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Impressions of Burma itinerary

 

Day 1: Yangon
Min Gala Ba! Welcome to Burma (Myanmar).

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.

You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Formerly named Rangoon, Yangon is the country's biggest city and was the capital from 1885, when the British conquered the north and the kingdom of Mandalay, until just a few years ago when the government moved the capital to Naypyidaw.

To get your bearings and a taste of this wonderful city, take a walk to Sule Paya, then perhaps down to the Victorian Strand Hotel to admire both the colonial architecture and the bargaining madness of Bogyoke Market. Or sample some of the great Indian food on offer.

Day 2: Yangon/Mandalay

This morning we set off for one of the great sites of Rangoon, indeed Burma, if not the world! The extraordinary Shwedagon Pagoda and its surrounding temples and edifices dominate all and provide an extraordinary mix of monks and pilgrims and worshippers and tourists. We will spend some time walking around the complex, learning of its history and spiritual devotions, and experiencing the ambience of this extraordinary place.

We then leave mid-morning for the airport (seeing a bit more of Rangoon along the way). At the airport your tour leader will coordinate the check-in for your flight to Mandalay, using a private airline. Flight time is usually a little over an hour and after landing it is a drive of about 45 minutes to the city and your hotel for the next three nights. The rest of the afternoon is free – you might enjoy a walk to one of the markets, where a great time can be had enjoying the hustle and bustle, taking photos or bargaining for local wares.

 

Day 3: Mandalay

We make our way down to the city’s lively waterfront which offers an interesting backdrop as we take a boat trip up-river to Mingun - the site of the world's largest pagoda (albeit unfinished!), the world’s largest unbroken bell, and temples dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. The river is effectively a major trading, communication and commuting highway and a wide range of different boats, barges and steamers can be viewed along the way. We return to Mandalay late morning: this city was a former capital of Burma; however the surrounding countryside contains many towns that could lay claim to that same title at some stage or another in the past. Later in the afternoon we embark on a tour visiting the remnants of one of these once-great cities, Amarapura. Weather permitting, we may also view a spectacular sunset over the 200-year-old, two-kilometre-long, U Bein wooden bridge, either from land or by boat.

This evening you may wish to dine at your hotel, or your tour leader will be able to recommend any one of a number of good local restaurants: the choice of meals and good places to eat is extensive throughout this trip.

 

Day 4: Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin)/Mandalay

After a drive up into the hills, Burma's most famous hill station, Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin), provides an escape from the heat of the plains. Established during the colonial era back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is today a crossroad for traders coming over from China and this is reflected in its colourful market.

Take time to explore surroundings in a local horse-drawn carriage called a 'myin-lay'. English-style country mansions and Chinese temples dot the hillsides in a place rightly called the 'vegetable garden' of Burma. Later, we return to Mandalay where the rest of the day is spent visiting various temples, including Kuthodaw Pagoda that claims to house the world's largest 'book'.

Time permitting, it was once a challenging walk up Mandalay Hill (236 metres), but these days, if in operation, a series of large escalators will do most of the work for you on the way up!! If conditions oblige, the sunset views from the summit can be impressive and along the way there are many shrines of religious significance.

 

Day 5 & 6: Bagan

We depart early from our hotel for the waterfront to spend to an entire day on a ferry boat as we cruise down the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River.

Note: (Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels and ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible that some services may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Bagan. There will be no extra cost for this flight).

Along the way, we witness the idyllic way of life that epitomises parts of rural Burma in the form of the small fishing villages that lie along the riverbanks. And we pass dozens of boats of different size and utility, testament to the role which this mighty river plays in the life of so many.

There is a restaurant on board our ferry, and meals and drinks are readily available for purchase during the day. In the evening we arrive in Pagan (Bagan), one of the most impressive archaeological wonders of Asia, and are met and driven to our hotel. (Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels and ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible that some services may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Bagan. There will be no extra cost for this flight).

The sights of Bagan are explored from dawn to dusk. Nyaung U's lively market contrasts with the eerie silence of the plains littered with over 4000 structures, including Gawdawpalin, Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon - all names of temples and pagodas that bear testament to a glorious past. The area is also famous for producing lacquer-ware and sand-paintings that is available in the stalls amidst the ruins.

There is also a chance to do some of our exploration by horse and cart. Weather permitting, we may enjoy a breath-taking sunset view from one of the ruins.

 

Day 7: Day trip to Mt Popa/Bagan

Today we drive for an hour before arriving at Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that is home to the local spirits or deities known as 'nats'. For the energetic, there is a chance to climb the 777 steps to the shrine at the top of the hill. Returning to Pagan, we visit a local village to observe the lifestyle of the people and talk with some of the villagers. The afternoon is free to further explore this amazing area. You may hire a bicycle or take a horse carriage and enjoy your own exploration of the archaeological sites. This evening we return to Bagan for our last night.

 

Day 8: Flight to Heho, Inle Lake

We board a plane and fly to Heho, which is situated in the Shan Plateau. From here, we drive through picturesque countryside and rolling hills to our final destination, Khaungdaing, situated on Inle Lake not far from the main township, Nyaungshwe. This afternoon you may like to rent a canoe (for about one hour) and row in to Lin Kin village, famous for its floating garden in the lake. On our way back we may stop over at some of the village houses to see the process of making traditional snacks (optional and at extra cost). You will notice that the weather is rather cooler due to the high altitude.
 

