Bagan: A First Time Travel Guide

First time in Bagan? No worries. Enjoy our basic guide for your first trip to Bagan.

Need To Know Info

Bagan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Myanmar, in fact it is probably the highlight of the country. The area of Bagan is located in central Myanmar along the banks of the Irrawaddy River, within the extended Mandalay region. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is what draws the crowds, as it is made up of around 2,200 plus temples and pagodas. To explore these temples is a real pleasure and is something that shouldn’t be missed.

The Bagan area was once the capital of The Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to the 13th century. It is said that this kingdom was actually the first to unite the tribes of Myanmar, and shape their national culture and identity. In order to honour the capital of Pagan, thousands of temples were built on acres and acres of land. The Kingdom of Pagan eventually fell to Mongol invaders, and from then on became a place of holy pilgrimage for Buddhists all over Asia.

Over the years, many of the temples have fallen into a state of disrepair, largely thanks to the weather and many earthquakes. However, in recent years, the Burmese government has started to better regulate and restore these temples. Tourists are now charged an entry fee of 25,000 Kyats for a 5 day access pass to the Bagan Archaeological Zone.

Bagan is quite easy to get to from various parts of Myanmar, and is a great place to spend about 3 nights. You need at least 2 full days to explore the temples. Bagan is overall quite touristy, however there are so many temples that are all really spread out, which means it is really easy to avoid the crowds if you wish. We’d recommend getting there ASAP, before it becomes absolutely overrun with tourists like Angkor in Cambodia.

Quick Temple Guide

Like we’ve said, there are literally thousands of temples in Bagan to explore, so you need to be a little smart and do some planning. If you are a bit of a travel nerd like ourselves, then you will want to see the temples properly. So check out our “Detailed Bagan Temples Guide,” which is coming soon! Otherwise, read on for a quick summary.

The first thing to do is to download an app on your smartphone called “maps.me” and download “Bagan”, so you can use it offline while you explore.
This map will show all of the various temples and how to get there.

Also plan to visit the temples just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is fucken hot in Bagan, and you will seriously hate life if you are outside during this time. Also avoid the most popular temples at sunset, as the crowds are massive.

Make sure you hire an E-Bike as your mode of transport. Using these bikes are seriously awesome and you can literally park them right up alongside the temples as you get off and go exploring.

Note- Again if you want more details or even what are the best temples to see, then read our “Detailed Bagan Temples Guide,” which is coming soon.

Useful Tips

  • Stay in New Bagan for the cheapest hostels and places to eat
  • Hire an E-Bike to get yourself around, it’s cheap and a lot of fun
  • Carry small amounts of Kyats for the temples to make donations
  • Visit the temples early morning and late arvo to avoid the heat
  • Do a day trip to Mount Poppa for something different
  • Do a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River
  • Download the “map.me” app, for a free offline map of the temples

Where To Stay In Bagan

There is no shortage of places to stay in Bagan. They have anything from expensive high range hotels, to basic guesthouse and hostel accommodation. We found the best two areas to stay were New Bagan and Old Bagan. Both are very centrally located and give you good quick access to the nearby temples.

We stayed in a hostel called Ostello Bello, which was great for local knowledge, location, food and facilities.

The are also cheap restaurants and bars located all over Bagan, so you will never go hungry or thirsty.

How To Get Around Bagan

There are several ways to get around Bagan and for exploring the temples. Easily the best and most fun way to get around is to hire an E-Bike. An “E-Bike” is an electric bike that can be hired for the day for about $5 (US). There are hire shops scattered all throughout the Bagan area. Just be sure to check your bike is fully charged before leaving the shop!

These bikes are definitely the smartest option to get around when exploring the temples as you have to ride down dirt and sandy roads. It is easily one of the most fun experiences we have had while travelling. You can literally pull up alongside the temples, park your bike and go exploring.

Other options to get around are hiring a tuk-tuk driver or a horse and cart. These two options aren’t our cup of tea, but it’s good to know the option is there if you are a pleb and can’t organise yourself. It is also possible to hire push bikes, but good luck going up and down hills and getting through sandy roads all day.

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