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Bagan is one of the oldest and best archaeological sites in the entire world. As a preferred UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most extensive archaeological zone globally, Bagan rests in the well-known Mandalay Region of Myanmar.
A tour to this iconic and breathtaking town is a must experience during any Myanmar adventure. From sunrises and sunsets to accommodation and restaurants, here’s our complete Bagan, Myanmar travel guide with the best travel tips to help plan you a great Bagan vacation!
How To Reach Bagan?
Bagan isn’t a comfortable town to reach as there are no direct global flights to its nearest airport, Nyaung U Airport.
But once you enter Myanmar, most probably in Yangon or Mandalay, you’ll get various choices to reach Bagan.
By plane: If you’re in a hurry, flying is the quickest way to Bagan. Many national airlines from Heho, Mandalay, and Yangon have continuous flights to Nyaung U Airport. A tour will take about 40 min from Heho, 30 min from Mandalay, and an hour and 20 minutes from Yangon.
By bus: Getting a bus — whether a day or night one — is the most common method of going to the town because bus services in Myanmar are cheap and comfortable.
Frequent bus routes to Bagan are from Mandalay, Yangon, Kalaw, Nyaung Shwe, Taunggyi, and Pyin Oo Lwin. They offer free bottled water and wet wipes to make your trip more relaxed.
By train: A train trip to Bagan can offer you beautiful vistas of the countryside. However, trains in the country are less effective and reliable than buses, so you better be patient.
Train classes vary from regular (with plain wooden seats) to primary and higher class (with cushioned seats) to the sleeper (with sleeping cells). Anyway, it’ll be a lengthy and rough ride, whichever you prefer.
By vessel: If you’re pretty adventurous and have plenty of time, then exploring by boat can be an enjoyable option than the common transportation modes. Popular boat paths move through the Ayeyarwady River. And a journey takes about 12 hours on average.
Before reaching Bagan, the visitors have to pay a fee to get into the town and tour the temples/pagodas. You need to pay either 25000 kyats (€15.50) or USD 25. After payment, they’ll provide you with a card you need to keep with you throughout your stay in town.
With the card, you can go inside and climb the temples/pagodas “for free”.
Few visitors didn’t pay the fee involuntarily. It’s frequently the case for the travellers who came to Bagan in a bus with nearly all locals only. In case of checking, if you do not have a card, be intelligent. “I left it at the hotel, Bla Bla Bla…“, or you’ll get into big trouble.
Sunrise of Bagan
The sun begins to rise in Bagan around 5:30-6:15 am, depending on your trip period. It arises as early as 5:30 am from May to July, while from December to March, it can rise between 5:55 am to 6:05 am.
If you desire to get an excellent watching place, you need to place your alarm for much earlier. It would be best if you got to the temple at least an hour before the true sunrise – depending on how renowned the pagoda/temple is. You could be looking at waking up at 4:00 am.
For me, sunset offers excellent scenery, but the sunrise was more peaceful. Both are thrilling. Additionally, there are many temples that you can climb for a view.
Best places to see Sunrise in Bagan
It is an excellent spot to observe both the sunrise and sunset – particularly as it gives a panoramic landscape of Bagan, Myanmar.
The only drawback is how overcrowded it gets during sunrise and sunset times. So, carrying that in mind, you should reach here as soon as possible to ensure you have a solid, suitable spot to witness.
Many tourists ignore this pagoda as it is hidden from the more familiar paths.
To reach the apex of the pagoda, you’ll require to discover the narrow passageway that will carry you up to the seventh-floor terrace.
It was much more peaceful than any other site we toured. I went during the sunset period and was pleased with how much space I had to marvel at the amazing views – You can also locate the Dhammayangyi and Shwesandaw pagodas close by.
Pyathadar Hpaya, one of the more active temples on the Bagan Sunrise way. Also recognised as Pya-Tha-Da Paya, it has one of the most extensive terraces of all the pagodas in Bagan, and its position made it an ideal spot to watch the sunrise above Bagan. The landscape views are truly exceptional.
As the biggest pagoda in the entirety of town, extending up 328 feet (100meter), Shwesandaw is hugely famous for photography in Bagan. It is recognised to become super packed during the sunrise or sunset hours – so to receive a good place, arrive before an hour.
Though to overlook all hordes entirely, tour it during the middle of the day and be entertained by the town’s stunning scenery.
While most locals are friendly, soft-hearted and kind, you can always crash into somebody who will attempt to scam you. It occurs everywhere around the world, and sometimes you can’t overlook it, but it’s essential to bear in mind some things that can help you save time and money.
I’ve noticed some scams in Bagan and sadly became the prey of one. Here are some scam types which you can avoid.
It is one of the most obvious scams in Bagan in which children are involved. The kid will claim that he is collecting foreign notes and coins and will request to give them, if any.