Day 9: Inle Lake Boat Trip
A full day is spent on the lake exploring the floating gardens and catching a glimpse of the local Intha fishermen who are famous for their unique 'leg-rowing' technique. These people are different from the Shans and they originate from the south of the country. The lake is also home to a wide array of bird-life including egrets, cranes, ducks, storks and birds of prey. Visits may be made to some of the local villages and our stay may coincide with one of the market days: always exciting with much of the commuting being done by local people using the ubiquitous long-tail boats.
 

Day 10: Short Trek
After breakfast at our hotel we transfer to Indein ruins complex (about 45 minutes by long-tail boat). On disembarking we find a pagoda and stupas built in the 8th century. We can also enjoy browsing through the rows of shops along the corridor uphill or just marvel at the surroundings. After spending some time we will start our walk towards to Yankin, Pa O and Taung Yoe tribe village (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes).

Along the way we explore the mystery of more than 300 ancient stupas around the village and then continue towards (1 km, approx 30 minutes) to a Buddhist monastery and head north to Naydaw (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes) to Taung Yoe ethnic tribe village through farm land and bamboo forest. From here turn to South-West (5 km, approx 3 hours) through the valley ups and downs to west Taung Mauk, Pa O village from here another 20 minute walk would get you to east Taung Mauk village. Finally we turn east through valley to Indein (3 km, approx 45 minutes) where we will meet our boat and return back to hotel. This evening we enjoy a traditional Shan dinner and get to sample some of the local style culinary specialties.

Note: the amount of walking advisable today will depend on individual and group fitness and wishes, and also the time of year.
 

Day 11: Fly to Yangon, Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock)
We transfer to Heho Airport for the flight back to Rangoon in the morning, on arrival you will be met and drive for the 5 hour (approx.) transfer to Kyaikthiyo. One of Myanmar’s major landmarks, famous for its precarious position and religious importance, Kyaikthiyo the “Golden Rock” is a huge boulder completely covered by gold leaf and delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff.

We arrive at the base camp of Kinpun and continue up to the Golden Rock by open truck, about an hour’s mountain drive. A further light trek to the summit we will have time to have enjoy the sunset from the top of the hill. Descending back down, we spend the night at our hotel in Kyaikhtiyo.

 

Day 12: Yangon
After breakfast this morning, we walk for 30mins to reach Kyee Kan Pa Sat (Crow's mouth Cave); an important place of worship for the local people. On the way we will pass by some local handicraft stalls selling local produce.

Midmorning we will return Yangon via Bago through rice fields and small towns. When we arrive in Bago we will visit the local market, Kanbawza Thardi Palace built by King Bayinnaung, the Kalayani Sima (Ordination Hall), Shwemawdaw Pagoda, and Shwethalyaung Pagoda - home to what many say is the world’s most beautiful reclining Buddha. We then return to Yangon.

The rest of the afternoon is free in Rangoon and you can visit Sule Pagoda, which marks the centre of town and the nearby Bogyoke (Scott) Market that sells a wide array of local goods and handicrafts. There is also time explore a fascinating city full of dilapidated colonial edifices, to perhaps take High Tea at the historic colonial hotel, The Strand, and take a stroll through vibrant Chinatown market area as the afternoon cools (these are optional excursions and at your own expense).

 

Day 13: Yangon
The tour ends after breakfast, and you are free to depart at any time, or spend longer in Yangon at your own expense.

 

Please note: One of the main things about the trips that I run is flexibility.This is especially needed in Burma, where flights and sometimes even hotel arrangements can change at short notice. We will do our best to achieve everything on the itinerary, but it is important to realise that mass travel in Burma is in its infancy and so changes can occur.

Printable version of itinerary

Land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, who have many years experience in running small group adventures.

Bookings are made through the Intrepid Private Groups in the UK not the Intrepid website or Stores. Use this link for more information

Included in the trip price

9 nights hotel or riad accommodation

1 night in desert camp

• 1 night in guesthouse

• 8 breakfasts

2 dinners

All transport as per itinerary

• Todra Gorge 4WD safari

• Camel ride to desert camp

Walking tour of Marrakech

Taxi to main square & dinner

Transport to Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens entrance

Cooking class, Ait Benhaddou

• Essaouria walking tour

• Pre-trip Facebook group

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic tuition

Impressions of Morocco itinerary

 

Day 1: Travel day/Arrival in Ouarzazate
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.

Our adventure officially starts in the desert town of Ouarzazate. but the official group flight is the Easyjet flight to Marrakech from London Gatwick, which arrives on the morning of the 12 April. We will be met from the airport, and transferred to Ouarzazate by private bus. The cost for this has been built into the airfare if bought from Intrepid (which is currently a shade under 260 including booking fee, transfer and baggage costs). If buying separately transfer cost will be 15.

Our drive takes us across the atmospheric 2260 metre Tizi n'Tichka Pass, and through some stunning scenery.

