The cruise along the Irrawaddy is simply unforgettable, and a great way to slowly see the traditional Burmese way of life, yet stay each night on board a superb luxury boat. Here is our guide to how to make the most of cruising along the Irrawaddy.
When to Go?
The best time to cruise the Irrawaddy is from October to March, with summer departures allowing you to go further upstream or along the Chindwin River.
Where can you cruise?
Most cruises link the former capital of Mandalay with the temples and pagodas of Bagan. You can opt for a cruise from Yangon to Bagan, a cruise up to remote Bhamo or Katha. In the summer you can cruise along the Chindwin, which is a tributary of the Irrawaddy.
Most cruises link the former capital of Mandalay with the temples and pagodas of Bagan.
How long are the Irrawaddy cruises?
They vary immensely. The shortest cruise is a night on the PV Paukan, with most cruises taking 2-3 days, and stretching as much as seven nights for the ultimate relaxing journey. There are even longer journeys along the Chidwin River, taking 13 nights.
Which are the best boats?
The Belmond Road to Mandalay is the most established of the ships which cruise the Irrawaddy, and this experience allows a very seamless experience with superb staff. Their new sister ship, the Orcaella does the upper Irrawaddy cruises to Bhamo and also the Yangon to Bagan cruise. The Strand Cruise has recently started operating to rave reviews and offers three or four night Mandalay/Bagan cruises. The Anawratha is another new luxury Irrawaddy cruise and offers four night to eleven night cruises, including Mandalay/Bagan cruise, the Upper Irrawaddy, the Chindwin and Yangon to Bagan. The Sanctuary Ananda is the most chic of all boats, and also has a wide range of short and longer cruises. The more traditional PV Paukan has shorter Bangan/Mandalay cruises.
The Strand Cruise has recently started operating to rave reviews
Can I do a private cruise?
There are ways of chartering your own boat to cruise the Irrawaddy, and we suggest the Amara River Cruise, that have fewer cabins and perfect for a private Irrawaddy Charter.
Can I get an experience of the Irrawaddy without having to sleep on board?
We can of course arrange a private day cruise from either Mandalay or Bagan, either taking a day trip along the river, or even a wonderful sunset cruise. Another option is to take the day cruise from Mandalay to Bagan (or vice versa), and we heavily suggest breaking the journey at the amazing Yandabo Home as the cruise takes nine hours. This means two days of cruising with a night to explore this amazing village community.
We heavily suggest breaking the journey at the amazing Yandabo Home.
What other rivers can you cruise along?
As we have mentioned, you can cruise along the Chindwin River in the summer, or for a second time trip to Burma, you can explore the upper Irrawaddy from Mandalay.
How do I combine a cruise with other destinations in Burma?
Most cruises include sightseeing in Bagan and Mandalay, and depending in the itinerary it is worth having a few extra nights either side depending on what they offer. You might also like to see Yangon, and have some time relaxing around Inle Lake. If you like a beach element, we suggest ending in Ngapali Beach or even considering dipping down to Thailand.