These immersive small group tours to Myanmar, Bhutan, Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia – some of the world’s most captivating destinations – are packed with meaningful experiences, and offer some of the best holiday deals I’ve spotted in a while. But you need to hurry.
These immersive small group tours to Myanmar, Bhutan, Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia take in Myanmar’s majestic temples of Bagan, Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest monastery perched on a cliff 900 metres above Paro Valley, Iran’s tranquil palaces and lush gardens, Ethiopia’s rock-hewn churches, monasteries and castles, and Turkey’s lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia, above.
Updated 18 January: The Turkey tour package is on offer again for 3 days!
I love independent travel, but it’s hard to beat immersive small group tours hosted by expert local guides focused on history, archaeology, culture, cuisine, and everyday life – the kinds of things I concentrate on the Indochina trips I occasionally host myself. A well-structured, curated trip, packed with learning opportunities, is what experiential travel is all about.
These immersive small group tours to Myanmar, Bhutan, Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia are centred on exactly those sorts of meaningful experiences with excursions to ancient archaeological ruins, historical monuments, and cultural sights, are punctuated by authentic meals and culinary experiences, from a Shan lunch on a rice barge on Inle Lake to a traditional Ethiopian cooking class.
These tours are only available through Luxury Escapes, a rapidly growing global travel company, based out of Australia, which offers the best holiday deals around on carefully curated tours with hand-picked hotels and fantastic accommodation packages. They promise the lowest prices on earth and a best price guarantee, which means if you find a lower price elsewhere for the same package, they’ll match it.
On some tours and hotel deals – not all; you need to check the fine print on their site – they also offer a ‘buy now, book later’ option so you can grab the offer while it’s available and choose dates late, ‘no questions asked’ refunds, and 12-month interest free purchase with some credit cards. But make sure you read the fine print as these aren’t available on all deals.
The trick is that you really need to get in grab the offer while you can, as they don’t last long. Having said that, if you do miss out on a deal you had your eye on, check back on the site after the date the offer was due to end, as they often extend offers!
All of the offers below can be found by browsing the ‘tours’ page here on Luxury Escapes.
Small Group Tours to Myanmar, Bhutan, Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia
Myanmar – 10-Day Small Group Tours with Tranquil River Cruise
Absorb the beauty of enchanting Myanmar as you learn about its history, archaeology and culture on these 10-day immersive small group tours (max. 16 travellers), including a tranquil river cruise. You’ll kick off the trip in colonial-era style with a stay at The Strand in Yangon, a visit to the city’s gleaming Shwedagon Pagoda, one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, covered in 27 metric tonnes of gold leaf, and an insight into local life, with a traditional Burmese breakfast, a chance to experience the daily ritual of buying and making offerings, and an opportunity to have your fortune read by a Burmese fortune-teller. At Inle Lake, you’ll get to see the local fishermen row their boats with their legs, as you cruise the vast expanse of lake, through villages of stilted overwater houses and floating gardens, while on land, you’ll cycle through sugarcane fields to diminutive villages where you’ll get to sample Shan cuisine. In Mandalay, you’ll board the Sanctuary Ananda boat for a four-night cruise to Bagan where you’ll explore the Archaeological Zone, visiting its breathtaking temples, pagodas and monasteries, including the majestic Ananda temple, with its distinctive tower like spire.
What’s the deal: 10 Days from AUD$3,599 per person, valued up to AUD$5,999. Offer ends in a day!
What’s included: 9 nights at two of our favourite hotels, The Strand Hotel, Yangon, and Sanctum Inle Resort on Inle Lake; 4-night river cruise on the Sanctuary Ananda; daily breakfasts, eight lunches, including a special Shan meal and a lunch on a rice barge on Inle Lake, and five dinners, including a welcome Burmese dinner, and a candlelit sandbank dinner in Bagan; local beer and wine with meals on the Sanctuary Ananda; expert local guides, entrance fees, sightseeing and excursions; private transport and transfers; and all internal flights.
