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Impressions of Burma itinerary

 

Day 1: Yangon
Min Gala Ba! Welcome to Burma (Myanmar).

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.

You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Formerly named Rangoon, Yangon is the country's biggest city and was the capital from 1885, when the British conquered the north and the kingdom of Mandalay, until just a few years ago when the government moved the capital to Naypyidaw.

To get your bearings and a taste of this wonderful city, take a walk to Sule Paya, then perhaps down to the Victorian Strand Hotel to admire both the colonial architecture and the bargaining madness of Bogyoke Market. Or sample some of the great Indian food on offer.

Day 2: Yangon/Mandalay

This morning we set off for one of the great sites of Rangoon, indeed Burma, if not the world! The extraordinary Shwedagon Pagoda and its surrounding temples and edifices dominate all and provide an extraordinary mix of monks and pilgrims and worshippers and tourists. We will spend some time walking around the complex, learning of its history and spiritual devotions, and experiencing the ambience of this extraordinary place.

We then leave mid-morning for the airport (seeing a bit more of Rangoon along the way). At the airport your tour leader will coordinate the check-in for your flight to Mandalay, using a private airline. Flight time is usually a little over an hour and after landing it is a drive of about 45 minutes to the city and your hotel for the next three nights. The rest of the afternoon is free – you might enjoy a walk to one of the markets, where a great time can be had enjoying the hustle and bustle, taking photos or bargaining for local wares.

 

Day 3: Mandalay

We make our way down to the city’s lively waterfront which offers an interesting backdrop as we take a boat trip up-river to Mingun - the site of the world's largest pagoda (albeit unfinished!), the world’s largest unbroken bell, and temples dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. The river is effectively a major trading, communication and commuting highway and a wide range of different boats, barges and steamers can be viewed along the way. We return to Mandalay late morning: this city was a former capital of Burma; however the surrounding countryside contains many towns that could lay claim to that same title at some stage or another in the past. Later in the afternoon we embark on a tour visiting the remnants of one of these once-great cities, Amarapura. Weather permitting, we may also view a spectacular sunset over the 200-year-old, two-kilometre-long, U Bein wooden bridge, either from land or by boat.

This evening you may wish to dine at your hotel, or your tour leader will be able to recommend any one of a number of good local restaurants: the choice of meals and good places to eat is extensive throughout this trip.

 

Day 4: Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin)/Mandalay

After a drive up into the hills, Burma's most famous hill station, Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin), provides an escape from the heat of the plains. Established during the colonial era back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is today a crossroad for traders coming over from China and this is reflected in its colourful market.

Take time to explore surroundings in a local horse-drawn carriage called a 'myin-lay'. English-style country mansions and Chinese temples dot the hillsides in a place rightly called the 'vegetable garden' of Burma. Later, we return to Mandalay where the rest of the day is spent visiting various temples, including Kuthodaw Pagoda that claims to house the world's largest 'book'.

Time permitting, it was once a challenging walk up Mandalay Hill (236 metres), but these days, if in operation, a series of large escalators will do most of the work for you on the way up!! If conditions oblige, the sunset views from the summit can be impressive and along the way there are many shrines of religious significance.

 

Day 5 & 6: Bagan

We depart early from our hotel for the waterfront to spend to an entire day on a ferry boat as we cruise down the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River.

Note: (Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels and ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible that some services may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Bagan. There will be no extra cost for this flight).

Along the way, we witness the idyllic way of life that epitomises parts of rural Burma in the form of the small fishing villages that lie along the riverbanks. And we pass dozens of boats of different size and utility, testament to the role which this mighty river plays in the life of so many.

There is a restaurant on board our ferry, and meals and drinks are readily available for purchase during the day. In the evening we arrive in Pagan (Bagan), one of the most impressive archaeological wonders of Asia, and are met and driven to our hotel. (Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels and ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible that some services may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Bagan. There will be no extra cost for this flight).

The sights of Bagan are explored from dawn to dusk. Nyaung U's lively market contrasts with the eerie silence of the plains littered with over 4000 structures, including Gawdawpalin, Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon - all names of temples and pagodas that bear testament to a glorious past. The area is also famous for producing lacquer-ware and sand-paintings that is available in the stalls amidst the ruins.

There is also a chance to do some of our exploration by horse and cart. Weather permitting, we may enjoy a breath-taking sunset view from one of the ruins.

 

Day 7: Day trip to Mt Popa/Bagan

Today we drive for an hour before arriving at Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that is home to the local spirits or deities known as 'nats'. For the energetic, there is a chance to climb the 777 steps to the shrine at the top of the hill. Returning to Pagan, we visit a local village to observe the lifestyle of the people and talk with some of the villagers. The afternoon is free to further explore this amazing area. You may hire a bicycle or take a horse carriage and enjoy your own exploration of the archaeological sites. This evening we return to Bagan for our last night.

 

Day 8: Flight to Heho, Inle Lake

We board a plane and fly to Heho, which is situated in the Shan Plateau. From here, we drive through picturesque countryside and rolling hills to our final destination, Khaungdaing, situated on Inle Lake not far from the main township, Nyaungshwe. This afternoon you may like to rent a canoe (for about one hour) and row in to Lin Kin village, famous for its floating garden in the lake. On our way back we may stop over at some of the village houses to see the process of making traditional snacks (optional and at extra cost). You will notice that the weather is rather cooler due to the high altitude.
 

Day 9: Inle Lake Boat Trip
A full day is spent on the lake exploring the floating gardens and catching a glimpse of the local Intha fishermen who are famous for their unique 'leg-rowing' technique. These people are different from the Shans and they originate from the south of the country. The lake is also home to a wide array of bird-life including egrets, cranes, ducks, storks and birds of prey. Visits may be made to some of the local villages and our stay may coincide with one of the market days: always exciting with much of the commuting being done by local people using the ubiquitous long-tail boats.
 

Day 10: Short Trek
After breakfast at our hotel we transfer to Indein ruins complex (about 45 minutes by long-tail boat). On disembarking we find a pagoda and stupas built in the 8th century. We can also enjoy browsing through the rows of shops along the corridor uphill or just marvel at the surroundings. After spending some time we will start our walk towards to Yankin, Pa O and Taung Yoe tribe village (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes).

