Travel guide to visiting Bagan in Myanmar

The fantastic land of a thousand pagodas


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Bagan, Myanmar

GPS: 21.174925102413, 94.863246940661

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Bagan is a Unesco World Heritage site and the ancient capital of the first Burmese empire, the Kingdom of Pagan, as discovered by Bagan archaeological missions exploring Bagan ancient temples. These are highly recommended temples to visit in this Mandalay region of Myanmar. There are many opportunities to explore the temples in Bagan when you visit Bagan, which thrived from the mid-9th to the end of the 13th centuries, about the same period as the Khmer Empire in Southeast Asia. It was during the reign of Burmese king Anawrahta, at the origin of the unification of the kingdom in the 11th century, that Bagan became its capital. He distinguished himself militarily by annexing several territories (the kingdoms of Dvâravatî, Sri Ksetra and Dali) backed by the basin of the Irrawaddy River. From these victorious battles, the sovereign brings back as spoils of war many relics, manuscripts and sacred texts like the Tripiṭaka (founding texts of Buddhism). He discovered the theravāda (an ancient and rigorous branch of Buddhism from India and Sri Lanka) then decided to be converted by the monk Shin Arahan, originally from Thaton, the former capital of the Mon kingdom of Dvâravatî.

King Anawrahta imposed the theravāda on his subjects as the new state religion of his empire and abandoned the Mahāyāna Buddhism practised by his predecessors. In Bagan he built a vast complex of religious monuments and Bagan temples you should visit dedicated to the worship of the Buddha and to Buddhist teaching which included the best temples. This titanic project was continued by its successors heading the kingdom of Pagan before gaining its contemporary nickname “land of a thousand pagodas”. Despite several earthquakes and the devastating invasion of the city by the Great Khan of the Mongols and future Emperor of China (Yuan dynasty), Kublai Khan in 1287, Bagan retained countless archaeological remains. Divided into three geographic areas including old and new Bagan (New Bagan to the south, Old Bagan to the north and Nyaung-U to the east) along the Irrawaddy River, this place mainly impresses visitors with the density of its temples, pagodas, monasteries, stūpas (structures in bell) and Buddhist sanctuaries centered around old Bagan, new Bagan and Nyaung-u. In total, it forms more than 2,200 religious sites and monuments still standing, which are spread over an area around Bagan and around old Bagan of more than 100 km².

An absolute archaeological treasure, Bagan with its beautiful temples in Bagan is today one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Buddhism. Located in a region of high seismic activity, its jewels are under the constant threat of new earthquakes. The last major shake dates back to August 2016 (magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale), damaging numerous temples and pagodas. Under the sponsorship of Unesco, major restoration work will be carried out on nearly 500 buildings and temples in the area of Bagan and its surrounds in the coming years. Bagan is famous for its temples you want to visit on your trip to Myanmar, from the largest temple in Bagan to the other best Bagan temples and sites in Bagan, and is a great place to visit for an unforgettable experience. The monuments in Bagan and other attractions in Bagan since historical times, including sunrise in Bagan and sunset in Bagan, are compelling reasons to go to Bagan when you visit Myanmar. For this reason a complete guide or complete travel guide as well as a map of Bagan is the best way to see Bagan when you visit the temples. A sunrise and sunset hot air balloon ride is the best way and best time to visit Bagan, meaning you will need to stay in a hotel in Bagan or alternative accommodation to visit temples at the ideal time in Bagan, when the air is cool enough for the balloons to float close to the temples. To get to Bagan and stay in Bagan or stay in old Bagan you will first need to get yourself to Myanmar, travel to modern-day Myanmar will take you through a main travel hub that could be the largest city in Myanmar and the largest city in the country or the second largest city to reach Bagan for a Bagan stay through a domestic flight to Bagan. This is not the only way to travel and there are other ways to make the trip in Bagan or to Bagan from a travel hub in the country within Myanmar and the main travel hubs. It is a good idea to get travel insurance, pack for Bagan whether you are having a day trip or spending nights in Bagan. Pagodas in Bagan, lacquerware shops in Bagan and hotels in new Bagan are some of the many attractions of each area in Bagan. The internet in Bagan will allow visitors to access free travel guides, information about Bagan entrance fee costs and the 10 most beautiful Bagan temples. Bagan is one of the most exhilarating and memorable places to visit and can be traced back to Bagan history, Bagan is also a great place to spend afternoons in Bagan viewing the spectacular sites.

