Day 1: Wednesday, Depart UK
Depart the UK today to Rangoon via Bangkok.
Day 2: Thursday, Arrive Rangoon [Myanmar] (Burma)
Arrive early this morning and transfer to The Governor’s Residence where your hotel room has been pre-booked for an early check in.
Day 3: Friday, Rangoon
Rangoon, the former capital city of Burma is a multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan city but ancient traditions and spiritual heritage remain paramount. Our morning tour will take us to Sule Pagoda with its golden dome and around the Mahabandoola Park to see the colonial courthouse and City Hall. We also will visit Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Burma. The central stupa is 90m tall and gilded with gold leaf, making for a spectacular sight as the sun sets and from where you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Pagoda and surrounding skyline.
This afternoon choose from a range of options:
1. A free afternoon for relaxation.
2. Visit Bogyoke Market offering a wide selection of Burmese handicrafts, paintings, jewellery and other local goods.
3. Enjoy high tea at the historic Victorian styled Strand Hotel constructed in 1901, taking you back to the opulence of a bygone era.
Welcome Reception and Dinner this evening.
Day 4: Saturday, Heho – Pindaya – Inle Lake
A morning flight takes us to Heho, where we enjoy a scenic drive through the picturesque hills of the Shan State to the small lakeside town of Pindaya and visit the Pindaya Caves where we learn about the culture, lifestyle and religious beliefs of the Burmese people. The caves contain thousands of images of Buddha in various shapes and sizes made from teak, marble, brick and lacquer, which have been created over centuries and arranged in such a way as to form a labyrinth throughout the various cave chambers. We continue our visit with a tour of handicraft workshops and observe the skilled techniques, which are used to produce local handicrafts such as shan paper, made from mulberry bark and traditional wooden umbrellas.
Late this afternoon we take a scenic drive to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Our hotel for the next three nights is the Inle Princess Resort.
Day 5: Sunday, Inle Lake
Today we board a private motorboat and journey out to discover life along this freshwater lake. We will pass villages built on stilts inhabited by the local Intha people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group. Observe the leg-rowing fishermen and see their floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth (aquatic plant) and mud anchored with bamboo poles. We will visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses dozens of Shan Buddha images but is more famous for its unique ‘jumping cats’; be entertained by the hoop jumping cats trained by the monks of the monastery! We continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf. Our visit also includes a look at the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.
Day 6: Monday, Inle Lake
After breakfast we visit the lake’s morning market before heading down a small canal to the Pa-oh village of Indein. Stroll around the village, visit a local school and wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area where you can climb the covered stairway to the top of a hill and be rewarded with views of picturesque ancient stupas and the magnificent lake below. This afternoon is free for relaxation after lunch in the hotel, or you may wish to visit an authentic Intha house for lunch on the lake.
This evening you will be treated to a special dinner in the wine cellar of our resort.
Day 7: Tuesday, Inle Lake – Mandalay
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and morning around Inle Lake before transferring to Heho airport this afternoon for your flight to Mandalay, the cultural centre of Burma. On arrival in Mandalay we check into our Hotel. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon or stroll beside the walls of the old Royal Palace near our hotel. Later this afternoon we make our way by coach to Mandalay Hill to watch the stunning sunset over the city and Irrawaddy River.
Enjoy a dine-around evening in the hotel’s restaurant.
Day 8: Wednesday, Mandalay – Join The Road To Mandalay
After a free morning in Mandalay enjoy a tour of the city including the Mandalay Fort, Mahamuni Pagoda and Mandalay Palace followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Later this afternoon we board the luxurious cruise ship, Road To Mandalay, for a seven night voyage. Settle into your cabin before admiring the sunset whilst on deck prior to dinner and local entertainment onboard this evening.
Day 9: Thursday, Burmese Village
After an early breakfast onboard we dock at a local village for a walking tour. This traditional Burmese village gives you the opportunity to discover the Burmese way of life first hand. The ship departs mid morning and begins its journey south. The rest of the day is spent relaxing onboard and observing the fascinating local river life from the top deck. You may wish to attend one of the onboard lectures on Burma’s culture or pamper yourself at the Wellbeing Centre. This evening we dine onboard savouring regional cuisine with a selection of European and Australian wines.
Day 10: Friday, Bagan
The Road To Mandalay arrives at Bagan, once Burma’s largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas with some dating back as far as the 11th century. It is an awe inspiring sight, where once 13,000 structures stood. Today, 2000 remain and the site retains its spiritual significance. Enjoy a guided tour of this remarkable site and explore some of the most important temples with their unique symbolic structure and history.
After lunch rejoin our guide for a tour inside some of the significant pagodas. Alternatively, you may like to cycle or experience a horse-drawn cart ride to explore this fascinating area independently.
Late afternoon experience a spectacular sunset over a field of glowing pagodas by the river before we board our ship for dinner and local entertainment this evening.
Day 11: Saturday, Mount Popa
Choose to start your morning early with a hot air balloon flight over the plains of Bagan. Enjoy the fabulous views as the sun rises over the stupas and Irrawaddy River. This is truly an unforgettable and unique experience (additional cost). Embark on a full day excursion to Mount Popa, a National Park believed to be the sacred home of powerful ‘Nats’ (spirits). On top of a rocky crag is a picturesque complex of monasteries, pagodas and shrines, which can be reached via a winding covered walkway. Lunch will be at the Mount Popa Resort.
