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Carving its way through most of Myanmar (Burma), the Irrawaddy has had a longstanding influence on the country’s history, culture and economy. Along its banks are the many temples scattered throughout the natural wilds, showing the breadth of the 1500 years of Buddhist Burma.

Irrawaddy River

The 1350 mile long (2170km) river Irrawaddy has spectacular views of Burma’s gorges, wild jungles and paddy fields. Formed from the confluence of the N’mai and Mali rivers, it flows south and is navigable for river steamers up to Bhamo while Mandalay, the legendary city of Buddhist monks, is where river cruise ships typically sail to before departing back down the river. Further down the river, the Irrawaddy meets Burma’s second biggest river and tributary, Chindwin River. Nearby lies the temple city of Pagan, or Bagan, home of an incredible array of temples and pagodas. Passing valleys and mountains, travellers will see the forts of Minhla and teak plantations of Prome (or Pyay), eventually continuing on to the capital Yangon at the river’s delta.

Irrawaddy Delta

At Myanmar’s coastline on the Andaman Sea, the Irrawaddy forms a delta spreading a thousand square miles and is responsible for the fertilisation of the area’s rice fields. Taking a prominent location on the delta is the capital of Yangon, which sees trade and tourism from ships in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. The development of the region has resulted in a dense population and large concentration of other villages and towns, such as Bogale, Maubin, Myaungmya, Pantanaw, Paypon and Kyauktan.

Chindwin River

The Irrawaddy’s tributary, the Chindwin River, can be found north of Pagan and is infamous for its water levels making it difficult to navigate. Only when the levels have risen, typically during one of Burma’s monsoons, is it safe to cruise. River steamers can navigate the river for 400 miles (640km) from Singkaling Hkamti down to Pagan, where the river flows through Homalin, Thaungdut and Monywa. A destination of note on the Chindwin is Mingin. Burma’s oldest teak monastery is located here along with many other precious pieces of art.

Weather & When to go

Visiting Myanmar is recommended between November and February, during its dry rainless period. Temperatures become hot from March to May reaching levels around 40ºC (104ºF), while monsoons come in mid-May and mid-June and lasts to October with the heaviest rains from July to September.

Where will my cruise start?

The common cruise on the Irrawaddy is a 7 night between Yangon and Bagan, with some cruises running 14 nights between Yangon and Mandalay, with local flights to and from Yangon.

Popular ports in Irrawaddy

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