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How To Take The Ayeyarwady River From Mandalay To Bagan


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Prissie Rone



The Ayerwaddy River, also known as the Irrawaddy River, is the lifeline of Myanmar. Flowing through the heart of the country, it is not only a vital transportation route but also a fascinating destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in Myanmar’s rich culture and natural beauty. One of the most popular ways to experience the Ayerwaddy River is by taking a river cruise from Mandalay to Bagan.


Mandalay, the former royal capital and the second-largest city in Myanmar, is the ideal starting point for this journey. Famous for its cultural and historical sites, Mandalay offers a glimpse into Myanmar’s past, with its impressive temples, palaces, and traditional crafts.


Taking a cruise along the Ayerwaddy River allows you to explore the country at a leisurely pace while enjoying the comforts of a luxurious riverboat. The journey takes you through picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and ancient archaeological sites, providing a unique perspective of Myanmar’s diverse heritage.


Throughout the cruise, you will have the opportunity to witness the traditional way of life along the river, as well as interact with the friendly and hospitable locals. You will also be treated to breathtaking sunsets, serene mornings, and the chance to spot wildlife such as dolphins and water birds.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking a unique travel experience, a cruise along the Ayerwaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan is sure to leave a lasting impression. In the following sections, we will guide you through the journey, from getting to Mandalay to exploring the fascinating destinations along the way, ensuring you have all the information you need to make the most of your river adventure.


Getting to Mandalay

Before embarking on your Ayerwaddy River cruise, you will need to make your way to Mandalay, the starting point of your journey. Luckily, Mandalay is easily accessible by both air and land.


If you are coming from abroad, you can fly directly to Mandalay International Airport, which has regular flights to and from major cities in Asia. Upon arrival, you can take a taxi or arrange for a private transfer to your accommodation in Mandalay.


If you are already in Myanmar, you can travel to Mandalay by bus or by train. The city is well connected to other major cities in Myanmar, making it a convenient transportation hub. Buses are a popular and affordable option, with comfortable seats and air-conditioning. The journey time will depend on your starting point, but it is generally around 8-10 hours from Yangon, the country’s largest city.


Alternatively, you can opt for a scenic train ride to Mandalay. The train journey allows you to enjoy the beautiful countryside and observe the local way of life. However, it may take longer than traveling by bus.


Once you have arrived in Mandalay, take some time to explore the city before your river cruise. Mandalay has a rich cultural heritage and offers a wide range of attractions to visit. You can explore the royal palace, visit the ancient ruins of the city’s moat, discover the iconic Mandalay Hill, or immerse yourself in the vibrant local markets.


Ensure that you have made any necessary arrangements for your Ayerwaddy River cruise, such as booking your tickets and ensuring you have the necessary travel documents. Many cruise operators offer pick-up services from your hotel in Mandalay, making the embarkation process convenient and hassle-free.


With a smooth journey to Mandalay, you can begin your Ayerwaddy River adventure with excitement and anticipation.


Preparing for the Journey

Before embarking on your Ayerwaddy River cruise from Mandalay to Bagan, it’s important to make some preparations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.


First, check the weather conditions for your travel dates. Myanmar has a tropical climate, with hot and humid weather throughout the year. It’s advisable to pack lightweight and breathable clothing, such as cotton and linen, along with a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.


Next, consider the duration of your cruise and pack accordingly. Most river cruises from Mandalay to Bagan last around 4 to 5 days, so pack enough clothes and essentials to last you for the duration of the trip. However, keep in mind that many river cruise ships offer laundry services, so you can pack lighter if needed.


Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes for walking and exploring during on-shore excursions. You may also want to bring insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquitoes, especially during evenings and mornings when they are more active.


While most river cruise ships provide basic amenities such as towels and toiletries, it’s recommended to bring your own personal items and medications. It’s also a good idea to bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated during the journey.


Make sure to carry necessary travel documents, including your passport and any required visas. It’s always a good idea to make copies of these documents and keep them in a separate place, in case of any loss or theft.


During the cruise, you will have opportunities to explore on-shore destinations and interact with the locals. It’s worth bringing some local currency (Myanmar Kyat) for any purchases or small expenses along the way. While credit cards are accepted in some places, cash is still widely used in Myanmar, especially in smaller towns and villages.


Lastly, it’s essential to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses and trip cancellations. Check with your insurance provider to ensure that you are adequately protected during your river cruise.


By making these preparations, you can focus on enjoying the journey and creating lifelong memories along the Ayerwaddy River.


Boarding the Ayerwaddy River Cruise

As you arrive at the embarkation point in Mandalay, you’ll be eagerly awaiting the start of your Ayerwaddy River cruise. The process of boarding the river cruise ship is relatively straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and seamless experience.


