South Burma (Myanmar) tour
Wonderful as the famous sites of Mandalay, Bagan and Lake Inle are there's a lot more to Burma as you'll discover on this 2-week off the beaten track tour to southern Burma
"Lookin’ Lazy at the Sea..."
“By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea” – another Kipling quote for this off the beaten track South Burma (Myanmar) tour, following, with a few detours into the interior, the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea coast from Rangoon (Yangon) all the way to the Mergui Archipelago in the far south of the country .
Our route takes in the well-preserved yet little-visited historic ports of Mawlamyine, Dawei and Myeik, better known as Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui, as well as plenty of lesser-known destinations on the way.
Leaving Yangon we’ll travel by local train to the ancient Mon capital of Pegu, now Bago, and on to the stunning Golden Rock – one of the country’s most important pilgrimage sites. From here we’ll continue down the peninsula to the tiny capital of Karen State, Hpa-an, where the broad Salween River and dramatic karst scenery form a spectacular setting for this charming and picturesque town. The old colonial period towns of Moulmein (Mawlamyine) and Dawei are next on the itinerary before completing the tour in the delightful town of Mergui, now Myeik, with its myriad isles.
Definitely some of the most picturesque and friendliest of Burmese towns plus some of the country’s most spectacular scenery.
This 2-week southern itinerary can be booked as a stand-alone, off the beaten track tour or combined with our classic Discover Burma tour for a comprehensive look at the country’s famous sites and hidden secrets.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Yangon (Rangoon) - arrival and afternoon at leisure
Morning arrival in Yangon (Rangoon) and check-in to a comfortable, downtown hotel close to the famous Scott Market. Afternoon at leisure: check out some of the City’s decaying Victorian splendour, the National Museum or perhaps revisit the awesome Shwedagon Pagoda?
Overnight: Yangon Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - The Golden Rock - local train to ancient Bago
Departure by local train for the ancient Mon capital of Pegu, now Bago and on to Kyaiktiyo, departure point for the Golden Rock – a gold-leaf-covered boulder balanced precariously on a mountaintop. Ride halfway up the mountain on an open-topped truck crammed with locals before continuing on foot with the pilgrims. Awe-inspiring views and overnight in a ridge-top hotel almost as absurdly situated as the rock itself.
Transport to the summit can be arranged for the less energetic.
Overnight: Golden Rock Transport: Minibus, Train, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 3 - Hpa-an - dawn at the Rock and on to Karen State
Dawn at the Rock before heading 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 before a sunset visit to a beautiful riverside pagoda.
Overnight: Hpa-an Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 4 - Hpa-an - Zhwegabin sacred mountain
Set amid dramatic limestone karst scenery including the sacred Zwegabin Mountain, symbol of Karen State and we’ll spend the day exploring Hpa-an’s caves, tunnels, temples and mountains by road, boat and on foot, as well as passing through some of the area’s traditional Karen villages.
Overnight: Hpa-an Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 5 - Moulmein (Mawlamyine) - cruise down the Salween
Departure by boat, for a journey down the scenic Salween River to Moulmein, now Mawlamyine, capital of Mon State with a stop at a riverside Karen 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: Moulmein Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 6 - Moulmein (Mawlamyine) - Bilu Island tour
Off to nearby Bilu Kyun – ‘Ogre Island’ – to visit traditional Mon villages and discover some of the local handicrafts and cottage industries. They don’t see many tourists yet, but villagers will be happy to demonstrate how they make cane walking sticks, bamboo hats, slate blackboards and even back-garden rubber band making! (Sounds odd, but absolutely fascinating). Afternoon return to Moulmein for some sundowners at a waterfront café?
Overnight: Moulmein Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 7 - Thanbyuzayat - Death Railway and Setse Beach
Visit the town’s lively morning market before heading south with stops at Kyauktalon Pagoda, perched atop a limestone pinnacle, the world’s largest reclining Buddha (Win Sein Taw Ya) and Thanbyuzayat – terminus of the infamous Japanese-built ‘Death Railway’ and WW2 cemetery. Last but not least, we visit the iconic Kyaikkami Monastery located in the old colonial town of Amherst, on a rock outcrop jutting into the sea. Overnight accommodation in the charming little seaside town of Setse.
Overnight: Setse Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 8 - Dawei - south to Ye and Dawei
A short drive south brings us to the delightful little town of Ye. Until late 2013 the town had been off limits to foreigners since independence in 1948. (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 in the afternoon to Dawei, formerly Tavoy.
