Bagan is a totally captivating and truly magical destination, with spiritual architecture and arid, natural landscapes…
Beautiful, in a jaw-dropping kind of way. A must on any tour to Burma.
Bagan is home to one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia – probably the world – covering 42 sq kilometres of ruins. It is claimed that at one stage there were over 10,000 temples, pagodas, and stupas, of which now just close to 3000 remain intact. That covers 911 temples, 834 stupas or pagodas, 431 brick monasteries, 54 ordination halls and 892 still be excavated!
And just for your information, a stupa is solid and small, usually white. A pagoda is larger, hollow and you can climb up on the outside. Temples you can explore, both interior and exterior.
Bagan is also the start, or end, of many cruise journeys on the Irrawaddy River (also spelt Ayeyarwaddy) to Mandalay.
The most popular time to travel tends to be November to March when the days are bright and sunny. Ideal for sightseeing. It is also the busiest time, so the sites can be crowded. April to June sees the temperatures soar, frequently moving into the mid ’40s. Less crowds, but it’s a very hot dry period. July to October sees the rainy months with heavy showers, although less dramatic than in other parts of Burma.
As with all religious sites in Burma, socks and shoes should be removed when visiting. This might make climbing the numerous steps to the temple tops difficult, but there is a viewing tower for those less agile.
There are obviously so many temples or pagodas to visit, but Ananda is probably the most beautiful inside and out . It is like a museum, with intricate stone carvings as well as a golden temple).
The views from the top of Shwesandaw and Pyathada temples are just incredible. Also worth visiting are That Byinnya, the highest and beautiful from far away, and Dhamayangyi which is the biggest and has the most detailed brickwork. Amazing when you think it was constructed in 1165 AD.
Hot Air Balloon Rides over Bagan would be an exceptional, never forgotten experience!
Also, make time to visit some of the adjacent rural villages. Hot Air Balloon rides would be an exceptional, never forgotten experience. They are usually available November to mid-March only, although some operate to mid-April depending on weather conditions. Prices start at around US$350 pp for a 45-minute ride. Expensive, yes, but a once in a lifetime experience.
If you are not taking a 3 or 4 day cruise, we also suggest a one-hour sunset trip on the river which offers a different perspective.
Also worth considering would be a tour of the temples and stupas by horse-drawn cart, maybe not for the whole day but an hour or two will give you some idea of the vast area.
Our Suggested Hotels in Bagan (see footnote)
The Hotel@Thrabar Gate
83 rooms and suites. Set within old Bagan, just 5 minutes’ walk to the Ananda temple. You are literally surrounded by hundreds of temples and pagodas. Traditional low rise accommodation, with teak floors and Burmese furniture. Attractive gardens, restaurant and swimming pool. Charming and rather stylish, in a deliberately understated manner. The airport is 25 minutes. (see footnote on Bagan Hotels)
Nightly rate per person £88 May to October
£108 November to March
Auream Palace Resort
114 deluxe rooms and free-standing villas, some with their own plunge pool. One of the most luxurious and opulent in Burma. ( see footnote ) Incredible location in the heart of the archaeological area, a 27-acre tropical estate with lush gardens. Facilities include a huge main pool plus additional pool close to the deluxe rooms, several restaurants, impressive spa. Viewing tower adjacent. The airport is 15 minutes away.
Nightly rates per person £118 May to October
£148 November to March
Bagan Hotels Overview
Our two suggested hotels are rated amongst the best in rural Burma. In terms of design and overall standards, we think you will be pleased. In common with all hotels, once outside the larger cities, prices can be high, simply because demand outstrips supply, and this can be reflected in incidentals. Wi-fi is not a Bagan speciality, no matter what level hotel you book.
Command of English is also limited. We think that is rather charming, although, at times, it can be aggravating. Also, Burmese beds are built for straight, hardbacks, so not for everyone.
Don’t let any of this put you off. Bagan is one of the wonders of the world, in our opinion, and has to be seen.
Other hotels we frequently use are The Bagan, Thande, Ayeyar and Bagan Lodge
Other Hotels & Tours in Bagan, Burma
"There's no such thing as the best hotel, just the right one..."
Click for Booking Terms, Price Guides & Flight Information
All price guides are Per Person Sharing Double Room (Entry level), based on travel between May and/or June when prices are generally at their lowest and include promotional offers.
Supplements will probably apply at other times, particularly mid-summer in the Med, and for rooms and/or transfers arranged for single travellers.
Please refer to Travel Advice on our home page or look at www.fco.gov.uk as the Foreign Office may have issued specific destination information on safety and terrorism.