It is hard to go wrong with an itinerary that incorporates Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. Whether you are a first time, or a second time visitor to Myanmar, these four destinations can easily combine to create a myriad of unique travel opportunities.
An example of a typical ‘Golden Four’ 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 - Yangon (Shwedagon)
Start your adventure with a sunset tour of Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in the country. Due to its popularity with the locals, a trip here will also provide you with plenty of opportunity to brush shoulders with people from all walks of life. For dinner, how about making a reservation at the recently opened SEEDS restaurant, arguably the grandest dining option in town?
Day 2 - Yangon (Shwedagon)
Spend the first half of the morning exploring Yangon’s downtown area, a tour that will leave you feeling mesmerised as you navigate through the cracked walls and creeping vines that make up Yangon’s faded colonial grandeur. For lunch, we would recommend trying out the newly opened Rangoon Tea House. This afternoon, you will get the chance to ride Yangon’s Circle Line, a train route mostly used by locals as they travel in and out of the suburbs. For a downtown dining experience, a visit to the Japanese/Korean tapas style Gekko Bar comes highly recommended – located in the iconic Sofaer building, the perfectly preserved 1906 Manchester floor tiles and 100-year old Scottish steal beams also make this a worthwhile addition to your earlier colonial tour.
Day 3 - Yangon to Bagan (Horse cart tour / sunset boat journey)
Wake up early this morning and board the first flight to Bagan, a destination that will be sure to blow the mind of even the most seasoned traveller. 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 used to be. To help spread out your 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 Ayeyarwaddy at sunset.
Day 4 - 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 5 - Bagan (e-bike)
Assuming you have time, Tour Mandalay would like to suggest you spend one whole day at leisure in Bagan. It’s impossible to explore all 2000 plus temples in three nights, but by hiring one of the recently introduced e-bikes you’ll be surprised at just how many you can fit in – this will also help you to escape the crowds of tourists and get off the beaten track a little.
Day 6 - Bagan to Mandalay (Cruise)
A great way to slow down the pace of the itinerary would be to take a two-night river cruise upstream. Please note that sailing dates are very specific which means the itinerary will need to be designed around this – to find out more details about cruise options please contact us directly.
Day 7 - Bagan to Mandalay (Cruise)
Day 8 - Mandalay (Craft district / Ava / U Bein)
Start your tour with a tour of Mandalay’s handy craft district – this will provide you with the opportunity to you witness various demonstrations including gold-leaf making, weaving and wood carving. After lunch, drive out of the city to explore the ancient capital, Innwa (Ava) – for architect enthusiasts, the 200-year old Bagaya teak wood monastery is a must! Later this afternoon, drive to U-Bein ‘stilted’ Bridge to witness the sunset from a private boat – the silhouette you will see is one of the most photographed shots in the country.
Day 9 - 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 ginormous pagoda ruins (Mingun Pahto) and the 3.7 metre high bronze bell. After lunch you will travel 20km south-west of Mandalay to the religious and monastic centre of Sagaing. You will then go on to explore the majority of Sagaing’s major attractions, including Soon U Ponya Shin, the central pagoda that commands a magnificent view of Sagaing and its surrounding area.
Day 10 - Mandalay to Inle Lake (Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery / Red Mountain)
Another early start will see you fly from Mandalay to Heho Airport (Inle Lake). 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 11 - Inle Lake (Tour of Inle Lake's highlights)
You will be collected by a boat early this morning and taken on a private tour that will incorporate some of the lake’s main sights such as, the Intha ‘one-legged rower’ fisherman, the floating gardens, weaving villages and traditional workshops. Return to your hotel later this evening in time for a sunset drink by the lake.
Day 12 - Inle Lake to Yangon (Bogyoke Aung San Market / art galleries)
Fly to Yangon where the afternoon is free for you to further explore the city with the help of your guide. A great place to carry out a bit of souvenir shopping is the touristy, yet very well presented Bogyoke Aung San Market – in our opinion the prices can be a little steep here, but there’s always room for negotiation. Finish off the day with a trip to some of Yangon’s art galleries – one of Tour Mandalay’s personal favourites is the Strand Hotel’s River Gallery, which even features work from the local graffiti artist Arker Kyaw – he became famous in 2012 when he painted an impressive portrait of Barack Obama on a wall to welcome the President on his first visit.
Day 13 - Yangon (fly home)
Private transfer arrangements will be arranged to coincide with your international flights.
If you’re keen to design your own ‘Golden Four’ itinerary, please get in touch with a member of our team by writing to email@example.com.
Images featured in this itinerary (all taken on Tour Mandalay’s travels)