop to check in at the hotel. Magway is well known for its production of both groundnut and sesame oils, earning itself the nickname, ‘Oil pot of Myanmar’. The town is also known for producing exotic fruits especially the unusual, yet delicious phangar fruit. Then we will travel by horse cart to the famous Mya Tha Lun Pagoda. This revered temple is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, a scenic place ideal for photos. Return by horsecart to the town centre. (B)
Spend a full day exploring the surrounding areas of Magway. After breakfast we’ll head to the north banks of the Irrawaddy River (20 kilometre drive) to reach Kyaung Taw Yar Pagoda, at the Pwint Phyu Township. The temple is believed to be the site of an ancient monastery built of sandal wood in which the Lord Buddha spent some time after having achieved enlightenment. The name itself is quite interesting with: Kyaung meaning monastery, Taw referring to religious hierarchy or royalty, and Yar means the site on which the Kyaung Taw stood.On the return to Magway stop at Nagar Pwet Taung, an unusual pool of bubbling mud. This unusual geological phenomenon is believed, by the locals, to be caused by dragons (nagas) living deep inside the earth. We’ll also visit a nearby temple, which is the perfect spot to admire the panoramic views of the mighty Irrawaddy River and cool down with the breeze.Return to Magway in the early evening. (B)
Continue the overland journey today after breakfast with a 5-hour drive to Bagan. The route passes many changes of landscape as you cross one of the most arid regions of Myanmar. View toddy palm fields and stop at a processing area to observe the production toddy juice. Upon arrival in Bagan, check in to your hotel and take some time to freshen up. Late this afternoon we’ll take a relaxing horse cart ride through the temple area, starting at the soaring Thetbyin Nyu and on to Sulamani, one of Bagan’s best decorated temples. Continue to the massive Dhammayangyi temple before finishing at North Guni Temple to watch the sun set over the plains. This is a fabulous introduction to Bagan and its 2000 pagodas.Return to your hotel after sunset for an evening at leisure. (B)
Today’s excursion visits a range of sites, providing a great overview of Bagan’s history, culture and local lifestyles.The journey begins at Thagyar Pone Temple, a temple with spectacular views over the surrounding plains. Afterwards we will go to Myinkaba Village and Gubyaukgyi Temple which is noted for its beautiful mural paintings on its inner walls and well-preserved plaster carvings on its exterior. Board a private river boat and set off upriver toward Kyauk Gu U Min. Throughout your Irrawaddy river cruise you will be treated to fabulous scenes of life on the water: fishermen, local ferry boats, riverside villages and views of the Bagan temples. You’ll stop at Sae Lan village and go ashore for a short walk. Sae Lan is typical of the riverside villages along the Irrawaddy. The friendly people work as farmers and fishermen, living a simple but happy life.Continue by boat to Kyauk Gu U Min on the eastern side of the river where a five to ten minute walk takes us to the temple. After your exploration of Kyauk Gu U Min, you’ll return to the boat for a relaxing cruise back to Bagan . Transfer back to your hotel upon reaching Bagan. (B)
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY : Balloon Experience Over Bagan - Start your morning with an incredible hot-air balloon flight over Bagan’s temple-studded plains. Start your morning snack on pastries and croissants, and sipping coffee and tea as the balloon is inflated. Climb aboard before gently rising above thousands of gilded stupas and earthen temples all back-dropped by the impressive Irrawaddy River. A truly unforgettable and unique experience. (Note: available only from late- October to late-March; all flights weather permitting) Today will be a day of leisure or choose from a handful of optional activities in Bagan. (B)
This morning (around 07.00) depart by road for the drive to Mandalay. After around 45-60 minutes we’ll reach Popa laan village, a local village near the base of Mt Popa that is typical of many villages in the area. Take a short walk through this scenic village and visit with the friendly residents.Continue on to Mt Popa and Taung Kalat, a volcanic plug standing 1518 metres high. Mount Popa has played an important role in Myanmar culture, religion and history since earliest times. Its shrine, located at the top of Taung Kalat, is dedicated to the worship of the 37 Nats, the Burmese ancient animist spirits. Reach Meiktila in the late afternoon and check in to your hotel. (B)
Set off from Meiktila after breakfast and head to the capitol of Myanamar, Nay Pyi Taw. Nay Pyi Taw, only a vast shrubland a decade back, has become Myanmar’s seat of power and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. This evening, visit Uppatasanti Pagoda, a replica of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. The 99 meter golden pagoda is visible from all major roads leading into the city. (B)
After breakfast, visit the Parliament house (Pyi Thu Hlut Taw), the building for the National Pyi Htaung Su Hlut taw which is composed of 31 buildings, blending modern and ancient Myanmar architectural style. If you have chance, you will see the rush of politicians attending meetings outside the compound.
