Myanmar River Cruise


Apart from mysterious temples, extensive coastlines and mountain ranges, Myanmar beauty is engraved by the longest and most distinguished river of Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady in Burmese). Running through the country at about 2,210km but navigable for only 1,600km, the mighty river offers extraordinary access to beautiful exotic lands which are hardly reached by car. The best way to know the river and immerse yourself in its rich history and culture is to embark on a river cruise. Below are some of the best cruise lines that enable you to navigate the majestic Irrawaddy River, all popular routes and attractions. If you are looking for a best Myanmar Cruise trip, please make sure to check out our best Myanmar river Cruises collection / Myanmar Tours or contact our Asia Tours experts for more information.

Top cruise lines

1. Pandaw cruise 

As a leading cruise company running over various rivers in 6 amazing Asian countries, with its first ship built in Burma, Pandaw has done countless successful river expeditions here.

The secret of their success is that, whilst luxury and comfort are ever-present, all Pandaw ships are hand-finished in brass and teak by traditional craftsmen that offer colonial-era character and friendly atmosphere that predominate. Especially, ultra-shallow drafts make it possible to travel to not only breath-taking landscapes, past working villages, and awe-inspiring monasteries and temples but also the most remote areas, which are unreachable by other passenger-carrying vessels, let alone overland.

While their staterooms are spacious and come with welcome fresh fruit and flowers on arrival, the staff with wonderful assistance is another highlight who will have you relaxed and comfortable from the moment you step onboard. They also provide a peaceful setting as well as arranged talks and demonstrations from the local people to make sure you see the true side of the beautiful country and its culture.

2. RV Paukan cruise 

RV Paukan (also known as Ayravata cruises) comes after “Paukan Rarma”, the city founded in the 846 AD by King Pyinbyaat to replace the former capital called Thanpawaddy. The city then became Bagan, the capital of the First Burmese Empire founded by King Anawrahta in the 11th Century.

The cruise company was founded in 2003 by three Myanmar entrepreneurs with a big dream of opening up a unique way to explore the genuine cultural beauty along the Irrawaddy River and all that surrounds it.

The company currently owns 4 ships named after the years they were built: RV Paukan 2007-2012-2014-2015 representing a nice blend of contemporary design with a traditional Myanmar touch. While the first generations may look like cosy boutique hotels on the river with the fully teak-covered exterior, their younger sisters impress their way more gorgeous look with bigger suites beautifully furnished in more luxury-living design to make your stay extra comfortable in longer journeys.

With all love and deep understanding about their golden land, RV Paukan make sure all their travel itineraries taking you to see the marvels of the country including charming temples, hidden mural caves, pottery village, old wooden monasteries, exotic river villages, etc. Any cruise with RV Paukan is not only about discovering the essence of the country but to do it in luxurious comfort while living the dream in the elegance of a past era.

3. Sanctuary Ananda cruise

Sanctuary Ananda is a 5-Star contemporary sleek luxury cruise combined with authentic Burmese style which was customized by local craftsmen using traditional materials. The cruise set to sail on the Irrawaddy river from November 2014 and accommodate 21 spacious suites on three decks, the luxurious Owner’s suite, a sundeck with an outdoor pool and the Kansi panorama lounge. All staterooms have balconies with room to sit outside.

The ship itself is elegant and intimate accommodating a maximum of forty passengers with up to 43 staff, you will never lack in friendly and gracious service here.

The special design of shallow draft makes the ship accessible to almost everywhere with fascinating itineraries consisting full choice of excursions. Soon enough you will be taken in style on voyages of breathtaking beauty and soaked in unique cultural experiences on the mysterious rivers of Myanmar. Visit ancient temples, pagodas, palaces and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River or journey on its great tributary, the Chindwin, to discover the exotic places visitors rarely see – through the jungles of the north, forgotten villages, and ancient towns almost to the Indian border.  The Sanctuary Ananda is a truly five-star flawless experience in every way.

4. Strand cruise

Inaugurating in early 2016, the Strand cruise is proud of its exceptional standards of comfort, discreet personalized service, and design touches that combine traditional exploring with the latest technology. The ship is able to carry up to 50 passengers in 25 cabins along the mystical waterways of the Ayeyarwady River. Named and styled after its sister property, the luxury heritage The Strand Yangon, The Strand Cruise offers all the features passengers would expect from legendary style and unique personality of The Strand within a contemporary river cruise experience.