Along the way we explore the mystery of more than 300 ancient stupas around the village and then continue towards (1 km, approx 30 minutes) to a Buddhist monastery and head north to Naydaw (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes) to Taung Yoe ethnic tribe village through farm land and bamboo forest. From here turn to South-West (5 km, approx 3 hours) through the valley ups and downs to west Taung Mauk, Pa O village from here another 20 minute walk would get you to east Taung Mauk village. Finally we turn east through valley to Indein (3 km, approx 45 minutes) where we will meet our boat and return back to hotel. This evening we enjoy a traditional Shan dinner and get to sample some of the local style culinary specialties.

Note: the amount of walking advisable today will depend on individual and group fitness and wishes, and also the time of year.
 

Day 11: Fly to Yangon, Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock)
We transfer to Heho Airport for the flight back to Rangoon in the morning, on arrival you will be met and drive for the 5 hour (approx.) transfer to Kyaikthiyo. One of Myanmar’s major landmarks, famous for its precarious position and religious importance, Kyaikthiyo the “Golden Rock” is a huge boulder completely covered by gold leaf and delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff.

We arrive at the base camp of Kinpun and continue up to the Golden Rock by open truck, about an hour’s mountain drive. A further light trek to the summit we will have time to have enjoy the sunset from the top of the hill. Descending back down, we spend the night at our hotel in Kyaikhtiyo.

 

Day 12: Yangon
After breakfast this morning, we walk for 30mins to reach Kyee Kan Pa Sat (Crow's mouth Cave); an important place of worship for the local people. On the way we will pass by some local handicraft stalls selling local produce.

Midmorning we will return Yangon via Bago through rice fields and small towns. When we arrive in Bago we will visit the local market, Kanbawza Thardi Palace built by King Bayinnaung, the Kalayani Sima (Ordination Hall), Shwemawdaw Pagoda, and Shwethalyaung Pagoda - home to what many say is the world’s most beautiful reclining Buddha. We then return to Yangon.

The rest of the afternoon is free in Rangoon and you can visit Sule Pagoda, which marks the centre of town and the nearby Bogyoke (Scott) Market that sells a wide array of local goods and handicrafts. There is also time explore a fascinating city full of dilapidated colonial edifices, to perhaps take High Tea at the historic colonial hotel, The Strand, and take a stroll through vibrant Chinatown market area as the afternoon cools (these are optional excursions and at your own expense).

 

Day 13: Yangon
The tour ends after breakfast, and you are free to depart at any time, or spend longer in Yangon at your own expense.

 

Please note: One of the main things about the trips that I run is flexibility.This is especially needed in Burma, where flights and sometimes even hotel arrangements can change at short notice. We will do our best to achieve everything on the itinerary, but it is important to realise that mass travel in Burma is in its infancy and so changes can occur.

Printable version of itinerary

Land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, who have many years experience in running small group adventures.

Bookings are made through the Intrepid Private Groups in the UK not the Intrepid website or Stores. Use this link for more information

Included in the trip price

9 nights hotel or riad accommodation

1 night in desert camp

• 1 night in guesthouse

• 8 breakfasts

2 dinners

All transport as per itinerary

• Todra Gorge 4WD safari

• Camel ride to desert camp

Walking tour of Marrakech

Taxi to main square & dinner

Transport to Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens entrance

Cooking class, Ait Benhaddou

• Essaouria walking tour

• Pre-trip Facebook group

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic tuition

Impressions of Morocco itinerary

 

Day 1: Travel day/Arrival in Ouarzazate
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.

Our adventure officially starts in the desert town of Ouarzazate. but the official group flight is the Easyjet flight to Marrakech from London Gatwick, which arrives on the morning of the 12 April. We will be met from the airport, and transferred to Ouarzazate by private bus. The cost for this has been built into the airfare if bought from Intrepid (which is currently a shade under 260 including booking fee, transfer and baggage costs). If buying separately transfer cost will be 15.

Our drive takes us across the atmospheric 2260 metre Tizi n'Tichka Pass, and through some stunning scenery.

Hotel: 1 night, breakfast included

Day 2: Erg Chebbi

Welcome meeting in the hotel reception at 9 am. This morning you will explore the town of Ouarzazate and visit the hundred year old Taourirt Kasbah. A potent symbol of the Glaoui clan’s power, the kasbah gives a glimpse of how these feudal lords lived. You will then have the chance to buy an essential piece of desert kit – a shesh. This is a long piece of cloth a bit like a scarf that is wrapped around the head to keep the sun off and the loose end can be pulled across the face to keep out the sand.

Take a stunning drive towards the mighty Sahara Desert (approx 7hrs). We have many opportunities to stop and admire and take photos of the panoramic views of the Kasbahs and palmeries (valleys lush with date palms, fields and orchards) en route, since we have the convenience of our own private minivan (there are not many options for public transport in these parts). We can pause in some of the frontier towns such as Erfoud and Rissani before we reach the end of the road and the small Saharan settlement of Merzouga.

We'll store our main baggage before saddling up our day packs and mounting camels to head off into the sunset for a memorable night in our Sahara camp (approx 1 hour each way).

The Erg Chebbi dunes are the most stunning in the country and an experience essential of any visit to Morocco. An erg is a vast sea of shifting wind-swept sand that's formed into picturesque undulating crests and valleys, and the Erg Chebbi is one of the world's classic landscapes of towering dunes, up to heights of over 150 metres. Located at the end of the sealed road and just 20 kilometres from the Algerian border this is wonderful frontier country.

The camp is a simple affair with bedding and basic toilet facilities provided. Our local friends will prepare a hearty feast so all you need to do is soak up the experience. Our camp does provide blankets which are sufficient for most travellers between April and October.

In the night we will have our first chance to photograph star trails, at our desert camp.

Optional lunch in Tinghir.

Included Activities

• Camel ride in desert

• Dinner at camp

• 4WD to camp

Accommodation: Desert camp (1 night) No single supplement is available for this night stop

 

Day 3: Dades Gorge

For the early risers the morning begins with a sunrise over the majestic dunes before breakfast. It's another classic drive with dramatic changes of landscape to Dades Gorge (approx 4 hrs).

Stop en route in a small town called Tinejdad (approx 2 hrs from the desert) and where we have the option to visit the interesting Museum El Khorbat, which has a great collection of rural and historical Berber artefacts, clothing, jewellery and tools. It's housed in three restored homes of a Ksar and provides a wealth of information about Berber people living in the area.

After lunch, we head to our hotel in the Dades area that has a very pleasant pool. After two long driving days the group can relax and take the afternoon off.

Flanked on both sides by high limestone cliffs, Dades Valley features bizarre rock formations with picturesque kasbahs dotted amongst the crops and palms.

