Temples, tribes and treasures
There is something otherworldly about a holiday to explore Burma temples and our 14 night Temples, Tribes and Treasures itinerary reveals endless hidden delights. Possibly that’s because of the complexity and intrigue of this extraordinary country. Perhaps it’s the mind-boggling metaphysical characteristics or maybe the mesmerising physical manifestations but one thing we can be sure of is that the people you’ll meet along the way will leave you with a sense of warmth and friendship.
This astonishing Burma temples journey starts in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon, from where you’ll fly north to cover large parts of upper Myanmar. The fabled city of Mandalay will be the first stop, where you will board a superlative river cruiser for a few nights to make your way downstream on the mighty Irrawaddy river. Your destination is the jaw-dropping archaeological zone of Bagan and then up up and away again towards the stunning watery expanse of Inle Lake which sits between the high hills of the Shan plateau.
These exceptional main experiences are just for starters. It’s all of the lesser known fascinating towns and villages along the way which make our Temples, Tribes and Treasures holiday itinerary in Burma so richly rewarding. Places where the ancient stupas have been overtaken by the jungle, labyrinthine caves which have been turned into mesmerising shrines and markets where ethnic tribal people come to barter and sell their wares.
*Every Yonder itinerary is uniquely created to suit our individual clients. Destinations, hotels, lengths of stay and even modes of transport are all decided by you, with the help of our local knowledge and expert guidance.
As you jet into Yangon from Bangkok or Singapore, your local Yonder driver and guide will be waiting to seamlessly whisk you to the Governor’s Residence, your elegant digs in the leafy embassy district. After you’ve settled in and caught up on some R&R, your guide and driver will be waiting show you the sights, sounds and smells of this fascinating city. You’ll be guided through the maze-like alleyways of Scott’s Market, visit Sule Pagoda which is a mere 2,000 years old, and then the huge reclining buddha Chauk Htat Gyi. But no visit to Yangon is complete without being completely bowled over by the vast dazzling gold and diamond encrusted Shwedagon Pagoda: the most revered site in Myanmar.
After an internal flight, you’ll be met by a knowledgeable Yonder team who will take care of your every need whilst in the royal city of Mandalay. Mandalay is home to a couple of world record holders: the world’s longest book, consisting of 729 marble slabs and the 200-year-old U Bein teak bridge in the ancient capital of Amarapura. The latter is also home to the Mahagandayon Buddhist monastery, where over 1,000 monks live and study. Mandalay is the base from which you will make your first expeditions out into the Burmese countryside and smaller towns. Pyin Oo Lwin and Mingun are fascinating day trips and when you return you’ll be soothed by the elegant surroundings of Rupar Mandalar.
An adventure awaits. A short transfer from Rupar Mandalar to the jetty in Mandalay to board the Belmond Road To Mandalay river cruiser. This is a luxury holiday experience to savour as the boat navigates the waters of the mighty Irrawaddy towards Bagan. Three nights will be spent aboard this exceptional river cruise where you will be wined, dined and entertained. In Mandalay, before you depart down the Irrawaddy, you’ll enjoy a tour of the local arts scene as well as meeting craftsmen who have learnt ancient techniques passed down over generations and in Bagan you’ll get a very unique torchlight experience of the temples in the archaeological zone. The boat will also stop just outside the ancient capital of Ava, where you’ll go off with a Belmond guide to explore.
Tearing yourself away from The Road To Mandalay river cruise boat is made bearable by the prospect of a spectacular sunrise hot air balloon flight over the temples of Bagan. This is an experience like no other and an absolute Yonder smash hit. Back down at ground level, a colourfully decorated ox cart will be your mode of transport as you explore the temples of this film set-like heritage zone. And on its edge, is the Bagan Lodge hotel, a perfect bolthole to kick back and relax after a day of exploration. Just in case your inner Indiana Jones gets restless, we’ll take you 50km out of the city to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with a shrine at the top dedicated to animist spirits known as ‘nats’. You’ll need your walking shoes on, though, to climb the 777 steps!
A short flight from Bagan to Heho and the scenery changes dramatically. The dusty plains will be left behind as rich green hillsides come into view. You destination is Kalaw; a charming, former hill station high on the Shan plateau. This is rural Burma, an area where ethnic tribes, wearing traditional dress, gather to sell their hand-cultivated produce at the rolling five-day market. It’s a simple affair. But it’s real and these are people who have followed the same patterns for generations. There are no tourist shows, no souvenir tat, just genuine Burmese peasants moving their produce around with horse and cart, on their backs or on their heads. You’ll spend a night at the endearing Amara Hill Resort, set in a pine forest a couple of kilometers out of town.
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll be driven to Inle Lake by your Yonder guide and driver. On arrival in Nyaung Shwe, the main town, a longtail boat will be waiting to whizz you across the lake to Inle Princess Resort. You’ll be enchanted by the peaceful surroundings of this vast lake. Being out on the flat water, watching the Inthar boatmen row with their legs, meandering around the floating gardens and visiting the stilt villages is utterly captivating. And as if that isn’t enough, there are sacred shrines, spectacular teak monasteries and a stupar complex up a creek at Indein that will take your breath away.
Leaving the tranquillity of Inle Lake, you head back to Heho airport for a flight to Yangon, from where you’ll catch your international flight back home the following day. In Yangon, you’ll once again be met by your Yonder guide and driver. There will be plenty of time to go out walking and shopping if your energy levels permit. Alternatively, you can chill out and enjoy a fine afternoon tea in the magnificent surroundings of you hotel, the grand dame of Yangon, The Strand. One of the many beauties of The Strand is its central location, meaning you can walk out to explore the increasing array of decent restaurants or just soak up the atmosphere on the bustling streets of the Burmese capital.