Bagan (formerly Pagan) – The paradise of the sun, where time stands still. Bagan was once the capital of Myanmar (Burma) for over 230 years, an ancient city with full of mysterious colors of the East. Up to now, although it has gone through more than 1000 years of history but more than 2,000 temples, stupas and pagodas have been preserved almost intact. Many of them are very ancient, majestic, great, magnificent. In particularly, these relics and monuments can compare with Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia and the Borobudur Temple in Java, Indonesia. Bagan is not only has a thousands of great and small of stupas, temples and pagodas, but also has fabulous, miracle sunset and sunrise on the great Irrawaddy river, and a rustic, peaceful, gentle life as goes back from many years ago of ancient Myanmar. Now, let’s explore the ancient and mysterious city through our Bagan blog (Bagan travel blog) — The fullest Bagan travel guide blog for a budget trip to Bagan for the first time from how to get Bagan, top and best things to do, best places to eat to souvenirs you can buy in Bagan.
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Bagan travel blog: When is the best time to visit Bagan?
Bagan has a tropical climate, only rainy season and dry season. The months you should avoid going to Bagan are from March to May – very hot months, and from June to October – when there is heavy rainfall. So, the best time to travel to Bagan is from November to February next year. Because the weather is still a little cold, less rain, more festivals, beautiful scenery, especially when watching the sunrise and sunset in Bagan. However, this is also the peak tourist season in Myanmar, especially in January and February, at which the prices of all services will be pushed up, so you have to pre-booking everything from air fares, or train tickets, hotels, guest houses to sightseeing tours.
Bagan travel blog: How to get to Bagan?
No direct flights to Bagan, so you have to fly to Mandalay or Yangon before. From there you will have many options to go to Bagan.
If you want to save time, the plane is the means to take you to Bagan fastest. Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Air Mekong, and Yangon Airways are the domestic airlines of Myanmar that fly to Bagan. Many domestic airlines from Mandalay, Heho and Yangon offer direct flights to Nyaung U Airport (the nearest airport to Bagan). However, the aircraft of these firms are ATR type (short-range passenger aircraft, small and usually landing to pick up the guests). The flight is about 30-40 minutes from Heho, and an hour and 20 minutes from Yangon. One-way average ticket prices range from $80 ~ $120.
Day or night bus trips are the most popular way to choose by visitors because the bus system in Bagan is very good and inexpensive. Bagan bus routes depart from Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe, Taunggyi, Kalaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. The buses here are like high quality buses in Vietnam, very clean and comfortable (even provide toothbrushes). Because the distance from these locations to Bagan is quite far, so the bus will stop at a stopover point for several hours, and provide wet towels and bottled water for guests. In our experience, you should choose the bus service of JJ Express or Elite Express, the fare at the dealer is 16,000 kyats, the purchase at the hotel is 15,000 kyats but on the ticket will be 14.5000 kyats.
If you choose go by train, you will be admire the beautiful countryside of Myanmar through the window. However, the train system in Myanmar is not very developed and often depart late as expected. There are three types of compartments, the normal compartment with wooden chairs, the first compartment with seats, and the compartment with beds. However, whether you choose to sit in any compartment, you must also prepare for a long trip and bumpy ahead.
If you feel want to a bit more adventurous and have more time, sailing to Bagan will be an interesting option. The boats (or cruisers) to Bagan sail on the Ayeyarwady River and will take an average of 12 hours to reach. You can catch the cruise from Mandalay with price from $40 and up.
Bagan blog: Getting around Bagan
What you need to do when you arrive in Bagan is to find a map. Some hotels will provide free maps to guests. If not, you can buy for only 1000 kyats. Once you have the map in hand, you can start your Bagan journey! These are the means of transportation in Bagan:
Horse cart, car and bicycle are the three main means of transportation in Bagan. In particular, tourists prefer horse cart, with all day rent of 25,000 kyats, and a half day rent of 15,000 kyats. Drivers are indigenous people, so they can make free guides for you, especially they will tell you the most beautiful spots to watch the sunset and see air balloons in Bagan.
Renting a taxi is the most comfortable way to explore Bagan, because Bagan is quite sunny and dusty. However, one day hire a taxi you will have to pay 35,000 kyats. You should also give the taxi driver a small tip, especially when they have spend his time to introduce about Bagan as an amateur travel guide!
Hire a car
Hiring the car is the option for the group of travelers, the rent price of the car for all day is 40,000 kyats. Individuals should only rent a car when traveling from the airport to the hotel and vice versa, the price for each pick-up is 10.000 kyats.
Bicycle, electric bike
Bicycle is also a means that choose by many tourists. This is the most enjoyable way to travel in Bagan, and also the cheapest means. Bicycles usually cost between 2,000 and 5,000 kyats/day and electric bicycles have a rental price of 6,000 to 8,000 kyats/day, if traveling in large groups can be discounted. If you explore Bagan by bike, you can take the initiative to go to the places you like, even stop to drink water and chat with local people no matter what. But cycling around Bagan in hot weather requires good health and have to bring plenty of water. You also can choose electric bike or scooters, but remember before you go to check that the battery is fully charged and remember the phone number of the garage so you can call when something goes wrong.
