Golden temple spires emerging from the mist ... markets filled with flowers, silk, and carved teak ... gentle river waters meandering past deep jungles, tiny villages, and emerald rice paddies. These are just some of the hidden treasures of daily life along the Irrawaddy that you’ll experience in a Vantage Adventures small group — in the comfort of a deluxe river ship. Our Burma & the Irrawaddy River journey is a rare opportunity to explore one of the world’s least-traveled destinations during an exotic Irrawaddy River cruise, combined with exciting explorations of Yangon (old Rangoon) by land. Ancient Myanmar (also known as Burma) remains unspoiled by tourism. Yet within its borders, thousands of astonishing antiquities await: a fascinating mix of Buddhist and colonial cultures; acres of temples topped with gilded stupas; and riverside villages that time has forgotten.
If you’ve been unsure about visiting Burma as it opens its doors to the world, our 10-day river cruise aboard the luxurious RV Makara Queen should spring you into action. And our deluxe river cruise only tells part of the story. Picture yourself on the plains of Bagan, where a forest of thousands of temples mesmerizes all who witness it … visiting the village of Yandabo, famous for its handmade pottery... and in the bustling capital of Yangon, a rich repository of Burma’s incredible culture and long history. For Burma travel at its finest, join us on this enriching adventure in a fascinating land forgotten by time, all while enjoying the best value in small group travel!
Fly overnight to Yangon, Myanmar
Embark on an overnight flight to Yangon, Myanmar.
Arrive in Yangon and venture on a panoramic expedition of the capital
Following an overnight flight, we arrive on in Yangon, Burma's bustling cultural and economic capital, on Day 2, where we enjoy three nights in a lush garden hotel overlooking Royal Lake in the heart of the city, the perfect base for exploring. We begin our exploration of this historic capital with a panoramic afternoon excursion that takes in the Sule Pagoda, City Hall, and the High Court. Dinner is at the hotel tonight.
Explore the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda and shop Scott Market for treasures
After breakfast, we head out to see more of colonial-flavored Yangon. Unforgettable Moment: We'll stop at the city's dazzling centerpiece – the Shwedagon Pagoda, a soaring golden Buddhist stupa that soars above all, attesting to the close connection between the spiritual and the everyday. We stop at the waterfront area; the colonial-style Scott Market brimming with antiques, jewelry and handicrafts; and the National Museum of art, history and culture. After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is free. Enjoy the evening at leisure with dinner on your own.
Continued Yangon exploration, or take an optional daytrip to Bago
We have today to delve more deeply, walking past markets and along streets buzzing with bicycles and rickshaws. Some of Asia’s finest British-colonial architecture is here. If you like, you may join an optional excursion to the ancient capital city of Bago, stopping at the Taukkyan War Cemetery and pausing to admire revered Buddha figures, a small village and the Khat Wain Monastery.
Join us for a day discovering the wonders of Bago, the 15th-century capital of the Mon Kingdom. You’ll learn the history and myths of the city while visiting the reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha, the four seated Buddhas at Kyaikpun, and the old palace of Kambozathadi. You’ll also see the stunning Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the most outstanding religious monument in Bago. This golden temple stands at 375 feet tall, higher than Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and can be seen from around 6 miles outside of the city. You’ll stop at Kha Khat Wain Monastery during lunchtime to view locals offering food to the Monks and learn about their daily life in the monastery. A venture to a local weaving village is also included in your tour. On the way back to Yangon, you’ll visit the Allied War Cemetery — the peaceful, beautifully landscaped final resting place of more than 27,000 allied soldiers who perished during World War II.
Trek to the Irrawaddy River and embark the deluxe RV Makara Queen
This morning, we head to the Irrawaddy River, the country's most important waterway. The river's name comes from the Sanskrit meaning "elephant river," and it runs for nearly 1,350 miles through the heartland of Myanmar. On our way to the ship, we'll stop in Danuphyu, where we’ll visit a century-old monastery and stroll through the lovely botanical garden here as well as a traditional cigar factory. We'll then board the luxurious RV Makara Queen at the town of Satcott, and enjoy dinner on board the ship.
