Bagan Travel Guide: Top 20 Things to Do in Bagan, Myanmar

Nestled in Myanmar’s heartland, Bagan is not merely a place. It’s a voyage back in time, where the air is thick with the essence of a thousand years, and the horizon is lined with ancient temples as far as the eye can see. Over 2,000 temples, pagodas, and stupas stand proudly on the plains of Bagan, each with a tale whispering the legacy of the Pagan Kingdom. As dawn breaks, casting a golden glow over these architectural marvels, one can’t help but feel transported to an era where spirituality and artistry reigned supreme. This guide is your portal into the mystical world of Bagan, where every path leads to discovery, and every sunset tells the story of ages past.

Bagan epic sunrise over the temples in Myanmar

The Canvas of the Gods

The Foundation of Faith

The inception of Bagan as a religious and cultural epicenter dates back to the 9th century. It emerged as the heart of the Pagan Empire, where the seeds of Buddhism were sown and flourished across Myanmar. Temples like Ananda and Dhammayangyi stand as monumental testaments to this spiritual awakening. They narrate the empire’s might, its devotion to Buddhism, and its unparalleled contributions to art.

A Symphony in Stone

Bagan’s landscape is a symphony of architectural brilliance. The Sulamani Temple showcases exquisite murals, while the Gubyaukgyi Temple is renowned for its intricate stucco work. Each temple, with its unique charm, contributes to Bagan’s grand mosaic of history and spirituality. The precision of ancient architects and the sanctity of their creations continue to awe visitors.

The Realm of Tranquility

Amidst the towering stupas, there lies a profound tranquility. The Htilominlo Temple, known for its elaborate plaster carvings, offers not just a visual feast but a serene space for contemplation. The silent mornings, broken only by distant chants and the soft flutter of pigeons’ wings, invite introspection. Bagan teaches the art of stillness, amidst relics of the past.

Sunset: A Confluence of Time and Beauty

As the day wanes, Bagan transforms. The setting sun casts a fiery hue across the temples, each silhouette a shadowy guardian of history. The Shwesandaw Pagoda, with its panoramic views, becomes a congregation point for those eager to witness this daily spectacle. It’s a moment of profound beauty, where time stands still, and the present gazes back into the past.

The Living Heritage

Bagan is more than its temples; it’s a living, breathing cultural heritage. The vibrant lacquerware, the bustling Nyaung U Market, and the traditional puppet shows offer glimpses into the Burmese way of life that has thrived alongside these ancient structures. The city, with its resilient spirit, continues to embrace the future while honoring its sacred past. The journey through Bagan is an endless discovery, where history unfolds beneath your feet, and spirituality lingers in the air.

Bagan Travel Guide: Things to do in Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan City Guide: A Brief History Of Bagan, Myanmar

Once the capital of the mighty Pagan Empire, this ancient city is a testament to the spiritual devotion and architectural prowess that flourished from the 9th to 13th centuries. Today, over 2,000 temples, stupas, and pagodas sprawl across its landscape, each telling a tale of faith, artistry, and the rise and fall of empires. Let’s delve into the rich history of Bagan, exploring how it became a beacon of Buddhism and a symbol of eternal beauty.

The Rise of the Pagan Empire

A Spiritual Foundation

Bagan’s story begins in the 9th century when King Anawrahta ascended to the throne. His conversion to Theravada Buddhism marked a turning point. Under his reign, Bagan transformed into a religious center, with the construction of thousands of stupas and temples. This era laid the foundations of Burmese culture and spirituality.

A Flourishing Capital

The city reached its zenith between the 11th and 13th centuries, becoming a cosmopolitan center for religious studies and a hub for trade. Artisans and monks from across Asia were drawn to its gates. The skyline, dotted with golden tips, mirrored the empire’s prosperity. Bagan was a beacon of Buddhism, shining bright in the heart of Myanmar.

The Fall and Preservation

Invaders and Natural Disasters

Despite its spiritual might, Bagan could not withstand the test of time. The 13th century brought invasions and natural disasters. The city faced repeated Mongol attacks, leading to its gradual decline. Yet, the temples stood resilient, guardians of Bagan’s glorious past.

UNESCO Recognition and Restoration

The turn of the 21st century marked a new chapter for Bagan. Efforts to preserve its architectural heritage gained momentum. In 2019, UNESCO finally recognized it as a World Heritage Site. This acknowledgment brought new life to Bagan, ensuring the protection and restoration of its ancient treasures.

Bagan Today: A Legacy Lives On

A Spiritual Pilgrimage

Bagan today is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and history enthusiasts from around the world. Its temples, such as the majestic Ananda Temple and the mysterious Dhammayangyi Temple, continue to fascinate. The intricate frescoes and stucco decorations tell stories of a bygone era, inviting onlookers into a meditative journey.

Living Among Ruins

Life in Bagan is a harmonious blend of the ancient and the contemporary. Local communities thrive among the ruins, keeping traditions alive. The art of lacquerware, passed down through generations, is a testament to the city’s enduring cultural legacy. Bagan is not just an archaeological site; it’s a vibrant community.

Bagan’s history is a narrative of rise, fall, and rebirth. It stands as a monument to human faith, resilience, and creativity. Each temple, each ruin, has a story, contributing to the tapestry of Myanmar’s history.

