Depart the UK with international economy flight to Yangon. We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
Mingalabar and welcome to Myanmar! The former capital Yangon, also known as Rangoon, remains Myanmar’s largest city and continues to be the country’s most important commercial hub and gateway for most of its international visitors. Its colonial background and religious legacy make it one of the most mesmerising and genuine places in all of Southeast Asia. Upon arrival at the airport you will be warmly welcomed and transferred to you hotel for check in.
No Myanmar expedition can be considered truly great if it’s lacking a visit to the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. Ready for an amazing experience? The visual delights present there alone, are worth the trip. Witness the colours transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. You will start at the eastern staircase where you will find a row of shops at the base of the temple selling various religious items. Here you will find monks robes, alms bowls, offerings, incense and other unique Buddhist objects. As your browse the stalls your guide will explain the use and rituals of Myanmar’s Buddhist people. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese; most visitors report that the trip is extremely memorable and still etched into their minds.
After enjoying your breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your domestic flight to Bagan. Welcome to Bagan, known to be one of the greatest architectural sites in Asia. When Bagan was the centre of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries the monarchs built multitudes of massive stupas and pagodas, scores of which are still present on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. The majesty of Bagan with more than 4000 red brick temples on a plain of the size of Manhattan Island is one of the highlights of a Myanmar holiday that will soothe the eye of every traveller.
Your fist port of call is an elevated temple with its panoramic views of the Bagan plains. This viewpoint will give you a taste of the sheer number of temples as well as some of their distinctive styles. From here you will have a look around the Ananda Temple – one of the most exalted of Bagan’s temples. We will ensure that our tour reaches this point before the majority of tourist arrive, enabling you to enjoy the splendour of the temple in relative tranquillity. Continue to various other temples dotted around the temple plains to experience a variety of architectural styles in the area as well as the artistic wonder of the 9-14th centuries. Traveling amid the temples you will get a taste of rural Bagan life in this ‘living museum’ setting where farmers and families work amongst the monuments.
Next on the agenda is your chance to learn more about the local culture with a visit to two workshops producing Bagan’s most famous products – lacquer ware and wood crafts. Watch in amazement as the skilled craftsmen use traditional techniques passed down through generations to create beautiful items.
You will be driven late in the afternoon to the jetty where a private wooden river boat awaits you. Sitting either under the shade or on the open-deck you’ll be treated to fabulous views as you cruise down the Irrawaddy River. You’ll cruise past several small villages, fishermen, local boats and of course many of the ubiquitous Myanmar Buddhist temples. The views of Bagan from the river are particularly spectacular and offer a different perspective from the land based tours. As you finish your delicious and refreshing cocktail and the sun begins to sink slowly from view, you will prepare to disembark before being driven back, greatly relaxed, to your hotel for the evening. The perfect end to a busy day of sightseeing in Bagan!
After breakfast at your hotel, your guide and driver will pick you up to start your Bagan excursion. It’s off to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market, where the locals come to trade fresh produce and other goods daily. From here you will have a look around the Old Bagan starting with a visit of the renowned Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as a religious memorial.
Learn more about the flavours and traditions of Burmese cuisine with a lunch time cooking class. Join the friendly, English-speaking host and take a short walk through the neighbourhood to her family house. Assist in preparing a range of dishes using local cooking methods and freshly grown produce. Enjoy lunch with the host, learning more about her life and the small library that the family runs for the community.
In the afternoon you will journey on by horse cart for an excursion that passes Thatbyinnyu, the tallest temple in Bagan, gigantic Dhammayangyi Temple noted for its remarkable brickwork, and of course, Sulamani Temple. Take pleasure in an extraordinary sunset from the upper terrace of one of the surrounding temples.
Today, a tranquil pagoda amid Myanmar’s most magical places, join in an ancient tradition by lighting thousands of oil lamps. An oil lamp ceremony is a sombre and distinguished event that is steeped in the Buddhist belief in earning merit through performing good deeds. You will help light the thousand oil lamps placed all around the pagoda, this ceremony is an enlightenment of Buddha’s teaching and Bagan is definitely the best place to have a deep insight into the Buddhist culture. We will have to attain special permission to arrange this unforgettable experience in Myanmar. Therefore, we suggest to book at least 4 weeks in advance.
OPTION: HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER BAGAN
A short flight takes you from Bagan to Mandalay this morning! Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar and one of the ancient royal capitals is often perceived and described in literature as Asia at its most traditional, timeless and alluring but those who go meet a booming and vibrant city located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. However, despite the energy and thriving business it’s where the cultural heart of Myanmar lies and tradition of music, dance and drama are still alive.
