The best Myanmar itinerary is typically around 2 weeks and should include a mix of culture and natural beauty that Burma is most famous for.
We suggest you spend your time between the cities of Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay, and Kalaw.
We planned our Myanmar trip last minute and in the middle of high season, the first week of January. All we had planned was the first two nights in a Mandalay hotel. We literally were researching hotels on TripAdvisor in the taxi on the way to the airport.
Thankfully we found the perfect hotel with Bagan pagoda views right from our room and we booked it right on the TripAdvisor app on our phone. The below Myanmar itinerary starts and ends in Mandalay it doesn’t matter if you go to Bagan first or Inle Lake.
It’s kind of a messy triangle hitting four of the best Myanmar destinations. This mess would also make for an epic Myanmar honeymoon for the right couple.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels in Myanmar check prices on Booking.com, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
2 Days in Mandalay
Spend at least two nights in Mandalay that way you have one full day to see the nearby Mandalay attractions. Most tourists overlook Mandalay as they don’t realize there are tons of things to do in Mandalay. You can rent a bicycle or walk to many of the sights in Mandalay or join a Mandalay day tour.
We hired a private driver for the day who drove us around for 12 hours for 55,000 kyat that way we could make up our own Mandalay tour and go at our pace. We suggest booking this $70 private car for 10 hours with an English speaking guide. We suggest booking before you’re in Mandalay, you won’t be able to negotiate with a taxi down to this price.
1. U Bein Bridge – World’s longest teak bridge
Get up early and head to U Bein bridge for sunrise, not only is a gorgeous sunrise but very few tourist and instead locals & monks crossing the bridge. The U Bein bridge at sunset is also great but will be packed with hundreds of tourists. We had our driver pick us up at 5:45 am so that we got to the U Bein bridge 20 minutes before sunrise.
Have your driver bring you to Mingun which is an hour’s drive from Mandalay. Mingun 11 kilometers/7 miles up the Ayeyarwady River, there is a 9 am daily Mingun boat from Mandalay for 5,000 kyats and it returns to Mandalay at 1 pm.
Our favorite temple in Mandalay was Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which is famous for the cracks running through it caused by the 1839 earthquake. Within walking distance from Mingun Pahtodawgyi is the gorgeous white Hsinbyume Pagoda.
Head back to Mandalay to check out the Mandalay Palace located inside the moat. If you are up for an adventure you can climb the stairs to the top of the Mandalay Hill or you can take a taxi to the top and then ride the escalator to the summit. We suggest watching the sunset over Mandalay from the top of the hill.
Recommended Mandalay Hotels:
- Luxury Mandalay Hotel $100+ Mandalay Hill Resort 5 star resort located just outside the moat within walking distance several Mandalay attractions.
- Midrange Mandalay Hotel $50-$100 The Link 78 Mandalay Boutique Hotel 4 star hotel in the center of Mandalay with modern rooms.
- Budget Mandalay Hotel Under $50 Hotel A1 #10 hotel on TripAdvisor is where we stayed located right in the center of Mandalay, great value
Recommended Mandalay Restaurants:
- Bistro on 82nd #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, small European menu. We highly recommend wiener schnitzel for 15,500 kyat. Address: 82nd St | between 30 & 31th Street
- NOVA Coffee #1 cafe on TripAdvisor, a popular cafe with great coffee and reasonably priced menu Address: A/146, 37 Street, Between 79 & 80 Street
- Indian Tadka Mandalay We found this restaurant thanks to the raving reviews on TripAdvisor where many customers saying it was the best Indian food they ever had. It was pretty darn good, we recommend chicken tiki masala & garlic naan mains for 5,000k. Address: 63 64 On 27th Street | Between 63 & 64 Street
Ko Fatty Mandalay Private Driver
Our book online with Viator for a 10-hour private car in Mandalay for $70 here.
