Burma, Famous Sites and Hidden Secrets
A comprehensive tour of Burma (Myanmar) from north to south, taking in all the famous sites as well as many of the lesser visited, but equally picturesque, ones
Burma (Myanmar) tour, from the Shan Plateau to Mergui Archipelago
Our Burma tour – Famous Sites and Hidden Secrets – is a comprehensive 3-week, escorted tour of both the famous and the off the beaten track destinations in this fascinating, beautiful and still very traditional country. From the crumbling colonial architecture and glittering pagodas of Yangon, we’ll travel, via historic Mandalay and the awe-inspiring temples of Bagan, to the mountains of Shan State and sublime Lake Inle.
Our southern section heads east to the dramatic Golden Rock and the spectacular sites and gorgeous scenery of little-visited Mon and Karen States. Additional destinations in this picturesque, but rarely-visited, region of Burma (Myanmar) include the old colonial period ports of Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui, now known as Mawlamyine, Dawei and Myeik, plus charming Ye Town, finally open after having been off limits to foreigners for nearly 70 years.
Discover hill-tribe villages, floating gardens, bustling markets, remote temples, ruined cities and unspoilt beaches. Travel by boat up the Salween and down the Irrawaddy; by local train to Bago and even on occasions horse and cart and of course on the way discover the unique Burmese cuisine and meet plenty of the super friendly locals.
A wonderful and comprehensive tour of the famous sites as well as some of the hidden secrets of this wonderful country.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Yangon (Rangoon) - walking tour and sunset cruise
Arrival in Yangon (Rangoon), and check-in to a comfortable downtown hotel close to the famous Scott Market. Time to relax before an afternoon walking tour of the city and scenic, sunset boat cruise on the Rangoon River.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package.
Overnight: Yangon Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: L, D,
Day 2 - Yangon (Rangoon) - local train and Shwedagon
Departure for a fascinating and unusual train journey on the Rangoon circular line. The (very) slow local train completes a loop through the suburbs and outlying villages providing an original and behind the scenes view of local life; a great introduction to Burma. After lunch we’ll take a stroll through picturesque Kandawgyi Lake Gardens before a sunset visit to Shwedagon Temple, Burma’s most sacred, & certainly one it’s most awe-inspiring, sites
Overnight: Yangon Transport: Minibus, Train, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 3 - Mandalay - Inwa ruined city and sunset at U Bein Bridge
Morning flight to Mandalay and a visit to the nearby ancient city, and former 14th- to 19th-century capital, Ava (Inwa). Discover the ruined city, temples and villages by horse and cart before an afternoon visit to the prestigious Mahamuni Paya and sunset at the iconic U Bein Bridge – reputed to be the longest teak bridge in the world.
Overnight: Mandalay Transport: Minibus, Plane, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 4 - Pyin U Lwin - visit to a hill-station
Scenic drive to the old British hill-station of Pyin U Lwin located on the edge of the Shan Plateau. The small town’s 1,200m altitude meant it was a popular and cool retreat for the former British colonists and many historic buildings remain as well as its prestigious botanical gardens. We’ll time our return journey for sunset (and sundowners), on the Mandalay riverside.
Overnight: Mandalay Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 5 - Bagan - down the Irrawaddy to Bagan
Morning departure by boat down the Irrawaddy to Bagan; bucolic river scenes, country views and a great way to arrive in the historic ancient city. Late afternoon orientation visit and sunset at the site of the ruined 11th- to 13th-century capital – still containing over 2,000 chedis, stupas, pagodas – and certainly one of the most incredible sites of Southeast Asia!
If Irrawaddy water levels are too low our journey will be overland via Monywa
Overnight: Bagan Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B, D,
Day 6 - Bagan - day tour of the temples
Morning guided tour with the afternoon free to visit Bagan at your leisure. Armed with a map, hat and torch (to discover temples’ hidden stairways), roam the country lanes by bicycle, hire a pony and trap, visit the best known temples or find some hidden chedis of your own. Your guide will be on-hand to advise and recommend but we’d like to let you spend some time at this phenomenal site at your own leisure and pace.
