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Sunset over Bagan temple complex  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Burma/Myanmar > Mandalay > Bagan

Bagan Travel Guide

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Bagan is an area in the Central region of Myanmar.  

Bagan, also spelled Pagan, on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, is home to the largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.

Bagan is a must-see, second only to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and is rightfully included on our list of Southeast Asia top monuments and temples.

The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning. 

History of Bagan

Bagan became a central powerbase in the mid 9th century under King Anawratha, who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism.

Follow others or find your own temple to watch sunset over Bagan  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar, and Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes".

Approximately 2,200 remain today, in various states of disrepair. Some are large and well maintained, such as the Ananda Pahto, others are small tumbledown relics in the middle of overgrown grass. All, however, are considered active sacred sites, so when visiting roaming among the stupas, feel free to show off all your best behaviour, and be sure to remove your shoes before entering or stepping onto any of them.

Bagan's golden age ended in 1287 when the Kingdom and its capital city was invaded and sacked by the Mongols. Its population was reduced to a village that remained amongst the ruins of the once larger city. In 1998, this village and its inhabitants were forcibly relocated a few kilometers to the south of Bagan, forming "New Bagan" where you will find accommodation in its handful of cheap, quaint, clean hotels and religious centers.

Anando Pahto in Bagan.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Despite the majesty and importance of Bagan, Unesco has failed to include it on its world heritage site, because it says some temples were rebuilt in an un-historic way. Nonetheless, the site is arguably as impressive as the Pyramids of Egypt: a dry, vast open landscape dominated entirely by votive architecture.


There are about 2200 temples in the Bagan area today.

Bagan's holiest temple is Ananda Pahto, also one of the most impressive . Anando Pahto was built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word "anantapannya", which means "boundless wisdom".

The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The fifth, Maitreya, is yet to appear.

Visiting the temples by horsecart

Renting a horsecart is the classic and best way to visit interesting sites in Bagan. A day tour around the temples will cost about 10-12.000 kyat per cart (up to 4 people). You can either tell the driver where you want to go, or let them decide for you. Usually, they will try to bring you to a lunch place where they get a commission, but this is not a bad option (prices are normal in this establishment).

A horsecart is the best option to see Bagan.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Visiting the temples by bike

Most midrange-luxury hotels will offer the opportunity to rent a bike starting from 1000 kyat per day. Most of the area in and around Bagan is flat and very easy to bicycle your way around. Don't forget lights since most bikes have none.

Sightseeing by hot air balloon

For an unparalleled view of the Bagan plain, you can take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise through a company called Balloons Over Bagan, for US$ 295 per person. These balloons are British made and have a perfect safety record.

This one is just to prove we've been there :-)  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Buying Souvenirs

Bagan offers lacquerware, cloth paintings, T-shirts and other handicrafts. As elsewhere in Asia, it is "friendly" to grant a client 10% off.

It is common for initial prices to be double what you can get with bargaining. If you probe further, remember to always keep the bargaining friendly and to know when to stop eroding the seller's margin.

The mood in the the village is laid back and, after a day sightseeing around in the stone forest of stupas, the evening entertainment is entirely DIY.

Ananda Pahto in Bagan.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

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