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Irrawaddy River Cruises

Much like the Mekong, which begins in the mountains of Tibet and flows south through China, the Golden Triangle, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Irrawaddy River can be traced to the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains. It is from those glaciers that the Nmai and Mali Rivers flow south, and it is the confluence of those two rivers that form the Irrawaddy—the principal and most important commercial waterway of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Unlike a Mekong River Cruise, however, the Irrawaddy, whose name is thought to mean “Elephant River,” only flows through one nation. But despite only flowing through one country, the river offers an experience unlike any other, making Irrawaddy river cruises some of the most sought after travel experiences in all of Asia. 

For more than 1,300 miles, the Irrawaddy River flows through the center of Myanmar, the largest mainland nation of Southeast Asia, and one of the destinations guests will explore on an Irrawaddy river cruise with Scenic. The river also flows through Mandalay—Myanmar’s second largest city and the last royal capital of Burma—and, as such, it is often referred to as the “Road to Mandalay.” In fact, British author Rudyard Kipling made the Burmese countryside and the Irrawaddy River the subjects of a poem that he wrote in 1890, titled simply “Mandalay,” which several times repeats the phrase, “on the road to Mandalay.” Kipling only spent three days in Burma, but it was during a time when the region was being colonized by the British. Almost a decade after his visit to Burma and the Irrawaddy River valley, Kipling again made mention of the region in his works, writing, “This is Burma, and it is quite unlike any land you know about.” 

Given the fact that Rudyard Kipling visited the region more than 120 years ago, one would think that the enchanting and exotic land that he had witnessed and wrote about would be far different today. Yet, such is not the case. Much of the region has remained unchanged since the British Empire began its rule and colonization of the countryside during the final two decades of the 19th century.

Myanmar: The “Golden Land”

Because more than 90 percent of the Burmese population practices Buddhism, the countryside is adorned with numerous gold-painted pagodas, which is why Myanmar is often referred to as the “Golden Land.” One of the more visually impressive ones that guests can visit on an Irrawaddy river cruise is Shwesandaw Pagoda (sometimes referred to as Shwesandaw Paya). Believed by many to be the world’s oldest pagoda, the site is one of Myanmar’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. When translated, the pagoda’s name means “golden hair relic,” which reflects the belief that some of Buddha’s hairs have been preserved there. Scenic passengers can also visit Ananda Temple, an esteemed Buddhist temple that was built in Bagan in 1105. Often referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Burma, the temple is one of only four in the region to still exist. 

Another historic site of great importance along the Irrawaddy river is Pyu Ancient Cities, a World Heritage Site made up of the remains of three brick cities protected by walls and moats. The three ancient cities—Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra—were built during Pyu Kingdom, which came to power in 200 B.C. and reigned until 900 A.D. The site is made up of excavated palace citadels and burial grounds, as well as brick Buddhist stupas, and it preserves some of the developments of the Pyu civilization, which played a vital role in the urbanization of Southeast Asia and the dissemination Buddhism.

For Golf Fans

Fans of golf history can enjoy a visit to Thayetmyo, a city that is home to well-preserved British colonial buildings and the nation’s first golf course, Thayet Golf Club. The 9-hole, private golf club was established by the British in 1887, and through the club, its members enjoy honorary guest privileges at the Royal St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland. 

While there are many sites along the Irrawaddy River that preserve the ancient Burmese culture, as well as evidence of Britain’s colonial developments, there is one, a colonial fort in the town of Minhla, that preserves the Burmese attempts to prevent a British invasion. The fort was built by two Italian engineers in 1860 while the Konbaung Dynasty remained in power.

Cultural Experiences

Travelers who wish to see an exotic Asian land devoid of Western influences will find a Scenic Irrawaddy River Cruise highly satisfying. Much of the countryside’s preserved authenticity stems from the fact that, up until recently, Myanmar’s borders were not open to foreign travelers. Because of that, the Burmese economy is based largely on agriculture and some specialty crafts. In the middle and lower river basins, wheat, cotton, and oil seeds are primary exports. Further south and in the Irrawaddy delta region, rice and jute (a shiny, soft vegetable fiber used to make burlap or gunny cloth) are the primary economic staples. Cruisers can expect to see numerous teak logs floating down stream, as Myanmar is one of the world’s largest exporters of the sought after hardwood.