We are certain it is not just a few children with true passion because some requested us in the same way.
To help prevent this scam, just don’t provide them with any cent and overlook each kid requesting such currency for their collection. And don’t feel sad about it. It’s extremely unlikely that they get to have the money anyhow.
Some locals will try to sell you “original” sapphires or rubies that, in reality, are worthless frauds. Although most would identify these are fakes, some people purchase them believing they are actual, as otherwise, these scammers wouldn’t survive.
Overlook everyone who attempts to sell you valuable stones in the centre of a field.
Bagan entry fee is 25000 kyat. The night I reached the town, the taxi driver told me that he’d taken another route to avoid the entry fee and rather I can pay him 10000 Kyat.
I also thought it was a good idea! But, the next morning, the archaeological park authorities surprised me by asking for my entry permits. Again Charged!
You’ll also meet tourist touts who will offer to show you sunrise from the temple and then take you to an unknown place from where there is no view. They’ll charge an entry fee and photography fee, and you’ll end up being duped.
Simply, ask the taxi driver which route he prefers to go and only book if the route is a regular one that offers an entry permit. You’ll surely need an entry card while visiting Bagan.
Various paintings and stone carvings sold in tourist places are certainly attractive and can offer excellent souvenirs.
Here the scam happens in the way that sellers will tell you that what you are getting is homemade, unique, and rare. So be cautious because a story of a family creating hand paintings can be indeed heart-touching, and you will pay way more cash than you should.
Try not to purchase anything from people who begin telling you a story of his family or group creating a painting for hours. If you love a painting, but the person is scamming you, just step away.
That’s the most important one! At one of the significant temples, many tourists reported being asked to give the visitor fee to proceed with sightseeing. It was not at the entry gate, but instead, it was located within the walls.
A few people in temples demand much more charges compared to all the other attractions nearby and they state it is a ticket required to enter all other temples. And, when you move ahead to visit other temples you’ll not be asked to show such tickets in Bagan.
Yes, it ends as a scam. A tourist police officer is also involved in it to encourage people to buy the ticket.
After a little research, I discovered that it was not the only one. Actually, there are many other tourists who were stopped at a false checkpoint from the bus station to the city and were demanded to pay or leave Bagan.
The only solution is to step away. That’s, certainly, if you are in a situation to do so, as the checkpoint condition would be much difficult to avoid without paying.
If you’re demanded to pay in one of the temples, just avoid and head to view other temples. It’s seemingly the only group that controls around Bagan with the mute permit of the authorities.
Where to Stay in Bagan?
Bagan is divided into three main regions — Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung U. You can find the cheapest hotels in Nyaung U, while the expensive ones are in Old Bagan. Here are my references for each area:
Nyaung U: As per price and location, Nyaung U is the most suitable area to live in. And my topmost pick for the area is Zfreeti Hotel. You can get a decent-sized luxury room with AC, complimentary Wi-Fi, and an en-suite bathroom at a fair cost.
New Bagan: If you desire to lay heads somewhere peaceful and relaxing, Bagan Lodge is an ideal option for you. Their villas with tented roofs have every modern facility you could probably require.
Also, the rate isn’t bad for such an opulence resort, considering you get comforts at a gym, outdoor pools, a spa, and a jacuzzi.
Old Bagan: If you desire to be enclosed by old pagodas and temples throughout your time or you’re here for backpacking in Bagan, book a hotel like Tharabar Gate.
While it will be a little costly, you’ll receive a one-of-a-kind experience — stunning views, personalised service, and deluxe rooms.
What to Eat in Bagan?
Getting decent food is not at all challenging in Bagan. For a proper meal, costs range from MMK6k to MMK8k per head. Here are the eateries I tried and became more than happy with:
Aroma 2: This Indian restaurant is a famous hang-out spot at nighttime as it offers a romantic vibe. They have one of the best services and their curries are simply mouth-watering.
Weather Spoon’s: This bar and restaurant is a favourite dining place in Nyaung U’s so-called ‘restaurant row’. Most even claim they offer the best chicken burger in the town!
La Terrazza: I was overwhelmed to discover this Italian restaurant in Bagan. Also positioned in ‘restaurant row’, this spot surprisingly offers exclusive pizzas and pasta. Their wine collection is great too!
The Moon: This restaurant claims to be the first veg eatery in the town. Not sure if that’s correct, but who cares. Their healthy plates are delicious and honest! Find this place close to the Ananda Temple in Old Bagan.
7 Sisters: This is an outdoor restaurant in New Bagan operated by, you guessed it, seven sisters. It provides Thai, Burmese, Chinese, and even European dishes. The golden pork curry is actually great and comes extremely recommended.
Hope this Bagan travel guide will help you in a future trip to Myanmar. Always cross check the details with recent political climate in the country. The borders are closed so don’t book your packages on false notions.