Explore the temples of Bagan, one of the world's great religious fables and a mystical collection of architecture from bygone centuries
Visit ancient monasteries and meet the monks that inhabit them
Travel along the Irrawaddy River, disembarking to find Buddha images in trees and thousands of exquisite stupas
Marvel at the 450,000 Buddha images that fill the sandstone caves of Hpo Win Daung
Absorb the spirituality of Pindaya, where pilgrims join you in visiting the ancient caves
Journey through the centuries in Mandalay, exploring iconic former capitals and cruising along the river to Mingun
Discover local life around Inle Lake, including enchanting stilt villages in the water and the traditions of Buddhism in the area
Complete the trip in Yangon, where shimmering golden temples are juxtaposed with the relics of colonial rule
(Day 1): Bagan – A Famous Sunset Welcome to Myanmar
(Day 2): Bagan – Exquisite Temples of Bagan
(Day 3): Bagan – Hot Air Ballooning Above 2300 Temples
(Day 4): Pakokku to Monywa – Serene Travel Along the Mighty Irrawaddy
(Day 5): Hpo Win Daung to Mandalay – Murals and Buddha Statues Along the Chindwin River
(Day 6): Mandalay – Exploring Buddhism in Working Monasteries
(Day 7): Mandalay – Day Trip Along the River to Mingun
(Day 8): Pindaya to Inle Lake – Through Shan Hills to the Pindaya Caves
(Day 9): Inle Lake – Stilt Villages and Local Life Along the Lake
(Day 10): Yangon – Golden Temples of the Colonial City
(Day 11): Yangon – Departure
Myanmar floats on a spiritual carpet, the local life revolving around Buddhism and its enchantment. As red-robed monks chant softly inside ancient temples, pilgrims wander to gold-enshrouded pagodas. The architecture is sublime, unraveling all the styles and sizes of Buddhist design; caves filled with hundreds of thousands of Buddha images and murals, stupas adorned with exquisite tones, monasteries bathing in simple beauty. It's the scale that will most impress, both with the abundance of iconic monuments and the unequivocal commitment to Buddhist principles found in all corners of the country.
This handcrafted luxury tour takes an intimate journey into the Buddhist beauty of Myanmar. Capture the modern mystique of the country while exploring all of the evocative histories it offers. Not just a sightseeing tour, rather a journey to discover all of the religious landmarks and dozens of sacred temples. This 11-day vacation unravels the complexities of a nation, enabling you to meet the locals and discover how Buddhism dominates all life in the country. There's 10th-century sandstone temples and glowing golden pagodas, hypnotic processions of monks receiving daily alms, young monks practicing their English at sunset, and pilgrimage sites imbued with a surreal atmosphere.
Bagan is the natural starting point with over 2000 ancient temples revealing the ambiance of the 9th to 12th centuries. They stand proudly though unrestored, places of worship that rise beside each other on dusty plains. A hot air balloon unveils the scale while an expert-guided tour showcases where Buddhist chanting continues to fill millennia-old temples. Then move your travels along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers to Mandalay, absorbing the atmosphere of local villages and religious monuments that hide in caves and mountains. Mandalay offers an intriguing insight into Buddhism in the city, and you'll have many opportunities to explore its complexities with local monks.
Also around Mandalay are Myanmar's ancient capitals, vivid memoirs that are defined by their iconic architecture. Continue your journey as you enter into Shan state, a land of contrasting tribal groups that are united by religion. Join the pilgrims in admiring the Buddha images of Pindaya Caves, then discover stilt villages and places of worship only accessible by canoe. A day in Yangon completes the itinerary, the country's most important Buddhist monument an indelible conclusion to a tour through Myanmar's spiritual heart. Throughout the itinerary, a series of expert local guides ensure you capture the stories that lie behind the evocative sights.
Bagan can be a baffling sight. From the hotel rooftop, gaze across the plains admiring dozens of pagodas as they rise above hues of red and green. There are far too many to count with sculpted sandstone pinnacles rising at every angle. In total, enjoy over 2,200 temples and pagodas, the results of a building boom dating from the 9th to 12th centuries. You'll be greeted at the airport in Bagan and transferred to a luxury hotel inside the World Heritage Site, where the rooftop provides an inspiring introduction to one of the world's greatest religious destinations.