Scenic views from Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Myanmar

Home to the densest collection of Buddhist temples on Earth, Bagan is a bucket list destination for cultural travellers. With most slowly decaying as the years go by, they have taken on an appearance that has made them famous in travel circles. Don’t come to Burma without seeing Bagan, as it is a central part of this country’s identity.

Let’s just say it: Bagan is a culture vulture’s paradise. With temples literally for days, it can be hard to put together a sightseeing itinerary if you are pressed for time. If this is your situation, leave the planning to us – start your time in Bagan by visiting Ananda Temple.

Unlike most of the structures in the ancient city, it is one of four that remains standing in one piece to this day. Within its grounds, you will find no less than four Standing Buddhas, each staring off in each cardinal direction (North, East, South, and West).

Given its magnificent Indian architecture, some have dubbed this over 700-year-old temple as the Westminister Abbey of Burma, so don’t miss this place.

More Attractions

Next, make your way over to the Sulamani Guphaya Temple. Erected for King Narapatisithu in the late 12th century, it was later seen by the Burmese as one of their crowning achievements when it came to the temples of Bagan.

While it was heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1975, it was rebuilt fully by 1994. This spot is one of the most visited in Bagan, so be sure to visit early in the morning if crowds bother you.

Head over to the Shwesandaw Pagoda next, as it is said to contain strands of hair from the Buddha. Apart from these relics, the sizable stupa, terraces, and terracotta tiles of this nearly 1,000-year-old temple are also big reasons why you should include this sacred place in your sightseeing journey.

Many favour this place for photos both at sunrise and sunset, as climbing its tall, steep steps will allow you to capture timeless photos of the sea of temples below, and a sky full of hot air balloons above.

If you find the throngs of people at Shwesandaw Pagoda bothersome, opt instead to head to Bulethi Temple for dawn or dusk. The view of hot air balloons as the day lights up is just as stunning here, and climb you’ll have to make will ensure you earn your view just the same.

Don’t arrive too late, though – while the crowds here aren’t as bad at the other spots, quite a few still make it out to Bulethi. If you don’t like being around people, stop by during midday – just be sure to lather up with sunscreen, or the Burmese sun will scorch you within a half hour.

Bagan silhouette views in sunset in Myanmar

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Bagan, Myanmar

Get a good overview of the artifacts recovered from the ruins of the temples of Bagan at the Bagan Archaeological Museum. Here, you’ll find preserved stone reliefs, reclining Buddhas, and models of the temples when they were maintained, among other attractions.

Even if you aren’t that into museums, the ice cold air-con makes this place a refuge from the often relentless heat that bakes the Bagan area outside cool season. If you are into museums, set aside at least two hours to explore – this place is massive.

There is more to Bagan than just temples – you can also explore traditional communities in the area as well. Start with Yandabo Village, as it is well-known for its pottery.

While things have been done traditionally in this community for many years, you’ll be interested to note how modern technology has found its way even into such a remote place, as you’ll find solar panels charging chainsaws used to cut wood to stoke their fire pits.

Other Attractions

Situated along the Irrawaddy River, you can visit it while on a river trip between Bagan and Mandalay, so remember this spot when plotting out your travels along this lazy body of water.

Minnanthu Village is another community you’ll want to include in your travel plans. This village is known in the area as a major agricultural producer, as it harvests sesame seeds and peanuts, and creates oil from said products.

You’ll also get to see residents in traditional dress, how they hand roll the local variety of cigarette, weaving textiles, crafting jewellery, and other pursuits they have engaged in over the generations to make a living.

Some are turned off by this place due to touristy aspects creeping into the background, but if you don’t mind touts, don’t miss visiting this place.

It is one of the most expensive parts of a visit to Bagan, but if you have the change to spare, pay to go on a hot air balloon ride with your travel companion(s). Taking off just as the light of dawn rims the horizon, you’ll soon be privy to one of the most stunning views you’ll see in your life, as countless temples are revealed to you below as the sun lights up the Earth.

source: Expoza Travel on YouTube

Top 20 Things To Do in Bagan, Myanmar For Visitors

Here’s a comprehensive guide to the top 20 things to do in Bagan for an unforgettable experience.

Bagan Ballon Ride In Myanmar

1. Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride

A hot air balloon ride at sunrise over Bagan is a magical experience, offering unparalleled views of the temple-strewn landscape as it’s bathed in the early morning light. Floating silently above this ancient city provides a unique perspective of its grandeur and beauty. Most balloon rides include a champagne breakfast upon landing, adding to the exclusivity of the experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the vastness and tranquility of Bagan from the sky.

2. Explore Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple, one of Bagan’s most revered temples, is known for its striking architecture and exquisite interior. Built in the early 12th century, it houses four standing Buddha statues, each one facing a cardinal direction. The temple’s spires and corridors are adorned with intricate carvings and frescoes depicting the life of Buddha. Exploring Ananda Temple is not just a journey through a historic site but a spiritual exploration of Buddhist teachings and art.

3. Cycling Around the Archaeological Zone

Renting a bicycle and navigating through the Bagan Archaeological Zone offers a personal and up-close experience of the area’s many temples and pagodas. The flat and expansive landscape of Bagan makes cycling both enjoyable and accessible for visitors of all fitness levels. It allows for spontaneous detours to lesser-known ruins, providing a sense of adventure and discovery. Cycling at your own pace also offers the freedom to enjoy serene moments of reflection amidst the ancient ruins.

