An affordable group tour which brings you to the cultural hotspots of Myanmar, including Mandalay, Bagan, Kayah State and Inle Lake.
Myanmar on a Shoestring
Who would love this tour?
Highlights of the Program
- Discover the former royal capitals surrounding Mandalay
- Explore the ancient pagodas of Bagan by e-bike
- Learn about the fascinating cultures of ethnic groups around Loikaw
- Take a scenic day-long boat ride between Pekong and Inle Lake
- Visit the enchanting Pindaya caves with their thousands of Buddha images
Destinations in this tour
Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe)
Arrival to Mandalay
You will be picked up at Mandalay International Airport by our guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in (early check-in may be subject to a surcharge).
After freshening up, meet in the lobby and head to Mandalay Hill nearby and ascend to the top at a height of 790 feet for a magnificent view over Myanmar’s second-largest city and former capital. The ascent is made with the assistance of a vehicle and escalators. From the top visitors can see the square of Mandalay’s former Royal Palace, several pagodas dotted around the area, and the Irrawaddy River running through agricultural land surrounding the city. It is a peaceful place where many friendly locals come to view the sunset.
After the sun has set return to your hotel for a good night’s sleep to recover from your international flight.
Overnight in Mandalay.
This morning transfer from your hotel to the jetty and take a boat down to Mingun village on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. After a 45-minute scenic ride, you will arrive at Mingun pier from where you can view the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, an enormous stupa which would have been the biggest in the world if it was completed. Take some time to look around this magnificent site and then walk to the Mingun Bell, the world’s largest ringing bell, which is believed to weigh some 200,000 pounds. Then continue by foot to the white-washed Hsinphymae Pagoda with its notable architecture and history. A visit to Mingun’s unique pagodas and historical relics will surely be one of the highlights of your time in Mandalay.
After discovering Mingun return to Mandalay by boat for a tour of the three ancient royal capitals surrounding Mandalay: Ava, Sagaing, and Amarapura.
Drive towards Ava where you will take a short boat ride across the river and board a horse-cart for a leisurely ride around the capital city from the 14th to the 18th century. Stop off for visits to the remains of the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the famous Menu’ brick monastery. Then, return to the car and drive towards Sagaing, crossing a bridge over the Irrawaddy River. Sagaing is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar and this is evident upon observing the hundreds of white and gold Stupas covering the green of Sagaing hill – a truly enthralling representation of the importance of religion in this country. Sagaing is also home to more than 3,000 monks and over 100 meditation centers.
Later in the afternoon, visit Amarapura, the royal capital from 1783 until 1859. Highlights here include a visit to a traditional silk-weaving workshop and the world’s longest teak footbridge – U Bein Bridge, which crosses the shallow Taungthaman Lake. This is a fantastic place to take beautiful photos and enjoy a leisurely stroll along the bridge as the sunsets.
Overnight in Mandalay.
Mandalay – Bagan by bus
This morning enjoy breakfast at your hotel before heading to the bus station for the drive to Bagan by public bus. You will travel on OK Express bus company which is one of our trusted suppliers operating routes between destinations across Myanmar. The drive lasts 4-5 hours and includes at least one stop at a service station to freshen up and buy refreshments. We assure you that you will feel comfortable on this fully air-conditioned bus which also includes one bottle of water per person. Traveling by road between these two diverse destinations is the best way to admire the changing scenery and reduce your environmental impact.
Early in the afternoon arrive in Bagan, the ancient capital famed for the thousands of temples on its plains and being one of Asia’s most stunning archaeological sites. Check-in to your hotel and enjoy a couple of hours to relax.
At 4 pm our private car will be waiting to take you on a short drive to the jetty where you will board a local boat to enjoy the sunset over the Irrawaddy River with Bagan’s temple-dotted plains in the background. This will surely be one of your most memorable sunset experiences so take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy it with your fellow travelers. After the boat journey, we will take you back to the hotel and the rest of the evening is free for you to wander around the small town of Bagan with its charming restaurants and bars.
