Anna's Impact Myanmar
Our Destination Specialists are experts at tailoring bespoke itineraries just for you, but what would their own perfect holiday look like? We asked Myanmar Specialist Anna what she’d include in her own ideal trip, and the result is Impact Myanmar, which showcases the country’s innovative new community enterprise and wildlife conservation projects, and champions inspiring small businesses run by local people.
- Wander beside elephants and plant trees in Kalaw’s green hills
- Rub shoulders with the locals in traditional tea shops
- Gaze at the glittering spires of Myanmar’s famous pagodas
- Learn to fish in harmony with beautiful Irrawaddy dolphins
- Look down over Yangon from the summit of Mount Popa
- Get up close to your pick of Bagan’s fascinating temples
- Connect with traditional culture in rural tribal communities
Mandalay - 3 nights
Mandalay, the ‘City of Gems’, is Myanmar’s second largest city, and its glittering economic centre. Named after the pagoda-covered hill that rises above its streets, Mandalay is a thriving hub of commerce, history and tradition. Its name still evokes images of British colonial rule and poetic romance, due in part to Kipling’s love affair with the city. Glinting glass towers spring up regularly in its dynamic centre, sitting comfortably alongside lavish Buddhist stupas, the historic Royal Palace citadel, and traditional arts and crafts workshops that produce everything from gold leaf to distinctive kalaga tapestries.
Day 1 - Arrive Mandalay, afternoon city tour
On arrival in Myanmar, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your Mandalay hotel.
Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.
Enjoy an afternoon touring some of the city's key sites with a personalised guided programme. Wander around the eclectic stalls at Zaycho Market, stop at the Kuthodaw Pagoda to read a few pages from the world's largest 'book' (an entire Buddhist canon recorded on 729 stone tablets!), watch devotees add gold leaf to the Buddha at the Mahamuni Paya, and see the historic wooden palace of Shwe Nan Daw.
Day 2 - Irrawaddy Dolphin cooperative experience, overnight in a riverbank yurt
We have partnered with a local NGO to create a unique experience taking visitors out on the river with local fishermen, to raise awareness of the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. There’s no guarantee you’ll see dolphins, but your involvement provides vital support to the community, helping preserve the cultural heritage of cooperative fishing with the dolphins, and looking out for their welfare. Sail upstream on board a small river cruiser, which will be your home for the next 24 hours. Meet the fishermen, and learn about their lifestyle and why the conservation of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy dolphins is so important. Visit several riverside villages and discover more about the region’s cottage industries, including bamboo hat making and pottery, and enjoy a simple lunch on deck with the boatmen, keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins while you eat. End the day moored on a secluded sandbank at sunset, to enjoy a simple dinner and reflect on the day with a chilled beer.
Day 3 - Boat trip with the fishermen, visit riverside villages
Rise early for the best chance to spot the dolphins out on the river while it’s still quiet. With the benefit of decades of experience in these waters, the fishermen will know when dolphins are nearby, and pause the boat if and when they make an appearance. Learn how the fishermen prepare and cast their nets, and how their extraordinary cooperative fishing tradition works, before heading back downstream. Disembark at Mingun to explore some key sites, such as King Bodawpaya’s unfinished temple and the mighty Mingun Bell, before enjoying the cruise back to Mandalay.
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Bagan - 2 nights
Sometimes written ‘Pagan’, Myanmar’s 9th century capital is one of the most significant ancient cities in South-East Asia, right up there with Angkor Wat. Now, 25 years after it was first nominated, Bagan has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With literally thousands to choose from, it's no easy task selecting which temples and pagodas to make a beeline for, so get local recommendations and perhaps take a birds-eye overview from a hot air balloon. Explore the temples by cycle or electric bike and, if you’re in danger of becoming ‘templed out’, wander through interesting nearby villages, discover Nyaung U’s excellent restaurant scene, and find lively markets and tea shops in New Bagan.
Day 4 - Drive to Bagan, via Mount Popa
Mount Popa was a sacred site long before Buddhist monks established their beautiful monastery on a cinder plug near its peak. Legend tells that the mountain is home to 37 ‘Nats’ - traditional spirits that are worshipped throughout Myanmar in tandem with Buddhism. The mountain is a popular pilgrimage site, and its slopes are scattered with shrines. The view from the peak is spectacular - certainly worth the effort of climbing the 800 steps to get there! Trek to the nearby villages of Popa Taungyar and Myaukywa for an insight into traditional rural life, and chat with a local family over tea (with your guide acting as translator). Make the pleasant afternoon drive to Bagan, passing through peanut and sesame plantations, and maybe pausing en route to learn about local palm sugar and peanut oil production. The remainder of your day in Bagan is at leisure.