4. Visit Dhammayangyi Temple

Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest of all Bagan’s temples, presents a fascinating history and architectural marvel. Known for its massive size and haunting stories of its construction by a tyrant king, the temple’s interior is partially accessible, offering glimpses into its dark corridors. The outer bricks are laid with such precision that they are said to not allow even a pin to pass between them. Exploring Dhammayangyi provides insight into the complex history and architectural prowess of the Bagan Empire.

5. Sunset at Shwesandaw Pagoda

Shwesandaw Pagoda is one of Bagan’s prime spots for watching the sunset, offering expansive views of the plains and the Ayeyarwady River. Climbing the pagoda’s steps to reach the terraces reveals a panoramic vista of countless stupas piercing the horizon. The changing colors of the sky reflect beautifully on the brick surfaces of the ancient structures. It’s a popular spot, so arriving early to find a good vantage point is advised.

6. Take a Boat Trip on the Ayeyarwady River

A boat trip on the Ayeyarwady River provides a different perspective of Bagan, showcasing the natural beauty and daily life along the riverbanks. Sunset cruises offer stunning views of the temples against the backdrop of the setting sun. Visitors can also opt for longer journeys to explore nearby villages and see traditional riverboats in action. It’s a peaceful way to experience the landscape and culture surrounding Bagan.

7. Discover the Gubyaukgyi Temple (Myinkaba)

Gubyaukgyi Temple in Myinkaba is known for its well-preserved murals and intricate stucco decorations. The temple’s interior walls are covered in frescoes depicting scenes from the Jataka tales. It’s a fine example of Mon architecture, offering insights into the cultural exchange within the region. Visiting Gubyaukgyi is like stepping into a storybook of Buddhist mythology and history.

8. Explore the Bagan Archaeological Museum

The Bagan Archaeological Museum houses a collection of artifacts, sculptures, and inscriptions from the Bagan period. It provides a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural significance of the city and its religious monuments. The museum’s exhibits are arranged chronologically, offering a journey through Bagan’s evolution. It’s an essential visit for those interested in the archaeological context of Bagan’s temples and pagodas.

9. Walk Through Old Bagan

Walking through the streets of Old Bagan brings visitors closer to the everyday life and history of this ancient city. The area is home to several important temples, local markets, and the iconic Tharabar Gate. It’s a blend of historical sites and modern-day community living side by side. Exploring on foot allows for spontaneous interactions with locals and a chance to appreciate the town’s atmosphere beyond its temples.

10. Attend a Traditional Puppet Show

Traditional puppet shows in Bagan offer a glimpse into an ancient form of entertainment and storytelling. These performances depict tales from the Ramayana, local legends, and the daily life of the Burmese people, all through the intricate manipulation of marionettes. Shows often take place in local restaurants or cultural centers in the evenings. It’s a captivating experience that combines art, music, and history.

11. Photography Tour at Sunrise or Sunset

Bagan’s landscape, with its ancient structures and natural beauty, is a photographer’s dream, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. Photography tours led by local experts can help capture the perfect shots, providing tips on the best angles and locations. These tours cater to all levels of photographers, from amateurs to professionals. Capturing the ethereal beauty of Bagan bathed in golden light is a rewarding experience that immortalizes the moment.

12. Learn Lacquerware Art in a Local Workshop

Bagan is famous for its lacquerware, a traditional craft involving the decoration of objects using layers of lacquer. Visiting a local workshop allows visitors to observe the intricate process and learn about the art form from skilled artisans. Workshops often offer hands-on experiences where you can try your hand at creating your own lacquerware piece. It’s a unique opportunity to engage with local culture and take home a personalized souvenir.

13. Relax at a Spa with Traditional Burmese Treatments

After a day of exploration, relaxing at a spa that offers traditional Burmese treatments can provide a soothing experience. Treatments often incorporate local ingredients and techniques passed down through generations. It’s a perfect way to rejuvenate the body and mind, embracing the holistic wellness practices of Myanmar. Many of Bagan’s hotels and resorts offer spa services that blend traditional and modern therapies.

14. Visit Thatbyinnyu Temple

Thatbyinnyu Temple, known as the “temple of omniscience,” stands as one of Bagan’s tallest structures, offering impressive views of the surrounding area. Built in the mid-12th century, it’s an architectural marvel that represents the transition in building styles during the Bagan period. The temple’s white façade stands out against the backdrop of greenery and brick stupas. Exploring Thatbyinnyu is an ascent through layers of history, culminating in panoramic views from its upper terraces.

15. Partake in a Cooking Class Featuring Burmese Cuisine

Participating in a Burmese cooking class is an immersive way to understand the local culture and flavors of Myanmar. These classes often include a market tour to choose fresh ingredients, followed by instruction on preparing traditional dishes. It’s a hands-on experience that ends with enjoying the delicious meal you’ve helped to create. Learning the secrets of Burmese cuisine is a tasty souvenir that lasts a lifetime.

16. Explore Minnanthu Village

Minnanthu is one of Bagan’s less visited areas, offering a peaceful exploration of temples, monasteries, and the rural lifestyle. The village provides insight into the daily lives of the local people amidst the ancient ruins. Visitors can explore at a leisurely pace, often finding themselves the only ones at a temple site. It’s a quiet corner of Bagan that feels worlds away from the more frequented areas.

