Bagan, Myanmar – This ancient archaeological wonder in Southeast Asia is revered as the Land of the Pagodas. Used to have 4,446 temples, now more than 2,000 remained sprawled in its wide plains. Indeed, one of the most shared photos of Bagan will leave you in awe. The silhouette of countless pagodas and stupas littered in Bagan’s plains, bathed in the early morning light with mist enveloping the landscape and hot air balloons flying above them. It was nothing short of magical. So for travelers aiming to see this wonder, here is my Bagan, Myanmar Travel Guide and Itinerary.
Bagan Myanmar Travel Guide and Itinerary Content:
- How to get to Bagan, Myanmar
- How to get Around Bagan
- What to Pack
- What/Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
- When to go
- Best temples for sunrise and sunset
- Side trip from Bagan
How to get to Bagan, Myanmar
Flight: If you have the money to burn and pressed for time, planes are the way to go. The nearest airport is Nyaung U and you can get domestic flights from Yangon, Mandalay, Heho, etc.
As of May 2017, flights from Yangon last for 1H 20 mins and usually cost 100$ – 200$ (Golden Myanmar Airlines, Asian Wings, Air KBZ, Myanmar National Airlines, Mann Yadanarpon Airlines).
Flights from Mandalay last for 30 mins and also cost 100$-200$ (Golden Myanmar Airlines, Asian Wings, Myanmar National Airlines, Mann Yadanarpon Airlines). You can check via Skyscanner or others.
Do take note that delayed flights are a norm here.
Bus: I reached Bagan from Yangon via the JJ Bus, one of the VIP buses. And I seriously recommend JJ. It was definitely worth the splurge at 19,000 kyats.
Since I was traveling solo, I got the solo seat since the bus only has 3 seats instead of 4 seats per row. There is also more legroom, a charging port, free snacks and water, free use of blanket (it’s freezing in the bus! Wear socks too!) and there is even a bus attendant, like one of those flight attendants.
I booked JJ Express via their Facebook Page . Other VIP buses include Elite, Mandalar Minn, and Shwe Nan Taw Express.
For those on the budget, local buses usually cost around 10,000-12,000 kyats. Buses can be booked via your accommodation.
Do take note that the Aung Mingalar Bus Station in Yangon is quite far from downtown so allow 1 – 2 hours for the terrible traffic. We got a taxi to take us to the bus station for 8,000 kyats.
Ready yourselves upon disembarking for you will be swarmed by touts and drivers all competing for customers. Normal rate to get to Nyaung U is 3000 kyats per person so haggle if you’re charged too high. Options include local shared taxi and trishaw.
Train: If you have the luxury of time and love train rides, then this is the way to go. There is an overnight train from Yangon to Bagan, as well as from Mandalay to Bagan. Trains arrive at Bagan Railway Station (around 15 mins to Nyaung U). See more about Train Travel in Myanmar in Seat61.
Boat: The boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan is one of the famous ones, cruising along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy River). You can choose between the express (fast) or slow boat, or the luxury river cruise if you have the budget for it. Travel time can take 10 – 20 hours or even days depending on the season. Boats arrive in Nyaung U jetty.
How to get around Bagan
Bagan is comprised of four settlements – Nyaung U, Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Myin Ka Bar.
Nyaung U is the touristy area, for it is also where a lot of tourists arrive from and stay during their visit. Old Bagan is where the ancient capital is, and definitely where to stay if you want to be near the temples and have a view of the Irrawaddy river.
To get around Bagan, you have the following options:
- Bicycle – The whole area of Bagan is enormous to be explored just on the bike. But, if you have the stamina for it then it will be fun for you. Just take the necessary measures to protect yourself from the heat, dust, and possible accidents. Prices are around 2000 kyat per day.
- E-bike – This is the most popular mode of transportation to get around nowadays. Bike and E-bike rental shops are aplenty and your hostel could possibly be renting out too. Electric bicycle rental prices vary depending on the bikes (how new is it/how big is it). Be sure to get the number of the person you’re renting from just in case it breaks down in the middle of the road. Be sure to test it out also nearby to check for defects. Prices range from 8000 kyats per day. (Note: tourists are not allowed to drive motorbikes in Bagan)
- Horse cart – Used to be the most popular, now horse carts are the “romantic” option. You can rent the horse cart with driver for a full day, half day or customized trip. Although you have a roof to shield you from the harsh sun rays, there is still the dust to combat. Also, this is, of course, the slower option compared to e-bikes and taxis. But your driver can also be your guide, and could lead you to some hidden gems! Prices range from 15000 kyats to 25000 kyats.
- Taxi – Definitely the most comfortable way to tour Bagan. Like horse carts, you can rent a taxi for the full day, half day or customized trips. Prices range from 20$ to 50$.
