Start: Rangoon (Yangon) Finish: Rangoon (Yangon)
Physical rating: Medium, Moderate
Special diets catered: Vegetarians, Vegans
Tour code: BUH
Group size: 4 - 16
Tour operated in:
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With its plethora of glittering temples and towering stupas that punctuate the horizon, it's no wonder this mystical country has been dubbed the 'Golden Land'. On this two week trip we explore Burma's (Myanmar) stand-out highlights, along with some of its lesser-visited gems.
Inle Lake - Discover floating gardens, stilted villages and leg-rowing fishermen
Mandalay - Cruise on the Irrawaddy River and visit nearby U-Bein Bridge
Bagan - Explore the vast plain studded with thousands of ancient temples.
Meals: No Meals
Although not the capital, Yangon is the cultural and commercial heart of Myanmar. Colonial architecture faces onto the bustling streets, which are often filled with markets and tasty pop-up street food stands. Interspersed within all of this are the glittering golden pagodas which pepper the city's skyline.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 5pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Yangon at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Yangon International Airport (RGN), which is 30 minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up the next morning, after breakfast.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you might choose to visit the lively downtown area of Yangon. Here you will find an abundance of colonial buildings, which can be taken in from the circular train ride of Yangon. Perhaps even, finish with High Tea at the historic Strand Hotel.
This morning's sightseeing takes us by foot and vehicle to Rangoon's major sights, starting with the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda - the most revered temple in the country, which all Burmese Buddhists hope to visit at least once in their lifetime. Containing the relics of the past four Buddhas, its shimmering, 100 metre-high central stupa spire is covered in gold leaf and 4,531 diamonds, well and truly dominating the city skyline.
We continue to the downtown area to walk along Pansodan Street, where we will see some impressive British colonial architecture and pass by street markets. Indeed, years of Burmese isolation have resulted in Rangoon preserving the largest number of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia. Our next stop is the Chaukhtatgyi Paya. Home to a giant 70 metre-long reclining Buddha, its serene features are topped by a crown encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones. This afternoon, we take a short flight to Heho, from where we drive to the idyllic setting of Inle Lake. Our base is in the nearby town of Nyaung Shwe for the next couple of days.
Location: Inle Lake
Inle Lake enjoys a picturesque, high-altitude setting on the Shan Plateau, surrounded by hills and home to the Intha people, as well as some Shan, Taungyo, Pa-o and Danu ethnicities. Local communities are devout Buddhists that live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo, raised above the water on stilts. They are mostly fishermen, skilled artisans and self-sufficient farmers, whose vegetables are grown on floating gardens made of grass and seaweed.
The local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern of their boat on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. We spend time amongst these village communities and visit their cottage industry workshops, admiring their talents for silk and cotton weaving, as well as paper and silver production. We are also likely to visit a local market over the course of the day.
This morning's boat trip takes us up a small creek in the western part of the lake to Indein village. Here, we visit a complex of about 1,000 stupas of varying sizes built between the 17th and 18th centuries. We can enjoy wandering around these overgrown ruins before returning to the hotel in the afternoon, the rest of the day is free. You may choose an optional excursion to visit one of Burma's first wineries, or you may choose to sample a traditional massage in town.
This morning we will enjoy a colourful train journey sitting among the locals to the town of Aung Ban. Although scheduled to take two hours, a relaxed timetable and frequent delays sometimes result in the journey taking longer, but this is all part of the experience and the stunning scenery that we journey through more than makes up for it.
Next we drive to Kalaw, which sits high on the western edge of the Shan Plateau and became a popular hill station in British colonial times for the escapism it provided from the searing summer heat. Nowadays, having maintained a sense of quaintness reminiscent of the colonial era, it serves as an ideal base for hilltribe treks. The rest of our day is free to explore the town or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the area.