17. Take a Day Trip to Mount Popa

Mount Popa, a day trip from Bagan, is a sacred mountain known for its picturesque monastery atop a volcanic plug. The climb to the top is rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding plains and the opportunity to visit the monastery, home to the revered nats (spirit deities). The area around Mount Popa is lush and fertile, offering a stark contrast to Bagan’s arid landscape. It’s a spiritual journey that connects visitors with the natural and mystical elements of Myanmar.

18. Savor Bagan’s Street Food

Bagan’s streets offer a variety of local snacks and dishes that provide a taste of Burmese cuisine. Sampling street food, from tea leaf salads to sweet and savory pancakes, offers a delicious insight into the flavors that define the region. Evening food markets are a great place to start, where you can hop from stall to stall, tasting different dishes. It’s an affordable and authentic way to dine, surrounded by the buzz of local life.

19. Attend a Traditional Burmese Dance Performance

Traditional Burmese dance performances are a feast for the senses, combining elaborate costumes, rhythmic music, and expressive storytelling. These dances often depict historical events, folklore, and aspects of daily life in Myanmar. Venues across Bagan host these performances, providing an entertaining evening out. It’s an artistic experience that brings the culture and traditions of Myanmar to life.

20. Visit Sulamani Temple

Sulamani Temple, often referred to as the “crowning jewel,” is renowned for its intricate brickwork and ornate frescoes. Built in the late 12th century, it represents the sophisticated architectural style of the late Bagan period. The temple’s interior walls are adorned with well-preserved paintings and inscriptions. Exploring Sulamani offers a glimpse into the artistic and spiritual heritage of ancient Bagan, making it a highlight of any visit.

Mohinga is a must try dish in Bagan, Myanmar

What To Eat and Drink in Bagan, Myanmar

Here’s a guide to what you should eat and drink while in Bagan to truly immerse yourself in the local cuisine.


Often considered the national dish of Myanmar, Mohinga is a must-try in Bagan. This savory fish soup is served with rice noodles and is richly flavored with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and onion. Typically eaten for breakfast, it can be found at local markets and street food stalls throughout the day.

Tea Leaf Salad (Laphet Thoke)

This iconic Burmese dish is a unique combination of flavors and textures. Fermented tea leaves are mixed with cabbage, tomatoes, nuts, peas, and sometimes dried shrimp, then dressed with fish sauce, lime, and garlic oil. It’s a refreshing and slightly caffeinated treat that’s both delicious and distinctive.

Shan Noodles

Originating from the Shan State, Shan noodles are a popular dish throughout Myanmar, including Bagan. These rice noodles are served in a tomato-based sauce with chicken or pork and topped with pickled vegetables. Enjoy them either as a soup or a salad for a taste of local comfort food.

Burmese Curry

Burmese curry is a staple dish that comes in many varieties, including chicken, beef, pork, and fish. These curries are milder than their Indian or Thai counterparts, focusing on a rich mix of spices and herbs rather than heat. Meals are typically served with rice and a variety of side dishes including vegetables, salads, and soups.

Grilled Street Food

Bagan’s streets come alive in the evening with vendors grilling up all sorts of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Skewers of chicken, beef, and even whole fish are marinated in local spices and grilled to perfection. It’s a great way to sample different flavors while mingling with locals.

Palm Sugar Sweets

Palm sugar, derived from the sap of toddy palms, is a common sweetener in Myanmar. In Bagan, you’ll find a variety of sweets made from palm sugar, including candies, cakes, and puddings. These treats are not overly sweet and offer a glimpse into traditional Burmese confectionery.

Myanmar Beer

When it comes to drinks, Myanmar Beer is the local favorite. This crisp, refreshing lager is perfect for cooling down after a day of temple exploration. Enjoy it at a local café or restaurant while watching the sunset over the pagodas.

Burmese Tea

Tea shops are a cornerstone of Burmese culture, and no visit to Bagan would be complete without spending time in one. Traditional Burmese tea is strong and sweet, often served with condensed milk. It’s accompanied by an array of snacks and offers a window into the daily life of the locals.

Tamarind Flakes

Tamarind is widely used in Burmese cuisine, both in savory dishes and as a snack. In Bagan, you’ll find tamarind flakes, which are sweet and sour in taste and can be eaten alone or used as a flavoring in cooking. They make for a great snack while touring the temples.

Fresh Tropical Fruits

Bagan’s markets are brimming with fresh, tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas, bananas, and durian. The fruit here is incredibly fresh and flavorful, making for a healthy and delicious snack any time of day.

Shan Noodles are a delicious dish to try in Myanmar

Top Restaurants In Bagan, Myanmar

While Bagan is primarily known for its breathtaking temples and rich history, the dining experiences available here add another layer of richness to any visit. Here’s a list of top restaurants in Bagan that cater to a variety of tastes, ensuring every meal becomes a memorable part of your journey.

1. Sanon Training Restaurant

A gem in Bagan’s culinary scene, Sanon Training Restaurant not only serves exquisite Myanmar and fusion dishes but also operates as a social enterprise, training local youth in hospitality. The restaurant’s garden setting provides a serene dining atmosphere, and their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients ensures each dish is fresh and flavorful.

2. The Moon (Be Kind to Animals)

Famous for its vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu, The Moon offers a tranquil dining experience near the ancient temples. The restaurant is known for its tea leaf salad, pumpkin curry, and fresh juices, making it a perfect spot for a wholesome meal amidst a day of exploring.

