Photo: On the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek.

If you only have a week in Burma (Myanmar) and want to include an upcountry site in addition to your time in Yangon, then Bagan is your best option. This itinerary will give you a look around Yangon, combine one of the country's most famous sites with one of its lesser known ones and still take in a bit the countryside as well.

Rangoon Central - one of those trains may be the Pyay one.
Rangoon Central - one of those trains may be the one to Pyay.

After taking in the sights of Yangon for two days, head up to the old city of Pyay by bus or rail. The train to Bagan is a rickety 20-hour journey so we suggest breaking it up. Hourly buses to Pyay take around five to six hours. Alternatively, a train departs Yangon at 13:30 and arrives around 21:30.

Yes, Pyay has pagodas too
Yes, Pyay has pagodas too.

There are plenty of things to do in Pyay in and around town to fill up a day. While there are reasonable accommodation options, overnight transportation between Pyay and Bagan is an option worth looking into as well. The last time we looked, the train left Pyay at 22:00 and arrived in Bagan at 9:30 while the bus departed at 17:00 and arrived at 3:00.

Arrival in Bagan maybe?
Arrival in Bagan maybe?

While 3:00 might not sound like an ideal time to arrive, it's the perfect introduction to day four with an epic sunrise in Bagan. Read our Bagan suggestions, which takes you to day five. Depending upon your departure from Yangon, you can either take a flight back on day six for around US$120 or jump on another night bus if you're cutting costs.

Mount Popa; a temple atop a volcanic plug
Mount Popa; a temple atop a volcanic plug.

As we mentioned in a previous domestic air travel post, it is unwise to book domestic flights to Yangon that connect to international flights departing the same day. Provincial airports are notorious for delays and cancellations, so play it safe and fly into Yangon a day early. Alternatively, another day in Bagan allows you to do the Mount Popa day tour and return to Yangon the following day.

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More itineraries

Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!


Burma

Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.


Cambodia

Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.


Indonesia

How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.


Laos

North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.


Malaysia

The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.


Thailand

So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.


Vietnam

Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.


The region

This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.