Home Top Tours Myanmar Tour with Irrawaddy Cruise

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Whatever impression that you might have about Myanmar, put it forward in this insightful and in-depth tour of 16 days. Read the world's largest book in Mandalay, watch sunset over the Irrawaddy River while boating to Bagan, climb up the sacred mountain Mt.Popa, easy trek up to hill tribes in Kalaw, take a boat ride in Inle Lake, have some free days in beautiful beach of Ngapali. With passion and professional guiding, you are about to see the real side of Myanmar that others don't ever see.
  • Mandalay, Bagan, Inwa and Yangon, 4 former capitals viewed in different angles
  • Cruising along the Irrawaddy River on a deluxe cruise
  • Guided trekking to pristine forest and laid-back hill tribes in Kalaw
  • Slow yet fascinating life over the surface of Inle Lake
  • Palm-tree-fringed Ngapli Beach, nominated as World's Best Beaches by CNN

Journey route

What's included

  • Private transfers and English-speaking tour guide
  • All guided sightseeing as detailed in the itinerary
  • Hotel accommodation mentioned in the itinerary
  • Breakfasts at hotels and lunches for every guided day
  • Governmental taxes

Itinerary in detail

This sample itinerary is designed based on our field research and customer feedback. Pitch in your ideas to make it more suitable for your own interests.

Day 1 Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay Hill Resort / Rupar Mandalar Resort Hotel

Mingelaba! Flying into Mandalay and you will be warmly greeted. Transfer to hotel and relax for the rest of today.

Day 2 Mandalay | Inwa and Amarapuma Impression

Mandalay is the last royal capital and it was founded by King Mindon in 1857 in attempt to fulfill a Buddhist prophecy that a great city will be established in the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism at the foot of the hill that is Mandalay Hill.
Start today with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World's Largest Book , located at the north-western corner of the palace, where you can see hundreds of small tablets revolving around a main pagoda and each tablet tells a piece of life story of Buddha.
Driving west out of Mandalay, you will reach Mahagandayon Monastery before lunchtime. Thousands of monks line up in silence to receive food, which makes an impressively solemn sight. Have lunch at a riveside restaurant.
Travel across the river and you will visit Inwa Ancient City with its Inwa Palace and the still-living monastery for numbers of monks, Bagarya Monastery.
As the sun slowly sets, you will take a boat trip to watch the teak wood bridge U Bein Bridge soaked in beautiful light.

Humble monks at Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura

Day 3 Mandalay - Bagan | Face-Washing Ritual and Cruising down to Bagan

Makara Queen Cruise / RV Paukan Cruise

Local people get up early for a holy ceremony at Mahamuni Pagoda, as early as at 0400am before the sun comes up. Include yourself, why not? Get to the pagoda before the daily Face-Washing Ritual starts. You will see villagers bringing their offersing, chanting and sitting in the main chamber as a presiding abbot cleanses the face of the giant Buddha image. This ritual goes on for 1 hour and then you will return to hotel for breakfast and check out.
Around 0900am, set out to Saigaing Pier, one hour away from Mandalay. Board your cruise and enjoy a cocktail welcome by the crew.
A delicious lunch will be served on board at 0100pm while you are approaching to Yandabo Village. An English-speaking tour guide of the cruise will take you onshore for a sightseeing in the village.
Despit of its size, Yandabo Village has an important role in Myanmar's history for it is the location where The Treaty of Yandabo (which ended the First Anglo-Burmese War) was signed on 24th of February 1826. This treaty forced Burma to open up to the British colonists. Nowadays it is just a peaceful village of 300 houses and most dwellers are potters. You will have a chance to see the process of pottery before returning to the cruise.
The cruise reaches Shwe Nann Tint in the evening. Moor near the village and enjoy a starry night on the cruise.

Enjoy Burmese dancing and singing onboard of your cruise

Day 4Bagan | Reaching Bagan by Cruise

Aye Yar River View Resort / Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

Have a fresh coffee on the sundeck. When the ship is moving slowly onto Bagan, an outline of the ancient city merges in the morning mist. Get onto the shore for a short visit at a riverfront village. At 0930am, you will disembark at the pier of Bagan, where you will meet up your private tour guide and transfer.
In the afternoon, visit Shwezigon Pagoda, which is the first Burmese-style pagoda and all pagodas across Myanmar are built based on its grandiose pattern. Constructed in 1060, it is still the most worshiped shrine in Nyuang U of Bagan. Take a look at what's inside a villager's dinner basket at Nyuang U Market before getting back to your hotel.

