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River Cruising > Asia (multi-country)

Mystical Irrawaddy

16 Day
Between Mandalay and Yangon
From * £7,690
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Mystical Irrawaddy  - 16 day
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Join us for an enriching 16-day tour between Yangon and Mandalay, and journey through lands shaped by ancient civilisations and colonial rule, where hospitable locals stay true to ancient customs passed down through the generations. Experience the Myanmar of your imagination, a land where golden pagodas emerge from dense jungles, and novice monks parade ancient streets in traditional alms ceremonies.

Begin in Mandalay, where you’ll learn to produce gold leaf before taking part in a traditional ceremony at the Mahamuni Pagoda, where male guests are permitted to make an offering to the iconic statue of Buddha. Downstream, take part in an exclusive Scenic Sundowners experience at Amarapura’s spectacular U-Bein Bridge, savouring sunset views across the Irrawaddy. Tour the ancient streets of Inwa by horse and cart, and visit a monastic school to offer alms to the young monks and nuns who worship amid the ancient temples of Sagaing. Visit Bagan, an ancient town renowned for its majestic temples and charming Old Quarter.

Take an optional hot air balloon ride over Bagan’s temples, or else venture to Mount Popa, a spectacular volcano that’s become a sacred place of worship to the people of Myanmar. As the sun sets on your final day in Yangon, wander the cobblestones of the Shwedagon Pagoda, where you’re invited to an exclusive oil lamp lighting experience courtesy of Scenic Enrich.

These departures will be accompanied by a National Geographic expert who will give talks throughout the week and join guests on off-ship excursions. Additionally, a National Geographic photographer will be on board to share techniques and help guests hone their photography skills. We've added extra choice excursions as well, from hikes and bike rides to in-depth learning experiences that focus on the natural world, culture, and history.

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Mandalay to Yangon in 2018/2019
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* From price is for a 21 December 2018 departure. For a full list of pricing and availability, please see below. All prices are per person, twin share in USD, based on two guests sharing. Terms and conditions apply and we reserve the right to withdraw our offers at any time. Please note, the ship operating a particular cruise is subject to change.
View your 16 day itinerary
Day 1
Depart UK
Day 2
Mandalay, Myanmar

Welcome to Mandalay and a night at Mandalay Hill Resort. Get to know your Scenic Tour Director and fellow guests at your welcome dinner and briefing.

Meals included: Dinner
Day 3
Mandalay/Irrawaddy River

Marvel at Shwenandaw, a beautiful wooden monastery covered internally in gold leaf. Equally as impressive are the sights at Kuthodaw Pagoda, where the ‘World’s Largest Book’ is housed. Later walk through the rebuilt Mandalay Palace, destroyed during World War II.

Tonight board Scenic Aura. Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner as we set sail.


Learn how to produce gold leaf at a local workshop. At Mahamuni Pagoda, male guests may place the gold leaf on the iconic Buddha statue.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4

Begin the day with a visit to the Irrawaddy Community Conservation Project in Hsithe. Meet with one of the project’s representatives to learn about the Irrawaddy dolphin and find out how local communities and fishermen are working together to preserve this critically endangered species. Explore the village and learn to fish as the locals do before discovering the birdlife in nearby Singu.

Continue to Mingun—home to the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a huge, unfinished brick pagoda, and the massive Mingun Bell. Then view the beautiful architecture of the Hsinbyume Pagoda, which consists of seven concentric terraces leading to a central stupa.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5

Surrounded by temple-dotted hills, Sagaing was the capital of the 14th-century Sagaing Kingdom and is today an important religious centre.


Meet novice monks during a visit to a monastic-supported school, then continue to a nearby nunnery, where we’ll make a traditional donation to the resident nuns before their midday meal.


This afternoon, travel to Amarapura and enjoy sundowner drinks on a local boat as we float beneath U Bein Bridge—believed to be the world’s longest teak footbridge. At sunset, capture the iconic shot of the bridge’s silhouette against the orange sky.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6

Step ashore at Myinmu and drive through the lush countryside to Monywa. Here, we’ll venture into sandstone grottoes to view spectacular mural paintings and statues dating back to the 14th century. The complex, which includes more than 900 caves, houses one of Southeast Asia’s richest collections of Buddhist mural paintings and images. Later, return to the ship and take in scenes of rural life along the riverbanks as we sail to Yandabo.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7

Arrive in the village of Yandabo, where the peace treaty ending the First Anglo-Burmese War was signed in 1826. Now famous for its pottery, the village offers an opportunity to watch craftsmen at work and to observe their unique artistic methods. We’ll also witness the time-honored tradition of face painting with thanaka, a paste made from ground bark. Later, learn about typical Burmese clothing, including the longyi—a wrap-around skirt commonly worn by women and men. Relax on the sundeck as we sail toward Bagan, watching for the many pagodas and temples that line the river banks.

