9-Day / 8-Night Orcaella Myanmar Cruise: Yangon to Bagan
Cruise along Myanmar’s iconic river, on this "Jewels of the Ayeyarwady" cruise, enjoying guided excursions of ancient cities and bustling ports with ample time to discover the temples of Bagan.
Visit gilded pagodas and bustling markets as you cruise the Irrawaddy river in supreme luxury on board Belmond Orcaella cruise. This 9-day journey takes you up from the bustling city of Yangon to the ancient historic Bagan. From the Buddhist pilgrimage sites at Prome (Pyay), to the over 2,000 ancient pagodas of Bagan, the Irrawaddy river, its people, and their culture continue to thrive.
Aboard the Orcaella cruise you will have guided tours of Danuphyu, Pyay, Gwechaung, Magwe, Salay, and Bagan. An idea way to tour this emerging destination is by river cruise, as it allows you to get a closer look at life on the river, just as it was centuries ago. The beauty of ancient temples, surrounding landscapes and smiling people will surely amaze you.
The itinerary below is dependent on the river water level, weather conditions, and accessibility to locations, so touring may vary. Jetty locations in Yangon are subject to change. Guests will be advised a few days prior of any changes.
Day 1 – Yangon and Twante Canal
￼Boarding time at the Nanthida jetty in downtown Yangon will be between 07.30-08.30. Coffee, tea and pastries will ￼be served in the Lounge & Bar as Belmond Orcaella sets sail on its journey north at 08.45.
Leaving Myanmar's busy trading port behind you will pass through the picturesque landscape of the Twante Canal, whose banks are dotted with small villages and farms. The canal, which connects the Yangon and Ayeyarwady Rivers, was constructed in 1883 during British colonial rule for use by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Today it remains a major thoroughfare for cargo ships and local boats travelling from Yangon to the delta region and Upper Myanmar.
Mid-morning meet your fellow passengers, our Hotel Manager and guide team on the Observation Deck for a short ￼￼safety briefing and an introduction to Life on Board.
As Belmond Orcaella begins the journey on the lower Ayeyarwady, visit the Lounge & Bar for afternoon tea followed by a lecture on Myanmar Ways of Life by one of our expert onboard guides.
This evening, meet the Captain and Officers during a cocktail party on the Observation Deck, followed by dinner in the elegant Restaurant. Enjoy a selection of gourmet Asian and Western dishes prepared by our Executive Chef. House wines are included, or you might prefer to choose a label from the extensive international collection in our Wine Room.
Tonight, the ship moors near Nyaungdone.
Day 2 – Danuphyu
Early risers may wish to enjoy a refreshing drink from the Healthy Juice Bar on the Observation Deck. An extensive breakfast buffet with à la carte menu is served in the Restaurant, or you can order room service.
During the cruise a variety of activities are available, including morning yoga and meditation and evening tai chi and kickboxing. A daily schedule is provided in your cabin.
This morning, disembark for a trishaw tour of the small town of Danuphyu, where the revered General Maha Bandula led a Burmese defensive against the British troops during the Anglo-Burmese war. You will see his memorial at Pali University (a Buddhist monastery) before visiting a small cottage industry that produces cheroots (cigars) and trying a typical sweet tea and snack at a teashop. You will also have the chance have a wander through a bustling market. Most markets are very active in the early hours, when farmers and vendors gather from miles around, often travelling before dawn, to sell and trade their wares.
If you are feeling particularly energetic, you are welcome to pedal your own trishaw and take your driver on a trip around Danuphyu!
Return to the ship for an afternoon of sailing. Join one of our Belmond guides for a Myanmar language lesson in the Lounge & Bar. Learn basic greetings, numbers and key phrases that might help you with your bargaining skills in the market later in the trip.
This evening dinner is served in the Restaurant. Belmond Orcaella moors at Italoke.
