Inle Lake was one of the most magical places we have ever visited. It is a fresh water lake (the second largest in...
Why is Bagan one of the Most Interesting Places to Visit in Myanmar
When you plan your visit to Myanmar, there’s no doubt Bagan should be at the top of 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. After visiting Bagan, we could easily understand why it must be on anyone’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 or the Shwesandaw pagoda but there are many 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 some pagodas were damaged in the earth quake in 2016 and therefore some might be closed or under renovation
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 for their recommendations.
Wake Up early For 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-life-time magnificent sight.
Important Tip: Bring a flashlight and come early to have a good spot or consult your hotel/hostel of other less crowded spots to watch the sunrise from.
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 highlight of the visit). Make sure to reserve a place in advance.
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
Just relax and enjoy this small town with its many boutique hotels and great restaurants. We 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.