Accommodation: Hotel (2 nights)

 

Day 4: 4WD safari to Todra Gorge

After two long driving days we have a day with very little driving as we stay local and explore the equally spectacular Dades Gorge. We travel by 4 wheel drive on this excursion (please note that if conditions are very wet it is too dangerous due to flash flooding, if this is the case we will use the main highway instead.

Todra Gorge is a spectacular canyon with sheer rock walls up to 300 m high, now gaining fame as a rock-climbing destination. We plan to have a meal in a guesthouse in Todra, and also have the time to explore the Palmeries in the verdant lower gorge, before returning to our hotel in the Dades Gorge for the night.

 

Day 5: Ait Benhaddhou

Say goodbye to the Gorges region and travel further south towards Ait Benhaddou (approx 3 hrs). This scenic drive offers a glimpse of times gone by via the ruins of ancient kasbahs, former colonial military outposts, austere mountains, wide-open spaces, and valleys of palm trees and irrigated fields. En route we can pause for lunch in Ouarzazate.

The film capital of Morocco, Ouarzazate is the location where productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Black Hawk Down were filmed.

Time permitting, you can take an optional tour of the Atlas Movie Studios.

We also have the chance to make a short visit to Project Handicapped Horizon, an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation, health and empowerment of people with disabilities. Some of the amazing services they provide include the building and fitting of prosthetic limbs, custom-made wheelchairs, and physio and social therapy for sufferers of accidents and illness. They also operate an artisans workshop which trains local people in trades such as pottery, weaving, metal work and jewellery making. This is a wonderful visit and we're very proud to support this project through The Intrepid Foundation.

Centuries ago, Ait Benhaddou was an important stop for the caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today, its grand kasbah is still one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco and a World Heritage site. This fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture and is also famous for its role on the silver screen, featuring in numerous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.

This evening will be our second chance to practice shooting star-trails - from the roof of our guesthouse!

Included Activities

• Cooking class and dinner

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 night) No single supplement is available for this night stop

 

Day 6: Taroudant

Rejoin our minivan and continue towards Taroudant (approx 5 hrs). This drive takes us through more superb desert scenery and along a route that's a reserve for the indigenous argan trees - if we're lucky we might come across the famous image of goats climbing these trees in search of their tasty nuts.

Please note that this is a long travel day and we won't arrive at our accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. Our riad is centrally located which will allow us to walk around the atmospheric main square of the town, which comes along as the heat of the sun starts to fade away.

Accommodation: Central Riad (1 night)

 

Day 7: Drive to Essaouria

In the morning we will have time to explore Taroudant before continuing on to Essaouira on the coast. Taroudant is a vibrant market town located in the fertile Souss plains. With an energetic, bustling city centre this is a great opportunity to see an untouched traditional Berber lifestyle. The souqs of the medina teem with sights, sound and colour, with terrific bargains to be found.

We leave the valleys of the magical High Atlas Mountains behind and head towards the windswept Atlantic Coast and Essaouira (approx 4.5 hrs), we will use the coastal road with a brief stop in Agadir en-route.

Accommodation: Central riad (2 nights)


Day 8: Essaouria

The name Essaouira means image, which is appropriate since it's such a picturesque town. Its charm is undeniable - within the stone ramparts you'll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laid-back artists' town is a former Portuguese trading colony and was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. The town faces a group of rocky islands - called the Mogador - and is surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes.

It's still a busy fishing port and it’s pretty harbour is filled with tiny colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day's catch. Visitors who have been seduced by its charms include Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. More recently, filmmaker Ridley Scott chose the ramparts as an important location for his film, Kingdom of Heaven.

Join our local guide for a walking tour through the old Medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall). You have some free time to soak up the romantic ambience.

Everything in the small centre is within walking distance and the beach is clean. Wander the harbour and its adjacent fish markets where you can witness the daily auction. A freshly-cooked plate of the day's catch is highly recommended. Browse the plentiful shops and intriguing art galleries that make this little town a particularly pleasant place to unwind for a few days. It has a growing reputation for its unique art and is becoming even more famous for its burled Thuya wood - delicately formed and inlaid in tiny shops, which are built into the thick walls of the Portuguese ramparts. The scent from the oils used to polish the richly coloured wood permeates the air and makes walking down the streets incredibly pleasant.

Essaouira is a world-famous windsurfing destination. Give it go or you may like to try your hand at the increasingly popular sport of kite surfing.

Don't miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local-style bath to be spoilt with a good scrub, a mud pack and a relaxing massage with argan oil.

Included Activities

• Walking tour
 

Day 9: Travel to Marrakech
On day 9 the morning is free for further exploration around Essaouria. In the early afternoon we will catch a comfortable local bus to Marrakech (approx 3 hrs), where we will check in to our riad.
 

Day 10 & 11: Marrakech
Even today, the name conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything from the graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, which dominates the skyline, to the wonderful throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair in the great open square, the Djemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the medina.

We have two days to explore and photograph this famous city. On day 10 a 2 hour guided tour is included. This will take us down to the leather pits, where leather is cured and dyed in the traditional way, as it has been for generations.

 

Day 12: Tour ends
The tour ends after breakfast, and you are free to leave at any time, or contact Intrepid to arrange an extra night or two in this fascinating and entrancing city.

 

Notes on the tour

Itinerary:
Any tour is a balance between seeing as much as possible, and also having enough time to explore and take pictures. I believe that we have struck the best balance with this itinerary. There are many times where we will have free time, so you are free to explore and photograph on your own. I try to keep compulsory sunrises to a minimum, but there will be plenty of chances for those who are keen to make an early start!

I have tried to ensure that we manage to have the chance of a sunrise or sunset in all of the most important places, but sometimes we will have to photograph things during the day - at the wrong times. This is mainly the case when we are in transit. This is just a part of trying to see so much: if we were to photograph everything at the optimum times, then the trip would have to be about three or four times longer!
 

Portraits in Morocco:
It is worth bearing in mind that Morocco is not as easy a place to shoot portraits as it used to be. People can be quite paranoid about being photographed - especially if you don't ask permission. You are advised not to try to 'steal' pictures and to ask people. Not only is this a courtesy, that I believe will help you to secure better, more engaged pictures, it can avoid unpleasantness.

It is perfectly possible to shoot some amazing portraits in Morocco, and I will be on hand to advise as to when and how to ask. Very soon in the trip, I will hold an illustrated talk showing my technique for approaching people and how to get the best shots.