Your orientation tour of Mandalay will kick off with the visit of Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, known as the pagoda of the Great Marble Image. Admire the huge Buddha, carved from a single block of marble. It’s said that the colossal marble block took 10,000 men almost two weeks to transport it from the riverside to its current location. Proceed to Kuthodaw Pagoda, frequently dubbed as “The World’s Biggest Book” for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. Then it’s off to the Shwenandaw Monastery, the Golden Monastery which is the only enduring structure from the Royal Palace of the 19th century. This impressive structure is celebrated for its remarkable woodcarvings.
Take a break at midday and then proceed to your hotel to check in.
Your Mandalay guided tour continues this afternoon with a visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves that are every day applied to the statue by male devotees.
There are also many craft workshops in Mandalay and, should you wish, we can stop for a visit to one making gold leaf, tapestries, wood carvings or marionettes if you are interested and if time allows.
Next drive to Amarapura, Myanmar’s penultimate royal capital. Amarapura means “City of Immortality”, though its period as capital was relatively brief. You will start with Mahagandayon monastery, home to more than a thousand young monks and renowned as a centre for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Continue on foot or by bus a short distance to the legendary U Bein Bridge, which was built in 1782 when Amarapura was the Royal centre of attention. It spans 1.2 km across the shallow Taungthaman Lake and is said to be the longest teak-wood bridge worldwide. Enjoy this very special atmosphere as the late afternoon sun casts long shadows and illuminates the local people heading home. As a stunning day comes to an end we head back to Mandalay for the night.
The day will begin with a visit to Mandalay’s vibrant morning market. The market is a hive of activity in the morning with vendors selling mainly fresh produce and meat but there is an array of other goods including spices, local ‘slippers’ and Buddhist donation items. You’ll be amazed at the colours and sounds as deals are made. Should you wish to buy some fruits or household items your guide can assist and advise on a monastery or nunnery in today’s touring at which to donate.
After this invigorating start to the day continue across the Irrawaddy River in to Sagaing. With 600 ivory coloured pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is generally seen as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and claims residence to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. You’ll visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae and Shin Pin Nan Gyaing. Continue to Sagaing’s local market, a less visited tourist site. We’ll head over to a small pottery village which is recognised for manufacturing ubiquitous water pots to observe the tradesmen here applying their traditional methods for producing their goods.
A break at midday will be taken in Sagaing or nearby for lunch (own account). Return back to the eastern side of the river in the afternoon, making a stop in Kan Daw village en route. Here you will see a small village where all of the families produce longyis and other textiles. Although no longer made 100% by hand, the production is still fascinating and is a unique photo opportunity in contrast with the delicate weaving you will see later in Inle Lake. Tea and a light snack will be served in the family home before returning to your vehicle (Note: this village may not be accessible from May – September due to the monsoon rains)
Next it’s on to Ava which was the standing capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. Cross the small river by ferry and travel in a traditional horse and carriage to the wooden Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings. Be sure to check out the Nanmyint Watch Tower – also called “the leaning tower of Ava” – which is what’s left from the remnants of the ancient palace and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery. Return back across the river to the city centre in the early evening and transfer by road to your hotel.
This morning return to the Mandalay airport for the flight to Heho, in the heart of the Shan State. Upon arrival at the Heho airport, you are to proceed by road to Kalaw, a resort in which British officers took refuge to escape the intense heat of the plains. Today, this village is always a resort where you can relax with its pure air, pleasant atmosphere, green trees and lovely hiking trails. You will have time to explore this small city, soaking up the charm. The rest of the day is free.
Depart from your hotel after breakfast and drive to Wet Pyu Ye, the starting point of your light walk (1-2 hours) to Magwe village. Located about 45 minutes from Kalaw, Magwe is home to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Project whose aim is to protect local ecology, elephants and traditions of the regions’ people. The project has taken on 7 Asian Elephants from logging camps where they were no longer able to be looked after and given them a home, medical care and other support. The activities for visitors are intended to expose the natural beauty of the area as well as the role of elephants and mahouts in Myanmar. You’ll be greeted by a local trekking guide and take a nice walk through the woods, mostly downhill or flat. This region of the Shan State is one the most ecologically diverse and your guide will help identify indigenous flora and fauna including dozens of bird species, butterflies and a variety of orchids. Either by the river or in the forest, you will likely encounter the Project’s elephants bathing or foraging for food. Seeing these animals in their natural environment is a truly special treat. You will then have the opportunity to climb on the back of an elephant and explore the forest, stopping at a waterfall or the river if you wish to ‘bathe’ your elephant.