If you want to explore Bagan in a “traditional” way, you can rent a horse cart for about 15,000 – 20,000 kyats/day. However, the horse cart is not very fast!
Hot air balloon
This is the most expensive means, but if you are well-off, it is really worthwhile to look at the temples from above when the sunset fall. Currently there are two companies — Balloons Over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning — operate balloon flights and they only run this service from October to March when the weather is good.
Bagan blog — Where to stay in Bagan?
Bagan is divided into three main areas: Old Bagan (central area with many temples and pagodas), New Bagan and Nyaung-U. Overall, the hotels in Bagan is quite expensive, but the quality of the rooms is a bit bad. However, this is the reality of the region so there is no other way to accept the truth and find the most reasonable option possible. The Old Bagan is the center area, so the price is quite expensive, and the other two areas are cheaper. These two areas located about 5-7 km from the center depending on the hotel location but if you go by e-bike is quite convenient, do not worry about the distance. Moreover, along the way through these three areas are many beautiful temples scattered. Visiting Bagan, you should not lazy move. Hotels and guesthouses in Bagan cost an average of around $40/night, so according to our experience, we recommend staying in hotels in New Bagan, the price is equal to the hotel in Old Bagan but the quality and comfort is superior.
This is the best place to stay if you consider about price and location. We highly recommend Zfreeti Hotel for this area. This hotel is very close to the restaurant area, opposite is a motorbike rental shop and you can walking a bit to the Balloons Over Bagan office.
If you want to stay in a quiet place more than a resort, Bagan Lodge in New Bagan will be the perfect choice for you. The villas with high roofs like the temples here have all the modern amenities you need, such as an outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym and spa.
If you want to open the window to see ancient pagodas and temples, you can stay at Hotel @ Tharabar Gate. The room rates are very expensive, but the service is very good, the view is beautiful and the rooms are luxurious.
Below are some best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Heritage Bagan Hotel (Address: Nyaung-U, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 246 1192), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $79/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Amazing Bagan Resort (Address: Nyaung-U, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 246 0035), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $37/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Ananta Bagan (Address: Old Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 246 0384), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $39/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- The Hotel at Tharabar Gate (Address: Near Tharabar Gate, Old Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 9 204 2228), a 4-star hotel with room rates from $63/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort (Address: Near Bagan Village Tower, Min Nanthu Village, Nyaung Oo, Old Bagan 11111, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 60 046), a 5-star hotel with room rates from $131/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Zfreeti Hotel (Address: 5th Thiri Pyitsaya 5 St, Nyaungu 05231, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 60 921), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $33/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Bagan Thande Hotel (Address: Archaeological Zone, Old Bagan, Bagan, Myanmar, 05232 / Phone: +95 61 60 025), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $41/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort (Address: Bagan Archaeological Zon, Bagan Nyaung Oo، 11182, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 1 255 333), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $67/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- The Hotel Bagan Umbra (Address: Lanmadaw 3 Rd, Nyaung-U 05231, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 9 256 016 382), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $35/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Aye Yar River View Resort (Address: No. 23-C, Thukha Waddy St, (6) Ward, Yankin Township, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) / Phone: +95 61 60 313), a 3-star hotel with room rates from $49/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Bagan travel blog: Best places to visit and top things to do in Bagan
Explore Temples, Pagodas
Visiting Bagan is quite leisurely, because you don’t have to thinking about what to do, because the obvious answer is “visit the temples.” However, if you are also like us, you will be overwhelmed to open up a map of Bagan and see a series of temples, pagodas, with “does not evoke any idea” names such as Shwesandaw, Lawka Hteik Pan, Manuha, Nanpaya, Shwezigon, Bulethi,… and do not know how to explore a large “city of temples” here and what the temples should visit.
There are more than 2.000 temples and pagodas in Bagan, so we only list here temples, pagodas that you can not miss. There are Shwezigon Pagoda (where kept the sarira of the tooth and bone of Gautama Buddha), Ananda Temple (one of the most beautiful temples), Dhammayangyi Temple (the biggest temple), and Thatbyinnyu (the the highest temple). In addition there are quite famous temples like Shwesandaw (Shwe San Daw), Lawkahteikpan (Lawka Hteik Pan), Manuha, Nanpaya… is also worth a visit.
This is the most famous and beautiful religious architecture in Bagan. Built in the 11th century, this is a model building for pagodas built later in Myanmar. It is also believed to home of the forehead bone and collarbone of the Gautama Buddha.
This is a very impressive red brick temple. The name of the temple is the name of the king who built it. This temple was built exactly where the king was crowned.
This is considered to be the most important temple in Bagan, and also one of the most beautiful temples in Bagan. So it is well preserved by being regularly repaired and repainted.
This is the highest temple in Bagan. Travelers love to come here for a panoramic view of Bagan, especially at dawn.