Your guide will lead you into the hypnotism, eyes constantly focusing on another pagoda or stupa. Scale can't be appreciated from ground level, and every few hundred meters brings clusters of dozens of historical relics. Monks sit cross-legged outside temples while soft chanting emanates from others. Travel by horse and carriage, softly rolling past the temples of the Central Plains. Climb the inner staircase of Temple 742, rising on three flights of stone to a tranquil platform for watching the sunset. While some of the temples can be overcrowded with tourists at sunset, this lost relic in the heart of the plains rarely sees more than three or four. The sun dips behind towering monuments, and the image captures a country's essence: serene, spiritual, and sublime.
What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, sunset horse and carriage tour
Bagan's relics cross the centuries, revealing how Buddhism was celebrated in different times. There's Shwezigon Pagoda, the 11th-century masterpiece from King Anawrahta, imposing in size and boisterous in design. Gold-laced giant Buddhas dominate Ananda, a temple that also delights the eyes with fabulous ornate carvings. Kubyanuk Gyi is subtle, inviting you to explore millennia-old murals of Jataka scenes. Nanpaya Temple, a sandstone palace of King Manuha, is now crumbling with remarkable grace. Even more ancient mural paintings fill Myinkaba Gubyaukgyi, while the gold facade of towering Shwesandaw Pagoda continues to shimmer. These monuments are just the start as Bagan has so many temples and pagodas that most are only named with a number.
Continue to explore the architectural styles on a private tour across Bagan. Your guide explores how the monuments reflect differing odes to Buddha, along with the sites that became a blueprint for temples across the continent. Yet, this is not merely a historical tour. Red-robed monks chant softly as they meditate inside the sandstone walls as younger monks rest on the shaded temple rooftops, passing the day with chatter and smiles. Many are eager to say hello, and they are not bashful in answering questions. It's an intriguing tale! These monks offer an insight into Buddhist lifestyles and are surprisingly open in sharing stories about life in Myanmar over the last decades. Your full-day tour ends with sunset, another hidden temple providing peace and postcard views.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast
Bagan's scale is only truly understood from the air. With an aerial vantage point watch how the landscape unfolds, temples and pagodas rising everywhere. Nowhere is empty, always another cluster of stupas or sandstone between the trees. Bagan is mostly uninhabited, other than two villages on the outskirts of the historical site. What you see is not a series of temples amongst other buildings; it's monuments that rise unopposed. Sunrise adds further imagery to your hot air balloon flight above Bagan, an excursion that ranks at the very top of experiences in Myanmar. Return to the hotel and enjoy brunch before a relaxed morning in Old Bagan. The afternoon provides a second chance to get amongst the temple site, a tailored tour taking you to the temples of Nyaung U to see those that continue to be important daily sites for locals to meditate.
What's Included: accommodation, sunrise hot air balloon tour, half-day temples tour, breakfast, brunch
The Irrawaddy has always connected life in Myanmar, and the meandering river continues to command the heart of the country. Slowly pass tiny villages on a river cruise, wave to children splashing in the shallows and appreciate the odd assortment of stilt houses. Stop in Pakokku and explore the markets, local places filled with resonance and intriguing locals. Throughout Myanmar, you will find that the people are as interested in you as you are in them. Many stops with the camera bring delighted children seeking a portrait while every market stall is an opportunity to connect with the inspiring people of a nation.
After lunch, continue to Monywa, a city on the Chindwin River that's packed with cultural treasures. At Botahtaung, walk through the banyan and bo trees, thousands of Buddha images sitting unperturbed amongst the exposed roots. Rising on the Po Khaung hills is Setkaya Pagoda, an elegant monument that's always alive with the chatter of monks. Like Bagan, the scale of Monywa attractions is unfathomable. Visit Thanboddhay Pagoda and some 8,465 stupas rise in neat rows, tiny places of worship that converge on an adorned central stupa that glows with a myriad of tones. Monywa is a small atmospheric city and the evening can be spent amongst the traditional night markets.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day private tour including Irrawaddy cruise, breakfast, lunch
Cross the Chindwin River, women washing clothes along the banks and the waters filled with fishing boats. On route to Mandalay, stop at Hpo Win Daung where a labyrinth of sandstone caves have evolved as an ode to Buddha. Hundreds of thousands of Buddha images are hidden here, some tiny wooden carvings, others fine mural paintings, and then those that rise high with sculpted elegance. Like always, there's a scale that complements the subtle details. Arrive in Mandalay and spend the late afternoon on Sagaing Hill, where hundreds of young monks go to watch the sunset and practice their English with foreigners. As the sun dips behind the iconic city, you'll probably be engrossed in conversation as a group of monks crowds around sharing their stories and tales.
