The Irrawaddy is a significant waterway that travels 1,350 miles through the country to create Myanmar's biggest river. It is an essential lifeline for the country and has a major long-term influence on Myanmar's economy, culture and history. It runs from North to South through the centre of the country and empties into the Irrawaddy Delta at the Andaman Sea.
Any excursion on this magnificent stretch of water on the Myanmar travel packages is perfect for not only the scenery, but also for the animal lovers with the chance to see the river shark and Irrawaddy dolphin.
Crucial for trade and transport, the Irrawaddy has for centuries provided a source of water for washing and drinking, irrigation for agriculture, and the riverbank is filled with local communities who make a living from farming and fishing. The river is rich in wildlife, including the sea turtle, saltwater crocodile, and the popular Irrawaddy Dolphin. The entire Irrawaddy waterway is within the Myanmar’s territory. Ever since the 6th century, the Irrawaddy has been a major route for transporting goods and people, and connects Mandalay with Yangon.
An Irrawaddy River cruise is a perfect way to experience a relaxing trip between destinations and makes it really easy to see the locals go about their everyday lives while working on the lush banks. Plus, it is possible to see plenty of the country's heritage sights that are located close to the water.
Tour highlights of the Irrawaddy River cruise on the Myanmar travel tour includes:
Cruise various stretches of the Irrawaddy River, which is a lifeline for the country
See plenty of monasteries and hermitages that are located in the Sagaing Hills
Admire the U Bein Bridge that can also include seeing the red-robed monks walking across
Watch on as the locals go about their daily life along the banks of the Irrawaddy River
Stop at several land sights to get a close up view of the enchanting temples and other local attractions (Buddhist caves of Monywa, teak monastery of Ava, the unfinished pagoda of Mingun, and the colonial town of Katha).
Plus, the tourists get to stay in boats or cruisers that have the ability to provide the colonial-style boat accommodation.
Irrawaddy River Cruises
A grand tour of the Irrawaddy on the Myanmar tours and holidays makes it possible to explore a picturesque stretch of waterway between Yangon and historic locations like Bhamo, Mandalay, Bagan and Pyay.
For the quick tour of the river, it is possible to sign up for a daily trip on a local ferry that travels from Mandalay and Bagan, and completes the journey in about 10-11 hours. But, the more luxurious travel opportunity is experienced by staying on board a luxurious cruiser or riverboat. A slow and relaxed cruise is more appreciated for its ability to see and observe the life of the locals on the lush banks and further beyond.
The Irrawaddy waterways can give varied and unique views that change with the specific location. For instance, in the northern Kachin State, it is possible to flow from Myitkyina to the coast of Yangon to experience views that consist of rice paddies and mangrove forests.
Many areas of the waterways are protected with an area of nearly 140 sq km safeguarded around the Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary. This makes it possible for the tourist to explore an area rich in wildlife, including several kingfisher species, vernal hanging parrot, white-bellied sea eagle, jungle cat and fishing cat, sambhur deer, estuarine crocodiles and the famous Irrawaddy dolphin.
The Irrawaddy’s largest tributary is the Chindwin River and is located in the Kachin region. A great feature of this stretch of the river is its ability to flow through the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve, which spans a total area of 22,000 sq km. This region is home to nearly 50 tigers, as well as elephants and bird, monkey and bear species. Plus, for the cruise that stops for the land tours it is possible to trek to the stunning Buddhist pagoda at Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya which has nearly half a million Buddha images and dates back to the 14th century. Also, nearby is the world's 2nd tallest statue, the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha at a height of 116 m.
Customized river cruises
The most popular stretch of river visited by tourists on the Myanmar local tour package includes the section between Bagan to Katha. But, most of the tour operators can fully customize the stretch of waterways explored and land extensions. For instance, a stop at Bagan can include one or two days on land to make it possible to experience local sightseeing, such as the local temples. In addition to visiting land sights, the tours can give a perfect view of the local riverside villages that are passed. Many of these villages depend on the waterways for their livelihood.
Life along the Irrawaddy River has remained pretty much unchanged over the years with large areas still consisting of never-ending rice paddies and dense jungle.
The time-frame for exploring the Irrawaddy can vary in length from 1-2 days to those that last 3 weeks or more. Plus, there is no specific departure port to start the Irrawaddy cruises. Most of the trips leave from cities like Yangon or Mandalay, while others can begin in Bagan.
By signing up for the Irrawaddy tour it is possible to discover a timeless and incredible land that is rich in culture and a variety of topography. This method of travelling through Myanmar is perfect for those interested in seeing the most extraordinary and interesting sights in this part of South East Asia.
The preferred time to take a tour of the Irrawaddy on the Myanmar travel packages is between October and March when the weather is pleasant, humidity is acceptable, and river levels are lower. The daytime temperature can be in the region of 30° C while in the evening the conditions are still quite balmy and rainfall is rare.