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Burma’s biggest draw is their awesome temple complex at Bagan. Rivalling Angkor Wat as the most impressive temple complex in the world, the Bagan temples come without the tourist hordes, relentless hawkers and overpriced fees.

Bagan Sunset
Sunset at Bagan

Bagan is located roughly between Burma’s two main cities Yangon and Mandalay. You’re transport doesn’t actually run to Bagan proper but rather to Nyaung U where the bus station, ferry dock and airport are found. Nyaung U offers the best backpacking options in terms of food and accommodation too, much cheaper than New Bagan.

 

FROM MANDALAY:

  • To get here from Mandalay you can take a 6 hour bus, leaving at around 8am from the local bus station ($13).
  • Or, if you’re lucky with the timing, you can take a ferry down the Irwawaddy. It takes around one day and costs between $10-$20. The daily private ferries only run in the dry season (September to March) but the twice-weekly (Sunday and Wednesday) Government ferries try to run year round depending on the water levels.
  • A train leaves Mandalay around 6am and take approximately 9 hours (often late), it costs around $14.
  • There are also daily flights plying the route – costing around $70. Easy to book with any travel agent across Burma.
Bus to Bagan
Luxury travel to Bagan by bus

FROM YANGON:

By bus it’s a bit of a trek. It takes around 16 hours + and costs around $25-$30. Leaving from the Yangon bus station (Aung Mingalar Station – about 40 mins from the city centre) throughout the day, when you arrive you’ll be hassled by touts to take their bus – choose wisely, the quality can differ quite a lot.

Flights run around $90 USD and run every day.

This journey can be quite tedious, in all honesty it’s better to head to Mandalay first and then onwards to Bagan (Nyaung U), it’s a much more logical choice.

Bagan Landscape

When you finally arrive in Bagan, whether it’s New Bagan or Nyaung U, you can finally enjoy the amazing sights on offer. I would recommend two days of temple watching. On arrival you’ll get offered a lot of tour services and generally most people take a day trip with either a horse and cart (one day $16, good fun), an air-con taxi  ($50+, older people with more cash) or go with a map and a rented bicycle (one day bike rental costs around $4).

Horse and Cart in Bagan
My transport for Day 1 at Bagan

I reckon the best bet is to jump on the horse and cart with 2/3 people on your first day, see all the most physically impressive ‘must-see’ temples with the help of someone who knows their way around. The day should end with a cracking sunset on one of the climable temples within the complex.

Bagan Temples
Temples, payas and pagodas everywhere you look!

The next day can be more relaxed. Rent some bikes, grab a map from your hotel and off you go freestyling into the massive temple area. You’ll have the place virtually to yourself, not a person in sight to ruin your amazing photographs. Just make sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water – this place is hot! Head over to another famous sunset spot and your two days will be complete. Breathtaking.

Amazing Bagan Temples
There are a couple of pagodas you can climb to get a great view of the Bagan Landscape

The Bagan temples, for me, outstripped Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. It blew my expectations out of the water and now I’m going to be pushing Bagan hard to anyone in South East Asia so watch out! Get there before it gets ruined guys. Happy travels!

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17 thoughts on “Bagan Temples – Burma (Myanmar)

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  2. Pingback: Ayutthaya - An Easy and Amazing Day Trip from Bangkok
  3. We have 8 days in Nov, arriving early in Yangon, like flight to Mandalay. would love to see some etnic tribes, local life, less city. seen lots of temples/pagoda. What do you think of the itinerary? appreciate your input . thanks.
    1 – Mandalay: arrive early morning visit Maharmuni Pagoda (82-84str),Shwenandaw monastery or golden palace ,Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill (slabs) . hil 1700steps.
    -2 Pyin Oo Lwin (67 km east of Mandalay) by road how long? daytrip?
    or Monywa (located 136 km NW of Mandalay, 3hrs drive) on the eastern bank of the River Chindwin. few tourist

    -3East ;The train journey north of there to Hsipaw-Lashio (beautiful & cross over the famous Goteik Viaduct)Hsipaw 200km east of mandalay.steel bridge. long ride leave early morning?
    4-5 (trek max 2dayin hsipaw). ( similar scenery as inle lake, less tourist)
    6 Retrun by road ?shorter

    7-8 Bagan (2days) Idea of ferry ( enough time? to Bagan ( day with horse/cart 2nd day=bicylce)

    fly to yangon for last night and early next morning connection flight.

  4. Hello Johny:

    I am planning a trip in Oct. starting with Mandalay-Bagan-Inle lake-Yangon for 10days.i am wondering whether if I will take a bus, the one from Mandalay-Bagan is worth trying? It is 6-8 hrs journey ( which I think it’d be fine). My question is which bus company that is good & is it normally that the bus will create the ‘3rd row’ & some travellers have to sit in th walk way.

    I am so curious whether Bagan will give me the sense if the old Ayutthaya era. Last time, i only looked at Bagan from the plane window, a year later I am back and make my dream come true:)

    Thank you so much for your time.

    N. from BKK

    1. I took that bus from Mandalay, no too bad (altho more like 10 hours!). The 3rd row is pretty ubiquitous with poorer countries, it’s a risk you’ll have to take! lol

      Bagan is amazing, you’ll LOVE it 🙂

      P.S I live in BKK too!

  5. Hello Johny:

    I am planning a trip in Oct. starting with Mandalay-Bagan-Inle lake-Yangon for 10days.i am wondering whether if I will take a bus, the one from Mandalay-Bagan is worth trying? It is 6-8 hrs journey ( which I think it’d be fine). My question is which bus company that is good & is it normally that the bus will create the ‘3rd row’ & some travellers have to sit in th walk way.

    I am so curious whether Bagan will give me the sense if the old Ayutthaya era. Last time, i only looked at Bagan from the plane window, a year later I am back and make my dream come true:)

    Thank you so much for your time.

    N. from BKK

  6. Hi Johnny, thanks for this informative post. I’m going to Myanmar next month, just got my visa today. I loved Angkor Wat and since you said that Bagan outstripped Angkor, I’m doubly excited to see it now.

  7. I’ve got my tickets to Yangon this month end. Will be spending only 5 days there but I’ll be touching down at 7pm on day1. Not too sure if its wise to head to Bagan as I need to be back to Yangon to catch my flight on Day5 6pm. Care to advise?

  8. Hey Johnny! THX for writing about Myanmar. Perfect timing. I am going at the end of september. Could you tell me how you got to Inle Lake or what’s the best way to get there in general?

    1. hey Kat, u can fly from Yangon, Mandalay or Bagan ($70-$90) or take the bus 16 hour bus from Yangon – good luck and keep me posted with your trip in Burma 🙂

  9. This is a highly informative post. I’ve been dying to visit Burma the last two times in Asia but problems arose with my health in 2008 & with my visa in 2011! I’ll have to wait until next time now that I’m back in Canada for the summer and off to teach in Korea this fall. The Bagan temples are a huge must on my to do list!

    1. Cheers mate, this place is mind-blowing. I thought i was all templed-out after so long in Asia but this place took me back to my first time! Great stuff, it’ll be waiting for ya!

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