Overnight in Bagan.
This morning our tour guide will meet you after breakfast to begin discovering the ancient temple complex of Bagan. Today’s exploration has an adventurous twist – you will be spending the day going around by e-bike (electric scooter). They are the most exciting way to do Bagan without breaking too much of a sweat and are also perfect for going down smaller paths that cars and buses cannot access. This allows you to get well off the beaten path and visit more of the lesser-known sites of this archeological wonder than the average visitor.
Begin with a short test drive on a paved road before starting the adventure with a visit to Shwezigon Pagoda, a famous center for prayer and reflection, followed by the iconic Ananda Temple, one of Myanmar’s most revered sites. Before lunch (client’s own account) you will also be taken to other pagodas where our tour guide will tell you interesting stories about their architecture to bring the intricacies to life.
After lunch, you will continue exploring the temples and also have the opportunity to visit a village within the temple complex to learn about the local life of people living here. We will stop at a lacquerware workshop to learn about the interesting process of creating this beautiful work unique to Bagan.
During your tour of the temples, you will notice that it is now forbidden to climb the temples at this UNESCO World Heritage Site in order to help conserve them. Don’t worry though, your guide will take you to one of the other elevated viewpoints for a panoramic view of this ancient site at sunset, before taking your e-bikes back to the hotel.
Overnight in Bagan.
Bagan – Kalaw
This morning transfer to Kalaw by public VIP Bus. The journey takes more or less 7 hours and is an eco-friendly alternative to flying. The bus ride includes at least one stop at a service station for a meal (on your account) and to freshen up. Another advantage of traveling by road is the opportunity to meet local people who regularly travel around the country with this form of transport. Upon arrival in Kalaw, you will be dropped off at the hotel where you will be spending the night. This evening is at your leisure to explore Kalaw on your own two feet (dependent on arrival time). Wrap up because it can get a bit chilly during the winter months. Overnight in Kalaw.
Note: The public VIP Bus (sometimes called Express Bus) is very comfortable with air-conditioning and usually features reclining seats, and 2+1 or 1+1 seating (as opposed to the usual 2+2).
Kalaw – Loikaw
This morning a private car will be waiting for you at the hotel to drive you from Kalaw in Shan State to Loikaw in adjacent Kayah State. The journey lasts around 4 hours but is an experience in itself. Along the way, you can observe small villages and lush scenery with many beautiful viewpoints. You will have the flexibility to stop wherever you like along the way for a short break or photo, so make sure you keep your camera close.
Upon arrival in Loikaw, we will go to a local restaurant for lunch (client’s own account) before exploring some of the scenic town’s attractions. First, we will visit the Kayah State Cultural Museum for an introduction to the diverse culture of this small state. Kayah State is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups with their own unique traditions. The museum provides you with a great overview. Then, we will proceed to learn about the history of the Kayah Prince at the Haw, his former palace.
After an afternoon of cultural learnings round the day off with a visit to famous Taung Kwe Pagoda, one of Myanmar’s most beautiful pagodas due to its natural surroundings. It is comprised of a number of white and gold monuments perched atop a rocky limestone outcrop. The walk up the narrow staircase with other devotees is well worth it as the top affords great views over Loikaw and the surrounding hills. Sunset is the best time to do this as the weather is cool and the colors are stunning.
Overnight in Loikaw.
Today the sightseeing begins at 08:00 am.
Begin the day with a 30-minute drive to visit Demawso market (only open Mon, Weds and Sat). This local market attracts members of ethnic groups from the surrounding area to sell unique wares, including the local Kyaung-yay wine which is a must-try. Local women line up with batches of this homemade rice wine, all offering free samples to interested customers, eager to show that theirs is the best. After deciding on their favorite one, customers make their purchase, filling up containers brought from home.
Following the market visit, drive out into the countryside for a leisurely walk through local villages and farmland.
