Visiting the beautiful temples of Bagan in Myanmar is an unforgettable travel experience that should not be missed. On the plains of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, there are more than 2 thousand ancient Buddhist Temples. Some are in ruins, but many are still in use today. Bagan in Myanmar is a place of pilgrimage and draws visitors from around the world.
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Is Bagan worth visiting?
Bagan in Myanmar is worth visiting for its historical, religious and cultural significance. The sheer size of the historical site in Bagan is awe-inspiring and the number of temples is extraordinary. Thousands of Buddhist Temples make up this impressive UNESCO World Heritage-listed historical site. Old Bagan lies on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and is a very beautiful place to visit.
Add to that a hot air balloon flight to appreciate the scene from the air and a ride on an e-bike to see Bagan from the ground and you have a very attractive destination.
I flew with Golden Eagle Balloons and loved every minute. It was an unforgettable experience and a highlight of my Myanmar trip!
What is Bagan in Myanmar known for?
Bagan is best known for its huge number of impressive Buddhist Temples. Bagan is Myanmar’s most important historical site and was the ancient capital of Burma. Some of the Temples of Bagan date back to the 11th century and the historic site spans a period of 1,500 years.
The archaeological site in Bagan covers an area that is 13 km by 8 km and the massive scale of this UNESCO World Heritage site is truly astounding.
About Bagan in Myanmar
From the 11th to the 13th century Bagan was called Pagan and was the capital of the first Burmese empire. During the height of the empire, thousands of temples were built by the Burmese King Anawrahta. And, over a period of approximately 250 years, 10,000 temples were constructed on the plains of Bagan in Myanmar.
In the late 13th century Mongol invaders conquered Burma and Old Bagan was abandoned in the years that followed. Since then, earthquakes have caused damage and most of the temples in Bagan have not survived the passage of time. Only around 2,200 are left.
Where is Bagan in Myanmar?
Bagan in Myanmar is also famous on Instagram for beautiful pictures of hot air balloons floating over ancient temples. And balloon flights offer a unique perspective of the area’s incredibly photogenic scenery. Floating above the Temples of Bagan and watching the sunrise is a truly memorable experience and it’s only from the air that you can appreciate the extraordinary number of Temples lying on the plains of Bagan in Myanmar.
Bagan is located on the central plains in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, 180 kilometres southwest of Mandalay.
Bagan is around 630 kilometres north of Yangon and lies on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
tarted to get warm very quickly and became very hot during the day.
Temples of Bagan in Myanmar
Bagan in Myanmar has literally thousands of Temples and some of the best temples to visit are located in Old Bagan. But there are temples all over the plains, so you’ll need to choose how to spend your time.
I spent several days exploring Bagan riding on an electric scooter visiting some amazing Buddhist Temples and seeing many beautiful Buddha images. The following are some of the most interesting:
The Sulimani Temple was built in 1183 and is a huge Buddhist shrine that is popular to visit. You can explore inside the ancient stone hallways of the Temple and there are alters and Buddha images that are still in use today.
Located in the middle of the dusty plains of Bagan in the village of Minnathu, the Sulimani Temple is several kilometres from the main road and access is via a dirt road.
Near the Suilmani Temple, there’s a viewing platform that is perfect for watching the balloons floating over the temples at sunrise. The sunset views are also very special from the Suilmani Temple platform.
Dhamma Ya Ka Za Pagoda
The Dhamma Ya Ka Za Pagoda Is a beautiful Buddhist temple built in 1196 and located in the village of Pwasaw in Bagan. This stunning temple has a circular design with 3 terraces made from terracotta bricks and tiles. The golden stupa at the top of the temple glows in the sunlight and the pagoda is popular with visiting monks, nuns and pilgrims from Myanmar and around the world.
The Ananda Temple was amongst my favourite of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar. This impressive 11th century Temple is known for its grand terraces, four standing Buddhas and golden Hti. The Ananda Temple is a landmark on the plains of Bagan and is visible from miles away. At night the temple is lit up and it has an atmospheric presence. In 1975 an earthquake damaged the Ananda Temple, but the building has been extensively restored and it is an incredible place to visit.
The Golden Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the most important temples of Bagan in Myanmar. It was completed in 1102 AD and consists of a central stupa covered in gold leaf surrounded by many smaller temples. The beautiful Pagoda houses holy relics including a bone and a tooth of the Buddha. The Shwezigon Pagoda has been restored many times after damage by earthquakes and more than 30,000 copper tiles cover the ancient shrine.