Local Arts And Crafts

In some regions of the country, lacquerware is a highly practiced skill and art form, which is evident at certain religious sites, such as a teak monastery in Youqson Kyaung, which is home to the largest lacquer image of Buddha in the country. Travelers hoping to take some lacquerware home will have a chance to shop in Myinkaba, a small village dedicated to the craft; but they can also learn more about the technique at the Lacquerware Museum and workshop in Old Bagan. Pottery-making is another trade that can be found within the towns and villages along the Irrawaddy, and Scenic guests can witness local craftspeople honing their skills in the village of Schwe Pyi Thar.

Scenic Space-Ships: All-Inclusive Luxury Riverboats

Every Scenic Asian River Cruise begins aboard one of the company’s boutique vessels or custom-built Space-Ships, so named for their spacious guest cabins, dining, and entertaining areas. Each of these four-deck Scenic Space-Ships includes numerous dining and sightseeing areas, as well as a lounge and bar area that offers panoramic views. Additionally, guests can soak up the rays at the top-deck swimming pool or retreat to the wellness center, which is equipped with a fitness area, beauty salon, and massage rooms. These ships are also noteworthy for their luxury suites, which are outfitted with sun lounges, 32-inch high-definition TVs, and complimentary wireless internet access.

Scenic Aura

Myanmar

Scenic’s Irrawaddy River cruises take place aboard Scenic Aura, a 213-foot vessel that was launched in 2016 and can accommodate 44 passengers in 22 one-bedroom balcony suites, as well as 35 crew members. The Scenic Aura, which offers an almost 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, is equipped with a sleek swimming pool, a steam sauna, and an open-air cinema, among other amenities.

The Wonders of Southeast Asia

The Irrawaddy River is a tranquil gateway into Myanmar, providing Scenic travelers a peek behind the veil of a country ripe with history, culture and spiritualism. Our Irrawaddy river cruises take you through the most sought-after sites of Myanmar.

You’ll experience your first taste of Burmese culture in Yangon, the nation’s capital city, where you’ll get the opportunity to explore the blossoming art scene and food markets.  As you float down the Irrawaddy River, you’ll get a chance to see ancient history in Sri Ksetra, the ancient Pyu Kingdom’s capital.  Visit your first monastery in Salay and explore the city of Magwe by trishaw, a common mode of transport in Myanmar.

As the Irrawaddy River guides your cruise onwards towards Bagan, you’ll have further chances to take in the country’s historic sites. Bagan hosts the most ancient temples in Myanmar, and Scenic guests will get a first-hand look at the beauty and history that encompasses these temples, including the iconic Ananda Temple, often referred to as the “Westminster Abbey of Burma.”  With its gleaming golden ornaments, the Ananda Temple is one of four surviving Buddhist temples in Bagan and also one of the oldest, having been built in 1105 AD.  89% of Myanmar residents are Buddhist and Scenic travelers have an exclusive opportunity to not only explore old Bagan and all of its breathtaking temples, but to develop a further understanding of the deep spiritualism that resides in this beautiful country as well.

The river cruise continues north past Bagan and into majestic Mandalay, a former royal city situated right on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. This city features many world-renowned sites, including the stunning Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Hill with its sweeping panoramic city views, the Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill that houses the “world’s largest book”, and the wooden Shwenandaw Monastery.

With an 11-day Luxury Irrawaddy tour, a 14-day Mystical Irrawaddy tour and the extended 18-day Mystical Myanmartour, Scenic guests can travel through Myanmar and the Irrawaddy River that ties all the cultural cities together, 100% their way and of their choosing. No matter which Asian river cruise you choose, the Irrawaddy River will make sure to take you on a decadent spiritual journey of a lifetime, filled with old-world sites and breathtaking natural wonders.

Browse Irrawaddy River Cruises

Asia River Cruises

Fly From $995 Premium Economy

Bordeaux Affair

8 days
Bordeaux > Bordeaux
Visit an authentic local food market or learn wine tasting in one of the traditional vineyards on an 8 day cruise through the magical Bordeaux region.
from $3,895
Fly From $995 Premium Economy

Bordeaux Sojourn

9 days
Paris > Bordeaux
French river cruising has never been more elegant with wine tasting, and visits to vineyards & castles. Discover the best of Bordeaux on a 9 day cruise.
from $4,355
Standard Suites Fly Free

