Discovery Journeys | 11 nights
This comprehensive tour unravels the mysterious land of Myanmar, covered in the beauty of an original oriental country boasting of thousands of Buddhist temples, gorgeous beauty of Palaces, pristine white sand beaches, and enigmatic tropical rain forests.
Begin with the very first stop Yangon - the former capital of Myanmar - with many Buddhist temples then moving to Bagan - the real plain of stupas - with thousands of temples and relax on beautiful beach – Ngapali
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, our staff will be waiting for you inside to assist with all necessary airport formalities including luggage handling. Pass through all authority counters with our staff assistance and arrive at the arrival lounge where your Exotissimo Guide will welcome you with a flower garland.
Transfer to The Strand, an elegant hotel in downtown Yangon which was built in 1901.
After checking in to your hotel, we take a short walking tour of downtown (note: car at disposal if you wish to do tour by car) The walk takes around one hour and passes by fading colonial buildings such as the Post Office, City Hall, Customs Office and local residences. You’ll visit Mahabandoola Park and Sule Pagoda before stopping for a cup of tea or coffee at a Let Ywae Sin Tea Shop, a local favourite. Continue a bit further to the old railway station before reaching Bogyoke Market, formerly known as Scott’s Market. Spend time browsing through the wide selection of local handicrafts and other goods (Note: closed on Mondays and public holidays) before transferring back to the hotel.
Overnight in Yangon.
Families | Visit All-Year
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the Nanthida Jetty to board a ferry to cross the Yangon River to Dhala. The boat ride to Dhala takes 15 minutes and offers great views of the waterways as well as a fun chance to interact with the locals as they make their way across the river.
Upon reaching Dhala, travel by local trishaw through the town. The scenic town is remarkably different from nearby Yangon, with many trees, local neighborhoods and quiet side streets filling the area. While in Dhala you’ll visit the market and have plenty of opportunities to stop and interact with the friendly locals.
After visiting the village and market, proceed to the monastery to learn about monastic life in Myanmar. The monastery also serves as a community centre and is an important part of rural Burmese life.
Return by boat to Yangon, observing life along the river and reflecting back on your excursion to Dhala.
Then travel to the northern part of the city to a hidden neighbourhood where you’ll have lunch at Shwe Sa Bwe. This training centre cum restaurant trains disadvantaged youth in the field of hospitality, either front of the house or in the kitchen. The fabulous food, serene setting and friendly staff make this a meal to remember.
Having fuelled up, we then set off for more sightseeing in Yangon, starting with a visit to Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, home to a 70-meter long reclining Buddha. A visit to Kyaukhtatgyi provides a great overview of Buddhism with murals depicting the life of Buddha, the feet of the statue carved with traditional symbols and often many locals gathering to pay homage and pray.
Continue to Kandawgyi Park, one of central Yangon’s greenest spots. Here you will see the glittering Karaweik barge, a replica of the royal barge, and the vast lake with views of Shwedagon in the background. Depending on the day of your visit Kandawgyi may be busy with local families who come here on the weekend to relax in the fresh air.
Finally we arrive at to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, the local legend states that the original structure was built 2500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas and your guide will show you around the massive complex, explaining why this temple is so revered. Enjoy breathtaking views of the golden stupa from this vantage point.
Overnight in Yangon.
After an early breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the flight to Bagan (Nyaung Oo airport).
Upon arriving in Nyaung Oo Airport, your guide and car will greet you for the trip to Popa. En route we’ll stop to visit Popa Laan village, a local village near the base of Mt Popa that is typical of many villages in the area. Take a short walk through this scenic area and visit with the friendly residents.
Continue past the volcanic plug known as Taungkalat, often referred to as Mt Popa. Arrive in the late morning at Popa Mountain Resort and check in (note: check in time is 14.00; early check in is subject to availability). Enjoy the views and fresh air of this stylish forest property.
After lunch at your hotel (own account), you can visit a volcanic plug standing 1518 metres high. Mount Popa has played an important role in Myanmar culture, religion and history since earliest times. Its shrine is dedicated to the worship of the 37 Nats, the Burmese ancient animist spirits. Learn about nats and nat worship as you climb the stairs to the top with your local guide. The view over the Myingyan Plain from the top of the volcanic plug is impressive (and the climb is optional!).
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning and perhaps one more dip in the Resort’s pool.
Then begin the drive back to Bagan, a 1-1.5 hour journey. We’ll stop en route at Kyauk Padaung, a town at the crossroads of two main roads. Here you will have the chance to explore the morning market which is one of the largest in the area. From woven palm fronds to crushed chillies, the market has it all- and very few tourists!
