More than 2000 vintage temples and pagodas wait to be explored in this magical city in the middle of the Burmese desert.
This former royal capital is definitely one of the things you can’t miss out on on your trip to Myanmar. Sometimes referred to as Burma’s equivalent to Angkor Wat, every corner of this desert landmark is postcard material and many temples hide beautiful details inside, just waiting to be discovered.
But to be fair, while Bagan certainly is stunningly beautiful, I decided that two full days were enough for me and I actually left one night earlier than I had originally planned. I had already been travelling around Asia (mainly Sri Lanka) for about six weeks and by that time had a slight overdose of visiting temples old and new alike and statues of sitting, eating, sleeping or standing Buddhas.
Bagan: What to do
While Myanmar is generally known for its super warm climate, it gets even hotter in Bagan than in many other parts of the country: Temperatures reached up to 40° when I was there in May. Most people therefore get up really early in the morning, watch the sunrise from one of the Pagodas and drive around a bit more before temperatures climb high, before heading back to their hotels for breakfast at around 9am.
The easiest way to get around is without a doubt by renting an e-bike. Those miniature motorbikes might look intimidating at first, but are actually super easy to handle and definitely the best choice for exploring all the beautiful landmarks on your own. Bagan is too large and too hot for a normal bicycle and public transport is not an option for visiting all the far-apart pagodas. Plus planlessly driving around the beautiful scenery on your e-bike is just so much fun (maps are also available, but I found it cooler to just drive around and explore the place on my own route, knowing you can’t really get lost)!! Just inquire at your accommodation on where to rent a bike!
Once it gets too hot to devote yourself to any cultural activities, hanging out by the pool of one of the luxury hotels is your the best option. You will have to pay an entrance fee of 10USD at most places, but it’s so worth it. I really couldn’t have faced the thought of not jumping into a pool under the incredible heat.
Bagan is also a good place to be if you feel like a change from the eternal Shan noodles, as you will be able to find a more diverse restaurant scene than in most places in Myanmar. If you are craving a burger or Pizza, Bagan is the place to be. I really recommend the vegetarian Be Kind To Animals – The Moon, for example.
Bagan: Where to stay
I was very lucky that for once, I didn’t need to do any research about my accomodation, as I joined my Dutch friend Thirsa there, who already arrived earlier and organised a room for us in Winner’s guesthouse. Our room was super tiny and basic, but at least we had a room on our own with our private bathroom, so I can’t complain. (And my first choice, Ostello Bello, was full anyways)
Bagan – Good to Know
The city is situated along the Irrawaddy river, less than 200km from Mandalay. I initially really wanted to take the boat from Mandalay and Bagan, but unfortunately I was traveling in low season and also, the river was not carrying enough water for any boats to pass. I had no other choice than to go get there by nightbus, but I am not sad about it as all, as I otherwise would never have gone on my favourite Myanmar adventure: My motorbike trek around Kyaukme.
A popular option for foreigners to explore Bagan is from above via a hot air balloon. This does sound like a super fun thing to do, but was not an option for me, as I went in low season and also it was too hot for any balloon to rise. However, I heard that those hot air balloons are crazily expensive and I think you also get a very good view by simply climbing one of the higher pagodas for free!
Prepare to have some cash ready upon arrival, as you will be charged an entrance fee (20USD if I remember correctly) in order to visit the city.