Two novices and a local granny in the village of Bagan

Day 5Bagan | Thousands of Temples at Sunset

Today you may have a late start since we only have one major site to cover: the Bagan Archaeological Zone.
The wide-sprawling complex covers a land of 40 sq miles and consists of over 2,000 temples, pagodas and towers. Built by different kings during mid-to-late 9th century, most temples and pagodas are left hollow and un-attended yet some are still in use as spiritual centers. Your local tour guide will pick some temples for you to visit, including the most famous Ananda Temple, Bupaya Pagoda, Dhammayangyi Temple and Htilominlo Temple. After lunch at a local NGO-run restaurant, the trip continues. At the evening, you will take an Ox Cart Ride to soak up in the beautiful sunset.

Sunset View of Bagan

Day 6Bagan | Sacred Mountain of Mt.Popa

One of the most-practiced religions in Myanmar, besides Hindu and Buddhism, is Nat Worship. Nat Worship predates Buddhism and it explained that everything has its own spirit. King Anawrahta of Bagan, who founded the first Burmese empire during his regime from 1044–1077, set up the official institution of 37 nats, some of which are souls of those who died tragically and remain unsettled, roaming the earth.
During today's 1 ½ hours of driving, you will have the chance to explore the rural life of Myanmar. At a local village, you will see palm-tree climbers get up to the treetop to collect palm juice for making sugar; then you will see how locals extract oil from peanuts and sesames in old-fashioned way.
After we arrive at Mountain Popa, you will visit a sanctuary of the 37 nats and learn about interesting stories. Later, climb up 777 stairsteps to reach the summit where Popa Taungkalat Monastery awaits. The mountain is 1518 metres above sea level and views at hilltop takes in the Bagan plain with numerous temples.
Lunch will be served at a mountain top resort facing Mt.Popa. Get back to Bagan in the afternoon.

Mt.Popa in mist viewd from afar

Day 7Bagan - Inle Lake - Kalaw

Domestic flight Heritage Hotel

Fly to Heho, the airport city for Inle Lake in Taunggyi District, Shan State. Transfer to Kalaw and check in hotel. Free to walk around this peaceful town.

Day 8Kalaw - Inle Lake | Trekking in Kalaw

Inle Resort & Spa / Aureum Inle Resort and Spa

Located at an elevation of 1320 metres, the former British hill station Kalaw enjoys a mild and cool climate and offers perfect trekking with natural landscape and laid-back hill tribes. A trek in Kalaw is like traveling back in time to see what life was like without electricity, internet, expresso machine, cars and drinkable tapping water.
At sunrise, have a fresh coffee and breakfast at your hotel before we hit the road. Trekking 9km from Kalaw gets you to our first destination Ywa Thit Village, home to the humble Palaung People. The Palaung is a Mon-Khmer ethnic group living in Myanmar, Thailand and south-western part of China and they live mainly on agriculture and weaving.
Going through the forest in the afternoon provides you a nice journey to Kalaw Reservoir. The reservoir was built in the 1920's and some endangered bird species have been found and recorded here, including red-headed vulture, Mrs.Hume's pheasant, oriental pied hornbill and sarus crane.
Stretch your legs after today's trekking on the way to Inle Lake, which is about 1 ½ hours by car.

A villager drying chilli under the sun in Ywa Thit Village

Day 9Inle Lake | Market Day of Inle Lake

Ever wonder how the villagers living in the floating houses get their daily suppliers? Today you will check out the 5-Day Market of the lake.
Your journey goes on after a lunch in a floating restaurant, next stop is Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda, the most worshipped shrine of the lake. During festivals, four Buddha images will be carried by boat on a river parade over the lake.
As your boat gets into some smaller waterways, you will have a chance to spot those legendary fishermen who row their flat-bottomed boats with only one leg. Learn about how the locals grow tomoatoes, lentils and other vegetables in the floating gardens. Get back to your hotel and rest at leisure.

Humble houses on stilts in Inle Lake

Day 10Inle Lake | Floating Pagodas in Indein

A narrow and twist creek connects Indein Village with the massive Inle Lake and it makes a great day trip to the famous Indein Pagoda Complex.
Paddling a canoe into the complex brings you into a fascinating world: farmers tendering the floating gardens by both side of the creek, villagers loading up goods to their boats and children over the floating houses waving hands to you from afar. The first-reached site is Nyaung Ohak, a hidden locale with hundreds of brick pagodas. Take an easy walk to Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda (Shwe Inn Thein), which is scarterred with over 1,000 pagodas.
Have lunch in a floating restaurant and return to your hotel in the early afternoon.

