The Ultimate 3 Days in Bagan Guide

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The Beautiful Bagan in Myanmar

Bagan, or the Bagan Archeological Zone, is located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia. It is a temple town that is surrounded by small towns and villages, such as Nyaung-U, which has a domestic airport, Old Bagan and New Bagan. The fastest way to get to Bagan is by plane from Mandalay city to Nyaung-U.

Bagan is a massive ancient temple complex area, similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Machu Picchu in Peru. There are tons of beautiful temples here that you will have a chance to visit and explore during your 3 days in Bagan. As Bagan is huge, make sure to save a copy of this Bagan Guide to be able to refer to it offline when needed incase you lose phone reception.

Upon arrival at Bagan, you will have to buy an entrance ticket at the e-ticket machine, which should be valid for three days. It costs 25,000 Kyats per person (around US $15-16). A few days in Bagan is enough time to explore its main temples, pagodas and shrines.

Finally, bear in mind that Bagan doesn’t really have any party streets like Luang Prabang (Laos) and Siem Reap (Cambodia) do, so make sure to be respectful and dress appropriately when visiting the temples. Of most importance, though, follow the rule of not climbing the stairs or stones to the top of any temple or shrine.

  • 3 day itinerary
  • Average of 4 stops per day

The Lesser Known Bagan Temples at Sunrise and Sunset

Balloons, Bagan, Myanmar, Mist, Morning
Balloons and Misty Mornings in Bagan
Shwesandaw Pagoda, Sunset, Bagan
Shwesandaw Pagoda at Sunset
Htilominlo Temple, Bagan, Myanmar
Htilominlo Temple
Thatbyinnyu Phaya Temple, Bagan
Thatbyinnyu Phaya Temple from Afar

As Bagan is famous for its sunrise, try to get up as early as possible to head straight to the first temple on this itinerary to catch what might be one of the most beautiful sunrises you will ever see in your life. You will also have another opportunity to watch the sunrise on your final day in Bagan as well.

If you arrive in Bagan the evening or night before, you should try to rent a scooter or bike from a local shop or your accommodation as it will create a hassle-free morning. Bagan is a massive area and walking easily between the temples is not possible.

On this day, you will visit four beautiful temples and learn more about their history. Take your time exploring the temples and finish off your day by watching the sunset at the last stop.

Watch the Sunrise at Shwesandaw Pagoda

Shwesandaw Pagoda is a good place to watch the sunrise in Bagan. The pagoda has 5 terraces and was built in 1057. It was built from terra cotta tiles, which makes the pagoda even more impressive. Shwesandaw Pagoda is a sacred pagoda that still hosts some very important Buddhist ceremonies.

Another popular temple you can watch the sunrise at is Sulamani Temple, which is about a 10-minute car ride from Shwesandaw Pagoda.

Visit the Htilominlo Temple

The next temple is located an 11-minute drive from the first one. It is called Htilominlo Temple and was named after king Htilominlo. It has three stories and is 46 m above ground level.

Htilominlo Temple is famous for its Buddha statues that are located on the ground floor and face in different directions. It was destroyed in the 1975 earthquake but has since been repaired.

Check Out Upali Thein Temple (the Ordination Hall)

Upali Thein (the Ordination Hall) is a lovely temple that was built in the 13th century by a monk named Upali. Most of the wooden parts that used to make up this monastery no longer exist, and only the Ordination Hall is still left standing. This temple also contains various attractive colourful paintings that often attract viewers’ eyes.

Watch the Sunset at Thatbyinnyu Phaya Temple

Thatbyinnyu Phaya is one of the most exquisite temples in the Bagan area. It is believed to have been built in 1144. The temple’s highest tower is about 61 m above the ground. It has paintings all over its walls that have been copied and sold as souvenirs to tourists. Head to this temple to watch a magnificent sunset and participate in a Buddhist ceremony.

The Most Famous Bagan Temples

Shwezigen Pagoda, Dawn, Bagan
Shwezigen Pagoda at Dawn
Ananda Temple, Bagan
Ananda Temple
Dhammayangyi Temple, Bagan
Dhammayangyi Temple

On the second day, you won’t need to wake up early for the sunrise. However, if you want to, of course you can!

Either way, make sure you still start your day quite early as you are going to be exploring the most famous and significant temples located in the southern part of Bagan (Nyaung-U and the Old Bagan areas), so you need time on your side! These four temples are considered to be the main Buddhist buildings in this region and are very important to Bagan and Myanmar's history.