Idyllic Rhône

8 days
Tarascon > Chalon-sur-Saone
Board a luxurious Scenic Space-Ship in the former Roman town of Tarascon & cruise the Rhone to Chalon-sur-Saône. Enjoy the cuisines and delights of France.
from $4,475
Standard Suites Fly Free

Enchanting Rhône

9 days
Nice > Paris
Cruise the enchanting Rhone river from Tarascon to Chalon-sur-Saône. Discover the towns of Avignon, Tournon & Lyon with exclusive Scenic Enrich activities.
from $4,990
Save Up To $400*

Rhine Highlights with Switzerland

12 days
Amsterdam > Zurich
Cruise to the heart of Europe on a 12 day journey from Amsterdam to Zurich. Discover the beauty of Switzerland, visit Lake Geneva, Montreux and the Alps.
from $5,400 $5,200
Fly Free Economy Class

Beautiful Bordeaux

11 days
Bordeaux > Bordeaux
Visit wineries and vineyards where you'll learn how to taste wine from a sommelier on a romantic 11 day river cruise through the Bordeaux region.
from $5,705
Fly Free Economy Class

Breathtaking Bordeaux

12 days
Paris > Bordeaux
Savour the world's finest wine, exquisite cuisine and extraordinary landscapes that Bordeaux has to offer on a 12 day river cruise departing from Paris.
from $6,165
Fly Free Economy Class

Gems of the Seine

11 days
Paris > Paris
Cruise along the Seine on an 11 day journey from Paris to Honfleur. Tour the historic Normandy beaches and visit Giverny where you can see Monet's gardens.
from $6,230
Standard Suites Fly Free

Enchanting Rhône with Paris

11 days
Nice > Paris
Board a luxurious Scenic Space-Ship and cruise the Rhône to Chalon-sur-Saône. Travel from the beautiful Île-de-France region to Paris & explore the city.
from $6,260
Fly Free Economy Class

South of France

13 days
Chalon-sur-Saone > Tarascon
Feast on exquisite French cuisine and marvel at the beautiful landscapes on a 13 day cruise from Chalon-sur-Saône to Tarascon on board a Scenic Space-Ship.
from $6,465
Fly From $995 Premium Economy

Enchanting Rhône with Barcelona

12 days
Paris > Barcelona
Cruise the Rhone from Chalon-sur-Saône to Tarascon before travelling to beautiful Barcelona. Enjoy guided city tours, delicious cuisine & exclusive events.
from $6,700
Fly Free Economy Class

Spectacular South of France

14 days
Paris > Nice
Soak up the spectacular South of France on a 14 day river cruise from Paris to Nice. Explore the food capital, Lyon and enjoy the entertainment in Tarascon.
from $6,925
Standard Suites Fly Free

Enchanting Rhône with Barcelona & Paris

14 days
Barcelona > Paris
From the city of dreams to the city of light, enjoy a 14 day journey from Barcelona to Paris. See the sights of the Sagrada Familia to the Champs Elysées.
from $7,700

Beautiful Bordeaux with Madrid

14 days
Bordeaux > Madrid
Enjoy this romantic 11 day cruise in the gorgeous Bordeaux region. Afterwards discover all the hidden gems of beautiful Madrid with a 3 day city trip.
from $7,714
Fly Free Economy Class

Spectacular South of France with Monte Carlo

17 days
Paris > Nice
Experience the South of France and Monte Carlo while you cruise the spectacular Rhone river. Visit the Château de Cormatinand the Prince's Palace of Monaco.
from $8,100

Breathtaking Bordeaux with Madrid

15 days
Paris > Madrid
With beautiful sights and incomparable gastronomy, you'll never want to leave. Enjoy perfection from Paris to Madrid on this 15 day luxury experience.
from $8,229
Fly Free Economy Class

Jewels of Europe with Paris

18 days
Paris > Budapest
Begin your adventure in Paris before boarding a Scenic Space-Ship in Amsterdam. Cruise the Rhine, Main & Danube rivers and discover the Jewels of Europe.
from $8,480
Fly Free Economy Class

Romantic Rhine & Moselle with Switzerland

19 days
Amsterdam > Zurich
Experience the magic of Europe’s most romantic region on a 19 day journey from Amsterdam to Zurich. Cruise the Rhine and Moselle, create your own fairytale.
from $8,730

Jewels of Europe with Paris

18 days
Budapest > Paris
Have an amazing experience on this 18 day cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Afterwards visit for 3 days one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris.
from $8,665
Standard Suites Fly Free