As it is designed to bring up an ultimate sense of soothing relaxation with so many thoughtful touches thrown in, during your life on board, you will be overwhelmed with plush colonial-inspired interiors coupled with Burmese-crafted furnishings & regional art, refined cuisine by a renowned chef, interesting onboard activities and especially the incredibly personal care and cheerful smile from all wonderful staff. When the night is over, retreat to your comfortable cabin and sleep soundly on the waves of the river.

Covering up all meaningful places, the Strand’s shore excursions will let you experience the best showcases of magical Myanmar from refreshing ?mid-morning sailings with views of villages portraying daily life along the river to the most afternoon sunset mystique temples you’ve ever seen.  That’s all simple things you need to make it perfect for a river trip of a lifetime!

5. Anawrahta cruise

Boasting some of the largest cabin space among all travel vessels on the Ayeyarwady river, you will never be short of space as you sail with Anawrahta cruise. Being named after the great king also the founder of the Burmese nation, Anawrahta was born to take guests back in time to an era of bygone elegance. Blending the purity and serenity of King Anawrahta’s Buddhist beliefs with the opulence of the British Empire, Anawrahta is the perfect vessel on which to explore Myanmar’s mysterious waters that form the lifeblood of Myanmar.

The cruise features three spacious decks and 23 luxurious cabins. With its gleaming white rails, polished lacquer, intricately carved woodwork and shining brass, Anawrahta will transport your mind back in time to a Myanmar of former days. Pop in when it’s time to unwind and indulge in one of their revitalizing treatments – choose from a range of options, including a mani-pedi, massage, facial or steam bath. You’re guaranteed to leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

All of the itineraries on this cruise will allow you to visit the remarkable ancient temples & pagodas, witness the bustling and lively towns to lesser-known villages that you might well feel like the first outsider to have ever visited. This makes up a unique glimpse of Myanmar that might stay with you for life.

Best sailing routes & Key Attractions

1. Bagan to Mandalay (or vice versa)

The popular and foremost route between Bagan and Mandalay makes it indispensable in all Irrawaddy expeditions. The journey, which usually runs within 3-8 days by different cruise lines, will offer the best way to explore over 2000 ancient ruins of Bagan, gems of Mandalay like unfinished pagoda of King Bodawpaya at Mingun, the sacred hills of Sagaing and the ruins at Ava while soaking up the life of those living on the Irrawaddy River by interesting visits to Yanderbo pottery village, other small towns and markets by local transportations like tuk-tuk or horse-cart. The short travel route could make a perfect combination when it comes in a land package.

Available with: All cruises

2. Yangon to Mandalay (or vice versa)

This is another common river cruise on the Irrawaddy River that is enjoyed by many travellers who look for a longer and deeper river experience from Yangon through the heartland of Myanmar. You will travel between Prone (closet jetty near Yangon) to Mandalay and witness differing landscapes; from the lush teak plantations around Prome to less-visited colonial town Thayetmyo or exotic Tan-Chi-Taung mountain to authentic potteries in Yandabo or Kyauk-myoung beside the largely-known beauty in Bagan & Mandalay.

Available with: Pandaw cruise, Ananda cruise, Paukan cruise

3. The Upper Irrawaddy

As it is the most-requested program recently, more travellers were introduced into this fairly off the beaten track all the way from Bagan to Katha, which was once home to George Orwell and the setting for Burmese days. The river route will pass you through the magnificent temples of Bagan, the highlights of Mandalay and the scenic and remote Upper Irrawaddy, reaching its peak in the drama of the Second Defile. Moving on you will have the chance to savour the peace and tranquillity of remote island monasteries, enchanting local towns and villages.

Available with: Pandaw cruise, Paukan cruise

4. The Chindwin

Chindwin River, the main tributary of the Irrawaddy River, in northern Myanmar, is a less-travelled but on the trend to be one of the loveliest river travel routes in Myanmar. In the past, it was only accessible during the monsoon due to water levels, but now ultra-low cruises can sail through to February. It meanders through beautiful valleys and jungles, lofty blue mountains rising in the distance or towering over towns and villages on the banks. The cruise will often begin from Bagan and we will sail the Chindwin up to visit remote villages and towns with beautiful and whimsical pagodas and monastery probably the most preserved of Myanmar; the ancient cave pagodas of Hpowintaung and Shwebataung with hundreds of Buddha images and paintings; the Sambuddhay Pagoda of Monywa, a complex of buildings covered with nearly 600,000 Buddha images. The final stop for disembarkation in Monywa offers easy drive back to Mandalay, a big gateway for your next travel.