After an hour of easy walking, you will reach Pan Phet village. Most of the inhabitants of Pan Phet are from the Padaung tribe. The women of this tribe are famous for the many golden rings they wear around their necks. Although the tradition is dying out, most women over the age of 40 in the village can still be seen wearing these heavy accessories. Here you will enjoy a unique opportunity to interact with these ladies during a stroll through the village – learn about their culture and traditions, and answer any questions they have about yours. A few roadside stalls have opened to cater to visiting tourists so there will be a few chances to pick up some locally sourced souvenirs and refreshments, a good way to support the local community.
After leaving the village it will take an hour to walk back to the car and head for a late lunch.
During the late afternoon, we will head to a jetty on the outskirts of Loikaw. You will experience a private motorboat cruise on the Bilu River which meanders its way through the heart of the city and out into the countryside. We’ll pass under the city’s many bridges and witness locals washing clothes and bathing in the river before ending the 45-minute trip at Thatta Bilu village where our vehicle will be waiting to take us back into town.
Overnight in Loikaw.
Loikaw – Inle Lake
This morning drive 45 minutes from your hotel in Loikaw to Pekong where you will board a motorboat to take you all the way north to Inle Lake with several fascinating stops along the way. The first stop will be after two hours at Sagar village on the east side of Sagar Lake, home to the Pa-O, Inthar and Shan ethnic groups. Each group has their own culture and traditions which you can observe and learn about. This village is famous for its sunken stupas and historic monastery. Admire the stupas and learn about the history of Sagar with our guide who will take you on a short walk around.
Following this short visit, get back on board your boat and cross Sagar Lake for a 15-minute ride to reach the western shores for a visit to Thar Kaung Pagoda and adjoining Thar Ya Khone village. Thar Kaung Pagoda is set in one of the most naturally beautiful surroundings of any pagoda in Myanmar and is a perfect place for taking photos and simply wandering around as you listen to the bells ring as the gentle wind blows through them. After this scenic stop-off take a short walk into Thar Ya Khone village and visit a rice alcohol distillery to learn about the interesting process and to taste a drop of their strong liquor.
After visiting these two beautiful villages it is time for the 3-hour ride to Nyaung Shwe at the northern end of Inle Lake. Sit back and relax as you enjoy this beautiful journey past lush green fields and the Shan mountains, watching local fishermen go about their daily business as you float past.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
Inle – Indein visit by boat
After breakfast, our tour guide will lead you on a boat tour to Indein village which is famous for its significant, yet crumbling due to age, small pagodas located in picturesque surroundings on the west bank of Inle Lake. The boat journey takes around 45 minutes and partly follows a narrow, twisting canal from Ywama village. As you arrive, walk along an atmospheric covered walkway with many local products on sale to reach the densely packed pagoda complex. Don’s miss Shwe Inthein Pagoda from which you can enjoy wonderful views across the lake.
During your time on the motorboat today, you will observe the famous one-legged rowers of the lake that originate from the Inthar ethnic group. They perfectly demonstrate the ‘perfect balance’ between the alluring culture and natural beauty of Inle Lake.
After lunch (client’s own account), head back towards the main part of Inle Lake to continue the day of discovery. First, head to Inn Paw Khon village and visit beautiful Inthar Heritage House, a training center for local youths which also serves as a cat sanctuary where you can play with Burmese cats. This village is also home to several workshops. Producing gold and silverware is a long tradition of local people in this area. Other work done here includes lotus weaving and cheroot making – you can visit the workshops producing these handicrafts to learn how they are made close-up.
In the late afternoon visit Nampan floating village and go on a relaxing 45-minute canoe ride with Inle Canoe Lady. This is a small business that supports local women to earn extra income to supplement the small amounts they earn from making cheroots. It is a beautiful experience that directly supports the local community.
