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Gilded stupas and soaring Buddha statues, serene waterways lined with floating gardens, fascinating handicrafts and hill tribes: these are just a few of Myanmar’s little-known treasures. Throughout many decades of colonial and military rule, the people of Myanmar held fast to their ancient Buddhist traditions. Immerse yourself in the rich culture that has evolved here, from the timeless stilt villages of Inle Lake to the glorious temples of Bagan and Mandalay.
Encounter royal palaces and pagodas in Mandalay, and cruise the Irrawaddy in a teak riverboat.
Take part in a candle-lighting ceremony at Yangon’s glittering Shwedagon Pagoda.
Meet the iconic leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake and learn about their trade.
Ride a horse-cart at sunset past hundreds of stupas on the Bagan plain, and enjoy dinner within sight of the temples.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Yangon, Myanmar
Arrive in Yangon (Rangoon) and check in to our Victorian-era hotel. Set out to discover Old Rangoon, where British colonial buildings stand alongside Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu sites. Stroll the topiary gardens of Maha Bandoola Park, and see City Hall and the Sule Pagoda—a 2,000-year-old gilded temple that rises from the island of a bustling traffic circle. Gather for a welcome dinner this evening. The Strand Yangon (D)
Day 2 — Yangon
Begin the day examining royal artifacts at the National Museum, then browse the traditional handicrafts on display at the Bogyoke Aung San Market. After lunch, see the colossal reclining Buddha that stretches more than 200 feet at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, and attend a talk on Myanmar’s changing political climate. The Strand Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Mandalay
Transfer to the airport this morning and catch a flight to Mandalay. Explore the city wall and its moat, which encompass the Mandalay palace complex—a reconstruction of the final royal residence of the Burmese monarchy. Continue to the Shwe Nandaw Monastery and admire its intricate teak carvings; then see the 729 chiseled marble slabs of Kuthodaw Pagoda. Later, sail the Irrawaddy to Mingun, home to a massive, unfinished pagoda. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Mandalay
Rise early to witness the morning face-washing ceremony of the Mahamuni Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Mandalay. Travel to Sagaing, where myriad pagodas gleam white and gold on rolling green hillsides. Take in views over this picturesque landscape from the hilltop Sun Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda, and offer rice donations at a nunnery. Continue to the ancient capital of Inwa and hop in horse-carts to visit Nan Myint Tower, Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery, and the teak Bagaya Monastery. Then visit a silk-weaving or gold-leaf workshop. Cross the river via the U Bein Bridge—the world’s longest teak footbridge. Cap off the day with a sunset cruise along the Taungthaman Lake in a traditional sampan. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Irrawaddy River/Bagan
Board a teak riverboat for a leisurely float along the Irrawaddy to Bagan. Take in scenes of rural life along the riverbanks as we listen to a talk by our expert and watch a local artist or cultural demonstration. Disembark to visit a riverside village, and arrive in Bagan this evening. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Bagan
During the 11th and 12th centuries, some 10,000 temples and monasteries were built across the Bagan plain. Today, more than 2,200 remain. Float above this magical landscape at sunrise on an optional balloon ride. Then head to some of the area’s most impressive sites, examining the 13th-century murals at Gubyaukgyi Temple and the gold-plated Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan’s greatest reliquary. After lunch, stop in at a lacquerware workshop to watch artisans ply their craft. Visit the Ananda Temple, home to four great, gilded Buddha statues, and see the Htilominlo Temple. Ride a horse-cart across the Bagan plain, and enjoy a stunning sunset at the Dhammayangyi or Sulamani Temple. Bagan Lodge (B,L)
Day 7 — Bagan
Watch the sun rise from atop one of Bagan’s temples. Later, head to Nyaung U’s vibrant market, attend an initiation ceremony for novice monks at a Bagan monastery, and learn how local palm wine is made at a toddy palm farm. Enjoy a special al fresco dinner with views of the temples and entertainment provided by traditional dancers. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Heho/Inle Lake
Fly to Heho and travel overland to Inle Lake, visiting Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery and Yawnghwe village along the way. Meet with some of Inle’s famous fishermen, and learn how they pole their skiffs with one leg during a demonstration. At the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, examine five Buddha images so smothered in gold leaf that they have lost all trace of their original forms. Observe artisans weaving silk in the village of Inn Paw Khone; and visit a cheroot factory, where traditional Burmese cigars are made by hand. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Inle Lake
Spend the day exploring the lake, from lush floating gardens to vibrant lakeside markets. Take a Shan cooking class; examine hundreds of Shan-style stupas at Indein; and visit the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, perched over the water on stilts and teak planks. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Yangon
Fly to Yangon this morning, and meet with monks on a visit to the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery and School Project. Encounter the glittering stupas of Shwedagon Pagoda, a gilded temple tipped with more than 4,500 diamonds. Participate in a lamp-lighting ceremony at the temple and enjoy time to stroll the grounds alongside the pilgrims and families that flock here. Gather for a farewell dinner this evening. The Strand Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Yangon
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
An acclaimed lecturer on the cultural history of
non-Western civilizations, Jack Daulton has been an
expert on trips to more than 50 countries. His academic work has included extensive study of the art and architecture of Asia and Africa, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Jack is also a practicing attorney with a focus on international law relating to the preservation and conservation of the world’s cultural heritage. In a widely reported 1995 federal case, he recovered a 1,000-year-old sculpture that had been stolen from a temple in Myanmar.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,600. On the December departure, there is an additional holiday surcharge of $600 per person. The optional balloon ride on Day 6 is $350. Airfare to/from Yangon and within Myanmar is not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within Myanmar are $400 per person (subject to change).
What To Expect
This trip includes numerous village and temple visits that require walking over uneven terrain, boarding local boats, and climbing stairs in often hot and humid conditions. We will frequently be required to remove socks and shoes to enter religious sites. Travelers should be in good health and physically fit.