This itinerary was selected by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as one of 2015's "50 Tours of A Lifetime."
Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, Myanmar has long captivated the imagination of the discerning traveler. Unfortunately, due to the dire political situation Myanmar's legendary beauty and fascinating culture has remained relatively unexplored. Although renowned for its countless temples and celebrated Buddhist heritage, Myanmar's stunning landscape and natural beauty has remained a relative secret.
China may be modernizing at a break-neck pace, but the quicksilver skyscrapers and bullet trains are a thin veneer. The world's oldest continuous civilization is bound to pull a cultural artifact or two out of its hat. Ponder the legends surrounding the Forbidden City, let your imagination fly on the Great Wall and dive into a culture thousands of years in the making.
Welcome to Myanmar! Upon arrival at the airport in Yangon International Airport, clear Immigration and Customs and proceed into the arrivals area, where you will be greeted by your private guide and driver for your hotel transfer. When you reach your hotel, check in, get settled and freshen up. (This service is on a private basis.)
Yangon, also known as Rangoon, is Myanmar’s largest city and most important commercial hub, located at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers. This former Burmese capital, creatively blends tradition, culture and modernity. It is home to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda, which dates back more than 2,000 years. From pilgrimages and pagoda festivals, to ubiquitous tea shops and cosmopolitan avenues, you can find it all in Yangon. Often called the "Garden City of the East", nature lovers will enjoy the city’s pristine lakes, verdant tropical trees and spacious parks.
Interested in discovering what is behind the golden facade of the Shwedagon Pagoda? During this interactive half day tour, you will be guided through the back door, to reveal what is usually hidden from travelers. Understand the full history of the pagoda, the daily life of the people living in the immediate surroundings, and gain a deeper insight in the Buddhist religion and how their spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits. This intriguing adventure will begin from the bottom of the hill, passing the workshops, markets and monasteries, which will be useful, or even essential, to have a true understanding of the country during the rest of your journey. This excursion includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, a visit to a fortune teller and a Burmese lunch. (This service is on a private basis.)
Yangon's downtown is unique, with much of its ancient colonial architecture still standing. The city boasts some of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, both religious and secular. On this half day exploration, you will venture through downtown Yangon, focusing on the city's old colonial buildings. Your guide will lead you through the back streets at a leisurely pace, as you learn about the history of each building. Some of them sit empty, while others are in the restoration process, and many are occupied for different purposes than when they were originally built. Showcasing Yangon's architectural treasures, this tour will take you back in time, ending with a refreshing drink at a local restaurant. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Yangon and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Bagan. Upon arrival in Bagan, you will be greeted at the airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you will embark on a full-day tour by car through Bagan. Learning through the eyes of your experienced guide, the focus of this tour introduces the best-known temples of the area. Your adventure begins with a climb to the top of a hill from where you can genuinely appreciate the iconic temple views. From the top, you will see the ancient ruins rising from the rice plains in every direction. It is this enchanting scenery that puts Bagan on the map. After time for plenty of photos, your exploration continues to other nearby temples, including some that are several centuries old. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you.
This afternoon, you will stop for lunch at a local restaurant, before riding by horse cart to your next location. You will arrive just in time to admire the colorful sunset. Enjoy the enchanting scenery, as your guide serves refreshing beverages and another beautiful day in Bagan comes to an end. This tour includes a contribution to local charity initiatives. (This service is on a private basis.)
Located on the eastern banks of the Irrawaddy River in central Myanmar, Bagan is famous for its picturesque Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins. More than 2,000 of these extraordinary treasures cover an area of 16 square miles, many of which date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. Bagan is the ultimate photographer's paradise. No matter if it's the colorful hour of dawn or the balmy late afternoons, the impressive pagodas that decorate the landscape, is truly picture perfect.
This afternoon, you will visit Minnanthu Temple. A favorite among frequent Bagan visitors, this historic temple is set in a quiet area, that is often entirely deserted. In this enchanting forgotten part of Bagan, your guide will lay down a blanket for a nice picnic lunch surrounded by the ancient ruins. After lunch, you will have time to visit a few other ancient temples in the area before heading back into the city. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Bagan and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Heho. Upon arrival in Heho, you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to Kalaw. (This service is on a private basis.)