Tonight enjoy a themed dinner onboard our luxurious vessel.
Day 12: Sunday, Bagan
This morning we explore some of Bagan’s local markets selling wood carvings, fabrics and rattan goods. We also have an opportunity to observe Burma’s famous lacquerware being made.
Alternatively, you may wish to explore the area independently, whether it is on a bicycle or by horse-drawn cart at your leisure.
Mid morning, we set sail for Mandalay. Experience an insightful lecture onboard about the Irrawaddy River; one of the great rivers of Asia that stretches from the Himalaya into the delta of Burma and eventually into the Andaman Sea. Along its path, it enriches the soil and the lives of the people who rely on the river for survival and is also a major transportation route. The ship anchors mid-river for the evening providing a marvellous opportunity to observe the night sky.
Day 13: Monday, Sagaing
We continue sailing up the Irrawaddy River until we arrive at the Burmese village of Shwe Kyet. After lunch onboard, we take an excursion to Sagaing, considered to be the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Burma and famous for its silversmiths, who still work in much the same way as their ancestors did. Tonight dine aboard the ship and enjoy some entertainment.
Day 14: Tuesday, Pyin U Lwin
Pyin U Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo, is a colonial hill station set high in the Shan Highlands, once a summer capital for the British Administration. Soak up the atmosphere with its cool climate, broad streets lined with eucalyptus and pine trees, English style houses, colourful markets and beautiful Botanic Gardens. Enjoy a typical Shan lunch at a colonial house. This evening will be our final dinner onboard the Road to Mandalay.
Day 15: Wednesday, Depart Mandalay – UK
Disembark this morning and transfer to a fine hotel in Mandalay for a leisurely morning and lunch. We later transfer to the airport for our flight to Rangoon before connecting with Thai Airways to UK via Bangkok. Bhutan & Darjeeling option passengers overnight in Bangkok.
Day 16: Thursday, Arrive UK
Arrive in the UK this morning.
Bhutan & Darjeeling Option
Continue your journey of discovery by extending your trip to Bhutan and Darjeeling in India.
Day 15: Thursday, Mandalay - Bangkok – Paro (Bhutan)
Our spectacular mountain flight to Paro introduces the constantly changing panorama of the great peaks of the Himalayan range as we descend into the Paro Valley. After lunch we take a walk to Paro Dzong. The Dzong now houses the Paro monastic school and the office of civil administration.
We also visit Ta Dzong and the National Museum, housed in an ancient watchtower. We then walk across the bridge into the town and visit the market. We stay for two nights at the sumptuous Zhiwaling Hotel.
Enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Day 16: Friday, Paro
This morning you may wish to hike uphill to the sacred cliffside Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). This afternoon we visit the ruined fortress of Drugyal Dzong and the Victory Fortress, once used to repel Tibetan invasions. Looming above the smouldered ruins of the Dzong is the snow capped peak of the Jomolhari. We continue to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan.
Day 17: Saturday, Paro – Thimphu
This morning we drive to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Once a rustic village sitting within a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu retains its charming village atmosphere.
We visit the National Memorial Chorten, the National Library and a school for children learning the ancient art of painting.
We spend the next three nights at the luxurious Taj Tashi Hotel.
Day 18: Sunday, Thimphu & Punakha
This morning we drive up the spectacular Dochula Pass (3,100m). On a fine day one can see the Eastern Himalayan range.
We descend down through temperate rainforests to visit Wangduephodrang Dzong.
The Dzong is strategically built on a promontory overlooking the junction of the Sankosh and Tangmachu Rivers. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue to Punakha and visit its remarkable Dzong, located between two rivers.
We return to Thimphu this evening.
Day 19: Monday, Thimphu
Enjoy a morning hike to Tandu Ney Monastery; or free time to relax at our luxurious hotel. This afternoon we visit the Mini Zoo to see the Takin, a goat antelope found usually in the Eastern Himalaya. We also visit the Folk Museum, the Textile Museum and the Handicraft Emporium.
Day 20: Tuesday Thimphu – Phuntsoling
Today we embark on an incredible seven hour drive clinging to the mountainside above deep ravines and beneath towering peaks. It’s a day of awe inspiring scenery.
Our accommodation tonight is comfortable but relatively basic.
Day 21: Wednesday, Phuntsoling – Darjeeling (India)
Our drive across Western Bengal takes us to Darjeeling, the `Queen of the Hill Stations’. Darjeeling exudes a colonial atmosphere exemplified by our accommodation at the Windamere Heritage Hotel. Enjoy a stroll around the town and its market this afternoon.
Day 22: Thursday, Darjeeling
Early risers may like to enjoy sunrise over Tiger Hill, known for its spectacular view over the Himalaya.
After breakfast we take a trip on the narrow gauge `toy steam train’ and visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Tibetan Refugee Camp.
This afternoon we visit a tea estate to observe the picking and processing of Darjeeling tea.
Day 23: Friday, Depart Darjeeling
This morning we take the scenic 3 hour drive to Bagdogra Airport and fly with Jet Airways to Delhi where we will overnight.
Day 24: Saturday, Depart Delhi – UK
We join our flight home today and arrive in the UK this evening.