Myanmar Itinerary – The Best of Myanmar in 2 Weeks

by May 7, 2018Itinerary, Myanmar

Myanmar is one of the most fascinating countries in Asia. Out of all the countries I have visited in Asia, it is by far the least westernized and most traditional country in Asia. You can still see monks walking around Mandalay barefoot and carrying their alms bowl. Most of the men still wear the traditional longyi (similar to a sarong). People still put thanaka (white cream) on their faces.

What’s more, whether you’re into history, culture, food, or nature, Myanmar has it all for you.  For history, there’s Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay. If you want to experience ethnic minority cultures, you’ve got Inle Lake and Hsipaw. For nature and hiking, I’ve included trips to Inle Lake and Hsipaw. And food? I’ve listed all of my favorite restaurants along with where I stayed in each city. You can get all of them in this best of Myanmar in this 2 weeks itinerary.

When I started planning my trip to Myanmar. I was confused about which route to take and how long to stay in each place. I agonized over it for weeks, and in the end, chose the wrong route because I didn’t have access to bus and plane information and I decided while I was in Myanmar to visit Hsipaw instead of the Golden Rock (I’m glad I did!)

I hope this best of Myanmar in 2 weeks itinerary will help you plan. If you are staying 3 weeks, I would add extra days onto the original itinerary like one more day in Bagan, Yangon, Inle Lake, and Hsipaw, a trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake and a stop in Pyin Oo Lwin, the British hill station near Mandalay. I stayed in Myanmar for 4 weeks visiting Ngapali, Sittwe, and Mrauk U, so if you want to see my suggested itinerary for that duration, you can click here for a 4-week itinerary. 

Days 1 and 2 – Yangon

Start your journey in Yangon. Even in December and January, the weather is pretty hot and humid, so take it slow and give yourself a few days to adjust.

Take taxis! The sites look close to each other on the map, but they are actually quite far from each other and sidewalks are non-existent.

The itinerary says 2 days, but if you can extend your vacation, stay 3 days in order to acclimate to the weather and see more. Spend the morning in downtown Yangoon visiting the Sule Pagoda, Mahabandoola Garden, Bogyoke Aung San Market, and the Jewish synagogue, and taking a self-guided walking tour around the colonial buildings of Yangon.

In the late afternoon visit Shwedagon Paya so that you can get photos of it at dusk. In the evening, take the Yangon Food Tour for an overview of Shan and Burmese food.

The next morning take a taxi to Chalikhatgyi Temple and Ngantatgyi Paya. Have lunch at Aung Thukha, which is not far from Merchant Art Boutique Hotel. In the afternoon, you can visit the National Museum or Kandawgyi Lake.

Hotel: Merchant Art Boutique Hotel – walking distance from Shwedagon Paya! Beautiful views of Shwedagon from the rooftop bar/restaurant.

Restaurant: Aung Thukha has excellent curries. Try Yangon Food Tours. It’s a bit pricey ($35) but you get a good introduction of Myanmar food.

Transport: Take a night bus to Bagan. Your hotel can help you buy tickets and arrange for a taxi to take you to the bus station, which is far away on the outskirts of the city.

Days 3 and 4 – Bagan

Arriving in Bagan around 6:00 am, you’ll find that the bus station is quite far from any of the hotels. You might have to fork over a lot for a taxi.

Spend two days (if you have more time, 3 is better) visiting all of the amazing temples on scooter or electric bike.

Spend one morning taking a balloon ride over the temples. Make sure to see the sunset from one of the temples.

Hotel: Hotel Zfreeti in Nyeung U – It’s near lots of restaurants, but it’s not the friendliest hotel around. Good breakfast. You’ll also need a scooter or electric bike since it’s far from the temples. You can rent electric bikes from them,but make sure you get one that works or else you’ll be peddling yourself.

Restaurants:  Bi Bo Restaurant – excellent price, service, and Burmese food! The BEST tea leaf salad I had in Myanmar!

Day 5 – Travel to Inle Lake

Travel by bus (JJ Express) to Inle Lake leaving in the morning and arriving in Nyaungshwe at 3:30 pm. There were no night buses when I was there. The bus also drops people off at Kalaw for those doing the trek from there to Nyaungshwe.

Days 6 and 7 – Inle Lake

Do the touristy Inle Lake Boat Tour, but make sure you are clear what time the driver will bring you back. My trip was cut short because the boat driver wanted to get back early to get another customer. Don’t take the tour from a guy named Ko Wite.

On your second day, go on a bike ride around Inle Lake. Start out Riding your bike on the left side of the lake to Khao Daing (11-12 km), where you can put your bike on a boat and take it over to the other side of the lake to Maing Thauk (8,000 kyat). If you’re lucky, the market might be open that day. Then ride your bike back to Nyaungshwe (11 km).

Make sure to stop off at the Bamboo Hut along the way back for lunch! And then stop off at the winery for some wine tasting and a rest.