 

Tuition:
Throughout the trip I will hold a series of illustrated talks and group review sessions to try to help people to learn as much as possible on the trip, and also to come away with the best pictures possible. We will have some group sessions - notably on exposure and also on shooting star trails. I am always available if anyone has a question about photography and am always happy to look at pictures if you want a personal review. Please be aware that you will generally get out of this trip what you are prepared to put into it, especially with the review sessions.

 

Single supplement:
The single supplement is not available in the Ait Benhaddhou guesthouse, or in the desert camp. This means that people will have to share a room on these nights. Please also note that sometimes the single rooms are smaller than double rooms - especially in riads when many of the rooms will vary in size and quality. In general, we will try to balance everything out wherever possible, but sometimes the best rooms in the riads have double beds: twin and single rooms might not be as luxurious.

Printable version of itinerary

Included in the trip price

11 nights hotel/guesthouse accommodation

9 breakfasts & 1 dinner

All transport as per itinerary

• Bucharest guided walking tour

• Bucharest Parliament entry

Museum of Romanian Peasant

• Tsarevets Fortress entrance

Sofia orientation walk

• Rila Monastery entrance

• Belitsa Bear Sanctuary

• Plovdiv guided walk

• Roman amphitheatre entrance

• Pre-trip Facebook group to meet other group members

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic tuition

Impressions of Eastern Europe itinerary

 

Day 1-2: Bucharest
Alo! Welcome to Romania

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

A place of mythic legends and dark tales, modern-day Romania impresses with its fine collection of ancient monasteries, age-old churches and character-filled castles. But it's the unexpected delights that also shine bright. Majestic mountains, forests made for hiking, a sophisticated capital brimming with architectural beauty and chic coastal resorts ensure Romania has plenty of aces up its sleeve.

Free from the shackles of the Cold War-era, Eastern Europe is overflowing with unique, elegant cities and societies with a storied past and a bright future. From the ornate to the medieval, the romantic to the bizarre, Eastern Europe is a buzzing hive of art and culture that is sure to impress.

Bucharest, Romania's beautiful capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its enormous Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world.

Take a guided tour of Romania's beautiful capital city. Bucharest likes big things and we'll stop by the huge Piata Unirii, one of Europe's largest squares. Also see the 'Ceausima', the enormous 12-storey Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world (behind the Pentagon).

Included Activities

Bucharest - Guided walking tour
Parliament entry
Museum of the Romanian Peasant

 

Day 3-4: Veliko Tarnovo
Today it is time to bid farewell to Romania and catch a train to the border. As you cross the majestic Danube river, you are entering Bulgaria. Once the border formalities are completed at Ruse, you will head to the town of Veliko Tarnovo. Once the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, it now is a picturesque town, set against the dramatic backdrop of the surrounding mountains.

The most famous sight of the town is Tsarevets Fortress, situated on a hill on the edge of the town. There is evidence of human presence since the 2nd millennium BC, but really become prominent during the reign of the Asens.

Included activities:
• Tsarevets Entrance
• Orientation Walk (leader led)

 

Day 5: Sofia
Leaving the scenic mountains behind, we will travel to Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Sofia is an ever-growing and cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks.

Enjoy a walk through the city and pass some of its most striking buildings, perhaps none more impressive than the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church which dates back to 1912 and was built as a memorial to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgarian independence during the Russo-Turkey war (1877-1878).

Other impressive buildings include St Nikolai Russian Church, Sveta Nedelya Cathedral and Banya Bashi Mosque, a reminder of years of Turkish rule. At night, the city comes alive with interesting bars and nightclubs.

Included Activities:
• Sofia Orientation Walk (leader led)

 

Day 6: Gorno Draglishte
Take a short bus ride to Rila, to explore the most important of the orthodox monasteries in Bulgaria. This World Heritage-listed site is the largest, holiest and most impressive of Bulgaria's monasteries, hidden away in a narrow and forested valley. Founded in 927 by Ivan Rilski, a leader of a monastic colony of hermits, the monastery helped keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during centuries of Turkish rule. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century.

Transfer to the small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte. The small mountain village of Gorno Draglishte is home to a delightful community of warm and welcoming people, a rich cultural heritage and delicious home-cooked food.

Stay at our local friend's guesthouse. Here we have the chance to learn all about traditional weaving. Our guesthouse accommodation is simple and not all rooms have en suite, but the atmosphere is welcoming and warm and experience Bulgarian cuisine for dinner.

Included Activities
• Gorno Draglishte - Rila Monastery

 

Day 7-8: Bansko
Travel to the small town of Bansko.

Set at the bottom of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments and many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming 'mehanes' (taverns).

In the evening, we have an opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try some filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), and wash it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).

And if you have the time, you could stretch your legs with a hike up the mountains, home to some crystal-clear lakes, jagged peaks and pine-forested alpine scenery.

Included Activities:
Belitsa Bear Sanctuary

 

Day 9: Plovdiv
Travel by private transport from Bankso to Plovdiv (approx 3hrs30mins).

Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. A picturesque town with many parks, gardens, museums and archaeological monuments, its Old Town features many 18th and 19th-century baroque houses dating from the national revival period. These charming homes sit alongside museums, mosques, galleries and Byzantine ruins.

Join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the history of this fascinating town. The most remarkable sight is the magnificent ancient Roman amphitheatre. Built during the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6000 people. From here, wander up the cobblestone street to the site of Nebet Tepe, a former hilltop fortress, for excellent views of the city before heading downhill to the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today.

Be sure to take the time to wander about the workshops of the traditional masters of old Bulgarian arts and crafts on Strumna Street - coppersmiths, farriers and potters are all represented.

Included Activities:
Plovdiv - Guided tour Optional Activities

 

Days 10-12: Istanbul:
Travel by private bus to Istanbul from Plovdiv (7hrs). On the way we will stop at Bachkovo monastery where you will be able to visit the famous dining room as well.

You will cross the border into Turkey while travelling from Plovdiv by bus. All travellers travelling to Turkey need to obtain an e-visa before you arrival. All the information required about the e-visa can be found in the following link: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.

