Everything You Need To Know About Exploring The Temples Of Bagan, Myanmar…
A highlight of visiting Myanmar is heading to Bagan and exploring the many temples which make this area a photographers paradise. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets paint the sky the most beautiful shades contrasted against the many pagoda silhouettes.
To enter the Bagan Archaeological Zone you must purchase a pass which should cost $20.
Though during my entire time of exploring the temples, I was never once asked to present my pass. I have read other stories of people not purchasing a ticket and getting away with it. Though, on our drive into Bagan the taxi driver stopped at a ticket counter, so we didn’t really have a choice.
Getting around the Temples
There are three main options for getting around the temples bicycle, horse cart or e-bike
These is probably the second most popular option. Bicycles are cheap to rent for a couple dollars and everyone can ride one making the idea of hiring appealing.
Though please consider the heat. Temperatures in Bagan can get up quite high and shade can be hard to come by. Even though there are over two thousand temples they are still a distance apart, so by the time you arrive you will likely be a sweaty mess. Also, many of the paths between the temples are just sand making it extremely difficult to peddle.
It is illegal for foreigners to drive in Myanmar preventing tourists from using motorbikes which are the common form of transportation in other South East Asian countries. This created a demand for the e-bike. They are essentially a scooter, though with a battery rather than a motor.
I highly recommend hiring one of these. The e-bikes are easy to drive, handle the sandy roads fairly well (still be careful) and will be the quickest option allowing you to see as many as the pagodas and temples as desired, just watch the battery levels.
I researched taking a horse cart quite a lot as it seemed like the fairytale way to explore this magical place. Though due to the temperatures the horses can get quite exhausted and it’s hard to tell if they are being looked after properly.
The cost for the day is between $15-$20 and you are providing a local with a job. Though, I was too worried about the wellbeing of the horses and decided against this option.
How many days to see the temples?
Spend around 2 or 3 days in Bagan. The first day check out the more popular temples, see which are the best to view the sunrise and sunset from and experience those. Once you have your bearings a bit more go out and explore the lesser known gems, chat with the families that look after the temples and get off the beaten path.
Either way you decide to do it there are over 2000 pagodas in the Bagan Archaeological area and therefore no individual one is overly crowded with tourist. If there are too many people around for your enjoyment, head five minutes more down the road and you’ll likely find somewhere else.
Make the most out of sunrise
Check the forecast and find out what exact time the sunrises that morning. You will want to go find some sort of transport about forty minutes- one hour beforehand. This way you will find the perfect spot high up on the temple and hopefully not too many people blocking your view.
For sunrises, I recommend visiting one of the temples along the sand paths rather than those which have a proper road as large tourist buses cannot access it.
Make the most out of sunset
Sunsets in Bagan and equally as magical as the sunrises where the sky will change to all sorts of shades. The clouds will start to stand out against the darkening backdrop and birds will be flying home for the night
Make sure you arrive at least forty minutes before sunset otherwise you might have trouble finding a good spot.
For both sunrise and sunset my favourite lens to use was my 55m-200m as it allowed me to zoom in on the distant temples with the sun in the background.
This is a very popular sunrise spot with a great view of the distant pagodas as well as the hot air balloons overtop. Just off the main road it is fairly easy to access. It became my favourite sunrise spot and it may get a little crowded so come early to get a good spot up high.
Quite far down the dirt track is Pay-Tha-Da-Paya and I would visit this temple every day during my visit. The paths within the temple open up to beautiful arches. Like any multiple level pagoda, the stair case is a bit of a squish, though the views are worth it. Visit here straight after sunrise and watch the hot air balloons land.
Being the largest and widest temple in the Bagan Archaeological area it really towers over the landscape. Rumour has it this temple is also haunted and it is also home to many bats which intensifies the visit.
If you’re after ancient ruins give Shwezigon a miss. Located in the Nyuang-U area it is easy to get to and a pleasant change if you are wanting to mix things up for an hour. The large golden pagoda towers over the temple grounds. There is lots to look at here, intricate designs, beautiful colours and if you’re brave enough hit the bell.
This temple is quite grand and you will be greeted by a large archway before entering the grounds, very photogenic. Many vendors have stalls inside, each trying to convenience you to purchase something as you walk along. The best view from this temple is outside, in my opinion, with the bicycles, e-bikes and horse drawn carriages below.
This is another beautiful temple with vendors selling all sorts of goodies just outside the complex. While we visited the archway to the temple was lined in red carpet. This deep red contrasting against the orangey-red of the bricks looked amazing. This temple is a little out of the way so was never overcrowded when I visited. Unfortunately we were not allowed inside.
End the day
To finish off the perfect day in Bagan head out to my favourite restaurant Weatherspoons. Well priced for the budget traveller, it is the perfect place to get your hit of western or Burmese food.