Classic Myanmar Tour: Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay & Inle Lake

A 10 day trip to Myanmar (Burma) 
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Myanmar has opened its doors to the world and the country's astonishing sights remain blissfully devoid of mass tourism. Looping across the country, this classic Myanmar tour explores the intimate and the authentic, revealing the untouched world-wonders that dapple the landscape. From the temples of Bagan, to ancient capitals and colonial relics, the 10-day itinerary traverses the eras while always connecting with Myanmar's generous soul. 

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General Information

Photos
Pagoda landscape in the plain of Bagan
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda, Strand Hotel, Lokanat Gallery, Indian Quarter (Yangon), General Post Office, Bagan, Shwesandaw Pagoda, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Ananda Temple, Sulamani Temple, Thambula Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple, Gawdawpalin Temple, Pyathatgyi Temple, Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Amarapura, Sagaing, Innwa, U Bein Bridge, Mingun, Inle Lake, Heho

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Yangon – Sunset at Myanmar's Most Important Pagoda

Captivating Yangon feels like it's stuck in a distant era. While a few modern buildings are slowly rising in the city, most of the city center retains the architectural and commercial integrity of the early-20th century. There are no McDonalds or Coca Cola billboards and virtually no sign of imported influence. Instead, the city is awash with golden pagodas, stone-carved narrow townhouses and the faded relics of colonial times. Beneath these facades you find bustling atmospheric streets, filled with tiny tea shops, samosa (a classic Indian snack) sellers, wooden carts piled with vibrant cloth and the intoxicating smells of street food. It can be overwhelming, purely because there's so much to absorb in such a small area.

You'll be greeted at the airport and transferred to a five-star hotel.  A timeless relic located along the harbor, this hotel has been recently restored and returned to the Leading Hotels of the World list. Your guide is available and can tailor a day of experiences dependent on your interests, from relaxing in plush colonial-era cafes to wandering the crowded streets around the old market. An evocative introduction to Myanmar comes at Shwedagon Pagoda, an enormous golden edifice that's easily the most important Buddhist structure in a country that's almost entirely Buddhist. As the sun sets, it reflects off of the towering pagoda, shimmering through the golden color spectrum and glowing beneath the new night's sky. Thousands of locals are seen at the pagoda during this time of night, an insight into the spirituality that pervades all life in the country.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, private guide

Day 2: Yangon – Colonial Beauty in the Old City

Yangon radiates a mesmerizing sense of faded grace. Colonial buildings have lost their color, the paint peeling slowly on their once glamorous facades. Some are crumbling, row after row of balconies gradually losing their ornate decoration. Many showcase local life, the railings hung with drying clothes and men chain-puffing on cigarettes. Yangon has not restored the colonial buildings, yet it has not destroyed them either. The central city showcases the greatest abundance of colonial-era architecture anywhere in Asia. Only a handful of buildings don't come from the turn of last century, and by leaving them mostly untouched, you get a stronger feeling of how the city looked back at that time. Yangon is not a museum piece, it's a living, breathing city that immerses you in the atmosphere of a distant era. 

Today's walking tour takes you through the narrow streets, along past the tea-shops to the corner where the General Post Office stands in its pomp. Head into the Indian Quarter and take in wafts of spice and samosas running along the market stalls. Step into the now derelict Pegu Club and admire the facades of the Lokanat Gallery. Follow the historic trail and immerse yourself in all the shouts and smiles of the streets. It's the ambient blend of local life and faded history that makes Yangon so memorable. Only one building has been restored, so the rest remind you of the soul of the city. After the vibrancy of the streets, enjoy afternoon high tea at the Strand Hotel, an elegant look at the excesses of the colonial era.

