Land of Gold:
A Classic Myanmar Luxury Tour

Covering Myanmar's essential highlights and its hidden charms, this signature tour opens the heart of a captivating nation while traveling in luxury.

Oh how Myanmar enchants, its iconic destinations unraveling layer after layer of mystique. Yangon, city of colonial history decaying before your eyes. Mandalay, poetic destination of Kipling's musing. Bagan, strange landscape of temples that change color with the sun. Inle Lake, where fishermen row with one leg and villages rise on stilts above the water. Then what about caves filled with Buddha images? Sleepy colonial hill stations, cruising the Irrawaddy River, and Burmese capitals from many centuries past? This Myanmar luxury tour encompasses all these highlights and more, exploring the soul of a nation that's slowly opening to the world.

Experiencing Myanmar is like encountering a forgotten banyan tree on a dusty plain. From one angle you're consumed by mystery, wondering how something so impressive could be hidden from the world. Circle the banyan and you realize that it's both an ode to history and a coveted example of tomorrow's beauty. Get closer and you admire how every root has its own story and style. Nature and culture combine into one, a fascinating fusion that can't be captured on camera. Myanmar is a country shrouded in legend, slowly opening to the world. This luxury tour unveils it all: the lost-world wonder, the distinctive roots, and the classic destinations that have always made Myanmar blossom.

A Mystery Unraveled Through Cultural Connections

Simply uttering the words Burma or Myanmar creates asort of mystique. It's certainly inspiring to explore a country that was cut off from the world for so long. And over the 13 days you'll find that the mystery has many facets. Myanmar is not one monotone culture, but a rich fabric of lifestyles mostly untouched by time. Explore unique stilt villages on Inle Lake, meeting silk spinners and fishermen that row with one leg. Find monks amongst the incense and hear their tale on the passage of time. Connect with the spirituality that pervades daily life, joining lines of pilgrims and admiring the beauty of hope.

Myanmar has some exquisite sights. Caves filled with thousands of Buddha images, the mesmeric temple landscape of Bagan, crumbling capitals and golden pagodas. This classic tour connects these iconic highlights but goes beyond notions of sightseeing. Each pagoda has a fable, every colonial mansion a story, and each village a surprise. Using some of the country's best local guides, this tour is all about unraveling the mysteries through your own cultural connections. You'll see the sights through the eyes of those that can make sense of them. You'll listen and smell your way across the country. You'll follow the tangled branches of the banyan until it points out at red-robed monk in an 11th-century Bagan shrine.

Myanmar's Iconic Destinations and Highlights

Myanmar does not require you to go off the beaten track. This classic luxury tour travels to the most famous of its destinations, encompassing the highlights that are slowly becoming known to the world. Start in Yangon and stand captivated by the harmony of its contrasts. Relax on Inle Lake and see the lifestyles of the country's east. Discover the old-world glory of Mandalay and the ancient Burmese capitals nearby. Be baffled by both the scale and detail of Bagan, landscape of Buddhist wonder that's barely changed since the 13thcentury.

Dotted throughout are the country's iconic experiences. Relax on a two-day Irrawaddy River cruise, from Mandalay to Bagan by colonial steamer. Hot air balloon above Bagan, watching how sunrise casts its rainbow against the temples. Travel in a horse-drawn carriage through the imperial capital of Inwa. Spirit gods on Mount Popa, botanical gardens in Maymyo, tobacco trading towns and villages with their own uniquespecialism...these 13 days help you appreciate a patchwork of life that stretches back over a millennia.

Coating the Experience in Contemporary Luxury

Myanmar's tourist infrastructure hasn't fully developed, yet contemporary Western luxury is available when you know where to look. From opulent stilt hotels to balconies overlooking Bagan's temples, we carefully handcraft the accommodation that makes your vacationmore than comfortable. Personalized dining recommendations add a new layer of discovery. Chauffeurs provide a level of professionalism to accompany raw local sights. Over 13 days you'll find that this tour is both rare cultural discovery and the quintessence of Myanmar luxury travel.

Highlights and Experiences

  • Unravel the secrets of Bagan, where mysterious sandstone pagodas imbue a thrilling sense of spirituality.
  • Admire colonial relics in their redolent state of decay, from the townhouses of old Rangoon (Yangon) to the blissful hill station of Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin).
  • Immerse yourself in local lifestyles and unravel the complexities of Burmese life, from stilt villages on Inle Lake to monks in hidden caves.
  • Enjoy two of Myanmar's most iconic experiences, a hot air balloon ride above Bagan and a two-day luxury cruise on the Irrawaddy River.
  • Explore Kipling's Mandalay, from the temples and monasteries to the ancient Burmese capitals that occupy its outskirts.
  • Unearth the luxuries that survive from distant centuries, like afternoon high tea and landscapes of gold leaf.
  • Go beyond the classic interpretations with some of Myanmar's best guides, meeting locals who openly tell their story and finding the subtleties behind an inglorious history.

