Myanmar River Journeys: More than just a cruise
When you think of cruising, perhaps you imagine massive floating hotels with enough on-board entertainment to rival Las Vegas. Or a bunch of elderly guests playing card games between short visits on huge buses to over-touristed islands.
These types of cruises are popular but certainly do not fit with everyone’s travel style. If you are a more intrepid traveler who likes to truly experience a country’s beauty and culture, an overnight cruise on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy river may be the perfect addition to your holiday.
Myanmar is blessed with beautiful waterways. The Irrawaddy River, which starts and finishes in Myanmar, is the lifeblood of the country with thousands of people living on its banks and depending on its waters for food. The former royal capitals of Mandalay and Bagan were chosen for their riverside locations- the river allowed for easy access to supplies and transport as well as protection from possible invaders.
For travelers, a cruise in Myanmar gives you a chance to explore lesser-known regions in a way that allows you to soak up the natural and cultural beauty of the country. Days are filled surrounded by spectacular scenery that can be viewed from your cabin or on the ship’s deck. Shore excursions explore charming riverside villages untouched by time. On-board, Myanmar hospitality is at its best with friendly staff and indulgent traditional cuisine.
But perhaps our favorite aspect of cruising in Myanmar is the pace. Without having to pack you bag and move hotels each night or worry about navigating a new city, a multi-day cruise allows you to sit back and soak up your experiences and impressions. The beauty of Myanmar often reveals itself in the quiet moments of reflection as you gaze out upon the water.
Here are a few of our favorite cruises along the mighty Irrawaddy River. The cruises vary in length but these are the most popular options, balancing great shore excursions with plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the river.
After a few days of exploring temples, depart from Bagan on the RV Pandaw. This charming wood-paneled cruise ship is a cozy, homely vessel in the vein of traditional Myanmar river boats. Cruise upstream to the university town of Pakokku and explore the town’s vibrant market by pedal-powered trishaw. The next day sees you continuing up the Irrawaddy River to Yandabo village where traditional pottery workshops offer a glimpse into traditional Myanmar life. Continuing on to Mandalay, your last morning on board brings views of the temple-studded hills of Sagaing as you dine on a scrumptious breakfast. Disembark in Mandalay and explore the last royal capital with its fascinating pagodas and vibrant streets.
The Strand Hotel is one of Myanmar’s landmark properties thanks to its incredible history, colonial charm and top-notch service. Their namesake ship lives up to the reputation of the hotel, offering the ultimate in luxury on the Irrawaddy River. The spacious cabins are complimented by a pool on the top deck, 5* dining and a professional crew. Our favorite Strand cruise is a slow journey from Mandalay to Bagan with three nights on board. The journey begins with excursions along the river to Mingun and Ava, soaking up the historic sights found there, then continues down the Irrawaddy River. After drifting past rural villages arrive in Bagan for an insightful exploration capped off with a magical dinner on a sandbank in the middle of the water.
The lower Irrawaddy River is a fertile region dotted with small villages, yet rarely explored by tourists. The luxurious Orcaella ship is one of the first vessels to offer cruises from Yangon, passing through the southern reaches of the water before traveling north to historic Pyay and Bagan. During the week-long journey to Bagan, pass by rural villages as well as stopping to visit the incredible ruins of Sri Ksetra, the trading town of Magwe and historic Salay. This journey through authentic, untouched Myanmar wraps up with two days in remarkable Bagan. As part of the Belmond group, the Orcaella offers nothing but the best in regards to service, food and style as well as insightful on-board lectures and demonstrations to further your understanding of Myanmar culture.
As you can see, cruising on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River is much more than just a relaxing journey. Whether spending 3 days or 9 days on the water, you will get a better sense of the local culture, absorb incredible landscapes and discover the charms of riverside villages. Along with that, you get all the benefits of being on a cruise- no hassle to move rooms, delicious meals freshly prepared each day and friendly crew to take care of the details so that all you need to do is enjoy!
Ask our travel specialists to include a cruise in your Myanmar holiday or check our website for more inspiration and details on these incredible river adventures.