Download Itinerary

To immediately receive your Trip Notes (itinerary & details) by email, please enter your information below.

If you would prefer to receive a printed version, please call 800-255-8735.

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Re-Enter Email Address*
Yes, please send me the free JOURNEYS email newsletter.
Privacy Policy
Trip Notes Sent

Thank you for your interest in Burma: Ruins and Rivers. The requested Trip Notes have been emailed to you and should arrive in your inbox shortly.

Please consider adding to your email contacts/address book to prevent your email client from filtering this message into your junk/spam folder. Privacy Policy

You may also be interested in:

adventure travel trip to Myanmar
Witness the incredible sunset from a temple in Bagan
  • Nov 3-17, 2014
  • Jan 12-26, 2015
  • Nov 3-17, 2015
  • Privately on Request
  • Duration 15 days
    Group Size 2-12
    Land Cost $4,295-$4,650 Details
    Single Supplement $1,450
    Lodging 3 stars
    Grade I
    Best Time

    Burma: Ruins and Rivers

    Sacred Buddhist sites and Irrawaddy River boat ride

    Day 1      Arrive Yangon

    Your guide will meet you at the airport in Yangon and transfer you to your privately-owned hotel. Along the way, observe Yangon's colonial-style red brick buildings.

    Meals: None
    Lodging: Kandawgyi Palace Hotel or similar

    Day 2      Yangon

    Experience the wonder of sunrise over the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda where many local Buddhists come to worship each morning. Witness the colors transform on the 325 foot-high chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese. Next turn down a hidden roadway to discover a busy market tucked amid a labyrinth of small alleys. Fresh produce, rice, noodles and a variety of dry goods are on sale in this atmospheric little market. Afterwards, visit Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 230 foot long reclining Buddha statue around the size of a blue whale. Continue uptown for a quick stop by the Royal Lake, located at Kandawgyi Park, which is very popular with local residents, especially in the early morning and around sunset. Catch a view of Karaweik Hall, a reproduction of a royal barge and enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Shwedagon Pagoda. After stopping for lunch at a nice local restaurant, you’ll be taken downtown to begin your tour on Mahanbandola Road where the Immanuel Baptist Church, originally built in 1830, is located. Continue east passing a couple of alleyways crammed with food stalls and markets. Turn right onto Pansodan Street with its many stalls selling second-hand and photocopied books. You’ll pass the High Court Building, the grand Inland Water Transport offices and even grander Myanma Port Authority building until you reach the majestic Strand Hotel where you take a break and indulge in High Tea. Built in 1901, this British-era hotel became the center of expat life during the 1900s and High Tea has become a Yangon institution. You will then walk along Strand Road until you see the Customs House and the Law Court, an impressive-looking colonnaded building. Turn north onto boisterous Bank Street and up onto Sule Pagoda Road where you can consult one of the many fortune tellers who hang out under the trees. Make a photo stop at Sule Pagoda, downtown’s symbol whose construction dates back to over 2,000 years ago and have a glimpse of Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden. After a complete rotation seeing the twice rebuilt City Hall continue west down Mahanbandoola Road through the chaotic Indian and Chinese quarters. Explore the gold shops of Shwe Bontha Street and have a look from outside at the Moseh Yeshua Synagogue on 26th street. You’ll reach Theingyi Zei market, where you can see pickled-snakes. Exit onto Anawratha Road until you reach the Sri Kali temple, Yangon’s most colorful Hindu temples.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Kandawgyi Palace Hotel or similar

    Puppet show
    Day 3      Markets, Reclining Buddha, and Shwedagon

    Today you will have the opportunity to get a glimpse into the daily activities of the locals that make Yangon their home. Your guide will meet you at the hotel and transfer you to Yangon’s Central Station. Embark upon the local “Circular Train”, which runs from Yangon’s main railway station around various neighborhoods in town as well as the borders surrounding the city itself. This train travels at a deliberately slow pace, which provides you with time to really enjoy your surroundings and get a clear overview of the city (train ride is about 20-30 minutes. Please note that these trains are very simple, and are used by many locals during the day. Disembark at Kyee Myin Daine station, one of the most beautiful station buildings remaining in Yangon. From here you’ll take a short 10-minute walk through a local neighborhood. At this hour of the morning you will find a vibrant hive of activities with children heading off to school, folks grabbing a bowl of noodles on their way to work and nuns and monks collecting alms door to door. This middle-class neighborhood allows you to get a glimpse into the lives of the locals. Continue on to the Shan Road market where you will find interesting merchandise. Walk among the stalls filled with colourful fruits, green vegetables and fresh meat while chatting with friendly vendors. When you are finished you’ll return by car to the city via the main road. After a lunch break at a local restaurant, return to your hotel where the rest of the afternoon is free.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Kandawgyi Palace Hotel or similar

