Taking the stress out of it all, a boutique river cruise along the Irrawaddy is surely the best way to see Myanmar. And, while most itineraries focus on the northern sections, this in-depth route brings you nearly the full length. So, along with royal-capital Mandalay, the lost temple city of Bagan and the glittering pagaodas of Yangon, you’ll also head off the beaten track. Expect everything from riverside potters and market villages to colonial forts and crumbling ancient capitals. It’s all brought to life with included excursions throughout, with highlights including monastery visits, trishaw rides and horse-and-carriage tours. You’ll return each day to full-board dining, complemented by included drinks.
Day 1: Depart UK
Begin your trip with complimentary airport lounge access before your overnight flight to Myanmar.
Day 2: Arrive Yangon
Upon arrival in Yangon, you’ll be met and transferred to the RV Princess Panhwar to settle in to your pristinely modern suite. Complete with French or outside balcony, you’ll be treated to perfect views of the Irrawaddy. Then, outside your cabin, there’s a cute spa, gym and lounge wrapped in picture windows, while the Sun Deck offers the best views. A generous staff-to-guest ratio also serves up an entertainment programme of lectures and cultural performances, along with full-board dining – washed down with complimentary wines and beers. Expect local flavours matched with international favourites. The service is flawless, with 38 crewmembers for the 36 cabins. You’ll also begin your included touring with Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon’s giant golden icon.
Day 3: Yangon/Danuphyu
You’ll have some further time to explore Myanmar’s largest city today, with your expert guide bringing you among the fading beauty of its colonial centre. You’ll also take in the glittering Kandawgyi Lake whose surrounding park is an oasis of greenery among Yangon’s bustle. Then, there’s Sule Pagoda. Every bit as impressive as its larger cousin, Shwedagon, it rises in great golden tiers right among the city’s central sprawl. You’ll then board your river ship to set sail north, watching as Yangon’s limits slip into Burmese countryside.
Day 4: Danuphyu/Hinthata
As you move through the delta waterways, you’ll reach Danuphyu, a key site in the first Anglo-Burmese War where General Maha Bandula led a storied defensive against the British troops. And, as you explore by trishaw, you’ll learn how he walked among his troops to boost morale before using fighting elephants to charge the enemy. Your guides will also bring you among the local cottage industry with a visit to a home cheroot-making workshop before a stop at Monastery of Maha Bandula. Its whitewashed spires are capped in, you guessed it, gold.
Day 5: Myanaung
Relax in the ship’s air-conditioned lounge or on its Sun Deck as you continue onto the sleepy riverside township of Myanaung. Here, you’ll enjoy a guided walking tour past carefully preserved colonial houses to the town’s bustling market. It’s a rare chance to get a glimpse of river life in rural Myanmar, well off the beaten tourist track
Day 6: Pyay (Prome)/Sri Ksetra
As you cruise this morning you’ll marvel at the Akauk Mountains whose sheer cliff faces house painted Buddha icons. Then, arriving into Pyay, you’ll visit its gilded pagodas. Prime among them is towering Shwesandaw; at 100m high, it’s taller even than Shwedagon and – like its Yangon sibling – is said to contain a hank of Buddha’s locks. You’ll then continue on to Sri Ksetra, the ancient ruined capital of the Pyu kingdom. Dating back some 1,500 years, its UENSCO-listed sites include religious Indic art, the remains of its royal palace and a collection of 6th-century brick stupas – among the world’s earliest Buddhist monuments. That’s without even mentioning the tombs and cave pagodas.
Day 7: Thayetmyo
Once sitting as the border between Upper and Lower Myanmar, Thayetmyo has a fascinating colonial history. Ottoman soldiers captured in the Middle East during WWI were sent here as prisoners of war by the British, an act memorialised by the haunting burial grounds. Today, its chequered past is papered over by its charming colonial houses and Myanmar's oldest golf course, established in 1877. You’ll even have a chance to have a putt on the green.
Day 8: Minhla/Magwe
Your next stop is Minhla – a crucial battleground of the Third Anglo-Burmese War and an inspiration to a certain Rudyard Kipling. His works really are essential readings on this voyage. And, they’ll be brought to life with a visit to the 19th-century forts built by the Italians to repel British invaders. Their capture marked the end to Myanmar’s independence. After, you’ll cruise on to Magwe whose quiet delta-town image belies a bustling market centre.
Day 9: Salay
Although Salay’s colourful monasteries and shrines date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, it’s still an active religious centre to this day; there’s approximately one monastery for every 200 residents. And, you’ll visit the oldest – the wooden Yoke Sone Kyaung Monastery. After taking in its carvings and ancient religious artefacts you’ll then continue on to the tongue-twisting Shinbin Maha Laba Man Paya. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s Myanmar’s largest lacquer Buddha.
Day 10: Tantkyi Hill/Bagan
You’ll begin today with the short climb up Tantkyi Hill. And, on reaching the summit, you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views and an 11th-century pagoda, ringed by over thirty elephantine statues. It’s believed to contain a tooth relic of Buddha. Then, back on the ship, you’ll be treated to your first glimpse of Bagan as the pointed spires of this a...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
Sign up to our weekly Trip Finder email and get a selection of the best trips to feed your Wanderlust