Yangon – Pyin Oo Lwin – Mandalay – Sagaing – Monywa – Bagan – Inle Lake
(14 days/ 13 nights)
Day 1: Yangon
Welcome by the Grand Lotus Tours representative on arrival at Yangon International airport and transfer to your hotel. After a brief freshening up at the hotel, we begin the orientation tour of Yangon. Explore the commercial capital Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar with a population of over 5 million. Its tree lined wide avenues, its shady green parks and the beautiful huge lakes give Yangon the reputation of one of the most charming and lively cities in Asia.
The orientation tour of Yangon includes the Sule Pagoda, quite unusual in that its octagonal shape extends right up to the bell and inverted bowl, City Hall and the colonial buildings, Chaukhtatkyi Pagoda – which houses a spectacular reclining Buddha, photo stop at the distinctive Karaweik Hall and Royal Barge on Kandawgyi Royal Lake.
At sunset, visit the marvelous Shwedagon Pagoda, the glistening golden stupa that towers over the metropolis and one of the wonders of the world. This pagoda is considered the spiritual centre of the country.
Day 2: Yangon – Mandalay – Pyin Oo Lwin
This morning, you will be transferred to the airport for the flight to Mandalay, followed by an interesting two hour drive to Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) which was originally a Shan-Danu village; in 1896 it became a hill station that served as a retreat from the heat for European civil servants stationed in Mandalay. It is considered the melting pot of Myanmar as it still has the largest community of Anglo-Burmese, Anglo-Indian, native Shan, Myanmar and Chinese immigrants, especially from Yunnan.
During your stay, you will visit the colorful market and take an easy stroll in the center of the town to see the Purcell tower, a gift from the Queen of England. The main street is a mix of colonial-era buildings and modern Chinese buildings. You can also take a unique horse drawn carriage to the National Botanical Gardens. This natural forest was transformed into the botanical garden in 1915. The 436 acre garden includes many species of local and foreign trees, rare indigenous and endangered native orchid species, and seasonal flowers of native and foreign origin, recreational lawns and alluring landscape. A walk through the rain forest and swamp walkway is a real delight.
Day 3: Pyin Oo Lwin – Mandalay
This morning, drive back to Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. Boasting its rich cultural heritage, it is a perfect representation of a Buddhist city with its conservative culture and traditional art. Mandalay was the last capital (1860–1885) of the last independent Burmese Kingdom before annexation by the British after the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.
Visit the famous Mahagandayon monastery at Amarapura, probably the largest Buddhist University in the country where you can observe thousands of monks studying together. In the late afternoon, visit the Golden Palace Monastery, famous for its intricate carvings, the best known wooden monastery in the country. It is the only original building from Mandalay Palace having miraculously survived the bombings of WWII. Kuthodaw Pagoda known as the biggest book in the world with hundreds of marble slabs inscribed with the entire Buddhist Canon. Enjoy the sunset from Mandalay Hill and marvel with the panoramic view of the plain.
Day 4: Mandalay
Highlights of the day include a visit to the colorful Zegyo market where you will stroll around and experience the daily life of the people. Visit Mahamuni Temple, the most revered pagoda in Mandalay, which houses a huge bronze Buddha image covered in thick layers of gold, one of the three holiest places in Myanmar. It is often crowded with pious devotees from all over the country.
Mandalay is also a center for arts and crafts. Here you will visit the gold leaf making workshop, where 24k gold is transformed into super thin gold leaves using only precise hammer blows, a technique which even hi-tech equipment cannot replicate. Walk down the marble carving street where thousands of Buddha images are created. This afternoon before sunset, you may visit the traditional cotton and silk weavers whose ancestors used to weave beautiful robes for the royalties. The weaving of silk longyis is so intricate and colorful that they can only complete an inch a day, it is truly astounding.
At sunset, visit the most picturesque U Bein Bridge on Taungthaman Lake, a half-mile long teak walkway also known as the longest teak bridge in the world.
Day 5: Mandalay – Sagaing – Monywa
This morning, drive three hours to Monywa, en route visiting Sagaing, a peaceful neighboring town on the other side of the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River. It is considered the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Myanmar and famous among the locals as a retreat destination. The landscape is dotted with over 600 monasteries and nunneries.
Here, Grand Lotus will take you to the unique Kaungmhudaw pagoda and to Zayar Theingi Nunnery with hundreds of women scholars. Enjoy misty view of Sagaing and the famous Ayeyarwaddy River from the top of SunOoPonnayashin pagoda. Sagaing is also famous for its silversmiths, whose work follows traditions passed down for centuries creating the most intricate designs using only simple tools. Proceed to Monywa.
Day 6: Monywa
Monywa is a city located 136 km northwest of Mandalay on the eastern bank of the Chindwin river. It is a major centre for trade and commerce and for agricultural produce from the surrounding Chindwin Valley.
Black market goods from India, especially saris and bicycle parts, pass through Monywa on their way to other parts of Myanmar. Monywa is also a place of Buddhist culture; its famous religious monuments are Thanboday Pagoda and Bodi Tahtaung.
The excursion to Hpo Win Daung Caves, famous for their wall paintings and Shwe Ba Hill are a must in Monywa.