Hotel: 1 night, breakfast included

Day 2: Erg Chebbi

Welcome meeting in the hotel reception at 9 am. This morning you will explore the town of Ouarzazate and visit the hundred year old Taourirt Kasbah. A potent symbol of the Glaoui clan’s power, the kasbah gives a glimpse of how these feudal lords lived. You will then have the chance to buy an essential piece of desert kit – a shesh. This is a long piece of cloth a bit like a scarf that is wrapped around the head to keep the sun off and the loose end can be pulled across the face to keep out the sand.

Take a stunning drive towards the mighty Sahara Desert (approx 7hrs). We have many opportunities to stop and admire and take photos of the panoramic views of the Kasbahs and palmeries (valleys lush with date palms, fields and orchards) en route, since we have the convenience of our own private minivan (there are not many options for public transport in these parts). We can pause in some of the frontier towns such as Erfoud and Rissani before we reach the end of the road and the small Saharan settlement of Merzouga.

We'll store our main baggage before saddling up our day packs and mounting camels to head off into the sunset for a memorable night in our Sahara camp (approx 1 hour each way).

The Erg Chebbi dunes are the most stunning in the country and an experience essential of any visit to Morocco. An erg is a vast sea of shifting wind-swept sand that's formed into picturesque undulating crests and valleys, and the Erg Chebbi is one of the world's classic landscapes of towering dunes, up to heights of over 150 metres. Located at the end of the sealed road and just 20 kilometres from the Algerian border this is wonderful frontier country.

The camp is a simple affair with bedding and basic toilet facilities provided. Our local friends will prepare a hearty feast so all you need to do is soak up the experience. Our camp does provide blankets which are sufficient for most travellers between April and October.

In the night we will have our first chance to photograph star trails, at our desert camp.

Optional lunch in Tinghir.

Included Activities

• Camel ride in desert

• Dinner at camp

• 4WD to camp

Accommodation: Desert camp (1 night) No single supplement is available for this night stop

 

Day 3: Dades Gorge

For the early risers the morning begins with a sunrise over the majestic dunes before breakfast. It's another classic drive with dramatic changes of landscape to Dades Gorge (approx 4 hrs).

Stop en route in a small town called Tinejdad (approx 2 hrs from the desert) and where we have the option to visit the interesting Museum El Khorbat, which has a great collection of rural and historical Berber artefacts, clothing, jewellery and tools. It's housed in three restored homes of a Ksar and provides a wealth of information about Berber people living in the area.

After lunch, we head to our hotel in the Dades area that has a very pleasant pool. After two long driving days the group can relax and take the afternoon off.

Flanked on both sides by high limestone cliffs, Dades Valley features bizarre rock formations with picturesque kasbahs dotted amongst the crops and palms.

Accommodation: Hotel (2 nights)

 

Day 4: 4WD safari to Todra Gorge

After two long driving days we have a day with very little driving as we stay local and explore the equally spectacular Dades Gorge. We travel by 4 wheel drive on this excursion (please note that if conditions are very wet it is too dangerous due to flash flooding, if this is the case we will use the main highway instead.

Todra Gorge is a spectacular canyon with sheer rock walls up to 300 m high, now gaining fame as a rock-climbing destination. We plan to have a meal in a guesthouse in Todra, and also have the time to explore the Palmeries in the verdant lower gorge, before returning to our hotel in the Dades Gorge for the night.

 

Day 5: Ait Benhaddhou

Say goodbye to the Gorges region and travel further south towards Ait Benhaddou (approx 3 hrs). This scenic drive offers a glimpse of times gone by via the ruins of ancient kasbahs, former colonial military outposts, austere mountains, wide-open spaces, and valleys of palm trees and irrigated fields. En route we can pause for lunch in Ouarzazate.

The film capital of Morocco, Ouarzazate is the location where productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Black Hawk Down were filmed.

Time permitting, you can take an optional tour of the Atlas Movie Studios.

We also have the chance to make a short visit to Project Handicapped Horizon, an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation, health and empowerment of people with disabilities. Some of the amazing services they provide include the building and fitting of prosthetic limbs, custom-made wheelchairs, and physio and social therapy for sufferers of accidents and illness. They also operate an artisans workshop which trains local people in trades such as pottery, weaving, metal work and jewellery making. This is a wonderful visit and we're very proud to support this project through The Intrepid Foundation.

Centuries ago, Ait Benhaddou was an important stop for the caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today, its grand kasbah is still one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco and a World Heritage site. This fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture and is also famous for its role on the silver screen, featuring in numerous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.

This evening will be our second chance to practice shooting star-trails - from the roof of our guesthouse!

Included Activities

• Cooking class and dinner

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 night) No single supplement is available for this night stop

 

Day 6: Taroudant

Rejoin our minivan and continue towards Taroudant (approx 5 hrs). This drive takes us through more superb desert scenery and along a route that's a reserve for the indigenous argan trees - if we're lucky we might come across the famous image of goats climbing these trees in search of their tasty nuts.

