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13 Day Into the Shan Highlands Guided Motorcycle Tour in Myanmar

Mandalay, Myanmar

Cultural and Ethnical Motorcycle Tour Myanmar

On this motorcycle tour you will ride through some of the most culturally and ethnically diverse regions on Myanmar - Shan highland. It’s a fascinating journey passing scenic valleys, tribal villages, and gorgeous mountain ranges.

Key information

  • Terrain: 80% asphalt, 20% off-road
  • Bike: rental bike (Royal Enfield Classic 350cc and Honda CRF 250L)
  • Mileage: 1570 kilometers / 976 miles
  • Daily rides: 70 - 280 kilometers / 43 - 174 miles
  • Riding gear: included: open face helmet, bungee cost, and extra tube
  • Meals: 12 breakfast, 11 lunches, 12 dinners

Meet the guides

Hlaing Min
Read more

Highlights

  • Starts and ends in Mandalay
  • Stop over Pindaya and cool down in Kalaw
  • Explore lush landscapes and colorful ethnic tribes in Shan State
  • Taste traditional local cuisines and have fun by the mighty waterfalls near Lashio
  • Experience the serene beauty of Inle Lake and hospitality of local Intha people
  • Visit off the beaten track Loikaw town and villages with long-neck ladies
  • 12 nights accommodation in standard category hotels
  • Daily meals served at local restaurants

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Styles


11 riding days
Group size: Maximum of 18 participants
Airport transfer included: Mandalay International Airport
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Accommodation

During this tour, you will stay in standard category hotels in various locations in Myanmar. You will stay in the following hotels:

  • The Home Hotel in Mandalay
  • Kandawgyi Hill Resort in Pyin Oo Lwin
  • Two Elephant Hotel in Lashio
  • A Yone Oo Guest House in Kyaukme
  • UCT Taunggyi in Taunggyi
  • Famous Hotel in Loikaw
  • 81 Hotel in Inle Lake
  • Pine Breez Hotel in Kalaw
  • Golden Cave Hotel in Pindaya

Program

You will begin in Mandalay and ride up to the plateau along the old China-Myanmar road all the way to Lashio and even beyond. Then, you will go back and continue down south to recently opened Kayah hills. From there, you will loop up north to Inle Lake and via the hill station town Kalaw and rustic Pindaya, return back to Mandalay.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Mandalay

Welcome to Myanmar! Your guide will meet you at the Mandalay airport and transfer to your hotel in town. Settle in and then enjoy free time to explore Mandalay. Welcome dinner, trip briefing, and meet the local team tonight. Overnight at a hotel in Mandalay.

Day 2: Ride to Pyin Oo Lwin (80 kilometers / 50 miles)

Early in the morning, after checking the bikes, you will take a short safety briefing drive through Mandalay and head in the eastern direction passing paddy fields. You will take a narrow and scenic road down along the river valley.

Photo stops and visit a beautiful waterfall on the way, then continue a small back road that climbs up to Anisakan and Pyin Oo Lwin through rugged landscape, where the views are great and traffic almost non-existent.

During late afternoon, explore Pyin Oo Lwin riding along the tree shaded lanes with quaint colonial mansions. You may want to stop by at the botanical gardens or to check out the impressive multi-tiered Anisakan waterfall. Overnight at hotel in Pyin Oo Lwin.

Day 3: Ride to Goktiek and continue to Lashio (225 kilometers / 140 miles)

Leave Pyin Oo Lwin early today and take the Mandalay-Lashio road that serves as a main overland way connection Myanmar and China. In about 1.5 hours, check out the historic Goteik viaduct - a railway bridge built by the British over a century ago.

Ride further to Lashio. The view of surrounding mountain valleys is great and road is in good condition. Arrive in town late in the afternoon. Rest of the day is free and you can chill. Overnight at a hotel in Lashio.

Day 4: Ride around Lashio (80 kilometers / 50 miles)

Today, take a detour up north to Hsenwi, former capital of a powerful Shan kingdom back in the days - huge agricultural valley - and ride up the plateau to the Kachin town of Kutkai (conditions permitting), to try delicious local food and enjoy cooler weather.

The views from the top are amazing, with rolling mountains stretching far beyond, towards border with China. You will return to Lashio in the afternoon, to take a walk around the old quarter, visit the night market, and taste the popular Shan buffet dinner. Overnight at a hotel in Lashio.

Day 5: Lashio - Kyaukme (120 kilometers / 75 miles)

Take a nice secondary road to the big waterfall some 20 kilometers outside of Lashio and spend the morning swimming and jumping, before you take the road back. Stop in Hsipaw for lunch and some sightseeing, and continue to Kyaukme, a small town at the foot of mountain range, here is where you will stay overnight.

Day 6: Kyaukme - Taunggyi (280 kilometers / 174 miles)

This is going to be a long riding day. Get packed lunch to go in the morning as there are not many places along the way. First you will drive to Naungcho along the main road and from Nyaungcho head down south towards Taunggyi and Inle Lake.