The wonderful city of Istanbul has an incredibly rich history, amazing array of architectural styles, a delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, fascinating culture and oodles of style. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

If you would like to stay longer in Istanbul there are plenty more things to see and do. Don't miss the superb Aya Sofia, the home of beautiful mosaics and an incredible reminder of the city that was once Constantinople. Visit the Archaeology Museum, which contains an incredible array of ancient exhibits - of particular interest are the artefacts from infamous Troy. Head down to the Bosphorus and grab a fresh fish roll for lunch. You could travel over to the stylish Taksim Square area and stroll along the main street with the local hipsters. Visit the atmospheric underground Cistern, a vast underwater storage tank built in 532 AD. If all of this makes you a little tired, then an hour or two spent in a hamam (Turkish bath) will leave you rejuvenated at the end of your journey.

Printable version of itinerary

This tour is organised and led by Steve Davey | The land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, but the tours don't appear on the Intrepid Travel website | The only way to book is through this site!

Highlights of this trip

• Japan's Red Leaf Season

• Historic Kyoto

• Fushimi Inari Shrine

Tsukiji Outer Market, Tokyo

Itsukushima torii gate

• Okunoin cemetery, Mt. Koya

• Japanese food & culture

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Impressions of
Japan Itinerary

Day 1: Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto
Day 3: Osaka
Day 4: Mount Koya
Day 5: Hiroshima
Day 6: Hiroshima
Day 7: Tsumago
Day 8: Matsumoto
Day 9: Lake Yamanaka
Day 10: Tokyo
Day 11: Tokyo
Day 12: Tokyo
Day 13: Tour ends

Included in the trip price

10 nights hotel accommodation

• 1 night Ryokan accommodation

• 1 night Monastery accomm.

All transport as per itinerary

• 11 breakfasts & 4 dinners

• 7-day JR Rail Pass

• Kyoto walking tour

• Nara Park & Todaiji Park

• Mount Koya cemetery tour

• Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park

• Miyajima day trip

• Matsumoto Castle

• Yamanaka sunrise/sunset drives

Roppongi Hills Observation Deck

• Tokyo walking tours

• Entrances as per itinerary

• Pre-trip Facebook group

• Experienced Intrepid leader

Expert photographic advice

Website, Images and text Steve Davey/stevedavey.com 1990 - 2019

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Contact us &

D815251This tour is led by Jamie Marshall - a professional photographer, based in Brighton. Jamie has spent the past 30 years pursuing a career in photography that has taken him to some of the highest, lowest, driest, hottest, wettest and wildest parts of the globe, photographing for travel guidebooks and major magazine and newspaper publishers.

Click for here for more information.

Land arrangements are sub-contracted to Intrepid Travel, who have many years experience in running small group adventures.

Bookings are made through the Intrepid Special Groups Dept. in the UK not the Intrepid website or agents. Use this link for more information

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Starts: 15 Nov. 2019
Ends: 27 Nov. 2019

Code: IOJ19

Price: From 3950 pp
excl. flights, based on

Min 10, max 12 people
Places available: 12
Trip is to be confirmed.

 

Optional single supplement: 1295
 

Estimated current
flight cost 650 - 750

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Impressions of Japan itinerary

 

Day 01 : Arrival in Kyoto
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Kyoto, Japan.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5pm today (or as scheduled depending on flight arrival). We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you have some free time, step out onto the streets for your first taste of this beautiful city. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquillity and peace capital”) by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means “Capital City”) but the emperor and government are now based in Tokyo.

After the meeting tonight, we’ll be heading out for an orientation walk around the immediate area of the hotel and optional dinner (own expense). As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the centre of Japanese culinary tradition, so you’re sure to begin this trip with some delicious food.
 

Photographic themes:
Food, cityscapes

Methods of transportation:
Within Kyoto area: local bus and subway, walking

Included Activities:
Welcome meeting and orientation walk around the immediate area of the hotel

Accommodation:
Karasuma Kyoto Hotel or similar – https://www.hotel.kyoto.e.adw.hp.transer.com/karasuma/

 

Day 2: Kyoto
Today we get up early in the morning and try to beat the crowds. We visit Kyoto’s famed Fushimi Inari Shrine - known throughout the world as the ‘Path of the Red Gates.’ Take time to appreciate the quieter corners of the shrine, and if you are feeling fit a walk up the mountain to the half way point, the spot provides stunning city views.

Afterwards, we will check out the Arashiyama area. Arashiyama is a pleasant district on the outskirts of Kyoto. The bamboo forest is one of the most photographed sights in the city, and you'll see why. It's like stepping into another dimension. Depending on our time schedule at Arashiyama, guests will have the option to visit the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple (entry fee at own expense), founded by Empress Shōtoku in the middle of the eighth century. Though it was destroyed by the flooding of the Kamo River, it was rebuilt as an offshoot of Enryaku-ji, a nearby temple. In the 13th century, it was again destroyed during a civil war. The temple was moved to its current location in 1922, later suffering typhoon damage in 1950. There are also other famous temples which you may like to visit in the area, such as Tenryu-ji Temple which has a beautiful landscape garden featuring a pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains as backdrop.

This evening, we take a step back in time on a walk through the narrow streets of Kyoto's charming Gion district, an entertainment district that’s the centre of geisha culture in Kyoto. If you’re lucky you might spot geikos (geishas) or maikos (apprentice geishas) in their elaborate dress and make-up.

• Please note that photography is restricted in parts of the Gion district, including taking photos of geisha. Our tour leader will fully brief on what is possible and not on this day.
 

Photographic themes:
Temples and shrines, nature, people

Methods of transportation:
Within Kyoto area: Bus, train and subway, walking

Included Activities:
Kyoto –
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Kyoto – Arashiyama sightseeing
Kyoto – Gion walking tour

Optional Activities:
Tenryuji Temple – JPY 500
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple – JPY 300

Accommodation:
Karasuma Kyoto Hotel or similar – https://www.hotel.kyoto.e.adw.hp.transer.com/karasuma/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 3: Kyoto - Nara - Osaka
Today we will take a day trip to the city of Nara (approximately 1 hour from Kyoto). With eight World Heritage sites, Nara is second only to Kyoto as a fountain of Japan's cultural legacy. While here you’ll visit Todaiji Temple, with friendly wild deer roaming freely in the park around it. You’ll also visit the Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine), Nara's most celebrated shrine. Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. They symbolize a guiding light and the 3,000 Kasuga shrines throughout the country. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, while as many stone lanterns line its approaches. The lanterns are only lit twice a year during two Lantern Festivals, one in early February and one in mid-August.

We will continue our trip and head to Osaka (about 1 hour), Japan’s third-largest city and unofficial culinary capital, where the motto is 'Kuidaore' ('eat until you drop'). You may like to try the famous Japanese snack – takoyaki (a hot snack of shredded octopus, pickled ginger, spring onion, covered in batter) or any of the other tasty street foods on offer

• Today is quite busy in terms of schedule and transfers. To enjoy the most of our time in Nara, we will do quite a bit of walking and a medium level of fitness will be required.