Please note that this is a long travel day and we won't arrive at our accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. Our riad is centrally located which will allow us to walk around the atmospheric main square of the town, which comes along as the heat of the sun starts to fade away.

Accommodation: Central Riad (1 night)

 

Day 7: Drive to Essaouria

In the morning we will have time to explore Taroudant before continuing on to Essaouira on the coast. Taroudant is a vibrant market town located in the fertile Souss plains. With an energetic, bustling city centre this is a great opportunity to see an untouched traditional Berber lifestyle. The souqs of the medina teem with sights, sound and colour, with terrific bargains to be found.

We leave the valleys of the magical High Atlas Mountains behind and head towards the windswept Atlantic Coast and Essaouira (approx 4.5 hrs), we will use the coastal road with a brief stop in Agadir en-route.

Accommodation: Central riad (2 nights)


Day 8: Essaouria

The name Essaouira means image, which is appropriate since it's such a picturesque town. Its charm is undeniable - within the stone ramparts you'll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laid-back artists' town is a former Portuguese trading colony and was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. The town faces a group of rocky islands - called the Mogador - and is surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes.

It's still a busy fishing port and it’s pretty harbour is filled with tiny colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day's catch. Visitors who have been seduced by its charms include Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. More recently, filmmaker Ridley Scott chose the ramparts as an important location for his film, Kingdom of Heaven.

Join our local guide for a walking tour through the old Medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall). You have some free time to soak up the romantic ambience.

Everything in the small centre is within walking distance and the beach is clean. Wander the harbour and its adjacent fish markets where you can witness the daily auction. A freshly-cooked plate of the day's catch is highly recommended. Browse the plentiful shops and intriguing art galleries that make this little town a particularly pleasant place to unwind for a few days. It has a growing reputation for its unique art and is becoming even more famous for its burled Thuya wood - delicately formed and inlaid in tiny shops, which are built into the thick walls of the Portuguese ramparts. The scent from the oils used to polish the richly coloured wood permeates the air and makes walking down the streets incredibly pleasant.

Essaouira is a world-famous windsurfing destination. Give it go or you may like to try your hand at the increasingly popular sport of kite surfing.

Don't miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local-style bath to be spoilt with a good scrub, a mud pack and a relaxing massage with argan oil.

Included Activities

• Walking tour
 

Day 9: Travel to Marrakech
On day 9 the morning is free for further exploration around Essaouria. In the early afternoon we will catch a comfortable local bus to Marrakech (approx 3 hrs), where we will check in to our riad.
 

Day 10 & 11: Marrakech
Even today, the name conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything from the graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, which dominates the skyline, to the wonderful throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair in the great open square, the Djemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the medina.

We have two days to explore and photograph this famous city. On day 10 a 2 hour guided tour is included. This will take us down to the leather pits, where leather is cured and dyed in the traditional way, as it has been for generations.

 

Day 12: Tour ends
The tour ends after breakfast, and you are free to leave at any time, or contact Intrepid to arrange an extra night or two in this fascinating and entrancing city.

 

Notes on the tour

Itinerary:
Any tour is a balance between seeing as much as possible, and also having enough time to explore and take pictures. I believe that we have struck the best balance with this itinerary. There are many times where we will have free time, so you are free to explore and photograph on your own. I try to keep compulsory sunrises to a minimum, but there will be plenty of chances for those who are keen to make an early start!

I have tried to ensure that we manage to have the chance of a sunrise or sunset in all of the most important places, but sometimes we will have to photograph things during the day - at the wrong times. This is mainly the case when we are in transit. This is just a part of trying to see so much: if we were to photograph everything at the optimum times, then the trip would have to be about three or four times longer!
 

Portraits in Morocco:
It is worth bearing in mind that Morocco is not as easy a place to shoot portraits as it used to be. People can be quite paranoid about being photographed - especially if you don't ask permission. You are advised not to try to 'steal' pictures and to ask people. Not only is this a courtesy, that I believe will help you to secure better, more engaged pictures, it can avoid unpleasantness.

It is perfectly possible to shoot some amazing portraits in Morocco, and I will be on hand to advise as to when and how to ask. Very soon in the trip, I will hold an illustrated talk showing my technique for approaching people and how to get the best shots.

 

Tuition:
Throughout the trip I will hold a series of illustrated talks and group review sessions to try to help people to learn as much as possible on the trip, and also to come away with the best pictures possible. We will have some group sessions - notably on exposure and also on shooting star trails. I am always available if anyone has a question about photography and am always happy to look at pictures if you want a personal review. Please be aware that you will generally get out of this trip what you are prepared to put into it, especially with the review sessions.

 

Single supplement:
The single supplement is not available in the Ait Benhaddhou guesthouse, or in the desert camp. This means that people will have to share a room on these nights. Please also note that sometimes the single rooms are smaller than double rooms - especially in riads when many of the rooms will vary in size and quality. In general, we will try to balance everything out wherever possible, but sometimes the best rooms in the riads have double beds: twin and single rooms might not be as luxurious.