What's included: accommodation, Yangon heritage walking tour, high tea at the Strand, private guide, breakfast

Day 3: Bagan – Lost in the Temples of a Nation

Bagan never looks real. Stand on the rooftop of the hotel, and it's impossible to count the number of pagodas and temples along the plains. Stand inside a few temples, and it's impossible to comprehend the intricate detail found in every single building. There are over 2200 temples and pagodas here, all dating from the 9th to 13th centuries. A handful has been carefully restored, yet it would take the next four centuries to get close to restoring them all, so you're submerged in an architectural world that has retained its mystique. These temples aren't hiding around a city or a town. The landscape is flat and open, each of the relics standing unopposed on dust-marked plains.

You'll fly direct to Bagan and be transferred to a luxury hotel in Old Bagan. Many of the largest and most famous temples are found in this area, providing an introduction to the different architectural styles within easy walking or cycling distance of your base. Ananda Temple glimmers with detail, intimate carving stretching over a huge scale leading you inside to four giant golden Buddhas. Gawdawpalin is equally ornate, the facade fading away from white over the centuries. Schwegu Gyi suggests bulk and imposing presence while the Bupaya Pagoda sends soft shimmers above the Irrawaddy. There's historical wealth everywhere, and you quickly get lost amongst it.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, domestic flight, breakfast, private guided Bagan tour

Day 4: Bagan – Exploring the World Heritage Site by E-Bike

Bagan's beauty is not found in each individual temple, however sublime they appear up close. It's the scale. 2,200 is an unfathomable number, and most of the temples and pagodas don't have names. Instead, they're known as Temple 942 or Pagoda 354, yet these are multi-story 10th-century buildings filled with carved golden Buddhas and intricate sculpted verandahs. It's this abundance that creates mystique. In most temples, you'll be the only visitor. Explore on a silent e-bike and stop at any that look interesting. Perhaps a sand artist sits inside one, crafting paintings using the dust of the ground. Maybe a monk prays silently in another. Or it's just you, climbing a series of staircases to the evocative views over the Bagan plains.

Spending several days in Bagan ensures that you can properly explore its scale. The most famous temples are architecturally imperious, and understandably popular with praying locals and any foreign visitor. After seeing many from afar, today you can travel far into the midst of the site and stand surrounded by hundreds of temples. Each is different. Climb some stairs and watch the sun roll behind Dhammayangyi Temple. Admire how every Buddha is carved differently, the expressions reflecting when the temple would have been used. A private guide provides the narrative, revealing the dates and styles of Bagan's great building boom. The tour is flexible, and there's no definitive route. Take your time, soak up the serenity, and get lost in one of the world's greatest cultural sites.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day private e-bike tour, breakfast

Day 5: Bagan – Hot Air Ballooning and Hidden Temples

As dawn slips into the day, you ascend in a hot air balloon. Only now does the true scale of Bagan become fully apparent. You will float across the landscape and gaze down upon the expanse of temples. Red pagodas rise above the dusty, scorched ground contrasting with the snippets of green trees. White temples shimmer in the sun's morning beams while golden stupas sweep along the banks of the Irrawaddy River.  After your two-hour flight, the rest of the day offers a final customized tour with your guide able to take you in many different directions. Another great tenet of Bagan is the accessibility. All the 2200 pagodas and temples can be found within 30 minutes of each other by e-bike, so you are never far from the hotel when you want a break from sightseeing.

What's Included: accommodation, hot air ballooning above Bagan, private Bagan e-bike tour, breakfast

Day 6: Bagan to Mandalay – Cruising the Great Irrawaddy

The Irrawaddy River connects capitals, meandering through Myanmar with the same elegance of bygone centuries. Today, cruise upriver on a boat journey taking you through the rural delights of the country. Small villages stand on the riverside; children splash in the shallows and vibrant clothes are washed along muddy banks. Pagodas rise above forests, hanging longingly above the water. Most of Myanmar is rural, a landscape of paddy fields and tiny villages. Your river cruise provides the easy journey through it all; just sit back and watch the journey unfold. Lunch and drinks are served on the luxury craft before you cruise into Mandalay in the late afternoon. Your five-star hotel is situated in the heart of the city.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day Irrawaddy boat cruise, transfers, breakfast, lunch