Overnight: Dawei Transport: Minibus, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 9 - Dawei - 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 stretches of coast left in Southeast Asia as spectacular, but yet so little developed. Now is the time to visit, as in 10 years’ time it’s fishing villages, deserted bays and seaside pagodas may well be a distant memory.
Overnight: Dawei Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 10 - Myeik - the old colonial port
After a morning drive, the next stop is the 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 Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 11 - Myeik - tour of 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, edible bird’s nest collection, a traditional-style shipyard and a visit to a cashew processing factory.
Overnight: Myeik Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 12 - Myeik - Mergui boat trip or explore the town
For our final day in Myeik, we propose an optional day cruise by boat through some of the myriad isles of the spectacular Mergui Archipelago (weather permitting). Activities include swimming and snorkelling, 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 Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 13 - Yangon - morning at leisure and return to Yangon
Morning at leisure, afternoon return flight to Yangon and end of the tour.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the ‘with flights’ package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.
Extra accommodation in Yangon after your tour or an extension to a beach resort are available on request.
Overnight: Departure Transport: Plane, Walk, Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Sunrise at the Golden Rock; sacred Zhwegabin Mountain, boat down the Salween River, the old colonial ports of Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui are just a few of this fascinating tour's varied highlights
- Rangoon: check out some more crumbling Victoriana, re-visit awesome Shwedagon or haggle in the markets
- Scenic Hpa-an Town - capital of Karen State - nestled between the river and dramatic limestone rock formations
- Tour of the old port of Myeik with an opportunity for a day boat cruise through the neighbouring Mergui Archipelago
- Join the Buddhist pilgrims on their way to the astonishing Golden Rock with an overnight stay on the summit
- The fantastic colonial buildings of Dawei, former Tavoy, plus a tour of its stunning and untouched, coastal scenery
- Lashings of authentic local cuisine, tea shops, beer stations and oodles of very friendly locals!
Air Departures (UK)
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from 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...
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
Golden Guest Hotel, Dawei view
- All round views from the roof-top cafe
- Newly decorated, well-appointed rooms
- Convenient central location in Dawei Town
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
Visas: Visas are required for all nationalities other than those of Asean member states and they are not available on arrival at either international airports or land crossings. The choice for Myanmar/Burmese visas then is between applying in advance for a visa at a Burmese embassy or consulate or applying online for an e-visa. The relatively recently introduced e-visa facility replaces visas on arrival and seems to work very efficiently.
In either case, your passport has to have a minimum of 6 months validity from the date of arrival and at least 1 blank page in your passport. Note, even equipped with a valid visa, airlines will generally not let you board flights for Burma (Myanmar) without proof of onward travel. (This is an airline regulation even if it’s not generally applied by Burmese immigration.)
The e-visa system is slightly different than for instance Cambodia since, if your application is successful, you will receive an approval letter which is handed to immigration officials on arrival in exchange for an entry stamp. (There is no cut-out visa.) An online tourist visa application costs $50, is valid for 28 day’s travel and takes up to 3 working days to process. (There is no additional charge at the border.) Express 1 or 2-day visa applications are available for an additional cost. These approval letters are valid at any international airport and at the Myawaddy, Kawthaung and Tachileik border crossings. This is the official visa application site.
A standard tourist visa, also valid for 28 days, costs approximately $40, or the equivalent of in the currency of the country where you’re applying. Processing varies from embassy to embassy with some offering a next day collection, (for a supplementary fee) while others taking up to 5 working days.
Your solution then depends on where you’re applying from and if you do happen to have a Burmese embassy at the end of your road so much the better but otherwise we can’t see any reasons for not taking advantage of the efficient e-visa scheme which we reckon is well worth the extra few dollars. We’ve received these in the past on the same day as application though, as we said, they do ask to allow up to 3 working days. If you’re planning on departing from a land crossing such as Tachileik for our Shan State tour, please ask us for a covering letter explaining that which you can show to airlines/immigration in the event they do ask for an onward flight ticket.
Meals: breakfasts are usually buffet style with lunch and dinners based on local food. Lunches on the road are typically simpler dishes such as variations on noodles or fried rice while your tour-leader will generally order more elaborate-style dinners consisting of a selection of local fare.
Dishes are only mildly spicy and both vegetarians and vegans are very easily catered for. For any other likes and dislikes please remind your tour-leader at the start of the tour. A number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.
Burmese culinary influences correspond to its geographical location and mixed population so include Chinese, Indian and Thai as well as a host of minority dishes such as those of the Shan, Karen or Mon.
Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3* range and are en-suite and air-conditioned. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered can be tailored for various fitness levels or alternatives suggested.
Further info: detailed descriptions and photos can be found on the corresponding page of our travel blog
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