Located in Nyaung U in Bagan, the lovely Pagoda overlooks the Irrawaddy River. It’s a landmark on the river and is visible from miles away.
The Dhammayangi temple was completed in 1170 AD and is the largest of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar. It’s similar to Ananda Temple in design but the interior areas of the temple have been bricked up and are inaccessible but the out corridors and the four porches can still be seen.
One of the most impressive of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar, the 11th-century Shwesandaw Pagoda has five terraces and a stupa that stands 100 metres tall. The Pagoda houses holy relics of the Buddha and strands of the Buddha’s hair are treasures of the Shwesandaw Pagoda.
The Gawdawpalin Temple was built in the 12th century and is one of the tallest of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar. The Pagoda was reconstructed after earthquake damage in 1975. It has a similar layout to the Thatbyinnyu Temple.
Known as the tallest of Bagan’s many temples next to the Shwesandaw Pagoda which has the tallest stupa in Bagan. The five-story Thatbyinnyu Temple has a spire that is 66 metres high. An earthquake in 2016 caused severe damage and reconstruction of the Temple is in progress and is due to be completed in 2028.
The Lawkananda Pagoda is located a few kilometres south of Old Bagan on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. Built by the founder of the Burmese Empire, King Anawahta in 1059, the Lawkananda Pagoda has a serene and peaceful setting by the river with views of distant mountains.
The Temple houses a holy relic, a replica of a tooth of the Buddha. The Lawkanada Pagoda is less visited than other temples in Bagan. At night the Lawkananda Pagoda and stupa are lit up and the reflection can be seen in the water of the river.
Hot air balloon flight
A hot air balloon flight over the temples of Bagan in Myanmar is an experience that should not be missed. Floating over the plains of Bagan at sunrise in a hot-air balloon is an incredibly beautiful thing to do. Only from the air can you truly appreciate the size of the Bagan Plain and the vast number of Buddhist temples & monasteries that were built there between the 11th and 13th centuries.
Hot air balloons fly in the early morning and take off from a launch site near the temples on the Bagan plain.
I flew with Golden Eagle Balloons and a bus collected me from my hotel and took me to the launch site where a light breakfast was served before the flight.
There were around thirty brightly coloured balloons taking off that morning and it was a spectacular sight. The scenery was stunning with the pink glow of the early morning sun reflected off stupas and temple ruins below.
Drifting over the rural landscape of Bagan in Myanmar was a highlight of my visit!
Where to watch the sun rise & set in Bagan
For sunrise, the viewing platform near the Suilmani Temple is a lovely spot to watch the hot air balloons floating over the temples.
There’s another viewing platform near the village close to the balloon launch site. It’s also a great spot to see the balloons take to the sky in the early morning.
Watch the sunset over the Irrawaddy River. I found a lovely spot to watch the sun disappear at the end of the day sitting on the banks of the river and saw a glorious sunset with the golden stupa of the Shwezigon Temple reflected in the water of the river.
The viewing platform near the Sulimani Temple is the perfect place to watch the sunset in Bagan. As the sun disappears the dust haze catches the light and the rural setting with temples in the distance is very beautiful.
If you have time, a half-day visit to Mount Popa is an interesting and fun experience. The monastery at Mount Popa is perched on a rocky peak at the top of a mountain. A very steep staircase winds around the mountainside with mischievous monkeys on the path.
I took an afternoon bus trip to Mount Popa and was a bit disappointed with the sunset views. Although I did get an atmospheric photo of Mount Popa, I would suggest going in the morning when the light is better.
At Mount Popa, there were lots of hungry monkeys trying to steal things from visitors. The local people feed the monkeys to keep them under control. I watched an unwary tourist buy some bananas from a stall on street only to have his bag of bananas snatched by a cheeky monkey while he was paying for it. So, if you go to Mount Popa, hold onto your bananas …and your hat!
How many days do you need in Bagan?
You’ll need 2 – 3 days in Bagan. There are so many temples to see you can easily spend several days visiting the temples and exploring the area. In three days you’ll have time to visit the fascinating Monastery at Mount Popa which is a couple of hours away.
