Located on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River, the ancient city of Bagan (formerly known as Pagan) was once home to over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and stupas. While only a little over 2,000 of these monuments remain today, their sheer brilliance still attracts travelers from all over the globe.
Once you're in Bagan there is a lot to see. The "Temple Town" and its larger area – known formally as the Bagan Archaeological Zone – includes temples from the city and four other settlements: Nyaung U, Old Bagan, Myinkaba, and New Bagan.
This brief guide indicates the best ways of getting around Bagan so guests can make the most of their time in the city, by visiting as many different sites in as comfortable a manner as possible.
Private Car with Guide
Renting a car-with-driver is, without doubt, the most convenient and comfortable way for guests to explore Bagan and its surrounding settlements. All cars are imported, well maintained, and air-conditioned, and their drivers are courteous and dependable.
Bagan sits on a vast plain stretching over an area of 50 square kilometers, and along with its latitude, this makes the city almost always warm.
The average temperature during the months of May, June, and July is around 99°F (37°C) and temperatures can reach highs of around 93°F (34°C) even during winter. This makes it all the more important for guests to travel in comfortable, air-conditioned, cars.
Guides will be enthusiastic about sharing their culture and way of life with you and will be provided with your itinerary beforehand so they can plan your day for you. They will know when you need to be driven back to your hotel for lunch and rest.
The guides speak English and are well informed, friendly, and at your service. You can spend as much – or as little – time as you want at any given attraction and you have the opportunity to explore the city at your own pace.
It is important to bear in mind that the quality of infrastructure in Myanmar is low, comparing poorly with that of other countries. The roads in Bagan may be bumpy, dusty, and poorly maintained.
This all makes traveling by private car, with reliable drivers who know the area well, the most desirable option. All you have to do is enjoy Bagan, without worrying about a single thing!
You can get a clearer picture of the weather in Bagan and better plan your trip by reading the following in-depth article.
E-Bikes and Bicycles
E-bikes, or electric bicycles, which operate much like motorbikes but are powered by electric batteries, can be rented from any rental agency. They're usually cheap to rent, but using one to travel from one place to another on a hot Bagan afternoon is extremely uncomfortable, to say the least.
Roads in Bagan are sandy and dusty and not ideal for e-bikes. There have been instances of visitors getting seriously injured traveling by e-bike on such poorly maintained, bumpy, roads.
Furthermore, if the battery dies, there's not much you can do except wait for someone from the rental agency to show up with a fresh battery. If the battery dies in the evening or late at night, however, you're well out of luck and will have to push the vehicle back.
When it comes to bicycles, while you don't have to worry about batteries dying, you do have to consider seriously whether you really want to travel by bike on dangerously gravelly roads in scorching weather conditions. If the answer is yes, we recommend you wear a helmet and carry a lot of water!
Taxi service is available in Bagan, just like in most big cities in Myanmar. Taxis aren't necessarily cheap, however, and most are not air-conditioned. Since Bagan is extremely hot almost all year round, traveling in a car without air-conditioning doesn't exactly spell 'comfort’.
Do also bear in mind that many taxis in Bagan are shared and make multiple stops along the way. Moreover, most drivers speak little or no English.
If it's convenience you're after, do avoid traveling by taxi.
If you do, however, choose to travel by taxi, we recommend you negotiate a price with your driver beforehand so as to avoid any hassles upon completion of your journey.
Hot Air Balloon
Is there a better way to start your day than to take a hot air balloon over the vast Bagan plain at sunrise? We certainly don't think so! The sight of hot air balloons drifting over the ancient city has become an iconic image in Myanmar.
Hot air ballooning offers visitors unparalleled views of Bagan, of its innumerable temples and pagodas, its surrounding settlements and the Irrawaddy River at sunrise.
The balloons are safe and made by well-known manufacturers in the UK or Spain. Most pilots are from the UK, have valid licenses and years of flying experience, and observe the highest safety standards.
This is an experience you simply mustn't miss during your time in Bagan.
To learn more about this unique experience – including costs, schedules, and what to expect when flying – check this out: Balloon Flights Over Bagan.
An hour-long sunset cruise along the Irrawaddy River is just what you need after a long day of temple- or pagoda-hopping. Drink some hot tea and enjoy a light snack as you take in the beautiful view of the sun going down behind the mountains.
We recommend you leave an hour or so before sunset so you have plenty of time to relax.
Riding among the temples in a horse cart is an unforgettable experience. While it may not be the fastest transport option, seeing the ruins from the shaded, padded bed of a horse cart is certainly an authentic way of getting around Bagan.
Most drivers speak decent English, know the area well, and may even take you to sites seldom visited by other travelers.
A cart works best for two people, but it's possible to accommodate a family of three or four (if the children are fairly young).
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