Related Article: How to get from Mandalay to Inle Lake
5 Days In Bagan
If you are tight on time, you could do a day or two less, but honestly, Bagan is amazing and you’re going to wish you had more time here. More than any other city in Myanmar, Bagan has the most to see and do for visitors.
When traveling to Bagan from Mandalay you can either fly, take the bus, hire a private taxi for $70, or take a boat cruise to Bagan. We choose to take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan which took 10 hours but it was really relaxing and scenic. You must book in advance, book online in advance here. We spent 5 days in Bagan and would suggest at least 3 nights in Bagan as there are over 2,000 temples in Bagan and you’ll need time to explore them.
Related Article: How To Get From Mandalay to Bagan
As soon as you arrive you’ll realize why we are suggesting spending 5 days in Bagan. Our hotel was right at the edge of New Bagan with amazing pagoda views. We spent the few extra dollars a night to have a pagoda view room in Bagan and it totally was worth it.
Right from our balcony, we could see 10 of the most famous Bagan pagodas including Su La Ma Ni Pahto, Dhamma Yan Gyi Pahto, Ananada Temple, Shwe San Daw Paya, and That Byin Nyu Temple. We really lucked out booking this room for $60 a night on the TripAdvisor app.
1. Rent E-bikes in Bagan
Renting e-bikes in Bagan is a must and it’s the best way to see the best Bagan temples. There are e-bike shops all over and most hotels either have e-bikes for rent or they will have one of the e-bike companies drop one off in the morning and pick it up at night to charge it. Tourists are not allowed to rent mopeds in Bagan but honestly, e-bikes are just the same.
Bagan E-bike Rental Prices:
- 8,000 kyat 7am-7pm
- 2,000 kyat extra to have it dropped off at 530am for sunrise
- 2,000 kyat extra to bring it back after 7 pm
Since we rented two bikes for five days we negotiated a little and get a few of the sunrise charges waived, prices possibly were cheaper in town if we would have shopped around.
2. Get a Bagan Temple Map and go Explore
On your first day in the city pick up a Bagan temple map. Most hotels have free maps and a few e-bike shops sell a more detailed map for 1,000 kyats. We suggest spending one day visiting the temples nearby each main city. You’ll honestly need a day in each part.
We found ourselves spending more time at temples not even on the map. You’ll be literally driving down a road and see a temple in the distance and next thing you know you’re in the middle of the field trying to find a way there.
3. Watch the Sunrise over the temples
One of our biggest Myanmar travel tips is to get up early! Start the morning early because Bagan sunrises should not be missed. Watching the sunrise over the Bagan temples never gets old.
We suggest skipping the temples listed as a sunrise temple or sunset temple as there will be tons of other tourists there. Instead, the day before check out hidden temples off the tourist map. We tried a different place every morning in search of the best Bagan sunrise temple and again in the evening for the best Bagan sunset temple.
4. Hot Air Balloon over the temples of Bagan
One of the best views of the temples in Bagan is in a hot air balloon. Every morning we saw the balloons over Bagan making for some iconic photos. We knew we had to get in a hot air balloon, one morning we woke up at 5 am to jump in a hot air balloon for an unforgettable morning. We soared through Bagan for over an hour with Balloons Over Bagan.
Due to the drone laws in Myanmar, we didn’t bring it with but the photos of Bagan from a hot air balloon were just as good. Click here to book a hot air balloon over Bagan. Book months in advance the balloons are sold out 4 months in advance due to balloon only running 5 months a year due to winds.
Recommended Bagan Hotels
There are three main hotel zones in Bagan: Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung-U. There are pros and cons to all options. Old Bagan is right in the middle and probably the best location however if you rent an e-bike it doesn’t matter where you stay as you can drive from New Bagan to Nyang-U in 2o minutes. We think New Bagan and Nyang-U have the best restaurant choices.