After dinner this evening, we will be joined by a member of Bagan's Archaeological Department, who will discuss the efforts to repair the Bagan temples in the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8

Float above the temple-strewn plain of Bagan on an optional balloon ride this morning (weather permitting).

This afternoon, join a local archaeologist on a tour of the Bagan plain by horse cart, and learn about ongoing restoration on visits to some of the site’s most significant temples. Cap off the evening with a traditional string puppet show.


Choose to travel to Mount Popa, which features prominently in Burmese mythology and is considered the home of powerful nats, or spirits; or explore the sites around Old Bagan town. Alternatively, peruse the colourful markets at Nyaung-u before seeing a few of Bagan’s many temples plus a visit to the Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about initiatives that are protecting critically endangered endemic species, including a breeding program for the Burmese star tortoise overseen by National Geographic grantee Kalyar Platt.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9

Later, encounter the most iconic sight of this mesmerizing region: the impressive Ananda Temple. Then visit artisans to see firsthand the production of Burmese lacquerware—a Bagan tradition. This afternoon, continue cruising downstream to Salay. Set out to explore the area’s highlights, including Mann Paya, which houses a 20-foot gold buddha image made of lacquer straw, and Youqson Kyaung, a beautiful wooden monastery.


Rise early to attend a morning almsgiving with local monks.  Back on board, try a traditional breakfast of mohinga, a classic noodle dish.


Soak up the ambience along the riverside during a Scenic Enrich moment while enjoying a traditional Burmese tea in a restored colonial villa.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10

Enjoy the views from the deck of our ship as we sail to Magwe, where in the cool of the afternoon we will explore the town by trishaw. Glide past traditional homes and shops, and witness scenes of daily life. Later, take in a spectacular panorama from Magwe’s largest shrine, Mya Tha Lun Pagoda, which overlooks the river from atop Naguttama Hill.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11
Minhla > Patho

Start the day with a morning tour of Minhla Fort. During the Third Anglo–Burmese War, these 13th-century forts were updated by Italian engineers to keep British forces out of Royal Burma. With their capture came an end to an independent Burma and the beginning of full British colonial control.

Further downstream, stop at Patho, one of the smaller villages along the river. Set out on a walking tour of the village, visiting a school and monastery. Enjoy an opportunity to meet some of the local monks and observe their daily rituals. Later, take in the vibrant rhythms of a traditional dance performance.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12

Arrive in the riverside town of Pyay. In the afternoon set out to explore Sri Ksetra, one of the ancient Pyu Kingdoms that flourished between the fifth and ninth centuries, and which became Myanmar’s first World Heritage-listed site in 2014. This intriguing site includes stupas and temples that are among the earliest Buddhist monuments in the world. Later, visit the glittering Shwesandaw Pagoda, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar, which is believed to house some hairs of the Buddha.  Enjoy a farewell dinner with the crew tonight.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 13

After breakfast, disembark with a picnic lunch and drive to Yangon. Just outside of Yangon, stop in Htauk Kyant to visit the poignant Allied War Cemetery, dedicated to the Allied soldiers who lost their lives in the country during WWII. From here, continue to your hotel for your two night stay. (Please note drive from Pyay to Yangon is approximately 7 hours).

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 14

Visit Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon’s reclining Buddha.

Enjoy tonight’s farewell dinner at the colonial Strand Hotel.


Embark on a ride on the local train around Yangon’s suburbs. Alternatively, be guided on a tour of Yangon’s thriving art scene, or ride a ferry across the Yangon River to Dhala village.


As the sun sets, wander around Shwedagon Pagoda and learn about the ritual of oil lamp lighting before partaking in this local tradition.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 15

Say farewell treasuring many wonderful memories and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Meals included: Breakfast
Day 16
Arrive UK

Welcome home.

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All prices are per person, twin share in USD based on two guests sharing.
Optional pre and post land tours
Discover even more by adding an optional escorted land tour or city extension before or after your departure. We have curated a number of choices for you to choose from to tailor make your itinerary.

Mystical Irrawaddy

Cruise Departures
National Geographic Expert
Meet Paula Swart

Paula Swart is an expert on Asian culture and history with a special interest in Buddhism, and has been a museum curator for more than 20 years. A popular expert on more than 30 expeditions for National Geographic , her travels have taken her to Southeast Asia numerous times. She recently organized the Visions of Enlightenment exhibition on Buddhist art, which featured pieces from Myanmar (Burma). Paula holds degrees in archaeology, Asian art history, and Chinese history. She speaks five languages, including Mandarin, and has published several books and numerous articles on the art and architecture of Asian cultures. Paula also studied and lectures on artifacts from the wreck of a Dutch East India company ship that was found off the island of St. Helena and documented in the October 1978 issue of National Geographic magazine. 

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13/11/2018 03:42:03.317

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