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3 weeks in Myanmar -Mandalay to Yangon Itinerary
This exciting 3 weeks in Myanmar begins in Mandalay, the historic and religious capital of Myanmar. From Mandalay you’ll travel by bus or riverboat to Bagan the UNESCO World Heritage site, to explore the many ancient temples. Next, you’ll travel to beautiful Inle Lake where you’ll see floating gardens and the colourful local people of the Danu and Pa-O tribes.
From Inle Lake, catch a local train to Kalaw in the mountains and visit the elephant sanctuary in Green Hill Valley. Yangon is the next stop and here you’ll be dazzled by the Shwedagon Pagoda, an ancient and much revered Buddhist Temple. After exploring the city of Yangon, join the pilgrims in the rollercoaster ride up the mountain to Golden Rock perched precariously on the side of Mount Kyaiktiyo. Then catch a bus to Hpa-An to enjoy some stunning scenery and visit the amazing cave temples including Sadan Cave.
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Fly to Mandalay International Airport.
Discover the ancient capital at Inwa & visit the restored Mandalay Royal Palace. Stroll across the famous U Bein Bridge in Amarapura and explore the important Buddhist centre of Sagaing with its stunning Pagodas, revered temples & monasteries.
Day 1: Take a Tuk-tuk tour of Sagaing** & Amarapura** Visit ancient monasteries & temples and the popular U-bein bridge.
Day 2: Ride on a river ferry to Mingun** & in the afternoon discover the ancient capital Inwa/ Ava** in a horse & cart
Day 3:: Visit the glittering Mandalay Royal Palace**/ Shwenandaw Monastery / Marvel at the world’s oldest book at the Kuthodaw Pagoda & Climb Mandalay hill to watch the sunset and chat with a friendly monk**
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Where to stay in Mandalay
Hotel Yadanarbon** I loved this hotel, especially the rooftop pool with the stunning view.
But If you’re after a luxury five-star hotel try the Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort. It’s in a great location near the Royal Palace and gets excellent reviews.
Click here for Mandalay Highlights
Travel day 4: Take the early morning tourist ferry to Bagan (7-8 hours) Relax and watch life on the river as you pass by and arrive mid-afternoon.
More than 2,000 ancient temples adorn the plains of Bagan. This UNESCO world heritage site is truly astounding!
HOT TIP: Book a hot air balloon flight in Bagan and float above the temples at sunrise. From the air, the view is incredibly beautiful and you can truly appreciate the huge number of temples that were built on the plains of Bagan. I flew with Golden Eagle Balloons and loved every minute. It was an unforgettable experience and a highlight of my Myanmar trip!
Day 5 -7: Hire an e-bike & watch the sun rise or set over the ancient temples and spend your days exploring
Visit Mount Popa where an ancient monastery is perched on top of a craggy mountain.
Click here for more on my adventures in Bagan
Where to Stay in Bagan
I stayed at Hotel Yadanarbon Bagan & enjoyed the lush garden & the proximity to the temples at the edge of New Bagan.
If you’re after an upmarket five-star hotel in Bagan try the Aureum Palace Hotel. I didn’t stay here but it looks beautiful and gets excellent reviews.
Travel Day 8: Book a morning flight to Heho / taxi to Naungshwe (Inle Lake) Arrive in time for a sunset boat trip on Inle Lake**
Relax at beautiful Inle Lake and enjoy the stunning scenery and the unique way of life on the lake.
Day 9: Arrange a sunrise boat tour on Inle Lake. The lake is still and beautiful in the early morning. See the floating gardens & local crafts, Temples, markets and the Jumping cat monastery, cycle to lakeside villages & relax at the hot springs on the way back, Visit Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung Monastery
Day 10: Take a taxi to the astounding Pindaya Cave Temple absolutely brimming with golden Buddha statues**
Where to stay at Inle Lake
Inle Cherry Queen Hotel Inle Lake is located right near the docks in Nyaungshwe. The rooms are clean comfortable room & the view from the rooftop is wonderful.
For a luxurious hotel with a stunning location right on Inle Lake try the Aureum Palace Hotel. I didn’t stay here but it gets exceptional reviews and looks amazing.