• This morning, your luggage will be transferred from Kyoto to Osaka by an express luggage forwarding service. Please prepare the items you will need for today’s photo shoot and travel in a small bag or backpack.
 

Photographic themes:
Temples and shrines, nature, wildlife, people, trains, food

Methods of transportation:
Nara Park area: Train and public bus, walking
From Nara Park area to Osaka: train and taxi
Osaka area: subway, walking

Included Activities:
Nara – Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Nara – Nara Park
Nara – Todaiji Temple

Optional Activities:
Tenryuji Temple – JPY 500
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple – JPY 300

Accommodation:
Welina Hotel Umeda or similar https://www.welina-hotel.jp/umeda/eng/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 4: Osaka - Mount Koya
Spot the 120 temples dotted around Mount Koya as you take the train (approximately 3.5 hours) into an important region for Shingon Buddhism. Founded in the 8th century by the Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, Mount Koya has been a centre for religious activities for over 1,200 years. The last leg of the journey takes you through some of Japan’s finest scenery, on a mountain road rising through the clouds, 915 meters above sea-level. The most impressive sight on Mount Koya is the massive and mysterious Okunoin cemetery, the resting place of many of Japan's most famous people. Some 200,000 stone statues, wooden totems and sometimes bizarre memorials (a rocket marks the site of a mausoleum interring the workers of an aerospace company) lie throughout this moss-laden forest. After visiting the more interesting of the mountain’s sights, make your way to a comfortable Shukubo temple lodging for the night. Here you might interact with some of the monks that run the lodging and learn about the customs of traditional temple accommodation and enjoy vegetarian Buddhist cuisine.

• To reduce the hassle of carrying your luggage today on your inter-city transfer, this morning your luggage will be sent by forwarding service (one luggage per person) to Hiroshima for arrival tomorrow on Day 5. Please pack an overnight pack for tonight’s stay at Mount Koya. Extra costs will apply for additional luggage.

• There are some restrictions with photography within Okunoin cemetery (generally around the area of the Mausoleum of Kobo Dashi). Your tour leader will indicate tthis on arrival at the cemetery.

• Please note there are no western bathing facilities at the monastery. Instead, bathing is done in a traditional public bath. This is a two-step process. The first step is to thoroughly clean yourself, followed by a cleansing soak in a hot bath. Onsen are communal bathing areas (segregated by gender) and it is not permitted to wear bathing suits. While this can seem intimidating at first, it is a quintessential Japanese experience and often a highlight for travellers in Japan. For those who are more sensitive about public bathing, your leader can suggest the times of day when you are likely to have more privacy.

• Please note the dinner time at the temple is fixed, starting from around 5:30pm. If you need time to take photos around the temple complex, please schedule to do this after dinner.


Photographic themes:
Temples and shrines, nature, trains, food

Methods of transportation:
Kyoto – Mount Koya: Train, subway and cable car
Within Mount Koya Area: Public local bus, walking

Included Activities:
Mount Koya – Temple stay with shojin ryori dinner (vegetarian fare)
Mount Koya - Okunoin cemetery tour

Optional Activities:
Mount Koya - Kongobu-ji Temple - JPY500

Accommodation:
Kumagaiji or similar – http://kumagaiji.jp/jp/index.html

Meal Plan: Breakfast & Dinner

 

Day 5: Mount Koya - Hiroshima
In the early morning at the monastery, guests can witness monks at their early-morning prayers. After breakfast, we return by cable railway to Gokurakubashi and make our way by train to Osaka (approximately 2.5 hours) to board your first super-impressive shinkansen bullet train, heading to Hiroshima (approximately 2.5 hours). Travelling by shinkansen is an absolute buzz, as you’ll reach speeds of up to 270 kmh. As you speed south you’ll stop en route (after approximately 1.5 hours) and pay a visit to Japan’s most impressive samurai castle at Himeji. The building, which has survived earthquakes and war since the mid-16th century, was restored to its full glory in 2015. The moats, baileys, towers and walled alleyways were ingeniously designed to trick attackers – perhaps so intimidatingly that they were never in fact tested. Explore the castle that was once home to over 10,000 samurai families and look out over the grounds and the city below from the seventh floor. Continue to Hiroshima, the city indelibly connected with World War II and the atomic bomb.

Upon check-in at hotel in Hiroshima, we will take a visit at the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome and the Peace Memorial Park, both of which stand testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated so it was able to retain its shape; the fact that it looks almost exactly as it did after the bombing means it serves as a reminder and symbol of peace. The memorial park serves the same purpose with monuments in memory the atomic bomb victims and advocating the world peace. We return to the park tomorrow to visit the sobering but highly educational museum.

• Please note: For those who chose to attend early-morning prayers at the monastery, please note that while photography is allowed any equipment which emits sound is strictly prohibited. Your temple host will explain some of the restrictions at check-in time.


Photographic themes:
Castle, trains, food, war and peace

Methods of transportation:
Mount Koya – Hiroshima: Cable car, subway, bullet train
Hiroshima – Road tram, walking

Included Activities:
Himeji – Himeji Castle
Hiroshima – A-Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park

Accommodation:
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima or similar – http://www.hotelsunroutehiroshima.jp/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 6: Hiroshima
This morning you’ll visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which has collections of items salvaged from the after math of the atomic bomb and various displays showing the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Afterwards, you will head for the serene, enchanting island of Miyajima, reached after a short ferry ride (30 kilometres) across the Inland Sea. The island is home to the venerable Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, famous for its huge bright orange gate (torii) that rises majestically out of the sea. At high tide it is considered to be one of the most beautiful sights in Japan. The size and physical landscape of Miyajima makes it an ideal place for walking. There is the lovely Momiji Park (known as Maple Valley), from where it is possible to take a cable car up to the top of Mt. Misen. We then return to Hiroshima for the night. Maybe try one of the city’s signature dishes for dinner – okonomiyaki, a kind savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat or seafood.