First, confirm the exact location of the embarkation point and plan your arrival accordingly. Most river cruises in Mandalay depart from the Mandalay Jetty, located near the city center. Make sure to arrive early to allow ample time for check-in procedures.


Upon arrival at the Mandalay Jetty, you’ll be greeted by the friendly staff of the river cruise company. They will guide you through the check-in process, including verifying your travel documents and assigning your cabin. Be prepared to present your passport and any other necessary documents for registration.


Once you’ve completed the check-in procedures, you can board the river cruise ship and settle into your cabin. The ship’s crew will be available to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout and facilities.


Most Ayerwaddy River cruise ships offer a range of amenities and services, including comfortable cabins with private bathrooms, onboard dining options, a bar or lounge area, and outdoor deck spaces to enjoy the panoramic views. Take advantage of these facilities to relax and unwind during your journey.


Before departure, the ship’s crew will conduct a safety briefing to ensure everyone on board is aware of the emergency procedures and safety protocols. Pay attention to the instructions and ask any questions you may have to ensure your safety and well-being throughout the trip.


As the ship sets sail from Mandalay, find a comfortable spot on the deck to soak in the magnificent views of the Ayerwaddy River and the surrounding landscapes. The cruise offers a unique perspective of Myanmar’s riverside life, with opportunities to witness local fishermen, traditional villages, and even spot wildlife along the riverbanks.


During the cruise, you’ll experience the warm hospitality of the ship’s crew, who will cater to your needs and ensure that your journey is enjoyable and comfortable. From delicious meals featuring local cuisine to informative cultural presentations and onboard activities, the Ayerwaddy River cruise offers a truly immersive experience in Myanmar’s cultural and natural wonders.


So sit back, relax, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey along the Ayerwaddy River as you make your way towards the enchanting city of Bagan.


Day 1: Departure from Mandalay

As the sun rises over the city of Mandalay, the anticipation builds for the start of your Ayerwaddy River cruise adventure. Day 1 is the beginning of your journey, and it is filled with exciting experiences as you set sail from Mandalay and venture towards your first destination.


After a leisurely breakfast on board the river cruise ship, take some time to explore the facilities and familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout. Enjoy the panoramic views of Mandalay from the outdoor deck or relax in the comfortable lounge area as the ship prepares to depart.


As the ship begins its journey along the Ayerwaddy River, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the daily life of the people living along the riverbanks. Keep your camera ready as you pass by traditional villages, where locals go about their daily routines of fishing, farming, and trading.


Throughout the day, the ship’s crew will provide informative commentary about the landscapes, history, and cultural significance of the areas you pass. Listen attentively as you sail past historical sites and temples, learning about their significance in Myanmar’s rich heritage.


During lunchtime, indulge in a delicious meal on board the ship, featuring a variety of local and international dishes. Take this opportunity to mingle with fellow travelers and exchange stories and experiences.


In the afternoon, enjoy some leisure time on the deck, basking in the warm sunshine and taking in the stunning views of the Ayerwaddy River. You may also choose to participate in onboard activities organized by the crew, such as traditional dance performances or cooking demonstrations.


As the day draws to a close, savor a delectable dinner on board, specially prepared by the ship’s skilled chefs. Experience the flavors of Myanmar as you enjoy a selection of local delicacies and international cuisine.


Before retiring to your cabin for the night, head to the deck to witness a breathtaking sunset over the Ayerwaddy River. The sky transforms into a vibrant canvas of colors, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for this unforgettable journey.


As you settle into your comfortable cabin, with the gentle sway of the ship lulling you to sleep, reflect on the first day of your Ayerwaddy River cruise. The sights, sounds, and flavors of Mandalay have set the stage for the incredible adventures that await you in the days to come.


Prepare yourself for the next day, as you wake up in a new destination: the historical town of Mingun.


Day 2: Exploring Mingun

As the sun rises on the second day of your Ayerwaddy River cruise, you’ll wake up in the charming town of Mingun. Nestled along the banks of the Ayerwaddy River, Mingun is known for its historical sites and impressive architectural marvels.


After a delightful breakfast on board the ship, you’ll disembark and set foot on the shores of Mingun. The first stop of the day is the iconic Mingun Pahtodawgyi, also known as the Mingun Pagoda. This massive unfinished pagoda stands as a testament to the grand vision of King Bodawpaya, who intended for it to be the largest pagoda in the world.


Explore the grounds of the Mingun Pagoda, marveling at its sheer size and the intricate details of its design. Climb the steps to the top for a panoramic view of the surrounding area and the Ayerwaddy River.


Next, make your way to the nearby Mingun Bell, also known as the Mingun Bell Pagoda. This colossal bronze bell is considered one of the largest ringing bells in the world, weighing an astonishing 90 tons. Admire the craftsmanship of the bell and learn about its significance in Myanmar’s history and culture.


