Epic and enigmatic, the ancient Silk Route weaves through the jungle-clad mountains of Myanmar and Southern China to connect a remote world of hill tribe villages, revered ancient capitals, and inspiring heritage. Cobbled back together in the 1930s as the Burma Road, it connects Mandalay to old Dali. By 1942, the trek was off bounds to foreigners but now recently reopened to visitors in the last three years to create a journey of authenticity and true cultural immersion.
Mandalay – Treasures of Mandalay
Oh the road to Mandalay, where the “dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!” And the “the mist is on the rice fields and the wind is in the palm trees.” It was Kipling's poem that introduced the West to Myanmar's trading capital, his verses of green landscapes as relevant now as they were a century ago. Touch down at the airport and the tropical colors seem to surround at every turn, especially as you stand upon Mandalay Hill and gaze across the city towards the mountains of the Silk Route. Be greeted at the airport and transferred to your hotel, where there's time to rest before you start your tour on Mandalay Hill, a serene place to take your bearings and admire the essence of old-world poetry.
A tour of the city connects the eras and introduces you to Myanmar and its people. Gold leaf glistens at Mahamuni Pagoda as local pilgrims pray beneath the bloated golden stomach of a Buddha statue. At Kuthodaw Pagoda, find 728 marble stone slabs, ancient Buddhist scriptures fill the world's biggest book. Next, it's the Shwenandaw Monastery, a brilliant 19th-century teak carving takes your eyes on a merry dance. For all of the Buddhist beauty, let's not forget that Mandalay is a traditional trading town. Workshops continue to produce unique items like wood carvings, gold leaf, and kalaga tapestries. Whole factories create intricate Buddha statues from wood, marble, gold, and more. Throughout history, the city has had much to trade with its neighbors. End the tour back at Mandalay Hill for a beautiful sunset over the green mountains.
Mandalay – Enchanting Old Capitals
Pyin Oo Lwin – Horse and Carriage
Hsipaw – One of Asia's Most Spectacular Train Journeys
Hsipaw – Candlelight Market and Hill Tribe Villages
Lashio – Tribal Groups of Shan State
Ruili – Crossing Into Remote China
Tengchong – The Traditions of the Silk Route
Tengchong – Volcanoes and Hot Springs
Nuodeng – The High Mountains of Yunnan
Dali – The Inspiring Dali Kingdom
Dali – Exploring the Ancient Town
Dali – Departure
- Follow the ancient Southern Silk Route to travel through the cities, villages, and landscapes of Asia's past
- Explore the ancient capitals of Myanmar, where monks still inhabit monasteries and fabulous architecture stretches along the water
- Start the journey in Mandalay, a historic city that Kipling immortalized in the West
- Immerse yourself in the hill tribe villages of Shan State, where tradition is preserved amidst jungle-clad mountains
- Take one of Asia's most spectacular rail journeys and travel from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw over the world's highest rail viaduct
- Journey through one of China's most untouched regions, the remote and mountainous Yunnan Province, filled with hot springs, national parks, and remote village life
- Discover the complexities of rural China and interact with people from a variety of small ethnic minorities
- Wander through markets that feel unchanged since Silk Route trading times, like the atmospheric Candlelight Market in Hsipaw
- Complete the journey in Dali, the charming centerpiece of the Dali Kingdom that remains mostly unchanged since its 10th-century heyday
The ancient Silk Route traces a path through some of the great memoirs to Asia's civilization. Before sea travel, it was the Silk Route that connected the world as it stretched from Rome and Cairo to the far reaches of China and modern-day Myanmar. The Southern Silk Route offers an inspiring journey between two of Asia's great ancient cities: Mandalay and Dali. Back in the 1930’s, it was cobbled back together, the route winding through lush jungle and remote mountain landscapes, to be renamed the Burma Road. By 1942 and World War II, it was closed to foreigners with travel restrictions only lifted in 2013.
This 13-day itinerary celebrates the route as it traces a historical path through the jungle-clad mountains, evocative hill tribe villages, traditional trading towns, and the relics of Burma's iconic heritage. On one hand, it's a journey into the unknown through areas that haven't seen foreigners for the better part of the century. It's also a journey through ancient Western fascination, for this route connects the old world that was first documented by legendary traveler Marco Polo, in his 13th-century Book of the Marvels of the World.
Spend your first nights in Myanmar and start with the ancient treasures of Mandalay, still the country's preeminent trading city. Surrounding Mandalay to line the banks of the great Irrawaddy River, are three former capitals, each floats on a blanket of enchantment. Travel east into Shan State to climb the mountains that flicker with jungle tones and remote villages. Stop in the colonial hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin for a horse and carriage tour, then travel along one of Asia's most spectacular train routes to Hsipaw. Candlelight markets, hill tribe villages, remote ethnic minorities; these days offer a wonderful immersion in lands that have hardly ever been documented by the West.
Continue your journey as you cross into China to wind higher into the mountains for a complex landscape of ethnic minorities and evocative traditions. Follow the Silk Route and pass through Longchuan to Tengchong, the daily stops combine staggering nature with quaint local life. These are remote roads as monks meditate in lotus temples, and wooden houses evoke old-world China. It's a journey that culminates in Dali, a lavish town that dates back to the kingdom of Nanzhao in the 8th-century. Wonderfully preserved, Nanzhao offers a serene place to explore on foot after the spectacular journey by road. Look forward to meeting the Bai people as they are wrapped in white cloth as they walk through their town.
All transfers are in comfortable saloon vehicles, and you stay in the best available hotels – while this route has only been opened to foreigners recently, remember that it's been hosting visitors for many centuries; the hospitality is legendary.
$2,621 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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