This road had been paved only couple years ago and until now sees very limited use, so most of the way will be just to yourselves. After scenic gorge with the river and serpentine road you will ride through some forested hills, and then through the rare Shan and Danu villages.

Near Intaw, you will pass a reservoir lake on the way. Further from this point the landscape is quite flat with some mountains in the distance. Short distance before reaching Taunggyi, you can visit Ayethayar vineyard which is situated on the mountain slopes just beneath the town. Overnight at a hotel in Taunggyi.

Day 7: Taunggyi - Loikaw (160 kilometers / 99 miles)

Early breakfast and begin ride southward along the secondary road to Kakku pagoda complex, a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. Continue to the valley beneath and take the highway down to Loikaw, on the way you can visit large market in Pao town Loisawn.

Time permitting, you can visit some waterfalls and caves along the way closer to Loikaw. Arrive in town late in the afternoon or early evening. Watch the sunset from the top of Taung Kwe pagoda built on the karst outcrop in the middle of town, the views of surrounding valley and distant ranges are simply amazing. Overnight at a hotel in Loikaw.

Day 8: Visit Kayan villages (70 kilometers / 43 miles)

Today you begin the day with riding roughly 1.5 hours to Panpet group of villages - home of a few tribes of Kayan people, whose ladies still wear brass coils around their necks. Lunch can be in a village or in Loikaw on the way back, then continue for roughly half an hour east to see the mysterious Kyet Cave containing centuries old teak wood coffins of unknown origin.

Late afternoon or early evening return to the town. Overnight at a hotel in Loikaw.

Day 9: Ride to Inle Lake (170 kilometers / 106 miles)

After a morning market visit, start riding up to Phekon and further on to Pinlaung, which is the highest altitude town in Southern Shan State, well known for its tea and pears, as well as new emerging area for coffee plantations.

Take a scenic mountainous road leading down to the lake valley, cross the bridge, and continue another 1.5 hours ride to Nyaung Shwe town at the northern end of Inle Lake. Switch motorcycles to boats and embark on a short trip over the lake to learn about Intha floating gardens, leg rowers, perhaps visit couple local craft shops. Evening is free for some walk around town. Overnight at a hotel in Nyaung Shwe.

Day 10: Inle Lake - Kalaw (90 kilometers / 56 miles)

Wake up early - depending on day of the week, there might be a rotating five-day market somewhere in the area which is a good opportunity to see local tribal people coming the the market place to trade their produce.

Have a half day boat trip to the wonderful Indein Pagoda Complex across the lake, before you back to your motorbikes and take a nice secondary road up the mountains that leads through Pao and Taung Yo farmlands.

In Aungban, you turn onto the main road and continue for another 15 minutes to Kalaw, the old British hill station town with century old colonial mansions and pine tree groves. Spend rest of the day riding to nearby villages or take a walk through the towns quiet streets. Overnight at a hotel in Kalaw.

Day 11: Kalaw - Pindaya (80 kilometers / 50 miles)

Another great riding day in Shan hills. Drive down the plateau to Aungban and Heho where you can stop at little shop where local family makes Shan paper and umbrellas. From Heho, take the small single lane road through region with beautiful rolling hills that is often called the Tuscany of Myanmar for resembling the famous region in Italy.

The fields are covered with various colors in November which best season to visit here. In Pindaya you can visit the limestone temple cave housing thousands of Buddhas placed there by pilgrims. Overnight at a hotel in Pindaya.

Day 12: Pindaya via Ywangan to Mandalay (215 kilometers / 134 miles)

In the morning, ride out of town and take a shortcut that connects to the nice road with eucalyptus trees. It’s possible to make a quick detour to visit a blue pond hidden in the groves. Lunch stop in Ywangan and you can check out local coffee initiative, Genius Coffee, that works closely with a community of Danu small growers.

Shortly after leaving the town, road climbs up the mountain, and another 1.5 hours would be a serpentine ride which is partially under reconstruction, offering great view anyway. Once back in the lowlands, it’s just half an hour until you reach the old Yangon-Mandalay highway, from where it’s another 1.5 hours to Mandalay via Kyaukhse. Overnight at a hotel in Mandalay.

Day 13: Departure

Last day of the program. No riding. Depending on your departure flight time there will be a transfer to airport.

Motorbike rentals

Discovery Destination Management owns a fleet of new Honda CRF 250L, XR 125cc, Kawasaki KLX 150cc and 250cc and Bajaj 150-200cc bikes among others. Included in this tour is Royal Enfield Classic 350cc or Honda CRF 250L. Most of the bikes come with luggage rack in the back. The bikes are regularly maintained by Discovery Destination Management's own mechanics.

Bike rental deposit

Discovery Destination Management requires that every rider lodge a refundable motorcycle damage deposit of 200 USD prior to starting the tours. This deposit covers all damages other than normal wear and tear. Any damages will be deducted from this deposit, and the balance returned to you on the final day of the tour.

Any minor bruise or paint chips caused by stones, gravel, and insects are considered normal wear and tear however damage or scratches happen by an accident, dropping a motorcycle or riding it through and flooding bikes is not considered normal wear and tear.