Continue your exploration of Mingun by visiting the beautiful Hsinbyume Pagoda, also known as the Myatheindan Pagoda. This stunning white pagoda stands out with its unique architecture, resembling a mythical mountain rising from the water. Take your time to admire the intricate details and peaceful atmosphere of this sacred site.


As you stroll through the streets of Mingun, take in the sights and sounds of the town. Interact with the friendly locals, browse the handicraft stalls, and savor the flavors of local snacks and refreshments available along the way.


After immersing yourself in the rich history and culture of Mingun, return to the river cruise ship for a leisurely lunch on board. As the ship sets sail once again, find a comfortable spot on the deck and enjoy the scenic views of the Ayerwaddy River, feeling the gentle breeze on your face.


In the afternoon, you can participate in onboard activities organized by the crew, such as traditional dance performances or cultural demonstrations. Immerse yourself in the traditions of Myanmar and learn about the customs and rituals that are an integral part of the country’s cultural tapestry.


As the day ends, relax and enjoy a delicious dinner on board, savoring the flavors of both local and international cuisine. Reflect on the captivating experiences of the day, and prepare yourself for the next destination on your Ayerwaddy River cruise: the enchanting city of Sagaing.


Day 3: Cruising to Sagaing

On the third day of your Ayerwaddy River cruise, wake up to the gentle sway of the ship as it continues its journey along the meandering river. Today, you’ll be cruising towards the enchanting city of Sagaing, known for its serene landscapes and numerous pagodas.


After enjoying a delightful breakfast on board, head to the deck to take in the picturesque views of the Ayerwaddy River. Watch as the river unravels its beauty, passing by lush green hills and quaint villages nestled along the riverbanks.


As the ship approaches Sagaing, you’ll be captivated by the sight of hundreds of glistening white pagodas scattered across the Sagaing Hill. This religious hub is home to numerous monasteries, nunneries, and meditation centers, making it an important center of Buddhist learning and practice.


Upon arrival in Sagaing, disembark from the ship and embark on a journey to explore this spiritual haven. Make your way up the hill, enjoying the panoramic views of the Ayerwaddy River and the surrounding countryside.


Visit the famous Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, known for its golden stupa that stands tall against the backdrop of the azure sky. Explore the beautifully landscaped grounds and take a moment to soak in the tranquil atmosphere surrounding the pagoda.


Continue your exploration of Sagaing by visiting other pagodas and monastic complexes, each with its own unique charm and significance. Engage with the local monks and nuns, learn about their daily lives, and perhaps even participate in a meditation session to experience the serenity of the surroundings.


While in Sagaing, take time to observe traditional arts and crafts workshops, such as pottery and silverware. Witness the skillful craftsmanship of the local artisans as they create intricate masterpieces.


As the day progresses, return to the river cruise ship for a delicious lunch. Reflect on the peaceful atmosphere and spiritual experiences of your time in Sagaing.


In the afternoon, as the ship continues its journey along the Ayerwaddy River, relax on the deck and appreciate the beauty of the passing landscapes. Immerse yourself in the serenity of the river and let your worries melt away.


Participate in onboard activities organized by the crew, such as cultural presentations or traditional cooking demonstrations. Learn about Myanmar’s rich heritage and perhaps even try your hand at preparing local dishes.


As the sun sets over the Ayerwaddy River, allowing the sky to be adorned by vibrant hues, head to the ship’s restaurant to enjoy a delectable dinner. Savor the flavors of the region and share stories and laughter with fellow travelers.


As the ship continues its journey towards new horizons, retire to your cabin for a restful night’s sleep, knowing that tomorrow will bring more exciting adventures along the Ayerwaddy River.


Day 4: Discovering Ava

On the fourth day of your Ayerwaddy River cruise, wake up to another day of exploration and discovery as the ship docks near the ancient city of Ava, also known as Inwa. Ava was once the capital of Myanmar and is rich in historical and cultural treasures.


After enjoying a hearty breakfast on board, disembark from the ship and embark on a guided tour of Ava. There are various transportation options available to explore the city, including horse-drawn carts, bicycles, or even walking if you prefer.


As you delve into the heart of Ava, you’ll be transported back in time as you wander through the ruins of ancient temples, monasteries, and royal palaces. The remnants of a bygone era stand as a testament to the grandeur of the once-thriving city.


Visit the iconic Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, also known as the Brick Monastery, known for its beautiful architecture and intricate carvings. Marvel at the craftsmanship and imagine the rich history that unfolded within its walls.


Continue your exploration with a visit to the elegant Bagaya Monastery, a teakwood structure adorned with ornate carvings and intricate detailing. Admire the craftsmanship of this architectural gem, which has stood the test of time.


As you navigate through the serene landscapes of Ava, take the opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their way of life. Visit traditional workshops where locals create beautiful handicrafts, such as silk weaving and pottery.


