The name Irrawaddy is believed to derive from the Sanskrit term “airavati,” meaning “elephant river.”
Running 1,350 miles from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, the Irrawaddy is Myanmar’s principal river and its commercial and spiritual heart. Kipling called it “The Road to Mandalay,” and a cruise along its serene waters rewards the traveler with a land like no other: sensual, spiritual, spellbinding.
In a place few foreigners have ever gone, the Irrawaddy offers the ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma: Bagan, the country’s spiritual heart, where ancient monarchs erected more than 4,000 temples across a 20-square-mile plain, thousands of which still stand as ghostly sentinels of a mighty past; Mandalay, the former royal capital, its waterfront a picture-perfect Southeast Asian trading post; and Yangon, a magical city of gilded temples, stupas, and statues, air perfumed with incense, and monks and pilgrims chanting and making offerings of flowers and fruit.
As more and more Westerners discover its charms, there are an increasing number of cruise operators offering trips along the mighty Irrawaddy. Cruises range from short 3- and 4-day trips to longer voyages up to 11 days, with vessels ranging from ultra-luxury to traditional Burmese style.