You will reach the main camp in time for a lunch of locally-grown produce and then visit the re-forestation project where, if you wish, you can get your hands dirty and plant a sapling. It is then a short walk back to the road where your car is waiting for the transfer back to Kalaw.
After that you will drive to Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. Upon reaching the edge of the lake, you will board a private motorboat and begin heading out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular and breathtaking sights. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic hills provide the perfect backdrop. Along the way you will pass several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’, which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles.
After breakfast you’ll pay a visit to the lake’s morning market (the market is open every day apart from dark moon and full moon calendar days). The market’s location rotates between the lake’s villages in a 5 day schedule and is also visited daily by the lake’s inhabitants as well as the surrounding natives who also come to sell and trade their wares. You’ll continue across the lake passing several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’, which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. Proceed to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. There are also many traditional crafts originating on Inle Lake and, should you wish, we can stop for a visit to one making incredible woven items from lotus silk, boat builders (depending on the time of year), a cigar making workshop, blacksmiths or even silver smiths.
In the afternoon set sail down a small canal to the Pa-Oh village of Indein (1 hour), positioned on the western shores of Inle Lake. Take a leisurely stroll around the village before ascending to the top of a hill. Once you’ve arrived at the summit, you will be greeted buy an iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. Here, from the peak, you will also be rewarded with mesmerising views of the placid surroundings. The Indein Pagoda complex is undoubtedly one of the most amazing sites around the shore of the lake and it consists of hundreds of small stupas which are overrun by moss and greenery. The day will come to a close with a return trip by boat back to your hotel.
After breakfast you will be transferred to Heho airport and flight to Thandwe. Upon arrival at Thandwe Airport you will be welcomed by a representative of your hotel who will escort you at Ngapali Beach (app. 20-30 min). After your check in, you’ll be free for the rest of the day to enjoy the idyllic beach or take advantage of the hotel facilities.
For the next two days, you will be free to indulge in your favourite activities. You can chill out on the white beach and dive in the crystal waters, or ride a bike to the nearest village and stroll through the alleys while watching the lively and colourful local life flowing and fishermen placidly coming back from their fishing trips. If you want to explore the marine life a little further, join a boat trip and snorkel or dive close to one of the many islands off the coast. You’ll be overwhelmed by the bright and shiny colours of underwater life. (Note: these tours are not included; should you wish to book, surcharges will be applied).
After a leisurely breakfast you will be transferred to the airport (depending on your flight schedule) for your departure flight back to Yangon. Upon arrival at Yangon airport you’ll be greeted by a guide and driver who will be at your disposal until returning to the airport for your international connection.
Arrival back in UK.
4* Kandawgyi Palace Hotel
Retaining the traditions of Myanmar architecture using local golden teak and modern conveniences blend with the beautiful environs of the lake, gardens and original old rainforest make our Hotel the preferred destination in Yangon.
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4* The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate
The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate is located in the most unique Archeological Site of South East Asia, the Ancient capital of the Burmese Empire, Old Bagan. The Hotel offers 83 luxury rooms including 4 Suites. Every room is decorated with teak floors and typical Burmese furniture.
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4* Mandalay Hill Resort
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.
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4* Amara Mountain Resort
All 10 rooms of the Amara Mountain Resort are individually decorated in Asian and European style, each room with an open chimney, own bathroom with bathup and shower.
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4* Pristine Lotus Spa Resort
Positioned at a rare vantage point, Pristine Lotus Spa Resort’s main facilities and villas are gracefully laid out over a landscaped hillside that gently slopes into the lake and the Shan hills beyond. The design of the 49 private villas allows for privacy and luxury amongst a lush tropical landscape that is fresh with gentle lake breezes and open to inspiring and endless views of the lush valley.
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4* Bay View Resort
Located on the idyllic Ngapali Beach in Myanmar’s Rakhine State – its coastline forms part of the Bay of Bengal. The resorts’ 45 deluxe bungalows and rooms including suites are all situated either directly at the beach or in a beautiful exotic garden under countless palm trees.
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We used Emperor for a group trip to India. they were fantastic with their choice of hotels (some truly incredible) their tour guide, the whole programme and their choice of airlines for the trip. We made things quite tough for them with different members of the group travelling for different periods and arriving in and out of different airports. We specifically had some issues with one of the airlines on the return leg of our trip, through no fault of Emperor, but they did their utmost to put things right and made the journey home as pleasant as possible by meeting the cost of a lounge at the airport for us do to the shortcomings of one of the airlines checking in procedures. The pre holiday package of information was very comprehensive and we were presented with very durable luggage tags. We would have no hesitation in recommending Richard and his team in tailoring a package for a trip to India. We had an amazing culturally stimulating trip and will certainly go back to India in the future.