Popular Irrawaddy River Cruise Itineraries
The Irrawaddy River (also known as Ayeyarwady River) is the largest river and the most important commercial waterway in Burma. In recent years, together with the general development of Myanmar tourism, the river has attracted more and more travelers all over the world. There are a lot of different itineraries for an Irrawaddy River cruise offered by various travel agencies. We recommend some of those popular so that you can choose the one which is most suitable for your taste and time.
Popular Irrawaddy River Cruise Itineraries
Three to Four Nights: The river cruise itineraries between Mandalay and Bagan are the most important. These journeys usually last three or four days and give a wonderful taste of this magical country and its serene river. The initial and final points, Mandalay and Bagan, are two of most culturally significant sites in Burma. You will be able to experience Burmese daily life and culture during organized excursions offered on the extended stays in both cities.
Seven Nights: A number of travel agencies are also offering longer voyages from Bagan to Yangon (and vice versa), while other run their vessels from the city of Pyay, situated between Yangon and Bagan. The longer Ayeyarwady river cruise gives a true immersion into the contrasts of this country and visits the places which remain unfamiliar to mass tourism, such as Magwe with its famous Myathalon Pagoda.
Longer Voyages: Even more remote areas can be experienced during an 11- or 12-night Irrawaddy river cruise through the gorges of the river upper reaches. Several of these sailings head north from Mandalay and Bagan to Bhamo, which is just 30 miles south of the border of China. Recently, a range of luxury vessels has begun their adventurous voyages to the Chindwin River. These longer duration journeys reach as far north as Homalin close to the border of India and are seasonally held because of the challenges posed by the ever-changing river conditions.
Irrawaddy River Cruise Port Highlights
Bagan: The ancient city of Bagan, the former capital of the Burmese empire, is the spiritual heart of Burma. In a period of three centuries (the 11th-century to the end of the 13th-century), devout Burmese monarchs built over 4,000 temples across a 20 square-mile area. Although many of the original pagodas have been devastated and ruined by time, there are more than 2,200 ones rising from the dusty terrain. In this mysterious city, white stupas contrast with red-brick temples, some soaring 180 feet in height with sophisticated terraces, porticos, and carvings.
Mandalay: The city was once the royal capital of Burma, and now is a cosmopolitan city. King Mindon, who ruled from 1853 to 1878, originally named the city Yadanapon, which means “the city of Gems” in the Burmese language, and then the city was renamed after Mandalay Hill located in the northeast of the city. You can visit the famous attractions of Mandalay such as Kuthodaw Pagoda, where 729 pillars are inscribed with Buddhist Tripitaka scriptures; the Golden Palace Monastery with its elaborate wood carving; the hills full of pagodas in Sagaing, the spiritual capital of Burma; and Mingun, home to the largest ‘ringing bell’ in the world.
Yangon: The incomparable Shwedagon Pagoda, the jewel of Yangon with gilded temples, stupas, and statues, is the first must-visit destination in the city. The heady air is filled with the sound of chanting and incense. Barefoot pilgrims and monks in maroon outfits donate offerings of fruit and flowers. The ancient Sule Pagoda is also an attractive site in the city full of golden pagodas. Built in 1920, the busy 70-year-old Bogyoke Market is a massive bazaar that sells everything from wood carvings to brightly-colored fabrics and tapestries.
Pyay: The city is another highlight on the Irrawaddy river cruise. You can make a visit to the Shwe Myet Hman pagoda to see the unique Buddha wearing gold sunglasses. At the old city of Thayekhittata, discover a wealth of stupas in different sizes built between the 4th and the 13th centuries. The Shwesandaw Paya temple is famous for housing what are said to be Buddha’s hair and also one of his teeth, whose form is like a golden bell and is publicized only during the full-moon festival in November.
Whether you choose a short or long itinerary, your river cuisine will be a wonderful opportunity to discover the charming and friendly Myanmar.