Burma: Challenge yourself with a mountain trek or let a truck do the hard work

From overlanding trips to meeting the nomadic Moken tribe, now is the time to plan a visit, writes Sarah Baxter

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

When Burma first "reopened" to visitors almost five years ago, there were few tour options to choose from. Since then, infrastructure has improved, more areas have become accessible and operators are introducing ever-more inventive itineraries.

However, infrastructure is still years away from the likes of Thailand’s, which means that budget travel isn’t easily achieved. British visitors can now apply for an e-visa online (evisa.moip.gov.mm) if they are arriving via the major international airports.

By motorbike

The Burma Adventure Bike Trip with the Big Adventure Company (01225 634 000; bigadventureco.com) is a first – a thrilling motorcycle journey from northern Thailand’s twisty mountain roads into Karen state, via Kalaw hill station and temple-packed Bagan, past buzzing night markets and peaceful pagodas. The next available 16-day trip starts on 2 May, with prices from £3,399pp excluding flights.

By train

Selective Asia (01273 670 001; selectiveasia.com) offers a Railways Old & New itinerary, using the Hti Khi crossing to explore the Burma-Siam 'Death Railway'. The trip takes in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi and river Kwai bridge, before heading into Burma to see a more northern section of the infamous track, plus the Allied war cemetery at Thanbyuzayat. You’ll also ride the Yangon circular commuter train and take the overnighter to Mandalay. A tailor-made 18-day trip costs from £2,603 excluding flights.

burma_pagoda.jpg
Golden Rock

On foot

Visit the Chin Hills of north-west Burma for verdant valleys, tea plantations, animist tombs and traditional villages. Exodus’s (0845 805 5482; exodus.co.uk) 16-day Trekking in Burma trip peaks with an ascent of 3,053m Mount Victoria. Prices from £2,949 including flights, next departure 17 March.

The Phongun Razi & the Burmese Ice Mountains trek with Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844 400; mountainkingdoms.com) is a tougher challenge, and one of the first organised hikes in the north, overlooking the eastern Himalayas. The 18-day adventure includes summiting 3,635m-high Phongun Razi. From £3,170 including flights, departing 1 and 15 November.

By truck

Overlanding trips really entered Burma only last year, but now Dragoman (01728 885 101; dragoman.com) offers several. Its nine day Yangon to Bangkok trip rumbles between highlights including the Golden Rock, Yangon’s dazzling Shwedagon Paya and the Andaman coast. From £518 excluding flights, on 31 March.

By boat

The Mergui archipelago has long been virtually off-limits to tourists – securing the necessary permits was a tricky business. However, Wild Frontiers (020 7736 3968; wildfrontierstravel.com) now has permission, and its Sea Gypsies of Burma trip spends five days navigating the 800-odd islands by boat and meeting the nomadic Moken tribe. From £3,295 for 10 days excluding flights, on 25 October.

Or take a more traditional cruise, with a twist. Cazenove+Loyd’s (020 3740 1394; cazloyd.com) 14-day Navigating Burma on the Orcaella is a luxurious float down the southern Irrawaddy river accompanied by Robert Gordon, who was the British ambassador to Burma from 1995 to 1999. From £5,500 excluding flights, departing 1 February.

Comments