Iconic Myanmar Photo Tour - Inside Access

A. P. Soe, what a star he is… Travelling & photographing the beauty & heritage of his fabulous country with him was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much… Richard Cawthra, UK

luminousjourneys.net-A.P. Soe-alt=photography tour guide

NOTE: Travel tours have been running safely and smoothly in Myanmar's Big 4 destinations since November 2022.  If you have safety questions or ethical concerns please contact us. To check out the latest entertainment and dining options in Yangon, visit the online weekly magazine, Myanmore.com.


Iconic Myanmar - Inside Access is a Luminous Journeys Burma photo tour original. The itinerary not only offers the great photogenic icons of the country, but takes you off the beaten path as much as possible at this time.


The Big 4 Myanmar iconic locations are Yangon’s magnificent 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, (plus fascinating street life); the floating world of magical Inle Lake and its uniquely photogenic Intha fishermen; the 2,220 strong almost surreal temple-scape of ancient Bagan; and many of the numerous impact image making opportunities of the The Mandalay Array. (Mandalay & environs is Steve McCurry’s favorite place in Myanmar to photograph).


“Since attending a Luminous Journeys photo tour in Myanmar with A.P. Soe, I’ve become so passionate about photography that I started traveling more, trying to apply the valuable techniques I learnt during the tour. People who see my photos sometimes ask me if I’m a professional photographer. This is how much AP helped me improve! I am very grateful to AP for that but also for being such a nice person and friend, it really made the photo tour an absolutely memorable experience that I keep building on day after day.”— Eddie Hui-Bon-Hoa, France


Aung Pyae Soe "A.P", is the winner of numerous international photography awards, including garnering the most popular vote at the 2010 Hasselblad Masters. He’s perhaps the most popular photographer in Myanmar, as well as one of the country’s most experienced Burma photo tour leaders. He knows the land, light and people intimately, put’s your image making above his own, and is also great fun to work with! To learn more about A.P. please see his Biography/Gallery and Testimonials. Also check out the Myanmar article and photographs published by Photography Life magazine.



Highlights - Iconic Burma Photo Tour Workshop

The Magnificent 2,500 Year Old Shwedagon

The Mandalay Array – Mingun & The U Bein

Fascinating Monasteries & Nunneries

Magical Inle Lake - Floating Villages & Temples, Intha Fishermen

The Riders & Market Stops of Yangon's  Classic Circle Train

The Padaung (neck ring) Tribal Women

Hot Air Balloon over the Surreal Temple-Scape of Ancient Bagan

Buddha Carvers & a Variety of artisans craftsman & weavers

The Friendliest People on the Planet!

Itinerary Brief

Iconic Burma & The Big 4 


Burma-photo-tour_Shwedagon Pagoda with purple sunset
14. KK Winn - Yangon Train_Myanmar

Day 1 – Yangon –  Spectacular Shwedagon
A Luminous Journeys representative will greet you at the airport whatever day or time you may arrive, no worries! Program begins at 3 pm with a meet & greet, followed by your first photo shoot at Shwedagon Pagoda and a nearby Buddhist monastery. A special Welcome Dinner & slideshow presentation by Aung Pyae Soe finishes the day.

Day 2 – Yangon – Mandalay – Circle Train, Nuns & High Skies
Yangon’s intriguing old Circle Trains, which circumnavigate the city’s rural outskirts, are gradually being replaced. This will be one of the last chances to photograph with these rustic train cars. Stop at a lively rail market, then a novice nunnery w/ girls in ethereal pink robes. Catch an afternoon flight to Mandalay.

3. U Bein Bridge Sunset - Luminous Journeys

Day 3 – Mandalay – Sunrise City, Sunset Bridge
Catch the evocative city sunrise from our hidden monastery location on Mandalay Hill. Mandalay is so rich in photo locations that we cannot possibly shoot them all! Street shoot in the cottage industry area, visit the monastery of the fallen Buddha, plus other locations. Late afternoon drive out to the largest teak structure on the planet,  U Bein Bridge.  We'll take rowboats to get angles from the  water, as well from  land and the bridge itself.

Day 4 - Mingun - Luminous-Journeys.net

Day 4 – Mandalay –  Private River Cruise to Mingun 

Breakfast followed by a private Irrawaddy River cruise to the Mingun Complex. In addition to the massive, earthquake cracked Mingun temple, is the stunning all white temple of Hsinbyume, the 90-ton Mingun Bell & more. In the afternoon hit Buddha Street marble carvers with special access. Tonight will be the Festival of Lights all over the city, known as Thadingyut. It’s a magical atmosphere, and AP will have some superb locations for night street photography.

U Bein Bridge at sunset in 2005 Burma published by National GeographicDay 5 – Mandalay – Lake Inle - Of Buddhas & Fishermen 
This mid-morning photograph the marble carvers of Buddha Street illuminated by dramatic shafts of light and dust. The town of Nyaungshwe (gateway to Inle) is chock full of monasteries & nunneries, as well as excellent restaurants. Late lunch here at an LJ favorite that features delicious home-made rice pasta dishes and a marvelous Inle style avocado salad. After lunch photograph the novice teakwood monastery w/ oval windows, then hit the lake. Sunset shoot w/ Intha fishermen.

Day 7 – Lake Inle – Sunrise Fishermen & Lotus Weavers
Big day today! Position before sunrise to photograph Intha fisherman as the sun breaks over the mountain & across the water to reveal a misty scene that is both peaceful & thrilling. We won’t even get into the velvety light Inle blesses us with on many of these mornings, because we haven’t the superlatives! Breakfast follows before visiting the local crafts people, from lotus weavers to cherrot rollers to  umbrella makers and more.

