Delving deep into this diverse country, An Insider’s Myanmar takes in the bustle of Yangon and Mandalay, Bagan’s awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage temples, and the beauty of Inle Lake, then steps off the well-trodden trail into the Kalaw hills, and south into remote Kayah State, only recently opened up to visitors.

At a glance

Marvel at the sunset from U Bein Bridge

Fish in harmony with Irrawaddy Dolphins

Wind through Po Win Taung’s caves

Overnight in a mountain monastery

Mingle in a Padaung community

Learn to cook delicious Burmese cuisine

Highlights

Itinerary idea in detail

Includes international flights from a choice of UK airports, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

  • 1

    On arrival in Myanmar, you’ll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your Mandalay hotel.

    Enjoy an afternoon touring some of the city’s key sites with a personalised guided programme. Wander around the eclectic stalls at Zaycho Market, stop at the Kuthodaw Pagoda to read a few pages from the world’s largest ‘book’ (an entire Buddhist canon recorded on 729 stone tablets!), watch devotees add gold leaf to the Buddha at the Mahamuni Paya, and see the historic wooden palace of Shwe Nan Daw.

  • 2

    We have partnered with a local NGO to create a unique experience taking visitors out on the river with local fishermen, to raise awareness of the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. There’s no guarantee you’ll see dolphins, but your involvement provides vital support to the community, helping preserve the cultural heritage of cooperative fishing with the dolphins, and looking out for their welfare. Sail upstream on board a small river cruiser, which will be your home for the next 24 hours. Meet the fishermen, and learn about their lifestyle and why the conservation of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy dolphins is so important. Visit several riverside villages and discover more about the region’s cottage industries, including bamboo hat making and pottery, and enjoy a simple lunch on deck with the boatmen, keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins while you eat. End the day moored on a secluded sandbank at sunset, to enjoy a simple dinner and reflect on the day with a chilled beer.

  • 3

    Rise early for the best chance to spot the dolphins out on the river while it’s still quiet. With the benefit of decades of experience in these waters, the fishermen will know when dolphins are nearby, and pause the boat if and when they make an appearance. Learn how the fishermen prepare and cast their nets, and how their extraordinary cooperative fishing tradition works, before heading back downstream. Disembark at Mingun to explore some key sites, such as King Bodawpaya’s unfinished temple and the mighty Mingun Bell, before enjoying the cruise back to Mandalay.

  • 4

    Mount Popa was a sacred site long before Buddhist monks established their beautiful monastery on a cinder plug near its peak. Legend tells that the mountain is home to 37 ‘Nats’ – traditional spirits that are worshipped throughout Myanmar in tandem with Buddhism. The mountain is a popular pilgrimage site, and its slopes are scattered with shrines. The view from the peak is spectacular – certainly worth the effort of climbing the 800 steps to get there! Trek to the nearby villages of Popa Taungyar and Myaukywa for an insight into traditional rural life, and chat with a local family over tea (with your guide acting as translator). Make the pleasant afternoon drive to Bagan, passing through peanut and sesame plantations, and maybe pausing en route to learn about local palm sugar and peanut oil production. The remainder of your day in Bagan is at leisure.

  • 5

    Start your cycle tour in Myinkaba Village, home of the Myinkaba Hpayar pagoda built by the legendary ruler King Anawrahta. Visit the nearly 1000-year-old Manuha temple, and Nan-Paya, believed to be the palace of King Manuha, who introduced the first lacquerware artisans to the region. See the Dhammayazika Pagoda, the largest pentagonal stupa in Bagan, lined with terracotta friezes illustrating scenes from the Jataka tales. Stop at Anauk Pwasaw to see the traditional Myanma rattan houses, cattle carts, and local handicrafts, then continue to Minanthu village for lunch. Visit the interconnected shrines of Payathonzu Pagoda, the abandoned yet ornate construction of Tayok Pye, and a wooden monastery with beautifully decorated stone steps in Taungbi village. Head to Nat Taung Kyaung, another wooden monastery, considered to be the oldest and finest example of its kind in the region, before cycling back to Bagan.

  • 6

    Head out of Bagan on a scenic rural drive to the town of Chauk. Famous for oil and natural gas production, the town has grown from a tiny village to a thriving regional centre, and you’ll see ‘nodding donkeys’ and working pipelines during your visit. A world away from the major tourist sights, this is a great opportunity to see down-to-earth Myanmar life and mix with the locals, as you visit the vibrant central market and stop for a cuppa in a traditional tea shop. Continue on to the ancient town of Sale, and the Salay River View Inn: a family-run property in the heart of the town. Get hands on with a cooking class, take traditional Myanmar tea with your hosts, or just chill out and connect with the community.