Day 5 - Bagan temples and village cycle tour
Start your cycle tour in Myinkaba Village, home of the Myinkaba Hpayar pagoda built by the legendary ruler King Anawrahta. Visit the nearly 1000-year-old Manuha temple, and Nan-Paya, believed to be the palace of King Manuha, who introduced the first lacquerware artisans to the region. See the Dhammayazika Pagoda, the largest pentagonal stupa in Bagan, lined with terracotta friezes illustrating scenes from the Jataka tales. Stop at Anauk Pwasaw to see the traditional Myanma rattan houses, cattle carts, and local handicrafts, then continue to Minanthu village for lunch. Visit the interconnected shrines of Payathonzu Pagoda, the abandoned yet ornate construction of Tayok Pye, and a wooden monastery with beautifully decorated stone steps in Taungbi village. Head to Nat Taung Kyaung, another wooden monastery, considered to be the oldest and finest example of its kind in the region, before cycling back to Bagan.
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Sale - 2 nights
The Bagan-era town of Sale, pronounced Sa-lay, is an ancient and active site of religious significance on the eastern banks of the Irrawaddy River. There are literally hundreds of intriguing ruins in the Sale region, and only a few have ever been studied by archaeologists and historians. The town’s most famous site, and place of pilgrimage, is Yoke-sone Kyaung: a 19th century wooden monastery featuring an extraordinarily amount of intricate wooden carvings. Admire the fascinating buildings, soak up the peaceful atmosphere, and visit a museum celebrating the life of Sale’s most famous son; the poet and author Sale U Ponnya.
Day 6 - Travel to Sale via Chauk market.
Head out of Bagan on a scenic rural drive to the town of Chauk. Famous for oil and natural gas production, the town has grown from a tiny village to a thriving regional centre, and you’ll see ‘nodding donkeys’ and working pipelines during your visit. A world away from the major tourist sights, this is a great opportunity to see down-to-earth Myanmar life and mix with the locals, as you visit the vibrant central market and stop for a cuppa in a traditional tea shop. Continue on to the ancient town of Sale, and the Salay River View Inn: a family-run property in the heart of the town. Get hands on with a cooking class, take traditional Myanmar tea with your hosts, or just chill out and connect with the community.
Day 7 - Farm village visit and Sale highlights
Head to a farming village just across the river to experience the rhythm of daily life in this agricultural area, then return to Sale to soak up the serene pace as you explore the town’s temples and highlights.
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Kalaw & Green Valley Elephant - 2 nights
Thanks to the region’s forgiving climate, the small yet beautiful town of Kalaw was popular with the British during the colonial era. The town is experiencing something of a revival as travellers discover it’s an ideal base for visiting nearby tribal communities and trekking to Inle Lake. Its lively market is all about the locals - no trinkets for tourists here, just herbs, spices and hearty, traditional food, which you may well end up enjoying for dinner. Step away from the well-trodden trail and unwind in the cool mountain air.
Day 8 - Day-long drive to Kalaw
Settle back and enjoy central Myanmar’s atmospheric scenery on the 6 to 7-hour drive to Kalaw. Your guide will suggest a few good places to stop along the way, such as Meikhtila lake and market, or the railway station in Thazin, where you can stretch your legs and explore.
Day 9 - A day with the elephants at Green Hill Valley
Travel through the Shan Hills to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp at Magwe. This inspiring project is a retirement camp for elephants that were once worked in the region’s logging industry. Set within a beautiful conservation area known for its orchids, teak, bamboo forest and butterflies, the Green Hill Valley area is also excellent for trekking. On arrival, meet the team for an introductory overview of the project, the conservation, and their work within the local community. Walk a short way to the elephant village to meet the mighty residents, and assist the mahouts in feeding them, before following them down to the river to participate in the elephant bathing. Re-plantation is another major focus at Green Hill Valley, and you’ll have the chance to contribute by planting a local tree.
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Inle Lake region - 3 nights
As you approach the vast expanse of Inle Lake, the narrow tributary channels widen and before you know it you’re crossing the broad, tranquil water, with hills and mountains surrounding you in every direction. The panoramic view is beautiful, and the scale is breathtaking. As you take it all in, you’ll see passing fishermen move their boats swiftly over the lake using their unique foot-rowing technique. The region is home to several traditional tribal communities who live in stilted homes over the water, tending floating vegetable gardens and making a living from the lake.
Day 10 - Journey to Sagar via Nyaung Shwe
Start your day at the bustling Kalaw market before heading off towards Nyaung Shwe on the shores of beautiful Inle Lake. Pause in atmospheric Nyaung Shwe for a break, and maybe a quick bite in one of its many eateries, before bumping along the road for a couple more hours to Mawbi Village, where you’ll board a boat to Sagar at the southern end of Inle Lake. Linked by a tributary to the main body of water, and well away from the tourist hotspots, it's one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State. The mountains create a picturesque backdrop for the small villages and leg-rowing fishermen on the water. Stay at the stunning Inle Sanctuary Phayartaung, a stilted eco-lodge set on the end of the lake in the tiny Phayartaung village.
