Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a culturally diverse and rich country that has not seen a boom in tourism like its South East Asian counterparts. It’s a large country that has a lot to offer tourists, but if you’ve only got a short stay in Myanmar (7-10 days) this wold be an ideal itinerary for you. Make sure that when you book flights you fly in and out of a different airport (fly in to Yangon and out of Mandalay like I did, or do the reverse). If you fly in to Mandalay and out from Yangon, just follow this guide in reverse.
One you have arrived and settled in to Yangon get out and explore the city. Just wandering the streets will give you such a great insight into what Myanmar is like. Make sure you head to Shwedagon Pagoda- the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar, with a large gilded stupa that dominates the surrounding skyline.
On your second day, get out and do a tour of Yangon via the circular loop train line. The circular train is a local commuter train that goes into the suburbs of Yangon, for a taste of what life is like for the locals outside the city. Purchase tickets at the central train station, and jump off wherever you want to explore further, and don’t miss out on all of the markets along the way. This was definitely a highlight of my time in Yangon, but don’t just take my word, check out what people are saying on TripAdvisor.
1 or 2 days
Ideally, try to get an overnight bus to Inle Lake, that way you will not only save money avoiding a hostel but also get an extra day to spend at Inle or in Nyaungshwe, the town surrounding the lake. I was unable to book an overnight bus so I had to spend a day traveling to Inle.
Upon your arrival book a boat tour of the lake. You can do this through your hotel/hostel or a local travel agency, and should look at paying between $5-$20 USD. This is the standard introductory tour to Inle lake that pretty much everyone who visits will do, and regardless of who you book your boat tour with they will take you to a standard set of sights to visit cigar makers, silk and lotus weavers, jewellery makers, blacksmiths, and Kayan people. You will be encouraged by all of the locals to buy things from their shops, but if you’re not interested just tell them and they wont pressure you. If you have more time in Inle rent a bicycle and explore around the town or the lake.
Ideally, catch an overnight bus from Inle Lake to Bagan.
When you arrive in Bagan there are multiple ways to get out and explore the temples. You can hire bicycles or motorcycles, join an organised tour, or hire a taxi. I hired a taxi because I only had 1 day to explore Bagan, and it cost me $40 for the whole day- this could be split between up to 4 people for $10 each. There is also the option of a horse and cart, but this is extremely unethical.
Mandalay is a lovely city and is far less crowded than Yangon. A visit to the city palace and Mandalay hill is a must, both offer incredible sites and views of the city. If you have time, hire a motorbike driver (about $8 for the day) to take you to other temples and sites in between the two- you wont regret it.