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Bagan Travel Guide


Bagan is a fairytale-like city in central Myanmar. It is the place you can meet over 2,000 ancient temples and pagodas of different sizes that are comparable to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. That’s why it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.  

With these thousands of temples scattered all over the Bagan Plain, Bagan boasts some of the best sunrise and sunset views in the world. Imagine this, as the sun rises at dawn, the shadows of the temples slowly shift and shorten all in sync. Then, as you slowly look up into the sky, you start to be attracted by many colorful hot air balloons filling the clear sky over the landscape of an open plain with little to no trees.

Will the scenery be more awe-inspiring from the hot air balloon? You wondered. We’re here to help you to make your dream Bagan trip come true. We collected a complete Bagan travel guide on top things to do in Bagan, a list of best temple examples, when to go, how to get there, etc.

Top Things to Do in Bagan

Ride a Hot-air Balloon Fly Over Bagan

The sheer scale of the over 2,000 ancient temples is best viewed from a high point. No places are better than a hot-air balloon which will offer you the best perspective to overlook the jaw-dropping scenery from 2,000 feet.

Unlike the noisy helicopter, balloon flights will take you to float serenely over the temple complex that stands harmoniously with the plain and Irrawaddy River. The scenery is especially incredible when the rising sun casts an orange glow on the clear sky and the temples.

The balloon normally lift-off at 6:30 am, and the journey will last for about 45 mins to 1 hour. The flights are operated by professional ballooning companies, with each balloon accompanied by an experienced pilot.

cai rang floarting market

See Some of the Best Temple Examples in Bagan

Given the large number of temples in Bagan, it is hard to visit all of them in limited days. We suggest putting some of the best ones on your bucket list. Below are our top recommended temples you should visit while in Bagan.

  • Shwezigon Pagoda — The first pagoda in Myanmar that was built in a bell shape and coated with gold plating. After its construction, the subsequent pagodas were all modeled after it. The glimmering pagoda is incredibly breathtaking while the sunlight casts an orange glow onto it.
  • Ananda Pagoda— An elegant structure with a golden spire, Anada Temple is home to four golden 30-feet-tall Buddha statues. It is the largest temple in this area where an annual farming festival is held from late December to early February.
  • Sulamani Temple —The most popular temple in Bagan, Sulamani Temple is known for its layers of terraces and excellent craftsmanship. It is said that the temple is built on the site where King Narapatisihu once found a ruby. And Sulamani means ruby in the local language.
  • Shwesandaw Pagoda —This 328-foot-tall pagoda is the most eye-catching one among all the temples in this area, and is visible from far away. Different from most Myanmar pagodas, Shwesandaw Pagoda is not a bell shape but was built with octagonal bases and square terraces. A staircase can take tourists to the top of the building to enjoy the stunning view of the sunrise and the plain.
cai rang floarting market

Catch Beautiful Sunrise in Old Bagan

The breathtaking sunrise is a top highlight of Bagan. The Old Bagan area, where the thousands of temples are mainly scattered, is the perfect place to find a spot to experience the magnificent sunrise.

You can admire the fantastic vista view of the temples, and the wild-colored skies from a hot-air balloon, atop Shwesandaw Pagoda and Bagan Viewing Tower, or the riverbank of the Irrawaddy River.

cai rang floarting market

Take a Boat to Catch the Sunset Scenery on the Irrawaddy River

After temple Sightseeing in the daytime, at the end of the day, it is time to enjoy a relaxing sunset boat trip on the Irrawaddy River. As the sun sets, the sky will be dyed red, orange, or even purple. A sunset boat trip on Irrawaddy is truly the most romantic and leisurely way to absorb the charming view at this moment.

cai rang floarting market

Hop on a Horse Cart to Explore the Temples

As the temples are scattered in an area of 16 square miles, it is a challenge for most travelers to explore the best temples one by one on foot. The good news is that a horse cart ride within the Bagan Archaeological Zone can be arranged to help people transfer easily. Though the cart ride is not as fast as the modern transportation forms, it allows travelers to admire the scenery at a leisurely pace. And the horse cart ride itself creates a sense of traveling back in time.

cai rang floarting market

Bagan Weather: Best Time to Visit Bagan

Located in the dry zone, Bagan is generally a little hotter than most cities of Myanmar. There is no distinct winter in Bagan, and the annual average temperature usually hovers around 27°C.

October to March is the peak season and also the best time to visit Bagan when the city sees the least rainfall. The hot-air balloon ride over the temples and Bagan plain is only operated in this period. Considering the shortage of hotels, tourists are recommended to book in advance if they plan to visit Bagan during this time.

April and May are the hottest months in Bagan when the highest temperature rise over 40 °C.

June to September is in the rainy season of Myanmar, but Bagan sees less rain than most parts of the country. And the average temperature is below 30 °C in these months.

Bagan Transportation: How to Get to and Get around

How to get to Bagan

Travelers can easily get to Bagan by air, train, bus, or cruise.

  • By air

You can fly to Bagan through Nyaung Oo Airport, about 20 minutes drive from Old Bagan where ancient temples are mainly scattered.

The flights from Yangon to Bagan take about 1.2 hours and cost about 70-150 USD (price depends on the seat and travel season). From Mandalay to Bagan, the flight will take about 40 mins to 1h20mins, and cost about 70-110 USD.

A taxi ride or private car ride from the airport to Old Bagan will take about 20 minutes and cost about K10,000.

  • By train

There are direct trains to Bagan from Yangon and Mandalay, but a long-distance train ride is not recommended because the journey is usually bumpy and uncomfortable. The tracks are in bad condition and the seats are small.

  • By bus

The Bagan Bus Station is about 7km from Nyaung-U town in Bagan. There are 6 daily minibusses or coaches from Yangon to Bangan (about 9 hours, 15,000 to 18,500 Kyat), and also one daily bus from Inle Lake to Bagan.

  • By cruise

From Mandalay to Bagan, there is a daily express ferry that will offer visitors leisurely sightseeing. The cruise will take about 8-9 hours, and cost about 45 USD with breakfast and coffee included. Also, you can choose a slow cruise which will take about 14-17 hours, and cost about 10 USD.

How to Get around Bagan

The most popular ways to travel around Bagan include taxi, bike rental, hot-air balloon, boat trip on the Irrawaddy River, and horse cart.

* Good to know: people who book a tour with us can enjoy a comfortable and safe transfer in a private vehicle with an expert driver and guide.

Taxi – In Bagan, most taxis don’t use meters, and you need to negotiate the price before the ride. For a short-distance ride, the cost is about 7,000-9,000 kyat.

Rent a bike – Besides the common bikes, there is also a kind of bike powered by electric batteries available for rental in Bagan. Riding a bike is a good choice for those who want to explore the temples with flexibility. However, given the bumpy road and hot temperature, the bike ride will not be that comfortable. The e-bike rental is about 4-6 USD per day.

As mentioned above, a hot-air balloon is the best way to admire the temples from above, a boat trip on the Irrawaddy River will reward you with breathtaking sunset scenery, and the horse cart itself offers an authentic and unique experience while it transfer you among temples.

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