Highlights of Myanmar
This is a land where holy men clad in traditional longyi are revered, thousands of ancient, religious stupas rise out of flat plains and floating-village life ebbs and flow upon Inle Lake.
For a glimpse of old Indochina, there isn’t a more eye-opening destination than traveling to Myanmar, a mysterious country, which only began allowing Western travelers into its borders in recent years.
Yangon, the country’s capital, is a beguiling mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, from its timeworn colonial architecture to its unique cuisine. In this deeply Buddhist country, pagodas pockmark the land, and some of the most impressive ones can be found in Yangon, including the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda.
In Mandalay, Myanmar’s major commercial center, explore sites such as the monastery-studded Mandalay Hill, a pilgrimage site for Buddhists for nearly two centuries. Perhaps the best way to experience both the romance of the colonial era and see the Burmese people’s day-to-day realities is by cruising on the Ayeyarwady River all the way to Bagan, disembarking at temples and viewing life along the river.
If Yangon and Mandalay are Myanmar’s capitals of culture and commerce, then Bagan is the country’s spiritual center. Over 2,000 pagodas, stupas, and temples dot the golden plains of Bagan, a once-in-a-lifetime sight to behold, best seen from above by private hot air balloon, which can be arranged by Luxury Myanmar Travel. Other highlights include the Ananda Temple, the best-preserved in the city, and Mount Popa, a stunning volcano that doubles as an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage site.
Day 1: Arrive Yangon (L, D)
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, you will be welcomed by your tour guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in. You will visit Sule Pagoda (located on a roundabout in downtown Yangon), Yangon City Hall (featuring classic Myanmar architectural design), and the High Court (noted for its British colonial architecture, including its clock tower and its red-bricked exterior). Next, you'll visit Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, built in 1966 and famous for its huge image of the Reclining Buddha, which replaced the older image built in 1907.
In the early evening, you will visit the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Its massive bell-shaped golden spires are plated with 60 tons of gold, while the tip of the stupa is inset with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and topaz. You'll have a restful overnight in Yangon.
Day 2: Yangon - Bagan (B, L, D)
After breakfast, you will transfer to the airport for a flight to Bagan. Upon arrival, you will go for a sightseeing drive to Nyaung Oo Market, Shwezigone Pagoda (home to the Frontlet Relic of Buddha), Gubyaukgyi Temple (noted for its wall paintings), Htilominlo Pagoda (one of the largest temples of Bagan and noted for its fine plaster carvings) and Ananda Temple (the finest, largest and best preserved of all the Bagan temples). You will also get to explore Ananda Okkyaung (a brick monastery with 18th Century mural paintings) and Dhammayangyi Pagoda (extending approximately 255 feet on each of its four sides, making it Bagan's most massive shrine). After lunch, you will visit a local family workshop to watch and learn about the production process of lacquer ware, one of Myanmar's best-known handicrafts.
You will then continue on to visit Thatbyinnyu Pagoda (Bagan's tallest temple at almost 217 feet high) and Nanpaya temple (a unique sandstone monument). Then you will enjoy the breathtaking sunset from Shwesandaw Pagoda, the most popular sunset-viewing spot in Bagan, before retiring for the evening in Bagan.
Day 3: Bagan full day sightseeing (B, L, D)
After breakfast, you will continue your visit with a trip to Nathlaung Kyaung, the only remaining Hindu temple in Bagan. Next, you'll visit Myazedi Pagoda (well known for its stone inscription which was engraved in the four languages of Myanmar) and Nagayon Pagoda, which was built at the end of the 11th Century and which resembles the Indian temples of the area of Orissa. Your next destination will be Abeyatanar Pagoda (famous for paintings that cover the inner walls) and then lunch at a local restaurant.
Your journey will continue to Nga-kywe-na-daung Pagoda (with early Pyu type brick masonry stupa), Manual Temple (one of the oldest temples in Bagan), and Mingalarzedi (noted for its fine proportions and many beautiful jataka tiles around its three square terraces). You will surely be ready for your relaxing overnight stay in Bagan.