Printable version of itinerary

Included in the trip price

11 nights hotel/guesthouse accommodation

9 breakfasts & 1 dinner

All transport as per itinerary

• Bucharest guided walking tour

• Bucharest Parliament entry

Museum of Romanian Peasant

• Tsarevets Fortress entrance

Sofia orientation walk

• Rila Monastery entrance

• Belitsa Bear Sanctuary

• Plovdiv guided walk

• Roman amphitheatre entrance

• Pre-trip Facebook group to meet other group members

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic tuition

Impressions of Eastern Europe itinerary

 

Day 1-2: Bucharest
Alo! Welcome to Romania

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

A place of mythic legends and dark tales, modern-day Romania impresses with its fine collection of ancient monasteries, age-old churches and character-filled castles. But it's the unexpected delights that also shine bright. Majestic mountains, forests made for hiking, a sophisticated capital brimming with architectural beauty and chic coastal resorts ensure Romania has plenty of aces up its sleeve.

Free from the shackles of the Cold War-era, Eastern Europe is overflowing with unique, elegant cities and societies with a storied past and a bright future. From the ornate to the medieval, the romantic to the bizarre, Eastern Europe is a buzzing hive of art and culture that is sure to impress.

Bucharest, Romania's beautiful capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its enormous Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world.

Take a guided tour of Romania's beautiful capital city. Bucharest likes big things and we'll stop by the huge Piata Unirii, one of Europe's largest squares. Also see the 'Ceausima', the enormous 12-storey Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world (behind the Pentagon).

Included Activities

Bucharest - Guided walking tour
Parliament entry
Museum of the Romanian Peasant

 

Day 3-4: Veliko Tarnovo
Today it is time to bid farewell to Romania and catch a train to the border. As you cross the majestic Danube river, you are entering Bulgaria. Once the border formalities are completed at Ruse, you will head to the town of Veliko Tarnovo. Once the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, it now is a picturesque town, set against the dramatic backdrop of the surrounding mountains.

The most famous sight of the town is Tsarevets Fortress, situated on a hill on the edge of the town. There is evidence of human presence since the 2nd millennium BC, but really become prominent during the reign of the Asens.

Included activities:
• Tsarevets Entrance
• Orientation Walk (leader led)

 

Day 5: Sofia
Leaving the scenic mountains behind, we will travel to Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Sofia is an ever-growing and cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks.

Enjoy a walk through the city and pass some of its most striking buildings, perhaps none more impressive than the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church which dates back to 1912 and was built as a memorial to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgarian independence during the Russo-Turkey war (1877-1878).

Other impressive buildings include St Nikolai Russian Church, Sveta Nedelya Cathedral and Banya Bashi Mosque, a reminder of years of Turkish rule. At night, the city comes alive with interesting bars and nightclubs.

Included Activities:
• Sofia Orientation Walk (leader led)

 

Day 6: Gorno Draglishte
Take a short bus ride to Rila, to explore the most important of the orthodox monasteries in Bulgaria. This World Heritage-listed site is the largest, holiest and most impressive of Bulgaria's monasteries, hidden away in a narrow and forested valley. Founded in 927 by Ivan Rilski, a leader of a monastic colony of hermits, the monastery helped keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during centuries of Turkish rule. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century.

Transfer to the small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte. The small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte is home to a delightful community of warm and welcoming people, a rich cultural heritage and delicious home-cooked food.

Stay at our local friend's guesthouse. Here we have the chance to learn all about traditional weaving. Our guesthouse accommodation is simple and not all rooms have en suite, but the atmosphere is welcoming and warm and experience Bulgarian cuisine for dinner.

Included Activities
• Gorno Draglishte - Rila Monastery

 

Day 7-8: Bansko
Travel to the small town of Bansko.

Set at the bottom of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments and many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming 'mehanes' (taverns).

In the evening, we have an opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try some filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), and wash it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).

And if you have the time, you could stretch your legs with a hike up the mountains, home to some crystal-clear lakes, jagged peaks and pine-forested alpine scenery.

Included Activities:
Belitsa Bear Sanctuary

 

Day 9: Plovdiv
Travel by private transport from Bankso to Plovdiv (approx 3hrs30mins).

Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. A picturesque town with many parks, gardens, museums and archaeological monuments, its Old Town features many 18th and 19th-century baroque houses dating from the national revival period. These charming homes sit alongside museums, mosques, galleries and Byzantine ruins.

Join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the history of this fascinating town. The most remarkable sight is the magnificent ancient Roman amphitheatre. Built during the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6000 people. From here, wander up the cobblestone street to the site of Nebet Tepe, a former hilltop fortress, for excellent views of the city before heading downhill to the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today.

Be sure to take the time to wander about the workshops of the traditional masters of old Bulgarian arts and crafts on Strumna Street - coppersmiths, farriers and potters are all represented.

Included Activities:
Plovdiv - Guided tour Optional Activities

 

Days 10-12: Istanbul:
Travel by private bus to Istanbul from Plovdiv (7hrs). On the way we will stop at Bachkovo monastery where you will be able to visit the famous dining room as well.

You will cross the border into Turkey while travelling from Plovdiv by bus. All travellers travelling to Turkey need to obtain an e-visa before you arrival. All the information required about the e-visa can be found in the following link: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.

