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.
In the evening, you will be picked up at the airport in Yangon and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Yangon, also known as Rangoon, is Myanmar’s largest city and most important commercial hub, located in lower Myanmar at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago rivers. This former Burmese capital artfully combines tradition, culture and modernity and is home to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda, standing 99 meters high and dating back more than 2000 years. Pilgrimages and pagoda festivals abound, co-existing with modern day life that takes place in the ubiquitous tea shops found along the leafy avenues and fin-de-siecle architecture. Often called “the Garden City of the East," nature lovers will enjoy the city’s stunning 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 colonial-era architecture still standing. You will find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century building here, both religious and secular. This half day walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your expert guide will lead you through the back streets at a relaxed pace, as they explain to you the history of each building. Some of them sit empty, as others are getting restored and some are used for different purposes than when they were originally built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will, at least architecturally, take you a step back in time. Your journey will end with a 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. Your experienced guide will show you the best known temples of the area. Start the day climbing a pagoda, to reach a breathtaking view over the entire area. From here, you will explore other amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you.
Lunch will be enjoyed at a local restaurant and around 4:00 PM, you will continue the tour by horse cart to Pyathagyi pagoda. At the pagoda, you will have the opportunity to admire the sunset with some refreshing drinks! Oh, and of course the best part of this tour...whenever you pass by a temple that interests you, just ask your guide to stop to have a look at it! One of the many luxuries of private tours...the fact that you can cater it to your personal requests. After your excursion, you will be transferred back to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Located on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) river in central Myanmar, Bagan is famous for its picturesque Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins, more than 2,000 covering an area of 16 square miles many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. Every day you are not in Bagan should be a reminder that you're not there, taking pictures of it at sunrise, and exploring new pagodas in the balmy afternoons. Bagan at dawn really is a photographer's paradise you will remember for the rest of your life.
Today, you will visit the Minnanthu temple. Considered the favorite temple among frequent Bagan visitors, it is a quiet, beautiful area that is often completely deserted. Your guide will take you by car to this forgotten part of Bagan and will spread out a blanket for a picture perfect picnic. You will enjoy a delicious picnic lunch, right in the midst of this historical setting. You will also have the opportunity to visit two or three other ancient temples ruins in the area. Today is sure to be an unforgettable and tasty experience! (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.)
Today, your specially trained Elephant conservation guide will take you for a rewarding day in the Kalaw forest. You will have the chance to encounter elephants, their mahouts and people living in the surrounding areas.
Young tourism professionals from Kalaw, are the ones who decided to create this project in the local area. The project focuses on protecting the nature, elephants and traditions of the local people. In a major part of this private protected forest, the nature can grow undisturbed, creating a natural habitat for animals that could otherwise be easily hunted. The project includes creating a natural environment for some Myanmar elephants, as well as helping the local population to grow out of the vicious circle of poverty, through education and micro finance.
Once you have arrived, you will embark on your trek through the forest. Walks lasting anywhere from 30 minutes, all the way up to 5 hours are possible, you will just need to let us know what you prefer. Following the paths and alongside your guide, you will eventually find yourself in the natural surroundings of the jungle. Enjoy a delicious lunch of local specialties (often from Nepalese origin), served in a traditional village, amidst the nature of the jungle, or at the camp. After lunch, it will be time to start interacting with the fascinating elephants! You will have the chance to assist the mahout by washing and feeding these incredible creatures. After your unforgettable day, say goodbye to your new friends and walk back to the main road to meet your driver and continue by car to your hotel.
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.
Today mountain bikes are waiting for you to start a 4-5 hour biking trip to Indein. The trip is mostly off-road and technically easy with most of the roads being flat or downhill. However, the first hour some parts do go uphill.
Biking through numerous Pa O villages in an area where few foreigners have been before is a great experience. Stop on the way to enjoy the fantastic views over the lake and the Shan country side. Lunch is included in a local village and at the end of the trip we visit the ancient ruins of Indein. From Indein we continue to your hotel by private motorboat where your luggage is already delivered to the room. This is a great trip that can start from Kalaw, Nyaung Shwe, Khaung Dine or Heho. (This service is on a private basis.)
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, in the southern Shan State, is a vast natural lake surrounded by traditional Shan villages. On the lake itself, the Intha people have been living for many centuries in villages built entirely on stilts on the lake. Today, you will be transferred by private motorboat around the lake. This tour will allow you to discover the natural beauty of the lake, visit the floating gardens, see some of the famous leg rowers and have some tea at a local family’s home.
