The Irrawaddy River

The Irrawaddy River is Burma’s lifeline – a commercial waterway for centuries, providing essential irrigation for agriculture, water for drinking and washing and a more spiritual link to other communities. A relaxed way to get between destinations a cruise also gives you a glimpse of rural life and the opportunity to stop at out of the way villages to interact with the friendly locals.

What to see

Cruising the Irrawaddy River

Cruising the Irrawaddy River

Flowing 1,350 miles through the centre of the country, the Irrawaddy River is an essential element of Burma’s history, culture and economy. The banks of the river are busy with communities who farm or fish for a living – cruising leisurely past you can catch a glimpse of authentic Burmese life, you can even stop off and pay a visit. Some of Burma’s most important heritage is also close to the water – Bagan’s temples and cultural hub Mandalay to name a few. Cruising the Irrawaddy is to voyage through Burma’s enchanting heartlands.



Cruise on the Irrawaddy for up to 20 days on itineraries such as the following:
– From Mandalay to Bagan on a three night itinerary;
– From Bagan to Mandalay on a seven night itinerary;
– Cruise north from Mandalay and Bagan to the Irrawaddy Gorges;
– Cruise all the way from Rangoon to Kalay on the Upper Chindwin River.

What you'll see

What you'll see

As well as the sights of Bagan and Mandalay, an Irrawaddy cruise allows you to see the following:

  • Mingun: If the Mingun Pagoda had been completed it would have been Burma’s largest temple – it is still a monumental and fascinating structure constructed entirely of brick. The huge Mingun bell is located close by.
  • Prome: With a lively atmosphere and the glorious remains to the ancient Pyu capital of Thayekhittaya close by, Prome is a must stop when cruising between Rangoon and Bagan.
  • Local projects: Our recommended cruise operator Pandaw work to support the local Irrawaddy communities and use donations from passengers to benefit them – their cruises include stops at villages to visit schools, orphanages and community projects.

Where to stay

Belmond Orcaella

Voyaging the Irrawaddy and, thanks to its shallow draught, the enchanting Chindwin, the Orcaella offers an elegant and intimate cruising experience, combining locally ambiance with sleek modern design. Panoramic windows make sure you never miss a second of the passing scenery whilst the observation deck, complete with pool, and lounge bar offer alternative places to relax. With space for only a small number guests, you'll also find that the personal attention and service are second to none.

Read more

Sanctuary Ananda

The Sanctuary Ananda, Sanctuary's only ship on the Irrawaddy, perfectly combines utmost comfort and luxury with traditional Burmese style. Voyaging various routes between Bhamo and Rangoon (and occasionally venturing onto the Chindwin) this all-suite ship offers a wonderful cruising experience whilst you enjoy the incredible sights of these mysterious waterways. The ship was built by local craftsmen and launched in 2014. It comes complete with 21 suites each with balcony, a plunge pool and spa, and a full range of complimentary onboard activities, such as cooking classes and lectures.

Read more

Belmond Road to Mandalay

Belmond operates the prestigious Road to Mandalay which cruises the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Refurbished in 2008 the cruiser has space for just 82 passengers, all accommodated in spacious, well-appointed cabins replete with river views and furniture handmade by local artisans. Take a dip in the pool, or watch the world go by from the observation deck; dine on an acclaimed mix of eastern and western delicacies; or relax in the bar reflection on the day with a nightcap. Your experience will be more heritage hotel than average cruise liner.

Read more

Pandaw River Cruises

Evolving from the vestiges of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, Pandaw operates seven traditional-designed ships built by traditional craftsmen that ply the Irrawaddy and its tributaries - it makes cruising the Irrawaddy a relaxed and convivial experience. With exceptionally personal service, enjoy the passing panoramas from one of the promenade decks or the observation deck; venture out on daily shore excursions; dine on cuisine with an emphasis on local produce; and finally retire to your teak and brass-finished cabin for a refreshing night's sleep.

Read more

Make an Enquiry

Submit a travel enquiry and we will contact you on by your preference,

Call one of our tailormade specialists on

0808 239 3744

or email us at



Click here to fill in our quote request form and one of our specialists will call you back.

Quote Request

Download the complete ASIA Inspirations brochure in PDF format.

Brochure download
Why Asia?

Why Asia?

The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.


Why tailormade?

Why tailormade?

  • Create a bespoke itinerary that fulfils your travel dreams
  • Travel where you want, when you want, for as long as you want
  • Pick the grade and style of accommodation you are most comfortable with
  • Add all or any of the elements you want – meals, excursions, guides
  • You’re completely in control – it’s all up to you
Why tailormade by Asia Inspirations?

Why tailormade by Asia Inspirations?

  • The China and Asia experts
  • Dedicated team of tailormade specialists
  • Excellent, personal service before and during your trip
  • Flexible itineraries that fit your wants and needs
  • Excellent value
  • A network of fantastic guides to help you delve deeper into each destination

Subscribe now

Subscribe to the ASIA Inspirations Travel newsletter.