7 Days | 6 Nights
This cycle tour through Myanmar allows you to immerse yourself in the country, away from just the well-known tourist spots. Starting with a day of riding and kayaking about the iconic Inle lake and through its bucolic stilt villages, before going off-the-radar to explore the lesser-known lake areas to the south among the Intha Tribal villages.
From there, you'll ride quiet roads through a varied landscape of mountains and plains to reach Bagan. Along the way you'll get to visit Myanmar's obscure capital of Naypyidaw, the Volcanic Mount Popa and the colonial-era village of Salay with intact British buildings from this historical time. Your guided bike trip closes with a winding ride along the Ayerawaddy River, coasting into Bagan, after seeing Myanmar in a way that few who go there will get to experience.
368 Km riding. This ride takes place on a range of terrain from paved roads, to patchy cobblestone ones and quite a lot of unpaved, but hard-packed dirt roads. We also make use of some great small trails. The distances are intended to be achievable with nothing over 70km in a day. Due to the riding surfaces and some hilly riding days, these distances will be quite satisfying for those looking for a bit of a challenge.
The shorter days at the beginning of the tour allow you to build-up to the longer ones and the pace of the itinerary in general means that you have plenty of time off the bike each day to recover for the next.
Explore the local life in Inle Lake by bike and kayak.
Take in the sunset from the top of Mount Popa, a sacred pilgrimage site with killer views.
Cycle through the mystical pagodas of Bagan and stop at some significant temples.
Day to Day
Your tour begins at Inle Lake. Be ready at your hotel for an 8 am pickup. We start the ride from our Grasshopper shop in Inle so that we can get you properly fitted for the tour ahead. We'll exit town on backroads and before long we are on quiet trails made just for two wheels, riding through bamboo forests and vegetable gardens, greeting onlooking farmers and curious locals with waves.
The ride concludes in a small rural settlement where we take to kayaks, paddling through the photogenic stilt villages, floating gardens and cottage industries of the lake. Lunch is had in one of these villages, then a boat will zip us down the length of the lake to the southernmost town where we spend the night in a comfortable stilt-house resort, modeled on the traditional style houses.
Life starts early on the lake and that will probably be true for us. We polish off a generously sized breakfast, then head out on the bikes. Today's riding consists mostly of unpaved roads, with only occasional passing vehicles. There's a good mix of rolling hills and some flat sections and we will be passing through increasingly remote communities, where you "the foreigner" are already a novelty, the fact that you are riding a bike makes you even more fascinating.
Toady's riding ends around mid-afternoon, as we roll into a small resort with only half a dozen rooms. The hosts here likely to take us around the village, to explain how things work in this slice of the country and to introduce a few of the local characters. This is always an opportunity to have a chat, join them for a traditional cup of milk tea or, in the more extreme scenarios, help them wash down their water buffalo! This location is well and truly off the beaten path.
A traditional breakfast awaits you this morning, in the form of a bowl of noodles, but your guide is also well-practiced at packing some comfort items as a backup, like granola and spreads for bread. Once we are nourished, a boat ferries us across the Pekon (the name of the lake we are on) and we find our bikes on the western shore.
What a ride awaits us today! By now, you should have found your legs and it's time to test them out a bit with some uphill riding to tackle. The most pronounced part of the hill climbing starts at about 16km in and continues for just under 10km.
Don't worry, you'll have lots of support to get through that and the van is on hand if you need it. From there on, there are mostly rolling hills, but always a bit more on the up than on the down. Before you know it, we've climbed up to 1500m above sea level from just 900m. The reward for your efforts is unfortunately not a plush hotel (it's a humble guesthouse), but the views you will have seen during the day and the feeling of satisfaction are certainly a just reward.
For the first 10km today, we'll be passing through farmland where we can see the Palaung people at work in the fields, standing out from the landscape with their colorful headscarves. We are passing through limestone rock formations for the first part of the ride, many with small stupas (shrines) or pagodas situated on and around them. Then we get to descend on a fun, winding road, as we coast down around 1100m in elevation over 25km.