Overnight: Bagan Transport: Minibus, Bike, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 7 - Bagan to Kalaw - onto the Shan Plateau
Departure by road, heading eastwards to the distant Shan Plateau. Our first stop will be Mount Popa; one of the country’s most sacred sites located on the cone of an extinct volcano which rises dramatically, and near vertically, from the plains below. In the afternoon we continue up the Plateau itself to our day’s destination, the charming little town and old hill-station of Kalaw.
Overnight: Kalaw Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 8 - Kalaw - hike through the hills
Head into the surrounding hills to visit one of the area’s Palaung hill-tribe villages with a scenic walk, mountain views and chance to meet some of the village’s friendly inhabitants. Afternoon return to Kalaw with time to explore the small town, perhaps browse the market or sit in a local tea shop and watch the world go by?
Overnight: Kalaw Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 9 - Pindaya - hill-tribe market and cave temples
Day trip through the picturesque countryside of the Shan Plateau taking in one of the local farmers’ markets before heading to the town of Pindaya to visit the spectacular Shwe Umin cave temples. Lunch by the lake and a chance to check out the traditional umbrella making which Pindaya is famous for. In the afternoon we’ll continue our scenic route to Nyaung Shwe – gateway town to the famous Inle Lake.
Overnight: Nyaung Shwe, (Inle) Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 10 - Lake Inle - day boat tour
Day boat trip around the picturesque lake including visits to a lakeside village market, a traditional hand rolling cheroot factory, fishing villages, a fascinating lotus weaving project and of course the highly unusual floating gardens.
Overnight: Nyaung Shwe, (Inle) Transport: Boat, Meals: B, L,
Day 11 - lake Inle - boat journey to In Dein
Morning departure across the lake and up river to the small lakeside village of In Dein from where we’ll hike through the picturesque landscape to visit the site of a ruined Shan city, known as the Shan Bagan, where myriad ruined stupas dot the lush vegetation. Return to Nyaung Shwe for lunch and an afternoon at leisure.
Overnight: Nyaung Shwe (Inle) Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 12 - Lake Inle - morning at leisure and return to Yangon
Free morning at Lake Inle to do your own thing; cycle to the extraordinary Red Mountain Winery, check out the local market, visit a local village by canoe or just relax in a tea shop before an afternoon return flight to Yangon.
Overnight: Yangon Transport: Plane, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 13 - Golden Rock - local train and sunset at Golden Rock
Travel by local train to the ancient Mon capital of Pegu, now Bago, & on to Kyaiktiyo – the Golden Rock. Yes, the gold leaf clad boulder balanced precariously on a mountain top, is spectacular, but it’s the whole experience that’s so memorable. Ride 1/2 way up the mountain on an open-topped truck crammed with locals before continuing on foot with the pilgrims. Awesome views & overnight in a ridge-top hotel as absurdly situated as the rock itself.
Overnight: Golden Rock Transport: Minibus, Train, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 14 - Hpa-an - dawn at the rock and on to Hpa-an
Down the mountain and off south to Hpa-an Town – capital of Karen State. Stop off on route to visit some spectacular cave temples and hot springs with the afternoon to explore the bustling and friendly town itself before a sunset visit to a beautiful riverside pagoda.
Overnight: Hpa-an Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 15 - Hpa-an - Zhwegabin sacred mountain
Hpa-an is surrounded by dramatic limestone karst scenery including the sacred Zwegabin Mountain – symbol of Karen State – and we’ll spend the day exploring the area’s caves, tunnels, temples and mountains by road, boat and on foot, as well as visiting some of the area’s traditional Karen villages.
