Temples, Trains & Hill Town Trekking

Cultural Journey Through Colonial Burma

Inle Lake, Mandalay, Rural Burma (Myanmar), Yangon

Duration: 10 nights

Price: From £2,800 per person in low season based on two adults travelling together and including all flights in economy class, accommodation, some meals, experiences as stated, private transfers, train transportation and taxes

On this off-the-beaten-track adventure, you’ll delve into Burma’s rich history and culture as you discover little-known places and traditions, experience rural life as you mingle with local people and wildlife, and even go on a thrilling train ride across the spectacular Gokteik Bridge. In between, trek around remote hill towns, explore the famous Inle Lake and the temples and pagodas that stud the countryside. We've even included an interactive experience at an elephant sanctuary, where you can feed and play with the gentle giants in a natural, unstaged setting.
Perfect forInquisitive adventurers keen to explore some of Burma's rural highlights.
In the knowEnjoy lunch on a traditional rice boat on Inle Lake, or experience a moving oil lamp ceremony at the famous Shwedagon Pagoda: you can offer oil lamps at the platform of the pagoda, which is a Buddhist tradition believed to bring a lifetime of good health and happiness.

Best for

  • Off the Beaten Track
  • Train Journey
  • Walking & Trekking
  • Village Life

All Exsus holidays are tailor-made

This itinerary is just a starting point. Tell us your budget/wishlist/preferred length of stay and we'll help you select the best hotels and experiences, so your holiday is totally personalised.

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Itinerary details

Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar)

1 NIGHTMANDALAY

As a huge cultural site and the largest city in Burma, Mandalay is one of the most frequently-visited destinations in the country. Located on the banks of the famous Irrawaddy River and bursting with life and energy, this is the perfect place to discover Burma’s music, culture and dance scene. See the best of Burmese architecture at the Mahamuni Pagoda, where sacred Buddha images are adorned with gold leaf daily by male devotees, and at the Kuthodaw Pagoda, also known as ‘The World’s Biggest Book’, for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings.

At sunset, head to the 18th-century U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest bridge made entirely of teakwood. Stay at the quirky Hotel by the Red Canal where rooms are decorated according to one of the four ethnic styles in Burma - Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Shan - before relaxing by the palm tree-lined pool set in the tropical gardens.
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Hsipaw, Burma (Myanmar)

2 NIGHTSHSIPAW 

The journey to Hsipaw from Mandalay is almost as fascinating as the place itself. With lush greenery on either side, the road to Hsipaw is one that winds northwards towards China. In fact, this region of the Shan State is so verdant that it has been dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’ by the locals. Quaint houses and temples featuring a mix of colonial, Burmese and Chinese architecture make it a beautiful place to explore on foot. There are some wonderful sights to see in Hsipaw, including the Ywarthit village’s Little Bagan – it doesn’t have nearly as many stupas as the real Bagan but is well worth a visit for its famous Bamboo Buddha and the Guardian-spirit shrine of spirits worshipped by Burmese Buddhists.

Stroll along the Dotthawaddy River, where you’ll see traditional Shan houses and fruit plantations, stopping off at the village of Tai-Palaung to sample some Shan noodles. You'll enjoy a short guided walking tour as well as a full-day trip to the north-eastern countryside, offering some off-the-beaten-track scenic trekking around the hills.

The Riverside @ Hsipaw Resort is set on the eastern side of the Dotthawaddy and its gorgeous bungalows offer incredible views of the river - an idyllic sight to wake up to ahead of your day's adventures.
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Pyin Oo Lwin, Burma (Myanmar)

1 NIGHTPWIN OO LWIN

Today, you'll travel on the Mandalay-Lashio train to the charming town of Pyin Oo Lwin, which was once a colonial hill station known as Maymyo. A thrilling highlight of the journey is crossing the Gokteik Bridge – a masterpiece of colonial engineering and architecture, it was built in the 1900s when Burma was still part of India. Made of steel and 300 metres up from the valley floor, it is sure to set your pulse racing.

