Upper Irrawaddy Explorer

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Discover ancient traditions, cultural riches and unspoilt landscapes on this expedition through Burma’s remote far north, cruising for 10 nights through incredible gorges and stopping in Katha, the setting for George Orwell’s Burmese Days.

tour duration 14 Days from
tour price 4,940pp
tour type Private Tour

Places Visited

UK - Rangoon (1N) - Irrawaddy Cruise (10N) - Rangoon (1N) - UK

Tour Highlights

Get lost in the mysterious Temples of Bagan
Cruise up the Irrawaddy River, the lifeline of Burma
Visit the imposing Mingun Pagoda and the Mingun Bell, the largest working bell in the world
Watch red robed monks as they stroll across legendary U Bein Bridge
Climb Pagoda Hill for stunning views of the Upper Irrawaddy
Cruise through the dramatic Gorges of the Upper Irrawaddy

Days 1 Fly to Rangoon
Fly overnight to Rangoon, former capital of Burma.
Days 1 Fly to Rangoon
Day 2 Arrive Rangoon
On arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2 Arrive Rangoon
Day 3 Journey to Bagan
Fly to Bagan and board your beautiful Pandaw ship, enjoying lunch and taking some time to settle in. This afternoon you will tour a selection of Bagan’s thousands of magnificent UNESCO-listed temples. Spread across the atmospheric plains close to the Irrawaddy, the temples are the legacy of a host of old kingdoms – it is said, at its peak there were over 10,000 temples, today there are just over 2,000 left. Return to the ship and set sail up the Irrawaddy. (B,L,D)
Day 3 Journey to Bagan
Day 4 Yandabo
Cruising leisurely past the Irrawaddy’s confluence with the Chindwin River before stopping at the village of Yandabo, which is famous for the terracotta pottery produced from riverbank clay. The afternoon will be spent cruising upstream, towards the city of Mandalay – find a spot on deck, sit back and enjoy the fantastic scenery as you go. (B,L,D)
Day 4 Yandabo
Day 5 Amarapura
Spend the morning amongst the historical ruins of the former royal capital of Ava. The city was finally abandoned in 1839 after being the on/off home to kings and queens since 1364. Pay a visit to Bagaya Kyaung, a 200-year-old royal monastery that is constructed from teak and has many elaborate woodcarvings to admire. Continue on to another former royal capital of Amarapura. Now a lovely, leafy suburb there are some exquisite wall paintings to admire. (B,L,D)
Day 5 Amarapura
Day 6 Kyauk-myoung
Stop off at the potteries close to the town of Kyauk-Myoung, famous for its handmade 50-gallon water pots. You’ll be able to see every stage of the creation process, from throwing to the weeklong firing in huge kilns. Back onboard the ship, it’s time to enter the first (officially the third defile) of the magnificent Irrawaddy gorges. (B,L,D)
Day 6 Kyauk-myoung
Day 7 Khan-nyat
Today’s stop is to the village of Khan-nyat with its many Buddhist monasteries. Here visit a former school teacher’s house where he keeps a small museum collection. Climb the pagoda hill at Tigyang from where you’ll have spectacular views over the Upper Irrawaddy River. (B,L,D)
Day 7 Khan-nyat
Day 8 Katha
Reach the enchanting colonial town of Katha. Like a step back in time, it is the setting for George Orwell’s novel Burmese Days, and little appears to have changed since! You can also see the collection of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’s bells, taken from ships sunk during World War II. Pop out of town to explore the hardwood forests of the hills around Katha, making a stop at an elephant logging camp. (B,L,D)
Day 8 Katha
Day 9 Kyun Daw Village
The next day, hop onto a local boat to visit Kyun Daw village, where there are countless small pagodas to admire. (B,L,D)
Day 9 Kyun Daw Village
Day 10 Irrawaddy Gorge
Cruise through the second magnificent gorge of the Irrawaddy (officially the second defile), a dramatic section of the river with towering cliffs and the river charging through a narrow channel; sit back, admire the views and enjoy the ride. Begin to sail back downstream. (B,L,D)
Day 10 Irrawaddy Gorge
Day 11 Tagaung Ancient City
Take a walking tour of the historical city of Tagaung, where you can see the old fortifications, a famous nat (shrine to the spirits) and the archaeological area. (B,L,D)
Day 11 Tagaung Ancient City
Day 12 Mingun Pagoda
Moor up and see the magnificent sights of Mingun – the largest working bell in the world and the epic pagoda that, though unfinished, is the largest brick building in the world. Drop in on Mingun Old People’s Home, established by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the 1930s to have a chat with the residents and see the excellent work that Pandaw has continued. Drive through the beautiful Sagaing Hills, which is dotted with stupas, hermitages and sanctuaries, to a viewpoint where there are amazing views across the surrounding area. (B,L,D)
Day 12 Mingun Pagoda
Day 13 Disembark and fly to Rangoon
The cruise comes to an end at Mandalay, where you will disembark after breakfast. Transfer to the airport and catch a flight back to Rangoon. Later there will be time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s most sacred landmark. (B)
Day 13 Disembark and fly to Rangoon
Day 14 Fly Rangoon to UK
Fly home to the UK, arriving the following day. (B)
Day 14 Fly Rangoon to UK

Also Available

Tailor Your Tour

If you like most of the itinerary which we have suggested but you'd like to change the route and the accommodation, speak to our specialist Tailormade team, who can build your perfect itinerary based around where you would like to go, what you would like to see and how much you'd like to spend. Just call us on 0800 9884 888 and we'll help plan your dream holiday.