3. Weather Spoon’s Bagan Restaurant and Bar

Popular among tourists for its lively ambiance and diverse menu, Weather Spoon’s offers everything from traditional Burmese dishes to Western favorites like burgers and pasta. Their cocktails and smoothies are a hit, especially after a long day of sightseeing.

4. Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant

Located in New Bagan, Yar Pyi is a haven for vegetarians and anyone looking to enjoy traditional Burmese dishes made from fresh, local produce. The restaurant’s friendly atmosphere and delicious food, such as the avocado salad and vegetable curry, have made it a favorite among visitors.

5. Nanda Restaurant and Puppet Show

Offering a unique combination of dining and entertainment, Nanda Restaurant features traditional Burmese puppet shows with dinner. This experience allows guests to indulge in local cuisine while enjoying an art form that has been part of Myanmar’s cultural heritage for centuries.

6. Star Beam Bistro

Star Beam Bistro is a cozy restaurant known for its fusion of Burmese and international cuisine, offering a range of dishes that cater to various tastes. The bistro’s relaxed setting makes it an ideal spot for dinner after a busy day, with standout dishes including the Burmese-style grilled fish.

7. Black Rose Restaurant

Black Rose Restaurant in New Bagan is celebrated for its authentic Burmese flavors and warm hospitality. The restaurant offers a variety of traditional dishes, with their curry meals being particularly popular. Guests can enjoy a comfortable dining experience with both indoor and outdoor seating options.

8. La Terrazza

For those craving Italian cuisine, La Terrazza offers a delightful menu of pasta, pizza, and more, all prepared with a touch of Italian authenticity. The restaurant’s pleasant outdoor seating area provides a great ambiance for enjoying a meal under the stars.

9. Queen Restaurant

Queen Restaurant is well-regarded for its extensive menu featuring Burmese, Chinese, and Thai cuisine. It’s a great place to sample a wide range of dishes, including local specialties and regional favorites, in a comfortable and welcoming setting.

10. A Little Bit of Bagan

This charming café and restaurant is known for its excellent service and delicious breakfast and brunch options. A Little Bit of Bagan serves a mix of Burmese and Western dishes, making it a perfect start to your day of temple exploration.

Bagan golden views in Myanmar

Tours For Visitors To Bagan, Myanmar

To truly appreciate the depth and beauty of Bagan, engaging in guided tours can provide insightful perspectives and unique experiences. Here’s a comprehensive list of tours that cater to various interests, ensuring visitors make the most of their time in this mesmerizing city.

1. Temple Exploration Tours

Dive into the heart of Bagan’s architectural heritage with a guided temple tour. Expert guides share stories behind iconic structures like Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple, and Thatbyinnyu Temple, unraveling the history and architectural marvels of the ancient city. These tours often include visits to lesser-known temples, offering a glimpse into hidden gems.

2. Hot Air Balloon Rides

Experience Bagan from a bird’s-eye view with a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. Floating above the temple-studded plains offers a breathtaking perspective and unparalleled photo opportunities. It’s a magical experience, watching the first rays of light illuminate the ancient landscape.

3. E-Bike Tours

Cover more ground and venture off the beaten path with an e-bike tour of Bagan. E-bikes offer an eco-friendly way to navigate between temples, through villages, and across fields, providing a blend of cultural and adventurous exploration. Guides lead the way to some of Bagan’s most picturesque spots that are not easily accessible by car.

4. River Cruise on the Irrawaddy

Embark on a river cruise along the Irrawaddy River for a different perspective of Bagan. These cruises often include sunset views, offering a serene experience as you glide past riverside villages and get a glimpse of daily life by the water. Some tours also offer meals and cultural performances on board.

5. Traditional Craft Workshops

Gain hands-on experience in traditional Myanmar crafts, such as lacquerware, a Bagan specialty. Workshops guide visitors through the intricate process of creating lacquerware, from bamboo weaving to etching and polishing, providing insight into this delicate art form.

6. Cultural and Village Tours

Immerse yourself in the local way of life with a tour that takes you through Bagan’s surrounding villages. Learn about traditional agricultural practices, visit local markets, and interact with residents for a genuine understanding of life in and around Bagan. These tours often include a visit to a local monastery to learn about monastic life.

7. Cooking Classes

Delve into the flavors of Burmese cuisine with a cooking class in Bagan. Local chefs teach participants how to prepare traditional dishes using fresh, local ingredients. It’s a tasty way to learn about the culture and bring a piece of Bagan back home with you.

8. Archaeological Site Tours

For history buffs, specialized archaeological tours offer a deep dive into Bagan’s past. Led by experts in Myanmar’s history and archaeology, these tours provide detailed insights into the construction techniques, historical significance, and conservation efforts of Bagan’s ancient sites.

9. Sunrise and Sunset Tours

Capture the ethereal beauty of Bagan at the most magical times of day. Sunrise tours often include a visit to a vantage point for panoramic views, while sunset tours might combine temple visits with a relaxing end to the day overlooking the Irrawaddy River. Both options offer stunning photo opportunities and a chance to see the landscape in its most beautiful light.

10. Pagoda Meditation Retreats

For a truly spiritual experience, participate in a meditation retreat at one of Bagan’s tranquil pagodas. Guided by Buddhist monks, these retreats offer a chance to learn about Buddhist teachings and practice meditation in a serene setting.

Bagan temple with nature

Bagan Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Here’s a comprehensive travel guide to where you might consider staying when visiting this enchanting city, ensuring your trip is as comfortable as it is memorable.