The wonderful city of Istanbul has an incredibly rich history, amazing array of architectural styles, a delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, fascinating culture and oodles of style. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

If you would like to stay longer in Istanbul there are plenty more things to see and do. Don't miss the superb Aya Sofia, the home of beautiful mosaics and an incredible reminder of the city that was once Constantinople. Visit the Archaeology Museum, which contains an incredible array of ancient exhibits - of particular interest are the artefacts from infamous Troy. Head down to the Bosphorus and grab a fresh fish roll for lunch. You could travel over to the stylish Taksim Square area and stroll along the main street with the local hipsters. Visit the atmospheric underground Cistern, a vast underwater storage tank built in 532 AD. If all of this makes you a little tired, then an hour or two spent in a hamam (Turkish bath) will leave you rejuvenated at the end of your journey.

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This tour is organised and led by Steve Davey | The land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, but the tours don't appear on the Intrepid Travel website | The only way to book is through this site!

Highlights of this trip

• Religious city of Kandy

Sigiriya rock fortress

Tea plantation hike

• Climbing Adam's Peak

Yala National Park

Extensive photographic tuition

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Impressions of
Sri Lanka Itinerary

Day 1: Negombo
Day 2: Anuradhapura
Day 3: Anuradhapura
Day 4: Polonnaruwa
Day 5: Sigiriya
Day 6: Kandy
Day 7: Nuwara Eliya
Day 8: Nuwara Eliya
Day 9: Haputale
Day 10: Yala NP
Day 11: Yala NP
Day 12: Galle
Day 13: Colombo
Day 14: Tour ends

Included in the trip price

13 nights hotel accommodation

All transport as per itinerary

• 13 breakfasts

• Adam's Peak climb

Tea plantation trek

• Scenic train ride

• Yala Park drives (am & pm)

• Minneriya game drive

• Dambulla entrance

• Anuradhapura entrance

• Minintale entrance

• Polonnaruwa entrance

• Sigiriya entrance

• Temple of Tooth entrance

• Peradeniya entrance

• Pre-trip Facebook group

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic tuition

Website, Images and text Steve Davey/stevedavey.com 1990 - 2016

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Contact us &

unforgetPlaces4PCThis tour is led by Steve Davey - a professional photographer, whose work appears in publications all over the world. He is the author of the bestselling Unforgettable Places To See Before You Die (BBC Books). Steve recently published Footprint Travel Photography (Footprint Books), which covers everything that you would ever want to know about travelling with a camera. Click for more.

Land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, who have many years experience in running small group adventures.

Bookings are made through the Intrepid Special Groups Dept. in the UK not the Intrepid website or Stores. Use this link for more information

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Start: 19 April 2017
End:
2 May 2017
Code: IOSL17

Price: From 1795 pp
excl. flights, based on

Min 8, max 12 people
This trip is now full!
Trip is confirmed.

Approx other currencies*:
€ 2145 • US$ 2360

AU$3160 • NZ$3345

Optional single supplement: 495

Estimated current
flight cost 500 - 600

If you have travelled with us before, you will get a 5% discount on the trip price.

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impressions of sri lanka itinerary


Day 01 : Arrival in Sri Lanka
Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will be met by our local leader (included for those on the group recommended flight) and transferred to your hotel in Negombo. (30 min drive)

Overnight: Goldi Sands Hotel - Standard room.
 

Day 02 : Negombo - Anuradhapura
In the morning, wake early and pick your way through large hessian sheets covered in drying fish at Negombo fish market. This intense, salty concoction is one of the essential building blocks of the Sri Lankan kitchen. The town is situated at the northern end of a lagoon renowned for lobsters, crabs and prawns. Weave through stalls piled with shark, squid, barracuda and unheard of sea creatures as the sellers call out their wares, and get a great insight into local commerce. Continue on to a coconut plantation (approximately 1 hour) to discover why this ‘superfood’ is so central to life in Sri Lanka. Learn how all parts of the tree play an important part in daily life, sip the water of a king coconut, watch ‘toddy tappers’ extract the palm wine from the coconut sap and taste the results.

Head inland to Anuradhapura.(approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes ) Visit Mihintale in the afternoon.

Later check into your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure,

Overnight: Heritage Anuradhapura – Standard Room
 

Day 03: Anuradhapura - Sigiriya
After breakfast do city tour in Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura, is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization. From the 4th century BC, it was the capital of Sri Lanka until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km2). We wil visit the Sri Maha Bodhi an offshoot of the historical Bodhi tree under which Buddha became enlightened was planted in Anuradhapura in 288 BC, Abhayagiri Dagaba, This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage towns and extensive ruins in the world. Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is considered a marvel for its architectural qualities.Thuparamaya Collarbone of Buddha is enshrined in the chetiya of Thuparamaya. It is the first dagaba built in Sri Lanka.Lovamahapaya Also known as Brazen Palace Lovamahapaya is a complex which was once a structure of its own class.

Transfer to Dambulla (approximately 2 hour and 30 minutes) and visit the Dambulla Cave Temple.