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  • A total of 4,000 pagodas, temples and stupas adorned the Bagan site and stretched as far as the eye could see at its peak. Despite the disappearance of half of them, Bagan is home to the largest concentration of Buddhist sanctuaries in the world. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
  • The pagodas and stūpas are built in order to keep relics and teachings of Buddha. The hundreds of sanctuaries built by King Anawrahta during his reign in Bagan enabled him to assert his political sovereignty while making this place one of the most renowned Buddhist centres in Asia.
  • Each temple is generally guarded by a family of villagers living nearby. A key is entrusted to them to open the monument for visitors (during the day, the majority of the temples remain open continuously).
  • Buddhism, mainly from its Theravāda branch (the most widespread form of Buddhism in Southeast Asia), is practised by around 90% of the population living in Myanmar. This is the country with the most monks in the world in proportion to the number of inhabitants (around 500,000 monks for 55 million Burmese).
  • Neem resin (tree native to India) is commonly used to restore the old paintings and frescoes of the religious buildings of Bagan. Harvested once a year, it is very effective in combating the ageing of rock art works and curtailing the annoyance of insects.
  • In 1975, a first earthquake caused significant damage to the temples and sanctuaries of Bagan. In the years that followed, the military junta then in power launched a rehabilitation program called “embellishment”. Using modern and heavy materials such as concrete or metal, that led to the collapse of new buildings and carrying out of catastrophic renovations for Burmese heritage. In fact, the majority of the work was carried out without respecting the architecture of the premises, without using traditional materials and without knowing the techniques of old construction. Thus, local families or entrepreneurs could volunteer to adopt a temple or a pagoda and carry out the renovation or reconstruction work that was deemed necessary. Technology used today makes it possible to model the sanctuaries in 3D to reconstruct them identically right down to the smallest detail in the event of a new earthquake.
  • The New Bagan sector was created in 1990 by the Burmese military junta then in power, to move the inhabitants of the Old Bagan area.
  • The best period to visit Bagan is during the dry season (from November to February, apart from the monsoon rains, where conditions are best for balloon flights).
  • On site, obtain a local tourist card embodying the main points of interest and roads in the Bagan region.
  • Renting a bicycle (electric or not) can be a great way to rally the different temples independently (start your route at dawn to avoid the crowd).
  • Utilizing the services of a horse-drawn carriage has a certain charm by opting for a rhythm aligned with the spirituality of the place.
  • Take care to keep your shoulders and knees covered as a sign of respect for the population and the monks (shoes and socks must be removed before entering the temples).
  • Phenomenal amount of temples, stūpas and pagodas (particularly in the Old Bagan area)
  • Buddhist temples of Myauk Guni, Bulethi, Abeyadana, Shwegugyi, Tha Beik Hmauk Gu Hpaya, Oak Kyaung Gyi, Thisa-wadi, Htilominlo, Thet Kya Muni, Kondawgyi, Ananda, Thatbyinnyu, Gawdawpalin, Lokatheikpan, Winido (group of temples) ; the Nathlaung Kyaung Temple (last Hindu temple in Bagan) ; the Dhammayangyi Temple (considered as the biggest and most important in Bagan, it has remained in its original state since the 12th century)
  • Pagodas of Shwesandaw (hbuilt to preserve hair relics of the Buddha after the successful conquest of Thaton), Bupaya and Shwezigon; the Myazedi inscription visible in the pagoda of the same name (stone including sacred texts written in 4 languages at the beginning of the 12th century)
  • Numerous statues and sculptures representing Buddha (some of which are wood made from in the 11th century) ; the old murals of the Upali Ordination Hall and the Sulamani Temple; the frescoes of the Ananda Ok Kyaung monastery (dated from the 17th century, there are in an exceptional state of conservation) ; copiousness of gold on the domes and structures of certain monuments and multiple decorative details
  • Bagan Archaeological Museum (Old Bagan sector); remains of Tharabar Gate
  • Sunrise and sunset shows; views from the top of religious monuments; expanse of palm and tamarind trees
  • Boat cruises on the mythical Irrawaddy River (more or less straight for more than 2,000 km of linear it is one of the largest in Asia); Overview of the region in a hot air balloon; visiting of small rural villages and the daily and typical Nyaung U market
  • Events and festivals organized on full moon evenings and workshops for the traditional manufacture of lacquer and lacquered objects
  • Extinct volcano of Mount Popa, refuge of the 37 Nats (spirits) of Burma (it is located about fifty km from Bagan) and the sacred Buddhist monastery built at its summit

Where to eat

  • TS Bagan Restaurant
    (exciting cuisine)
  • Be Kind to Animals The Moon
    (famous vegetarian restaurant)
  • Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant
    (hearty dishes)

Where to go

  • Inle Lake
    (lake with floating gardens)
  • Kuthodaw Pagoda
    (the largest book in the world)
  • Natmataung National Park
    (the highest peak of Myanmar)

Where to stay

  • Bagan Empress Hotel
    (spacious and comfortable)
  • Ruby True Hotel
    (peaceful and beautiful setting)
  • Saw Nyein San Guest House
    (cosy guest room)