When you start planning your Burmese trip you will most definitely come across the so called Big 4 – the four most popular tourist destinations in the country. These are the two largest cities – Mandalay and Yangon, the temple complex of Bagan and the Inle Lake.
Since we were arriving in Myanmar from Bangkok we “lost” two days in the Thai capital which limited the time we could spend in Myanmar. So we had to give up on one of the Big 4 destinations. It didn’t take much time to decide – Yangon was referred to by different people in travel forums as a place you might arrive to due to its airport, but nothing more. While we were in Myanmar we had the chance to talk to other tourists who had visited the capital of Yangon and they only confirmed what I had read.
So, if you don’t have enough time, simply skip Yangon. The other three destinations part of the Big 4 are also forming something like a triangle on the map and are very convenient to explore in about one week as they are close to one another. This is how we did it:
1st day – Arrive in Bangkok which is the most popular gateway to Myanmar and spend the rest of the day there.
2nd day – Flight to Mandalay. We booked our tickets with AirAsia and arrived in Myanmar in the early afternoon. You could try catching the sunset at Mandalay Hill. Here is how we spent our time in Mandalay.
3rd day – Take the boat to Bagan early in the morning. You can find information on the different transportation options from Mandalay to Bagan here. I highly recommend the rather long but very pleasant boat trip.
4th day – Rent an e-bike and explore the Bagan temples. More about our impressions of Bagan here
5th day – Another day around the temples. Catch a late bus to Inle Lake. Detailed information about the transportation options from Bagan to Inle Lake you can find in my post here.
6th day – Boattrip in Inle Lake. Here is how we spent our day there.
7th day – Early afternoon flight from Heho (the town near Inle Lake where the nearest airport is located) to Mandalay. A walk around the temples in Mandalay.
8th day – Flight to Bangkok.
If you have more time I would suggest that you spend one or two days more in Bagan and around Inle Lake. Another option would be to catch a bus from Bagan and on the way to Inle stop at Kalaw. From there you can trek to Inle Lake. This will add up 2-3 additional days to the program.