Luxury Resorts

1. Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

Perched near the archaeological zone, Aureum Palace is a haven of luxury, offering stunning views of the pagodas. With its spacious villas, on-site spa, and infinity pool, it promises an unparalleled stay in the heart of ancient Bagan.

2. Bagan Lodge

Bagan Lodge blends luxury with the charm of safari-style tents, providing a unique accommodation experience. It’s equipped with modern amenities, a spa, and two swimming pools, making it an oasis of comfort in the dusty plains.

Mid-Range Hotels

3. The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate

Located by the Tharabar Gate, this hotel offers easy access to Old Bagan’s temples. It features comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving both local and international dishes, making it a convenient base for exploration.

4. Bagan Thande Hotel

Situated on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Bagan Thande Hotel is known for its colonial charm and serene garden setting. It offers a range of rooms and bungalows, some with direct views of the river, alongside a spa and outdoor pool.

Budget Accommodations

5. Ostello Bello Bagan

Ostello Bello is a favorite among backpackers, offering both private rooms and dorms. It’s a social hostel with a lively atmosphere, organizing tours and activities that make exploring Bagan easy and fun.

6. BaobaBed Hostel Bagan @ Bagan May

BaobaBed Hostel combines comfort with affordability, providing clean, modern dormitories and private rooms. It’s a great option for travelers looking to meet others, with a communal lounge and rooftop terrace for socializing.


7. Shwe Nadi Guest House

For a more local experience, Shwe Nadi Guest House offers simple, clean accommodation with warm hospitality. It’s an excellent choice for travelers on a budget, providing basic amenities and a tasty breakfast.

8. May Kha Lar Guest House

Located within walking distance of several restaurants and shops, May Kha Lar offers comfortable rooms at affordable prices. Guests appreciate the helpful staff and the guesthouse’s proximity to major attractions.

Unique Stays

9. Heritage Bagan Hotel

Embracing the rich history of its surroundings, Heritage Bagan features traditional architecture and décor. Its tranquil setting, outdoor pool, and on-site dining options offer a restful retreat after a day of temple hopping.

10. Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort

Set on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, this resort offers stunning sunset views, lush gardens, and a sense of tranquility. With a range of accommodations and a riverside pool, it’s a peaceful haven for relaxation.

Day Trip To Mount Popa

Day Trips From Bagan, Myanmar

Here’s a selection of day trips from Bagan, each offering unique experiences that range from natural wonders to cultural and historical explorations.

1. Mount Popa

An extinct volcano considered to be the abode of Myanmar’s most powerful nats (spirits), Mount Popa is about an hour’s drive from Bagan. The climb to the top, via 777 steps, rewards travelers with panoramic views and a visit to the Popa Taungkalat monastery perched on the summit. It’s a spiritual journey and a physical challenge, surrounded by lush forests and macaque monkeys.

2. Salay

A small town steeped in history, Salay is an easy drive from Bagan and offers a quieter, less-visited cultural experience. Home to beautiful monasteries, including the wooden Yoke Sone Kyaung monastery with its exquisite carvings, Salay provides a glimpse into rural Burmese life. The town is also famous for its colonial-era buildings and the largest lacquer Buddha image in Myanmar.

3. Pakokku

Reachable by a short boat ride across the Irrawaddy River, Pakokku is known for its tobacco trade and traditional weaving workshops. Visitors can explore the local market, visit a cheroot (Burmese cigar) factory, and see how Myanmar’s traditional longyi (sarong) is made. Pakokku presents an authentic slice of Burmese life, offering insights into the country’s crafts and daily routines.

4. Minanthu Village

Minanthu is a quiet village located amidst Bagan’s temples, where visitors can see rural life unfold amidst ancient ruins. This area offers a more intimate experience of Bagan’s landscape, with opportunities to visit farming families and learn about traditional agriculture. Exploring Minanthu provides a contrast to the more touristy areas of Bagan, showing the timeless connection between the land and its people.

5. Kyaukpadaung and the Road to Mandalay

While technically not a day trip, the journey towards Kyaukpadaung leads to the famous “Road to Mandalay.” Travelers can explore local markets and the countryside before heading to Mandalay for further adventures. This route offers stunning landscapes and a taste of the rural charm that Myanmar is known for.

6. Myinkaba Village

Just a short bike ride or walk from Old Bagan, Myinkaba is renowned for its lacquerware workshops. Visitors can observe the intricate process of creating lacquerware, one of Myanmar’s most famous crafts. Myinkaba also boasts several impressive temples, including Gubyaukgyi, with its well-preserved murals.

7. Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda

Located across the river from Bagan, Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda is one of the four pagodas believed to enshrine a Buddha relic. The journey there involves a boat trip and a drive up the hill, offering spectacular views of the Irrawaddy River and Bagan plains. It’s a pilgrimage site that provides a serene and spiritual experience.

8. Nyaung U Market

For those looking to immerse themselves in local culture, Nyaung U Market offers a bustling atmosphere where you can find everything from fresh produce to traditional crafts. It’s an excellent place for photography, sampling local foods, and observing everyday life in Myanmar. Nyaung U is the gateway to Bagan, making it easily accessible for travelers.

9. Nat Ma Taung / Mount Victoria

For a longer day trip or overnight excursion, Nat Ma Taung (also known as Mount Victoria) in the Chin State offers breathtaking natural landscapes. It’s a haven for trekkers, with rich biodiversity and opportunities to visit remote tribal villages. This trip is for the adventurous, seeking to explore Myanmar’s diverse ethnic heritage and natural beauty.

