Eclectic landscapes ripple across Myanmar as the Himalayan Mountains descend into the lush jungle-clad hills and the tropical hues of the coast. All remain unscarred by modern development to create a natural haven for hundreds of endemic bird species. Myanmar offers excellent birdwatching in destinations that are rarely seen or documented by Western visitors. This 12-day luxury tour provides a sublime exploration of these landscapes.
Yangon – The Delights of the City
Welcome to the Southeast Asian tropics, where palm trees rise higher than colonial buildings and a lush green awning winds along the coast as relatively rare birds flutter across the city. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to five-star accommodation in the heart of Yangon that overlooks the colonial harbor. On a guided tour, explore the gardens of the city where locals meet and a plethora of life flaps its wings; pheasant-tailed jacanas, oriental darters, coppersmith barbet, a selection of bee-eaters, prinias, and tailorbirds are all to be found. They provide a prime introduction to the Myanmar's variety of colors, along with a chance to absorb the endearing culture of the country. Locals wave as they wander through the parks, young monks come to practice their English, and you will join the line of people visiting Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset. As the meditative chants echo across its golden facade, this important Buddhist structure will immerse you in the spirituality of Myanmar.
Yangon – Discovering the Birds of Hlawga Wildlife Park
Hlawga Wildlife Park is filled with tropical tones; the greens are vivid and fresh, and the birds nest in exotic treetops. Red jungle fowl roam, green-billed malkoha hides among the branches, puff-throated babblers seem to dance as they walk, while the lesser necklaced laughing thrushes always entertain. This landscape is filled with the rare and the near-endemic and captures the essence of Myanmar's appeal. Water bird species like the oriental darter and pygmy goose are spotted. Various warblers and wagtails arrive in the dry winter months. The park is close to the city, and you will gain an iconic impression of the country and of how it allows nature to flourish without interruption. Almost the entire population is Buddhist, and their mantra is not to destroy, but to coexist with nature. Often, rare birds are seen at a proximity you would not find in other countries. Hlawga is visited as a full-day trip from Yangon.
Bagan – Birdwatching Along the Irrawaddy River
Fly north to touch down in the semi-desert of central Myanmar where life flourishes around the few permanent stretches of water. The mighty Irrawaddy performs serpentine loops as it cuts through Bagan to enable ancient temples to reflect in its tranquil waters. Once you check into your hotel, you will enjoy lunch at the river before you spend the afternoon on a cruise down the Irrawaddy in a wooden boat. A skilled gondolier will ensure that the journey is quiet, and will maximize your opportunity to spot some of Myanmar's endemic birds: white-tailed stonechat, long-billed pipit, Indian skimmer, spotted redshank, Laggar falcon, and a huge variety of plain and sand martins. Travel slowly and wind along the Irrawaddy to capture the confluence of exotic birds and exquisite temples, the latter casts a dramatic backdrop on an afternoon of tranquil birdwatching.
Bagan – Endemic Species and Unique Temples
Thousands of sandstone temples rise evocatively across Bagan, mysterious memoirs to the 10th to 13th-centuries. Some have crumbled slightly, most have faded, but all showcase an enigmatic beauty from the past. Such exquisite cultural relics are elevated by a colorful collection of birds. Today, explore the large Bagan site which mixes sublime temple remains with Myanmar's endemic birds such as the Jerdon's minivet and rare-hooded treepie, along with the near-endemic Chinese francolin, rain quail, Burmese shrike, Indian nightjar, and Siberian rubythroat. Yellow-streaked warblers flutter past sculpted Buddhas, and yellow-legged buttonquail is spotted in trees surrounded by clusters of sandstone stupas. Like so much of Myanmar, the juxtapositions are defined by elegance, to complete the atmosphere of a land untouched by time.
Natmatuang National Park – Exploring the Forests
Mount Victoria rises 3,053 meters to mark the southeastern fringe of the mighty Himalayan chain. Ascend in altitude to cross through rich grasslands and diverse forests, where pines and rhododendrons are interspersed by mighty oaks. Dwarf bamboo grows in clumps to contrast with the full stretches of evergreens. The higher you travel, the thicker the trees as the canopy closes in as the slopes become shrouded in the jungle. Natmatuang National Park encompasses all the slopes of Mount Victoria and is Myanmar's premier birdwatching destination, and the focal point of this itinerary.
