Inside Burma Tours

Northern Burma

Encompassing many of Burma's best-known highlights, including the unique human-sculpted landscape at Bagan, exquisite Inle Lake and historic Mandalay, the region is certain to feature on any first visit to beautiful Burma. And yet, for the returning visitor or adventurous explorer, countless lesser-known but equally fascinating destinations are waiting to be discovered - from remote Putao in the foothills of the Himalayas, to the tiny villages of the Mount Victoria National Park.

Picture yourself at sunrise, drifting silently in a hot air balloon over the dramatic landscapes of Bagan, as the morning mists rise over the plains. Or perhaps you see yourself aboard a classic river steamer, imagining life in colonial Burma as you explore the distant reaches of the Irrawaddy River. Burma is an evocative land, and the northern half of the country boasts many of the nation's most memorable locations.

The area of Shan State around Inle Lake, including Kalaw and Pindaya, offers the most accessible introduction to Burma's rich and diverse array of minority cultures. For the more adventurous who are willing to trade a few home comforts for an exceptional experience, a panoply of possibilities exist in Burma's remote hinterland. Trekking around Putao in the foothills of the Himalayas, exploring the Mount Victoria region of Chin State or heading out into the remote corners of Shan State beyond Kengtung and Hsipaw reveals a side of Burma that is rarely seen by foreign tourists - even today.

To discover the many delights of northern Burma, begin by exploring our destination introductions - accessible via the links to the left-hand side of this page.

  • Bagan is to Burma as Angkor is to Cambodia: the heartland of the nation's most glorious civilisation, and an incredible repository of archaeological wonders. I love to get up at sunrise to witness the countless pagodas and stupas at their most dramatic.
    Tara Engelen, Tour Leader
  • Mandalay

    Thanks to Rudyard Kipling's famous poem of the same name, Mandalay is Burma's most famous and evocative location – its name conjuring crumbling colonial buildings and eastern exoticism in the mind of the prospective traveller.

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  • Aye

    Located in the shadow of Mount Victoria (Nat Ma Taung), the clifftop village of Aye provides a scenic base for those tackling the 3,053 m summit.

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  • Bagan

    A vast plain scattered with over two thousand ancient Buddhist stupas, Bagan offers one of the most spectacular landscapes in Asia – if not the world.

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  • Htee Thein

    After a day hiking through the rolling countryside of Shan State, the village of Htee Thein makes for both a welcoming and culturally enriching overnight stop.

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  • Mindat

    Located at 1,481 metres (4,860 ft) above sea level, Mindat maintains a cool climate in summer while the Central Plains nearby are baking, making it a delightful – if remote – addition to any journey through Burma.

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  • Kanpetlet

    The small town of Kanpetlet in remote Chin State doesn't feature on many visitors' itineraries, but for the adventurous traveller this is sure to be a highlight.

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  • Kengtung

    Kengtung (or Kyaing Tong) is located in a pleasant valley in remote Eastern Shan State, a short drive from the Thai border at Tachilek.

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  • Monywa

    Located on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River, some 80 miles northwest of Mandalay, Monywa is a popular stopping point on Irrawaddy river cruises. It is also famous as the home of the world's second-tallest Buddha statue, the Laykyun Setkyar.

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  • Pindaya

    Best known for its sacred grottoes, lakeside Pindaya is a beautiful location from which to explore rural Shan State. We recommend visiting minority villages on a gentle day stroll through the countryside, or taking a longer overnight trek to nearby Inle Lake.

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  • Mt Popa

    Mount Popa, located an hour's drive southeast of Bagan, is a pilgrimage site perched atop an ancient extinct volcano rising high above the dry Bagan plains. This is the sacred home of Burma's indigenous nat spirits, and makes an excellent day trip or overnight stay.

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  • Putao

    Putao is the northernmost town in Kachin State, located on the banks of the Namlaung River and surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas. This is the starting point for some of Burma's most adventurous expeditions, and a beautiful introduction to rural Burma.

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  • Pyin Oo Lwin

    Favoured by the British for its pleasant climate, Pyin Oo Lwin retains much of the charm of its colonial heyday – including many picturesque wooden buildings and an impressive botanical garden.

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  • Hsipaw

    Former capital of an independent kingdom, today Hsipaw is a thriving market town and a popular stopover for hikers visiting the beautiful Shan countryside.

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  • Inle Lake

    Inle Lake is one of Burma's most popular destinations, and deservedly so – for it is a place of true natural beauty. The image of leg-rowing fishermen on the lake has become a symbol of Burma as a whole, and the stilt villages along its shores have earned it the moniker “Venice of the East”.

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  • Kalaw

    A former colonial hill station and home to a variety of minority cultures, Kalaw is a delightful addition to any itinerary visiting the Inle Lake region of Shan State.

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  • Lashio

    The largest town and administrative centre of northern Shan State, Lashio is unlikely to be the highlight of any visit to this part of Burma, but is a handy hub for journeys in the region.

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