Myanmar photo workshop with vanishing PadaungDay 9 – Bagan – Hot Air Aerials over 2,220 Ancient Temples 
Steeped in ancient mystique, the 2,220 temples of Bagan are one of the great archaeological sites of the world, & on virtually every travel photographer’s bucket list. Optional aerial shoot from a hot air balloon at sunrise. Those not flying over the ancient temple-scape and Irrawaddy River, will have a great angle on the temples and balloons from the ground. Later you’ll have another new sunset angle, & in between visit magnificent Ananda Pagoda and an orphan monastery.

Bagan temple image published by National GeographicDay 11 – Bagan- Yangon - Gone Baby Shwezigon
Jam packed day of photography and culture, starting with a new sunrise temple location. After breakfast visit Shwezigon Pagoda and it’s hall of pillars where monks enter and exit the pagoda, then shoot scenes inside the pagoda grounds. In the early afternoon visit a nearby nunnery to visit the young ladies in pink robes, and later catch a late afternoon flight back to Yangon.

Girl in Chinatown morning market as a Myanmar photo tour workshop takes placeDay 13 – Yangon Departure
According to your individual departure time, you’ll be driven to the airport and bid a fond farewell. You’ll miss this place, but fortunately you’ll have unforgettable memories that will continue to resonate for a very long time. Not to mention a slew of great new images to show off!

Day 6 – Lake Inle – A Day on the Lake   
“Sail” in longtail boats to Indein village, home of Inle’s largest 5-day market, which draws various tribes from the surrounding hills. Free shoot the market & then w/ local monks at the nearby temple ruins of Nyaung Oak. On return visit the Padaung for a “studio” portrait and environmental portrait session. The Padaung are Myanmar’s most distinctive vanishing tribe, by virtue of the many brass rings worn around the necks of females.

Day 8 – Inle Lake – Bagan - Relax & Fly into the Surreal
A perfect  morning to  sleep in if you so choose, and enjoy a late breakfast before heading back across the lake to Nyuangshwe and the airport beyond. The flight into one of the greateast archaeological sites in the world on the banks of the legendary Irrawaddy River,  is only a short one. This afternoon will  be your first templescape shoot.

Day 10 – Bagan – Novices & Panoramas 
Temple interiors w/ novice monks & chiaroscuro light. After lunch visit the second holiest pilgrimage site in Myanmar, the bizarrely gold encrusted Mahamuni Buddha, to which you can add more gold “crust” if you so desire.  This Buddha was part of the spoils of war when the Bamar army sacked Mrauk U in 1784, and ended the Arakan Empire. Afternoon sunset temple panoramas from a secret  monastery location  unknown to tourists.

Day 12 – Yangon –  Chinatown  + Shopapalooza 
After the best buffet breakfast in Yangon, grab your gear & set out for a final street shoot in the lively & exotic Chinatown morning market. Your day is then free for image review w/ AP, shopping at the 2000 shops of Scott Market near the hotel, or lounge by the pool. You will have earned it! Special Farewell Dinner tonight, w/ spectacular views over the city.

young monk praying taken on best photo tour in Myanmar

*Please note the above itinerary is only a brief. A 30+ page detailed schedule and information kit concerning traveling for photography in Myanmar will be sent to all participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.

What’s Included in the Price of Your Myanmar Photo Tour?


 Photographer fees and top English speaking guide

 All accommodation

 In-country flights, airport & ground transport

  All meals from Day 1 dinner through Day 13 breakfast

 Pleanty of bottled water & refresh towels throughout

 All entrance, zone and camera fees

 Local model, village, monsastery donations


 International airfare

 Drinks @ lunches & dinners

 Any personal purchases

 Trip cancellation or medical insurance

 Medical expenses

 Gratuities for hotel porters, local guide & drivers

  Myanmar visa fee

 End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leader

Getting Cultural

More Knowledge – Better Pictures


Uniquely Burma – Thanaka

Thanaka paste, made from the fragrant Thanaka tree, has been used in Myanmar for more than 2,000 years . The little girl shown on the left has gone a bit over the top with her Thanaka, which is worn daily by a majority of Myanmar women and children, but less so by men. The most popular varieties are grown in the Sagaing (Shwebo) and Magway (Shinmadaung) regions.

The paste is considered a fashion statement by many, and also serves as a natural sunscreen, skin cooler, and is also believed to help in the mitigation of acne. It comes in many personalized designs, the most common being circular patches on each cheek and a line down the bridge of the nose.

Other styles range from well-drawn Bodhi leaves on both cheeks to Mickey Mouse to heavy duty smear jobs. It is sometimes applied to all exposed skin, head to toe. In Burmese this is called thanaka chi zoun gaung zoun

Most Buddhist Nation on Earth

More than any other mostly Buddhist country in the world, Myanmar wears its religion on its sleeve, so to speak. 89% of the country is Buddhist. Red or maroon robed monks are seen everywhere you go, from morning alms rounds on the streets to visiting a mobile phone shop. Pink robed nuns operate in a more limited but similar fashion as monks, and their numbers are considerably fewer. Photographically, the unique pink in the right light makes for some lovely, ethereal images.

The monastery system dates back to the 11th century, and is central to Burmese life. Monasteries and nunneries are supported by the local community. In return, the monastery is always there in various ways to help support the community. They provide Buddhist education, council, ceremonial services, physical labor for community projects, shelter, and even permanent residence for the elderly or orphaned.