Photographic themes:
War and peace, trams and boats, temples and shrines

Methods of transportation:
Hiroshima to Miyajima – Road tram, ferry, walking

Included Activities:
Hiroshima – Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima – Miyajima day trip
Miyajima – Mt. Misen Ropeway

Optional Activities:
Mount Koya - Kongobu-ji Temple - JPY500

Accommodation:
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima or similar – http://www.hotelsunroutehiroshima.jp

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 7: Hiroshima - Tsumago
This morning, we will leave Hiroshima and jump back onboard the shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya (approximately 3 hours), where you will then change to an express train to Nagiso and continue north to the old medieval village of Tsumago (approximately 75 minutes). Once a post town (where travellers could rest on their journey) during the days of the shogun, Tsumago is the best preserved of the many staging posts along the Nakasendo Highway. Cars are prohibited in the main street and cables run underground to maintain the medieval atmosphere of the town

Upon arrival we will head firstly to our ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) to drop our luggage and then take a private coach to the old town of Magome where we will commence our Nakasendo walk to Tsumago. It’s a well-maintained walkway of 8 kilometres through mountain passes and small villages and it will take approximate 2 to 3 hours. This former Nakasendo Highway along the Kiso Valley used to connect Tokyo with Kyoto during the Edo period (17th-19th centuries).

In tonight’s ryokan, you’ll sleep on futon mattresses spread on tatami mats and will enjoy a traditional dinner cooked in the ryokan – a quintessential Japanese experience!

• To reduce the hassle of carrying your luggage today on your inter-city transfer, this morning your luggage will be sent by forwarding service (one luggage per person) to Matsumoto for arrival tomorrow on Day 8. Please pack an overnight pack for tonight’s stay at Tsumago. Extra costs will apply for additional luggage.

• The accommodation in Tsumago is a family-operated ryokan with limited rooms. Depending on the number of guest and room configurations requested, it may be necessary to split the group into separate ryokan.

• Please note dinner time is fixed at 6pm.


Photographic themes:
Traditional architecture and buildings, nature

Methods of transportation:
Hiroshima – Nagiso Station (the nearest station to Tsumago): Road tram, bullet train, limited express train and local train
Nagiso Station – Magome: Private coach

Included Activities:
Magome/Tsumago – Nakasendo Walk
Tsumago – Ryokan stay

Accommodation:
Hanaya Inn or similar – http://tumago.jp/english/hanaya.html

Meal Plan: Breakfast & Dinner

 

Day 8: Tsumago - Matsumoto
This morning we will visit the Waki-honjin Museum near Tsumago. This was a former rest stop to serve the domain lord’s retainers during the Edo Period. Today this nicely preserved building has turned into a museum presenting interesting displays of the history of the Kiso Valley and Nakasendo Highway.

You’ll then board a train and continue north to the picturesque castle town of Matsumoto (approximately 2 hours). Matsumoto’s atmosphere is surprisingly cosmopolitan, while maintaining its historic charm and tradition. This afternoon you will stroll through the former merchant district of Nakamachi, lined with well-preserved old buildings, where you can find local crafts, treasures and great restaurants. You’ll also have the option of visiting the city’s most famous site, Matsumoto Castle. This regal-looking building has an elegant black roof and walls and is sometimes called the “Crow Castle” due to its resemblance to a bird spreading its wings. As the oldest original castle in the country (dating back to 1592), it’s also one of Japan’s four castles listed as national treasures. You’ll spend the evening here in Matsumoto. Perhaps try the local soba noodles (some of the best in the country) and be sure to get some wasabi-based treats – the pristine waters from the alps make the vegetable grow particularly well here.


Photographic themes:
Traditional architecture and buildings, nature, castle, food

Methods of transportation:
Tsumago - Nagiso Station: Private coach – included in the quote
Nagiso Station – Matsumoto Station: Local and limited express train
Within Matsumoto City area: Public local bus, walking

Included Activities:
Tsumago – Waki-honjin Museum
Matsumoto – Matsumoto Castle

Accommodation:
Alpico Plaza Hotel or similar – http://booking.alpico-plaza-hotel.jp/en-gb

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 9: Matsumoto – Mt. Fuji & Lake Yamanaka
We wake up early today and make our way north-east to the area around Lake Yamanaka. Being one of the Fuji Five Lakes (other lakes are Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Motosu, Lake Sai and Lake Shoji), Lake Yamanaka is the largest lake of the Fuji Five Lakes in terms of surface area. Weather permitting, you may be able to enjoy spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, and ideally, its reflection in the waters of the lake if there is no wind. Mt Fuji at 3776 metres is Japan's highest mountain and was granted World Heritage status in 2013. This almost perfectly shaped volcano has been worshiped as a sacred mountain from the time of Japan’s first inhabitants and has been rendered in paint and ink by artists ever since.

Upon arriving at Lake Yamanaka, we check-in to our hotel and hop onboard a private coach to tour the Lake Yamanaka, stopping for photos at the best sites. The lakeside area around Nagaike and Hirano are the best spots to catch Mt. Fuji and its reflection in the lake, weather dependant of course!

• To reduce the hassle of carrying your luggage today on your inter-city transfer, this morning your luggage will be sent by forwarding service (one luggage per person) to Tokyo for arrival tomorrow on Day 10. Please pack an overnight pack for tonight’s stay at Lake Yamanaka. Extra costs will apply for additional luggage.

• The private coach transfer will start from the hotel at Matsumoto and go directly to the hotel in Lake Yamanaka, only stopping for comfort breaks along the way. Due to the nature of

• Note views of Mt. Fuji are highly dependent on favourable weather conditions. Mt Fuji can be covered in cloud and not clearly visible although Lake Yamanaka is close to Mt. Fuji.


Photographic themes:
Nature, Mount Fuji

Methods of transportation:
Matsumoto – Lake Yamanaka: Private coach
Tour of Lake Yamanaka area – Private coach until 6pm

Included Activities:
Yamanashi – Lake Yamanaka

Accommodation:
Fuji Matsuzono Hotel or similar – http://fujimatsuzono.com

Meal Plan: Breakfast & Dinner

 

Day 10: Lake Yamanaka - Tokyo
Get up early at sunrise to maximize some great photo opportunities! We’ll take our private coach around Lake Yamanaka one more time to catch glimpses of this often-shy mountain before we head towards our final destination Tokyo. We leave our coach at the JR station of Gotemba and then hop on a local train and shinkansen bullet train (about 2 hours) for Tokyo – Japan’s capital and business heart. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore: fascinating museums, world-class shopping, bustling energy and futuristic architecture, as well as a gentler side of neighbourhood backstreets where citizens often reveal themselves – particularly outside of working hours – to be some of the friendliest of any capital city in the world. There are many vestiges of the past, with historic temples and shrines still to be found in some of the most unexpected places, as well as an abundance of parks and gardens.

