Trace the shores of the Irrawaddy River to discover Myanmar’s cultural heartbeat. Explore remnants of once-mighty ancient kingdoms and timeless riverside villages, learning how- both then and now- the people rely on the waters of the Irrawaddy. Climb aboard a riverboat for an even closer look at this remarkable river.
Through informative visits and boat trips, see how the Myanmar people rely on the Irrawaddy for transportation, irrigation and sustenance.
See Pyay’s 9th-century stupas at Sriketra, the 2000-year old Beikhtano ruins and Bagan’s famed archaeological zone.
Explore small villages on the shores of the Irrawaddy to learn about ways of life on the water’s edge.
Journey on the Banks of the Irrawaddy - 10 Days / 9 Nights
Upon arrival, meet with the guide and transfer to the hotel.
Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small town called Dagon, when he conquered lower Myanmar in 1755. He changed its name to Yangon, which means "End of Strife", but was anglicized as Rangoon by the British in 1885. Relatively quiet and charming, Yangon’s impressive colonial architecture and spiritual heritage makes it one of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating cities.
Begin a tour of the city with a visit to Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, home to a 70-metre long reclining Buddha. A visit to Kyaukhtatgyi provides a great introduction to Burmese Buddhism, with murals depicting the life of Buddha. The feet of the statue are carved with traditional symbols and, often, many locals can be seen gathering to pay homage and pray.
Next, the guided tour goes to Kandawagyi Park, one of central Yangon’s greenest spots. Here, see the glittering Karaweik Barge, a replica of the Royal Barge, and enjoy sweeping views of the vast lake and a stunning view of Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. Depending on the day of the visit, Kandawgyi may be busy with local families who come on the weekends to relax in the fresh air.
From here, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, local legend states that the original structure was built 2,500 years ago then renovated several times before taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 metres tall, gilded with gold leaf and surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. Follow the guide’s lead around this massive complex and learn why this temple is so revered by locals.
Afterwards, head back to the hotel for a night of relaxation or head out for some independent exploration of the city’s nightlife.
After breakfast at the hotel, begin the day’s sightseeing tour with a visit to the old colonial-style city centre and the gilded Sule Pagoda. Then, stroll along Mahabandoola Road, Pansodan Street and explore Yangon’s Jetty, full of colourful street vendors and busy market life. Continue with a short walking tour through the city’s downtown streets with its mix of faded colonial buildings, glittering temples, and local life.
Stroll around colourful Chinatown and visit one of Yangon’s Chinese temples before transferring to the railway station.
In the afternoon, transfer to Yangon Railways Station for a trip to Pyay, crossing incredibly scenic landscapes and villages along the way. (Approximately 6.5 hrs). While en-route, enjoy the opportunity to mingle with locals as the lush countryside passes by.
On arrival in Pyay, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Pyay.
After breakfast at the hotel, visit Pyay Jetty and the village’s vibrant market to learn about the unusual goods sold here. Then, visit Shwe Sandaw Pagoda for a look at its gigantic sitting Buddha statue, and then check out Hsehtatkyi Pagoda.
In the afternoon, visit the ancient city of Thayeikhittaya, just 8km from the city centre. The remains of the city cover about 19 square kilometres, an area that was entirely walled in ancient times -although now the ruins are hidden behind thickets of thorny bushes. In its hayday, Thayeikhittaya was renowned as the largest and most complex city built by the ancient Pyu.
End your day with a walk along Strand Road in Pyay for sunset and then head back to the hotel.
Overnight in Pyay.
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Magway (200 km/ 4 hours drive). En route, pass the fields and small towns of Aung Lan and Taung Dwin Gyi.
Visit the ancient city of Beikthano, over 2,000 years old, located in the Taung Dwin Gyi Township. From here, continue on to the Magway Division.
Magway is well known for its production of both groundnut and sesame oils, earning itself the nickname, ‘Oil Pot of Myanmar’. Mayway is also known for producing exotic fruits, especially the unusual and delicious phangar fruit (Chebulic myorobalan).
From here, pay a visit to the famous Mya Tha Lun Pagoda on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
On arrival, check in at the hotel and overnight in Magway.
After breakfast at the hotel, begin a 20km drive to the northern bank of the Irrawaddy River to reach Kyaung Taw Yar Pagoda in the Pwint Phyu Township. Believed to be the site of an ancient monastery built of sandalwood which the Lord Buddha visited after having achieved enlightenment. “Kyaung” means monastery; “Taw” is used when relating to religious hierarchy or royalty, and “Yar” means the site on which the Kyaung Taw stood.
Continue to visit Nagar Pwet Taung (Dragon Lake), an unusual pool of bubbling mud with a nearby temple and Pagoda in the Min Bu Township. This is the perfect spot to admire panoramic views of the mighty Irrawaddy River and cool down with the breeze.