    Shwedagon Pagoda
    Day 4      Flight to Heho & Pindaya

    After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your domestic flight to Heho. From here, proceed by road to Pindaya (37 mi/2 hrs), a quiet town on the banks of the serene Botoloke Lake. Home to the local Danu people, Pindaya can only be reached by small and windy roads which snake their way through mountain ranges from Mandalay, Inle Lake, or Bagan. Reaching the town, you will first visit the local market. Open daily, the market is a gathering place for area farmers to sell their fresh produce and is also host to a 5-day market which attracts vendors from hill tribes further away. Also visit a small shop making Myanmar’s famous tea leaf salad from Pindaya’s tea plantations. Take a break at midday and to check in to your hotel (hotel check in time is 2:00 pm.) This afternoon continue on to a nearby village to spend time with a local family learning about the growing of tea and the production of tea leaf salad and other local delicacies. Pindaya is known throughout Myanmar as having the best green tea and tea leaf salad as well as soya-based products. You’ll begin with a short 20-minute walk through a local village to a family house on the outskirts of town. Here you will have a chance to sample freshly brewed green tea and see drying soya bean crackers. Continue to their nearby farm where you will walk amid the tea plants, stopping to pick a few ripe leaves if you like. Return to the house to watch a demonstration of tea leaf salad making. In the late afternoon, visit the renowned Pindaya Caves, a unique site housing thousands of Buddha images estimated to have been formed more than 200 million years ago. The opening of the cave involves a walk past the Shwe U Min Pagodas – giant white stupas which climb out of the ground. Lunch and dinner will be at local restaurants. Overnight stay in Pindaya.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Inle Inn or similar

    Watch the children at play near Pindaya
    Day 5      Danu Villages

    For those who are interested in trekking, head out at around 7:00 am and hike to the Danu tribe village of Sikya-Inn (trekking time approx. 2 hrs). Here you will have a chance to rest and enjoy some light refreshment before the next stage of the trek to the Palaung tribe village of Yasakyi. The walk will take about an hour and a half and will be rewarded with a picnic lunch on arrival. After lunch and the chance to wander around the village to get a feel for the people and their way of life, it will be time for the return hike. Passing through the small Danu tribe villages of Linne-Inn and Taung-Paw-Gyi, this two hour hike will also take you through the most beautiful and peaceful Pine forests. Return to Pindaya.

    For those not interested in trekking, you'll start the day with a visit to the Pindaya market, a typical rural market selling an array of food and dry goods. Then take a short drive east of Pindaya where we will continue on foot to a small village. In the village you will have the opportunity to observe the daily activities of the people. If it is dry season you may see the drying of cheroot leaves or weaving of cotton. In the rainy season you may see activities such as the weaving of bamboo mats and the making of brooms. This quaint village is filled with friendly locals and some curious kids who will welcome you to their town. Next continue to either the village head-man’s house or a scenic field for a fun, interactive cooking demonstration. Learn about the local ingredients used in some of the regional cuisine (Danu, Shan and Pa-Oh) and the techniques used to cook the tasty dishes of the Shan State. You may also have a chance to visit a small plantation where some herbs or other ingredients are being grown. After cooking sit down to enjoy a delicious lunch of your freshly prepared dishes. Lunch in local village. Return to Pindaya.

