Day By Day Itinerary
Day 1: Yangon
Min Gala Ba! Welcome to Myanmar. An airport arrival transfer is included. This transfer is only valid if arriving on day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel (note - we may not be able confirm request made within 15 days of travel). Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Formerly named Rangoon, Yangon is the country's biggest city and was the capital from 1885, when the British conquered the north and the kingdom of Mandalay, until just a few years ago when the government moved the capital to Naypyidaw. To get your bearings and a taste of this wonderful city, perhaps take a walk to Sule Paya, then perhaps down to the Victorian Strand Hotel to admire both the colonial architecture and the bargaining madness of Bogyoke Market.
Day 2: Golden Rock
It is suggested that you pack an overnight bag for the one-night stop in Kyaiktiyo, and store the remainder of your luggage at our hotel in Yangon. It is approximately a 6 hour drive to the base camp at Kinponsakan, where you will transfer to an open air truck with basic wooden bench style seating, and take a bumpy drive for around 1 hour up towards the summit (1180 metres above sea level). The Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda) is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. There is a small pagoda (7.3 metres high) built on a gold-gilded boulder, 25 metres in circumference, and balanced in what appears to be a very precarious position on a tabular rock, jutting out from a ridge in the Eastern Yoma Mountains. Legend has it that the boulder is held in position by a strand of Buddha's hair. Spending a night in Kyaiktiyo is one of Myanmar's most spiritual experiences. Please be aware that the accommodation in Kyaiktiyo is much more basic than in other destinations on our trip and that due to this being a very popular place of pilgrimage hotels can often be overbooked and the site very crowded. At times we may not be able to secure our preferred accommodation at the summit and may stay back in the town at the base. Travel times will also vary and in the wet season the journey can be quite arduous. A large dose of patience will go a long way towards enjoying your experience here!
Day 3: Bago - Yangon
We spend the morning walking around Kyaiktiyo. After descending from the summit, we return to Yangon, retracing our path from yesterday. Along the way we stop at Bago (approx 2 hours from Kyauktiyo), an ancient centre of the Mon kingdom in the 13th century. Here we visit the Shwemawdaw Pagoda, which is even larger than the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, and the Shwethalyaung Buddha, one of the largest Reclining Buddhas in existence. After exploring Bago, we continue back to Yangon for the night (approx 2 hours).
Day 4: Yangon - Mandalay
This morning we set off for one of the great sites of Yangon. The extraordinary Shwedagon Pagoda and its surrounding temples and edifices dominate all and provide an extraordinary mix of monks and pilgrims and worshipers and tourists. We will spend some time walking around the complex, learning of its history and spiritual devotions, and experiencing the ambiance of this extraordinary place. We then leave for the airport (seeing a bit more of Yangon along the way). Departure time will vary depending on flight availability. The flight takes approx. 1 hour and after landing it is a drive of about 1 hour to the city and your hotel for the next three nights. Tonight you might enjoy a walk to one of the markets, where a great time can be had enjoying the hustle and bustle or bargaining for local wares.
Day 5: Mandalay
This morning we make our way down to the city’s lively waterfront which offers an interesting backdrop for our boat trip upriver to Mingun - the site of the world's largest (albeit unfinished!) pagoda, the world’s largest unbroken bell, and temples dating back hundreds of years. The river is effectively a major trading, communication and commuting route and a wide range of different boats, barges and steamers can be viewed along the way. The journey usually takes 1 hour on the way there and 40 mins on the way back. Later in the afternoon we embark on a tour visiting the remnants of one of the once great cities that surround Mandalay - Amarapura, just 11 km south of the city. Weather permitting, we may also view a spectacular sunset over the 200-year-old, 2 km long U Bein wooden bridge, either from land or by boat.
Day 6: Mandalay
A drive up into the hills to Myanmar's most famous hill station, Pyin Oo Lwin, provides an escape from the heat of the plains (approx. 2 hours/70 km). Established during the colonial era back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is today a crossroad for traders coming over from China and this is reflected in its colourful market. Time permitting, you may explore surroundings in a local horse-drawn carriage called a 'myin-lay'. English-style country mansions and Chinese temples dot the hillsides in a place rightly called the 'vegetable garden' of Myanmar. Later, we return to Mandalay where the rest of the day is spent visiting various temples, including Kuthodaw Pagoda that claims to house the world's largest 'book'. It was once a challenging walk up Mandalay Hill (236 metres), but these days, if in operation, a series of large escalators will do most of the work for you on the way up! If conditions oblige, the sunset views from the summit can be impressive and along the way there are many shrines of religious significance.
Day 7: Bagan
We depart early from our hotel for the waterfront to board the ferry boat that will take us down the as we cruise Ayeyarwady River to Bagan. This is a wonderful way to experience Burmese local life as we travel along the river. The ferry usually departs around 7am and takes approximately 9 hours to travel the 36 km to reach our destination. Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels on the river between February and May, it is possible on the very rare occasion that some ferries may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case we may travel by road between Mandalay and Bagan. We'll likely spend most of our time on deck watching riverside life go by, although there are also allocated seats on the lower deck. Some ferries also have a cafe/bar on the upper deck for drinks and simple meals. Your leader will let you know in advance if you need to plan to bring any supplies. Along the way, we witness the idyllic way of life that epitomises parts of rural Myanmar in the form of the small fishing villages that lie along the riverbanks. And we pass dozens of boats of different size and utility, testament to the role which this mighty river plays in the life of so many.
