The summer dry season in Myanmar, which runs March through May, is a wonderful time to visit “the land of the golden pagodas.” While temperatures are highest at this time of year, reaching above 100 F at times in the mid-day in some places, it is also the driest time to visit the country. Locals are out and about and active, making cultural encounters all the more common and illuminating. We’ve designed a 10-day special Myanmar tour to see three of our favorite places: Yangon (famously formerly “Rangoon”), Bagan, and Inle Lake – all of them treasures for the passionate international traveler. After the trip, travelers can choose to return home or extend to another country in the region or hit the fabulous untouched beaches of Ngapali. Like all of our private custom Myanmar tours, you can start this trip any day. This is an excellent trip for photographers, lovers of Asian foods, history buffs, and adventurous travelers.
Day 1: Yangon arrival – welcome to Myanmar!
On arrival in Yangon International Airport, meet your guide and driver for a private transfer to your hotel. The balance of the day is free at your own leisure.
- Smart option – Overnight at the East hotel – deluxe
- Luxury option – Overnight at the Strand hotel – deluxe suite
Day 2: Yangon | Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda | Yangon Heritage walk (Including classic high tea at Strand Hotel)
Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda
So what’s behind the golden façade of the Shwedagon Pagoda? During this interactive half day tour, we take you through the back door and show you the full history of the pagoda, the daily life of all people living in the immediate surroundings of the pagoda, a deeper insight in the Buddhist religion, and how the spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits. An intriguing half-day tour starting from the bottom of the hill and passing the workshops, markets and monasteries that will be useful or even essential to understand more of the country during the rest of your journey. The tour includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, a visit to a fortune teller, and a Burmese lunch.
After lunch, your guide will take you to downtown Yangon for a great walking tour of its alluring highlights. Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century buildings, religious and secular. Starting after lunch, this walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your guide will walk you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain to you the history of each building: some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will, at least architecturally, take you a step back in time; also a high tea at the famous Strand hotel will make you feel like being back in colonial time. After the tour you will have time to enjoy a drink at Rangoon Tea House, a cosy new restaurant on lower Pansodan street, where many of Yangon’s expatriates of today meet up for a drink or a meal.
Meals: B, L
Day 3: Yangon | Yangon’s vibrant Indian Town – half day walking tour (morning) | Free afternoon
An excellent privately guided walk through Yangon operated by Yangon Walking Tours. A specialized, private guide tells you the history of this part of town; we’re sure you’re going to love this vibrant neighborhood.
The Western Downtown Walk takes you into the Indian Quarter of old Yangon. You will go inside heritage buildings and walk through a morning outdoor street market and visit a mixture of colonial buildings, churches and mosques. You will visit a Kali Hindu temple, as well as the beautiful French-designed St John’s Catholic Church. You will go inside an old colonial mansion that has seen better days, the only Jewish Synagogue in Myanmar, plus a fantastic 100-year old indoor food market. The most impressive thing about Yangon is its vibrant street life with lots of market stalls and teahouses. This is a very easy walk through the vibrant streets of Yangon.
The trip starts at 08:30 from the Sule Shangri-La hotel. Your guide will be waiting for you at the big cane chairs in the lobby (transport to the Shangri-La on own). The trip ends at Rangoon Tea House where you enjoy a great lunch of hygienically-prepared, typical teahouse dishes from all around the city. Lunch & drinks are included in the tour price – simply choose from the menu whatever you like, we suggest the Ohn Noe Kaukswe and the Samosa Salad for their great taste and because they are the kind of dishes that are not usually on the menu at any other restaurant. Trip includes professional guide, snacks on the way, local donations, an excellent map of Yangon, and lunch at Rangoon Tea House.
Meals: B, L
Day 4: Fly Yangon – Bagan
Transfer to the airport and take the flight to Bagan.