This means there is still a bit of up and down on rolling hills, but today it's a lot more down. We cross over the Paunglaung River on a suspension bridge (photo opp!), then have some an ascent out the other side of the valley.
The conclusion to our ride is a hot spring near the ethnic Karen town of Taunggya. This isn't the most refined spa establishment you will have seen, but it's a perfect place to see how the locals enjoy themselves and to soak the muscles before lunch. We then transfer to the nation's capital by van.
It sounds grand, "the nation's capital". Well, it might one day fill those expectations, but Naypyidaw is actually just over 10 years old. It was incorporated in 2008 and replaced Yangon as the capital. It's an entirely planned city and is a long way from the country's other main population centers. As you can imagine, the streets are neat, but not yet bustling or congested.
We start with a bit of a drive today as we'll need to transfer 2 hours to find the trailhead of our ride. This route is through very different landscapes to what you will have seen on the preceding days. Dry, barren plains, where villagers eke out a living on small dry crops or by keeping goats and maybe cattle.
This is central Myanmar's dry plain, and a harsh existence is had out here. Our road today is an unpaved one that we use due to the lack of traffic and the nice, direct nature of it to our intended destination.
Through the first half of the ride, it is mostly flat, but as we near our destination, a final challenge awaits in the form of a hill climb up the side of volcanic Mount Popa. We'll arrive in plenty of time to grab a cold drink, get into the infinity pool and watch the sun go down, looking out over the crag-top structure that is the Taung Kalat Monastery.
Mount Popa is a lovely place to wake up. Birds will be likely singing away in the trees, with a mist over the plains below. It is also usually just a tad too cold for another dip in the pool, so you can get to breakfast, then enjoy the views before we hit the bikes and descend. We are heading back down the road that we approached up yesterday, on our journey to the town of Kyaukpadan where we head west to the Irrawaddy River.
After riding through dry fields, punctuated by palm trees and little villages, we stop for lunch in Gway Cho, a small town where It is entirely likely that there hasn't been a foreigner visit since our last bike adventure came through. The ride from here to Salay is on a gradual descent, almost imperceptible, but you may find the pedals just a touch lighter.
Salay is an interesting little town. It's home to Pagodas from the 12th and 13th centuries as well as a beautifully intact collection of colonial-era buildings. These were apparently built by British workers who ran the oil fields in nearby Chauk, but wanted to live in this lovely spot by the river. One of these old structures has been renovated and made into a hotel, where we'll be staying for the night.
Riding along the Irrawaddy (Ayerawaddy) is a special experience. We use a collection of small trails and paths, then some backroads to really enjoy the experience. These meander through some small villages, where the houses are mostly made from woven bamboo and palm leaves. The river itself is quite wide, but there are a series of islands, so often you can look across the water and see a shoreline on the other side.
After riding for a few hours, we meet our support boat and load up the bikes for the cruise into Bagan. Coming into Bagan by boat is a special experience as you start to see Pagodas pop up on the shore as you arrive. Once docked we have a final pedal for the short distance to the Bagan Grasshopper shop, passing through many more of these iconic pagodas along our penultimate journey. The tour finishes here, but of course, we will help you get to your hotel and will highlight a place to join the group for a few farewell drinks to celebrate the end of the ride.
Dates & Price
* Single room option: $385 USD
WHAT MAKES US STAND OUT
On this tour, we have done our best to give you a comprehensive look at the heart and soul of Myanmar, explore Inle Lake and the Shan Hills by bike, then a tour of captivating Bagan and Mount Popa. Along the way, you’ll cycle quiet roads away from traffic with some of the best sights and have the chance to participate in cultural activities as well as a couple of relaxing boat rides. This is by far the best way to discover this diverse country, by bike.