Spectacular South of France with Paris

16 days
Paris > Nice
Experience the delights of France on a luxurious 16 day journey from Paris to Nice. Discover the magic of Paris, culture and cuisine that makes it famous.
from $9,185
Fly Free Economy Class

Spectacular South of France with Barcelona

17 days
Paris > Barcelona
Explore the quaint French countryside and beautiful Barcelona on a luxurious 17 day journey from Paris to Barcelona that will leave you wonder-struck.
from $9,295
Fly Free Economy Class

Jewels of Europe with Paris & Prague

21 days
Paris > Prague
Explore the wondrous cities of Amsterdam, Cologne, Vienna and more on a 21 day journey from Paris to Prague. See the Rhone Gorge, Marksburg Castle and more.
from $9,310

Great Civilisations Mediterranean Discovery

15 days
Barcelona > Athens
Discover the Europe of your imagination and experience a moving ANZAC Day in Gallipoli on this luxurious 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Athens
from $9,595
Standard Suites Fly Free

Spectacular South of France with Paris & Monte Carlo

19 days
Paris > Nice
Cruise the spectacular rivers of the South of France in 5-star luxury and soak up the sun in Monte Carlo on a lavish 19 day journey from Paris to Nice.
from $10,360

Imperial Russia with St. Petersburg

18 days
Moscow > St Petersburg
Explore St. Petersburg before boarding Scenic Tsar in Moscow for a luxurious river cruise along the Volga. Enjoy guided tours and grand sights of Russia.
from $10,520
Standard Suites Fly Free

Spectacular South of France with Paris & Barcelona

19 days
Paris > Barcelona
Discover Paris and cruise the South of France from Chalon-sur-Saône to Tarascon before falling in love with beautiful Barcelona on this 19 day adventure.
from $10,625

Gems of the Seine & Beautiful Bordeaux

21 days
Paris > Bordeaux
Discover the best of France, including a 10 day cruise along the Seine that starts in Paris, combined with a 10 day cruise through the Bordeaux region.
from $11,035

Romantic Rhine & Moselle with Alpine Escapade

26 days
Munich > Amsterdam
Be swept away on this wonder-filled 26 day experience across the Swiss Alps and Rhineland. Marvel at the endless beauty from Munich to Amsterdam.
from $12,860

Gems of the Seine & Unforgettable Douro with Madrid

24 days
Paris > Madrid
Over 24 days journey on the Seine River in France, before stepping on the Scenic Azure for a cruise along Portugal's Douro River, finishing in Madrid.
from $13,125

Gems of the Seine & Beautiful Bordeaux with Madrid

24 days
Paris > Madrid
A leisurely pace through a number of beautiful destinations is the ultimate luxury. Experience France and Spain's best in 24 days from Paris to Madrid.
from $12,575
Fly Free Economy Class

Gems of the Seine & South of France

23 days
Paris > Nice
Discover the best that France has to offer on a 23 day journey from Paris to Nice. Cruise the Seine and Rhone rivers past the vineyards, castles & villages.
from $13,855
Fly Free Economy Class

Breathtaking Bordeaux & Unforgettable Douro

22 days
Paris > Porto
Cruise through Bordeaux & the Douro Valley on a 22 day journey from Paris to Porto. Taste the fine wines & indulge in the delectable cuisines of the region.
from $14,075

Beautiful Bordeaux & Unforgettable Douro

21 days
Bordeaux > Porto
From elegant Bordeaux to sparkling Porto, travel in style on this 21 day experience. Endless visual and gastronomical delights await - a trip of a lifetime.
from $10,865

Ultimate Great Civilisations Discovery

23 days
Tenerife > Athens
This 23 day cruise will sail to some of the most iconic sites in Europe as well as the chance to experience a moving ANZAC Day service in Gallipoli.
from $15,590

Gems of the Seine & Unforgettable Douro

21 days
Paris > Porto
Discover two of the most magical rivers in Europe, with a 10 day luxury cruise along the romantic Seine and a 10 day cruise along the beautiful Douro.
from $11,700

Ultimate Mediterranean Treasures

23 days
Barcelona > Venice
from $16,290
Save Up To $2,000*

Beautiful Bordeaux & Unforgettable Douro with Madrid

24 days
Bordeaux > Madrid
The elegance of Bordeaux coupled with the color of Portugal - this experience has it all. Be swept away over 24 glorious days from Bordeaux to Madrid.
from $13,739

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