The Ancient Cities of Bagan and Mandalay, Magical Inle Lake


Long hidden from the outside world, Myanmar is “quite unlike any land you know about,” as Rudyard Kipling famously wrote. Its ancient history, deep cultural traditions, and extraordinary landscapes are utterly captivating. We’ll explore Yangon, where towering Shwedagon Pagoda glints in the sun, watch a magical sunset over a thousand splendid temples in Bagan, and journey along the peaceful waters of the great Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. In Shan country, our visits to remote hilltribe villages are fascinating, and we travel by boat to see bustling markets on the shores of Inle Lake. From one exquisite destination to another, along with excellent cuisine and friendly, deeply spiritual people, our cultural adventure is as enchanting to the eyes as it is to the soul.

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 Myanmar’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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The golden spires of magical Shwedagon Pagoda, sunset at Bagan
Meet fascinating hilltribe people in traditional villages
Boat along the great Irrawaddy River
Ethereal Inle Lake, with its stilt villages, floating gardens, and fascinating leg-rowers


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $6195  
Arrive: Yangon, Myanmar
Depart: Yangon, Myanmar
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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