You will also have a chance to observe monks praying and will be able to sit down with them for lunch. Make sure you have your ticket on you. Finally, please remember to be respectful by not wearing shorts, short skirts or showing your shoulders.

Shwezigen Pagoda

Shwezigon Pagoda was built in 1090, which makes it one of the oldest pagodas in the Bagan area. It is a one-story pagoda with a gold-plated roof that can be seen from far away. Shwezigon Pagoda is home to various Buddhist relics and is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Every year in October or November, this pagoda holds a festival that attracts lots of visitors.

Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple can’t be missed as it is a massive white stone temple with yet another gold-plated roof. The main attraction here is four 9,5 m tall Buddha statues that can be found inside the building. The figures are very detailed and represent four Buddhas that have reached nirvana.

Dhammayangyi Temple

Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest temple in Bagan and was built in 1170. Although this temple was never completed, it has lots of important Buddhist statues and paintings in it that have been very well preserved. From afar, this temple resembles an Egyptian pyramid, which is quite unusual for temples.

If you wish to learn more about this temple, you can pay a small fee to get a guide to show you around on the inside and explain more about its history.

Pyathetgyi Pagoda

Pyathetgyi Pagoda is your last stop of the day and is well-known for being another great place to watch the sunset. This pagoda gets very crowded, so try to come early to get yourself a good spot.

The Historical Side of Bagan

Beautiful, Pagodas, Landscape, Bagan, Myanmar
Beautiful Pagoda Landscape
Bagan Archaeological Museum, Bagan
Bagan Archaeological Museum
Golden Palace, Old Bagan, Bagan
Golden Palace in Old Bagan

There are, of course, other places to see and things to do in Bagan aside from temples, although they still make up a majority of the attractions here.

If you missed the sunrise on your first day in Bagan, don't worry, as you can try to catch it again today, except this time, you will watch it from Thitsarwadi Pagoda. This pagoda is the only one that allows climbing to the top to watch a sunrise.

After the sunrise, get yourself breakfast before visiting the Bagan Archaeological Museum to learn more about ancient Bagan. Finally, visit the Golden Palace and dine at Nanda restaurant to enjoy excellent food and experience a traditional puppet show.

Sunrise at Thitsarwadi Pagoda

Thitsarwadi Pagoda is the perfect spot to view a sunrise and get close up shots of hot air balloons departing into the sky. This pagoda is also the only one that allows visitors to climb to the top for the sunrise. However, it gets very crowded, so make sure to come here early.

You can, of course, pay to go for a hot air balloon ride as well.

Bagan Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum is a popular museum where you can learn more about Bagan and its temples. There are 10 exhibitions rooms that are dedicated to not only Bagan's history, literature and arts, but also contains examples of Buddha images, period frescos (mural paintings) and architecture from Bagan. You can easily spend a couple of hours in the museum. Also, make sure to stroll around the outside of the museum building as it is very beautiful and symbolises Bagan's traditional architectural style.

The Golden Palace

Bagan Golden Palace is a reconstruction of the destroyed royal palace and is still currently being built. If you want to enter Golden Palace, you will have to pay an admission fee as it isn’t included in the ticket of Bagan Archaeological Zone. Inside, you will be able to watch a traditional show or musical performances while eating delicious traditional food. There is nothing more to see, but it’s a good place to spend some spare time.

Nanda Restaurant Puppet Show

Every night, the Nanda restaurant organizes a puppet show that tells funny and historic short stories. Through the puppet show, you can learn about Myanmar myths and some historical facts that are very interesting. Also, the costumes are very colourful and breathtaking. Aside from the puppet shows, Nanda restaurant serves very good traditional food that is worth trying.

In Summary

I am confident that the travel tips contained in this 3 Days in Bagan Guide will help you plan your Bagan trip in the most fun and exciting way! If you have more than 72 hours in Bagan, then consider taking a half-day trip out to Mount Popa - an inactive volcano with gold stupas and a monastery perched at the very top.

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Written by Agne Civilyte

031226hug WRITER I am a Lithuanian living in the UK and trying to travel all around the world. I love visiting places that are still not well-known to tourists. My favourite part of the world is Southeast Asia as I can find beautiful mountains and temples there. My absolute favourite country is South Korea as I feel at home there.


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