Sculptue of a holy angel in Indein Pagodas

Day 11Inle Lake - Yangon - Ngapali

Domestic flight Bayview - The Beach Resort / Aureum Resort and Spa

Fly to Thandwe and we have arranged you a transfer to your hotel. Free at leisure for the rest of today.
Burmese people are relatively shy and they avoid too much body exposal or affection display in public. It is also nice to respect their culture and lifestyles while sunbathing on the beach.

Day 12 & 13 Ngapali | Beach Free Days

Enjoy your free days in Ngapali Beach!

The unexploited beach of Ngapali is known as one of the best in Asia

Day 14 Ngapali - Yangon | Shwedagon Pagoda Glittering at Sunset

Domestic flight Novotel Yangon Max

Have some free time in Ngapali Beach and then fly to Yangon. On the way from the airport to downtown, you will make a stop at Aung San Suu Kyi's House, which is the witness of her unjustice capture of over 15 years.
Have lunch in a local restaurant and return to your hotel for a rest. Feel free to wonder around the streets. Visit U Thant House, here you will learn about anecdotes regarding this former UN secretary.
Get to the icon of Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda before sunset, which is the best time for an amazing view of its gold-and-jew-layerred stupa.

Splendid night view of Shwedagon Pagoda

Day 15 Yangon | Yangon Life Close-Up

Usually people don't see Yangon as a metropolise as the city is rather laid-back compared to Bangkok, Singapore or Ho Chi Minh City. Today take a train ride around the city to observe the cityscape.
Take a fun ride on Yangon Circular Train and you will be granted a great opportunity to watch the local commuters on their ways to school, workplaces or markets. After 30 minutes, get off at a local market in the Insein Station and saunter through lines of veggie and fruit vendors, eventually meet your private transfer at the exit.
Get back to downtown for a simple lunch at a local restaruant before your visit to the National Museum of Myanmar. A good collection including historic relics and household items is on display at this museum, providing an outline of the country.
Proceed to Bogyoke Aung San Market, which is named after General Aung San. No matter you want to do some memorabilia or just browsering, this place can be an intriguing experience.
The last stop will be Chaukhtatyi Paya, widely known of the gigantic reclining Buddha.

School kids playing in the street of Yangon

Day 16Yangon Departure, Myanmar

Domestic flight

Good time always flies fast. Today you will say goodbye to this amazing country and fly back home. Hope to see you again soon!

Asia Highlights handpicked hotels

Most hotels for foreign tourists in Myanmar were built in the late 1990's without A/C and limited choices. We pick your hotels based on good location, warm services and cozy room ammenties, guaranting you a nice stay.

Mandalay Mandalay Hill Resort
  • Ranked 11/110 on TripAdvisor.
  • Located by the hill foot and overlooking the city.
  • Superior Room is 32sqm, spacious with view of Mandalay Palace.
deluxe double cabin on makara queen cruise
Mandalay - Bagan CruiseMakara Queen
  • "high levels of personal service" quoted from Cruisecritic.
  • Four-deck ship with a crew of 30, great services and itineraries.
  • Deluxe Cabin, 26sqm, floor-to-ceiling window and balcony.
deluxe room at aye yar river view resort
BaganAye Yar River View Resort & Spa
  • Winner of Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor.
  • By the Ayeyarwaddy River, wide-open surroundings and setting.
  • Deluxe Room, 35sqm with balcony and garden view.
heritage suite at kalaw heritage hotel
KalawHeritage Hotel
  • Winner of Certificate of Excellence of TripAdvisor, ranked 14/14.
  • Garden setting, wide-open view of the mountains in Kalaw.
  • 40sqm-Heritage Suite in colonial deco, soft bed and garden view.
royal villa with private pond at inle resort
Inle Lake Inle Resort
  • Winner of Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor.
  • Wood-constructed villas in a quiet village, garden surrounding.
  • Royal Villa with Private Pond, 80sqm with great pond view.
deluxe room at bayview the beach resort ngapali
Ngapali Bayview - The Beach Resort
  • Winner of Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor, ranked 2/20.
  • On the beach, nice surrounding and run by German management board.
  • Deluxe Room with Garden View, 48sqm, large bed and balcony.
YangonSedona Hotel Yangon
  • Ranked 13/147 of hotels in Yangon.
  • Located by the Inya Lake, offering good view of the lake and the city.
  • Deluxe Room, 32sqm, view of Shwedagon Pagoda.

