Burma Basics: Big Four in Seven Days – An Itinerary
Taking advantage of overnight trip aboard private buses, this packed itinerary will reward you with the best sights around Burma’s ‘Big Four’ – Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake – in only a week. Yangon and Mandalay can each be explored in a day, so we spent more time in Bagan and Inle Lake which is best enjoyed when you take your time.
We didn’t want to spend a night in Yangon so we booked the bus for Bagan days in advance through a travel agency, who were kind enough to allow us to conveniently leave our luggage at their office while we explored the city on the first and last days of our trip.
If possible, book bus tickets a day before departure. In Mandalay, we bought our tickets in the morning. Innkeepers and drivers can assist you in purchasing bus tickets.
BUDGET: USD 200 (USD 100 & MMK 80,000)
DAY 1: YANGON
8:00 AM: Arrive in Yangon (AirAsia)
10:00 AM to 3:00 PM: DIY tour of city center. Highlights: Lunch at Bogyoke Aung San Market, Sule Paya (entrance: USD 2) & Shwedagon Paya (entrance: USD 10)*
4:30 PM: AC Bus to Bagan (USD 26+, 11 hours)
DAY 2: BAGAN
4:00 AM: Bus arrives at Nyaung U
4:30 – 8:00 AM: Horse cart sunrise tour (MMK 5,000, 1-3 pax)
9:00 AM: Check in at guesthouse – NEW HEAVEN HOTEL (Double room: USD 14)
11:00 AM- 5:00 PM: Full-day horse cart (MMK 12,000, 1-3 pax) or DIY bike tour (MMK 1,500 bike rental) of Bagan Temples
DAY 3: BAGAN
11:00 AM to 3:00 PM: DIY Half-Day Bike Tour (MMK 750) – Nyaung U to Old Bagan to New Bagan
4:00 – 7:00 PM: Horse cart sunset tour (MMK 5,000), plus Ayeyarwaddy river cruise (MMK 12,000/boat, 1 hour)
8:00 PM: AC Bus to Mandalay (MMK 7,500, 7 hours)
DAY 4: AROUND MANDALAY
3:30 AM: Bus arrives in Mandalay. Hire a blue pick-up taxi for a full-day tour (MMK 30,000 for 6pax). Buy bus tickets for Taunggyi (Inle Lake).
4:00 – 6:00 AM: Mahamuni Paya – Ritual washing of the Buddha
7:00 – 9:00 PM: Mandalay Hill – Ride a line-car up to the top then walk down
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM: Amarapura – U Bein Bridge
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Sagaing – Sagaing Hill
5:30 PM: Non-AC Bus to Taunggyi (Inle Lake) (MMK 10,000, 12 hours)
DAY 5: INLE LAKE
6:00 AM: Bus arrives at Shwe Nyaung Junction. Hire pick-up to Inle Lake (MMK 800-1,000/pax) (entrance fee: USD 5)
7:00 AM: Check-in at guesthouse – QUEEN INN (double bungalow: USD 15)
10:00 AM to 6:30 PM: Full-day motorboat tour of Inle Lake: floating villages, floating gardens, Ywama floating market, Jumping Cat Monastery, Indein ruins and watch the sunset over the lake. (MMK 18,000 for 6pax)
7:00 PM: Dinner at Mingalar Market
DAY 6: INLE LAKE
7:00 AM – 12:00 PM: DIY Bike + Boat Tour (see Lonely Planet guidebook) – Nyaung Shwe to Kaung Daing to Maing Thauk (via motorboat, MMK 5,000 for 3pax) (Bike rental: MMK 1,000)
3:30 PM: AC Bus to Yangon (USD 20 or MMK 15,000, 15 hours) – QUEEN INN sells bus tickets.
DAY 7: YANGON
6:30 AM: Bus arrives in Yangon.
9:00 AM – 2:00 PM: Shopping at Bogyoke Aung San Market & Ruby Mart Grocery
5:00 PM: Depart from Yangon (AirAsia)
ON GOVERNMENT ENTRANCE FEES: Independent travel can be beneficial to the Burmese people by minimizing the money that goes to the government and supporting private companies and local industries. Avoid paying government entrance fees by looking for alternative entrances, dressing up like a local (if you look Burmese), or, as we did in Mandalay, ask advice from your taxi driver.