10-Day / 9-Night Irrawaddy Explorer Cruise
Mandalay to Yangon (vice versa)
This 10-Day / 9-night journey takes you either upstream or downstream on the Irrawaddy River of Myanmar (Burma). From the Buddhist pilgrimage sites at Prome (Pyay), to the over 2,000 ancient pagodas of Bagan, to the historic terra-cotta potters' village of Yandabo, the Irrawaddy river, its people, and their culture continue to thrive. Aboard the Irrawaddy Explorer Cruise you will visit Mandalay, Mingun, Amarapura, Ava (Inwa), Monywa, Yandabo, Shwe Pyi Thar, Bagan, Tan Kyi Mountain, Salay, Magwe, Thayet Myo, and Prome (Pyay).
Below is a "downstream" cruise program. The Irrawaddy Explorer operates a reverse 10-Day program "upstream" as well depending on the date of travel. All touring is done with local, English speaking professional guides. Wireless headsets are available for listening to your local guide while seeing the sites of Myanmar (Burma) by way of the Irrawaddy River. All meals are included as indicated in the program below. Daily excursions typically run from one to two hours long or as half day excursions.
The itinerary below is dependent on the river water level, weather conditions, and accessibility to locations, so touring may vary.
Day 1: Mandalay - Embarkation - Amarapura
(L / D)
This morning begins with a tour of Kuthodaw Pagoda, which contains the world’s biggest book, and the Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung Monastery, the only original royal era monastery. Local pilgrim trucks take you to Mandalay Hill, where spiraling staircases lead to sweeping views of the city and its temples. Before arriving to the ship, you stop at a gold leaf workshop where gold leaf is prepared, and then at the Mahamuni Pagoda to see how the gold leaf is used on many of the Buddha statues in Myanmar.
Upon arrival at the Gawein Jetty, our friendly crew welcomes you aboard, with lunch waiting in the Customs House Dining Room. After lunch, coaches take you to Amarapura, the penultimate Burmese Royal Capital (1783) to visit U-Bein Bridge at sunset where you’ll enjoy a sampan cruise before returning to the ship for a welcome reception and dinner on board.
Day 2: Mingun - Ava
(B / L / D)
After breakfast, you explore the town of Mingun. On your leisurely walking tour, you will see the unfinished pagoda and visit the largest working bell in the world. A stop is made at the Mya Thein Dan Pagoda, a white pagoda with seven wavy terraces, built by King Bagyidaw to honour the memory of his first consort, who died in childbirth.
After lunch, horse carts meet you at the ship for an excursion to Ava. After visiting the beautiful 200-year-old teak Bagaya Kyaung Monastery, Nanmyin watchtower (27m) and the Me Nu Ok Kyaung monastery, you return to the ship for dinner and a dance and theatre performance.
Day 3: Monywa
(B / L / D)
Early this morning you depart for a full day tour to Monywa, with a box lunch, to visit the Hpowindaung and Shwebadaung Caves where hundreds of Buddha Statues are placed inside niches decorated with wonderful mural paintings.
After enjoying your lunch, you visit the splendid Sambuddhai Kat Kyaw pagoda with its more than 500,000 Buddha images before returning to the ship for time to relax before dinner.
Day 4: Yandabo - Shwe Pyi Thar
(B / L / D)
This morning a walking tour introduces the picturesque village of Yandabo, famous for their pottery. You have the opportunity to stop at family workshops to witness their craft, and the interesting way of firing their pottery. If school is in session, you may have the opportunity to meet the local children and tour the school.
This afternoon we sail to Shwe Pyi Thar village for leisurely walk through a typical village along the Irrawaddy River, stopping to watch the local villagers collect and process palm sap to make palm sugar, sweets, and liquor.
Day 5: Bagan
(B / L / D)
This morning you will visit some of the most significant Pagodas and Temples of the 2,000 listed around Bagan: Ananda Temple, widely considered to be the most beautiful in Bagan; then Bagan’s largest temple Dhammayangi, to see the incredible construction and carvings from the outside. Next you visit a traditional lacquerware workshop to see the incredible, time-consuming process of handmaking lacquer products and art.
This afternoon begins with a visit to the small temple of Upali Thein, to view the well-preserved, original paintings, followed by a short stop at Htilominlo, where you have the opportunity to see a demonstration of the art of sand painting. A ceremonial oxcart ride along the scenic trails of Bagan ends near Ananda, then coaches take you to Phya That Gyi Pagoda, the most significant temple in the area, for a climb to the top, ending in an amazing sunset over the Bagan plains before returning to the ship for dinner, followed by a traditional puppet theater performance.
Day 6: Bagan - Tan Kyi Mountain
(B / L / D)
After breakfast, you have the opportunity to explore Bagan’s large, open market, selling produce, meats, spices, woodcarvings, fabrics, longyis, and rattan products. The temple of Gubyaukgyi and its beautifully preserved mural paintings is your next stop. Your final stop in Bagan is the 12th century Sulamani Temple, known for its interior frescoes.
After lunch, vans take you to the top of Tan Kyi Mountain, home to one of the four stupas that marked the original edges of the city, and enjoy some of the best views of the Irrawaddy River.
Day 7: Salay
(B / L / D)
This morning you enjoy a walk through the 7,000-resident village of Salay. Founded in the 13th century, Salay offers well-preserved British colonial buildings, Bagan-era shrines, and beautiful 19th century teak monasteries to our walking tour. After visiting the Youqson Kyaung wooden monastery, designed as a copy of the Crown Prince House of Mandalay, visiting some of the interesting Bagan-era monuments such as Payathonzu and the Shinpinsarkyo Paya before returning to the ship.
Day 8: Magwe
(B / L / D)
This morning climb aboard a traditional Burmese trishaw (bicycle with sidecar) for an exciting tour of this busy little city, ending with a visit to beautifully gilded Mya Tha Lun Pagoda with panoramic view of the river before returning to the ship.
Day 9: Thayet Myo - Pyay - Sri Ksetra
(B / L / D)
This morning horse carts take you into the charming town of Thayet Myo, the location of the oldest golf course in Myanmar, where you have an opportunity to play the first hole. Then visit the local market and view several colonial homes constructed during the British colonization of Burma before returning to the ship for an afternoon of scenic cruising.
Once controlled by the Mon tribe during the Bagan Era and then conquered by the Burmese King Alaungpaya in the 1754, Prome boomed along with the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the 1890’s and it is now an important trading post. In the afternoon, you drive to Thayekhittaya (known as Sri Ksetra, the “Fabulous City” in the Pali language), an ancient Pyu city that ruled in this area between the 5th and 9th centuries. In central Prome you visit the impressive Shwesandaw Pagoda complex, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Myanmar, viewing the Wunchataung Paya (Apology Mountain Pagoda) and the surrounding mountains. You gather in the Writer’s Lounge this evening for a Farewell Reception with the entire crew before enjoying a Farewell Dinner in the Customs House Dining Room.
Day 10: Prome - Disembarkation - Yangon
Following an early breakfast, you enjoy a scenic transfer by private motor coach from Prome to Yangon (approx. 6.5 hrs), where you will be delivered to the luxurious Sule Shangri-La Hotel.
NOTICE: The cruise schedule includes the latest information regarding your program, but last minute adjustments may occur. The schedule may shift due to the weather, site closure, or unexpected circumstances beyond our control. The exact time for each activity will be announced or posted by the on-board tour staff. The touring is active, so all participants should be in good health. Due to the rural location, handicapped accessibility is not available in Myanmar (Burma).