On this adventurous tour, your guide will take you for a rewarding day into the forests surrounding Kalaw, where you will encounter elephants, their mahouts, and people living in the region. Young tourism professionals from Kalaw town decided to set-up Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, a project that is focused on protecting nature, providing care for elephants that are no longer fit to work, and preserving the traditions of local people living in and around Kalaw – a hill station during British colonial rule that today is popular for hiking and trekking. In a big part of this privately protected forest, a natural habitat has been set aside for animals that would otherwise be vulnerable to hunting and poaching. The tour begins with a private car ride to the starting point of this trek, which is mainly downhill, walking through forest. You arrive at the main camp where the specialized staff will explain to you about their project and the daily activities at the camp. A delicious lunch of Nepalese food will be served to you. It’s then time to help the mahouts wash and feed the elephants. You will also be invited to plant a tree, before driving back in the late afternoon to Kalaw town.
Sitting at an elevation of 4300 feet, the peaceful hill station of Kalaw offers a lush, cool respite from the heat of the plains. Known for its trekking, Kalaw is also interesting culturally with a diverse population of Shan, Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims as well as Nepali Gurkhas who came to Kalaw to build the roads and railway line under British rule. Kalaw is the main setting of the novel “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” by Jan-Philipp Sendker.
For this fantastic mountain bike ride from Aung Ban to Indein, you will first be picked up and driven to Aung Ban (approx. 30-minutes’ drive), where your bike is waiting. The ride to Indein, which lies southwest of Inle Lake, is one of the best ways to see the lake and surrounding countryside. The journey is mostly off-road and technically easy with most of the terrain flat or downhill. However, during the first hour, there are a few small uphill climbs. Biking through Pa'O villages in an area where few foreigners have been is a thrilling experience. Lunch is enjoyed at a local village on the way. From Indein, you continue to your hotel by private motorboat. (This service is on a private basis.)
(Please note: the last part of the bike journey is downhill, so we urge you to go very slowly and use your brakes, or you can even opt to get off your bike and walk. If preferred, an alternative bike route over flatter terrain can be offered from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein.
Magical Inle Lake is a vast natural freshwater lake located in the heart of Shan State, part of Shan Hills in Myanmar bordering Laos and Thailand. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles, and one of the highest at an elevation of 2,900 feet. A wonderful watery world of floating gardens, stilted villages and crumbling stupas, Inle Lake is a place to be savored. Watch the unique leg-rowers of the Inthas, the native lake dwellers. Revel in colorful floating markets, meditative monasteries and interesting hill tribe villages in the surrounding mountains.
Inle Lake is surrounded by traditional Shan Villages, where the Intha people have been living for many centuries, in villages built entirely on stilts above the water. Today's tour begins with a ride on a private motorboat around the lake. This offers the chance to truly appreciate the natural beauty of the lake, visit the floating gardens, observe some of the famous leg rowers and enjoy some tea at a local family’s home. On and around the lake, traditional markets are held in various villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule. During this excursion, you will visit one of these colorful markets, frequented by the local Shan and PaO people. You will also stop at a local cheroot factory, where Burmese cigars are made, before visiting a floating tomato garden and the beautiful Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. This afternoon, you will be invited into a local Intha home for a traditional lunch, served to your liking. Your guide can also take you to a weaving factory if you are interested, before returning to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Explore the pristine surroundings of Inle Lake with a kayak to soak in the sound of nature. An active adventure is waiting today as we tour via kayak through rural villages in this part of Shan state. A short motorboat transfer will bring you to Phaw Khone, the famous weaving village on stilts belonging to the Intha people. Lightweight kayaks are waiting for you to start paddling on the lake (2 persons per kayak) for a trip to rural areas few outsiders have the opportunity to visit.
After about a hour of paddling, you will stop in a village to learn more about the Intha people and their local food production including potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, and much more. You will continue your journey by kayak before stopping to have lunch at a local Intha home where a family will welcome you for a delicious home-cooked meal.
You will leave the kayaks behind and return to your hotel by motorboat. There is an option to continue visiting other places on the lake with the motorboat and guide. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Inle and transferred to the Heho Airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Mandalay. Upon arrival in Mandalay, you will be greeted by your driver and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
This tour is the perfect introduction to Mandalay. Your exploration begins with a visit to Amarapura, a township in southern Mandalay that was once the capital of Myanmar. Known for its traditional silk and cotton weaving, as well as bronze casting, it’s a truly fascinating experience watching the weavers at work. Walk through the famous Mahagandayon Monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100-year-old weaving vocational training institution, and traverse U-Bein Bridge, where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886!