I left Nyaung Shwe at 8:00 am and got to Maing Thauk at 9:45. I got to the Bamboo Hut at 11:00 am. The bike ride was the highlight of Inle Lake. Take a night bus to Mandalay.

Hotel: Golden Dream Hotel – The staff were really friendly and helpful! They had bikes to rent. Breakfast was disappointing.

Restaurants: Thanaka Garden (Myanmar food – ok), Lin Htett (traditional Myanmar food – price, service, and food are excellent), Sin Yaw (Burmese and Shan Food – ok), Bamboo Hut (Myanmar food – excellent)

If you do the trek from Kalaw to Nyaungshwe, add one or two more days to your itinerary. You will probably need two days to give you an extra day to rest.

Days 8 and 9 – Mandalay

Arrive in Mandalay at 4:45 am. Spend part of the day visiting Mandalay Hill.

On day 2 hire a motorcycle and driver to take you out to Mahamuni Paya (excellent!), a very active temple with the gold leaf Buddha, and Maha Ganayon Kyaung monastery where you can watch the monks having lunch. Then have the driver take you to Mingun (30 minute ride). Skip Sagaing Hill so you have time to see Bagaya Kyaung, the teak monastery, and Inwa, the old capital of Burma. Finally, have your driver take you to the U-Bein Bridge at sunset.

In the evenings, I saw the Moustache Brothers and the Mandalay Marionettes. I enjoyed the marionettes, but I didn’t really like the Moustache Brothers. I know some people, though, really like them.

Hotel:  Hotel 8 – I loved this hotel! The service was impeccable, the bed was very comfortable, and the towels were soft. Near lots of good restaurants.

RestaurantsMingalabar (Very good! Try the mohinga!), Aye Myit Tar (Amazing traditional food!), and Shan Ma Ma (lots of foreigners and locals, but I wasn’t impressed).

Day 10 – Travel to Hsipaw via the Gokteik Viaduct

Wake up really early to take the train to Hsipaw traveling on the Gokteik Viaduct, a bridge that crosses the Gokteik Gorge. You want to sit on the left side. The train leaves at 4:00 am from Mandalay. You get to the Gokteik Viaduct at 1:00ish.

Vendors sell food on the train and the train stops long enough to stop and get something to eat. The bathrooms on the train are pretty disgusting and don’t be surprised to see a rat scurrying across the floor. The train ride is still worth it!

You arrive in Hsipaw at 3:00ish. If you’ve made reservations and informed your hotel or hostel of your arrival time, someone should be there to pick you up at the train station and take you to your hotel or hostel.

Hotel:  Mr. Charles Hotel and River View Lodge – This is the best deal in Myanmar. A beautiful, beautiful hotel located outside of town along a river. Each room has a private deck looking out over the river. Mr. Charles also runs a hostel in town. Great breakfast! You can book lots of treks from the hotel.

Days 11 and 12 – Hsipaw

You can take different treks to the countryside to visit the hilltribe’s villages. I had broken my toe so didn’t think I was up for a long trek.

If you stay at the River View Lodge, it’s a nice place to just relax and do nothing.

You can also go on a hike from the Riverview Lodge to a waterfall that you can swim in and then hike back to the town. It’s a long hike and directions are a bit wonky, but it’s worth it.

Make sure to visit Hsipaw’s Shan Palace, the house of the last ruler of Shan State. When I was there, it opened at 4:00 pm and closed at 6:00 pm. There are also a few monasteries you can visit in Hsipaw like the Madahya Monastery and the Bamboo Buddha Monastery which are both near Mrs. Popcorn’s restaurant and on the way to the Shan Palace.

Restaurants: Mrs. Popcorn’s Garden (Excellent food but slow service) the restaurant at the River View Lodge isn’t that great. Take the night bus back to Yangon.

Days 13 and 14 – Yangon

You’ll arrive in Yangon around 5:00 am. Spend your last day before your flight out seeing some of the sites you didn’t see when you arrived such as the Chalikhatgyi Temple and Ngantatgyi Temple or do the Colonial Walking tour.

Fly out on the 14th day. You can exchange any leftover Burmese kyat at the airport.

Hotel: 15th Street @ Downtown – This is an small hotel near downtown. I wanted to try staying in another part of the city. It’s ok. They have excellent Shan noodle breakfast.

Restaurants: Feel Myanmar Food (Excellent!)

Travel Guides

I used the Lonely Planet travel guide for my trip.

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That’s it for my best of Myanmar in 2 weeks!  There are other sites to see such as the Golden Rock, Hpa An, Ngapali, and Mrauk U. I think this itinerary gives you a little bit of everything: culture, nature, and history. They are also all of the most easily accessible places to visit in Myanmar.

If you want a longer vacation, please visit my 4-week itinerary to Myanmar.

If you want a list of books to read on Myanmar to get a better understanding of the country and its people, check out my blog post on The Best Books on Myanmar. What do you think of this itinerary? Were you looking at other places instead of the ones in my itinerary?

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