Continue toward Bagan, making a stop in a local village where the people use the fruit of the palm tree to make wine and molasses. Witness the incredible production process and lend a hand if you are feeling brave.
Dine under the thatched hut of the toddy climber’s family for a local, but delicious, lunch.
Continue on to your Bagan hotel and check in, taking a chance to enjoy a chance to relax and freshen up. Late this afternoon, travel by horse cart for an introduction to Bagan. Pass Thatbyinnyu- the highest temple in Bagan, the massive Dhammayangyi Temple- noted for its remarkable brickwork and Sulamani Temple. Enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of one of the temples.
Overnight in Bagan.
After breakfast you’ll first visit the Nyaung U market, a busy morning market where locals gather from surrounding villages to buy and sell produce, crafts, spices and other goods. Stop for a cup of tea in a local teahouse, a key part of daily life in Myanmar and a great place from which to observe the busy morning activities.
Then you’ll spend a couple hours exploring a variety of temples starting with Shwezigon Pagoda, one of the city’s most important, where you can see unique nat statutes and the glittering golden stupa. Then, using flashlights, you’ll explore Kyan Sitthar Cave temple- walking through the tunnel-like corridors and viewing the fading paintings on the ceiling. Next you visit Ananda with its mysterious smiling Buddhas and Shwegugyi, which offers spectacular views from its upper terrace.
Take a break for lunch (own account) and return to your hotel for a short rest, escaping the extreme heat of the midday sun.
Trade in your car for a bike this afternoon and ride to Kyauk Gu U Min, a beautiful temple has exquisite stone carvings depicting religious figures and flowers on the door. The temple itself is built against the side of cliff, so behind the main hall of the temple you can enter a cave. Inside the cave there are several small niches where individuals can practice meditation. Legend states that the cave was built during the 13th century for the locals to hide from the invading Mongols. The ride takes around 1-1.5 hours but a car will be nearby in case you get tired!
After your exploration of Kyauk Gu U Min, you’ll return to the private boat for a relaxing cruise back to Bagan (around 1 hour). Throughout your Irrawaddy river cruise you will be treated to fabulous scenes of life on the water: fishermen, local ferry boats, riverside villages and views of the Bagan temples. You’ll stop at Sae Lan village and go ashore for a short walk. Sae Lan is typical of the riverside villages along the Irrawaddy.
Then transfer back to your hotel upon reaching Bagan.
Overnight in Bagan.
After early breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the flight to Heho.
From Heho, a 2.5 hour drive leads to Kalaw. This charming small town served as a hill station during the colonial era when the British expats would escape the cities for the cooler mountain air.
Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel to check in. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore town or relax in the charming environs of your boutique hotel.
Overnight in Kalaw.
After breakfast at your hotel, start your excursion to the Green Hill Valley Elephant camp. The camp was set up by two former tour guides who aim to protect the local ecology, elephants and traditions of the local people. The camp is 150 acres of pristine wilderness located 40 minutes from Kalaw.
We’ll stop at the Pine Ne Bin junction and walk to the camp, visiting Pa-O and Palaung villages en route. A picnic lunch will be served in a village house or scenic spot. Then arrive at the elephant camp and have the option to bathe them in the river. (trekking time is around 4-5 hours)
Learn more about the camp and its activities and take a short ride on the back of the elephant to see more of the activities of the camp (such as a nursery where you can donate or plant a tree sapling if you wish)
Late this afternoon return to Kalaw.
Overnight in Kalaw.
After breakfast, you will visit morning market in Kalaw. On the market days, the hilltribes of the surrounding villages gather to buy and sell their products and crops. The market is a fascinating mix of people and goods.
Having seen the colourful goods for sale, you will then transfer Kalaw to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway to Inle Lake.
Upon arriving in Nyaung Shwe, drop the bags at our hotel (early check in subject to availability). After freshening up, explore the local market, temples and nunneries in town then venture 5 kilometres out of the town centre toward the lake’s eastern shores. There are many fields in this area and, depending on the time of year, you will be able to see farmers planting or harvesting their crops. (Sugar cane, rice, cabbages and corn are some of the most common items grown here)
We recommend walking around the town and enjoying a local Shan Noodle salad at the night market or opting for a delicious meal at Green Chilli or Viewpoint Restaurant.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
Set off this morning for your lakeside hotel for Sagar, the far southern region of Inle Lake. Very few tourists make the trip down to this region yet it is one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State with the mountains forming a backdrop for the small villages and fishermen on the water. The area was only recently opened to tourists in 2003.
