Temples of Bagan – Must-See. What place have you traveled to that make you catch your breath? Is it the Eifel Tower? The Taj Mahal? The Serengeti? The Great Barrier Reef? At the top of this list needs to be the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar (formally known as Burma). I have been incredibly fortunate to have visited these temples three times in 2005, 2012, and again in 2017. And every time I depart, I am already mentally planning my next trip.
Bagan is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and this area is comprised of the densest collection of Buddhist temples, stupas, and pagodas in the world. Some of these temples date back to the 11th century. At its height 13,000 of these temples covered this 42 square kilometers area, and today over 2,200 of these temples still remain.
The Kingdom of Pagan the forerunner of modern Myanmar reigned in this area from 9th to 13th centuries. Bagan’s golden age ended in the 13th century when the Mongols defeated the kingdom. This area still remained a place of pilgrimage and new temple construction trickled to only a handful over the coming centuries.
A visitor needs to block off a minimum of several days to breathe in these temples. The temples come in various styles, designs, and sizes. A meaningful part of a visit includes watching both sunrises and sunsets. Multiple temples throughout the area serve as viewing points. As Bagan becomes more popular each year, these temples are becoming over run with tourists. I suggest finding a “second tier” temple to view the movement of the sun. For an in-depth overview of the temples check out the Bagan Super Travel Guide.
An incredible experience in Bagan is a hot balloon ride at sunrise. This is a truly unique experience, with an equally expensive ticket price of $300-$400 with three different companies competing for your business. Check out more detailed information on hot air ballooning. A great tip to save money is do NOT book directly with the balloon company but use a local company. I saved $100 doing so. I used YTT.
This is a time lapse with the GoPro clipped to the balloon.
Another GoPro time lapse from the top of a temple, watching the hot air balloons glide by.
There are a number of ways to explore the temples. Each with their own set of pros and cons. You can hire a car and driver for $30-$50 a day. The benefit is AC and a driver to point you in the right direction. You can hire a horse and carriage. This is a hot and uncomfortable way to view the temples. You can rent an electric motorbike. This is a great option for exploring the temples on your own. It will set you back $5-$8 a day. And you can rent a bike. The cons, too slow to cover a lot of ground and often too hot.
What is it like to ride an eBike around Bagan?
The entry fee is $20 for a five day pass which will be collected at the airport. Hold onto your pass, I was stopped a couple of times for my ticket. It is best to visit from November to February, their winter. A hot and dry summer takes place from March to May. And the rainy season comprises the rest of the year. Drink a lot of water, bring sun block, and a hat. More on the weather. Also, when entering a temple no shoes or socks.
Where to stay?
On my most recent visit, I stayed at The Regency Hotel located in Nyaung-U section of Bagan. The Regency is located within walking distance of the bus stop and only four minutes from the airport. The hotel was built recently in 2015. The staff is incredibly warm and friendly. The Regency has a great pool, which is perfect to cool off in after a long day of exploring the temples.
The internet is free and works well with plenty of plugs in the room. An extensive breakfast is included with an omelet station. And for lunch/dinner, I highly recommend the Kackin Spicy Chicken which I ate three times.
I also greatly appreciated their eBike service. I would reserve the night before for a 5 am pick up the next day for sunrise. With eyes half closed I would stumble to my bike. The bike was always ready and waiting with a staff member next to the bike with the keys. I would bring the bike back to the hotel after sunrise for a rest before going out again. The staff would clean off the bike and recharge. I was truly impressed with this service.
To book a stay, click here: The Regency Hotel
Unfortunately, Bagan was subject to an earthquake in August, 2016. Practically every major temple has some scaffolding on it. And this definitely detracts from the experience. And more concerning, repair work seems to be nearly non-existent. I wonder how long it will take them to repair these temples. While the construction work was disappointing from a visual standpoint, nonetheless the temples remain one of my favorite places to visit in the world.
Temples of Bagan – Must-See
Temples of Bagan – Must-See
The Regency Hotel hosted me during my visit in Bagan. My true opinions are reflected in my review. Also, if you book through Agoda, I will earn a fee.