    Dinner will be at a local restaurant.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Inle Inn or similar

    Smiling Padong girl
    Day 6      Kalaw, Elephant Camp & Inle Lake

    After breakfast, head out by road (app. 2 hrs) through the scenic Shan Hills to Kalaw. Founded as a hill station by the British civil servants fleeing the heat of the plains, Kalaw still feels like a holiday resort - clean air, calm atmosphere, leafy and green streets and some of the best trekking characterize this unique settlement. Continue on to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Magwe village (drive takes around 45 minutes). Upon arrival, a specialist guide from the camp will greet you and transfer you to the main camp base. Enjoy a welcome drink while receiving a briefing on the day’s activities, the background of the camp and the history of elephants in Myanmar. Then embark on a short walk to the river, passing through a reforestation project set up by the camp and villagers. The elephants will likely be enjoying a refreshing swim in the stream and you can join the mahouts to bathe these gentle animals if you like. After their bath, climb on top of the elephant for a ride through the forest. The ride will take approximately 30-45 minutes and along the way you will likely see wild orchids, butterflies and other indigenous flora and fauna. There is time in the afternoon to explore more on foot with the local trekking guide or interact with the elephants. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the camp. Afterwards, say goodbye to the elephants and mahouts and transfer to Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. Upon reaching the edge of the lake, you will board a private motorboat for a ride out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular and breathtaking sights. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, with scenic hills providing the perfect backdrop. You will be transferred to your hotel for check in. Dinner at the hotel restaurant. Overnight stay in Inle Lake.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Pristine Lotus or similar

    Village weaver
    Day 7      Inle Lake

    In the morning, board a wooden motorized boat and head out onto Inle Lake. Pay a visit to the lake’s morning market (the market is open every day apart from dark moon and full moon calendar days). The market’s location rotates between the lake’s villages in a 5 day schedule and is also visited daily by the lake’s inhabitants as well as the surrounding natives who also come to sell and trade their wares. Along the way you will pass several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their "floating gardens", which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. You will also visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses loads of early Shan Buddha Images. In the past this temple was known for its "jumping cats" but these days there are only a few felines roaming around and none are jumping any more. Yet the Buddha images are still worth the visit. Proceed to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. There are also many traditional crafts origininating on Inle Lake and, if you like, you can stop for a visit to one making incredible woven items from lotus silk, boat builders (depending on the time of year), a cigar making workshop, blacksmiths or even silver smiths. If time allows you will also pay a visit to the local silversmith and a pirogue workshop in the village of Nampan. The day will come to a close with a return trip by boat back to your hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant and Dinner at hotel restaurant. Overnight stay on Inle Lake.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Pristine Lotus or similar

    Inle Lake
    Day 8      Inle Lake Cultural Exploration

    After breakfast you’ll visit the lake’s morning market before heading out on a one hour boat ride down a small canal to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, positioned on the western shores of Inle Lake. Take a leisurely stroll around the village before ascending the moss-covered stairway to the top of a hill. Once you’ve arrived at the summit, you will be greeted buy an iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. Here, from the peak, you will also be rewarded with mesmerizing views of the placid surroundings. The Indein Pagoda complex is undoubtedly one of the most amazing sites around the shore of the lake and it consists of hundreds of small stupas which are overrun by moss and greenery. Then it’s time to embark on a 45 minutes trek to Sae Ma village. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the natural beauty and panoramic vistas of the area while basking under the shade of the bamboo grooves in the area. Upon arrival at the village, observe the daily lifestyles of the rural inhabitants. On your boat ride back, should time allow, you'll stop at the Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake's indigenous people and enjoy a delicious coffee and cake (snack break not included). As an exciting day comes to close transfer back to your hotel for some well deserved relaxation. Lunch will be at a local restaurant and Dinner at the hotel restaurant.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Pristine Lotus or similar

    Leg rower at Inle Lake
    Day 9      Flight to Bagan

    Breakfast will be served at your hotel before driving by a combination of boat and car to the Heho Airport (1-1.5 hr) for a short flight back to Bagan. Welcome to Bagan, known to be one of the greatest architectural sites in Asia. When Bagan was the center of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries, the monarchs built multitudes of massive stupas and pagodas, scores of which are still present on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. The majesty of Bagan with more than 2,000 red brick temples on a plain of the size of Manhattan Island, is perhaps one of the highlights of your visit. Upon arrival at the airport you will be warmly welcomed and transferred to you hotel for check in. The balance of day is free at your leisure to simply relax or explore around at your own leisure. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Thande or Tharabar Gate Hotel or similar