Day 4: Bagan - Mandalay - Amarapura (B, L, D)
There will be an early morning transfer to Bagan Airport for a flight to Mandalay. Upon arrival, you will take an excursion to Amarapura, which means "The City of Immortality" and which was founded in 1783 AD. You'll then visit Mahaganthayon Monastery, the largest teaching monastery in Myanmar.
Next, you will enjoy the serenity of the U Bein wooden bridge (constructed in 1849 and measuring about three-quarters of a mile long) and Taung-Ta-Man Lak (which always enchants visitors). After your hotel check-in, you will continue your tour by visiting Mahar Myat Muni Buddha Image (the most ancient bronze cast Buddha image in Myanmar) and the reconstructed Mya Nan San Kyaw Palace.
You will finish the tour by visiting Mandalay Hill, a natural watchtower where visitors can watch the sunrise or sunset over the city plains. You'll then have an overnight in Mandalay.
Day 5: Mandalay - Sagaing - Mingun ( B, L, D)
After breakfast, you will set out forSagaing Hill, which has over 600 Buddhist monasteries where monks and nuns study and meditate. You'll also visit U Min Thonze (or "Thirty Caves Pagoda", which has many Buddha images in a crescent-shaped colonnade), Ywahtaung Village (where you can see silver workers producing bowls and other silver items by traditional methods) and the impressive Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda nearby.
After that, you will take a private boat to Mingun, which is famous for its huge and incomplete Pahtodawgyi Pagoda built by King Bodaw Badon in 1791 and the Mingun Bell, which is the biggest hanging bell in the world. Then you will head to the handicraft workshops and witness bronze sculpting, gold leaf beating and marble stone carving, before an overnight stay in Mandalay.
Day 6: Mandalay -Heho - Pindaya (B, L, D)
After breakfast, you will transfer to the airport to fly to Heho. Upon arrival, you will drive to Pindaya. Traveling by car along the hilly and winding road over the Shan Plateau, though taking a few hours, is interesting and well worth it. You'll visit Pindaya cave, a huge cavern where thousands of Buddha images in various size and shape have been installed since the 11th century. You will dinner and stay overnight at the hotel in Pindaya.
Day 7: Pindaya - Inle Lake full-day sightseeing
After breakfast, you will drive to Inle Lake and enjoy a boat ride for the whole day. Your sightseeing will start with a visit to the Phaungdawoo Pagoda, which houses five small Buddha images.
The temple is also home to an annual festival, usually held during the month of October, and it is the biggest event held at the lake. The next must-see stop is Nag Phi Chaung Monastery, an attractive wooden monastery built on stilts over the lake at the end of the 1850s and where you can see the popular jumping cats leap through hoops. You also have an option to see "Padaung" or the "Long-neck Karen hill tribe". Your tour would be completed with a visit to a local silverware workshop, silk and lotus workshops and a place of traditional ironwork. If time allows, ask your guide to go and see the Shan papermaking process. You will stay overnight at a hotel on the lake.
Day 8: Inle Lake - Yangon (B, L, D)
After breakfast at the hotel, you will transfer to the airport and fly back to Yangon. Upon arrival, you'll continue your Yangon city tour with a visit to Lawka Chanthar, the world's biggest marble Buddha and see the royal white elephant.
On the way, you will stop at the Naga Cave monastic school, where you can learn the Myanmar monastic education system. You also have the option to visit Kandawgyi Lake and surrounding areas which offer numerous photo opportunities. In the early evening, you'll visit the Strand jetty to witness the daily life of the local people and Yangon's river that offers a remarkable atmosphere with spectacular colors and photo opportunities. Then, you can shop in the Bogyoke market (formerly "Scott market"), where you can get a wide range of Myanmar handicrafts, jewelry, fabrics, and lacquerware. If you stay have time, go to famous MK gems shop where the quality gems are displayed separately in eight different decorated showrooms. This is no surprise as Myanmar is the world's number one producer of precious stones.