  • 7

    Head to a farming village just across the river to experience the rhythm of daily life in this agricultural area, then return to Sale to soak up the serene pace as you explore the town’s temples and highlights.

  • 8

    Settle back and enjoy central Myanmar’s atmospheric scenery on the 6 to 7-hour drive to Kalaw. Your guide will suggest a few good places to stop along the way, such as Meikhtila lake and market, or the railway station in Thazin, where you can stretch your legs and explore.

  • 9

    Travel through the Shan Hills to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp at Magwe. This inspiring project is a retirement camp for elephants that were once worked in the region’s logging industry. Set within a beautiful conservation area known for its orchids, teak, bamboo forest and butterflies, the Green Hill Valley area is also excellent for trekking. On arrival, meet the team for an introductory overview of the project, the conservation, and their work within the local community. Walk a short way to the elephant village to meet the mighty residents, and assist the mahouts in feeding them, before following them down to the river to participate in the elephant bathing. Re-plantation is another major focus at Green Hill Valley, and you’ll have the chance to contribute by planting a local tree.

  • 10

    Start your day at the bustling Kalaw market before heading off towards Nyaung Shwe on the shores of beautiful Inle Lake. Pause in atmospheric Nyaung Shwe for a break, and maybe a quick bite in one of its many eateries, before bumping along the road for a couple more hours to Mawbi Village, where you’ll board a boat to Sagar at the southern end of Inle Lake. Linked by a tributary to the main body of water, and well away from the tourist hotspots, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State. The mountains create a picturesque backdrop for the small villages and leg-rowing fishermen on the water. Stay at the stunning Inle Sanctuary Phayartaung, a stilted eco-lodge set on the end of the lake in the tiny Phayartaung village.

  • 11

    The best way to explore the region around Phayartaung is on foot, hiking between villages to meet different communities and immerse yourself in the local culture. Visit a Pa-O village, a Shan village and an Inntha village to see pagodas, traditional weaving and handmade jewellery, and trek through the countryside to remote waterfalls and hot springs.

  • 12

    Continue exploring the surrounding countryside by bike, cycling a little further afield to visit more tribal communities, including Pa-O, Shan, Kayah and Inntha villages. Wonder at the pagodas that rise dramatically out of the landscape, visit a Kayah holy site and hot springs, try your hand at making rice crackers and rice wine, and float out onto the water with a gentle boat trip across the lake.

  • 13

    Transfer to Heho Airport by, boat and car in time for your flight to Yangon, where the rest of your day will be at leisure. In the evening, it’s time to ‘Go Local’. Take a stroll with one of our local Burmese friends, stopping for a drink in a local café or bar, immersing yourself further into the country’s culture, and seeing a side of Yangon that only locals know. Perhaps enjoy some street food and live music, join your companion at their local temple, or even share a drink or meal with their family or friends.

  • 14

    Make a beeline for the bustling streets of India Town in the heart of downtown Yangon. Explore the lively morning market, then board the city’s ‘circular railway’ at Yangon’s Central Station. Weave through the city’s lively and colourful local neighbourhoods, before disembarking at Hledan to visit the huge reclining Buddha. Head downtown to the Sule Pagoda, and perhaps stop to chat with one of the fortune-tellers based there, before walking to Mahabandoola Park and Burma’s Independence Monument. Wander along the banks of the Yangon River to see some historic architecture, including the literary Strand Hotel, once home to the likes of Orwell, Kipling and Somerset Maugham. Mingle with the locals over a cup of sweet chai in a traditional tea shop, and visit the magnificent 2,000 year old Shwedagon Pagoda – one of the most significant religious sites in Myanmar. Explore the surrounding shrines as the city’s residents make their daily prayers, and investigate the makeshift food markets that spring up there as evening draws in.

  • 15

    Enjoy a morning at leisure until it’s time to catch your onward flight.

Accommodation options

While the itinerary price reflects the suggested accommodation, Audley trips are 100% tailor-made, and a specialist can help you select the option best suited to your tastes and budget.

Booking Policy

  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed

  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip…)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in ‘inclusive’

Please note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.

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