    River temple
    Day 10      Village Visit, Monuments, and Ruins

    OPTIONAL: HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER BAGAN: The morning will start off with an exciting hot-air balloon ride above the Bagan countryside. You will observe one-of-a-kind views when the sun begins to rise over the Irrawaddy River and various stupas in the region. You’re simply not going to find many other opportunities like this on Earth. (Only available from October/November through March.) After breakfast, it’s off to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market where the locals come to trade fresh produce and other goods daily. From here you will explore Old Bagan by both private vehicle and horse-cart. Begin with a visit to the renowned Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as a religious memorial. Next, visit Ku Byauk Gyi, a temple with wonderful murals of Jataka scenes, followed by the Bu Lei Thee Pagoda, celebrated for its all-encompassing view of the region’s various monuments. Visit Ananda Temple, constructed in an earlier “Mon” style and houses two distinctive Buddha images. Their expressions appear to transform, according to the space from which the statue is seen. We will ensure that your tour reaches this point before the majority of tourist arrive, enabling you to enjoy the splendor of the temple in relative tranquility. After lunch at a nice, local restaurant, drive through Bagan’s countryside to the rustic village of Minnanthu, one of Bagan’s less visited regions; it’s very tranquil and isolated. You will discover temples such as Payathonzu with its strange structural design, as well as Lemyentha and Nandamannya. Also visit Kyat Kan Cave Monastery, an extremely important meditation retreat. There are also plenty of farming villages around Bagan if you’re interested in studying their particular way of life. Sometime around mid-afternoon, you will be transferred to the shoreline of the Irrawaddy River where you will board on a boat for a relaxed sunset cruise. While treading the waters of the river, take note of the fishermen as well as the villagers. Sail past impressive temples sites as the sun sets slowly over the far bank of the river. Return to your hotel in Bagan for dinner and overnight.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Thande or Tharabar Gate Hotel or similar

    Explore Bagan by horsecart
    Day 11      Mt. Popa/Bagan

    If you're up early, enjoy the fantastic sunrise view from the ruins. Return to the hotel for breakfast and then depart on a two hour drive to Mt. Popa, located about 30 miles from Bagan.  Enroute, stop at a palm village along the way. Mt. Popa is thought to be the core of an extinct volcono and is considered the home of most powerful Nats (spirits) as well as an important Nat worship center. It is also a major pilgrimage site. From Mt. Popa, there are stunning views of Popa Taungkalat Monastery, which sits atop an outcrop.

    Upon your return to Bagan, visit the Wetkyi Inn Gubyaukgyi Temple to observe the 12th century mural paintings, frescoes, and bas relief works depicting the entire life of the Buddha and his disciples. Also visit the Htilominlo Temple, where you can see frescoes representing 28 Buddhas of the future and the Shwezigon Pagoda, built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the oldest stupa in Bagan. If you wish, you can stroll around the enchanting Nyaung Oo Market. Enjoy the opportunity to visit some of the local villages, where you will observe traditional hand loom weaving, production of edible oils out of sesame seeds and ground nuts, and local blacksmith work. Time permitting, enjoy a sunset view of the entire ruins. Return to your hotel for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Thande Hotel or similar

    Bagan temples
    Day 12      Mandalay

    A short flight takes you to Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. This ancient royal capitals is often perceived and described in literature as "Asia at its most traditional, timeless and alluring", but those who go meet a booming and vibrant city. Despite its energy and thriving business, this is the cultural heart of Myanmar where music, dance and drama traditions are still alive. From the airport, it is a one hour drive to Mandalay city where you visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, frequently dubbed as “The World’s Biggest Book” for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. Next, visit Shwenandaw Monastery (Golden Monastery), the only standing structure from the 19th century Royal Palace. This impressive structure is celebrated for its remarkable woodcarvings. Mandalay is famous for its expert craftsmen and as you explore these traditional workshops, you’ll discover why. Pay a visit to the Jade Market with many sizes of raw jade; see the manufacture of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf first-hand, bearing in mind the methods used in to create these peices are the same as those used ages ago in the Royal Court. You’ll also explore a Myanmar candy making workshop. Before the sun sets, you’ll want to head over to the Shwe Kyin Monastery, an amazing place to finish a day of sightseeing. Observe how, right after sunset, the young student monks gather and line up for their evening prayer. Afterwards return to your hotel for some rest and relaxation. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Overnight in Mandalay.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Mandalay Hill Resort or similar