Then leave Nay Pyi Taw behind and head to the Shan state and the former British Hill station of Kalaw. Arrive in time to watch the sunset of this picturesque town. (B)
This morning, transfer from Kalaw to Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Magwe village (the drive takes around 45 minutes). The camp is a refuge for retired elephants from the logging industry. Following this, embark on a short walk to the river, passing through a reforestation project set up by the camp and villagers. Be greeted by the elephants – the guide will explain their name, age, and how they ended up retiring at the camp. Trays of bananas and sugar cane will be brought out and some time will be enjoyed feeding the elephants. Afterwards, get dressed in traditional Shan garments to prepare for the elephants bathing. Walk to a natural pool, located between two small falls in the stream, where you’ll join the elephants for a bath. In the late afternoon say goodbye to the elephants and mahouts and transfer to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway to Inle Lake. (B)
Your guide will greet you at your hotel this morning to embark on your Inle Lake day trip. We’ll start with a visit to the morning market, this daily market attracts people from all over the lake’s shores 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.Then continue across the lake, passing through villages with stilted houses and floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. You will also see the leg‐rowing fishermen who steer their boats with incredible balance. We make our way to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary. This afternoon we will travel to Indein, on the southwestern shores of the lake. The boat will travel down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of Indein. Explore the area on foot, strolling around the village and wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area. (B)
Today is a day at leisure or choose to do one of our optional activities. (B)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel before departing for Pindaya. This is a very scenic road and there will be stops made to take photos of the landscapes if you wish. This afternoon visit the town’s famous Pindaya Caves. Nestled on a hillside, the cave consists of many chambers filled with hundreds of Buddha statues. (B)
Today, leave the Shan state behind and head to the former capitol of Mandalay. Driving northwest, many stops will be made en route for photos or village visits.In the afternoon, reach the town of Kyauk Se, most famous for its yearly Elephant Festival in October or November. Visit the town center then continue to Shin Pin Tamoke Shwegu, an incredible excavation site with ruins dating back to the 11th century and immaculate carvings. Few tourists have ventured to this site even though it is just off the main road.A further one hour drive takes us to Mandalay. After dropping off our bags we’ll take a short introductory tour of the city with a visit to Mandalay Hill, which rises 240 metres above the city. Enjoy great views of the surrounding countryside, Irrawaddy River and city centre. (B)
This morning depart from Mandalay on a scenic two-hour drive to the former British hill station of Maymyo, now officially called Pyin Oo Lwin. The town is located on a plateau 1000m above sea level and renowned for its cooler temperatures and lush foliage. Many reminders of the colonial era are still present in Pyin Oo Lwin, including brick and timber houses with British names and the Botanical Gardens to the south of town.The afternoon is free at your leisure to explore on your own. (B)
We’ll depart around 0800 and transfer to the Pyin Oo Lwin train station where we’ll board the local train to Naung Pain Village. The journey takes around 5 hours passing through stunning scenery including the Gokhtiek Viaduct.A lunch box will be prepared and served along the way.Arrive in Hsipaw in the mid-afternoon. From the train station, head over to the former palace of the last sky prince of Hsipaw. The modest house is kept up by the prince’s niece and nephew, who will share the tragic history of the last sky prince.From the palace, visit a few other sights around town such as “little Bagan” and a very colourful nat shrine. Then, head drive to a mountain pagoda for sunset views overlooking the town and Doktwaddy River. (B,L)
Wake up early this morning and walk through the ‘candlelight market’. This busy morning market is filled with people from the nearby villages- including Shan and Palaung hilltribes- who gather in the predawn hours to trade their wares and produce. The market usually lasts from 3.30 until around 6 AM- thus, the stalls are illuminated by candlelight! If you wish, try a bowl of local Shan noodles here before returning to the hotel. After freshening up at the hotel and having breakfast, we’ll set off for a boat journey along the Dokehtawaddy River. It’s a 15 minute walk to the river jetty where our private longtail boat is waiting. Cruise upstream for around 30 minutes to a fruit plantation where we’ll disembark for a walk through the plantation, village and then up to a 150-year old monastery. The next part of our boat trip takes us to the confluence of the Dokehtawaddy River where we’ll stop for a swimming break and to take photos of the beautiful setting.Continue to a hilltribe village where lunch will be served. Take a stroll around the village to meet with the locals and learn more about their culture, traditions and lifestyles.Then return by boat to Hsipaw and walk to your hotel. The whole journey takes around 5 hours, so we’ll return in the mid afternoon. (B,L)
This morning after breakfast at the hotel, depart for the drive back to Mandalay. The drive takes around 6-7 hours and is along a sealed road in good condition. A stop will be made along the way for lunch. (B)
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for an excursion around Mandalay to explore the former capitals of Sagaing, Ava and Amarapura. Cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar. Finally visit Amarapura, a former capital whose name means ‘City of Immortality’. We’ll start visit to U Bein Bridge for a walk along this 200 year-old teak bridge. The bridge was constructed of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace and it is 1.2 kilometers in length making it the world’s longest teak span. Enjoy a stroll across the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams. (B)
Transfer to Mandalay to connect with your onward indirect flight back to the UK. (B)
Arrival back into the UK today.