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Burma and the Shan Hills

12 days from £1540pp plus international flights.

This trip combines well-known sights and less-visited locations to provide you with an all round view of Burma. Admire the fine architecture of palaces and pagodas, cruise on the Irrawaddy River, view ancient cities and watch the leg rowers of Inle Lake. You also have the chance to get right off the beaten track on a trek in the Shan Hills, meeting local people and enjoying their hospitality. 

You start in Yangon, where you have a guided tour of the main sites, from where you head to the vast temple plains of Bagan, visit former capitals of past kingdoms with their atmospheric palace ruins and watch the sunset at U Bein bridge. All this gives you a feel for the history of Burma before you venture into the hills.

The Shan Hills feels a world away from all this. The pace of life slows down as you set out on foot, pausing to take in the scenery, meet local people and visit villages where different ethnic groups live. The trek itself is not particularly challenging though you need to be able to walk for up to 6 hours for each of the 2 trekking days, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. The trek includes a night in a village house, sleeping in a shared room with bedding and blankets provided, simple but more than adequate and all part of the experience of rural life.    

The trek ends at Inle Lake, famous for its floating gardens and markets and dexterous led rowers, with time to explore surrounding villages, before you fly east to Kyaing Tong near the borders with China and Thailand. Here you visit markets and trek in the foothills to reach remote villages and picnic beside a picturesque waterfall. Finally your trip comes full circle as you return to Yangon, where the holiday ends.

Karaweik Hall in Yangon


Your guide welcomes you on arrival in Yangon and you set out to explore the city. You start in the city centre and the 2,000 year old Sule Paya stupa which has played a major part in the city's history and has a distinctive octagonal floor plan. Your tour also takes in Chauk That Gyi which contains an impressive reclining Buddha, and the gilded barge of Karaweik Hall on Kandawgyi Lake. Later you pay a visit to Bogyoke (also known as Scott's) Market, where you can browse among stalls selling a wide range of goods from jewellery to clothes and food to handicrafts. At the end of the day you arrive at the golden dome of Shwedagon pagoda, Yangon's best known landmark, perched at the top of a hill. At the conclusion of the tour you return to the hotel.           

Temple in Bagan


This morning you fly to Bagan to begin the next stage of your holiday. Immerse yourself in local life at the Nyuang U market, the largest in the region, where food, clothes, wood carvings and lacquer are are traded. Next you visit the rather more peaceful Shweizigon Paya, with its shining golden facade, which dates back to the 11th century. You then see 2 contrasting cave temples, both adorned with attractive frescoes, and Htilominlo temple to discover the mysteries of Burmese sand painting. Later at Ananda temple you can see the 4 standing Buddhas decorated in gold leaf, and you end the day at Shwesandaw pagoda, a favourite spot from which to watch the sunset over the Irrawaddy River. Breakfast    

View of Bagan temples


Start the morning with a trip to Dhamayazeka Zedi to the south east of the town, from where you get a wonderful view of the entire plain of temples stretching out before you. From here you visit some of the more recent temples and the Payathonzu complex which consists of 3 temples linked by narrow, vaulted passageways. At Nanda Man Nya you can see some exquisite wall paintings. Towards dusk you can take a horse or bullock cart ride on the plains, stopping to capture a photograph of the sun silhouetting one of the many temples. Breakfast

Today there is the option to take a hot air balloon ride over Bagan. Viewing the ancient structures from the air is sure to be a highlight of your trip. Flights operate at sunrise and sunset from October to the end of March. 

Monks at a temple


After breakfast you travel to the airport for the morning flight to Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma. Having arrived you board a boat for a one hour cruise along the Irrawaddy River to the town of Mingun. This is the site of a huge unfinished stupa called Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which was envisaged in 1790 as the largest stupa in the world, but was critically damaged by an earthquake and now presents a dramatic sight with large cracks running down its length. While here you also see the bronze Mingun Bell, considered to be the largest working bell in the bell in the world, weighing 90 tonnes. Later you take the boat back to Mandalay and transfer to your hotel. Breakfast  

Sunset at U Bein bridge


A day of history and scenery. Drive to Ava (also known as Inwa), which was the capital of the Shan and Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to the 19th century. You explore by horse and carriage and visit Bagaya monastery, built of teak and adorned with intricate carvings, which is over 300 years old and still in use today. Elsewhere parts of the old palace remain, including the watch tower, some 30 metres tall and partially damaged by an earthquake but still standing. Continuing you exploration you cross the river to Sagaing, another ancient capital, where numerous pagodas and monasteries are built among the hills. From the top you can look down over the gilded roofs to the Irrawaddy River. Next you travel to Amarapura, a centre of traditional textile production, and then on to Taungtaman Lake where you can see the famous and much photographed U Bein bridge, built of teak and at 1.2 km long said to the be longest such construction in the world. It is especially photogenic at sunset, as you find out for yourself today. Breakfast  