Proceed with a visit to the Mahamuni Buddha Temple and admire the century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound, with pilgrims from all across the country arriving to worship and make merit, some applying gold leaves to the Buddha. The Chanmyathazi neighborhood is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Marble statues can be found at the workshops employing many young men and boys at your next stop, the marble carving street. You'll have time to see sculptors carving statues from solid blocks of white marble before heading back to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma, lies in central Myanmar on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River. The name "Mandalay" evokes visions of rich history and exotic cultures. However, this relatively young royal city, considered by many to be the heart of Burmese culture, was actually built in 1857. The locals are known for their generous and charitable nature, primarily due to the fact that the area holds the world's largest number of monks to be found in any one place.
Today, you will enjoy a river cruise experience up the majestic Irrawaddy to the explore the city of Mingun. A short ride from the hotel brings you to the Mingun jetty where your boat is ready to cruise upstream. You’ll soon arrive on the banks of the unfinished city of Mingun, home to a number of incomplete archaeological curiosities. Visit the partially constructed Mingun Paya, originally designed to become one of the world’s largest Buddhist stupas (religious temples). You’ll also visit the Mingun Bell, a bronze bell commissioned in 1808 by Myanmar’s King Bodawpaya that weighs around 90 tons.
After your exploration, you will return to Mandalay by boat to visit the lively Yadanabon Market, which starts at 3:00 PM. You'll stop for lunch en route at a nearby restaurant.
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Mandalay and transferred to the airport in good time to board your international flight to Kunming, China. Upon arrival in Kunming, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
*Please note: Flight is not included but can be arranged upon request.
Kunming enjoys all the benefits of a modern Chinese city, without the pressure of living up to the standards set by Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai. This is laid back Chinese living, and a few days in Kunming is really worth one's time. Americans and Europeans who want to live in China are beginning to choose Kunming over other Chinese cities for this more familiar lifestyle. Other than the city life, there are some beautiful Karst landscapes in the mountains surrounding the city, and a few days can be lost exploring the temples that dot the city itself.
Today you will be met at your hotel to embark on a tour of the Jiuxiang Caves and the Stone Forest. Enjoy lunch at the Stone Forest Hotel.
Jiuxiang Caves are situated in Jiuxiang Township, about 70 kilometers from Kunming. There are more than one hundred karst caves in Jiuxiang scenic area. The caves at Jiuxiang are the largest cave group system in China. Inside the cave are many well-developed and wonderful stalactites and stalagmites, which look like pretty fairies welcoming their guests. Names have been given to them such as "Fairies Welcoming Guests", "Woman Weaver", and "The Fairy is coming out of bathing".
Note: The final stage is to climb up Bat Cave. This is the most challenging part as there are about 336 steps. Sometimes there are laborers who offer a sedan chair service.
A fantastic natural phenomena, the Stone Forest, is located 90 km southeast of Kunming. The various shapes of karst landscape was formed due to millions of years' movement of Earth. The Stone Forest area is the home of the Sani people. Their folk customs have become part of a spectacular scene. The colorful embroidery and minority dances combine with the natural scenery, which will surely leave a deep impression. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Kunming and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Lijiang. Upon arrival in Lijiang, you will be greeted at the airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Lijiang is situated in the northwest of Yunnan province, and is more than 2400 meters above sea level. It boasts beautiful scenery, and is famed for its long history and splendid culture. It is very rare in China that such well-preserved minority ancient cities still exist. The old town is quite busy in the afternoon and evening with an active atmosphere of the lights and crowd. An early morning visit will be less crowded.
You will visit Jade Spring Park and the beautiful Black Dragon Pool at the foot of Elephant Hill before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant specializing in Naxi cuisine.
You continue on to Wangu Tower. Located on the top of Lion Hill, Wangu is the landmark building of Lijiang ancient town. This pure wood building is 33 meters (108 ft) tall, overlooking the scenery of Lijiang at its foot, and looking out to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance.(This service is on a private basis.)
Lijiang is famous for its winding maze of cobblestone streets that let one wander, and get lost, in its twisting turns. "Famous" is certainly the right word, as the large volume of tourists fill up the narrow streets pretty quickly in the morning. Though there are plenty of opportunities to leave the Old City district, we encourage our travelers to settle in and take part in the frantic shuffle. This is a rare opportunity to experience an ancient city that still functions at full capacity every day. One can really feel the energy left here by millions of people over centuries of activity.
Today after breakfast you will enjoy a tourist cable ride up Jade Dragon Mountain and visit the Baisha Murals at Baisha Village.