Today we can look forward to a gentle four-hour trek through the Kalaw tribal heartlands. Starting in the village of Say Wingabar, we ascend through pine forest to Lu Pyi village. Our trail passes through rural countryside and provides us with views of the valley - a picturesque patchwork of rice and vegetable fields. We might see tribal villagers working on their farms, or en route to the market with their produce. At the end of our walk we make a stop at Myinmathi Cave to see its many Buddha images and small stupas. After a lunch stop, we have a short transfer back to the hotel where we can relax for the rest of the day. For those who would prefer not to take part in the trek, there is the option to relax at the hotel for the day.
Leaving the Shan mountain scenery behind us, we embark on an interesting land journey to Mandalay, making our own version of Kipling's famous journey to the gateway to the north. The condition of the road can be poor in places, so we expect the 160 mile journey to take about 9 hours in total. We will make short stops where we can along the way. Mandalay was the last royal capital of the Burmese kingdom and is considered to be Burma's most historical and culturally-rich region. We spend time discovering its rich and beautiful heritage, much of which is represented in intricate and skilled local arts and crafts.
We begin day by exploring Mandalay. Today we view the world's largest book at Kuthodaw Pagoda, where the entire Buddhist scripture sits on 729 marble slabs. Our next stop is the magnificent Shwenandaw Monastery, originally a 19th century royal palace and famed for its teak carvings of Buddhist myths which adorn its walls and roofs. Mahamuni Paya is the city's holiest temple where we can witness the local people paying their respects by applying gold leaf to an ancient Buddha image. We also plan to make stops at craft shops to watch skilled workers making gold leaf, ornate tapestries and intricate wood carvings.
After lunch, we take a short and pleasant boat journey upriver to Mingun - the site of what would have been the world's largest pagoda, had King Bodawpaya not died, thus halting all further work in 1819. What remains is the giant core of a brick pagoda, dramatically split by an earthquake in 1838 and towering 50 metres above the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. The original plans would have created a structure three times this height. A nearby shrine houses the 90-tonne bell that was cast to be hung in the finished pagoda, now considered to be the world's largest uncracked bell. As the sun sets over the surrounding hills, we make the seven mile journey back down the river. On our return to Mandalay we have the opportunity to walk through the evening fish market, a lively hub of activity located close to the jetty and a fascinating place to visit.
After a leisurely start this morning we drive four miles southwest of Mandalay, we visit the ancient capital of Inwa (Ava), which had the longest stint of any royal capital between the 15th and 19th centuries. Our visit is conducted by horse-drawn cart along bumpy dirt roads. We plan to stop-off at the yellow stucco monastery of Manu Ok Kaung and Bagaya Kyaung Monastery, famous for its enormous teakwood foundation pillars. The Leaning Tower of Inwa is our final stop. As its name suggests, its precarious angle was the result of a 19th century earthquake.
After lunch in a local restaurant (not included), we head to Amarapura. Just seven miles south of Mandalay, this was Burma's penultimate royal capital from 1783 to 1863. We plan to walk through the serene confines of the expansive Mahagandayon Monastery complex, perhaps catching a glimpse of monks going about their evening rituals. We end the day at the 1.3 km-long teakwood footbridge of U Bein. Here we join the locals on their evening promenade across the lake as the sun begins to sink in the sky.
Location: Old Bagan
Tours taking place from October to April plan to take the express boat service from Mandalay Port to Bagan. Although requiring an early start, we can look forward to a relaxed, full day's cruise down the fabled and mighty Irrawaddy River, observing the sights and sounds of river life. From May to September, and sometimes during April, water levels are too low for this boat trip, requiring us to fly to Bagan.
If travelling by boat we arrive in Bagan in the early evening, we can look forward to a couple of days exploring this awe-inspiring site. As the stand-out highlight of the tour for a lot of our customers, many report that their photos do not do justice to Bagan's magnificence and scale. Without doubt one of the world's premier archaeological wonders, its vast plain is studded with literally thousands of 1,000 year-old temples and stupas. From the 9th to 13th centuries, Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan - a precursor of modern Burma. During its height of success between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 buildings were constructed here, of which over 2,200 still remain. Its sheer magnitude can be realised when you consider that there are more temples, stupas and pagodas on this Manhattan Island-sized plain than there are medieval cathedrals in Europe.
