The Irrawaddy River, also known as the Ayeyarwady, flows almost the entire length of Myanmar; the Asian country previously known as Burma. Due to political situations and civil unrest in previous years, Myanmar is only recently experiencing an influx in tourism. Visiting the country wasn’t actively encouraged by the government until 1992 and it was 2012 before annual visitors reached 1 million.
All of this means that many of Myanmar’s attractions and treasures are new and unknown to people outside of the country, resulting in it being an intriguing place to visit. Nevertheless, you can uncover these cultural gems on our Myanmar river cruises. Here are some of the ports you’ll visit along the way.
As you begin your river cruise in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, you will get the chance to explore this Royal capital. There are many places of religious importance to see here, but perhaps Shwenandaw Kyaung (the teak temple) should be at the top of your list. This is one of the only original buildings in the city and was carried piece by piece from its old home, in 1880, to where it is now.
Another impressive sight is the Kuthodaw Paya. This Pagoda is often referred to as the largest book in the world because it contains over seven hundred slabs with Buddhist scriptures written on. If you want to see more of the city, though, make the trek to the top of Mandalay Hill. This vantage point offers excellent views and is the perfect place from which to watch the sun set.
Pyay, also known as Prome, lies just over halfway along your route down the Irrawaddy. It was once the capital of this beautiful nation, but can be found about 150 miles south-west of the current capital, Naypyitaw. There are around 80 pagodas in the city, but it is Shwesandaw Paya that will stand out from the rest. This is one of the most visited attractions in Myanmar and it will be easy to see why once you arrive for your walking tour. Its importance owes much to the fact that a hair and tooth from Buddha are apparently interred here, but its beauty will be obvious from every angle.
You will also get the chance to explore the archaeological grounds of Thayekhittaya or Sri Ksetra, as it’s often called. This expansive site acts as an outdoor museum that features interesting points of ancient and modern history, including Baw Baw Gyi Pagoda and working farms. There is also an indoor museum attached to the park.
Your final stop (or embarkation point if you do the trip in reverse) is likely to be Yangon. This is the largest city you’ll visit during your Irrawaddy river cruise and indeed the largest city in the whole of Myanmar. The principal attraction here is the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most revered religious buildings in the country. Once inside, if the glistening gold doesn’t impress you then the sheer size of the place definitely will. It features many Buddha statues, shimmering marble floors and beautiful displays of light once the sun starts to go down.
By this time, you will have seen your fair share of temples and pagodas, so perhaps it’s time to hit the market. At Bogyoke Market you will find a plethora of stalls selling everything from fish and spices to fashionable fabrics. Save some money for the traditional Buddhist practice of setting free captive doves from cages on the streets. This good deed is said to earn you merit for the future.
If you would like to travel through Myanmar, along the Irrawaddy, we have plenty of itineraries available. If you would like any more information about them, please call us or submit an online enquiry.