23-Jan > 05-Feb - £4,940 BOOK NOW
02-Feb > 15-Feb - £4,940 BOOK NOW
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22-Feb > 07-Mar - £4,940 BOOK NOW
04-Mar > 17-Mar - £4,940 BOOK NOW
14-Mar > 27-Mar - £4,940 BOOK NOW

Additional Price Information:

Based on London Heathrow departures
Subject to availability
Single supplement from £540
Sole traveller supplement from £590
Land only from £3,990 (Rangoon - Rangoon)
Includes crew gratuities
Excludes tips to tour guides & drivers

Wendy Wu Tours, inspect all of our hotels to ensure they meet the high levels of service which we require for our guests. If the hotels details below for your tour are not available, hotels of a similar standard will be used.

Wangfu Hotel
Wangfu Hotel - 9 Yigu Xiang, Nanmen Street, Ancient Town (0 Nights)
hotel star rating

Wangfu Hotel is located inside the Lijiang Old Town and it is good retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

A visa is required by all nationalities. A single entry visa should be arranged in advance of travel.
Unlike many other tour operators, we include your entry visas in the price of our tour. We handle the entire visa process – all you need to do is fill out the form and send your passport to us. We are always on hand to help you with any questions or queries you might have when completing the form. 

Phone Calls
International and domestic calls can be made from your hotel room. To call the UK the international access code is 00, followed by the country code 44, then the local area code (omitting the first 0), then the number. To call Wendy Wu Tours it is 00 44 207 403 7860. Emergency 24 hour telephone (out of office hours) is 00 44 7984 041 625.
Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are growing in popularity and you will find high quality coverage. There are active roaming agreements with all phone carriers; however SMS and call rates can be expensive. We recommend that you contact your mobile supplier if you intend to use international roaming during your holiday and ensure you investigate all associated costs before you leave the UK.
Internet & Email
Internet cafes can be found in all major cities and even in some small towns. This is often the easiest and cheapest way to stay in touch. Most hotels have a business centre with internet access, but at a slightly higher rate. Some hotels may have Wi-Fi which usually comes at an additional cost and may only be available in hotel lobbies. 

Tipping is an expected element in the tourism industry today and Burma is no exception. Many passengers are often uncertain of how much to tip so we have established a tipping system whereby every passenger gives a set amount to the National Escort who will distribute the amount appropriately. On multi-country tips, this amount will be paid in stages on arrival in each country. If there is no National Escort, you will need to give your money to your Local Guides and tipping amounts for each city will be shown in your final itinerary. The amount for the kitty is calculated for each tour depending on the length, group size, and services used during the trip.
We will indicate the tipping amounts in your final documents for guidance.

Shopping can be a fun and entertaining component to any travel adventure. In keeping with most people’s interests whilst on holiday, your tour will include a reasonable number of opportunities to shop for local goods and souvenirs.
We have included visits to establishments that not only provide an opportunity to purchase a locally produced, great-value souvenir; but you’ll witness first-hand how these local products are made, their history and how they support the local economy. We are aware that people like to take home souvenirs, so we endeavour to ensure the shops you visit have a reputation for quality, honesty, and authenticity – we do our best to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. 

The cost of all meals is included in your group tour cost. Breakfast is a combination of local and western food, usually served buffet style at the hotel you are staying in. Lunches and dinners consist of traditional cuisine and are served at reputable local restaurants. As is traditional in this region, lunch and dinner consists of small dishes of local cuisine which is then placed on the table for everyone to share so you can experience the variety of speciality dishes. The amount served is more than ample for the whole group. We aim to cater to the tastes of the majority of people and so the food is not too spicy or unusual in taste.
Drinks will be at each tour members’ own expense and paid for at the end of each meal. Beer is widely available and cheap. Western style wine is very expensive to import and is not widely available except at upmarket restaurants. Bottled drinking water, soft drinks, and fruit juices are also widely available – remember that you should only have ice or fruit juices from a trusted restaurant, where they will use boiled or bottled water.
Due to the French colonial influence in some Southeast Asian countries, black tea (commonly referred to as ‘lip-ton’ by the locals), coffee, and baguettes are available in most places. However, the local style is to have sweet condensed milk with their tea and coffee. Fresh dairy milk is not usually served but many restaurants will provide this if requested. ‘Cafe Sua-da’ (or iced coffee with milk) is a favourite choice amongst the locals.

What's Included

International flights and current taxes
Domestic transportation
Touring with guides & entrance fees
Visa fees for UK & EU passport holders
Meals as stated
Local soft drinks, local beer and local spirits on the cruise
All excursions
Crew gratuities
Use of bikes on board

Why Book This Tour?

This tour is suited for those with a reasonable amount of time to travel and who are interested in travelling to some of the main sights of Burma via the Irrawaddy River, which runs through the country. This tour incorporates a 10 night cruise on the Irrawaddy River and touring is at a comfortable and relaxed pace, giving you ample time to explore each destination.

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