This is Bagan! – A full day orientation tour of this world-class archaeology site
A full day tour by air-conditioned car, with an experienced guide, through Bagan will show you the best known temples of the area. We start the day climbing a pagoda to get a first impressive view over the whole area. From here, the guide plans his way to some of the other amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant and, around 4pm, we continue the tour by horse cart to Pyathagyi pagoda for sunset with some refreshing drinks served! Oh . . . we forgot to mention the best part of this tour: whenever you see a temple you like, just ask your guide to stop to have a look at it – simply pick your own favorite temple.
- Smart option – Overnight at the Zfreeti hotel – deluxe
- Luxury option – Overnight at the Bagan lodge – villas
Meals: B, L
Day 5: Bagan | Jeep Safari through the dry zone: a visit to local villages off the beaten track | A picnic in Minnanthu
An early start, 4×4 driving out of Bagan, meeting local women carrying firewood, etc. for the market while the sun rises behind them. Nyaung Gyi is the first village visit and we stop to see a blacksmith work shop. In Se Ywa village we visit several local workshops to view plum purifying, cooking oil producing, and wooden slipper making. Then, we continue to Taung Kong village where the majority of the people are farmers, but they also make pottery. (2 hr drive each way by jeep or Pajero). A great trip for photographers and anyone interested in daily life of local people.
Minnanthu is probably the favorite temple area among frequent Bagan visitors and you know why? It’s quiet, it’s a beautiful area, and the temples here are often completely deserted. The guide brings you by car to this forgotten part of Bagan and will spread out a blanket and serve you a great picnic lunch in this historical setting before or after visiting 2 or 3 ancient temple ruins in this area.
Meals: B, L
Day 6: Bagan | Bagan food! | Sundowners on a Sandbank – sunset tour
It’s all about fine food this morning! The last king of Bagan was famous for his enormous appetite and he ordered that every meal should include 300 different dishes! Today you are going to discover what kind of food he must have eaten. We learn more about herbs and greens at the market in Myinkaba, visit home-based cottage industries where products like tamarind paste or candies are made, and we visit Mingalazedi pagoda which was built by this last king. Try the different tastes from sweet to bitter of typical Burmese ingredients in a local monastery and end the excursion with a meal like the last king of Bagan would have savored it; just a bit more moderate – with “only” 30 different dishes to try.
We’ve decided that you have to stay at least 2 nights in Bagan; one to see the sun go down from the top of an ancient temple, the other one to take a boat ride on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River and have some sundowners on a sandbank in the middle of the river (if the river is not too high). A private boat tour on the river during sunset time will hopefully show you a spectacular sunset while your guide will be serving cocktails and some snacks.
Meals: B, L
Day 7: Fly Bagan – Heho – Inle Lake
On arrival at Heho airport: Thaung Lay Lone to Indein ruins by bike!
Transfer to the Bagan airport and fly to Inle Lake by way of Heho, where your guide is ready at the airport for you to start your relaxed bike trip in the fresh air to Inle Lake. Biking is certainly the most fun way to arrive at the lake. On arrival at Heho airport (or from Kalaw or Pindaya), we drive you by car to the starting point of this leisurely bike ride from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein. It’s a leisurely 3-hour bike trip – mainly flat – passing sugarcane and garlic fields, Khaung Dine village, along with some beautiful views of Inle Lake.
On arrival in Indein, we’ll enjoy a brief visit to the famous ruins (we’ll return here tomorrow) and continue by motorboat to your hotel. A fun and easy way to start your Shan State adventure!
- Smart option – Overnight at the Thanakha hotel – deluxe
- Luxury option – Overnight at the Sanctum Inle resort – Cloister deluxe
Meals: B, L
Day 8: Inle Lake
On and around the lake, traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule and today we will take you to visit a colorful market frequented by Shan and Pa O people living nearby. Continue sightseeing to Indein.
The ruins of Indein & home cooked food with a local family & boat trip / floating gardens
South of Inle Lake, the ruins of Indein are certainly worth a visit. Partly covered by vegetation, the area looks like a “pagoda forest.” We will walk about 1 hour to enjoy a fantastic view over the lake. A home-made cooked lunch is served in a local house. We continue towards the Nam Pan village for a very interesting trip, going local with a small canoe or, if you are not up for padddling, straight to the motorboat. The paddling is easy though, whenever you are tired of paddling yourself, we continue by motorboat back to your hotel.