Painted over a thousand years ago, the murals of Baisha Village, combine the cultures of Han, Tibetan, and Naxi people displaying the life stories of Tibet Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
Half way up Shanzidou, in the spruce jungle, is a hidden a vast area called Spruce Meadow. Its altitude is 3,240m and every spring and summer, the meadow stands out on the mountain ridge like a carpet of greenery.
Lunch will be enjoyed at Impressions of Baisha Cafe which offers unique dishes such as yak beef stir fry, Naxi fried noodles, and more. You will also learn how to prepare Naxi baba (pancake). You'll knead dough, roll it out, add seasoning, and watch your baba being fried to perfection.
After lunch, you'll visit a Naxi Dongba, the local shaman. In ancient times, a Dongba created the Naxi national characters, the Dongba script. You will be able to learn about the Naxi people's words, music, and relationship between nature and humans in their culture. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight. (This service is on a private basis.)
Since founded in 1995, the Savoy Hotel Yangon has been in private ownership, as a boutique heritage property. Each of the hotel's 95 full time employees are committed to quality service and exceeding expectations. A total of 30 deluxe rooms, including six suites, offer an experience of old world charm, styled with traditional Myanmar antiques, teak furniture and spacious bathrooms. The Savoy is idyllically located overlooking the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda and the nearby People's Park, just ten minutes drive from the city center and 20 minutes to the International Airport. Nicely overshadowed by tall ancient trees, the pool and outdoor lounge area offer a silent oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
Perched on the edge of an archaeological wonderland, Bagan Lodge is a gateway to some of the world's most magnificent temples and pagodas. The elegant rooms and suites evoke the romance of a storied expedition, albeit in posh, air-conditioned comfort. The delicious restaurant and bars are fuel to the fire of local adventure, and the swimming pool and spa promise an oasis at any time of day. You can indulge in your own personal paradise, here at Bagan Lodge.
The Amara Mountain Resort is a former colonial residence in Shan mountain range, Kalaw, Myanmar. Each of its 10 spacious rooms are individually decorated in Asian and European style. They each have an open fireplace and a private bathroom made of marble and wood. The restaurant features both Western and local dishes and is located amongst the property's trees and gardens.
Magnificently located on the shores of the Inlay Lake, this Boutique Eco-Resort & Spa is one of the finest resorts in this unique tourist destination. Custom built and designed with the detailed flair of traditional native style architecture, the Inle Resort & Spa is recognized by it's signature roof, prominent on the Lake; a welcome beacon to all guests. Located in an ideal spot, the resort has character and quality facilities, topped with personalized service. As a long-term stakeholder, Inle Resort & Spa is fully committed to responsible tourism for the ecological and cultural protection of the Lake environment.
Myanmar is like no other place on earth. Renowned as “The Golden Land” a name inspired by Marco Polo to describe the dramatic view of the gold-spired pagodas that can be found throughout the country. Mandalay, the former capital city of the Myanmar Kingdom, is a spectacular destination for historical and cultural travelers. Mandalay Hill Resort lies at the foot of Mandalay Hill with a panoramic view of a myriad of pagodas and faces the distinctive architecture of the Royal Palace and its beautiful moat. Your visit enhanced by the fun-loving hospitable people of Myanmar whose lives remain simple and relaxed will become treasured and timeless memories. Just one hour by air from Yangon and twenty minutes flight from Bagan, Mandalay lies within reach of some of most remarkable archaeological sites in the world that has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly a thousand years.
This 28 story hotel near Wujiaba Airport was built in 1998 and underwent a partial renovation as quickly as 2004. Many of the hotel's employees speak English and its management is proud of the amount of hotel experience they collectively have. All the rooms are designed with international travellers in mind, and the hotel has made sure Western amenities are the norm throughout.
The Bivou Lijiang, located in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lijiang, is a designer guesthouse for the modern adventurer. Housed within two historic farmyards built by the area’s Naxi minority tribe, the 16 rooms look out over private gardens landscaped to reflect the full color and fragrances of the changing seasons. Built around houses that have stood on the site for over a hundred years, The Bivou stays true to its roots and celebrates the authentic building techniques of the local villagers. At the same time, sustainability lies at the core: from the use of bamboo floors in the interiors to the installation of super-efficient LED lighting throughout the lodge. Solar panels provide renewable heat to all our guest rooms, and insulated glass ensures maximum comfort within even during cold nights.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.
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