During your time in Ava, don’t miss the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the Irrawaddy River, allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings and soak in the peaceful atmosphere.


After a morning of exploration, return to the ship for a well-deserved lunch. Indulge in a variety of delectable dishes, ranging from local specialties to international cuisine, prepared with care by the ship’s talented chefs.


In the afternoon, as the ship sets sail once again, find a comfortable spot on the deck to relax and take in the scenic views of the Ayerwaddy River. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings as you listen to the gentle rhythm of the river and feel the warm breeze on your skin.


Participate in onboard activities organized by the crew, such as cultural presentations or traditional dance performances. Engage with fellow travelers and create lasting memories as you immerse yourself in the local culture.


As the day draws to a close, enjoy a delightful dinner on board the ship. Savor the flavors of the region and reflect on the rich history and cultural experiences of your day in Ava.


Retire for the night to your comfortable cabin, with dreams of the next day’s adventures along the Ayerwaddy River as you make your way to the final destination: the legendary city of Bagan.


Day 5: Arriving in Bagan

On the fifth and final day of your Ayerwaddy River cruise, excitement fills the air as the ship approaches its destination: the legendary city of Bagan. Known for its awe-inspiring ancient temples and pagodas, Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit destination in Myanmar.


After enjoying a delicious breakfast on board, gather your belongings and prepare for disembarkation as the ship docks in Bagan. Bid farewell to the friendly crew members who have made your journey along the Ayerwaddy River memorable.


As you step off the ship onto the shores of Bagan, you’ll be greeted by the enchanting landscape of thousands of temples and pagodas scattered across the plains. Embark on a guided tour to explore this archaeological wonder that dates back to the 9th century.


During your time in Bagan, visit some of the most significant temples and pagodas, such as the Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda Temple, and Thatbyinnyu Temple. Marvel at their architectural beauty and learn about the history and cultural significance they hold.


Take your time to wander through the temple complexes, allowing yourself to be captivated by the intricate carvings, ancient murals, and serene Buddha statues. Climb to the top of some of the temples for panoramic views of the sprawling plains and the Ayerwaddy River.


Experience the spiritual side of Bagan by participating in a meditation session or observing the daily rituals of the local monks and nuns. Engage with them, seeking insights into their way of life and the practices that have been passed down through generations.


As you explore Bagan, take breaks to enjoy local snacks and refreshments available at the small markets and food stalls scattered throughout the area. Sample traditional delicacies and sip on refreshing drinks as you soak up the vibrant atmosphere.


In the evening, find a scenic spot to witness the mesmerizing sunset over the ancient temples of Bagan. The sun casting its golden hues on the temple spires creates a truly magical sight that will leave you in awe.


As the day comes to a close, reflect on the incredible journey you’ve had along the Ayerwaddy River. The experiences, the people you’ve met, and the stunning landscapes have created memories to last a lifetime.


After exploring Bagan, you can choose to extend your stay and further immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of this remarkable city. Whether you continue your journey or bid farewell to Bagan, you’ll carry the beauty and allure of Myanmar’s Ayerwaddy River with you as you venture on to your next adventure.



The Ayerwaddy River cruise from Mandalay to Bagan is a remarkable journey that immerses you in the beauty, culture, and history of Myanmar. From the vibrant city of Mandalay to the ancient temples of Bagan, every day of this cruise is filled with new experiences and captivating landscapes.


Throughout the journey, you’ll witness the daily life of the local communities living along the Ayerwaddy River. From serene villages to bustling markets, you’ll gain a deep appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality of the Myanmar people.


The cruise offers opportunities to explore historical sites such as Mingun with its unfinished pagoda and impressive bell, and Ava, where ancient ruins and monasteries tell tales of a bygone era. Along the way, you’ll also visit the spiritual sites of Sagaing, known for its countless pagodas and serene landscapes.


Embarking on the Ayerwaddy River cruise allows you to experience the tranquility of the river as you sail through picturesque landscapes. The sunsets, panoramic views, and encounters with wildlife create lasting memories of the natural beauty that Myanmar has to offer.


Onboard the river cruise ship, you’ll be treated to comfortable accommodations, delectable meals, and a range of activities that showcase Myanmar’s culture and traditions. The knowledgeable crew will ensure your comfort and provide insights into the destinations you visit, enhancing your overall experience.


As the cruise comes to an end in the extraordinary city of Bagan, you’ll find yourself surrounded by thousands of ancient temples and pagodas that create an enchanting and mystical ambiance. Exploring the temple-studded plains, participating in local rituals, and witnessing the awe-inspiring sunsets will leave a lasting impression.


The Ayerwaddy River cruise from Mandalay to Bagan is not just a journey through Myanmar’s heartland, but an opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s rich heritage and natural beauty. It offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience that will ignite your sense of wonder and leave you with cherished memories of this magical land.