How to get around Bagan in Myanmar
The temples of Bagan in Myanmar are spread over a large area and electric scooters, or e-bikes are a popular way to get around. There are dirt roads to many of the temples and an e-bike is an easy way to get there but you can also hire a pushbike, a tuk-tuk, or a horse and cart to see the temples.
Where to stay
The historic town of Old Bagan has the pick of the upmarket hotels and is close to the main temples. But in New Bagan, there’s a better selection of budget and mid-range accommodation. New Bagan sits next to the Old City and is close to a number of temples. Here are some hotel suggestions:
Budget: The Ostello Bello Bagan Pool Hostel in New Bagan
Mid Range: I stayed at the Hotel Yadanarbon in New Bagan and was happy with my choice. The hotel was in a good location on the edge of town near temples, restaurants, banks and other facilities. I hired my e-bike from a stall directly across the road.
Luxury: The Hotel Tharabar Gate has an excellent location in Old Bagan
How to get to Bagan in Myanmar
You can travel to Bagan by bus, train, ferry or plane.
Buses in Myanmar tend to travel overnight and there are long distances involved.
Sleeper trains operate between Yangon and Bagan, but the Myanmar rail system is notoriously slow and bumpy on the route to Bagan. Travelling by train is one of the cheapest ways to get around in Myanmar.
Domestic flights operate between the major destinations in Myanmar and are relatively inexpensive. Air travel is a good option for getting around Myanmar. I flew with Golden Airways and Air KBZ in Myanmar.
The airport in Bagan is at Nyaung –U and there are domestic flights to all the major destinations in Myanmar.
I flew with Air KBZ from Bagan to Heho (Inle Lake) to avoid a long overnight bus trip. But the flight time changed twice after I booked so allow plenty of time when travelling and don’t try to schedule too tightly as there may be changes that you can’t control.
Travel by river ferry is a good way to get around in Myanmar and Bagan is downstream from Mandalay.
I arrived in Bagan on the river ferry from Mandalay and shared a taxi from the dock to my hotel with other travellers.
When to go
The best months to visit Bagan are from October to March. It’s the most popular time to visit and the high season in Myanmar. There’s very little rain and temperatures are warm, around 30°C.
I travelled to Bagan in January, and it was winter in Myanmar. Although cold at night, the weather was hot, dry and very dusty during the day. When the sun came up, it s
Tips for visiting Bagan in Myanmar
- Climbing of the temples has been banned and is no longer allowed.
- Bagan can be very hot and dusty during the day and cool at night.
- Take a sunhat, wear sunscreen and carry water.
- Allow plenty of time when travelling in Myanmar and don’t try to schedule too tightly to allow for schedule changes and transport delays that you can’t control.
My solo travel adventure on an e-bike
Walking near my hotel in New Bagan, I met a local woman who wanted me to hire an electric scooter from her stall. I was a bit unsure as I had never ridden a motorbike on my own before, but she showed me how to ride the e-bike and, after a quick trial run, I decided to take it out the next morning. I was up before dawn and thankfully the road was very quiet.
Although I was travelling slowly, it was freezing cold and pitch black. There were no streetlights. After riding for about twenty minutes, I realised that I had missed a turnoff and was completely lost out on the plains of Bagan and on my own.
I was looking for the viewing platform near the Sulimani temple hoping to see the sunrise with hot-air balloons floating overhead. As I tried to find my way on the bumpy dirt roads, it started to get light. I rode around past many small, ruined temples and eventually found a raised area near a village.
It turned out to be an ideal viewing place as the hot-air balloons were taking off nearby and I watched them floating over the village and across the plain. As I stood enjoying the peaceful scene, a man from the village drove past in his ox and cart.
Leaving the village, I stopped the scooter to give way to a herd of goats on their way to out to graze. I continued along the dirt road and soon found the main road and then a turnoff to the Dhamma Ya Ka Za Pagoda. As I arrived at the temple, the stupa was glowing golden in the morning sun. At the entrance were a number of visitors, a large group of young nuns dressed in pink robes and several monks.
Later that day I found the viewing platform that I had been looking for near the Sulimani Temple. I watched the setting sun throwing beautiful pink and orange colours across the sky behind the ancient Temple and into the dust haze that settled over the plain.
For peace of mind make sure you buy travel insurance before you go, especially if you are travelling solo. I use Travel Insurance that covers me for overseas medical, lost baggage, and other expenses and I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.