Tips For Your Bagan Itinerary and Top Things To Do
When you plan your visit to Myanmar, there’s no doubt Bagan is going to be one of the top attractions on your itinerary. Bagan is such a unique place with so many things to do. It is the old kingdom of Myanmar and is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites of South East Asia. It is one of those special places where you can wander around and marvel at all of the ancient relics and almost imagine the original inhabitants walking around here centuries ago. Between the 11th and the 13th centuries more than 10,000 pagodas and temples were built and out of which more than 2,000 monuments remain today in various state of repair and exploring the different temples and stupas is one of the top attractions of Bagan, but not the only attraction! After visiting Bagan, we could easily understand why it must be on everyone’s Myanmar itinerary.
How to Get to Bagan
Bagan is located in the Mandalay region. The nearest airport is Nyaung U and from there it’s a short ride car. There are also buses from Yangon, Mandalay and Inle Lake and trains from Yangon and Mandalay. If you are arriving from Mandalay, it is approximately a 4-hour drive by car. For more information check these Bagan transportation details.
Top Things to Do For Your Bagan Itinerary
Admire the Pagodas, Stupas and Temples of Bagan
So what is the main difference between pagodas, stupas and temples? A Pagoda is a Hindu or a Buddhist temple or sacred building, basically a generic name for temples and stupas. A stupa is a structure which contains relics and was built in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist saint. You can not enter a stupa simply because there is no entrance. Temples, on the other hand, are pagodas with four entrances.
Myanmar is known as the land of Pagodas, and Bagan is the perfect place to explore them. Some of Bagan’s pagodas are more famous than others such as the Ananda temple , Thatbyinnyu Temple, the Sein Nyet Sister Temples, and the Shwesandaw pagoda but there are many more to choose from. You can either hire a bicycle and explore the area by yourself or hire a local guide to discover the less known Bagan pagodas and also deepen your knowledge about Myanmar’s culture and the history of Bagan. Be aware that you’ll always find some pagodas that are closed for renovation, so consult your guide/hotel regarding which pagodas you should visit. There’s no doubt that exploring the pagodas in the compound should be the top attraction on your list of things to do in Bagan!
Watch The Famous Bagan Sunset
One of the top things to do in Bagan is watching the sunset from one of the pagodas. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, it is truly a special experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Most people choose to watch the sunset from the top of the Shwesandaw pagoda. There will be many people around, so make sure to come early in order to have a good viewpoint. If you prefer a more secluded place, ask the locals or your guide for their recommendations.
Our Top Attraction: Watching the Spectacular Bagan Sunrise
Even if you are not a morning person, you should definitely wake up early to watch the sunrise in Bagan. You’ll need to wake up as early as 4:00 or 5:00 am (depending on the season) but it is absolutely one of the best sights we have ever seen and it should at the top of your list of things to do in Bagan. We climbed up rows of very high and steep steps with a flashlight and were surprised to find so many people already at the top (at around 5 am). Just imagine watching the sunrise over the ancient temples while feeling the sun warming your face and listening to the birds welcoming you to a brand new day. And then when you think things can’t get any better, dozens of hot-air balloons can be seen from the distance, and all you have to do is hold your camera and click away to try and capture the breath-taking sight of the balloons among the temples or just enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime magnificent sight. Despite the unreasonable hour we had to wake at, and the lack of our usual morning coffee, we were so glad we put it on our Bagan itinerary!
Important Tip: Bring a flashlight and come early to have a good spot or consult your hotel/hostel/guide of other less crowded spots to watch the sunrise from. It was our top attraction in Bagan so don’t skip it!
Take A Hot-Air Balloon Ride
Take a ride in a hot-air balloon at sunrise (we didn’t do it but for a lot of people it is the top attraction of the visit). Make sure to reserve a place in advance if you want to add it to your Bagan itinerary!
Visit The Local Art and Crafts Factories
There are a few small factories you can visit in the area such as a fan-maker factory, soy bean paste factory and the more commercialized Bagan lacquerware factory that provides an in-depth explanation about the process. There you can also find a huge shop with various lacquer items to buy.
Enjoy The Special Atmosphere
So many time we find ourselves chasing after all the top attractions on our busy itinerary, we forget to enjoy the present moment and the special vibes of the place we are visiting. So just relax and enjoy this small town with its many boutique hotels and great restaurants. Due to a very busy itinerary, we only had a day and a half here so we had little time to relax and enjoy the charms of the town and our hotel. However, many visitors choose to stay here longer and during the hottest hours of the day take a long break and relax in the hotel’s pool with a nice cocktail. You can always go back to your Indiana Jones adventures in the afternoon.
Where to Stay in Bagan
Where to Eat in Bagan
Bagan is such a great place with so many things to do other than exploring the pagodas, so don’t forget to check some of the other attractions in the area! If you are planning your Myanmar Itinerary, don’t forget to read our tips for planning a trip to Myanmar before you go!