For many years, Myanmar has long borne the brunt of a brutal regime that kept it strictly out-of-bounds to most visitors. But in the last decade, the country has seen significant advancement and, as a result, has become a popular tourist destination. Ironically, the nation’s former oppression has largely contributed to its current-day charm, as its isolation prevented the rampant development and commercialism that has affected many of its Southeast Asian counterparts. Highlights of the country include: the mesmerising city of Mandalay; the ancient, sprawling temple complex of Bagan; the unique allure of Inle Lake; and the serene hill station of Kalaw.
Days 2 - 3
With a population of over 5 million, Yangon, also known as Rangoon, was the capital of Myanmar up until the end of 2005. It remains the largest city, and is still the pivotal commercial hub of the country today. A visit to this magnificent city will allow you to take in the interesting mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian cultures that mingle there. The skyline is an interesting contrast of decaying colonial architecture and modern high-rises, dominated by the golden glow of the Shwedagon Pagoda, an exquisite Buddhist temple that draws pilgrims from across the globe. Your time here would be well spent visiting the impressive array of temples, museums and markets that the city has to offer.
Days 3 - 7
Resting on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy River, Old Bagan is both a wondrous UNESCO World Heritage Site and the core of the Bagan Archeological Zone. A culture vultures heaven, this charming destination is home to lovely museums, several magnificent temples, enticing shops, and mouth-watering cuisine. Must-see attractions include the beautiful red-brick facade of the Htilominlo Temple; the interesting exhibitions at the Bagan Archaeological Museum; the panoramic views from the Atwin Zigon Pagoda; the fantastic photography opportunities offered by the famed Shwesandaw Pagoda. Additionally, golfers can enjoy a leisurely round of golf at the spectacular 18-hole Bagan Nyaung Oo Golf Club. Don’t miss out on the chance to wander down to the waterfront and admire the spectacular views and bustling riverside trade.
Days 7 - 9
Set in beautiful Myanmar, Mandalay is the stuff of literature, lyrics and legend – with good reason: the city’s combination of crumbling colonial charm, elegant Buddhist temples, and lush hilly surrounds have rendered many a traveller hopelessly intoxicated with it. Visiting here is like stepping back 50 years in time: beat-up buses trundle along wide avenues, men in longyis cycle serenely around the moat, and monks pad silently through dusty temple courtyards. Add to that Mandalay’s warm, dignified locals and many nearby sightseeing gems, and you have a recipe for an amazing travel experience. Don’t miss a trip up Mandalay Hill to take in panoramic city views; sunset at Ubein Bridge– the longest teakwood bridge in the world; a visit to the Buddhist Mecca of Sagaing, encompassing scores of temples and the Buddhist University; and a mellow boat trip down the Irrawaddy River to see the colossal stupa base at Mingun.
Days 9 - 10
Situated high up in the western Shan State, Kalaw is a former hill station founded by British civil servants. It is something of a high-altitude resort – cool, calm and leafy – but is also widely known as a trekking Mecca in Myanmar, as those wishing to explore the surrounds can do so without prior permission. Its population is diverse, as Nepali Gurkhas, Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims came here to build the roads and railway line during the British period. A wide variety of exploring options are available, including three-day treks to Inle Lake or Pindaya. At the town’s heart is its market, where villagers from the surrounding areas come to sell their produce and an eclectic range of foods. Visit the Aung Chang stupa, or take a taxi ride to the Green Hill Valley elephant camp, founded in 2011 to care for ageing and ailing elephants.
Days 10 - 12
One of Myanmar’s most alluring destinations, beautiful Inle Lake is a world unto itself. The local people have integrated their lives fully with their watery surrounds, building entire villages on stilts, buoying up their crop fields with floating devices and even learning an ingenious method of fishing from their long-tail boats – balancing on one leg and using the other to clasp the paddle and row, which leaves their hands free to cast a net. Here visitors can stay in one of the lake-top hotels, enjoy delicious Myanmar cuisine and exquisite sunsets from al fresco decks, or take a boat trip to the floating markets and the handicrafts centres, where you can see silver makers, silk-weavers and lacquer artists at work, and purchase exquisitely made gifts and souvenirs.