Day 8: Bagan
We can explore the sights of Bagan from dawn to dusk. Nyaung U's lively market contrasts with the eerie silence of the plains littered with over 4000 structures, including Gawdawpalin, Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon - all names of temples and pagodas that bear testament to a glorious past. We stop for lunch at the a newly establish restaurant operated by Friends-International. The restaurant is a working hospitality training centre, with profits reinvested back into the training and education of youth in Myanmar, and further social enterprise projects. The Bagan area is also famous for producing lacquer ware and sand paintings that are available in the stalls amid the ruins. We also visit a lacquer ware workshop, and learn about the many steps in the process, and intricate carvings. Weather permitting, we may enjoy a breathtaking sunset view from one of the ruins. For many travellers a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of their time in Bagan. This optional activity is a possibility for the mornings of Day 8 or Day 9, depending on availability. We recommend booking in advance with Peregrine to secure a space. If you have pre-booked this activity you will be picked up and driven to the launch site. You will then float over the hundreds of stupas and temples below, to watch at the morning glow illuminates this breathtaking landscape. Flights last between on average for 45 minutes, however they can range from 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on local conditions. After landing be treated to a celebratory glass of champagne and light breakfast. You will then be returned to your hotel. The experience is approximately 2.5-3 hours in total. Baskets hold up to 16 passengers in four separate compartments. The size of the basket will depend on the number of passengers booked. The balloon ride is operated by Eastern Safaris – Balloons over Bagan. Weather dependent, flights operate between October through to March.
Day 9: Bagan
Today our drive takes us for approx. 1 hour/60 km to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that is home to local spirits or deities known as 'nats'. For the energetic, there is a chance to climb the 777 steps to the shrine at the top of the hill. Returning to Bagan the afternoon is free to further explore this amazing area. You may hire a bicycle or take a horse carriage and enjoy your own exploration of the archaeological sites. If you are interested in taking the hot air balloon tour over Pagan, there is free time on the morning of day 6 or 7. Please note that this needs to be booked in advance - please refer to the 'Other Important Information' section of the notes.
Day 10: Inle Lake
Today we drive the approx. 25 mins to the nearest airport in Nyuang U, from where we fly to Heho (approx 40 mins), the gateway for Inle Lake. We drive through picturesque countryside and rolling hills to our final destination, Khaungdaing, situated on Inle Lake not far from the main township, Nyaungshwe (approx. 45 min). This afternoon you may like to rent a canoe (for about one hour) and row in to Lin Kin village, famous for its floating garden in the lake. On our way back we may stop over at some of the village houses to see the process of making traditional snacks (optional and at extra cost). You will notice that the weather is rather cooler here due to the high altitude. At certain times of the year, some of our tours will stay in an alternate hotel, located up in the hills in Taunggyi.
Day 11: Inle Lake
A full day is spent on the lake exploring the floating gardens and catching a glimpse of the local Intha fishermen who are famous for their unique 'leg-rowing' technique. These people are different from the Shan and they originate from the south of the country. The lake is also home to a wide array of bird-life including egrets, cranes, ducks, storks and various birds of prey. Visits may be made to some of the local villages and our stay may coincide with one of the market days: always exciting with much of the commuting being done by local people using the ubiquitous long-tail boats.
Day 12: Inle Lake
After breakfast at our hotel we transfer to the Indein ruins complex (about 45 minutes by long-tail boat). On disembarking we find a pagoda and stupas built in the 8th century. We can also enjoy browsing through the rows of shops along the corridor uphill or just marvel at the surroundings. After spending some time we will start our walk towards to Yankin, Pa O and Taung Yoe villages (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes). Along the way we explore the mystery of more than 300 ancient stupas around the village and then continue towards (1 km, approx 30 minutes) to a Buddhist monastery and head north to Naydaw (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes) to Taung Yoe ethnic tribe village through farm land and bamboo forest. From here turn to South-West (5 km, approx 3 hours) through the valley ups and downs to west Taung Mauk, Pa O village from here another 20 minute walk would get you to east Taung Mauk village. Finally we turn east through valley to Indein (3 km, approx 45 minutes) where we will meet our boat and return back to hotel. This evening we enjoy a traditional Shan dinner and get to sample some of the local style culinary specialties. Note: the amount of walking advisable today will depend on individual and group fitness and wishes, and also the time of year. In the hotter months from March to October reduced distances are often advisable, and arrangements can be discussed with your tour leader the day before.
Day 13: Yangon
We transfer to Heho Airport for the flight back to Yangon today (approx.1 hour). Departure time will depend on flight availability. Once in Yangon we will have free time to perhaps visit Sule Pagoda, which marks the centre of town and the nearby Bogyoke (Scott) Market that sells a wide array of local goods and handicrafts. Other options for your time here include exploring the fascinating city full of dilapidated colonial edifices, to perhaps take High Tea at the historic colonial hotel, The Strand, and take a stroll through vibrant Chinatown market area as the afternoon cools (these are optional excursions and at your own expense).
Day 14: Yangon
The tour ends on Day 14 after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included but can be pre booked with our reservations team. Your tour leader will be on hand to advise you on onward travel arrangements should you require.