Dating back to the 1st Century BC, Dambulla is one of the most impressive cave temples in Sri Lanka. It has five caves under a vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interiors dry. The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

Transfer to Sigiriya. (45 minutes).

Overnight: Fresco Water Villa – Superior Deluxe Room


Day 04: Polonnaruwa and Minneriya visits
Today we visit to Polonnaruwa (approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes) to visit the 5th century Ancient city of Polonnaruwa and the Archaeological museum. The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, today the city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the kingdoms first rulers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, its beauty was used as a backdrop to filmed scenes for the Duran Duran music video ‘Save a Prayer’! Its green environment, amazing ancient constructions (including a huge lake built in 1200A.D.), good hotels and its warm, friendly people make it an attractive city to visit. The Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and Museum, brings this ancient city to life. A visit to the Centre and Museum first, will prove useful before setting out to explore its fascinating sites.

Late afternoon enjoy a game drive in the Minneriya National Park (Approximate Duration – 40 mins journey)

Minneriya national park is a haven for flora and fauna. Being part of the elephant corridor, which joins up with Kaudulla National Park and Wasgomuwa National Park, you have guaranteed sightings of elephants throughout the year. Apart from elephants, there is a huge species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fishes, butterflies, etc. The highlight of the park is the Minneriya reservoir with its historical importance, built in 3rd century AD by the famous monarch King Mahasen. It covers an area of 4,670 acres.

Overnight: Fresco Water Villa – Superior Deluxe Room


Day 05: Sigiriya
This morning, we will visit the Sigiriya Rock fortress.

Thought to be one of the oldest tourist attractions in the world, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, Sigiriya o ers its visitors nothing less than a breathtaking experience. Standing more than 200m tall over the surrounding plains, the rock is said to be a solidified magma plug, from a long eroded and extinct volcano. On its summit are the remains of a palace, built by King Kasyapa in the 5th century AD. Hidden in a cave along the citadel are some of the most magnificent ancient frescoes in South Asia. Seen today are, what’s said to be left of the 500 paintings of maidens that once covered a large area of the face of the rock. The mirror wall that leads up to the lion staircase, its brick masonry wall built of lime plaster was said to have been so well polished, that it reflected the paintings of the opposite rock wall. Today, 15 centuries later the shine on this wall can still be seen. A total of nearly 1500 writings on the wall, include verses that date way back as far as the 8th century, most of which have now been deciphered.

You will need a good level of fitness to be able to climb to the top of the rock fortress. The time to ascend to the top is approximately 1 hour at a moderate pace.

Continue your drive to Kandy (Approximate Duration 2 hours and 30 minutes). As you proceed to Kandy you will have a short visit to a Spice Gardens in Matale. A land mark destination in the ancient Spice Trails, Sri Lanka has been ever so famous for its aromatic cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper which lured many ancient traders to the Island. Even at present, Sri Lanka produces some of the best quality cinnamon in the world.

Overnight: Senai Hotel – Superior Room


Day 06: Kandy
After breakfast walk around the city of Kandy which is where the arts and crafts of the Sinhalese best kept alive from the art of mat weaving, silver crafts, and lacquer ware to wood carving. The Kandyan craftsmen produce the most exquisite items and consequently entire traditional craft villages are set up in the area.Later in the day visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic - Tradition relates that a sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in 4th Century A.D. and was enshrined within the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth. This sacred relic has ever since been the symbol of sovereignty for the Sinhalese kings and always enshrined in great splendor. Prayer services are held daily at dawn, midday, and in the evening and can be viewed by visitors.

In the evening witness a cultural show featuring traditional Sri Lankan dancing.

Overnight: Senai Hotel – Superior Room
 

Day 07: Nuwara Eliya
After breakfast transfer to Peradeniya Station to board the train bound from Peradeniya to Nanu Oya. This journey is considered as one of the most scenic railway journeys through the highlands of Sri Lanka. As you pass through the lush green tea estates you could not help but indulge in the unmistakable aroma of pure Ceylon tea. The mist covered mountains and the scenic waterfalls truly compliment this beautiful landscape.

Departure: Peradeniya Station : 12:30 hrs Arrival : Nanu Oya : 16:30 hrs

On arrival, you will be transferred transfer to Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka's premier hill resort with a lush mountainous climate. Nuwara Eliya is also the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, producing some of the world’s finest teas. The mountain slopes and valleys are a carpet of velvety green tea plantations, interspersed with gushing streams and tumbling waterfalls. Red or green roofed plantation bungalows, English country style cottages and hotels with lovely flower gardens, a well laid out 18-hole golf course and a racecourse gives Nuwara Eliya a truly British character.

Checking to Hotel and relax till late evening. Those who are climbing Adam’s Peak will leave at night.

Overnight: Walking or Heaven Seven Hotel – Deluxe Room
 

Day 08: Adam's Peak | Nuwara Eliya
In the early Morning we start climbing the Adams Peak, to try to reach the peak for sunrise. The climb takes 5-6 hours. The first signs of dawn comes around 5.15 and sunrise is usually between 5.30 and 5.40. Buddhist pilgrims climb the 2245m (7242ft) high mountain to honor the legendary footprint of Buddha. Approx. 300.000 pilgrims visit this place a year, and there are good quality paths and steps all of the way up. Sri Pada means "holy footprint". To the Hindus the mountain is holy for another reason: they call it " Shivas Peak ". Christians from the old Indian Church think that the apostle Thomas have lived there during his mission in India, and the Muslims call it "Adam's Peak" and interpret the footprints as those of the first man. In the history of religions, Sri Pada is a holy mountain of classic importance.