Journey information

  • Seasonal information: The best time to make this trip is during October to next April. Stromy weather during monsoon season (May to September) shuts down all flights to Thandwe (Thandwe is the airport city, 10 minutes of driving to Ngapali Beach). Also, the water level of the Irrawaddy River is just congenial to a relaxing downstream cruise.
    During the monsoon season, overland option is not optimism either, bad road conditions makes the 400km distance between Yangon and Ngapali Beach 20 hours of driving. However, if your travel plan falls during monsoon season, Ngapali Beach will be replaced with Ngwe Saung Beach, which is 5 hours away from Yangon by car.
  • Myanmar visa: People of all nationalities, except those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are required to obtain visa for Myanmar. You may apply for E-Visa online by yourself or we can issue you an approval letter for visa proceedure at the airport.
    Approval Letter will be used for eVisa application for air entry. Take your passport and 1 passport-size photo to get your passport stamped at one of the airports of Yangon, Mandalay or Nap Pyi Taw, with no extra cost at the airport. Myanmar Visas and How to Apply for.
  • General information for accommodation in Myanmar:Most hotels for foreign tourists in Myanmar were built in the late 1990's without A/C and limited choices. It is until recent years that A/C rooms and family rooms have become a standard for hotels when more and more foreign-funded hotels are being built. Hotels of Asia Highlights' selection are all with A/C and rooms of at least 30㎡. To ensure a cozy stay, Asia Highlights would suggest you choose hotels at a higher ranking.
  • Meals:Daily breakfast at hotels and a lunch for days with sightseeing are included, so are some dinners as mentioned in the itinerary. For meals that are not included, your tour guides will suggest where and what to eat.
    Food in Myanmar shares a lot with Indian cuisine. You will eat a lot of vegetables, fish, chicken and beef. If you would like to make special arrangements, such as Halal or Kosher food, or none-dairy, please inform your travel advisor at the time of inquiry. We will do our best to accommodate you.
    Just a heads-up: Halal options can be very limited in Bagan and Inle Lake, and we will use common restaurants and make special orders upon your permission.
  • Transportation: You will have a private car in each destination; our cars are within 5 years of usage and your private drivers will be polite and drive with strong regard for safety.
    In Myanmar, most airlines operate flights in the early morning. Although it might be a bit tiring at the beginning, good things are that the flights are fairly short, within one hour, and you get much time for activities or leisure in the next destination.
    As for overland connection, please be noted that road conditions are not very delightful in Myanmar and we wouldn't put you through discomfort from city to city as the 100km distance might take up to 5 hours.
  • Tour arrangements: Sightseeing, activities and accommodations that are mentioned in this tour you are looking at are just for your inspiration.
    Also, as for trekking in Kalaw, it is designed with some mildly intense trekking, average speed of 8km/h in mountainous dirt road and forest. However, we encourage you to talk with our travel advisor and set your own pace.
  • Responsible travel: Travel avails you with special experiences. Somehow its impact on the local community can be more beyond imagination and what Asia Highlights wishes to do is lead the impact onto a good path, a path that helps the local people (not only your tour guides) boarden their outlook and the local communities develop.
    During your trip, you will eat at a training restaurant where underprivileged youngsters get trained as a chef, ride on ox cart to reduce your carbon footprints and most commonly learn about the country's cultures with respect. Taking baby steps one at a time, we highly appreciate you would like to be part of it.
    With that being said, detours to so-called factories or specialty workshops are strictly prohibited. We make sure your tour guides earn enough to support their families without squeezing commissions out of you.
16 Days from $4,588p/p (Based on a 2-people private group)

Local guide

Most of our guides in Myanmar have at least 5 years of experience and their are extremely passionate for introducing you their motherland. We asign different guides in all destinations so as to better your chance blending with the locals.

Mini van

All of vehicles are in good maintanence and with A/C. Experienced, polit and professional drivers take the wheel, they will ensure you have a safe and smooth ride. We have bottled water, wet tissues, first-aid kit and baby car seat equipped with our vehicles.

What our clients say about us

My wife and I booked a private tour with Asian Highlights and they arranged a phenomenal vacation for us. Albee Ning was our Travel Agent and she took care of everything for us and did a phenomenal job... It was the perfect vacation and they handled every detail for us from meet and greet services at each airport, baggage handling, private tour guides and drivers at each location, good restaurants, and fantastic hotels throughout... Read more
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