Day 11 - Explore Phayartaung village
The best way to explore the region around Phayartaung is on foot, hiking between villages to meet different communities and immerse yourself in the local culture. Visit a Pa-O village, a Shan village and an Inntha village to see pagodas, traditional weaving and handmade jewellery, and trek through the countryside to remote waterfalls and hot springs.
Day 12 - Continue exploring around Sagar
Continue exploring the surrounding countryside by bike, cycling a little further afield to visit more tribal communities, including Pa-O, Shan, Kayah and Inntha villages. Wonder at the pagodas that rise dramatically out of the landscape, visit a Kayah holy site and hot springs, try your hand at making rice crackers and rice wine, and float out onto the water with a gentle boat trip across the lake.
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Yangon - 2 nights
Yangon (formerly Rangoon) was Myanmar’s administrative capital until 2006 and remains the country's largest and most influential city. Its dusty streets are lined with an intriguing array of traditional wooden homes, imposing colonial-era relics, buzzing tea houses, and modern - although often already decaying - office blocks. Yangon’s skyline remains far more low-rise and green than many other South-East Asian cities, leaving space to enjoy the views. Rivers, lakes, parks and tree-lined streets separate the built up districts, and the gleaming spire of Shwedagon Pagoda - one of Myanmar’s most iconic sights - peacefully towers above the city.
Day 13 - Fly to Yangon, Go Local experience
Transfer to Heho Airport by, boat and car in time for your flight to Yangon, where the rest of your day will be at leisure. In the evening, it’s time to ‘Go Local’. Take a stroll with one of our local Burmese friends, stopping for a drink in a local café or bar, immersing yourself further into the country’s culture, and seeing a side of Yangon that only locals know. Perhaps enjoy some street food and live music, join your companion at their local temple, or even share a drink or meal with their family or friends.
Day 14 - Circle train, Sule Pagoda, walking tour, Shwedagon Pagoda
Make a beeline for the bustling streets of India Town in the heart of downtown Yangon. Explore the lively morning market, then board the city’s ‘circular railway’ at Yangon’s Central Station. Weave through the city’s lively and colourful local neighbourhoods, before disembarking at Hledan to visit the huge reclining Buddha. Head downtown to the Sule Pagoda, and perhaps stop to chat with one of the fortune-tellers based there, before walking to Mahabandoola Park and Burma’s Independence Monument. Wander along the banks of the Yangon River to see some historic architecture, including the literary Strand Hotel, once home to the likes of Orwell, Kipling and Somerset Maugham. Mingle with the locals over a cup of sweet chai in a traditional tea shop, and visit the magnificent 2,000 year old Shwedagon Pagoda - one of the most significant religious sites in Myanmar. Explore the surrounding shrines as the city’s residents make their daily prayers, and investigate the makeshift food markets that spring up there as evening draws in.
Day 15 - Depart Yangon
Enjoy a morning at leisure until it’s time to catch your onward flight.
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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.
Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.
|Hotel class||Price per person (based on total # travelling)|
|2 persons||3 persons||4 - 6|
Red CanalAlthough they’re only a short taxi or trishaw ride into downtown Mandalay and the night market, most guests would quite rightly question the need to ever leave the Red Canal. Put simply, it’s delightful... See more
Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project: tent
As part of the Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project experience you will overnight in a comfortable tent complete with full-size mattress...
Bagan Thande HotelArranged along the riverbank, the Bagan Thande’s wooden bungalows are bright & elegant, their aesthetic traditional but modern enough to keep you comfortable... See more
Salay River View Inn
Venture 90 minutes south of Bagan and you come to the Salay River View Inn, a one-of-a-kind gem on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The inn is utterly charming, offering that unique and authentic welcome you get from a genuinely family-run property…See more
Kalaw Heritage HotelHigh in the mountains of eastern Myanmar, the Kalaw Heritage Hotel is the perfect base for exploring this fascinating region, combining classic elegance with efficient service and up-to-date facilities... See more
A community-supported lodge running on 100% solar power, the Inle Sanctuary offers low key accommodation in a remote spot beyond Inle Lake...See more
Well located in the lower town area of Myanmar’s eclectic former capital, just moments from the riverbank, the Yangon Excelsior is a sharp-dressed addition to the city’s hotel résumé…See more
Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.
These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).
The important stuffPlease note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and Burmese New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.
- English speaking, local guide
- All accommodation listed
- Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
- Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
- All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals listed
- International flight reconfirmation.
- Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
- Entry visas
- International airport departure taxes
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Drinks, other than water on activity days
- Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
- Travel insurance
- All other services not listed in 'inclusive'
Please noteAll prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.
FlightsWe will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.
VisaYou will require a visa to enter Myanmar. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.
PassportPlease ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.
InsuranceYou will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.
Vaccinations and Malaria PreventionYou will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.
Booking ProcedureOnly once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.
Travelling ResponsiblyWe care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.
Our tailor-made service costs you no extra
This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...
Your own private guides & drivers
You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.