Shan Hills scenery


There's a change of pace today. You fly to Heho from where a one hour drive takes you to the starting point of your trek, La Maing. This village is located to the west of Kalaw, a former hill station. Your route takes you through villages inhabited by the Pa-O people, the second largest ethnic group in Shan state after the Shan themselves. During your trek you can observe the traditional dress and methods of cultivation. After almost three hours you reach Kone La village, your lunch stop, and later continue the trek through farmland and small villages where the Danu tribe live, finally arriving at Pat tu Pauk village where you spend the night in a local house and enjoy a dinner prepared by your cook. Total trekking time is around 5.5 hours and distance covered about 18 km. Breakfast, lunch, dinner  

Indein pagodas


Enjoy breakfast at the village before setting off on foot once more. Within half an hour you arrive at Hti Thein, another Pa-O village, where you can again observe daily life in a rural setting. From here you walk through the hills passing various villages and farms and meeting local people. The totel trekking time is around 6 hours and the route is around 20 km and ends at Indein on the western shore of Inle Lake. There are dozens of pagodas of all shapes and sizes here, some over 1,000 years old. From here you board a boat that takes you to your lakeside hotel. Breakfast     

Stilt house at Inle Lake


Inle Lake is known for its floating islands and gardens formed from the intertwining roots of water hyacinth plants and reeds, and on your tour this morning you see examples of these. You also witness the famous leg rowers, who balance on one leg at the back of their boat wrapping the other leg around an oar which they use to propel the boat. You also see houses built on stilts over the lake. At Phaungdaw Oo pagoda there is a collection of sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf. Continuing, you reach a village where you can see cloth being woven in time-honoured fashion, and at Nampan you watch craftsmen roll and pack Burmese cheroots (cigars). At the end of the tour you return to the hotel at Inle Lake. Breakfast        

Princess Hotel in Kyaing Tong


This morning you travel back to Heho for the flight east to Kyaing Tong near the Chinese and Thai borders. This region is home to several ethnic hill tribes such as the Wa, Shan, Akha and Lahu. Having landed you visit, time permitting, the former summer resort of Loimwe, a favourite of the British in colonial times where there are some elegant colonial houses and historic churches. You also spend time in the Wa village of Naung Cho, before arriving at your hotel in Kyaing Tong. Breakfast

Tribal lady near Kyaing Tong


This morning you take a walk round the main market in Kyaing Tong, a great place to witness people going about their daily lives. Later you drive 90 minutes or so north to an Akha village. This is the beginning of today's walk exploring the region and observing different ethnic groups who live in close proximity. You have lunch at the scenic Pin Tauk waterfall, and later drive back into town. En route you can stop at a Li-Shan village to sample some home brewed rice wine, much prized by the locals. Breakfast  

Go shopping for souvenirs in Yangon


After breakfast at the hotel you are transferred to the airport for the flight to Yangon. You are met and taken to your city hotel and the remainder of the day is free, so you can do some last minute sightseeing or souvenir shopping. Breakfast 

Bid farewell to Burma


Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before being driven to Yangon airport in time to check in for your flight home. Breakfast

Price & Dates

Guide price from (pp sharing): £1540 (ex. international flights)

Price notes: 2019 prices based on 2 people sharing: 01 Jan - 30 Apr 2019 from £1665. 01 May - 30 Sept 2019 from £1540.


10 nights twin share accommodation and 1 night in a shaed local house, domestic flights as specified, private transfers and tours in an air conditioned vehicle as per the itinerary, boat trips in Inle Lake, entrance fees to sites included in the iitinerary, services of an English speaking guide, trekking guide from Kalaw to Inle Lake, trekking guide at Kyaing Tong, meals as specified, 2 bottles of water and 2 refreshing towels per person per day, luggage handling fees at airports


International flights and taxes, visa, travel insurance, meals not specified, drinks, early check-in or late check-out, tips, items of a personal nature

Getting there: 

This holiday starts and ends in Yangon. Return flights from the UK will cost from around £700 per person, depending on season and availability. We usually book these flights for you.

Departure dates: This is a tailor made itinerary that can begin on the day of your choice, subject to availability.

places you will see

places you will see

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Although Yangon is no longer the capital it remains the largest city in the country. It has fine examples of architecture from various eras of its history and is the point of entry for most visitors to Burma.  
Bagan is a must-see on a visit to Burma. A vast, 26 square-mile plain filled with pagodas. In the early morning the site is often shrouded in atmospheric mist, and watching the sunset from one of the temples will leave a lasting impression. 
Temple at Mandalay
Mandalay, the very name evokes an air of mystery. In fact, it's Burma's second largest city and considered the capital of Burmese culture, having been the last royal capital. 
Mountain views from Kakaw
Kalaw is surrounded by hills which are perfect trekking territory. The town is notable for its ethnic mix which includes Gurkhas from Nepal, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims from India.  

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facts and information

Time: GMT + 6hrs 30mins

Flight time: There are no direct flights from the UK to Yangon (Rangoon). The flight time is at least 14 hours.

Language: The official language is Myanmar (Burmese). English is widely spoken in major tourist destinations.

Visas: At least 6 months from the end of your trip, and with plenty of room for entry and exit stamps. A visa is required for British travellers and most nationalities.

Health: Yellow fever vaccination is compulsory. Recommended vaccinations include diptheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, tetanus, cholera & typhoid. Malaria prophylactics recommended for some parts of Burma.


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