The Ultimate Travel Guide to Bagan Temples
The most popular destination in Myanmar is the ancient city of Bagan, where you should spend at least 3-days exploring Bagan’s most beautiful temples, stupas, and pagodas. Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom between the 9th and 13th centuries, during which time more than 10,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas were built.
Many Bagan temples were damaged or destroyed by frequent earthquakes, and only 2,200 temples remain in the 104 square kilometers. Bagan became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2019. Since then, many temples in Bagan have been restored, and restoration work is underway on several others. Although our visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia was incredible, exploring the temples and pagodas of Bagan was our favorite experience in Southeast Asia.
- The Ultimate Travel Guide to Bagan Temples
- How to Get to Bagan?
- Best time to Visit Bagan, Myanmar
- How many Days do you Need in Bagan?
- Bagan Archeological Zone Ticket
- How to get Around Bagan?
- Where to Stay in Bagan
- What to Wear when Visiting Bagan Temples
- Can I Climb the Bagan Temples?
- 5 Best things to do in Bagan, Myanmar
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How to Get to Bagan?
Bagan is easy to combine with your Myanmar itinerary. Bagan is located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, and there are many ways to get here. There are no direct flights to Bagan, so you’ll have to fly to Mandalay or Yangon first. Once you arrive, you will have many options to go to Bagan.
Some domestic airlines offer direct flights to Nyaung-U Airport (the closest airport to Bagan). One-way ticket prices vary between 70 USD and 170 USD depending on the season.
From Yangon, we took the JJ Express night bus to Bagan. The journey took 10 hours, and the bus fare was 18.50 USD per person. The bus journey from Mandalay to Bagan takes 5 hours and from Inle Lake 8 hours.
We don’t recommend taking the train in Myanmar. Although it is the cheapest way to get around, buses are much faster.
Best time to Visit Bagan, Myanmar
Most parts of Myanmar have a tropical monsoon climate with three seasons: hot, rainy, and cold. The months when you shouldn’t go to Bagan are from March to May, when temperatures can rise to over 40 degrees.
The rainy season runs from June to October when there are heavy rains.
The best time to visit Bagan is from November to February. During this period, rain is unlikely, and the temperatures are a bit cold but pleasant. So it’s the perfect time to go on hot air balloon flights or explore Bagan’s most beautiful temples.
However, this is the peak tourist season in Myanmar, especially from December to February, so it is highly recommended to book accommodation in advance and buy bus tickets early. It averages 30 degrees during the day and 14 degrees at night.
Therefore, use sunscreen during the day, wear a hat and bring enough water. You should wear a pullover or jacket early in the morning.
How many Days do you Need in Bagan?
Depending on how much time you have, we recommend spending at least 3-days in Bagan, which will allow you to visit the main sites without rushing. Cycling or e-biking can be tiring in hot weather, so it’s worth taking the extra time to explore Bagan. As the weather is hot during the day, we recommend exploring the temples from sunrise to noon and then returning to your accommodation to relax or chill at one of the restaurants.
After 4 PM, go out again and explore the area. Most accommodation offers a free map for guests. Make the most of your Bagan itinerary, and make a plan to visit the temples. We recommend asking the locals which pagodas you shouldn’t miss.
Bagan Archeological Zone Ticket
All visitors must buy a ticket to visit the Bagan temples. Entrance to the Bagan Archaeological Zone ticket costs 25.000 Kyat (14 USD) per person and is valid for 3-days. Don’t lose your pass, or you’ll have to buy another one. The Archaeological Zone ticket is randomly checked at the temples, so always keep it with you!
You can purchase tickets at Nyaung-U airport or before entering Bagan Archaeological Zone. Buses usually stop at the checkpoint where you can buy tickets.
How to get Around Bagan?
As Bagan covers 104 square kilometers, it is not suitable for exploring on foot, and it is not available to rent a motorbike in Bagan. However, you can easily get around Bagan by taxi, horse-drawn carriage, e-bike, or bicycle.
The bicycles are the cheapest way to get around at 1-2 USD a day.
The e-bike is 4-6 USD a day, and you can rent them in almost all hotels and guesthouses.