Overnight: Hpa-an Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 16 - Moulmein - down the Salween River
Early morning departure for a boat journey down the scenic Salween River to Moulmein, (now Mawlamlyine), with a stop at a riverside Karen fishing village on the way. Formerly home for several years to George Orwell and immortalized by Kipling, we reckon it’s one of the country’s friendliest and most scenic towns. Visit a lively market before heading up for sunset at one of the hill-top pagodas overlooking the town and Gulf of Martaban.
Overnight: Mawlamlyine/Moulmein Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 17 - Moulmein - day trip to Bilu Island
Off by local boat for a day trip trip to nearby Bilu Kyun, (‘Ogre Island’), where we’ll visit the very traditional Mon villages and discover some of the local handicrafts and cottage industries. They don’t see many tourists yet, but the villagers will be happy to show you how they make cane walking sticks, Burmese style bamboo hats, slate blackboards and even back-garden rubber band making! (Sounds odd but it is absolutely fascinating). Afternoon return to Moulmein for perhaps some sundowners at a waterfront café?
Overnight: Mawlamlyine/Moulmein Transport: Taxi, Boat, Meals: B, L,
Day 18 - Thanbyuzayat - Death Railway and on to Setse Beach
We’ll begin with a visit to the town’s lively morning market before heading south to visit some of the region’s sites: Kyauktalon Pagoda perched Mount Popa style atop a sheer limestone outcrop, the world’s largest reclining Buddha – Win Sein Taw Ya – a stop at Thanbyuzayat, terminus of the infamous WW2 ‘Death Railway’ from Kanchanaburi, while last but not least, we visit the iconic Kyaikkami Monastery in the old colonial town of Amherst, situated on a rock outcrop jutting into the sea. Continue to the charming little seaside town of Setse for a night in beachfront chalets.
Overnight: Setse Beach Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 19 - Dawei - head south via Ye
A short drive south brings us to the delightful little town of Ye. Until late 2013 the town had been of limits to foreigners since independence in 1948 due to perceived security issues with Mon and Karen autonomists so, to say it’s off the beaten track, is an understatement. We’ll visit the spectacular temple site atop charmingly named Banana Mountain as well as taking in the rustic riverside market before continuing our journey to Dawei, former Tavoy.
Overnight: Dawei (Tavoy) Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 20 - Dawei - explore the coast
Our day tour of Dawei starts out with another lively waterfront market before heading to the nearby Dawei Peninsula. There can’t be many such spectacular, yet so little developed, stretches of coast left in Southeast Asia so visit now and in 10 years time remember what its fishing villages, deserted bays and seaside pagodas used to look like!
Overnight: Dawei (Tavoy) Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 21 - Myeik - the old colonial port of Mergui
Next stop, after a morning drive, is the charming old colonial port of Mergui, now renamed Myeik. In the afternoon we’ll do a walking tour through streets barely changed in 70 years and take in sunset views of the bustling port from one of the hilltop pagodas.
Overnight: Myeik (Mergui) Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 22 - Myeik - explore the surrounding area
A fascinating day discovering – by road and by boat – some of the area’s traditional industries such as lobster and soft-shelled crab farming, bird’s nest processing, a traditional style shipyard and an unsual visit to a cashew factory.
Overnight: Myeik (Mergui) Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 23 - Myeik - Mergui boat tour or explore the town
For our final day in Myeik we offer, weather permitting, an optional day cruise by boat through some of the myriad isles of the spectacular Mergui Archipelago. Swimming and snorkelling opportunities plus a picnic lunch on the beach and a chance to explore some islands on foot. An alternative day in Myeik allows you to explore the town’s ancient temples and windy lanes; mingle in some of the friendly tea-shops and stroll around a lily covered lake.
Overnight: Myeik (Mergui) Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 24 - Yangon - morning at leisure and return to Yangon
Morning at leisure in Myeik and return flight to Yangon. Tour ends in Yangon late afternoon.
Extra accommodation after the tour in Yangon or beach extensions to Ngapali or Ngwe Saung are available on request.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.
