Travel Guide to Bagan: What to See and How to Get There


Bagan is one of the absolute must-see destinations for Myanmar temple spotters. It offers a beautiful glimpse into the country’s impressive cultural past and is breathtaking to behold in person.

However, before getting there, tourists should have a good understanding of what to expect from this site containing over 2200 temples as well as how to explore the wide heritage area. To make this a little easier, the following Bagan tourist guide explains how to get to and around the ancient city. It explains the best time is to make a visit and also how to get the best from a trip to this unique historical site.

How to Get to Bagan

The 26 square mile Bagan archeological area sits on the banks of the famed Irrawaddy River. The main town serving the heritage zone is Nyaung U which is just 2.5 miles from Old Bagan village and adjacent to the historical site. This is where most tourists arrive to and from.

The country’s national transit network serves the area well with many choices existing for transport to and from Bagan. Visitors can arrive in the area with either of the following options:

  • Domestic flights
  • Intercity buses
  • Trains
  • Riverboats

Riverboats perhaps provide one of the most interesting ways to travel to Bagan from Mandalay, offering fantastic natural views of the country. The frequent fast boats make the trip in around 11 hours whilst the twice-weekly slow boats take approximately 15 hours.

Remember: Before starting a trip to Bagan it’s essential to come prepared with an eVisa for Burma. This can be obtained online 3 working days before traveling to the country and permits a single entry, 28 day stay in the Southeast Asian land. Be aware, however, the Myanmar online visa can only be used at specific airports and border crossing points, so be sure to check that your personal arrival destination is valid before applying.

How to Travel around Bagan

There are many and varied ways to see the sights around Bagan. With 26 square miles of heritage area to see, choosing the right form of personal transportation can be crucial. The site is big and cannot be traversed fully on foot. Tourists can choose from numerous private hire vehicles to get the best experience from a visit to the many pagodas. These options range from:

  • Cars with a personal guide
  • Bike or e-bike
  • Taxi
  • Hot air balloon
  • Horse and cart

When is the Best Time to Travel to Bagan Myanmar

The most enjoyable times of year to visit Bagan correspond quite closely with the best seasons to visit Myanmar itself. The period between November-to-February offers welcoming climate conditions with cooler (but still warm) temperatures and without monsoon rains.

Whilst this makes exploration of the site a lot easier, it is also the time of year when most tourists visit the heritage area and it can get very busy. During this season accommodation will often fill up faster so always ensure to book ahead before arrival.

What to do in Bagan

The sights and the history of Bagan are its biggest selling point. Tourists come to visit the area to marvel at its many spires, take photos and explore the forested landscape above all else. Temples are therefore the biggest draw for the visiting population, with numerous accompanying museums also adding character to this highly cultural destination.

The Most Impressive Temples in Bagan

With over 2,000 temples to see on-site, it’s quite likely that visitors won’t be able to experience them all during a single trip. Therefore it’s best to prioritize the truly spectacular locations first before dedicating some time to exploring the more unknown pagodas.

Amongst the most popular and striking temples are the following:

  • Shwezigon Temple
  • Ananda Temple
  • Htilominlo Temple
  • Dhammayangyi Temple
  • Thatbyinnyu Temple
  • Shwesandaw Temple
  • Thitsawadi Temple
  • Manuha Temple
  • Gawdawpalin Temple

Bagan should be high on any visitor’s itinerary when visiting Myanmar. It’s quite rightfully one of the country’s most celebrated destinations for travelers and gives a fantastic taste of the nation’s cultural heritage.