Begin your adventure in Mandalay, the fascinating hub of central Myanmar. We recommend you maximise your time in the evocative city by flying overnight from Heathrow, via Bangkok.
The royal capital of the last kings of Burma, Mandalay has a real romance about it. After transferring to your hotel, discover precious reminders of the era of King Mindon, the city's founder. You can visit Shwenandaw Monastery, adorned with beautiful teak carvings, and Kuthodaw Pagoda, known as the world's largest book. As the sun sets, take in the views from the top of Mandalay Hill, 236m above the city.
The summer heat of Mandalay was too much for the British who preferred to retreat from the steaming central lowland plains to higher altitudes. Journey northeast of Mandalay to one such retreat, the quirky hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin. This charming colonial town is set in the cool Shan Hills and is known for its fairytale clocktower and the miniature stagecoaches that ply the streets
Experience one of Asia's most memorable train journeys on the local railway from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw. On the way to the ancient Shan capital, you’ll pass hills, rice paddies and the Gokteik Viaduct, the longest and tallest in Myanmar. A stroll up to Thein Daung Pagoda on Nine Buddha Hill for beautiful views over the town and the Shan Hills is the perfect way to finish off the day.
The best way to explore the lush Shan highlands is on foot. The landscape is a patchwork of rice paddies, fields and mountain streams. As you trek around Hsipaw and the surrounding area, you’ll see traditional farming villages and gain intimate insights into the lifestyle of the Shan people.
Today we journey back to Mandalay on a scenic drive through the Shan Hills. On the way, you can explore the Peik Chin Myaung Caves, where gilded Buddhist stupas sit beneath impressive stalactites, and cool off under the cascades of nearby waterfalls.
After a short flight to Heho you'll arrive at Inle Lake. The sacred lake is renowned for the unique leg-rowing technique of local fishermen as well as the temples, stupas and monasteries that line its waters. Visit the hill tribe settlements perched on the surrounding slopes and enjoy the slow pace of life, lush landscape and beautiful views.
There's no better way to explore Inle than from the water. Sit back in your own private long-tail boat and float across the lake to an area little visited by tourists: the old ruins at Sagar. Here, a cluster of semi-submerged pagodas, untarnished by any modern attempts at restoration, provide fascinating examples of early Shan State religious architecture.
Lace up your walking shoes for an unforgettable trek through the rolling Shan Hills. You’ll trek through red-earth fields ploughed by oxen and sown by hand. Fiery-red chilli crops and a variety of trees including teak, jackfruit, wild pear and sweet acacia are grown here. You can learn about traditional lifestyles during an overnight stay in a small village - a unique opportunity to gain a deeper insight into local culture.
Bid farewell to your new friends in the village and continue your trek to Kalaw. Once a hill station popular with British colonial staff, Kalaw is now an attractive, bustling rural town on a cool plateau. Surrounded by villages of the Palaung, Danu and Pao, it’s a great place to learn more about the hill tribes of Burma. Spend the afternoon relaxing in your hotel, visiting the various pagodas and stupas or shopping for souvenirs at the busy market.
After brief drive and a flight from Heho, the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal beckon. You’ll spend three idyllic days here relaxing on the palm-lined beach and soft white sands of Ngapali.
It’s a short flight from Ngapali back to Yangon. From here you’ll set off on your return flight back to the UK.