Day 3 – Sailing and Akauk Taung
Spend the day relaxing on board and taking in the beautiful scenery of the Ayeyarwady River. Join a sunrise yoga and meditation session, indulge in a treatment at the spa or have a swim in the outdoor pool. Our guides are always available to point out sites of interest along the way.
Today there will be an astrologer on board for those who would like their numbers and palm read. Astrology is an important aspect of Myanmar culture and is believed to determine a person’s fortune and fate.
In the afternoon Belmond Orcaella passes the site of Akauk Taung (“Tax Mountain”), where steep cliffs have been carved with hundreds of Buddha images and merchants once stopped to pay tolls.
Enjoy afternoon tea followed by a talk on Buddhism in Myanmar. Later, our housekeeping team demonstrates how to tie a longyi, the Myanmar sarong worn by both men and women, and how to prepare thanaka, a paste that serves as both decorative make-up and protection from the sun.
This evening you are invited to practice your new longyi-tying skills to attend a cocktail party on the Observation Deck before dinner.
Day 4 – Pyay and Sri Ksetra
This morning we arrive in Pyay, once a booming trade town in the days of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company and still an important transit point. You will visit Shwesandaw Pagoda, which boasts views over the city and an imposing 10-storey sitting Buddha. You will also have the opportunity to give an offering to your personal planetary post at the pagoda, according to the day of the week that you were born. Your guide will inform you about Myanmar astrology and the significance of spirit animals.
You will also visit the ancient city of Sri Ksetra ("Fabulous City"), one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Myanmar, with its unique, cylindrical-shaped stone stupas.
Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon’s sailing. One of our guides will give a talk on Myanmar: Past, Present and Future, after which there will be time for a Q&A session.
Following dinner head to the Lounge & Bar for movie night. Today we are showing “The Lady”, the fascinating story of Aung San Suu Kyi, as Chef serves fresh popcorn and homemade ice cream.
Day 5 – Gwechaung
During a morning of leisurely sailing there is the chance to make your own kite on the Observation Deck using bamboo and recycled materials. Have fun flying it off the stern and, if you wish, save it to give to schoolchildren we meet later on in the journey.
Our onboard doctor will give a presentation on the healthcare system in Myanmar and Belmond’s Social Contribution Projects. These include pop-up health clinics, constructing schools and providing clean water and solar panels in villages we visit along the rivers of Myanmar.
Disembark for a late-afternoon excursion to the hilltop fort at Gwechaung. This fort was one of the strongholds built by Italian architects for the Burmese king in 1860 to keep the British at bay. Journey by ox cart across fields and farmlands for a glimpse of rural life and enjoy panoramic views across the Ayeyarwady River to the Min Hla Fort, site of a great battle during the third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885. Those feeling active may join one of our guides on a hike to or from the fort.
Tonight’s dinner will be specialities from the grill, either under the stars on the Observation Deck or on a sandbank of the river (weather and water level permitting).
Day 6 – Magwe
Mid-morning, Belmond Orcaella reaches Magwe. Discover the town by tuk-tuk before heading to the splendid gilded Myathalon Pagoda. You will also have the opportunity to visit a monastic school run by a Chief Nun, who gives free education to poor students. Our onboard doctor will be donating stationary to the schoolchildren and you are welcome to participate.
Continue sailing this afternoon. After lunch, you may like to join our Chief Engineer for a tour of the ship, including the engine room and bridge.
In the late afternoon you are invited to take part in a Lahpet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad) competition. Tea Leaf Salad, one of the most popular dishes in Myanmar, includes pickled tea leaves mixed with a variety of ingredients such as toasted sesame and peanut, fried garlic and onion, chopped tomato, dried shrimp, and more. Traditionally it was consumed as a symbolic peace offering after settling a dispute between warring kingdoms. Teams will each make their own salad, which will be judged by the Captain.
Relax over a delicious dinner on board this evening as you continue sailing north to Bagan.
