The ancient, dusty city of Bagan is known for its unrivalled magic, beauty and otherworldly landscape. With over 3,000 ancient temple, stupa and monastery ruins to explore, it’s no wonder Bagan is often referred to as an ancient gem of Asia.
Exploring the atmospheric ruins of Bagan are often high on visitor’s bucket lists. And, for good reason. The rolling, hazy plains of Bagan are home to a mystical ancient kingdom. This UNESCO Heritage Site was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom between the 9th and 13th centuries. Today it offers visitors the opportunity to transport themselves to an ancient world and explore a time gone by.
It’s no wonder that visitors to Bagan often refer to leaving part of their heart behind to this fascinating land.
It’s with no doubt that one of the best times to explore Bagan is sunrise. When the sky turns an array of golden colours and the haze lifts on the day ahead. The atmosphere feels fresher and cooler than in the heat of the midday sun and the dusty plains seem to resemble another planet.
Although Bagan is slowly closing its temples to being climbed by the public in order to protect the ancient relics, a few remain open and accessible to the public. Any temple at sunrise promises a breath-taking experience as the comes up and the haze moves over the thousands of temples as far as the eye can see.
A once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the magic of Bagan is by hot air balloon. The increasingly popular sunrise trip is available to visitors between the months of October and April. The opportunity to soar high with birds across Bagan’s unique and unforgettable landscape promises memories you will never forget.
Even if you don’t make the hot air balloon ride, the sights of hundreds of balloons elevating into a golden sky is still a wonderful spectacle to enjoy.
The best way of exploring Bagan’s thousands of temples is by e-bike. E-bikes in Bagan are proudly green, kind to the environment, quiet and are leading the way in city exploration in Myanmar.
Traditional bicycles are also available for hire, but most visitors opt for e-bikes. Particularly during the hotter months when Bagan’s atmosphere feels arid and desert like. It is advisable to plan your explorations around the sun. Head out early morning and late afternoon to avoid the midday heat which can be very hot and tiring when there is little shade available.
The entirety of Bagan’s archaeological zone spans an impressive 67 square kilometres meaning there are many fascinating ruins to discover, all of which are spotted around in no particular fashion.
Manuha Paya is an interesting small shrine. The story goes that it was once used a prison. Originally a Hindu shrine, today it is in almost impeccable condition.
No visit to Bagan is complete without taking time to explore Ananda temple. Built in 1105Ad during the Pagan dynasty, this breath-taking temple consists of several terraces and a beautiful golden pagoda. Often referred to as the most complete and intact temple in Bagan, Ananda temple is a perfect example of ancient Mon architecture. Inside the temple is just as fascinating as the outside. Adorned with tiles telling the life of the Buddha and several small Buddha statues, Ananda temple is one not to be missed.
Thatbyinnyu temple is especially unique and also worth a visit. This extraordinary white washed temple sits on a small hill and towers over many of the ruins below it. Built around the mid-12th century this mystical temple is also home to a wonderful sitting Buddha statue.
Take your time exploring and be fascinated by a new surprise on every corner. Bagan is quite the adventure land.
In downtown Naung-U, just outside the main archaeological zone, you’ll find the region’s biggest, local market. Head down early in the early morning to shop for local delicacies, betel nut, dried fish, fresh fruit and a few locally produced handicrafts. It’s also a great place to purchase Bagan’s famous lacquer wear and some traditional wood carvings.
Held every day, Man Sithu market is a local market that doesn’t cater for tourists. With this is mind, there isn’t much in the way of souvenirs but it does offer visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in daily life and watch local people going about their day to day activities. A great way to learn more about the rich Burmese culture.
Over the years an array of cooking schools have sprung up across Bagan, particularly surrounding the local market. Surrounded by rolling countryside, plentiful farms, and of course the local market, Bagan is the perfect place to indulge in learning how to cook some of the region’s most delicious delicacies.
Cooking like a local is a beautiful way to explore Bagan’s surrounding countryside, discover local villages, chat to Bagan’s friendly residents and immerse yourself into local markets. It’s also a wonderful way to take a break from temple sightseeing or to cool off in the heat of the day.
You can expect to learn to cook vegetable curries and delicious noodle dishes using an array of freshly sought ingredients including vegetables, garlic, ginger and sesame paste along with other tempting Burmese delicacies.
And the best part is, after you finish cooking, you get to sit around for a social group meal and indulge your taste buds with a wide selection of traditional Burmese cuisine.
Bagan’s sunsets are just as impressive as it’s sunrises and without a doubt, one of the most beautiful, fresh parts of the day. Whilst hot air balloon rides are made for sunrises, temples are the perfect sunset hang out.
Shwesandaw Paya boasts a beautiful pagoda and is known as one of the best places to catch a glorious sunset on a warm and clear Bagan evening. Climb the steps up five terraces and finally reach the large pagoda in time for sunset. Although Shwesandaw Paya attracts a lot of sunset visitors, it is still one of the most glorious spots in the whole of Bagan. Wander around the stupa for panoramic views as the orange sun descends on a golden sky after another spectacular day in this mystical land.
If you’ve seen enough temples for one day, then another fantastic sunset option is a boat trip down the famous Ayeyarwady river. Find a vendor down at the main jetty or charter a private boat trip. If boats aren’t for you, then consider hanging out with the locals and sitting back and relaxing on the river banks whilst taking in another breath-taking Burmese sunset in one of the country’s most magical settings.
However you choose to spend your time in Bagan, this charming land promises to fill you with peace and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.