It was the capital of the Pagan kingdom between the 9th and 13th centuries. Around 10,000 temples were built during this period. During this reign, much of the territory was unified and the foundations of Burmese culture began to be laid, including the consolidation of the language and Buddhism. Today, 2000 temples and pagodas remain standing due to the various invasions and earthquakes in the area. However, it is still the most densely populated Buddhist temple site in the world. In 2019 Bagan was named a Unesco World Heritage Site. That is why it is no longer allowed to climb on top of the temples.
How to get to Bagan?
AirBagan airport has connections to Yangon and Mandalay. Flights in Myanmar are not very cheap but if you don't have much time it is a good option.
Collective: For us it is the best price/quality option. There are several companies, we always book online with JJ Express and we recommend it, I always arrive on time and the buses are very comfortable. From the Bagan bus station a taxi is about 7000Kyats ($5 USD) to New Bagan.
- From Yangon it takes 9 hours and the price varies between 11 to 20 USD depending on whether it is a regular or VIP bus.
- From Mandalay it takes 4 hours and the price varies between 6-10 USD.
- From Inle Lake it takes 8 hours and is about 15-20 USD.
Trains: We don't travel by train in Myanmar as we read that they are usually late, take much longer than the bus and are usually very dirty. But it is possible to go by train if you wish.
How many days do I need in Bagan?
This answer is difficult to answer because it depends on what you like. The ticket allows you to stay 5 days, but we think you need to stay at least 2. We stayed 2 and a half days and it was enough time to visit most of the temples.
What do you need to know before going to Bagan?
All tourists must pay an entrance fee of 20USD to enter Bagan and it is very likely that you will be asked for it when you are in an important temple so remember to take a picture of it with your mobile phone so you have it with you at all times.
The authorities are no longer allowing people to go up to the pagodas and temples. Many of them are closed, with guards or put up bars to stop people from going up.
Now the locals have found their new business. Charge tourists to go up to a pagoda and they won't say anything to the police. It will be normal to be walking around the pagodas and locals will come and ask you for some money in exchange for a ride to a pagoda where you can climb up and enjoy the sunrise/sunset. Before you accept, make sure you get the price right.
How to get around Bagan?
There are several options, you can rent a bicycle, e-bike, or arrange for a tuk tuk. Motorbikes are forbidden for tourists.
Bicycle: This is the cheapest option, with a day's rental costing between $1-$2 USD (1,500-3,000 kyats). It's a good option but try to avoid midday as it's very hot and the distances are not that short. We rented it the first day and loved it but ended up pretty tired.
E-bike: Costs between $3-$5 USD a day (5,000-7,000 kyats), the price varies depending on how good a condition it is in. For us it was the best option, especially to see the sunrise as we didn't feel like cycling 7km at 5am. Remember that the e-bike is battery powered so be careful with long distances!
Tuk Tuk: This is the most expensive option and involves arranging for a tuk tuk to take you to the temples during the day. We didn't really find out the prices but it should be around $25-$30 USD per day.
Where to stay in Bagan?
Very well, in Bagan there are 3 main areas with accommodation: Nyaung U, Old Bagan y New Bagan.
The area closest to the temples is Old Baganhere are the most expensive accommodations.
Nyuang U y New Bagan are approximately 30 minutes by E-bike from the temples. Nyunag U is the area with the cheapest accommodation options, popular with backpackers. New Bagan is a growing area with a variety of accommodation options. Both areas have a touristy side with plenty of restaurants.
We stayed two nights in New Bagan and one in Nyunag U, both of which we enjoyed very much.
This was our view from the hotel terrace at New Bagan, Bagan View Hotel.
How to plan the view of the temples?
There are so many temples, it is best to organise yourself in advance by zones, otherwise it is very easy to get lost. One day you can dedicate to the temples in Old Bagan and near Nyaung U and the other day to those that are further away.
To visit the temples, we use MapsMe, as the internal routes are marked and do not appear on Google Maps. There are also reviews from other travellers who tell you where you can see a good sunset/sunrise and which ones you are allowed to climb. We recommend you to mark all the temples you want to visit on the map and build your route from there.
Temples not to be missed
We leave you the location on google maps of the must-see places in Bagan:
- Dhammayazaka Pagoda
- Sulamani Temple
- Ta Wet Hpaya
- Mahazedi Temple
- Let Put Kan
- Thatbyinnyu Temple
- Utrecht temple
- Ananda Temple
- Shwezigon Pagoda
- Dhammayan Gyi Temple
- Shwesandaw Pagoda
Where to see the sunrise in Bagan?
One of the best things to enjoy in Bagan is watching the sun rise behind hundreds of pagodas as hot air balloons soar through the air. The sunrises here are truly magical.
The truth is that we had a hard time finding a good temple to see the sunrise because all the ones recommended in blogs were from travellers who had gone before 2019 when it was still possible to go up to all the temples. So we decided to go with the flow and asked a local if he could take us to a good temple to see the sunrise, obviously in exchange for a tip.
If you have already planned a temple to go to to see the sunrise, we recommend you to check on MapsMe to see if it is still open.
One temple we managed to get to thanks to a local was the Utrecht Temple, ideal for watching both sunrise and sunset. We were taken to this temple by a local, we never knew the name.
Getting lost among the 2,000 temples
Although we recommend that you plan a rough route, we also recommend that you dare to get lost and get into the temples that you come across along the way and that catch your attention. The best thing to do is to let yourself be carried away by the place. It is impossible to visit them all as there are thousands of them, so don't stress.
Here are a couple of photos of temples that caught our attention and we never knew their name.