During your journey, you'll ass by the endless green of the Burmese countryside, broken by the hustle and bustle of railway bazaars at each stop. These have remained virtually the same since British colonial times, and fans of travel writer Paul Theroux can experience the magic of the setting of The Great Railway Bazaar. You'll also visit the beautiful National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens, which were modelled on London's Kew Gardens and span 432 acres of plants from all around the world, including 75 species of bamboo. 

Your hotel for the night is the opulent Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort, a former British governor's home, set high in the mountains where you can enjoy the fresh alpine air.
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Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar)

1 NIGHTMANDALAY

Back in resplendent Mandalay, you’ll cross another bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing, where 600 ivory-coloured pagodas and monasteries are waiting to be explored. This peaceful setting is home to over 3,000 monks, who meditate by the many shrines (100 to be precise). Included on the list of religious sites you’ll visit on your guided tour are the Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, the U Min Thone Sae Pagoda and the Shwe Taung Oo Maw Pagoda, which is also the tallest pagoda in the country.

Explore a historic pottery village before heading to historic Ava, which was the capital from the 14th to the 18th centuries. See the intricate woodcarvings of the Bagaya Monastery and visit the Nanmyint Watch Tower (also known as the ‘leaning tower of Ava’), which is the last remnant of a palace built in 1822. From the top, you'll be rewarded with views over the palace grounds and beyond. You’ll return to the Hotel by the Red Canal for your overnight stay.
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Kalaw, Burma (Myanmar)

2 NIGHTSKALAW 


On the way to Kalaw, you’ll stop to experience at Magwe village to visit a herd of elephants in their natural environment at the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. Watch them foraging for food or bathing in the lakes by beautiful waterfalls, and even help to look after them or get involved with the camp’s reforestation project and plant a tree.

Your next stop is the hilly region of Kalaw – a high-altitude town where you can escape the scorching heat. The cooler climate and favourable terrain makes it a perfect location for hikers, with tea plantations and fragrant orange orchards to explore. Traders come to Kalaw from all over the country, selling dried fruits and liqueurs at the market. Passing charming local houses, you’ll come across the Yae Aye Kan reservoir (also known as the ‘cool water lake’). Stay at the Royal Kalaw Hills Resort – a quiet, colonial-style hotel with magnificent gardens and a great base for your day trekking.
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Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)

2 NIGHTSINLE LAKE

With pagodas and stupas dotted on its banks, a backdrop of hazy green mountains, bamboo-stilt houses inhabited by the Intha people and floating gardens, you’ll have some golden moments at Inle Lake, one of the most mystical and photogenic spots in Burma. During your time here, you'll get to learn all about the fascinating agricultural methods of the lake, whose floating gardens are anchored to the lakebed with bamboo poles.

As well as exploring the lakeshore villages of Thalae U and Alae Myaung, and finding out about local farming and traditional daily life, you'll get to spend the day at the Indein Complex, a short boat ride away. The complex is a stupa wonderland, with white and gold stupas protruding out of green moss and shrubbery.

Your luxurious base for two nights is the Villa Inle Resort & Spa, where you'll have a balcony overlooking the lake so you can watch the iconic one-legged fishermen row their boats in search of their catch of the day, and see water buffaloes cooling off in the shallows.
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Yangon, Burma

1 NIGHTYANGON

Yangon is a city brimming with culture, with a plethora of temples, churches and pagodas found amid bustling restaurants and bars. You’ll embark on a guided walking tour of this beguiling city, starting at Mahabandoola Road, where you’ll explore the Immanuel Baptist Church followed by a stroll down Pansodan Street. You’ll also see architectural landmarks such as the colonial-era High Court Building and the grand, colonnaded Law Court.

Bank Street, leading up to the famous Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon (which dates back 2,000 years) makes for a fun walk, with fortune tellers hanging out under the trees waiting to be consulted by those yearning to know what their future holds. After visiting the Mosmeah Yeshua Synagogue on 26th Street (Burma's only synagogue), the bustling Indian and Chinese quarters, the colourful Shri Kali Hindu temple and the colourful Theingyi Market (pickled snake, anyone?), head to the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda, featuring an opulent 100-metre stupa, in time to see the sun set over the horizon. Retreat to the elegant Savoy for your final night, before flying home the following day.
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