Day by Day

Day 1

Colonial Grandeur in an Evocative State of Ruin

Central Yangon resembles something from a century ago. The name has changed from Rangoon to Yangon, yet the buildings remain the same and a sense of old-world grandeur lives on. Historic townhouses are crumbling slowly yet the slow decay only adds to the charm. For Yangon is no longer a colonial enclave, but the quintessence of modern Myanmar life. Atmospheric street life dazzles, with stalls and food carts spilling their wares beneath ornate balconies. Scents from India and China mingle with dreams of afternoon high tea. It's the country in a nutshell, a vibrant mix of everything, seemingly frozen in the late 19th century.

After a morning arrival you're transferred to the city's most legendary hotel, a revitalized icon that has been one of the world's leading hotels for over a century. Spend the afternoon exploring, a local guide uncovering the subtle secrets of a surreal downtown. So many contrasts are on show, so many fables coming together in remarkable unison. Religious icons also impress and you watch how sunset bounces off the golden leaf of Shwedagon Pagoda, the country's modern ode to Buddhism. Also included today are a photogenic stop on Kandawgyi Lake and exclusive access to heritage buildings that are normally closed to visitors.

Day 2

Culture and Tranquility on Remote Inle Lake

As this Myanmar luxury tour progresses you'll discover that the country is a patchwork of unique cultures, stitched together by the shared experience of political challenge. Stoic yet serene, the people are a message of hope, a defining symbol of happiness beyond publicized troubles. Inle Lake is a classic example of this. Boatmen row with one leg, flowers blossom on strange floating islands, and villages rise on stilts in the water. Smiles and waves greet you on a private boat cruise, one that showcases how cultural heritage can dominate the ambiance of today. Inle Lake is a place of escapism, a tranquil destinations hidden in the hills. But like everything in Myanmar, the destination provides a unique insight into a remote world and its people.

Day 3

Serene Sunrise and Into the Mountains

Mornings are special on Inle Lake. Golden tones bounce off the water, catching the fishermen in silhouette. Markets come alive as boats bring endless supplies of fruit and vegetables, antiques and souvenirs. Village life wakes, from children taking a boat to school to pigs snorting beneath stilt houses. And you continue to cruise, connecting the highlights of this magical lake, including a silk factory on stilts and 16th-century pagodas. After lunch the guide drives you to Pindaya, past small villages, into mountains of forested slopes. Spend the night here, gazing out over the country's dreamy landscapes.

Day 4

A Connection With Buddha and Conversation With Monks

Mystique floats on the morning breeze as you explore the Pindaya Caves, where 8,000 Buddha images provide a bizarre and baffling sight. Some are intricate, detail packed into a sculpture the length of a fingernail. Some gleam through the gloom, huge icons with eyes that seem to follow you through the caverns. Incense and candles burn softly, feeding on the vestiges of oxygen that join you in the remote ends of the caves. These caves create a poignant impression of Myanmar's spirituality, as do the monks of Mandalay. After a short flight to the city of Kipling's nostalgia, you'll join novice monks on the mountain about Mandalay city, watching the sunset as they seek to practice their English.

Day 5

An Old-World Connection With Mandalay

As you explore the old city you may be whispering the lines from Kipling's poem: “for the wind is in the palm trees and the temple bells they say...come you back to Mandalay.”Gold leaf shimmers on pagodas across the city, intricate wooden carvings hide inside monasteries, dust swirls amongst villages and the bells speak with their chimes. We've been arranging Myanmar luxury travel for over two decades and we've identified the best of the country's guides, local experts that lead your unique discovery. Like most days, today's private tour is relaxed and runs at your pace, revealing Mandalay;s highlights along with its hidden sights.

Day 6

The Royal Capitals From a Forgotten Time

This morning you depart Myanmar and continue on a Burma luxury tour, traveling to imperial capitals dotted around Mandalay. Explore Inwa to the sound of hoofs, a horse-drawn chariot piecing together monuments from three centuries as Burma's heartbeat. Wooden monasteries and leaning towers, ancient palace walls and majestic banyan trees, Inwa always impresses the camera. Cross the wooden slats of U Bein bridge on a visit to Amarapura, where more gracious fables come from the annals of history. Then explore a blossoming dining scene with reservations at a restaurant that blurs colonial and Burmese styles. Throughout this itinerary, we'll provide handpicked dining reservations that allow you to taste the contrast between Burma's regions.

