Surrounded by thousands of small pagodas, Bagan has an incredibly breathtaking landscape. From every corner of the city you can admire beautiful sceneries that seem untouched by humans, an amazing experience for those looking for a break from the city. We stayed in Bagan for 3 days – 2 nights, plenty of time to explore the many pagodas and witness the magical sunsets and sunrises from different vantage points.
Unfortunately we could not find any space in hostels around the area (tip: book ahead of time!!) so we stayed at this beautiful hotel located by Ayeyarwady River and right next to the archeological zone, Bagan Thande Hotel, highly recommended! However, if you are tight on budget, I would suggest an hotel in Nyang U, where most of the restaurants and hostels are located.
1. TEMPLE AT SUNRISE
We were eager to see the sunrise in Bagan after the countless great reviews we saw online, and we were not disappointed. We settled for Shwesandaw Pagoda, although crowded with tourists, it was walking distance from our hotel and the views were incredible.
I suggest getting there early, we arrived around 5am and it was already crowded but we managed to get a really good spot, also just watch out for where all the professional photographers set their cameras to be sure which side the sun will rise (on the east!).
2. TEMPLE AT SUNSET
The sunset from Pyathadar Hpaya included views of the vastness of the areas and the beautiful greenery that surrounds the small pagodas. We were lucky enough to see a farmer leading a herd of cows back to their farm. At the bottom of this pagoda there is a shop run by an old man, grab a nice coconut for only 1,000 kyat and head up to the top, you’ll get to enjoy an amazing sunset sipping delicious coconut water.
On our last day in Bagan we watched the sunset from North Guni, a smaller temple with a different view (lower than Pyathadar Hpaya), but nonetheless beautiful. Honestly, it is really hard to go wrong here in Bagan, you can stop pretty much anywhere, sit on the top of any temple, and have an amazing view.
3. TEMPLE HOPPING
The best way to move around Bagan is with an e-bike. For only 5000 kyat you can freely move around Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyang U (just try not to remain with no battery half-way!). Keep in mind that the roads to the smaller temples are very sandy and it can be quite challanging to drive through them, but it is still the most convenient way to temple hop. We took an entire day and a half to go through the smaller temples and by the end we were completely templed-out! The pagodas are absolutely beautiful, but it is extremely tiring to go through all of them. An entire day to go around is plenty of time. We decided not to get a local tour guide, as we simply wanted to go through them at our own pace.
Here is a list of the main temples you should see:
- Ananda Temple
- Dhammayangyi Temple
- Thatbyinnyu Temple
- Shwesandaw Pagoda
- Shwezigon Pagoda
- Gawdawpalin Temple
- Pyathatgyi Temple
4. MOUNT POPA
On our second day in Bagan we booked a trip on a share-taxi to Mount Popa, an incredible temple at the top of a unique looking rocky mountain. The temple itself at the top was not great, and the walk up was rather dirty to handle barefoot. However, from a distance Mount Popa is absolutely worth it, a once in a lifetime landscape that should not be missed. On the walk up, you will see many monkeys and monks feeding them, to be safe, try avoiding bringing food or water with you.
5. AYEYARWADY RIVER
All the sunset views from the pagodas are absolutely stunning, however, the sunset over Ayeyarwady river is just as beautiful, if you feel like a change of scenery! We watched it from our hotel, Bagan Thande Hotel.
6. AFTER-SUNSET VIEWS
Try to stick around a little longer after sunset to fully enjoy the changing color of the sky. Get on the e-bike right before it gets dark and as you drive on the dirt roads back to the main road you will have amazing views of the temples and pagodas, definitely one of the highlights!