Before visiting the temples today, we stop in Phya Saw village to gain an insight into the traditional ways of life that have changed little over the centuries. We are likely to engage with the local people as they go about their daily business - cotton weaving by hand, grinding peanut oil with oxen and caring for various village animals.
Moving on to the temples of Bagan, with so many to choose from, we plan to visit some of the most iconic and distinctive. These include Shwezigon - a prototype of later Burmese stupas; Wetkyi-in-Gubyaukgyi - a 13th century cave temple with some interesting frescoes and Ananda Pagoda - one of the finest, largest and best preserved in Old Bagan. We are also likely to visit Ananda ok Kyaung - a former monastery with spectacular 18th century wall paintings.
In the late afternoon, a horse drawn carriage will take us through the temple complex to help us to gain a greater appreciation of the scale of the site. As we travel on and on, amongst a seemingly infinite number of temples and stupas, it is easy to understand why Bagan is known as 'The City of Four Million Pagodas.' We hope to finish our day with a memorable sunset view from an upper terrace of one of the temples.
A tremendous panoramic view of the temple-studded plain provides a great photo opportunity to kick-start our day before we continue with our visits to the most interesting sites. This will include Manuha Temple - built by King Manuha to represent his displeasure of captivity; Nanpaya - Bagan's first cave-style shrine and Gubaukgyi Temple - an early period temple with well-preserved paintings.
The afternoon is free. You can choose to take an optional bike ride around the ruins, a sunset cruise, or simply explore more of the temples in your own time. Alternatively, you can take an optional trip to Mount Popa, about 30 miles from Bagan. At a height of 1,518 metres, Mt Popa juts impressively out of the tropical landscape. It is the famous home of the Nats (Spirit Gods) and, as such, Burmese superstition recommends that you don't wear red, black or green on your visit, for fear of offending the Nats. If you choose to climb the 777 steps to the stunning gold-tipped monastery perched on top of the mount, you will be rewarded with panoramic views. This trip also includes a visit to one of many toddy farmers to witness how toddy palm juice and sugar is produced.
Leaving the temples and pagodas of Bagan behind us, this morning we make our way back to Rangoon by plane. The rest of the day is left free for us to explore more of this sprawling city. You may like to visit the immense Bogyoke Market, formerly known as Scott's Market, for souvenir or gift hunting, although please note that it is closed on Mondays, full moons and public holidays. You may also wish to experience the serene surroundings of Shwedagon Pagoda one last time.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Yangon.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Yangon at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Yangon International Airport (RGN), which is 30 minutes from our hotel.
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13 nights comfortable hotel
Transfers are included on the first and the last day of the trip
It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.
We have a wide range of ages nationalities on our small group trips and they come from all walks of life.
Yes–it is a condition of booking that you are fully insured when travelling with us
At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.
Yes, but there are no concessions for doing so, and we must have a record in your booking advising as such before the trip departs.
Being a responsible company is a large statement, something that has to be entwined within the very fibre of a company. Discover the charities and partnerships we support as part of this at https://www.explore.co.uk/about/sustainability/charities-and-partners
We want to be as clear as and as honest as possible about what happens if you decide to that you no longer wish to travel on your trip. Our booking conditions have details of the costs you’ll incur when you cancel-these charges depend on how long it is before your planned departure.
We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.
Sustainability is embedded within the fibre of Explore, it emanates from the inside out. But as we enter a new decade it is clearer than ever that our world needs help, and Explore has created a sustainability strategy based on the 2015 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Our flexible booking and safety policies mean you're protected before and during your travels with us. Receive a full refund if your trip is cancelled, transfer your trip free of charge up to 10 days before departure minus any irrocoverable costs.
All our trips require some level of active participation. This could be on a cultural trip, trek, safari, expedition or voyage. It is in the interests of all members of the group that everyone should be capable of fully participating in the activities of their chosen trip.
Final documents will include a comprehensive trip itinerary, climate and country information, budgeting and packing advice visa and passport information and details on optional activities available.
Yes on most of our trips.
Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o
Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines. We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.
Multiple Room Types
Multiple room types available. Choose your preferred room type when you book.
Extra tourhub saving: $46
Extra tourhub saving: $47