Burma holiday, off the beaten track

“This classic tailor-made trip will take you from the gilded pagodas of Yangon to the iconic temples of Bagan, with plenty of time to meet the locals, too.”

Highlights

Yangon | Mandalay | Ayerwaddy River | Mingun | Amarapura | Bagan | Kalaw | Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery | Inle Lake

Description of Burma holiday, off the beaten track

Burma is a jewel in South-East Asia, relatively untouched by tourism. This lovely itinerary takes in the highlights of this fascinating country.

Explore historical Yangon and the awe-inspiring Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Burma. Wonder at the panoramic view of the famous Plains of Bagan, an area rich in history which includes a special tour by horse cart passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple, noted for its remarkable brickwork and Sulamani Temple. Our 'must do' tip is a balloon flight over Bagan at sunrise.

Visit Mandalay and after a full day enjoying the sites, head to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun sets to enjoy the magnificent views of the city and the Irrawaddy River. This tour also includes a 2 night stay at Inle Lake where you will witness villages built on stilts and the amazing leg-rowing fishermen.
Wander around the lake's morning market, frequented by lake inhabitants and surrounding local hill tribes who come to sell their wares - a fascinating insight into their lives.

This holiday is perfect for those with 2 weeks to explore as you will take in all the 'main' sights of this wonderful country.

We can arrange beach extensions for you. Please ask us for more details.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:Arrive Yangon (formerly Rangoon). A private 'meet & greet' and transfer to your hotel. This afternoon your guide will collect you for a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda which towers almost 98 metres above the city. Overnight Yangon.
Day 2:A wonderful full day, private orientation tour of Yangon by car and foot. Highlights include the old railway station and former Minister's office, St Mary's Cathedral, Botataung Pagoda, Kandawgyi Park with the glittering Karaweik barge and more. A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset is highly recommended. Overnight Yangon.
Day 3:Transfer to the airport for your short flight to Mandalay. The remainder of your day will be dedicated to exploring this stunning city including the spiritually important Mahamuni Pagoda and Shwenandaw Kyaung and a scenic evening drive to the top of Mandalay Hill to watch the sun set over the city. Overnight Mandalay.
Day 4:Start your day with a cruise down the Ayerwaddy River to the ancient ruins of Mingun - an unfinished but spectacular stupa towering over 50m high. Followed by a trip to Amarapura, the City of Immortality. Local artisans will inspire you with their silk, cotton and bronze crafts. Sightseeing will also include the iconic U Bien's bridge spanning the Taungthaman Lake. Overnight Mandalay.
Day 5:Embark on a river cruise to travel in colonial luxury on board a ship hand finished in brass and teak. Enjoy the scenery on the riverbank from the open air deck as you travel up river. A sightseeing stop at Sameikkon will let you stretch your legs. Overnight on board.
Day 6:After watching the sunrise from the boat, your guide will escort you to your hotel. From here you will head to Bagan, home to over 2000 temples, pagodas and monasteries and one of Myanmar's most iconic scenes as temples stretch as far as the eye can see. Overnight Bagan.
Day 7:Head back to the river to take a jeep further into rural Bagan, visiting different villages on route to see cotton, cane and basket weaving before finishing at the 11th century Taunt Kyi Taung Pagoda with incredible views of the temples of Bagan. Overnight Bagan.
Day 8:Take an onward flight to Heho followed by a scenic drive to Kalaw - a hill station famous for its fresh mountain air and beautiful countryside. Sightseeing includes Aug Chan Tha Zedi stupa and the central market with its local hill traders. Overnight Kalaw.
Day 9:Drive into the hills to an elephant camp to visit old and convalescing elephants - run by an ex vet dedicated to helping elephants who have spent their lives working in the timber trade. Help feed and bath the elephants and explore the countryside with a local guide. Overnight Kalaw.
Day 10:Take the train from Kalaw to Inle Lake and travel as a local. . Stop en-route at the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery featuring beautiful carvings, then continue to a vineyard estate for lunch and a tasting. A private boat will take you to your hotel. Overnight Inle Lake.
Day 11:Explore more of the lake today. Board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake, observe the leg-rowing fishermen and the famous Daw Oo Pagoda. This afternoon you may visit Nampan Village to see local cigar (cheroot) making, then continue to Inn Paw Khone, a small village that specialises in silk weaving. Overnight Inle Lake.
Day 12:A morning flight back to Yangon. Pick up any final souvenirs from Bogyoke Aung San Market, commonly known by its old British name of Scott Market, before your onwards flight.

Travel Team

If you would like some help or advice, or just want to discuss your ideas for your next trip, do give us a call.

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Burma holiday, off the beaten track

We aim to tread as lightly as possible when organising our tours to Burma. Our travel partners adhere and agree with our responsible travel policies and all our local guides, who know the area like no other, strive to assist travellers in understanding local culture, etiquette and environmental issues.

To encourage travellers to act responsibly, all guests on arrival to our destinations will receive a booklet that provides guidelines on cultural and environmental sensitivities in Burma.

Myanmar is a relative newcomer to eco-tourism so we were delighted to discover an elephant camp dedicated to changing the welfare of these majestic animals within the country. Working through education and promoting responsible tourism, they protect not only the animals but also the environment, flora and fauna around them. Local people are employed and they have an on-going project for reforestation and the preservation of indigenous butterflies, orchids and birds.

All the guides that we use are local guides in each different area of Burma that we visit, thus ensuring that each area benefits from tourism. We do appreciate that arranging holidays to Burma/Myanmar is a controversial issue, but we believe that it can be extremely positive for local Burmese people by generating income they would not normally receive.

