This ancient temple town was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan. Even to the present day, it still boasts an impressive concentration of over two thousand pagodas, stupas and temples that rivals many other spiritual sites in Southeast Asia.
From 1044 to 1287, Bagan served as the capital of the Pagan Empire, during which over 10,000 religious structures were erected within the area. However, the area decreased in prominence due to repeated Mongol invasions, and many of its structures were damaged during repeated earthquakes. Today, Bagan is regaining its stature due its newfound status as one of Myanmar’s premier tourist attractions.
In Myanmar, a localized variant of Theravada Buddhism is often practiced. The Buddhist Sabbath days are strictly observed in the country, and monks are highly respected. In Bagan, religious symbolism and culture is everywhere due to the plenty of monuments scattering the area—keep an eye out for the unique gu-style hollow temples. Notable cultural and religious sites include the famous Ananda Temple and the huge Dhammayangyi Temple.
Serving as a regal symbol of Myanmar’s cultural heritage, Bagan is one of the best places to experience the country’s culture at its most untouched. Observe the traditional dress of the local men and women who wear the longyi, a traditional sarong-like skirt, and look out for the white powdery circles on their faces. This concoction, made from thanaka tree branches, is natural sunscreen as well as an ancient cosmetic.
- Belief in concept of face
- Women should wear modest clothing
- Avoid public displays of affection
The entire area lies within the Bagan Archaelogical Zone, which lies on the plains of Upper Burma, 610km north of Yangon. Bagan exhibits a tropical monsoon climate. Throughout the year, you can expect cloudy, rainy and hot weather from June to September with mid-range temperatures; and less rainfall & humidity from December to April.
Bagan is situated amongst vast plains, while also lying at the bend of the beautiful Irrawaddy River. The skyline is dominated by the shadows of the area’s many temples.
Enjoy views of the beautiful natural surroundings at Bagan by taking a hot air balloon ride, at sunrise, over the city. Prepare for an intricate patter of temples among plains, lush savannah and mountains in the background.This can be a little pricey, but the jaw-dropping views are well worth it.
Before you go
- Language: Burmese
- Currency: Burmese kyat (mmk)
- Time Zone:Burma Time (UTC+06:30)
- Voltage: 230
- Electric Socket: Type C/D/F/G
- easily available at many local shops.
- good for 30 days each and are available in denominations of 1,000, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 kyat.
- banking hours are from 10.00am to 3.00pm daily.
- you may get a better exchange rate converting U.S. dollars or euros (bring the crispest, cleanest bills you can)
- U.S. dollars are used interchangeably with Burmese kyats, with U.S. dollars being used for bigger transactions such as settling your hotel bill, buying train tickets and paying entrance fees.
- Gyin thouk: Salad made with ginger, and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
- Mohinga: Rice vermicelli in a warm, homey fish broth, sprinkled with deep-fried fritters.
- Htamin gyin: Rice, tomato, and potato or fish kneaded into round balls, before being garnished with a mix of Chinese-style toppings such as dried chilli, spring onions and tofu.
There is no tipping culture in Myanmar, but you are welcome to show your appreciation for good service through small tips.
Taxis: let the driver keep the change after rounding up the fare to the nearest dollar. However it is likely you will negotiate a fare before getting into the cab, in this case no tip is required.
Restaurants: Rounding up meal bills would be a good way to show you enjoyed your meal and your service. In higher end restaurants at 10% service charge is often added to the bill, and there is no need to tip above and beyond this amount.
Hotels: give the bellman about 50¢ to $1 for helping you with your bags, and consider leaving a similar amount daily for the maid who helps clean up your room.
- Suggested Vaccinations: hepatitis A and typhoid
- Hygiene: Avoid untreated water or ice made from it, and examine preparation methods and general hygiene conditions before buying food from street vendors.
- Health: You should go to Yangon if you need anything more than minor medical help, and to Thailand for serious matters.
- Safety: Myanmar is a relatively safe country, but take the usual precautions of protecting your valuables by keeping them in your hotel safe.
Emergency Line: 199.
Hospitals: There are many small clinics capable of handling minor medical matters, especially in Nyaung U.
- Hello (in general): nei-gaung-lah
- Excuse me. / Sorry: sorry t-sate-lout
- Thank you: kyei-zù tin-ba-daal
- You’re welcome: rah-par-taal
- Good morning/ Good evening min-ga-la-ba
- Goodbye: swar-tot-maal
- How much is this?:? beh-lau-leh
- Cheers!: (Toasts when drinking): cheers cheers
- Bon appetit!: sar-kya-raung
- Where’s the toilet?: Ay-na sar sai a baalmar shi
- Help!: kueh-bah
- I understand: kya-wantaw narr-lai-par-taal
- I don’t understand:na-maleh-ba-bu
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
Nyuang U Airport serves this area, with flights coming in from both Yangon and Mandalay. Getting to the centre of town in Nyaung U, the main transport hub in Bagan, should cost a fixed price of 5,000 kyat, while going to New Bagan will cost around 7,000 to 10,000 kyat depending on how well you haggle. New Bagan is not as active an area as Nyaung U, but is closer to the temples, as well as good-value midrange accommodation and riverside eateries.
There are train services running from both Yangon and Mandalay towards Bangon. The Yangon trains run overnight and cost anything from a few thousand kyat to $50 for a fancy sleeper. The trains from Mandalay cost about $6 one-way, with the journey lasting about 7 -9 hours. The latter route can be very crowded at times.
Buses arrive, from both Mandalay and Yangon, at a new bus station around 7km from the Nyaung U city centre. From Mandalay, the journey should take around 5 hours, while the Yangon route takes around 9 hours to arrive. Try to book bus tickets at least 24 hours in advance as they sell out quickly at the bus stations in those cities.
A scenic, pleasurable boat trip is available from Mandalay to Bagan. This takes around 8-9 hours, and costs around 40-45 dollars one-way. The views of the river on this slow cruise are unmissable.
A comfortable option for getting around is to hire a shared taxi, In Nyaung U, this costs around $30-35 however in Old Bagan you may be asked to pay up to $75 for an unshared taxi.
Renting a bicycle is a cheap option to get around Bagan, as it may cost you as little as $1.5 a day. However, these bikes tend to be quite old, so a more time-efficient option to get around is to rent an electric bicycle or e-bike, which can be rented for 3,000 to 6,000 kyats a day.
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.