Support vehicle information

A support vehicle is available for minimum of six participants.

Driver's license in Myanmar

Although rarely asked while riding motorbike in Myanmar, you should always carry along your international drivers license. The authorities and police are in general very friendly and polite and rarely stop motorcyclists. Some travelers have been ok with their normal overseas drivers license. All of the guides have official driving permits.

Driving in Myanmar

Road conditions in Myanmar are improving day by day and Discovery Destination Management has planned and tested their tours so there is enough challenge but things will not get too hazardous. The road quality varies a lot from really good to really bad.

Discovery Destination Management has experienced some of the worst roads in Myanmar and survived them with pride, but that being said after a while its not fun driving anymore so most of the routes go on asphalt roads.

Security situation is stable in most parts of Myanmar and Discovery Destination Management is constantly getting information about the security situation in the rural areas of the country. They are not taking you to places where the security situation might be bad.

Discovery Destination Management has a support truck following the group so if some technical problems should occur, their mechanic can manage most of them on the road without too much hustle.

Skill level

Intermediate:

  • can ride for 3-4 hours
  • average riding experience
  • little assistance required
  • comfortable with extreme curves and leans
  • average experience with unsurfaced roads
  • steep ascents and descents

Guides

Hlaing Min Thein

Location

Eastern Myanmar much of it being Shan State has something for everybody. The greatest variety of tribes, lush nature, river valleys, and plenty of small roads to explore. The climate here during the winter months can get cold during the night. Make sure you are prepared with right gear for your motorcycle tour.

Mandalay, where most of the bike tours are, is a great place to start your trip. Heading out from Mandalay north east is Pyin Oo Lwin, a hill station town with some nice waterfalls and botanical gardens. This is nice town to make a night stop.

Driving north of Pyin Oo Lwin, you will come across Gokteik Gorge with its serpentine road and in few hours through nice rolling hills scenery you will reach Kyaukme. Kyaukme is small and slow paced Shan and Palaung trading town.

From Kyaukme, Discovery Destination Management often do rides to the mountain villages where it is possible to stay overnight. These are quite challenging roads so only experienced riders should drive up to mountain villages.

From Kyaukme it is 40 kilometer to a nice small town by the Dokthawaddy River and former Shan kingdom. There are also plenty of pagodas and old traditional houses to admire and one of the must see place is the old Shan prince palace (more like a mansion) at the northern end of town.

The last Shan prince disappeared during military coup in 1962 and today his nephew and his wife are taking care of the mansion and gladly give insights of the history of Shan State.

Driving up north from Hsipaw to Lashio, you can see ethnic villages, hidden waterfalls with cliff jumping opportunities. Ride to Badwin mines and Hsenwi and enjoy other adventure trips to places where hardly other travelers have been to.

Myanmar’s ruby land is one of the most mysterious places in Asia. Over 80% of worlds rubies come from this valley. There are three roads leading to Mogok of which the two southern roads are accessible for foreigners. For the time being it is still necessary to obtain permits for visiting Mogok. The roads leading to Mogok are great to drive especially with motorcycles lots of curves, lush jungle and occasional monkeys.

Drive south from Mandalay to Kyaukse and take small rural road to Ywagan. In Ywagan there are coffee plantations, waterfall, and cave to explore. These are quite far from town though so it is useful to take a guide to show the way.

From Ywagan you can drive your motorbike to Pindaya through region often called the Tuscany of Myanmar. Rolling farming lands and limestone mountains in the horizon - and there is the Pindaya cave which is well worth a curious visit. This is pretty big cave decorated with thousands of Buddhas.

Within one to two-hour drive, you will reach Kalaw - an old British hill station town surrounded by pine tree covered hills. Kalaw is 70 kilometers from Inle Lake which is popular tourist destination and must see place.

At Inle, go on a boat trip to visit villages built on stilts over the lake and see the leg rowing fishermen. There are couple vineyards near the lake producing Myanmar’s premier wines well worth a visit.

Head up the eastern mountain range to Pao tribe villages. It is also possible to ride over the mountain range to Kakku and back to Inle via Taunggyi and Kyauk Tha Lone. Head further south and you should be able to reach Loikaw.

Food

You will have 12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, and 12 dinners during this tour. These meals will be served at local restaurants.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
  • Other dietary requirements on request
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • English speaking local motorcycle guide
  • Motorbike and helmets for each participant
  • 12 nights accommodation in standard category hotels
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner, except days 1 and 13)
  • Support truck for four and more participants
  • Fuel charges
  • Entrance fees for sites visited
  • Bungee cords and extra tube

What's not included

  • Visa to Myanmar
  • International air fare or domestic air fares
  • Early check-in, late check-out, services
  • Meals or any other item not described in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses
  • Drinks during meals, hotel extras and personal spending
  • Bike rental deposit (200 USD)
  • Travel insurance

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Mandalay International Airport (MDL). Transfer from and to the airport is included in the price. Discovery Destination Management will pick you up from the airport.

Airport: Mandalay International Airport Airport transfer included: Mandalay International Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 30% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
13 days / 12 nights
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