One of the places I have been most excited about to visit: Bagan.
The magic of the sceneries in Bagan is indescribable. Apart from the ancient city of old Bagan there is not really much to see but in my opinion it is way enough to love this place.Over 2 200 pagodas & temples – where to start?!
To be honest I’ve seen enough pagodas and temples on my travels that I didn’t fancy too much discovering every single spot in Bagan (despite the fact that this is anyway pretty impossible). As the area is so huge and the tourism in whole Myanmar suffers a lot from the political unrests we didn’t have any problems with crowds around the different spots. Of course there are a bunch of people during sunrise and sunset that might come together at single places but it is still super relaxed compared to spots like Angkor Wat (Cambodia) or Borobudur Temple (Indonesia).
Sunrise or Sunset?
Definitely the wrong question. It’s more about ‚how many?‘ While staying in Bagan it is absolutely mandatory to watch at least one sunrise as well as one sunset – I’ve watched twice each. No doubt both are totally different in having their own special charm.
Good morning Bagan
Indeed you need to get up early to watch the sunrises in Bagan but it is so worth it.
We had to start around 6 AM to get to our spots on time for a nice view on the rising sun. It is definitely advisable to look for a good sunrise/sunset spot during daytime already to figure out where to find the best combination of light, pagodas and nature. There are some locals offering their help in finding a spot and usually they take you to really nice places. Mostly they’ll only ask you to look through their paintings hoping you’ll buy some souvenirs for yourself or your beloved ones back home. But honestly it is definitely possible to find good spots all around the area on your own. Using the app mapsMe is a big help as well, people who had been there added some really helpful advises such as ‚The best sunrise viewpoint EVER‘, ‚THE best viewpoint‘, ‚Best viewpoint If gate is open‘ and even without it you might just find ‚THE best‘ place just while driving around and discovering the temples. But obviously it is easier to determine a nice sunrise point in advance.
A tip to enjoy the famous hot air ballon scenery in its fullest:
The hot air ballons start next to the airport and heading south passing the wide range of pagodas and temples. I would recommend to look for one spot quite close to the start point as well as one farther away to get different views on this stunning scenery.
Good night Bagan
While exploring the huge area of old Bagan during daytime you might just accidentally find a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Although sunsets are more likely to be busy, the whole area is so big to let the crowd spread out far enough and if you are lucky you might even be given the chance to enjoy a sunset all by yourself in silence and peace.
Don’t leave immediately after sunset but stay a litte bit longer. Around 20-30 minutes after the sun has completely disappeared the sky above the mountains changes into the most beautiful shades of saffron.
For both scenarios consider while there are many temples and pagodas around Bagan not many of those might be officially open to enter. Climbing the ancient ruins is prohibited in general. There are some main temples officially meant to host the crowds for sunrise and sunset. But still I got away with climbing somee of the smaller temples…partially probably because I am good at hide and seek but even the locals will show you some hidden places.
Good to know
Archeological Entrance Fee
Everyone entering the archeological area of Bagan has to pay an entrance fee – currently 25 000 Kyat (about 15€). There are several strategies and advises about how to avoid this fee going around online but I guess it is just a manner of luck. We got there in the middle of the night and still had to pay, others were lucky by telling a story about not staying for visiting the temples just need to catch a flight etc.
You might give it a try but be prepared to be asked to pay the fee.
Foreigners are only allowed to ride bicycles or e-bikes. So be prepared to go on a soundless ride around the area.
Handicrafts & Art
A lot of different handicrafts and arts work can be found in Bagan. All kind of lacquerware, paintings and souvenirs get sold there. Beautiful umbrellas and some interesting (and in my opinion scary) puppets are hanging around the trees next to several temples, locals will offensively approach you (even in the middle of nowhere between temples and pagodas) to sell you some paintings and huge varieties of lacquerware are presented in front of the main temples.
Hot Air Ballon
Although I didn’t do it on my own I met some people on the way who went over their budget to hop on to a hot air ballon ride above Bagan in the early morning. Everyone confirmed it is definitely worth the money and an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. If I ever happen to be back I will definitely go for it.