Today, travel through the hilly semi-desert into the dry deciduous forests of the lower slopes where white-rumped falcons and white-eyed buzzards roam. Villages become smaller and sparser as you move between rural Myanmar and wild Myanmar. Your accommodation is on the lower slope, a luxurious lodge with glorious views over the park's exotic canopy. So many species flies around your private verandahs, such as rosy minivets, red-breasted parakeets, blue-throated barbets, and a selection of flycatchers. They provide the melodious chirping as sunset casts its spell across the sky.
Day 6 - 7
Natmatuang National Park – The Birds of the Eastern Himalayas
Over these two days, travel across the altitudes to explore the myriad of habitats that stretch across the Eastern Himalayas. A variety of raptors also traverse the heights, such as buzzards, mountain hawks, kestrels, and the sublime soaring wings of the black eagle. They dominate the skies as the small and subtle nest in the trees; red-tailed minla, black-throated parrotbill, red-faced liocichla, all occupy the mid-altitude pine and evergreen. Move into the flourishing higher slopes, where fire-tailed sunbirds and Whistler's warblers find their place in the thick oaks. Perhaps Myanmar's most irresistible endemic bird is the white-browed nuthatch, only found in these vibrantly green upper slopes. As with all the days on this itinerary, the excursions run at your pace and can focus on any particular interests. You will be guided by local birdwatching guides who have spent their lives discovering the nature that surrounds them.
Kalaw – Returning Through the Temples and Waterways
Today will be spent on travel, although there is an opportunity for a variety of birdwatching stops on the route. Descend from Mount Victoria's slopes into the semi-desert and return to Bagan for another evocative glimpse at the temple landscape. Enjoy your lunch here as the pagoda summits offer an effervescent piece of the panorama. Fly from Bagan to Heho, to be greeted by a new local guide as you enter the Shan State. Here, the rice paddies mingle with evergreen forests and a necklace of peaks roll gracefully beyond the horizon. It's a 45-minute transfer to Kalaw, your base for the next two nights.
Kalaw – Journeying Into the Remote Evergreen Forests
Shan State is a land of small tribal groups, an area where almost everyone lives in tiny villages among the hills. Most of the land has not been cultivated and leaves significant stretches of the forest as a haven for near-endemic birds like the Burmese yuhina, the dark-backed sibia, the Indochinese cuckooshrike, and the vivid niltava. Sometimes, the forest rescinds to offer views onto rice paddies as children ride buffalo across the steppes. Emerge from the trees into a tiny village to be invited to drink tea in bamboo houses. This region invites you into local life and traditional hospitality; sometimes it's hard to pass through a village without a stop for a small mug of their bitter tea, organically grown in the surrounding hills. Other local delights include black-breasted thrush, white-browed laughingthrust, white-tailed leaf warblers and black-throated sunbirds. It's a relaxed day, with a mix of scenic drives and walks in the forest.
Inle Lake – More Endemic Birds in the Forested Hills
Inle Lake is soft and serene, a meeting place for so many of Myanmar's charms. Stilt-house villages rise in its center, the houses only accessible by wooden boats. Near-endemic birds flutter across manmade floating gardens while kingfishers fly beside the nets of local fishermen. Arrive in the late morning and check in to your delightful stilt house, a luxury wooden hotel that hangs above the river. From a private balcony, enjoy excellent views over the water and all it attracts with the northern pintail, marsh sandpiper, colonies of egrets, spot-billed ducks, glossy ibis, and a great collection of breeding birds abounding. In the afternoon, take a closer look along the shore and glide in your wooden boat to find the small and colorful of Inle's birds.
Inle Lake – Boat Journeys Across a Serene Lake
Continue your birdwatching with the big and noisy species such as the black-crowned night herons and a roosting colony of cattle egrets. Steppe eagles float overhead while a series of duck species occupy the floating gardens. Pinned to the lake floor by bamboo poles, these gardens are a beautiful expression of local ingenuity as they bend with the wind and provide a haven for ibis, kingfisher, cranes, and coots. Today is a relaxed day of birdwatching, with a morning and afternoon boat trip punctuated by some quiet time at the lodge. Sit back on the balcony and much of the bird life gets wonderfully close.