Bhutan – 7-Day Immersive Small Group Tours with Nepal Extension
This deeply Buddhist country remains unique with its Gross National Happiness index measuring its success by the wellbeing of its citizens rather than economic wealth. On these 7-day immersive small group tours (max 16. travellers) you’ll get to soak up Bhutan’s culture and learn about the impact of Buddhism on the small mountain kingdom set amidst the Himalayas. Bhutan has maintained a deliberate separation from its neighbours, forging a divergent path from global homogenisation. With tourist numbers capped, visiting Bhutan is a rare opportunity to gain insight into everyday life and culture. Highlights include absorbing the beauty of the 16th-century Pangri Zampa, Bhutan’s oldest monastery, where you’ll get the chance to interact with local monks, enjoy lunch at a local eatery, and savour gobsmacking views from Buddha Point, home to the largest Buddha statue in the country, over Thimpu Valley; hiking through fields of chillies, cabbages and other local produce to take in the majestic temples and structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery; and climbing up to the spectacularly sited Paro Taktsand or ‘Tiger’s Nest’ monastery, one of Bhutan’s most sacred sites, perched on the edge of a cliff 900 metres above Paro Valley. You’ll also visit laidback traditional Bhutanese villages, skirted by terraces of rice, and skirted by maize and buckwheat fields, browse museums and cultural centres, shop local markets for Bhutanese arts and crafts, and sample Bhutanese specialties.
What’s the deal: 7 Days from AUD$3,999 per person, valued up to AUD$6,570. Updated 30 Nov: Offer now ends in 7 days!
What’s included: 6 nights at Le Meridien Thimphu, Dhensa Boutique Resort and Le Meridien Paro Riverfront; daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners, including unique local dining experiences; expert local guides; Bhutan visa; private transfers and transport; and exclusive insider experiences. Option to extend in Nepal, including Kathmandu and a scenic flight around Mt. Everest.
Iran – 10-Day Immersive Small Group Tours of Ancient Iran
Engage with some of the warmest and most hospitable people on this planet on these 10-day Iran small group cultural tours (maximum 16 travellers). You’ll explore UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the ancient world; Yazd, a fortified desert oasis town that is home to Iran’s small Zoroastrian community; the historic sights of Shiraz, considered the heart of Persian culture; and Isfahan, renowned for its enchanting Persian architecture and Persian art. You’ll visit stupendous mosques covered in intricately decorated tiles, lush royal gardens, and sprawling grand palaces, and get delightfully lost in Tehran’s bustling bazaars, and be amazed by the ancient relics in its museums, including a museum dedicated to glass, ceramics and carpets. Highlights include visits to the striking tomb of emperor Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire, in Pasargadae; Shiraz’s famous Nasir-ol-molk Mosque, also known as the ‘Pink Mosque’, for the pretty reflections from the colourful glass windows; the iconic Tomb of Hafez, the grave site of the beloved Persian poet Hafez; the landscaped Eram Garden with its towering palm trees, ornamental pool, and splendid Eram Palace; sunset at Isfahan’s stupendous Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, when its cream-coloured dome tiles change to pale pink.
What’s the deal: 10 Days from AUD$4,999 per person, valued up to AUD$7,545. Updated 30 Nov: Offer now ends in 7 days!
What’s included: 9 nights at the Espinas International Tehran, Zandiyeh Hotel in Shiraz, the old-world Moshir al-Mamalek Garden Hotel in Yazd, and historic Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan; domestic economy flight from Tehran to Shiraz; daily breakfasts, eight lunches and five dinners; services of local English-speaking guides; sights, excursions, insider experiences, and lots more.