Uncover unique colonial homes on a walking tour of Myan Aung
We arrive in Myan Aung, a charming riverside hamlet with impressive colonial-era homes. We’ll walk through this small town admiring the town and stop by a local market to interact with the people of this region. Cultural Discovery: We’ll gain new insights into the cuisine here as we attend a cooking demonstration: we’ll learn how to make a tea-leaf salad, a local favorite.
An exploration of ancient Pyu, then take in the towering Shwesandaw Pagoda Complex
Today, we discover the captivating history and culture along this storied river in a new place: Pyay. We’ll see the famed “toll mountain” where tax collectors would collect money from those who passed through here. We’ll tour to the ancient town of Pyu, which was the most important city in this region between the 5th and 9th centuries. We’ll see the impressive collection of ancient art at a library with an amazing collection of ancient art, followed by visit the impressive Shwesandaw Pagoda Complex, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the country. Cultural Discovery: Listen to a lecture on the history of Myanmar, giving you more perspective on how this nation has evolved over time.
Explore the colonial town of Thayet Myo
This morning, you’ll travel by tuk tuk to the charming town of Thayet Myo. This hamlet is home to the oldest golf course in Myanmar, and you’ll have an opportunity to play the first hole here. Then, we’re off to explore the market – where we can browse for souvenirs and interact with locals – and then to see several homes constructed during the British colonization of Burma. Thayet Myo once was the border town between Royal Burmese North and the British Colonial South, so it’s a fascinating glimpse at the country’s past. We’ll enhance our understanding with a lecture onboard the ship entitled “Life Along the Irrawaddy River.”
Climb the hillside to reach magnificent Myat Lun Paya, made from bricks of solid gold
Unforgettable Moment: From our port of Magwe, we head up to hilltop pagoda of Myat Lun Paya, built in 1929. Here, the luster of gold that is central to so many Buddhist monuments takes center stage as this incredible temple was built from solid gold bricks. Our view of the surrounding countryside from here is also priceless.
Explore the untouched colonial villas of Salay
Set off on a walking tour of the small town of Salay, with its charming colonial villas. We’ll also stop by the 150-year-old teak monastery here, which is well known for its magnificent woodcarvings. After lunch, we'll enjoy some afternoon sightseeing in Bagan, currently vying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where the spires of more than 3,000 Buddhist temples pierce the sky over an awe-inspiring plain along the Irrawaddy. This could well be the most incredible vista we’ll see during our adventure. Built between 700 and 900 years ago, the Bagan temples attest to the wealth of the once-mighty Bagan Dynasty. We'll visit some of the major temples, such as Pyattatgyi Temple, and witness a magical sunset view of the monument-dotted plains. In the evening, enjoy an traditional Burmese Puppet Show on board.
Spend a day soaking in Bagan’s majestic temples and open-air market
Cultural Discovery: This morning, we'll explore Bagan's large, open market, teeming with produce, meat, spices, woodcarvings, fabrics, longyis, rattan products and more — a great spot to pick up gifts for loved ones back home. Later today, we'll enjoy a cooking demonstration during which we'll learn how to make some delectable local cuisine.
Get a taste for river life in Yandabo village, now famous for its pottery
Cultural Discoveries: All day today, we delve deeply into the culture and daily lives of the people along the Irrawaddy, beginning with a visit to the lively village of Yandabo. Though it is known as the site of the 1826 Treaty of Yandabo that began a long British occupation, this picturesque village today is famous for its pottery. We stroll around and watch some artisans at work before rejoining our ship this evening.
Get to know the city of Mandalay on a city tour
Today, you'll have plenty of time to explore magnificent Mandalay, including a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda and Mandalay Palace. Cultural Discovery: You'll also get a glimpse of the remarkable art and craft work in this country, as you visit some local workshops, including tapestry-making, wood- and marble-carving, and bronze-casting workshops. We'll have lunch at a local restaurant, and savor a Farewell Dinner this evening, where you can enjoy a delightful meal while reflecting on an adventure to remember.
Disembark in Sagaing and transfer to the Mandalay airport for your flight home
After breakfast, you'll disembark your ship at Sagaing and transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home.
Arrive back in the USA
After an overnight flight, you'll arrive back in the USA today.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.