What's included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast, lunch
Ancient capitals dot the landscape around Mandalay, remains of empires capturing the rich history of Myanmar from the time before the country was renamed Burma by the British. At Amarapura, walk across the two-century-old U Bein Bridge made solely from teak and stretching nearly a mile across the lake. More than 1500 Buddhist monks gather at Mahagandayon Monastery, their monotone robes matching a simple yet evocative building. You are free to explore, and monks come quickly over to guide your journey, revealing life in the monastery and explaining how almost every male in the country will have spent some time as a young monk.
Continue to Mahamuni, where thick layers of gold leaf have altered the shape of a Buddha statue. Move on to the sublime wooden layers of Shwenandaw Kyaung, another monastery that invites you into a peaceful world. Now the world's largest book, Buddhist scriptures are intimately carved into 729 marble slabs found in Kuthodaw Pagoda. It's not a historical monument, it's a teaching document, and you'll see many locals memorizing the chants that cover the giant stretches of marble. This tour is private and runs at a relaxed pace, with a focus on exploring both the historical sights and the living ambiance that inhabits them.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast, lunch
An early rise unveils a hypnotic scene--a procession of monks walking through the streets and talking alms, receiving gifts of food from locals who share everything they have. Then it's back on the river, along the waterway into the region of Mingun. Treasures dapple the landscape like a faded tapestry, each an ode to aspiration and the dreams of old empires. Pahtodawgyi would have been the world's largest pagoda, but it was never finished--the scale of its base is unfathomable. Nearby, a 90-ton bell emits a sonorous tone, a single bellowing sound that cascades across the valley. Settle at a teak wood monastery for a chance to reflect with senior monks. While at pristine Myatheindan Pagoda, sit down and watch villages tumble across the valley. Move into the afternoon, and you're back in Mandalay visiting local markets along the riverbank before dining with exquisite sunset views.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner
Shan State is populated with ethnic tribes that have always been different from the ruling Burmese. They live amongst vibrant rice paddies and thick jungle, a green landscape that hides lifestyles unchanged for centuries. Uniting these tribes is Buddhism, a single religion that has brought so many cultures peacefully together. Journey along a narrow road to Pindaya, where a market provides the weekly meeting point for many tribes and women carry produce in their head-baskets. Pilgrims from various ethnic groups create a procession of life winding into the Pindaya Caves, offering their respects to the thousands of Buddha images. Many pilgrims leave their own small sculpture, so the number of Buddhas increases day by day. From Pindaya, descend past the rice fields where ox carts are a common sight as you arrive at Inle Lake. A luxury hotel is built on stilts above the lake, offering a stunning 360-degree panorama of tranquil water and undulating Shan Hills.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast, lunch
Many Inle villages rise on stilts, each house surrounded by water and every journey made by boat rather than two feet. Cruising throughout, you are immersed in mystique, waterways carved between bamboo villages. Fruits and vegetables are grown in floating gardens while fishermen row with their legs. Boats are the only way to get around, even for those going to meditate. Cruise to Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, where jumping cats have been expertly trained by monks, then onto pagodas that rise like a phantom from artificial islands in the water. A local market of bamboo stalls continues the immersion in traditional life, its mazy streets filled with colorful fruit and welcoming smiles. The boat tour includes lunch before your afternoon is free to relax along the lake.
What's Included: accommodation, full-day tour, breakfast, lunch
It's a direct flight to Yangon, where you have a day amongst the juxtaposition of styles. The city presents the most complete and untouched colonial center in Asia, most architecture dating to the early 20th century. Some of it has been restored, like the delightful Strand Hotel, your five-star accommodation for the night. Most of it hasn't been renovated, giving an image of a city that's frozen in time. Amongst the colonial charms are a series of golden pagodas, each a glistening showcase and a hugely important pilgrimage site. At Sule Pagoda, you'll see dozens of locals meditating while at Shwedagon, you'll see hundreds, perhaps thousands. Constructed from 60 tons of pure gold, the pagoda rises almost 100 meters into the sky, glowing through different colors as the afternoon sun begins to set across the sky. Dozens of rooms line the complex, and it's easy to fall silent as you watch the monks ringing bells and wandering barefoot around the country's most important Buddhist monument.
What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfers, half-day tour, breakfast
Myanmar is increasingly connected to the world as a range of intercontinental flights are now possible from Yangon. Today you depart the country, your guide transferring you to the airport after breakfast. Photos will showcase the aesthetic wonders of the country, but Myanmar's spiritual atmosphere isn't something that can't be captured in a single image, it's a feeling that lives on through your impressions.
What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast
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