- New Bagan Hotel: Kumudara Hotel this is where we stayed in a pagoda view room, great pool, walkable to New Bagan restaurants. | TripAdvisor Reviews
- Old Bagan Hotel: Thande Hotel Bagan | TripAdvisor Reviews
- Nyanung-U Hotel: Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan | TripAdvisor Reviews
Recommended Bagan Restaurants
We are only listing the restaurants we personally ate at. There are tons of restaurants that are much cheaper and serve local Burmese food. We have had several friends visit Myanmar and had stomach trouble which ruined their time in Myanmar, so we opt to eat at higher-end places in Burma.
- Nyanung-U: Weatherspoon’s was our go-to place, we ate here 3 times and drove 30 minutes on the e-bikes just to have lunch here. We highly recommend the chicken burger 4,700 kyat and tea leaf salad 1,900 kyats | Read TripAdvisor Reviews
- New Bagan & Nyanung-U: La Pizza offers tasty wood-fired pizzas, we visited the New Bagan location three times. Pizzas aren’t cheap by Myanmar standards 7,000+ kyat we recommend the pizza with arugula, fresh tomatoes, and parmesan shavings. | Read TripAdvisor Reviews
- Old Bagan & New Bagan: Be Kind To Animals Moon 1 & 2 the menu is huge and affordable. We ate here several times trying different things every time. We highly recommend the guacamole with chickpea chips. | TripAdvisor Reviews
Related Article: How to get from Bagan to Inle Lake
1 Day In Kalaw
If you are wanting to see a more rural side of Myanmar there is some great trekking in Myanmar. One of the best treks in Myanmar is from Kalaw to Inle Lake. We suggest spending one day in Kalaw to arrange your trek. Treks can be booked the day before there is no need to book in advance.
There aren’t that many things to do in Kalaw so no need to spend more than one day there before heading off on a trek. There are buses daily from Bagan to Kalaw, the journey is about 6 hours. The nearest airport is in Heho about 45 minutes away.
Recommended Kalaw Hotels
- Luxury Kalaw Hotel $100+ Amara Mountain Resort
- Midrange Kalaw Hotel $50-$100 Royal Kalaw Hills Resort
- Budget Mandalay Hotel Under $50 360 Kalaw Hotel
3-day trek Kalaw
There are a few trekking options in Kalaw, the most popular is the 70 km 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. There is also a 2-day trek to Inle Lake option if a 3-day trek sounds too intense. Another epic trek is the 3-day trek from Kalaw to Pindaya. Both treks have stunning views visiting local Shan villages along the way. Hike through tea leaf plantations and gardens as the path goes up and down.
Most treks are done in groups of 6 but private treks can be arranged for an additional fee. The average going price for the 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake is 40,000 kyat a person which includes all meals, accommodation, and a local guide. Don’t forget to tip the guides.
There is a 2-day 1-night trek option. These aren’t as common and shouldn’t be booked online in advance. We suggest booking the 2 days Kalaw to Inle Lake trek on Viator here for $150.
3 Days In Inle Lake
3 days in Inle Lake is the perfect amount of time to check out all the things to do in Inle Lake and just enjoy the lake. Inle Lake is a lot bigger than you think and it takes time to get around the lake.
If you trek from Kalaw you’ll want a day just relaxing doing nothing. There are several ways to get to Inle Lake, it’s about 7-8 hours from Bagan or Mandalay. The nearest airport is in Heho, 45 minutes away. Make sure to check out our complete Inle Lake Myanmar guide.
1. Hot Air Balloon over Inle Lake
One of the best to see the lake is from a hot air balloon. Hot air balloons in Inle Lake are relatively new with only two companies operating. We were lucky to get in a balloon with Oriental Ballooning for a 2-hour balloon ride.
This is was our fifth hot air balloon ride and probably our favorite. We started out low flying over the villages along the lake and the floating gardens. We eventually made it up to 7,000 feet above the lake.
2. Rent Bike in Inle Lake
One day rent bicycles in Nyaungshwe for 1,500 kyats a day and just get lost. We rode our bikes out to Red Mountain winery for a peaceful afternoon taste-testing Burmese wine which was much better than expected. The winery is also a great spot to catch the sunset. Ride bikes to the Htat Eian cave which has hundreds of Buddha statues inside.
