The Ancient Cities of Bagan and Mandalay, Magical Inle Lake


Long hidden from the outside world, Burma is a land of ancient history, deep cultural traditions, and extraordinary landscapes. On our insider’s journey, you’ll explore Yangon, where towering Shwedagon Pagoda glints in the sun, watch the sun set over a thousand splendid temples in Bagan, and journey along the peaceful waters of the great Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. In Shan country, we hike to remote hilltribe villages and travel by boat to see bustling markets on the shores of crystalline Inle Lake. Along the way, our accommodations include an atmospheric waterfront resort and a riverside hotel in the heart of Old Bagan. Burma abounds with visual delights, but it’s the encounters with its friendly and deeply spiritual people that linger in your mind long after journey’s end.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2

In Yangon, we join Buddhist pilgrims at the immense Shwedagon Pagoda, a golden, jewel-encrusted temple, and view the magnificent reclining Buddha at Kyaukhtatgyi, stretching some 230 feet and surrounded by offerings of incense and flowers. We’ll also stroll alongside shoppers in the lively Bogyoke Market and the fascinating Chinese street market.

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Days 3-5

Once the capital of ancient kingdoms, Bagan is absolutely extraordinary—two thousand pagodas and temples rise majestically here above emerald fields. The views from atop the temples are undeniably entrancing, especially at sunset. We explore the best of them, then take a private boat up the Irrawaddy River to visit a remote village not frequented by other travelers for a glimpse of rural Burmese life.

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Days 6-7

After “making merit” at the Maha Muni Pagoda, with its huge Buddha image covered with countless layers of gold leaf, we journey by local boat down the Irrawaddy to visit 14th century Sagaing, with its picturesque white hillside pagodas. After traveling by horse-cart to the ruins of Ava, the ancient Burmese capital from the 14th to the 19th centuries, we capture sunset photos at 200-year-old U Bein Bridge.

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Days 8-14
Hilltribe Country / Inle Lake

In Shan country we walk village to village, meeting hilltribe people on the trails as they head to their fields and visiting an animist Ann village in the company of a local shaman. At vast Inle Lake, famous for its leg-rowers, we explore lakeside communities by longboat, visit a hilltribe market and silk weaving village, walk to caves filled with ancient Buddha images, and learn about Burma’s deep spiritual beliefs from the abbot of a Buddhist monastery. Our waterfront hotel—complete with spa—is a great place to unwind and savor the beauty of the setting. Depart on Day 15 via Yangon.

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Magical Shwedagon Pagoda, with its golden spires
Enjoy a sunset at Bagan, a majestic valley filled with thousands of ancient pagodas
Meet fascinating hilltribe people in traditional villages
Ethereal Inle Lake boasts stilt villages, floating gardens, and fascinating leg-rowers
Boat along the great Irrawaddy River


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $5895  
Arrive: Yangon, Burma
Depart: Yangon, Burma
Lodging: 13 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 3 dinners
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Cultural explorations, optional hikes of 2-4 hours
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