Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, Bagan is an archeological paradise, with over 4,000 temples covering a dusty plain of 40 square miles! Take your camera. This landscape offers unrivaled vistas and uninterrupted panoramas that are what photographers dreams are made of.

Where else but Myanmar could you climb to the top of a 1,000 year old temple for a better view of the sunset? Following a huge earthquake in 1975 some questionable restoration has taken place, however, this hasn’t dented the magic of Bagan.

Bagan, the capital of the first Myanmar Empire, is one of the richest archaeological sites in South East Asia, gloriously rivaling Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat, which sees upward of one million tourists per year. The best thing about the temples is that unlike many sights in South East Asia, there are no barriers and no ‘please don’t touch’ signs and the very low number of tourists are allowed to roam freely.

As you wander the ancient ruins, you can’t help but think of the vibrant communities that lived among the temples centuries ago and what a tremendous role they played in daily life and culture…

Bagan, Myanmar by Flash ParkerBagan, Myanmar by Flash Parker

Tips for Exploring the Temples

  • Exploring by bicycle: Renting a bicycle is one of the easiest ways to see the temples, both the famous ones and others with only a local name that are not mentioned on the map. Most of the temples are connected by sandy paths that offer your calves quite a workout (as well as your balance). Bicycles can be hired from the area around known as  Nyaung U, where many guesthouses can be found.
  • Exploring by horse and cart: Some people hire an authentic horse-cart with driver for 10,000 / day to take them round the temples which makes for a surreal, ‘out of this century’ experience!
  • Don’t miss sunset! At sunrise and sunset the landscape of Bagan is unmissable. Perch yourself atop a lonely temple and watch nature’s best performance over one of the most incredible landscapes in the world.
  • Interact with locals: One incredible fact about Bagan’s temples is that locals still live amongst the ruins. Local families are paid a modest stipend by ‘patrons’ from Yangon and elsewhere to look after certain temples. They are the best tour guides around!

Getting there

  • Bus: From Mandalay, it’s a seven hour bus ride mainly on (or rather, off) half-paved roads to reach Bagan. Backpackers traveling through the country will find that overnight buses deposit you every time at 4 a.m. at bus stations throughout the country.
  • Plane: From Yangon you can book flights with Bagan Airways or Yangon Air.
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