Then head to the hotel in Magway.
Overnight in Magway.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before starting a scenic and interesting drive to Bagan. The route is interesting. Along the way, pass through alternating landscape before arriving at one of the most arid regions of Myanmar near Bagan. In this area, view toddy palm fields before stopping at a farm to observe the process of toddy juice production. This crop plays an important role in Burmese rural life. Not only providing juice and sugars, but also creating shade from the heat and being used as material for utensils, buildings and even some medicine.
Upon arrival in Bagan, check in to the hotel.
In the evening, board a local boat for a slow cruise down the Irrawaddy River. While cruising these peaceful waters, observe the lifestyles of local fishermen and riverside villagers and take in a unique perspective of Bagan’s temples from the river.
Overnight in Bagan.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Balloon Experience Over Bagan - Start the morning with an unforgettable hot-air balloon flight over Bagan’s temple-studded plains -widely considered to be one of the most iconic experiences in Asia. Pastries, croissants, coffee and tea are provided while 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. Be sure to bring a camera, as this will surely prove to be one of the best photo opportunities of the entire trip. (Note: available only from late- October to late-March; all flights weather permitting )
Today, explore the wonders of Bagan with a full-day tour. From the 11th to 13th centuries, when Bagan was the capital of Myanmar, the rulers constructed thousands of huge stupas and temples, many of which are still standing today on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
The journey begins with a visit to the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for an introduction into Bagan’s rich history. Then, visit nearby Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with exquisite jataka mural paintings, and the elegant Htilominlo Temple noted for its fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations.
Stop at a local Tea Shop, and have a chance to try the traditional Burmese style tea. Pick from light or strong brews and try a traditional snack.
In the afternoon, start with a visit to Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece and one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples. Built in the early Mon-style, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending on the distances from which they are viewed. Neighbouring Ananda Okkyaung is one of the few surviving brick monasteries from the early Bagan period and is filled with intricate paintings.
From here, travel by horse cart for a tour passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple, a massive temple noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple.
Time permitting; enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of one of the temples. Be sure to bring a camera, as it’s sure to be a great photo opportunity.
Overnight in Bagan.
After breakfast, transfer to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery and explore the temple’s caves, learning about local traditions and the spiritual beliefs of Burmese people.
In the afternoon, continue to the rural village of Minnanthu, one of Bagan’s least visited areas. Here, explore temples such as Payathonzu, with its unusual architecture and Tantric Buddhism influence, Lemyentha and Nandamannya.
Late in the afternoon, transfer to the Nyaung Oo Airport for the flight to Mandalay. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Mandalay.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Balloon Experience Over Mandalay – As a hot-air balloon rises against the backdrop of Mandalay Hill, the first site to greet guests is 729 white pitaka pagodas housing the world’s largest book. Drifting above the vibrant city, witness barefoot monks collecting alms, bustling morning markets, boats coming alive on the Irrawaddy River and U Bein Bridge in Amarapura. (Note: available only from late- October to late-March; all flights weather permitting)
After breakfast, transfer to the Mandalay Jetty and board a private local boat for a one-hour cruise on the Irrawaddy River to Mingun.
Visit the main sites of Mingun beginning with the famous Mingun Pahtodawgyi. This huge brick structure was left unfinished after an astrologer predicted the kings would die should the temple be completed. In the 1800s, an earthquake left several large cracks in the structure, which are now an integral part of its iconic ‘fractured’ appearance. Continue with a visit to the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda, whose distinctive style is meant to resemble the mythical Mount Meru. Then, see the Mingun Bell which weighs 90 tons and is considered the world’s largest uncracked ringing bell.
Return to Mandalay by boat, enjoying lunch on board while heading back to the city.
Next, visit Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, has been covered with so much gold leaf by revellers that it now has an iconic ‘lumpy’ texture. View this revered Buddha image and then explored the grounds of the pagoda for an insightful view of the area’s local culture.
Mandalay is well known for its skilled craftsmen. After Mahamuni Pagoda, begin a tour of the area’s traditional workshops to learn about the city’s bustling cottage industries. Observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court.
OPTION: Make your own marionette! Join local craftsmen at their workshop and create a unique puppet, personalised puppet. It’s a hands-on way to learn about local culture while creating a memorable, personalised souvenir! (20 USD per person)
Continue the tour of Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’. Continue to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak wood building is well-known for its exquisite woodcarving.
For those with energy to spare after a full day of touring, head to the top of Mandalay Hill for a spectacular sunset from the city’s highest vantage point.
Overnight in Mandalay.
Today is at your leisure until transferring to Mandalay International Airport for an onward flight.
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