3. Inle Lake Boat Tour
Spend a day on the lake on an Inle Lake boat tour. We organized a private lake tour right at our hotel for $35 USD for the entire day. Our driver had a list of places to bring us but we often told him no to places as we weren’t looking to buy any souvenirs. Instead, we had him stop at local random restaurants over the water to have a beer.
4. Watch the traditional Fisherman of Inle Lake
If you are lucky you’ll spot a group of men fishing, Inle Lake fisherman are famous for their one leg fishing style. They have one leg on the boat and the other leg wrapped around the oar rowing. We happened upon a group of fishermen who appeared to be working together throwing the net and slapping their oars on the water to get the fish into the net.
Recommended Inle Lake Hotels
There are hotels spread out all around the lake but the majority of hotels are in Nyaungshwe. Nyaungshwe is where the bus drops off and the “major” town with tons of restaurants. Staying at a hotel located outside of Nyaung Shwe has its ups and downs. You’ll have to take a taxi to Nyaungshwe for dinner and nightlife options HOWEVER you will have gorgeous views of the lake. We choose to stay on the lake, our hotel was a 40-minute drive to town and cost 20,000k each way.
- On the lake: Amata Garden Resort this is where we stayed and highly recommend this 4-star hotel right on the lake with gorgeous views | TripAdvisor Reviews
- In Nyaungshwe: Mingalar Inn this budget 3-star hotel is located right in town within walking distance to everything and is under $30 a night | TripAdvisor Reviews
Recommended Inle Lake Restaurants
Inle Lake has a wide range of restaurant options. We only had 3 meals in Inle Lake and one restaurant was so good we went back again. We highly recommend all the places we ate and are still craving some chicken tikka masala.
- Innlay Hut Indian Food House #3 restaurant on TripAdvisor the best Indian food we have ever had. Get the chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, and garlic naan.
- One Owl Grill serves real coffee and breakfast all day. We had their soup, hummus, and fries all were tasty.
- Pub Asiatico Inle has a great rooftop bar with 2,000k happy hour cocktails. The inside restaurant looks straight out of a magazine.
Useful Myanmar Travel Information
$1 USD= 1,300 kyat
Booking Myanmar Hotels
If you are traveling during high season (November-February) we advise booking a hotel in advance. Myanmar is becoming a popular tourist destination and hotels book up months in advance. Research hotels on TripAdvisor to find one that fits your budget and needs. But, did you know you put your travel dates in TripAdvisor and it’ll give you the best rates on several booking websites? Most hotels you can actually book right on TripAdvisor.
We like having the prices from several websites given to us in one spot. That way we don’t have to search on several different booking websites. You can book hotels and tours right from the TripAdvisor app which makes everything so easy. Like we mentioned before we literally booked our Bagan hotel on the app while we were in the taxi heading to the airport to catch our flight to Myanmar.
Traveling To Myanmar
The cheapest flights to Myanmar will be to Yangon but in this 2 weeks in Myanmar itinerary, we highly suggest flying to Mandalay. There are direct flights to Mandalay from several nearby Asia destinations. We flew from Chiang Mai Thailand to Mandalay direct for $220 round trip (bags included) on Bangkok Airways, it was a quick 1.5-hour flight.
Apply for your Myanmar eVisa online in advance. We applied a week before our trip and we were approved within 3 days. An email confirmation will be sent to you, just print out your visa and present it at immigration.
If you are traveling around Southeast Asia we highly suggest spending a week or two in Myanmar. Myanmar is changing at a rapid pace and traveling in Myanmar is becoming easier – We suggest visiting sooner than later.
Have you traveled to Myanmar? What was your Myanmar Itinerary?
Our trip to Myanmar was in collaboration with TripAdvisor but as always our opinions are our own.This post may contain affiliate links, see our disclosure