Travel Day 11: Take a taxi to the station at Shwe Nyaung for the morning train to Kalaw (approx. 3 hours) Watch everyday life in Myanmar as you travel. Click here for timetables
Enjoy hiking, cave temples and beautiful scenery in this laid-back small town in the mountains. The weather is cooler here and the colourful Pa-O and Danu villages are nearby.
Day 12: Feed and wash the retired elephants at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp** / Visit Kalaw Cave Temple
Day 13: Trek for a day (or 3) to Danu and Pa-O villages through the beautiful green countryside past local farmers at work (Trekking is easy to arrange in Kalaw)
Where to stay in Kalaw
I stayed in the centre of town at the Dream Villa Hotel
Alternatively, try the Kalaw Heritage Hotel. It’s a bit further out of town and gets great reviews for its historic building & charming atmosphere.
For something more upmarket try the Royal Kalaw Hills Resort Guests love its colonial charm and delightful views.
**Allow a few extra days and trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. 2 – 3 day treks are very popular. On overnight treks you will sleep in basic accommodation in a local Danu or Pa-O village or in a monastery)
Travel Day 14: Taxi to Heho (1 hour) for early morning flight to Yangon
Be blown away by the ancient & stunning pagodas in Yangon. Chat to a friendly monk and visit the bustling market.
Take in an Irrawaddy River sunset at the dock near Botataung Pagoda** / St. Mary’s Cathedral / Sule Pagoda
Day 15-16: Soak up the ambience and the marvel at the history of the revered Shwedagon Pagoda** / Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda** / Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda** / Visit People’s Park / Jump on the circle line train for a taste of everyday life in Yangon / Shop at the Bogyoke Aung San Market
Where to stay in Yangon
Merchant Art Residence I loved the location of this hotel and the stunning nighttime view of Shwedagon Pagoda from the rooftop bar & restaurant.
If you’re after more luxury try the Savoy Hotel in Yangon. It has a great location near Shwedagon Pagoda and gets excellent reviews.
Travel Day 17: Catch an early morning train to Kyaiktho (5 hours) / Then take a Pickup or taxi to Kinpun / Transfer to a turbo-powered pickup for the trip up the mountain to the Golden Rock Pagoda at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo** Soak up the sunset at Golden Rock**
Enjoy beautiful mountain views and the most unusual pagoda you’ve ever seen. Join the pilgrims for the rollercoaster ride up the mountain in the back of a turbo-powered pickup truck. It’s an unforgettable experience…
Where to Stay at Golden Rock
Kyaik Hto Hotel Kyaiktiyo This hotel is located at the top of the mountain right next to the entrance to the Golden Rock Pagoda. The views are amazing!
If you’re on a budget there are cheaper options at the base of the mountain such as the Golden Sunrise Hotel which gets excellent reviews. But you’ll have to take the pickup truck to the mountain top to see Golden Rock. Just remember the pickups stop running at sunset.
Click here to read about my pilgrimage to Golden Rock
Travel day 18: Rise early for a glorious sunrise at Golden Rock then speed down the mountain in a pickup truck & catch a bus to Hpa-An (approx. 2-3 hours)
Set in a stunning landscape the cave temples in Hpa-An are truly amazing with a rich history to enjoy!
Day 19: See the cave temples on a full-day tour** (book a budget shared tour at Galaxy Hotel or hire a tuk-tuk for the day) Visit Kawt Ka Thaung Cave** / Sadan Cave **/ Waterfall Village / Kawt Gone Cave** / Ya Thay Pyan Cave** & more…
Day 20: Hike Mount Zwegabin** (3 hours) / Take a boat across the River to a viewpoint at Hpan-Pu village/ Sunset over the river at the Shwe Yinhmyaw Paya** / Eat traditional Myanmar curry at San Ma Taw
Where to Stay in Hpa-An
Hpa-An 2x days Hotel Gabana Hpa-An comfortable accommodation just a short walk from town.
For a luxurious stay in a stunning, serene location consider booking a cottage at Keinnara Hpa An. It’s further out of town but gets exceptional reviews.
Overnight Bus to Yangon 6-7hrs
Day 21: Finish your journey in Yangon
#1. A Travel Guide for Myanmar. I rarely travel without a trusted Lonely Planet Guide.
#2. Travel Insurance – I use and recommend World Nomads
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