Day 7 – Salay & Bagan
Opt to rise early for a morning yoga session before Belmond Orcaella reaches Salay. Here you disembark for a walking tour. Visit the beautiful teak monastery, Yout-Saun-Kyaung, a fine example of monastic architecture of the late Konbaung period, and enjoy an adventurous ride back to the ship aboard local trucks.
Lunch is served as we cruise into the Bagan region. Before arriving, one of our guides will present an enlightening overview of the history of Bagan, including details about the different styles of architecture you will see.
Bagan has been one of the main visitor attractions in Myanmar for many years, ranking alongside Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur on Java as the greatest monuments in Southeast Asia. As many as 2,000 temples dot the plain beside the Ayeyarwady River, most of which were built around 800 years ago.
The ship moors at our private jetty in Taung Be, a small village near Old Bagan, where you disembark for an early evening tour. Travel in traditional style aboard your own horse and cart on a scenic route passing many ancient temples in the heart of the archaeological zone. The leisurely ride offers abundant photo opportunities. As daylight starts to fade you will return to the ship, first visiting a small temple close to the jetty to participate in an exclusive Belmond experience—a magical candle-lighting ceremony.
This evening you will be royally entertained on the Observation Deck with a classical puppet show. Historically these shows were performed at court and usually depicted stories from the early life of the Buddha, but they were also used as a way of conveying secret messages to the king.
Day 8 – Bagan
Early this morning you may wish to experience one of the magical highlights of Bagan—a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over the pagodas (operates October-March, advance reservations essential, supplement applies). Guests participating in this activity disembark before dawn and return to the ship at around 08.00-08.30. Coffee and tea are served at the launch site, followed by a light champagne breakfast after landing.
After this, there is a choice of excursions.
Join our guides for a visit to a family compound to observe the process of making ponyegyi (fermented soy bean paste), one of the food specialities of Central Myanmar. Nearby, another family produces colourful fans out of bamboo and paper, which are given as gifts on special occasions. Enjoy a walk through a temple complex near Old Bagan, where you can admire a fascinating mix of architectural styles and both restored and unrestored pagodas. You will also be led to a small temple that will be opened exclusively for us, where you can discover the murals inside by torchlight. Nearby take in the stunning view of Thatbyinnyu, one of Bagan’s tallest pagodas, which dates back to the 12th century.
For the energetic there is the option to explore the monuments independently by mountain bike (a map will be provided). This is suitable for advanced beginners and above, and riders should expect a variety of road surfaces, including dirt and sand tracks and paved roads with other vehicles. On request, e-bikes can also be rented or private guides arranged for a guided bike tour. Please enquire at Reception a day in advance regarding rates and reservations.
A third option is to set off by yourself on a morning stroll around Taung Be, the small village where our jetty is located. The cool of the morning is a time of much activity, when villagers can be seen going about their business. Belmond’s free clinic is open and bustling with patients, many of whom have travelled great distances to receive health care from our Belmond doctors and volunteers.
Return to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon you visit two of the most significant pagodas of Bagan, Sulamani and Ananda Temple. 12th-century Sulamani is known as the “Crowning Jewel” and is renowned for its fine brickwork and decorative features. Ananda, built in 1090, contains four gilded Buddha statues, each standing 30ft tall. You will also visit a workshop to observe Bagan's famous lacquerware being crafted.
Return to the ship and prepare for your final evening on board, commencing with a farewell cocktail party on the Observation Deck and dazzling entertainment in the form of an elephant dance, and culminating in a splendid dinner in the Restaurant.
Day 9 – Bagan
This morning there is another opportunity to experience a bike ride, a walk in Taung Be village or a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. Please speak to Reception to arrange it.
An early-bird breakfast is served before you disembark from Belmond Orcaella for your onward travel arrangements. Final disembarkation time from the ship is 10.00.
We wish you a very pleasant onward journey.
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, accessibility for those people with disabilities is very limited in Myanmar (Burma).