Immerse yourself in the wonderful Irrawaddy as you sail from Myanmar to Yangon, taking in the ever-changing landscapes of timeless villages, shimmering stupas, and enchanting ancient sites. Experience one of the world’s most notable rivers, as you journey past traditional villages on the shore and getting to know the counties warm and welcoming locals. From the glorious temples of Bagan to the glittering Shwesandaw Pagoda in Pyay, explore some of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights, and experience a culture long cut off from the world. Aboard the Scenic Aura, enjoy exceptional 5* accommodation with all-inclusive dining*, excursions included as well as butler and laundry service onboard. Special offer: Price includes a discount of £1,000pp. Offer ends 31/12/2018

Trip highlights

Witness some of the world’s most striking landmarks including Sri Ksetra, Mingun Pahtodawgyi, the Bagan temples and Mya Tha Lun Pagoda.

A unique visit to Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary where you will meet Kalyar Platt, a National Geographic grantee who is overseeing a breeding programme for the critically endangered Burmese star tortoise.

Enjoy an optional balloon ride above the temple-strewn plain of Bagan where 2,230 temples and pagoda scatter the landscape.

Enrich your experience as you are joined onboard by National Geographic expert Paula Swart who will help you to understand the destination a little better with unique insights.

Itinerary - 16 Days

1 Depart UK

Fly from London Heathrow or Manchester with Singapore Airlines, included in your trip. Regional airports can be requested at an additional supplement, please call for details.

2 Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay is the former royal capital in northern Myanmar and it’s a city bursting with colourful character. From the bustling markets to the grand monasteries, Indian temples and mosques, there is a wealth to explore in Mandalay. Spend one night in the stunning Mandalay Hill Resort and get to know your Scenic Tour Director and fellow guests at your welcome dinner and briefing.

3 Mandalay/Irrawaddy River

Today is the first day of your Mystical Irrawaddy river cruise. Board the striking Scenic Aura and enjoy a welcome reception and dinner as we set sail along the iconic Irrawaddy River

4 Hsithe/Mingun

The quaint village of Hsithe sits just north of Mandalay. You will begin the day with a visit to the Irrawaddy Community Conservation Project. Meet with one of the project’s representatives to learn about the Irrawaddy dolphin and find out how local communities and fishermen are working together to preserve this critically endangered species. Explore the village and learn to fish as the locals do before discovering the birdlife in nearby Singu.
Continue to Mingun, home to the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a huge, unfinished brick pagoda, and the massive Mingun Bell. Then view the beautiful architecture of the Hsinbyume Pagoda, which consists of seven concentric terraces leading to a central stupa.

5 Sagaing/Amarapura

Located on the western banks of the Irrawaddy River, Sagaing is one of Myanmar’s ancient capitals, famed for the hundreds of pagodas and monasteries which line the hills. Sagaing was the capital of the 14th-century Sagaing Kingdom and today it remains an important religious centre.
The township of Amarapura translates to mean ‘City of Immortality’ but its history is quite different after King Mindon in 1857 began dismantling the palace buildings so they could be shipped to Mandalay. There is still a wealth to explore in this quiet town including the silk weaving school where traditional cloth is still made.

Meet novice monks during a visit to a monastic-supported school, then continue to a nearby nunnery, where we’ll make a traditional donation to the resident nuns before their midday meal.

This afternoon, travel to Amarapura and enjoy sundowner drinks on a local boat as we float beneath U Bein Bridge, believed to be the world’s longest teak footbridge. At sunset, capture the iconic shot of the bridge’s silhouette against the orange sky.

6 Myinmu/Monywa

Step ashore at Myinmu and drive through the lush countryside to Monywa. Here, we’ll venture into sandstone grottoes to view spectacular mural paintings and statues dating back to the 14th century. The complex, which includes more than 900 caves, houses one of Southeast Asia’s richest collections of Buddhist mural paintings and images. Later, return to the ship and take in scenes of rural life along the riverbanks as we sail to Yandabo.

7 Yandabo

Famous for its pottery, arrive in the village of Yandabo, where you can watch craftsmen at work and observe their unique artistic methods. We’ll also witness the time-honoured tradition of face painting with thanaka, a paste made from ground bark. Later, learn about typical Burmese clothing, including the longyi, a wrap-around skirt commonly worn by women and men.
Relax on the sundeck aboard scenic Aura as we sail toward Bagan, watching for the many pagodas and temples that line the river banks.
After dinner this evening, we will be joined by a member of Bagan's Archaeological Department, who will discuss the efforts to repair the Bagan temples in the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake.