10. Ayeyarwady River Cruise

A day cruise on the Ayeyarwady River presents a relaxing way to see the countryside from a different perspective. These cruises often include stops at riverside villages and provide a glimpse into the importance of the river for transportation and irrigation. It’s a peaceful experience, showcasing the timeless flow of life along Myanmar’s most significant waterway.

Bagan hazy views in Myanmar

Bagan Transportation Guide

Here’s a detailed travel guide to help you choose the best way to explore Bagan’s rich tapestry of temples, landscapes, and riverside vistas.

1. E-Bikes

E-bikes are the go-to mode of transport for exploring Bagan’s archaeological sites, providing a perfect balance between convenience and environmental friendliness. They’re quiet, allowing you to immerse fully in the serene atmosphere of the ancient city. Most rental shops offer them at competitive rates, and you can easily cover a lot of ground without exerting too much physical effort. Remember to check the battery life and bring a map or a GPS-enabled device to navigate the sprawling temple complex efficiently.

2. Bicycles

Renting a bicycle offers a rewarding and eco-friendly way to explore Bagan at a slower pace, allowing for unplanned detours and discoveries. Cycling through the dusty paths and along the Irrawaddy River gives a sense of adventure and connection to the landscape. It’s also an excellent way to interact with locals, stopping at small villages and teahouses along the way. Ensure your bike is equipped with a comfortable seat and a basket for carrying water and essentials.

3. Horse Carts

For a touch of romance and nostalgia, horse cart rides through Bagan offer a unique perspective of the ancient city. The clip-clop of hooves on the sandy paths and the leisurely pace allow for ample photo opportunities and a chance to appreciate the intricate details of each temple. Drivers often share stories and insights about the temples, adding a personal touch to the experience. It’s a more traditional way to travel and supports the local economy.

4. Taxis and Private Cars

Hiring a taxi or a private car with a driver can be an excellent option for those looking for comfort, especially during the hotter parts of the day or for visits to more remote areas outside Bagan. Air-conditioned cars offer a respite from the heat, and drivers can provide valuable local knowledge about the sites. This option is ideal for families, groups, or those limited on time, wanting to maximize their visit without the physical strain. Negotiate the price beforehand, and consider hiring the same driver for multiple days for better rates.

5. Motorbikes

For experienced riders, motorbikes offer the freedom to explore Bagan and its outskirts on your terms. They’re faster than e-bikes and bicycles, allowing for expeditions to lesser-visited temples, villages, and natural sites. It’s important to be mindful of local regulations regarding motorbike rentals to tourists and to always prioritize safety by wearing helmets and avoiding off-road paths that may be hazardous. Check with your accommodation for reputable rental services.

6. Local Buses

Local buses are a lifeline for longer journeys to and from Bagan, connecting the city with other major destinations across Myanmar. While not the most comfortable option, they offer an authentic local experience and are incredibly cost-effective. Buses vary in quality, so it’s worth paying a little extra for a VIP or express service, which will have air conditioning and more spacious seating. Book tickets in advance during peak travel seasons to secure your seat.

7. Boats

Taking a boat trip on the Irrawaddy River is a serene way to experience the beauty of Myanmar’s lifeline, offering a different perspective of Bagan and the rural life along the banks. Sunset cruises are particularly popular, providing stunning views as the sun dips below the horizon. Longer journeys to places like Mandalay are also available, turning the travel between cities into a scenic voyage. Check the schedule and book in advance, as services can vary seasonally.

8. Hot Air Balloons

Though not a mode of transport for exploring Bagan’s grounds, hot air balloon rides offer an unforgettable aerial view of the temple landscape at sunrise. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, witnessing the ancient city awash in the morning’s first light. Bookings should be made well in advance, especially during the peak tourist season from November to February. It’s a higher-budget activity but well worth the expense for the unparalleled views and the thrill.

9. Walking

Exploring Bagan on foot is perhaps the best way to truly connect with the history and spirit of the place. Walking allows for a detailed exploration of the temples, an appreciation of the intricate artwork, and a chance to find hidden nooks not accessible by larger vehicles. Start early to avoid the midday heat, carry plenty of water, and wear comfortable shoes. It’s ideal for shorter distances within the main temple areas or the village of Nyaung U.

10. Tuk Tuks and Trishaws

For short distances or when navigating the areas around Nyaung U and New Bagan, tuk-tuks and trishaws offer a quick and local mode of transport. They’re perfect for zipping between sites, visiting local markets, or when you’re simply too tired to walk or bike. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey, and enjoy the open-air ride that brings a closer view of Bagan’s daily life.

Kalaw mountain views in Myanmar to visit next after Bagan

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Bagan?

Here’s a list of places to visit after Bagan, ensuring your adventure through Myanmar continues to enchant and inspire.

1. Inle Lake

Inle Lake is renowned for its floating gardens, stilted villages, and the unique leg-rowing technique of its fishermen. A boat tour of the lake reveals the traditional lifestyle of the Intha people, local crafts like silk weaving, and visits to ancient pagodas. The serene beauty of the lake at sunrise or sunset is unforgettable. Inle Lake also serves as a gateway to trekking routes in the surrounding hills.

