A Guide to Myanmar’s Incredible Ancient City of Bagan
One of the most intact and visually-stunning of Asia's ancient cities, Bagan is a sprawling complex of crumbling pagodas and temples writhe with history and splendor showcasing the region's once mighty old kingdom. For many years this country was deemed a dangerous and unstable place to visit with tourism only really starting to open up in the last decade or so.
A Guide to Myanmar’s Incredible Ancient City of Bagan:table of contents
How to Get There
While it might look close to the old capital of Mandalay, the roads are still quite underdeveloped and takes at least five hours by bus and over seven hours by train. By far the easiest route that most visitors take is to fly there, flights from both Yangon and Mandalay depart everyday. Although much more expensive than taking a bus, you pay extra for a much more comfortable ride and hours saved. If you're considering taking the overnight train from Yangon to Bagan, be warned the journey can be extremely bumpy at times and most travelers aren't able to sleep.
Where to Stay
With Myanmar opening up the country to tourism in recent years, developing some of its famous sites to accommodate foreign visitors, places such as Bagan already have a wide range of quality hotels often at low prices, as you might expect from Southeast Asia. For one of the best luxury hotels, right in the midst of the ancient city check out Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan. The hotel even has an infinity pool with beautiful views over the sea of pagodas that's free for guests staying at the hotel.
Places You Need to Check Out
Of course what else is there to do but spend a day or two traveling from temple to temple, feeling like you've gone back in time almost a thousand years ago. However with almost 3,000 temples still left intact, you're not gonna be able to explore every single one of them in one trip. Here are some of the most famous spots to visit around Bagan.
The most famous of the temples around Bagan, Ananda is one of the best preserved and largest, built in the early 12th century by King Kyanzittha. Usually the first on most people's list of temples to visit, Ananda was partly destroyed by an earthquake but has since been restored beautifully. Now it's one of the best representations of these ancient ruins.
The largest of all the temples, Dhammayan rises up above the plains of Bagan as one of the most photogenic of the historic buildings found here. The temple itself was never finished after the king who ordered it was assassinated before its completion, yet it's still one of the most impressive you'll find here.
Another of Bagan's larger temples Shwesandaw has its own unique, impressive charm however it is the view from the top that makes Shwesandaw such a must-visit stop. After a short climb of steep steps to the top of the structure, you'll be rewarded with incredible views over the surrounding area of Bagan and the sea of pagodas. The spot is also highly popular for viewing the sunset as the evening sun illuminates the pagodas in a different light.
One of the late Bagan period's most fabulous achievements, Gawdawpalin stands out beautifully among the surrounding pagodas. Although it's the second tallest pagoda in Bagan, unfortunately the top upper sections are off limits to visitors however, so if you want that famous sunset view of the area, you'll need to climb one of the other temples.
While it might not be one of the ancient temples of the old city, Taung Kalat is still unmissable while traveling around the region. This odd-shaped mountain is a sacred spot for many locals and a popular pilgrimage spot for Buddhists in the country. It's just over an hours drive from the sea of ancient pagodas in Bagan, a highly unique looking hill with a temple and shrines built on the top that gives a beautiful view over the surrounding scenery from the top.
Although the rainy season usually lasts from May to September, Bagan tends to stay a little drier than other places in Myanmar. The rainfall tends to be heavy and short, so finding some cover and waiting for 20 minutes or so is usually all it takes. It's also much hotter during these months, so it's best to visit outside of this period if possible.