Afterward, admire the sunset from the boat on your way back to Nyaung Shwe.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
Nyaung Shwe – Pindaya – Heho – Mandalay
After breakfast, check out from your Nyaung Shwe hotel and drive around 2 hours to Pindaya to visit the fascinating Pindaya caves set in a limestone landscape. The caves consist of more than 8000 Buddha images of various styles ranging from different periods. Pilgrims regularly flock to the caves and install new Buddha images within this complex of tunnels and chambers, reaching 150 meters in length. Exploring the small pathways and hidden meditation chambers is a unique experience. Don’t miss your guide’s story about the significance of the statues of the giant spider and prince on the path leading to the caves.
Following this enchanting visit head to Pindaya town for a quick lunch at a local restaurant (client’s own account). The town has a charming lakeside setting and laid-back atmosphere so enjoy these last peaceful moments before heading back to the city of Mandalay and your departure flight out of Myanmar.
After some time in the town it is time to drive one hour to Heho airport for a late afternoon flight to Mandalay where, upon arrival, you will be picked up by private vehicle and transferred to the hotel for your last night.
Overnight in Mandalay.
Have your breakfast and enjoy some leisure time at your hotel to prepare for your departure.
We will arrange a transfer service to the airport for your international departure flight.
Optional plan: Please request us in advance if you would like your international departure flight to be from Yangon instead of Mandalay. In this case, we will provide domestic flight tickets from Heho to Yangon on Day 10, airport pick-up, and one night’s accommodation in Yangon for your last day.
include & exclude
What is included in this tour?
Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
- Airport transfer and hotel pick up during the tour
- 10 nights accommodation with daily breakfast ( Twin / Double room sharing base)
- English speaking Tour guide for 8 days (no guide service on Day 3,5 and 11)
- Pick up services from Mandalay Airport on your arrival and evening visit the city
- Full day excursion to Mingun, Sagaing, Ava, and Amarapura including transportation with horse cart, boat at Ava
- Inter-city transports (Mandalay – Bagan–Kalaw) by local express bus
- Local boat trip to see the sunset along the Irrawaddy River in Bagan
- Exploring Bagan by e-bike with tour guide
- Private transportation from Kalaw to Loikaw
- Private boat from Phekong to Inle lake
- Full day excursion boat trip in InleLake with guide
- Domestic flight from Heho to Mandalay
What is not included in this tour?
Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
- International flight and airport tax
- Visa fees and arrangement
- Personal expenses and mini-bar charges at hotels
- Camera fees and other expenses not mentioned in the itinerary
- Guide service for Day 3, 5, 11
- Lunch and dinner unless specify
- Early check-in and late check-out charges at hotels
- Transportation in Kalaw on Day 5
- Tips for your guides
- Entrance fees
- Self-transfers within cities
What is cancellation policy for this tour?
All cancellations made by travelers will be charged as follows:
- Cancellation more than 45 days before travel start date: there is no charges.
- Between 30– 45 days before travel start date: 25% of the tour cost.
- Less than 30 days before travel start date (or) No-show: 100% of the tour cost.
- The Government Tax (5%) is non-refundable.
What do I need to bring with me to do this tour?
We suggest you to carry slipper and something to protect from the sun and the dusts. Shorts or sleeveless tops and shoes are not allowed to enter the place of Pagodas and Religious area.
Trekking shoes should be ready for trekking days and raincoat is suggested if it is raining season ( June – September).
I am solo traveler and can I book this tour?
Yes, solo traveler can book this tour.
What is the best time to do this tour?
We have three seasons in Myanmar, October to February is Winter (cold) season with average temperatures 20-24 C, March to May is Summer (hot) season with average temperatures 30-35 C) and June to September is the Monsoon (rainy) season, with high rainfall and average temperatures 25-30 C.
We offer this tour almost the whole year and except raining season. The best season to do this tour is the Winter season (Oct – Feb).
Do you offer other services for my extension trip?
We offer other travel-related services such as domestic flight tickets, hotel bookings, Tour guide services, other transportation services, and extension tour packages depending on your request. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org