We will certainly also visit a local cheroot factory (where Burmese cigars are made), floating tomato gardens, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, an Intha house where a traditional Intha lunch is served and, if wanted, we visit a weaving factory.
Meals: B, L
Day 9: Inle Lake | Pa O Hill Tribesman for a day – full day trekking (or relax by the lake)
One of the most distinctive hill tribes from Shan State are the Pa O, a people known for their navy blue clothes and colorful red or orange turbans and their excellent farming and trading skills. During this day trekking you get to know life as the Pa O live it and will visit their villages in the hills, eat their food and have the chance to dress like a Pa O (fun, at least for the picture!). We start with a 15 minute horse cart ride from the hotel in Nyaung Shwe (or a boat ride from your hotel on the lake) and begin with a 2.5 hour walk (a bit uphill) to arrive in a Pa O village where you have time to talk with the monks, visit a local school and where you will be invited to wear the traditional dress. Continue about 30 minutes (mainly flat) and arrive in a village where a traditional Pa O lunch is served with dishes like ginger soup, pumpkin leaf salad and sukini leaf salad. Time to relax and prepare for the afternoon walk which is about 2.5 hours with stunning views of the lake and plantations with crops like ginger, garlic and turmeric. Just before boarding the boat to bring you back to the hotel, we stop for a last beautiful view over the lake and the end of the Pa O experience.
Meals: B, L
Day 10: Fly Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon
Transfer to the Heho airport and fly back to Yangon, where you are met by your guide.
Pampering / R&R prior to flight – with option to buy gifts before departure
An excellent half-day tour at the end of your trip to Myanmar starting (or ending) with a lunch at Sharky’s restaurant, owned by a local entrepreneur who is growing organic vegetables and producing locally made “French” cheese, ham and other delicious food. A 1-hour foot massage by blind or deaf people, trained by a local charity, is what you deserved after a long trip to Myanmar. Our specially selected shopping guide will bring you to whatever shop you like to find your final souvenirs to bring home, perhaps a longyi (local sarong), umbrellas, old books, gold leaves, a trishaw (bicycle taxi), or a contemporary painting – our specialist knows where to find it! The rest of the day, the car and guide are available for additional visits until 6 pm if wanted.
Meals: B, L
NOTE: Prices include land arrangements and all internal airfare in USD per person based on sharing a double room for travel anytime between March 1 – May 31, 2016.
*** Smart properties option
- 2 travelers: $ 1995/person
- Optional: Single room supplement: $ 295
*** Optional – Luxury properties option
- 2 travelers: $ 2495/person
- Optional: Single room supplement: $ 845
- All airport transfers
- All ground transportation including any train or internal flight tickets as noted
- All accommodations (taxes included)
- Services of private professional, local English speaking guides and professional drivers
- All touring as noted
- All meals as mentioned (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
- All entrance fees on tours
- Services of local office staff with 24/7 support
- International flights
- Optional travel insurance
- Personal expenses (laundry, etc.)
- Meals not mentioned
- All drinks
- Visa fees and/or visa authorization
- Late check outs or early check-ins at hotels
- All internal air tickets are given to you in country by your guide on the transfer to airport or delivered electronically prior to your trip.
OPTIONAL BEACH EXTENSIONS – Ngapali Beach
Myanmar has some of the most pristine, beautiful beaches remaining in Southeast Asia. If time and budget allows, we highly recommend extending your trip to the beach for 4 nights since we have a special allowing you to stay 4 nights but just pay for 3 at the following beach properties in Ngapali Beach:
- Bayview resort (luxury)
- Pleasant View Resort (budget boutique)
- Ace Hotel (budget boutique)
- Thande Beach Hotel (budget boutique)
Please contact us if you are interested in an extension – like the rest of the trip, we can arrange any and all necessary internal flights and transfers.