Day 7: Mandalay – Three Ancient Capitals and U Bein Bridge at Sunset

Kipling's evocative poem Mandalay helps ignite so many images about this old city. It's not Mandalay that is most redolent in reflecting lines like “when the mist was on the rice fields an' the sun was droppin' slow” or “an' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells on the road to Mandalay.” Three ancient Burmese capitals can be found just outside the city, wonderful reminders of past dynasties that respond to Kipling's words. A single teak bridge stretches 1,200 meters across Taungthaman Lake, 150 years old and constructed entirely from teak. It's the iconic postcard image from Myanmar, especially when you watch the sun rise behind it. Wander over the bridge into old Amarapura and the Konbaung dynasty is best celebrated by a 16-foot marble Buddha image inside Ananda Temple – which was modeled and named after the great Ananda you saw a few days ago in Bagan.

Continue to Innwa, built upon an artificial island to ward off an invasion. Most of it was destroyed by an earthquake, but the protective walls stand firm and the Royal Palace remains, its watch-tower tilting and its entrance gate visibly crumbling. You'll travel around by horse and cart, an elegant means of transport that evokes the regality of Innwa's history. Further along is Saigang, where red-robed monks walk barefoot through the old lanes, descending on the stupas that dot the town. Return to Mandalay in the late afternoon and the evening is at your leisure.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day capitals tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 8: Inle Lake – Lounging on the Water

Inle Lake stretches beneath green hills, a peaceful expanse of blue found on a rural piece of Myanmar. A handful of villages stands proudly, the wooden buildings rising on stilts above the water. Flowering gardens and crops float in the lake, unique marine plantations that are kept in place by bamboo spears. Fishermen also ride on stilts, rowing with their legs on towering bamboo beams. Inle Lake blends this insight into local life with an exotic sense of escapism. Your luxury hotel has a private waterfront location, ideal for absorbing the country's tranquility but you're only ever a 15-minute boat ride away from colorful stilt villages, bustling markets, and temples laced in spirituality. Myanmar's infrastructure has evolved rapidly in the last few years, making once-remote destinations like Inle easily accessible. You'll fly from Mandalay to Heho, where it's a 45-minute road transfer to the lake shore, a journey that winds past sweeping rice paddies.

What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfers, breakfast

Day 9: Inle Lake – Village Markets and Unusual Fishermen

Inle's fishermen are gondoliers, using a long bamboo pole to navigate themselves across the water. Except they're not rowing with their arms, they balance on the bamboo and propel themselves with their feet before casting their traditional nets down into the water. On a boat tour of the lake,  they are impossible to miss, as are the floating gardens that wind evocatively as your boat cruises past. Stilt villages arrive like a dream, hundreds of wooden houses standing above the water with no path between them except by boat. The children here have to learn to swim before they can walk.

Traditional craftsmen occupy some of these houses, expertly gilding silver or weaving blankets on 19th-century looms. Cruise through the villages, past the children who play football in the lake, and into a tiny village. The local market rotates daily around Inle Lake, each village taking its turn to be the hub of social activity. Villagers walk from miles around, coming through the hills to trade their goods in large bamboo structures. Tropical fruit covers stalls next to bizarre headdresses that are made from cow teeth as tea smells waft alongside lanes of incense.  There is always an intrigued smile from the locals as you wander. Today's private boat tour is flexible, although visiting the market early in the morning is recommended. There's a whole series of villages and craft houses that can be visited, combined with the elegant hours relaxing along the lakeshore.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day private Inle Lake boat tour, breakfast

Day 10: Heho to Yangon – Departure

From your hotel, it's a short transfer to Heho Airport and your domestic flight to Yangon, where you easily connect with your international departure.

What's Included: airport transfer, domestic flight

Price

Price 

Zicasso recommends the following guidelines for customized tour packages, excluding international flights:

  • 5-star: USD $450 - $1,000+ per person per day

  • 4-star: Minimum USD $350 per person per day

  • 3-star: Minimum USD $300 per person per day

The customized package will include hotels, airport transfers and other transportation, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final hotel choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.