8 Bagan

The ancient city of Bagan is regarded as one of the world's greatest archaeological sites. The stunning landscape is dominated by the hundreds of temples that were built by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287. Around 2,230 temples have survived and they make for an exceptional sight. Float above the temple-strewn plain of Bagan on an optional balloon ride this morning (weather permitting).

Choose to travel to Mount Popa, which features prominently in Burmese mythology and is considered the home of powerful nats, or spirits; or explore the sites around Old Bagan town. Alternatively, peruse the colourful markets at Nyaung-u before seeing a few of Bagan’s many temples plus a visit to the Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about initiatives that are protecting critically endangered endemic species, including a breeding program for the Burmese star tortoise overseen by National Geographic grantee Kalyar Platt.
This afternoon, join a local archaeologist on a tour of the Bagan plain by horse cart and learn about ongoing restoration on visits to some of the site’s most significant temples. Cap off the evening with a traditional string puppet show.

9 Bagan/Salay

Nowhere else in the world will you find the largest and densest collection of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins. Exploring Bagan is a spiritual treat for all of your sense.
The village of Salay is a small but colourful religious centre where you will find 50 unique monasteries, some dating back to the 19th century with exquisite wood carvings.
Rise early to attend a morning almsgiving with local monks. Back on board the Scenic Aura, try a traditional breakfast of mohinga, a classic noodle dish.
Later, encounter the most iconic sight of this mesmerizing region: the impressive Ananda Temple. Then visit artisans to see first-hand the production of Burmese lacquerware, a Bagan tradition. In the afternoon, continue cruising downstream to Salay. Set out to explore the area’s highlights, including Mann Paya, which houses a 20-foot gold Buddha image made of lacquer straw, and Youqson Kyaung, a beautiful wooden monastery.

Soak up the ambience along the riverside during a Scenic Enrich moment while enjoying a traditional Burmese tea in a restored colonial villa.

10 Magwe

Relax onboard as we sail to Magwe along the Irrawaddy River. Upon arrival in the afternoon, we will explore the town by trishaw. Glide past traditional homes and shops, and witness scenes of daily life. Later, take in a spectacular panorama from Magwe’s largest shrine, Mya Tha Lun Pagoda, which overlooks the river from atop Naguttama Hill.

11 Minhla > Patho

Start the day with a morning tour of Minhla Fort, the main attraction in Minhla. During the Third Anglo–Burmese War, these 13th-century forts were updated by Italian engineers to keep British forces out of Royal Burma. With their capture came an end to an independent Burma and the beginning of full British colonial control.
Further downstream, stop at Patho, one of the smaller villages along the river. Set out on a walking tour of the village, visiting a school and monastery. Enjoy an opportunity to meet some of the local monks and observe their daily rituals.
Later, take in the vibrant rhythms of a traditional dance performance.

12 Pyay

The riverside town of Pyay is charming and quaint and home to the Ancient Pyu city ruins of Sri Ksetra. In the afternoon set out to explore Sri Ksetra, Myanmar’s first World Heritage-listed site. This intriguing site includes stupas and temples that are among the earliest Buddhist monuments in the world. Later, visit the glittering Shwesandaw Pagoda, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar, which is believed to house some hairs of the Buddha. Enjoy a farewell dinner with the crew tonight.

13-15 Yangon

Htauk Kyant to visit the poignant Allied War Cemetery, dedicated to the Allied soldiers who lost their lives in the country during WWII. From here, continue to your hotel for a two-night stay. (Please note drive from Pyay to Yangon is approximately 7 hours).

The following day embark on a ride on the local train around Yangon’s suburbs. Alternatively, enjoy a guided tour of Yangon’s thriving art scene, or ride a ferry across the Yangon River to Dhala village. You will also get the chance to visit Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon’s reclining Buddha.

As the sun sets, wander around Shwedagon Pagoda and learn about the ritual of oil lamp lighting before partaking in this local tradition.
Enjoy tonight’s farewell dinner at the colonial Strand Hotel. On day 15, transfer to the airport for your flight home.

16 Arrive UK

Arrive home.

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