The disadvantage of the e-bike is that the price is higher if two people use it, and the e-bike needs to be battery charged several times a day. You should check everything, such as tires, lights, mirrors, and batteries. The best way to explore Bagan is to take two or more days and use different modes of transport.
If you want to see the sky dotted with hot air balloons in Bagan, sunrise is the best time to visit.
Where to Stay in Bagan
Bagan has three main areas: Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U.
– Old Bagan has the most expensive accommodations but is the best base for exploring the temples. Backpackers and budget travelers will find cheaper options in Nyaung-U or New Bagan, located just 30 minutes away by e-bike.
– Nyaung-U is the largest city and transport hub in the area. The airport and train station are close, and buses leave from Nyaung-U to other cities in Myanmar such as Yangon, Mandalay, or Inle-Lake.
Hotels and guesthouses in Bagan cost an average of around 40 USD/night, depending on the season.
What to Wear when Visiting Bagan Temples
When visiting the pagodas, wear a conservative dress with knees and shoulders covered. The traditional Burmese dress is the longyi (sarong), which you can buy or rent at most temples. You should wear flip-flops or sandals, as you’ll need to take off your shoes and socks every time you enter the temples in Bagan.
Can I Climb the Bagan Temples?
When we visited Bagan, we were allowed to climb on top of pagodas. However, in Bagan’s archaeological zone, it is no more allowed to climb on top of temples.
As Bagan has become a popular destination for travelers, the temple tops have become crowded, especially at sunrise and sunset. Therefore, visitors began to seek out less popular or smaller temples to avoid the crowds.
The earthquakes damaged the supporting structures of many temples, making them unsafe to climb or causing further damage to the temples by tourists. To protect and preserve Bagan’s temple, the government began restricting access to the tops of the temples as early as 2017, and in 2019 it was finally banned completely.
The alternative is to go on a hot air balloon ride at sunrise and enjoys the view of pagodas and temples from above.
Visit the Bagan Viewing Tower (Nann Myint Tower), built-in 2005, which offers panoramic views of Bagan’s temples.
5 Best things to do in Bagan, Myanmar
1. Enjoy the sunrise or sunset at the temples of Bagan
If you spend 3-nights in Bagan, you can watch at least two sunrise and sunset, which is one of the best things to do in Bagan. Although you can no longer climb the temples, you can still enjoy the view, especially at sunrise when the hot air balloons are flying. At sunset, you can enjoy the stunning lights of the pagodas.
2. Visit the best Bagan temples
The temples of Bagan are among the most famous historical monuments in Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat, Ayutthaya, and Borobudur. Bagan has many beautiful temples, stupas, and pagodas, so it’s not easy to decide which are the best. In our opinion, these are the 10 most beautiful temples in Bagan:
- Dhamma Yan Gyi Temple
- Ananda Temple
- Swezigon Pagoda
- Shwesandaw Pagoda
- Dhammayazika Pagoda
- Gawdawpalin Temple
- Thatbyinnyu Temple
- Sulamani Temple
- Htilominlo Temple
- Bulethi Pagoda
3. Hot air balloon ride in Bagan
The Bagan hot air balloon season runs from October to mid-April. Balloon rides depart at sunrise, and a 45-minute hot air balloon flight starts from 340 USD per person, depending on the season. You should book well in advance, especially during popular times of the year such as Christmas and New Year, as prices are higher at this time. Bring warm clothes as it gets cold in the morning.
4. Discover the pagodas
Some temples and pagodas are available to enter, and you can see some wonderful Buddha statues and mural paintings. Bagan is known for its artworks and local handicrafts, so it’s a great place in Myanmar to buy souvenirs. Many local vendors are around the pagodas.
5. Enjoy your stay in Bagan
Take a short trip to the Bagan Archaeological Museum, try Myanmar’s traditional dishes, visit Minnanthu village or take a sunset boat trip on the Irrawaddy River.
We had a fantastic time in Myanmar, and we hope our Bagan travel guide will help you plan your trip to Bagan. If you have any questions, we are happy to help. Just leave us a comment below or send us an email.