Overnight: Departure Transport: Plane, Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Where do we start? Yangon's colonial splendour, Mandalay's U Bein Bridge, Bagan, Lake Inle, hill stations, the Golden Rock, Hpa-an, old ports of Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui, Irrawaddy and Salween River cruises....
- Rangoon: noisy, bustling, dirty, terrible roads, little street lighting - wonderful!!! A Southeast Asian city as they used to be
- Tour the ruins of world famous Bagan where hundreds of ancient temples across a plain make this one of Asia's most spectacular sites
- Explore the old port of Moulmein - to our mind one of the friendliest, scenic & most charming of Burmese towns
- 2 day boating around the stunning Lake Inle; local markets, lakeside villages, floating gardens, temples.
- Take a day cruise down the Irrawaddy by boat from Mandalay to Bagan. Sunrise departure from Mandalay and bucolic riverside views
- Lashings of authentic local cuisine, tea shops, beer stations and oodles of very friendly locals!
Air Departures (UK)
- 27 July 19 4,975 GBP
- 26 October 19 4,775 GBP
- 16 November 19 4,775 GBP
- 28 July 19 3,825 GBP
- 27 October 19 3,825 GBP
- 17 November 19 3,825 GBP
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Rangoon (Yangon)
*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.
We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...
Bagan Umbra Hotel, Bagan view
- Delightful garden setting with temple views
- Swimming pool & poolside restaurant
- Quiet location in Nyaung U Town
Ayarwaddy River View Hotel, Mandalay view
- Great waterfront location in downtown Mandalay
- Sunset views over the Irrawaddy River from the 'Skybar'
- Friendly staff, comfortable and well-appointed rooms
Mountain Top Hotel, Kyaikto, (Golden Rock) view
- On the mt summit, a short walk from the Rock itself
- Wait 'til you see the views!
- Almost as precariously perched as the nearby Golden Rock
Cinderella Hotel, Moulmein/Mawlamyine view
- Our favourite hotel in Moulmein, (Mawlamyine)
- Decent Wi-Fi, great little restaurant and comfy rooms
- Central but quiet location
21 Paradise Hotel, Setse Beach view
- Odd name but a delightful spot
- Beachside resort facing the Andaman Sea
- Well-appointed, comfortable rooms in a garden setting
Hotel Grand Jade, Myeik view
- The rooftop cafe's perfect for breakfast or sundowners!
- Central location in Myeik Town
- Friendly, helpful staff and maybe the best Wi-Fi in town
*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.
Visa Info & Notes
Burma (Myanmar): You will need to get a visa before you travel. E-visas are now available for many countries https://evisa.moip.gov.mm. Alternatively you need to apply at your nearest Burmese Embassy or Consulate. A visa is valid for 3 months from the date of issue so we recommend applying for one about 2-3 months before your return date.
Note: You are applying as a foreign independent traveller NOT a package tour group. The hotel for visa purposes is the Asia Plaza Hotel, Rangoon c/o Tour Mandalay (our ground handler). You should not require any other details.
Passport validity: Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Burma. You may be refused entry if your passport is damaged or in poor condition.
Holidays should never end, stay a little longer. These extensions go well with this tour...
Here is what out guest have to say about their experience on this tour...
Rob & Jan
" We have just returned from Burma Famous sites and hidden Secrets. The holiday was extremely well organised and ran like clockwork. Our guides, Win Win in the North and Po in the South were wonderful. We can't praise them enough. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
Congratulations on a very enjoyable tour, and thank you for all your help and advice before we went away. "
Christine and Graham Rose
" It was a lovely tour with something new every day. Wi was fun as our leader and quietly conscientious and efficient. We would definitely want her to be our tour leader again! Food was better than we were expecting; Wi and the guides chose very well for us. Accommodation was variable, which was to be expected, but rooms were always clean and comfortable.