Mandalay’s Ancient Royal Capitals: Sagaing, Inwa, & Amarapura Tour

U Bein Bridge sunset as seen on our Sagaing, Inwa, & Amarapura Day Tour
A boatman rows home after sunset under U Bein Bridge.

Discover Myanmar’s Ancient Royal Cities

After the fall of the Pagan Kingdom in Bagan due to several Mongol invasions, Myanmar split into smaller (city) states. But the kings who ruled along the Irrawaddy in Sagaing, Inwa, Amarapura and finally, Mandalay, conquered the lands – at one point even expanding the kingdom to Ayutthaya, Thailand – and returned Myanmar to its imperial glory.

Discover the three Burmese royal capitals outside Mandalay on this Sagaing, Inwa, & Amarapura tour. Built over centuries of conquest and destroyed in fiery conflicts, the history of Myanmar’s cultural heart is painted across these ancient cities and their Buddhist devotional architecture.

Tour Highlights

  • Hotel pickup and dropoff
  • Vibrant local markets
  • Awe-inspiring temples
  • Fascinating monasteries            
  • Horsecart ride in Inwa
  • Private boat ride to Sagaing
  • Lunch in Sagaing 
  • Sunset at U Bein Bridge

Itinerary Overview

In 1365, the capital of Myanmar moved across the river to a city we now know as Inwa, but back in the Kings’ days, the city was called Ratanapura, “Gem City” in the local Pali language. The construction of the new city was a major project that involved filling in nine lakes; some say the name Inwa is derived from those lakes (in Pali, “nine lakes” translates to Innawa).

Despite being destroyed by invaders and powerful earthquakes several times, it was rebuilt and remained the capital of successive Myanmar kingdoms for the better part of the next 500 years. In fact, Myanmar (or Burma) was known as Ava in Europe before the English colonized the region. Only when a series of major earthquakes in March 1839 destroyed almost the entire city, was the new capital built in Amarapura.

Notable sites include: Lay Htat Gyi, Bagaya Monastery, Desada Taya (White Temple), Nanmyin Watchtower, Mae Nu Oak Kyaung, Inwa Bridge with views of the Irrawaddy and Sagaing rivers.

The Sagaing Kingdom of the 14th century was one of the minor kingdoms that rose up after the fall of Pagan dynasty of Bagan fame. Sagaing’s status as royal capital lasted only 50 years, and while it was replaced by Inwa (or Ava) in 1364, the crown princes would still reside in Sagaing, and in the 18th century, King Naungdawgyi set up his court in Sagaing during his brief 3-year reign. Today, Sagaing is a spiritual center of Myanmar. The Sitagu International Buddhist Academy was established in 1994. And Sagaing Hill is littered with big and small pagodas as well as caves used by the monks as dwellings and temples.

Notable sites include U Min Thone Sal, Sone U Pone Nya Shin, Yadanabon Bridge, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Tilawkaguri Cave, and Sagaing Hill.

The “City of Immortality” first became royal capital at the end of the 18th century but a fire in 1810 lead to the relocation of the court to Inwa (Ava). It was briefly used as interim capital after the 1839 earthquake erased Inwa but lost its status in 1859 to the new Gem City at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Brief as Amarapura’s reign as royal capital may have been, the city has left a major impact on Buddhism and politics elsewhere in the world as Sri Lanka’s Amarapura Nikaya was founded in and named after this very place.
Notable sites include: Mahargandaryone monastery, weaving workshops, U Bein Bridge views at sunrise and sunset.

Duration: 12+ hours

Mandalay Private Tour Pricing:

from $159USD per person

Price includes:

  • Air-conditioned private taxi and driver
  • Experienced English-speaking licensed tour guide
  • Entry fees
  • Chilled water all day

Price excludes:

  • Lunch

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