Day 7: Monywa – Bagan
This morning, bid farewell to Monywa and proceed to Bagan via Pakkuku, visiting famous sites such as the Thihoshin Temple, the market and a cheroot making workshop.
Then, transfer to the jetty to board your private boat to Bagan cruising along the Ayeyarwaddy River. Arrive in Bagan in the afternoon and transfer to your hotel.
Day 8: Bagan
The Bagan archaeological zone is one of the richest historical sites in Asia and the main tourist attraction in Myanmar. It is considered by archaeologists, historians and photographers alike as one of Asia’s holiest cities along with Varanasi in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia as it displaysthe greatest collection of Buddhist sculptures, lavishly decorated monuments: temples and pagodas with mural paintings and plaster carvings from the 11th to 13th centuries. During its Golden Age in the 12th century, Bagan was known as “the City of Four Million Pagodas”. While Kublai Khan and several massive earthquakes have reduced that number drastically, what remains is quite incredible.
Over the next days we will visit several small villages, the museum and the principal pagodas including: Shwezigon Pagoda, the first monument built in pure Myanmar style, the prototype for later pagodas is one of the oldest and loveliest temples and remains an important place of devotion for the Burmese; Ananda Temple, a masterpiece of the early style temple architecture. Built in 1066, the gilded and whitewashed Ananda is among the most elegant temples, with delicate decorations in glazed tiles along its base and terraces; Gubyaukgyi Temple, strongly influenced by the Indian culture; Shwesandaw pagoda, which displays a clear affinity with the Mon civilization with a steep stairway directed to the terraces and a superb view from the upper level.
This evening you will enjoy a sunset cruise on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy river that will provide you with different views of the amazing archaeological sites as well as a glimpse of the local people going about their daily lives as the sun goes down.
Day 9: Bagan
This morning, visit the Nyaung Oo market, then proceed to Sulamani temple, Shwegugyi Temple, and Minanthu village.
Bagan is also famous as the centre of Myanmar’s thriving lacquerware industry. In the afternoon, the tour includes a stop at a local lacquerware workshop to watch the skilled artisans at work on the various stages of production.
Then proceed to Old Bagan for a pony cart tour among the temples; Tayokpye, Htilominlo and Thatbyinnyu temples before sunset. This evening, ascend to the top of one of the tall temples, watch the sun sink into distant hills and experience peaceful, tranquil moments and the indescribable magical power of Bagan.
Day 10: Bagan – Inle Lake (Flight)
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Heho, the gateway to the Southern Shan State. Upon arrival, an 1.5 hour drive to the hill station of Kalaw, at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level. The cool, misty climate is perfect for growing european produce like cucumbers, lettuce or strawberries. The local market here is particularly colourful. The English Mansions, in beautiful Tudor style, were the perfect retreat from the heat for the English colonists. There are still plenty Indians and Gurkas still living here and you might enjoy a meal of warm chapatis and dhal( a traditional lentils soup). Highlights of Kalaw include a visit to the Bamboo Strips Wish-Fulfilling Pagoda and Thein Taung Pay, a temple perched on a hill, overlooking the main road of the town. Proceed to your hotel for a good night of sleep.
Day 11: Kalaw – Inle Lake
Today, after a short drive through the Shan Hills, arrive at Inle Lake. Transfer to your hotel by boat and you will have the rest of the day for exploration of the lake and environs by longtail boat. View the traditional lifestyle of the inhabitants of the area, the Intha, best known for their unique leg-rowing technique and peculiar cultivation of floating gardens.
Other highlights today, in addition to the beautiful mountain scenery that surrounds you, include a visit to the venerable Phaung Daw U Pagoda, the holiest place in the southern Shan state. The Intha and their unique fishing method, the floating gardens and villages, the friendly hill tribe people will leave you a lifetime of memories.
Day 12: Inle Lake – Excursion to Indein
Spend a full day aboard a boat exploring the breathtaking lake, surrounded on both sides by high hills. You will have a chance to visit the market, which is held once in every five days. It is the best opportunity to see hill tribe people coming down to sell their products and buy provisions.
Situated on the western shore of the lake, the Indein temple complex is often referred to as a mini Angkor. After a short walk through a bamboo forest, the exciting monuments appear, some still covered in vegetation. The internal wall of the ruins, dating back to 1054 AD and nearby shrines will take you back in time and make you feel like explorers.
In the afternoon, visit Impawkhone, a silk weaving village, a traditional blacksmith workshop, a cheroot (the Burmese cigars) making workshop and surrounding villages. Return to the hotel in the evening.
Day 13 – Inle Lake – Yangon
After your breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the return flight to Yangon.
Upon arrival in Yangon, visit to one of Yangon’s fabulous bazaars- an endless jumble of color, clamor, heady aromas and contraband goods. The Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) has an enormous array of handicraft and arts goods. This will be a wonderful opportunity to pick up some souvenirs to bring home. If shopping doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can head out to Chinatown and check out that busy part of town or take a stroll along the waterfront to see well preserved colonial buildings or simply stop at a teashop and mingle with the locals.
Day 14: Yangon
Breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a leisurely morning. You will be transferred back to the airport in time for your flight back home.