    Day 13      Mingun and Ancient Cities

    Head off to Mandalay jetty and embark on a private boat for a relaxing one hour journey on the Irrawaddy River to Mingun. Experience the sights and sounds of Mingun, beginning with the celebrated Mingun Paya, which would have been the world’s largest if King Bodawpaya hadn’t died before it was finished. An earthquake that hit in the 1800’s, split the monument and reduced it to partial ruins. From the flat top you have a fine view of the Hsinbyume Paya, Mingun village and the river. Next, visit the gorgeous alabaster Hsinbyume Pagoda, thought to be a representation of the Sulamani Paya which, according to the Buddhist plan of the cosmos, stands atop Mount Meru (the mountain that stands at the center of the universe). See the impressive the Mingun Bell, a 90 ton bell claimed to be the world’s largest hung, uncracked working bell. Before returning to Mandalay by boat there’ll be enough time to explore the small neighborhoods throughout Mingun to see the locals weaving traditional baskets and mingle with the friendly craftsmen and vendors. Following lunch break at a local restaurant, visit the former capitals of Ava and Amarapura. Ava was the capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. To get here, you'll cross the small river by ferry and travel in a traditional horse and carriage to the wooden Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings. See the Nanmyint Watch Tower - also called “the leaning tower of Ava“ - remnants of the ancient palace and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery. Continue on to Amarapura “City of Immortality” and stop at a silk weaving workshop known for their exquisite merchandise. Visit Mahagandayon Monastery, home to more than 1,000 young monks and renowned as a center for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Once the sun starts to set, you’ll want to take stroll along the legendary U Bein Bridge, built in 1782 when Amarapura was the Royal center. It spans almost 3/4 of a mile across the shallow Taungthaman Lake and is said to be the longest teakwood bridge worldwide. Enjoy this very special atmosphere as the late afternoon sun casts long shadows and illuminates the local people heading home. As a stunning day comes to an end, return to Mandalay for the night. Dinner will be on your own. Overnight in Mandalay.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Mandalay Hill Resort or similar

    Locals convening along the lakeshore
    Day 14      Spiritual Morning in Sagaing

    Today you'll cross the bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. With 600 ivory colored pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing is generally seen as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and home to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. Explore Sagaing’s local market before heading over to a small pottery village recognized for its water pots that can be found all over Myannmar. You'll observe the traditional methods of pottery making. Continue on to Sagaing Hill and visit Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae or Shin Pin Nan Gyaing Pagodas. Sagaing, as one of Myanmar’s most spiritual places, is perhaps the perfect location to delve into the traditional Myanmar meditation techniques. Sagaing is also home to several nunneries that receive few visitors. Their simplistic lifestyles and peaceful compounds make the nunneries a fascinating place to visit. Zay Ya Pheingyi Nunnery, home to about 160 nuns, is located up a narrow road. As a small donation you can distribute a small bowl of raw materials like tomatoes, lettuce, cabbabe, etc. to the nuns while receiving a blessing chant and be rewarded with a simple, but delicious vegetarian lunch cooked by the nuns. An incredible experience while at the same time helping the nuns to ensure a brighter future! Bear in mind that the nunneries rely on donations to sustain themselves. Many of the nuns are orphans or girls from disadvantaged families who send their daughters for education and a place to live. Return to your hotel by mid-afternoon and spend the balance of day at your leisure.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Mandalay Hill Resort or similar

    Visit with the nuns in Sagaing
    Day 15      Mandalay/Onward

    Time permitting, spend the morning doing some last-minute sightseeing or shopping before you are transferred to the airport for your onward  flight.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None

    Home   |   About Us   |   New Trips   |   Family Trips   |   Reviews   |   Trip Sign-up   |   Contact JOURNEYS   |   Jobs
    Pre-Scheduled Group Trips   |   Custom Trip Planning   |   JOURNEYS Signature Trips   |   eNews Sign-up   |   Catalog Request

    Home Like JOURNEYS International on Facebook Follow JOURNEYS International on Twitter © 2014 JOURNEYS International, Inc.
    107 Aprill Drive, Suite 3, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 • 800-255-8735 •

    Looking for the Best Ecotravel Tour Company?
    JOURNEYS International has specialized in ecotourism since 1978. We offer you the best nature tours, safaris, treks, adventure travel, family and cultural trips on earth. Whether you call it an eco vacation, adventure travel, ecotravel, ecotour, sustainable travel or responsible travel, for more than 30 years we have been creating ecologically sensitive and culturally responsible travel to exotic destinations around the world. Specialty ecotrips include women's tours, Kilimanjaro climbs, exploration cruises, festival trips, student group trips and cross cultural and wildlife safaris. Read more about JOURNEYS International.