By touring around the country and visiting local monuments etc., your entrance fees helps to ensure the preservation of historical sites. We arrange visits to local markets where possible throughout - so that local people can directly benefit from tourism. We also advise and recommend that our clients eat in local restaurants throughout their stay. We try where possible to use privately owned hotels rather than government owned

For each of our confirmed holidays to Burma, we make a financial donation on your behalf, in conjunction with our local agents and the monies are distributed equally between the various charities we support. We work with our local agents on an initiative that raises funds for charitable projects and contributes to the development of sustainable tourism in Southeast Asia. We also enable our clients to mitigate their carbon footprint by donating 30 per person for a return journey to a carbon offset scheme.

2 Reviews of Burma holiday, off the beaten track

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Reviewed on 30 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Inle Lake - to see a town actually built ON the lake was incredible. The floating gardens were huge - made up of floating hyacinth, mud dredged from the lake and all held in place by bamboo poles - the only way to maintain them, plant & sow was by canoe, creeping through tiny watery alleys that we could not see. Everything was being grown in these amazing gardens including tomatoes under plastic coverings, beans up bamboo frames, fruit and flowers. The workshops offered products of silver, silk and wood as well as providing a livelihood for the people who lived in the houses built on stilts. The boats and canoes were made by hand in the village and it was amazing to watch them saw huge planks of wood by hand, millimetres thick and every plank was as straight as the next. This was by far the most amazing, and unexpected, site we saw in Myanmar.

Also, in Yangon we went to a local tea house with our guide and had a drink with the locals. I thought we would hate this as it was our first day and I was so nervous about health issues and sanitation that I wasn't sure whether I would have anything. But we had a cup of coffee and added a slice of lime instead of milk (they have condensed milk in their tea and coffee black which is not to our liking). We sat on little plastic stools with our guide Poo Poo and chatted about life in Myanmar - she was open & honest and answered all of our questions about education, health, social care, politics etc. Around us, in this grubby little cafe somewhere in the heart of Yangon, life went on for the local people who totally ignored us! It was wonderful and a real experience I will never forget.

And third on our list would be the surprise invitation to a wedding in Mandalay! When we were collected from the airport, our guide informed us that a colleague from the office was getting married that morning and would love for us to go to the reception. We felt this was an honour and also a great privilege. When we arrived at the hotel, the bride greeted us like long lost relatives (we found out later that this is actually true as they believe in reincarnation and we may have been related in a former life). We sat down and we were given lots of cakes and ice cream and had our photo & video taken with the happy couple (although the groom looked just as bemused as we did, probably wondering who these strangers were eating his food!) It was a very special memory we will have of
this incredibly holiday that took us to so many wonderful locations.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take sandals! We were warned that you should not wear shoes with many laces, but that is what we normally wear for comfort and safety. But, especially in Bagan, you are entering so many pagodas, temples, monasteries and other sacred sites, that you have your shoes off more than you have them on! The floor can be hot and also a little rough in places. I suffer from diabetes but I have not lost the feeling in my feet - this made me very nervous whilst climbing the temples and walking around the paths of the stupas as to the damage I may be causing, but there are no other options. You must be bare footed - no socks are allowed. But every time we returned to our car, we were given moist tissues to cleanse our feet, which was a real comfort.

Also, when you fly to Heho for Inle Lake, be prepared that you go out in open motor boats for several hours before going to the hotel. Make sure you have sunscreen with you and cover for your head, arms, legs and feet. The sun is very fierce here and there is no sanctuary from the blazing afternoon heat. You go so fast in the motor boats, you need to tie your hat down - they provide umbrellas, but it is impossible to hold them and take photos as they are buffeted by the winds and continually blow inside out.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Wherever I could, I would buy something from the local workshops or street vendors rather than buying from the hotel shop. The problem was we went to so many workshops and many of them offered the same goods. We realised from our visit to Scott Market in Yangon that you did not really haggle in Myanmar - the price they give you is the price they want. We stopped trying to bargain and paid the price we were quoted - in most cases, this was only a few pounds anyway. At the temple site on Inle Lake, (where we walked from the river, through a small village and up the hill to the sacred site with over 1000 stupas) we saw a young man walking away from a woman with a baby insisting that he would only pay 2000 khats for a wooden rattle when she wanted three - this amounted to $1 - nothing to us, but probably a meal to her & her baby. We all know that we were paying a lot more for any of our purchases and there is a different price for locals, but we see this as being our way of helping the local community. Yes, ask for discount off large, expensive items or if you are buying in bulk (even this didn't count in Scott's Market) but don't steal tiddly amounts from the people who need it. Tourism is still new in Myanmar but the hotels are very well equipped for tourists and charge accordingly - it is not a cheap place! This provides good employment possibilities for the local people, especially the young, with transport, accommodation, guides and souvenirs. This has to be good for their economy as they have been missing out on this for so long.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


FANTASTIC! It went beyond our expectations! The people are so friendly; our guides were so well informed and wanted to ensure that we saw everything; we experienced so many things from a drink in a tea house, attending a wedding, horse cart rides, boat rides, going to a local market in Bagan and numerous sunsets in so many locations; and the hotels were first class. We had one of the best meals EVER at Le Planteur in Yangon - it was so good, we went twice! This is not just the best meal in Myanmar but one of the best meals we have ever had around the globe, and, as we have been to 85 countries and we enjoy good food at good restaurants, this is quite an achievement! GO TO MYANMAR! And soon before it changes and loses that rural, almost primitive feel that makes the country so unique.

Reviewed on 24 Feb 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Balloon trip over Bagan.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The Burmese people are very gentle & trustworthy.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local people are pretty contemptuous of their government. Unfortunately sanctions from the West has led to the country leaning towards China who appear to be exploiting the natural resources of Myanmar (Burma) with little regard to the environment or the livelihoods of the local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Burma was a fascinating country to visit. Even though we were only there for 2/52 we feel we had a real travel experience.

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