The main tourist destination in Myanmar is Bagan. capital of the first Myanmar Empire; one of the richest archaeological sites in South-east Asia. Situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River. The Magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly 1000 years. Bagan covers an area of 42sq.km containing over 2000 well-preserved pagodas and temples of the 11th-13th century.
Shwezigon was built as the most important reliquary shrine in Bagan, a centre of prayer and reflection for the new Theravada faith King Anawarahta had established in Bagan.
The pagoda is standing between the village of Wetkyi-in and Nyaung U. It is a beautiful pagoda and was commenced by King Anawrahta but not completed until the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1113). King Kyanzittha was thought to have built his palace nearby. It was known that, the Shwezigon was built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it was to mark the northern edge of the city.
This large temple was built by King Nantaungmya in 1218. Situated close to the road between Nyaung U and Bagan. The name is a misreading of the Pali word for ‘Blessings of the Three Worlds’. Nantaungmya erected the temple on this spot because it was here that he was chosen, from among five brothers, to be the crown prince. The legendary saying is that, the five princes were standing in a circle and the white umbrella in the middle. The white umbrella would bend to the prince to become king and he was chosen.
Gubyaukgyi Temple (Wetkyi-in)Close to Wetkyi-in village, this 13th-century ‘cave temple’ has an Indian-style spire like the Mahabodhi Pagoda in Bagan. It is interesting for the fine frescoes of scenes from the jatakas. There is another temple of the same name in Myinkaba, and to distinguish between theses two, this monument is sometimes called ‘Wetkyi-in Gubyaukgyi’.
Ananda temple is considered to be one of the most surviving masterpiece of the Mon architecture. Also known as the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples. During the 1975 earthquake, Ananda suffered considerable damage but has been totally restored. It is said to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period. In 1990, on the 900th anniversary of the temple’s construction, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time.
Manuha was named after the Mon king from Thaton who was held captive in Bagan by Anawrahta. Legend says that Manuha was allowed to build this temple in 1059, and that he constructed it to represent his displeasure at captivity. Inside the monument, three seated Buddhas face the front of the building, and in the back there’s a huge reclining parinibbana Buddha. All seem too large for their enclosures, and their cramped, uncomfortable positions are said to represent the stress and lack of comfort the ‘captive king’ had to endure.
Beside the Manuha Temple is the charming brick-and-mud mortar Nanphaya Temple. This was King Manuha’ residence, and later became a temple. Inside, the central plinth is empty, but on the four central pillars are beautiful stone carvings of Brahma, the Mon patron saint. The Mon people had originally been Hindu, hence the Rama goose was the emblem of the Mon Kingdom. At certain times of the day of light comes through the perforated windows, illuminating sections of the carving (but take a flashlight along). The outer walls are crenellated, and some of the sandstone friezes remain intact. A modern concrete path surrounds the temple; make sure not to leave it, as the rough ground harbours some pricky briars.
The Breathtaking Bagan Sunset Experience
Watching the sunset from atop a temple is a MUST when visiting Bagan! The sun sets behind the mountains and the Irrawaddy River and you can position yourself so that the stupas create black silhouettes or you can choose to have the sun behind you so that it lights up the pagods in shades of pink and gold. There are a number of temples that you can climb at sunset. Shwesandaw is the most popular and always overcrowded since most of the coach tours take tourists to these spots for the breathtaking Bagan sunset.
Shwesandaw, the most famous viewpoint of Bagan. A pyramid-style pagoda with five terraces leading to the circular top. King Anawratha built this temple in the middle of it´s kingdom. Be prepared to meet all the hawkers of Bagan, also lots of tourists, but besides that the views are great.
This is another fantastic place which is never mentioned in LP. Not far away from Sulamani, this temple allows visitors to climb to the top to admire the paranomic view. At the second level there is a huge platform, hence it is not that crowded (unlike shwesandaw). When the sky starts to turn dark, caretaker will put candles along the staircases that lead to upper level.
Air Ballooning over Bagan
The best way to take in the sights in the ancient city of Bagan is from an air balloon as one can see the monuments from a different perspective. The best time for air ballooning is just before sunrise or at sunset. The duration of the flight is about 45 minutes to an hour.
Biking in Bagan
Biking combines adventure and culture in one activity and Bagan is considered as one of the best biking destinations in the country. Tourists can have fun and stay active as they explore the villages and learn more about the locals. Bikers can explore the back roads between rice fields, the scenic countryside and of course the ancient temples.
It is really a perfect way to discover Bagan, it is faster than the bike, you can relax, enjoy the view, take your time to feel the mood of Bagan. You can either rent a traditional horse cart (2-3 pax, not very confortable for the 2 pax at the back). It is really confortable, with a real seat and you have a real nice view on Bagan (better than the traditional horse cart). At the end, horse cart is better than the bike, especially if you have children.
Golfers may be surprised that they can actually enjoy a game or two in the ancient city. This can be done at the Bagan Nyaung Oo Golf Club in the Amazing Bagan Resort Hotel. The 18-hole, 7,147-yard golf course is surrounded by thousand-year-old pagodas.
Opening Hours: 06:00-18:00
Location: Nyaung Oo Township, Bagan.
Hiking is another way to explore Bagan and it’s a great place for it mainly because of Mount Popa. The extinct volcano is home to many shrines, which can be accessed by a 25-minute climb. More often than not, there are packages that combine biking and hiking in one tour.
Bagan River Cruises
One of the best things to do in Myanmar is to go on a river cruise but they differ, particularly in terms of the routes and the river to be travelled. However, more often than not, Bagan is a crucial stop on a river cruise. This is especially true for expeditions on the Irrawaddy River.
Salay is a colorful old religious center in Central Myanmar it is about 1 ½ hours south of Bagan. In between visiting the numerous ancient monasteries, adorned with beautiful woodcarving, you can enjoy the beauty of this compact city of colonial buildings, monasteries and pagodas.
Yoke Sone Kyaung
the famous monastery “Yoke-Sone-Kyaung” which is a cultural heritage site in Salay, which in situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It is famous with its spectacular woodcarvings and also it is the native town of the famous writer Salay U Pone Nya during the time of the Myanmar Kings.
Salay Yoke Sone Kyaung was built in AD 1882. There are very beautiful artistic work woodcarvings around it and also ancient Buddha image, utensils of Yadanabon 19 century period, and the museum of Myanmar famous writer U Pone Nya in Salay Yoke Sone Kyaung.
Shinbin Maha Laba Man Paya
Shinbin Maha Laba Man Paya is located in Salay, the largest lacquer Buddha Image in Myanmar, said to date back to the 13th Century.