No Myanmar travel itinerary would be complete without visiting Bagan. One of the world's most important archeological sites, the area is as beautiful as it is fascinating.

Bagan became one of 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Myanmar in July 2019. As an exceptional representation of Buddhist cultural tradition, with its countless temples, stupas, and monasteries, it is easy to see why it made the list.

The History of Bagan

Not only is Bagan a testimony to Buddhist belief and culture, but it also provides an astonishing insight into the Bagan Period.

From the 11th to the 13th century, Bagan was the epicenter of the Pagan Empire, ruled over by powerful leaders and inhabited by their wealthy subjects. Over the course of the centuries, more than 10,000 religious monuments were built: approximately 1,000 stupas, 10,000 small temples, and 3,000 monasteries in total, evidence of the central role that the Buddhist religion played in Burmese life and tradition.

What to See in Bagan

The setting itself is breathtaking. A vast 26 square mile plain strewn with green trees and framed by mountains in the distance. You'll want to visit as many awe-inspiring monuments as you can whilst in Bagan, here are some we recommended putting right at the top of your list.

Ananda Pahto

This is one of the best-preserved temples in Bagan, with its 170-foot pinnacle, it's difficult to miss. Believed to have been built between the late 11th and early 12th centuries, Ananda Pahto remains in remarkable condition.

Buddha images and religious symbols adorn the structure, an incredible display of skill and craftsmanship.

Dhammayangyi Pahto

An immense 12th-century temple, Dhammayangyi Pahto has bloody tales to tell. It is said that the temple was ordered by King Narathu to compensate for murdering his father and brother and executing one of his wives.

It is one of the few temples in Bagan yet to undergo a major restoration and remains a mysterious glimpse at more violent times.

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya is the main religious site in Bagan. As night falls the stupa is illuminated, standing out dramatically against the darkening plain.

Be certain to investigate the compound called 37 Nat located on the southeastern side of the stupa, within which are figures of the 37 pre-Buddhist nats (spirits).

This is also the place to see the largest bronze Buddhas in Bagan.

When & How to Visit Bagan

Head to Bagan between November and February to escape the scorching summers; temperatures can reach up to 110F from March to May. Even during the cooler months temperatures peak at 86F so you're unlikely to feel a chill.

Bagan is vast, it's almost impossible to explore the 26 miles on foot. A car with a personal guide is a great way to get around whilst benefiting from expert knowledge. For a birds-eye view, take a hot air balloon ride; a truly unforgettable experience. Bikes and even horse and carts are other transportation options available.

Several tour operators in Myanmar offer packages which include Bagan in a county-wide itinerary. You should spend at least one full day discovering Bagan before, or after, exploring some of the nation's other treasures such as Inle Lake and Mandalay. 

What to Pack for Bagan

Dress conservatively for a trip to Bagan, wearing long-sleeved clothes is not only considered appropriate but will also provide some protection from the hot sun. Be prepared to take off shoes and socks when you enter a temple.

With limited places to buy food and drinks, be sure to take snacks and plenty of water.

Have enough cash to hand as card payment is not widely accepted. U.S. dollars are the easiest to exchange but need to be in good condition.

Lastly, don't forget your camera, you won't want to miss some of the most incredible photo opportunities to be found anywhere in Myanmar.