Yangon – Departure
Inle's birds provide their final rousing call as their morning song cascades across the placid blue of the lake. Relax with breakfast and take in your last morning in Myanmar before you are transferred to the airport at Heho for a domestic flight to Yangon. A representative will greet you in Yangon to assist with your transfer to your international departure.
- Explore the untouched landscapes of Myanmar and discover more than 350 species of bird, many of them rare and endemic
- Spend a day in Hlawga Wildlife Park, a prime introduction to the vibrant colors of the country
- Cruise along the Irrawaddy River in a comfortable wooden boat to discover the near-endemic birds that flutter beneath the mystical temples of Bagan
- Lose yourself in the lush jungle-clad mountains of Natmatuang National Park (Mount Victoria), where a great assortment of Eastern Himalayan birds congregate
- Discover the rural evergreen forests around Kalaw, home to the delicate and delightful of Myanmar's bird collection
- Cruise around Inle Lake, admiring how rare bird species coexist with stilt villages and local life
- Explore the cultural heritage of Myanmar at every turn, including drinking tea with villagers, visiting exquisite golden temples, and finding a realm untouched by time
Eclectic landscapes are untouched by time in a country still dominated by nature's realm with people who have always sought to protect it. The ingredients mix to create one of the world's most remarkable bird sanctuaries. So much of Myanmar remains wild, from jungle-clad mountains to remote lakes of surreal serenity. Landscapes stretch and emerge from the Himalayas down through the jungle to the savannah-type interior, then onwards to the tropical tones of the Delta. Diverse environments mean various birds, hundreds of near-endemic species flutter around the country. And unlike so many countries in the world, these landscapes haven't been polluted by modern development. They remain as they always have been; raw, rugged, and floating on nature's enchanting carpet.
Best of all from a birdwatching perspective, these realms are mostly undocumented. Discover species that have rarely, if ever, been seen by Western visitors since the middle part of the last century. White-rumped falcons and black-throated prinia cruise across the foothills of Mount Victoria, Burmese yuhina and velvet-fronted nuthatch in the evergreen forests around Kalaw, Sarus crane and blue-eared kingfishers on Inle Lake. Every stop on this itinerary is about the endemic, and near-endemic as their vibrant fluttering is a symbol of Myanmar's mystical world.
It's not just nature that has remained untouched by time as the country's culture has hardly been interrupted by Western influence. Charming lifestyles and smiles envelop you at every turn, a distinct part of the every day as you travel across the country. Villagers welcome you with cups of tea as monks wander through forested foothills, and thousands of grand temples reveal the architectural innovation of history. While birdwatching is the focus, a connection with local culture provides another daily highlight, especially as you visit remote and rural parts of the country, where tribal lifestyles are always enchanting.
This 12-day birdwatching tour takes you across Myanmar to visit four distinctive regions to maximize the variety of species you encounter. Start in the south where the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal provide a humid tropical environment. A day in Hlawga Wildlife Park showcases a very exotic collection of birds that are doused in color. Travel to Bagan and the birdwatching takes you along the Irrawaddy River. With the world's greatest collection of temples as a backdrop, you will find an eclectic range of species that survive in semi-desert conditions. Your next days are spent in the thick forests of the Eastern Himalayas at Natmatuang National Park as the various altitude zones provide contrast in the environment. Finish your birdwatching tour in the evergreen forests and rural landscapes of Shan State, with two nights each in Kalaw and Inle Lake. Exploring by foot and by boat, you find the rare birds that have always lived in harmony with village life.
This birdwatching tour is best from November to May, the dry season for Myanmar. Domestic flights connect many of the destinations, but you will also travel in comfortable saloon vehicles. Expert guides provide the narrative at each destination and use intimate local knowledge to reveal the delights of Myanmar's landscapes. While the country has only recently opened to international tourism, a good hotel infrastructure is in place, and you will stay in four-star accommodation at each destination.
$2,155 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
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
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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