The boat journey takes 2.5-3 hours but is full of fabulous views and home to many unique species of birds, both indigenous and migratory. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!
Depending on the day we may be able to leave early and stop at a morning market on your way to Sagar. The market rotates locations on a 5-day basis.
Upon arriving in Sagar area there are several stops that will be made (the order will depend on the time, other tourist boats and activity in the villages) The main highlight for many travelers are the ‘sunken’ stupas of Sagar- 108 stupas from the 16-17th centuries that are partially underwater for a few months a year. There is also a local monastery and village that can be visited here.
Continue to the village of Thaya Gone, home to Pa-Oh, Shan and Inthar people and known for its production of local rice wine. Watch the process of distillation and then sample some of the local brew if you wish. In Thaya Gone there is also the chance to climb to the top of a small hill which there are great views of the lake and surrounding villages.
Another stop will be made in Sae Khaung Pottery Village to see the crafting of oil and water pots as well as the natural, underground kilns used by the villagers. On the western shores of the Sagar area is Tar Kaung, a series of more than 200 stupas which also make a fabulous photo stop.
Lunch will be arranged along the way (either picnic lunch or local lunch at a small restaurant)
Around 2.30 the boat will begin its journey back to the main section of Inle Lake. Traveling back in the afternoon the light has shifted and the route looks much different on the return, with different activities occurring on the water and in the villages. Rice noodles can be seen drying in the sun, spun cotton is hung out to dry.
You’ll reach your hotel early this evening in time to freshen up and watch the sunset.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
Today leave the lake shores behind for a half day excursion on Inle Lake. After breakfast take a local trishaw to the jetty where your private boat is waiting. We’ll start with a visit to the centre of the lake. Pass villages inhabited by the Intha people who build their houses on stilts and floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. You will also see the legrowing fishermen of the lake who steer their boats with incredible balance.
Along the way, we’ll do some sightseeing at some of the lake’s most renowned sites. Continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains 5 sacred Buddha images, and proceed to the village of Inpawkhone to observe the traditional silk weaving techniques of Innthar people. Inpawkhone is also known for its weaving from the stems of lotus flowers, a time consuming process that results in high quality materials famous throughout the country. We will also visit a cheroot factory where the local Burmese cigars are rolled by hand.
We’ll stop for lunch on the lake, where you can taste delicious Inthar or Shan dishes (client’s account)
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Inthar Lunch - Enjoy a unique opportunity to cook with a local Inthar family in their stilted house on the lake. Assist in the kitchen as you cook an array of delicious, traditional dishes such as stuffed Inle fish and tomato salad. Then sit on the floor, local-style, in the dining room of the house and enjoy your freshly prepared lunch.
And then hop back to Nyaung Shwe, you’ll go for a bike ride around this pleasant town. Explore to a visit at Red Mountain Estate, one of Myanmar’s best vineyards. The grapes are imported from France and planted and harvested by local Pa-Oh people. The setting is stunning with fabulous views over the lake and the Shan Mountains.
Enjoy a wine tasting, sampling several varieties of Red Mountain wine while enjoying the views at the open-air bar.
Bike back down to Nyaung Shwe and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
This morning is at your leisure until transferring to the Heho Airport for your flight to Thandwe Airport.
Upon arriving at Thandwe Airport, you will be greeted and transferred to Ngapali Beach, a 20 minute drive.
Ngapali Beach is a quiet 3-kilometer stretch of white sands lined by coconut palms. The warm, clear waters are perfect for water sports such as snorkeling and there are several small islands around which can be reached by boat.
Overnight in Ngapali.
Breakfast at the hotel and a full day at leisure to enjoy the beach.
Should you be seeking more adventure a snorkelling excursion can be arranged or a trip to a remote fishing village where you can enjoy a local lunch, a swim in a private bay and a walk through the village.
Overnight in Ngapali.
After breakfast, enjoy a few more hours of relaxation before departing to Thandwe airport for your flight to Yangon.
Upon arrival, transfer to check in your hotel and the rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Overnight in Yangon.
Today is free at leisure until being transferred to the airport for your departure flight.
Yangon - Bagan - Popa - Bagan - Heho - Kalaw - Nyaung Shwe - Sagar - Nyaung Shwe - Inle Lake - Nyaung Shwe biking - Heho - Thandwe - Ngapali Beach - Thandwe - Yangon