- Hot Air Balloon – Hot Air Balloon season runs from October to March (can extend to April depending on the weather conditions). Flight can take around 45 minutes to one hour. Hot Air Balloon operators are Balloons Over Bagan, Oriental Ballooning, and Golden Eagle Balloons. It is always advised to book beforehand if you want to take this option. Prices range from 330$ to 400$ each.
- Others – Also available mode of transportation are trishaws and small pickups.
Bagan Archeological Zone Entry Fee: 25,000 kyat
Validity: 5 days
Bagan Archaeological Museum: 5$
Bagan Tower (Nann Myint): 5$
What to Pack
- Clothes – As a sign of respect, dress modestly while you’re in Bagan, especially when going inside temples. Cover your shoulders and legs.
- Shoes – Visiting temples mean you’ll be removing your shoes A LOT. So wear comfortable footwear that can be easily removed and worn again. Flipflops are usually the footwear of choice, but be prepared to have tan lines!
- Toiletries – Insect repellant and sunscreen is a must especially if you’ll be doing a temple run all day.
- Small bag – To carry your valuables and gear while exploring Bagan.
- Accessories/Gear – A hat would definitely come handy against the sun’s unforgiving heat. And a headlamp would be useful for navigating those dark alleyways and stairs inside the temples.
- Wet Wipes – My number one favorite item to bring while traveling, especially for times when you can’t easily get water. I used it a lot also in Bagan because I’m telling you, that reddish dust will be everywhere. Do take note of trash disposal though!
- Map – Often than not, our mobile data and GPS failed us while exploring so real maps really are very useful.
- Water – I need not say more, eh? Bring lots of it!
What/Where to Eat in Bagan
Restaurant Street in Nyaung U not only has restaurants, there’s also ATM, tour operators, and e-bike rental shops.
I got to try Weather Spoons (famous for their burger) and Aroma 2 (famous for their tandoori chicken).
We also got to try Queen Restaurant near Winner Guesthouse. We enjoyed their circular plates with partition for different side dishes.
While temple hopping, we also got to eat at a restaurant near Ananda Temple. There are lots of restaurants famous in that area some of which are: The Moon, Khaing Shwe Wha, and Yar Pyi.
Meal prices per person can range from 4 – 15 $ or more depending also on where you’ll eat. Beer costs around 1,500 – 2,000 kyat.
Where to Stay
Depending on your budget, you can choose from the three areas to stay in: Nyaung U, Old Bagan, and New Bagan. Nyaung U is where most of the budget travelers especially the backpackers stay. Old Bagan attracts more the luxury and upscale travelers, while New Bagan is in between.
We chose Winner Guesthouse for its strategic location. Besides it is a bike/e-bike rental shop as well as a few restaurants. They offer free breakfast and Wi-Fi and can book your bus for onward travel (i.e. Mandalay).
When to go
The Ananda Pagoda Festival is celebrated around late December or early January depending on the lunar calendar.
Because of the cooler temperatures, it is more advisable to visit between November and February. Do take note that these are the busiest and peak months for travel as well. Hottest months are March to May.
Photo by Dinis Bazgutdinov on Unsplash
Best temples for Sunrise and Sunset
The best times of day to view the vast plains of Bagan with its pagodas is during the golden hours. Do take note though that local regulation regarding climbing these pagodas to get a better view can change. Click here to read about 2017’s news about the climbing ban.
If you’re lucky enough to go before the climbing ban is enforced, here is the list of the temples best suited for sunrise and sunset.
Sunrise: Low Ka Oushang Pagoda, Shwesandaw Pagoda, Buledi, Sulamani, Dhammayan Gyi, Ta Wet Phaya, Sin Byu Shin Monastic Complex
Sunset: North Guni, South Guni, Pyathada Phaya, Ta Wet Phaya, Shwesandaw Pagoda, Thitsar Wadi Phaya
You can also view the sunset along the Irrawaddy River through Bupaya Pagoda in Old Bagan and Lawkanada Pagoda in New Bagan.
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash
I really didn’t have a set itinerary when I went to Bagan but here is how I spent my visit there:
- Early morning arrival from Yangon via bus
- Check-in Nyaung U (Winner Guesthouse)
- Rent e-bike
- Temple hopping until after sunset
- Dinner in Nyaung U
- Sunrise at temple
- Continue temple hopping
- Leave for Mt Popa side trip
- Late lunch in Nyaung U
- Temple Hopping
- Sunset in Irrawaddy River
- Dinner near Winner Guesthouse
- Early morning bus to Mandalay
Bagan Side trip
Popular half day side trip from Bagan for “templed out” travelers is Popa Taungkalat Monastery in Central Myanmar. Learn more about it here: Mount Popa and Palm Sugar Factory
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Have you been to Bagan, Myanmar? What did you like about it? Does this post make you want to go?
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