Day 7

Beauty and Botanical Gardens in the Iconic British Hill Station

In the colonial era, it was Maymyo that provided Burma luxury tours. Ascend from the heat of the Mandalay plains to this hill station from yesteryear, where grand mansions have retained their elegance, even though the town has been renamed as Pyin Oo Lwin. This is a place to relax and uncover another side to the country's history, one of sweeping botanical gardens and clock towers from Kipling's fiction. You'll explore on a horse-drawn carriage and meet colorful locals, who are remarkably open in telling their story of Myanmar's recent history. Like always, your hotel has been handpicked to fit the destination, a sprawling mansion with the atmosphere of colonial times. Think afternoon tea and gracious wooden balconies.

Day 8-9

Exclusive Cruise Along the Irrawaddy

The great Irrawaddy River is Myanmar's lifeblood, traveling through the past and into the present. It connects villages of tradition, cities of grandeur, and remarkable Buddhist treasures. By traveling slowly you are immersed in it all, a legendary colonial steamer taking two days to connect Mandalay with Bagan. Children break from their ebullient splashing to wave from the banks; oxen wade across, just horns and eyes above the water; narrowboats are framed against scorched red banks; old pagodas stand above it all. The 1947 Pandaw is the river's most timeless vessel, an opulent steamer that complements the atmosphere of a forbidden and forgotten time.

Spend two nights on board, with land excursions to walk around local villages and visit a tobacco trading town. After seven days hopping between attractions, these two days also provide a tranquil interlude before the world-renowned temples of Bagan. Like so much of Myanmar luxury travel, these two days are both getaway and adventure, cultural immersion and personal indulgence. Note that water levels dictate that the Irrawaddy River cruise is not available between May and August. A journey by land can be just as insightful during these months, rugged roads piecing together villages that are far from any tourist trail.

Day 10

Baffled by the Wonders of Bagan

Scorched sandstone greets you in Bagan, a plateau of Buddhist peaks rising above the southern banks of the Irrawaddy. A few minutes off the boat and you're completely surrounded, thousands of pagodas and shrines spilling out in every direction. At first it's baffling, such religious abundance punctuated by the odd lonely palm. Even after a full day exploring you struggle to make sense of Bagan's scale, how so many exquisite structures have been isolated by time. There are literally thousands; visiting them all would take the best part of a year.

It's destinations like Bagan where the quality of the guiding really shines through. You sidestep the tour buses, exploring the most famous pagodas when their poignantly quiet, and you can savor the spirituality that permeates their walls. Fables and fictions accompany each of them, sometimes told through the monks you meet. Most of the pagodas don't have names, only numbers, yet their craftsmanship is masterful. And as sunset arrives you're not stood on a famous "sunset" temple, you're virtually alone on a 12th-century masterpiece with an equally impressive view over the dusty plains.

Day 11

Ballooning Above Bagan and More Intimate Sights

Bagan is like a kaleidoscope from a hot air balloon. Ruby as the sun pierces the horizon, deep ochre to vibrant orange as sandstone emerges from the shadows, diaphanous hues of cinnamon and yellow as morning firmly arrives. An aerial sunrise tour is perhaps Myanmar's most iconic experience, an insight into the archaeological site's scale and surreal splendor. After the flight, touch down to a second breakfast then spend the day exploring further, uncovering more intricate details with your historical guide. These aren't museum pieces but living places of worship, which an incense-perfumed meeting with a bare-footed monk confirms.

Day 12

Tropical Landscapes and the Spirit Gods of Mount Popa

Bagan sits on a plain of red dust, casting everything in the glow of a post-production photo. Beyond the old city is a landscape of rich tropical colors which appear oversaturated when replicated on film. Palm plantations and fields of sugar, oases set amongst a desert climate, panoramas for taking a picnic. The final day of this Myanmar luxury tour travels to Mount Popa, legendary home of the spirit gods ("nats"). Hear the stories from those who worship there and feel the spirituality that seems to consume nature. On the return to Bagan you have a final sunset image, a last tranquil spot watching the mystery succumb to darkness.

Day 13

Returning to Yangon and Departure

An early morning flight gets you into Yangon with time for additional sightseeing. Spend it at the lake, at one of the golden pagodas, or wrapped in the luxury of a five-star riverside hotel, where old-world grandeur provides the peaceful setting before your international departure. You'll have day-room use of a hotel, ensuring your fresh for the homebound flight. Leaving the country you rekindle the fables, remembering the people that made Myanmar more than a work of fiction.

INDOCHINA Travel Company

1283 12th Avenue San Francisco, California
Phone: (415) 418-6800