2. Mandalay

As Myanmar’s second-largest city and the last royal capital, Mandalay is rich in history and culture. Visit Mandalay Hill for panoramic views, explore the ancient capitals of Amarapura and Sagaing nearby, and marvel at the intricate wood carvings of Shwenandaw Monastery. Mandalay is also a hub for Burmese traditional arts and crafts. The U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teakwood bridge, offers stunning sunrise and sunset views.

3. Yangon

Yangon, the former capital, is home to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda, which is especially breathtaking at night when it’s lit up. The city’s colonial architecture, bustling markets, and vibrant street food scene offer a lively contrast to Bagan’s ancient tranquility. Don’t miss the chance to ride the Yangon Circular Train for a glimpse into the daily life of locals. Yangon serves as a melting pot of Myanmar’s diverse cultures.

4. Hpa-An

Known for its limestone caves and karst landscapes, Hpa-An is a haven for nature lovers and adventurers. Explore the Saddan Cave, a massive cavern filled with Buddha statues and pagodas, and emerge to a hidden lake. Mount Zwegabin offers a challenging hike rewarded with sweeping views. The town’s relaxed atmosphere is perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.

5. Ngapali Beach

For those seeking relaxation by the sea, Ngapali Beach offers pristine white sands, clear waters, and a laid-back vibe. It’s an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying fresh seafood. The beach is lined with resorts catering to various budgets, ensuring a comfortable stay. Sunset views over the Bay of Bengal are not to be missed.

6. Mrauk U

Offering a less-visited but equally fascinating alternative to Bagan, Mrauk U was once the capital of a powerful Arakanese kingdom. Its temples and pagodas, set amidst rolling hills, are enveloped in an aura of mystery, especially in the morning mist. The journey to Mrauk U is an adventure in itself, involving a boat trip upriver. The Chin villages nearby, known for their tattooed-faced women, provide a unique cultural experience.

7. Kalaw

This hill station serves as a starting point for treks to Inle Lake, offering a glimpse into rural life in Myanmar. Its cool climate, colonial-era buildings, and surrounding pine forests offer a refreshing break from the heat. Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake reveals beautiful landscapes and traditional villages. It’s a paradise for hikers and those interested in ethnic diversity.

8. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock)

One of Myanmar’s most sacred sites, the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda impressively perches on a gold-leafed boulder, seemingly defying gravity. Pilgrims and tourists alike are drawn to its spiritual significance and the stunning views it offers. The journey to the top can be made by truck and involves a short hike. Witnessing devotees apply gold leaf to the rock and meditate is a profound experience.

9. Pyin Oo Lwin

Once a colonial hill station, Pyin Oo Lwin captivates with its botanical gardens, waterfalls, and blend of colonial and traditional architecture. The cooler climate and lush scenery offer a peaceful retreat. Visit the Anisakan Falls and the National Kandawgyi Gardens for a nature escape. The town is also known for its vibrant market, specializing in locally-grown fruits and flowers.

10. Pindaya

Famous for its limestone caves filled with thousands of Buddha images, Pindaya offers a spiritual journey into the heart of Myanmar’s Buddhist traditions. The Pindaya Caves are a site of pilgrimage and wonder, showcasing statues and stupas dating back centuries. The serene Pone Taloke Lake and the traditional Shan paper umbrella workshops add to the town’s charm. Pindaya provides a quiet yet profound cultural experience.

Balloons over Bagan, Myanmar with views of the temples

Bagan Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Bagan is a truly magical destination that is steeped in history and tradition, offering visitors an unparalleled glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Myanmar. This ancient city is a living testament to the achievements of the mighty Burmese kingdoms that once ruled over this land, and its magnificent temples and pagodas stand as a testament to the greatness of their civilization.

The temples of Bagan are truly a sight to behold, and the experience of exploring them is one that will stay with you for a lifetime. Whether you choose to wander the temples on foot, take an exhilarating ride on an e-bike, or soar above them in a hot air balloon, you’ll be entranced by their beauty, complexity, and sheer scale.

But Bagan is more than just its temples. The surrounding landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, with rolling hills, verdant forests, and tranquil rivers creating a peaceful and serene environment. And the local culture is vibrant and engaging, with warm and friendly locals eager to share their traditions, cuisine, and way of life with visitors.

As you plan your trip to Bagan, be sure to take the time to explore all that this incredible city has to offer. Consider your options for transportation, accommodations, and tours carefully, and don’t be afraid to seek out local advice to help you make the most of your time here. And above all, be sure to savor every moment of your time in this enchanting destination, and allow yourself to be transported back in time to a world of ancient kings, noble warriors, and timeless beauty.

Bagan lush green temple views in Myanmar

Ode To Bagan

Amidst the rolling hills and tranquil streams, A land of beauty, ancient and serene, Bagan, a city of temples and dreams, A place where history and tradition convene.

The temples stand tall, proud and grand, Whispers of a mighty empire, a noble land, A legacy etched in every brick and stone, A story waiting to be told, a mystery to be known.

The sun rises above the misty plain, A thousand temples bathed in golden light, A sight to behold, a moment to remain, A wonder that fills the heart with delight.

The gentle breeze carries the scent of the land, The rustling leaves, a symphony so grand, The locals smile, welcoming and kind, Their traditions and culture, treasures to find.

In Bagan, time stands still, A world where the past and present thrill, A journey that leaves an indelible mark, A memory that will forever spark.

So come and explore this ancient city, Let its wonders fill your heart with glee, A land of temples, beauty and grace, A journey of a lifetime, a magical place.

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