Turkey – 12-day Immersive Small Group Tours from Istanbul to Cappadocia
Straddling Asia and Europe, Turkey has a captivating culture, history and cuisine, and has a special place in our hearts. During our nearly 20 years of visiting, we’ve travelled all over by car, bus and train, stayed in an Istanbul apartment, rented an Ottoman-era villa in Antalya’s Old Town, and house-sat in pretty Kas. These 12-day immersive small group tours take a deep dive into the culture and history of Turkey, taking you from the sprawling Grand Bazaar, heady Egyptian spice market and lively backstreet of Ottoman-era Istanbul to the ancient lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia, which you’ll float over in a hot air balloon, above. In between exploring archaeological ruins and historical sights in Istanbul, Gallipoli, Pamukkale, Troy, and Cappadocia, you’ll sample authentic local dishes and Turkey’s legendary hospitality. Highlights include Istanbul’s 17th century Blue Mosque, the ancient Roman Hippodrome, where chariot races took place, and sumptuous Topkapi Palace, residence of the Ottoman Sultans; the port-city of Izmir, historically known as Smyrna, with its 3,500 years of history, impressive archaeological sites, including nearby ancient Ephesus; Antalya’s Ottoman old town, Archaeological Museum with its artefacts dating back over 2500 years, and nearby ancient cities of Perge and Aspendos; the 13th century Caravanserai of Sultanhan, on the Silk Road, a wonderful example of Turkish Seljuk architecture and art; and a mesmerising performance of the mystical Whirling Dervishes at Nevsehir in Cappadocia.
What’s the deal: 12 Days from AUD$1,599 per person, valued up to AUD$2,399.Updated 30 Nov: Offer now ends in 6 days!
What’s included: 11 nights of hotel accommodation; daily breakfasts, some lunches and dinners; excursions and sights; services of an English-speaking tour manager; all transport, transfers and more.
Ethiopia – 10-Day Immersive Small Group Tours to the Horn of Africa
Experience Ethiopia’s rich culture and history on a journey to the Horn of Africa to explore this landlocked country. These unforgettable 10-day immersive small group tours (max. 16 travellers) take in spectacular landscapes littered with UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the majestic rock-hewn churches in Lalibela and Gondar’s 17th century castles, palaces, Roman baths, and ornate churches. You’ll cruise the shimmering waters of Lake Tana to the Zege Peninsula, steeped in mystery, and home to 20 secluded monasteries; discover the ancient capital of Axum, thought to have been the home of the Queen Sheba and resting place of the Ark of the Covenant; and get to absorb the majestic beauty of Simien Mountains National Park, one of Africa’s most impressive ranges, home to the Gelada Baboons and the rare Simien Fox. Highlights include a stroll through a lush forest to visit the beautiful monastery, Ura Kidane Miret, which dates back to the 14th century and holds exquisite paintings of early Ethiopian ecclesiastical life, and an in-depth excursion to Lalibela, with its eleven interconnecting rock-cut churches, that were dug into the ground by hand in the 12th and 13th centuries to form a ‘New Jerusalem’, a spiritual place of pilgrimage and devotion. You’ll also visit local markets crammed with traditional handicrafts, enjoy an Ethiopian coffee ritual, and do learn the secrets of Ethiopia’s traditional cuisine with an interactive cooking class.
What’s the deal: AUD$4,599 per person, valued up to AUD$9,985. Updated 30 Nov: Offer now ends in 3 days!
What’s included: 9 nights in Ethiopia’s finest lodgings, including lakeside resorts and eco-friendly lodges, such as Mayleko Lodge in Gondar and the Mezena Lodge in Lalibela; economy flights from Addis Ababa to Bahir Bar, Gondar to Axum, Axum to Lalibela and Lalibela to Addis Ababa; daily breakfast, lunches and dinners, sights and excursions, expert local guides, private airport transfers and transport.
Note: as our regular readers may recall, we partnered with Luxury Escapes a few months ago and earn affiliate commissions on any bookings you make via our links. You won’t pay any extra than if you visited the site directly, but those small commissions support the work that we do here on Grantourismo to bring you travel inspiration, information and advice.
Image courtesy of Luxury Escapes