Tonight, we will visit Roppongi Hills, the highest building in Tokyo. From Roppongi Hills, you can enjoy the spectacular night view over metropolitan Tokyo. If weather conditions permit, you will be able to access the open-air rooftop deck on its highest floors.

• Please note there are some limitations relating to photography within the Roppongi Hills complex and observation deck. Please read thoroughly at the following link: https://art-view.roppongihills.com/en/info/faq/index.html Your leader can update you on the day


Photographic themes:
Nature, city landscapes, people, night time photography

Methods of transportation:
Lake Yamanaka – JR Gotemba Station: Private coach
JR Gotemba Station – Hotel in Tokyo: local train, shinkansen, subway
Eithin Tokyo area – subway, walking

Included Activities:
Photo opportunities at Lake Yamanaka and surrounding area
Tokyo – Roppongi Hills Observation Deck (subject to weather conditions)

Accommodation:
The B Ochinomizu Hotel or similar – https://ochanomizu.theb-hotels.com/en/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 11: Tokyo
Starting from morning, you’ll undertake a varied, full-day tour of the city, beginning in the historic Asakusa area. This is one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo and is often called the temple district. Here you’ll stop by Sensoji, the city’s oldest temple – founded almost 1,400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village. Browse the many interesting stalls – filled with tasty treats, crafts and souvenirs – that line the shopping street of Nakamise dori. Afterwards you’ll enjoy an alternative view of Tokyo as you relax on a short cruise down the Sumida River. You’ll pass significant buildings like the Sky Tree Tower, Asahi Beer Hall with its distinctive roof-top sculpture, the Sumo Stadium and the former Tsukiji Fish Market complex, gliding under bridges that bisect the river before alighting at the delightful urban oasis of the Hama Rikyu gardens. Here you’ll have time to stroll along paths that were once the sole preserve of the shogun, who would hunt ducks here in the feudal era.

You’ll then make a visit to the Tsukiji Outer Market, where fresh seafood from Tokyo's largest fish market (recently relocated to a new site at Toyosu) is delivered daily. You can wander the narrow aisles of this atmospheric marketplace to find all sorts of amazing food - from fish and shellfish to barrels of green tea, dried seaweed and all manner of pickled vegetables. Afterwards, pop into one of the many sushi restaurants nearby for the freshest lunch you could hope for!

In the evening, you will have some free time to explore Tokyo. Perhaps you can head to the luxurious shopping district of Ginza, with its glittering department stores, tiny private galleries and upmarket eateries. You may have a chance to see a short performance of kabuki, one of Japan’s most spectacular performing arts, depending on the theatre schedule. (Pre-booking is strongly recommended for the full performance, or you can line-up on the day for a “one-act” ticket.)

• For those who are keen to get up very early, you may like to observe the tuna auction at Toyosu Fish Market (starts at 5:30am) as an optional experience you arrange yourself. There is a small observation floor located at few metres above the auction floor where guests can experience the auction, however it is limited to 120 persons daily on pre-reservation basis based on lottery drawing system. The auction can also be observed behind glass on the second floor without reservation. Expect challenging conditions for photography as the observation floors can get quite crowded.


Photographic themes:
Markets, food, temples, city landscapes, people

Methods of transportation:
Tokyo – Subway, train, walking

Included Activities:
Tokyo – Asakusa area and Senso-ji Temple
Tokyo – Sumida River Cruise
Tokyo – Hama Rikyu Gardens
Tokyo – Tsukiji Outer Market

Accommodation:
The B Ochinomizu Hotel or similar – https://ochanomizu.theb-hotels.com/en/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 12: Tokyo
Today, we continue our Tokyo exploration by visiting elegant Meiji Jingu Shrine, dedicated to the 19th-century Emperor, and enclosed in a wooden park as well as Harajuku – the area associated with Japan’s pop culture. Then we visit one of Tokyo’s iconic landmarks of Shibuya Crossing where we look down on one of the busiest intersections in the world and visit the statue of Hachikō, the famous loyal dog. Finally, we stop by the famous Akihabara District. Akihabara has gained recognition as the centre of Japan's animation and comic culture. Many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.

You will be free in the afternoon until our farewell dinner at a local Japanese restaurant – enjoy your last night in Japan with your travel companions!


Photographic themes:
Shrines, city landscapes, people, technology, food

Methods of transportation:
Hiroshima to Miyajima – Road tram, ferry, walking

Methods of transportation:
Tokyo – Subway, train, walking

Included Activities:
Tokyo – Meiji Jingu Shrine
Tokyo – Harajuku walking tour
Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing
Tokyo – Akihabara District walking tour
Tokyo – Farewell Dinner

Accommodation:
The B Ochinomizu Hotel or similar – https://ochanomizu.theb-hotels.com/en/

Meal Plan: Breakfast

 

Day 13: Tour ends
There are no activities planned for the final day and you can depart the accommodation at any time. Check out time is generally 10-11am unless you have post trip accommodation booked.


Meal Plan:
Breakfast

 

Important Notes:

Although this is one of the most expensive trips that we have organised, it must be strongly emphasised that by Japanese standards it is still very much a budget itinerary. Having a private coach for a whole day in Japan is phenomenally expensive, and so we are using a lot of public transport. This is very reliable in Japan, but you will need to be capable of carrying your own luggage. On a few occasions we have included a bag transfer so that we can get on public transport with camera bags and not be encumbered by our main luggage. In these instances the transfer is for a single baggage and any extra luggage will be at cost.

Where we do have a private coach, we won't have the flexibility that we enjoy on other trips: as with most things in Japan private transport is very scheduled, and stopping at will is not possible!

We are travelling in the late Autumn, to try to time our trip for the Red Leaf Season. This does mean that we will have shorter days, but also miss the sapping heat of the Summer months. To make the most of our days, we will need to have many early starts to fit everything in. It should also be pointed out that it is obviously impossible to predict the peak of the Red Leaf season!

According to Japanese Law, people are protected through image rights. As a cultural consideration and basic etiquette, please request permission before taking photos. Many temple statuary and religious imagery in temples and shrines are also protected, so please check for any signs before taking photos. Our tour leader will help ask for permission before we photograph people and protected statutory at religious sites.

Please ask for the subject’s permission before you upload any personal portraits to internet or social network software such as Facebook or Instagram.

Our itinerary/order during the trip is flexible, subject to the time it may take to set up and take photos, weather conditions and potential congestion at the most popular tourist sites.

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