On and around the lake, traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule. You will have the opportunity to visit a colorful market frequented by Shan and PaO people living nearby. You will also be guided on a visit to a local cheroot factory, (where the Burmese cigars are made), floating tomato gardens and the beautiful Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. During this excursion, you will also stop at an Intha house, where a traditional lunch will be served to your liking. If you want, ask your guide to take you to a weaving factory as well, before you are returned 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 45 minute transfer will bring us to Shwe Nyaung where the kayaks are ready (2 persons per kayak) to start peddling on a creek that leads to Inle Lake. A landscape of fields filled with potatoes, rice, sugarcane, tomatoes, garlic and peanuts passes by while every now and then we stop in a traditional Shan or Intha village that hardly ever see foreign visitors. After about one hour we stop in a village for a 30 minute walk to meet some of the villagers in their house and learn more about their lifestyle.
We continue peddling and visit a local house in village to have a cup of tea and get to know the people living in this Intha village. Around lunch time we arrive at a picnic spot where a blanket is spread out in a bamboo forest and lunch is served. In the afternoon we stop two more times in local villages before we arrive around 3pm in Nyaung Shwe where we leave the kayaks and we walk back to our hotel. (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. You will start with a visit to the old capital of Amarapura, a quiet village where you will hear the soothing sound of weaving machines. Walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and traverse over the U-Bein Bridge, where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886!
Proceed with a Visit to the Mahamuni pagoda and admire the century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound, with locals sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Find a marble statue at the next stop at the marble carving street 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 built in 1857. Mandalayans 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. A long procession of monks doing their alms-receiving-rounds in the mornings is a common sight in Mandalay. Mandalay has also produced great artisans, dancers, song-writers and traditional musicians.
Mandalay, alongside other former royal capitals in the area have all been capital cities due to one major reason: they are all situated on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy). Feel the breeze of the river and imagine how it must have been to arrive by boat in Mingun or at the court of Ava. From the jetty in Mandalay, you will head upstream to Mingun and visit the Mingun Pagoda. This Pagoda is known for it's large crack caused from an earthquake and it's giant bronze bell.
Continuing on your excursion, you will take a leisurely boat cruise for about 3 hours downstream to Ava. A simple lunch will be served, while cruising down the river. Arriving in Ava, horse carts will be awaiting you for a ride to a magnificent site with various ancient temples and ruins. These used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Eventually, you will be returned to Mandalay by car. (This service is on a private basis.)
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.)
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 offering 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 has become one spectacular scene, the colorful embroidery and minority dances combine with the natural sceneries, which will surely leave you 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 middle area of the county, which is more than 2400 meters high above sea level. It enjoys beautiful scenes, an indeed famous city with 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.
Then visit 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.
You will enjoy lunch at No.8 Lv Xue Zhai Restaurant today. (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.
Noted as the highest tourist cable in China, the Large Cable way goes up to Shanzidou (Shanzi Peak) the main peak of the snow mountain, with the an entire length of 2,914m, a top altitude of 4,506 km, and a perpendicular ascent of 1,150m. The cable car will take you into the clouds, where you will be far away from the worldly hurly-burly, and find yourself in a real paradise. Many visit Ganhanzi, Baishuihe (White Water River), and Glacier Park from this cableway.
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 the Tibet Buddhism, Confucian and Taoism. Drop by Dr. Ho's clinic, an experienced traditional Chinese medicine doctor in Lijiang. Visitors will see how Dr. Ho and his apprentices diagnose and treat patients, and get to know about the local clinic and herb culture. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Lijiang and transferred to the airport. (This service is on a private basis.)
This 208-room hotel is built from 7,000 tons of Golden Teak and is surrounded by a beautiful forest on the shores of Rangoon's Royal Lake - just a stone's throw from the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. Originally opened as the Rangoon Rowing Club in 1934, the property retains much of its colonial architecture; while more recent villas and a new wing add a distinct Burmese flavor to the overall design.
Surrounded by more than 4000 ancient temples and Pagodas, you will be enchanted by the breathtaking views. The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate is within 5 minutes walking distance to the spectacular Ananda Temple known as ‘The Jewel of Bagan’. The Hotel offers 83 luxury rooms including 4 Suites. Every room is decorated with teak floors and typical Burmese furniture. All rooms are fully air-conditioned and feature an IDD Telephone line, Sat- Television, Safety Deposit Box, Mini Bar and a private Garden. Each room with its high ceiling and different hand painted wall painting which are all copies of original Temple Painting of the Bagan period.
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 GuanFang Hotel Qidian is in the center of Lijiang and faces Yulong Mountain. Its 288 rooms boast modern facilities and comfortable and welcoming accommodations.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.