From colourful local markets to mystical temple strewn plains, this short, yet action packed itinerary has it all. Those with more time may wish to consider linking this with Tour Mandalay’s Jewels of the South itinerary.
An example of a typical Mystical Myanmar itinerary can be found below. Please note that this is merely a suggestion and all of the arrangements can be tweaked and tailored to your heart’s content. By clicking on the day it’s possible to read more about the general logistics and featured excursions.
Day 1 - Mandalay (Thaye Zay Station Bazaar / Golden Palace Monastery / U Bein Bridge)
Start your exploration of Mandalay with a visit to the Thaye Zay Station Bazaar – a pop-up market that stops business every so often to make way for passing freight trains. Once you have finished exploring the market, make your way to the exit where a trishaw will be waiting – from here you will then be pedalled to the impressive Shewnandaw Monastery, via the city’s iconic Palace Walls. Later this afternoon, drive to U-Bein ‘stilted’ Bridge to enjoy the sunset from a private boat – the silhouette you will see is one of the most photographed images in the country.
Day 2 - Mandalay (Mingun / Sagaing)
You will be collected early this morning and driven to Mandalay’s jetty to board a private river boat to Mingun, a small town famous for its crumbling pagoda ruins (Mingun Pahto) and a 3.7 metre high bronze bell. After lunch you will then travel 20km south-west of Mandalay to the religious and monastic centre of Sagaing. Here you will explore a variety of important sites including Soon U Ponya Shin, the central pagoda that commands magnificent views of Sagaing and its surroundings.
Day 3 - Mandalay to Bagan (Paukan cruise)
Today you will embark upon an overnight cruise from Mandalay to Bagan on one of Paukan’s short expedition cruises (please note that this only departs Mandalay on Thursdays and does not operate at all in June). This is a great way to truly appreciate the size of the river and experience local life as the boat drifts down course.
Day 4 - Bagan (horse cart tour / sunset boat journey)
Disembark the cruise shortly after finishing breakfast and meet with your guide. To begin your exploration we would recommend exploring some of the lesser known temples with the help of a horse drawn cart – doing so will allow you to forgo the use of a car and get a better sense of how Bagan once was. To help spread out the temple visits, we would like to recommend that you finish what will be a busy day with a short boat journey along the banks of the Irrawaddy at sunset.
Day 5 - Bagan (hot air ballooning / Ananda / Shwesandaw / Shwezigon)
Another early morning start will see you privately escorted to the Oriental Ballooning launch pad to carry out a leisurely tour of Bagan’s temples by hot air balloon – make sure you charge your camera batteries as the view from the balloon’s traditional wicker basket is simply unforgettable. The remainder of the day will be spent exploring some of Bagan’s oldest and most famous temples, including Ananda, Shwesandaw and Shwezigon.
Day 6 - Bagan (Salin)
For an extremely authentic, yet slightly more low-key experience, the two-hour journey to the small town of Salin comes highly recommended. To break up the 90km journey, Tour Mandalay would strongly recommend a stop at Chauk’s bustling local market – very few foreign visitors make it here, so your presence will be sure to turn a few heads. You will then go on to cross the impressive Anawrahta Bridge, named after the founder of the Pagan Empire. Shortly after crossing the bridge you will then arrive at Ta Nyaung village, home to a small number of blacksmith workstations. Here you can personally witness the hardworking locals wielding a range of hardware ranging from knives to farming equipment. Another worthwhile stop is U Ottama Monastery, built in 1819, which consists of a large pillared hall and an underground cellar. It is here where the revolutionary soldiers are said to have taken refuge during the Anglo-Burmese War. Next you will visit Salin’s Salay Yokson Monastery, a charming wooden structure built in 1868 – be sure to keep an eye out for the Japanese clock, which would have been used during the Japanese occupation during WW2 and the antique bookshelf with a royal crest carved into the top. Another spot we would recommend is the long-forgotten war cemetery; the final resting place for the British soldiers who fought in the Third Burmese War (1885-87). To finish your tour, be sure to take a break by Wetthe Lake, a 1000-acre expanse dotted with thousands of lotus leaves. The area has also been designated as bird sanctuary, making it the perfect place to enjoy a spot of birdwatching or photography.
Day 7 - Bagan to Inle Lake (Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery / Red Mountain)
On the way to your hotel we would recommend stopping off at the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, a charming teak monastery that was built in the early 19th century. For your next stop, how about a trip to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard & Winery to sample some of the region’s local grape? The view from the top of the vineyard will provide you with your first glimpse of the iconic lake. Spend the remainder of the afternoon at leisure in the comfort of your hotel – if you are lucky enough to have a room with a lake view, why not pull up a chair and dive into your favourite novel?
Day 8 - Inle Lake (tour of Inle Lake's highlights)
You will be picked up by your boat early this morning and taken on a private tour that will incorporate some of the lake’s main highlights including but not limited to, the Intha ‘one-legged rower’ fisherman, the floating gardens, weaving villages and traditional workshops. Later this afternoon we would recommend renting a bike from your hotel (if available) and exploring the surrounding area at leisure.
Day 9 - Inle Lake (fly home)
Shortly after finishing breakfast you will be transferred directly to the airport in time for your indirect flight home via Mandalay or Yangon (these are currently the only two international airports available).
If you’re keen to design your own Mystical Myanmar itinerary, please get in touch with a member of our team by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images featured in this itinerary (all taken on Tour Mandalay’s travels)