After this visit transfer back to hotel to relax and also to explore Nuwara Eliya.

Overnight: Heaven Seven Hotel – Deluxe Room


Day 09: Haputale

After breakfast procced starting point for our walk today.(approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes)

This hike (approximately 6.5 hours) takes you through picturesque tea plantations and small Tamil villages.

The walk requires good walking shoes, as the 'track' is often just rocks under shrubs, and if there has been rain it can get very muddy and slippery. You do need to be fit, because although the walk is not too demanding, it can be diffcult walking on rough and unsteady ground. Our usual route is about 20 kilometres in total. If you don't feel you are able to complete these walks, you can take an option to either stay in Bandarawela for an extra night, or if you don't wish to complete the second day's walk to Haputale your group leader will be able to organise a transport alternative. These options would be at your own expense.

Transfer onwards to Haputale.

Overnight: Melheim Resort - Standard Room
 

Day 10 : Yala
After breakfast transfer to Yala. Stopping at the Elephant Transit Home en route. At this special organisation you'll experience feeding time for baby orphaned elephants and learn more about their rehabilitation.

Continue your drive to Yala (Approximate Duration 3 hours and 30 minutes).

Overnight: Elephant Reach – Superior Room


Day 11: Yala National Park
Today, we will enjoy two game drives in the Yala National Park (1,570-sq km) which is mostly open parkland, making the wildlife easier to see. The landscape is varied, with rock outcrops, scrub jungle, lagoons, lakes, rivers and even beaches. Yala is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where it is relatively easy to see a leopard, either strolling beside the track or, with luck, draped elegantly in a tree. There are estimated to be around 35 leopards and 400 wild elephants, as well as wild bu alos, musk deer, mongoose, pangolins, black bears, macaques, jackals and numerous species of bird. Yala is the second largest national park in Southern Sri Lanka that facilitates one of the richest ecosystems in the Island.

Overnight: Elephant Reach – Superior Room


Day 12: Galle
Breakfast at hotel and transfer to Galle. (Approximate Duration 3.30hrs)

Commence a city tour around Galle. The ancient trading post of Galle, said to be the famous Tarshish of the Bible. Historically, this World Heritage fortified town was the essential port of call for Chinese, Persian, Arab and Indian traders. Javanese and Sumatrans came later followed by Moro Polo in 1299 AD. The Portuguese arrived in the 1500’s and built a settlement with a fort of palm trees and mud. This was captured by the Dutch (and finally the British!) who built the 400 year old fort with great ramparts and bastions to protect their presence. Narrow streets are lined with old houses displaying their Dutch heritage with their pillared verandahs. Government o ces remain in use and the community within the fort is a bustle with daily life – a living breathing town hidden within the fortified walls of this ancient, maritime citadel.

Overnight: Lady Hill – Standard Room


Day 13: Colombo
Breakfast at hotel and transfer to Colombo. (Approximate Duration 3.30HRS) Enjoy a city tour in Colombo.

Colombo is the commercial and business capital of Sri Lanka located on the west coast. It is known as the “garden city of the east ” with it’s wide tree lined avenue’s blending together with well-preserved colonial buildings, high-rise commercial buildings and star class hotels. With upmarket shopping malls, designer stores, bazaars and gourmet restaurants , Colombo has become a worthy destination in it’s own right now and no longer a city to just pass by. Some of the finest structures built during the colonial times like the Race Couse precinct’s, the Dutch Hospital (no longer a hospital but an upmarket establishment), the former Attorney General’s o ce’s at Independence square and some of the finest architecturally majestic buildings in downtown Fort can enthrall visitors.

Visitors have large parks to roam at will and the Galle Face green with it’s nearby centuries old magnificent edifice called the Galle Face Hotel is the one place to sit down and relax with a drink to watch the sunset. The most popular tourist attractions are the grand National Museum, The Gangaramaya Temple by the Beira Lake, Independence Square, Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo Fort area and Presidential Secretariat (Old parliament) Pettah bazaar, Mount Lavinia Beach , St. Lucia's Cathedral at Kotahena, the Bandaranaike International convention hall, Town Hall square and the adjacent administrative capital city of Sri Jayawardenapura and it’s unique Parliament building that sits in the middle of a large man made lake, designed by one of the Sri Lanka’s world renowned architect’s the late Geffort Bawa.

Overnight: Global Tower – Standard Room


Day 14: Tour ends
Tour officially finishes after breakfast. You can transfer to the airport for your return flight, or opt to spend longer exploring the city by staying on longer in Colombo.

 

Please note: We have named the hotels that we will be using to give you an idea of the standard and style of the accommodation in Sri Lanka. However, operational reasons mean that we may have to substitute other accomodation of a similar standard.

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