Bagan is a city in central Myanmar and one of the major historical landmarks in Asia. With over 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas within 16 square miles, it is a site of ancient ruins rivaling Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat.
Today, Bagan is being considered as a possible future UNESCO World Heritage Site; and for good reason, as it offers the opportunity to appreciate history as well as beauty. Many temples in Bagan can be explored inside and out, giving you an up-close and personal experience of ancient Buddhist architecture.
Furthermore, the proximity of the temples on the Bagan Plain makes for incredible views. Bagan is still relatively unknown and draws fewer tourists than other locations. This creates a more personal and exciting experience for travelers.
To help you plan your activities during your stay, here are 9 must-see attractions in Bagan.
Ananda Temple—the Westminster Abbey of Burma
This graceful temple is also known as the "Westminster Abbey of Burma", for its elegant and symmetrical design. The golden spire on top can be seen from miles across the Bagan Plain and is lit up at night by spotlights, creating a beacon in the sky. The temple itself is well-known for its four gold-leaf Buddha statues, each standing an impressive 30 feet tall.
Built in 1090AD, Ananda Temple is one of the largest and best-preserved temples in Bagan. It is still very important to local people.
From late December to early February there is a large festival at the temple to celebrate the lives of the farmers in the area. The festival attracts thousands of villagers in their traditional horse-drawn carts, to camp around the temple and celebrate.
It is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of life in Myanmar and experience the relationship between the people and their religion.
Excellent planned and executed Myanmar excursion
Asia Highlights and their local Myanmar partner "mAsia" did an excellent job in planning and execution of a one week trip to Myanmar.The various tour guides and drivers had good knowledge and good command over English.More
Gerd, Jan 2018
My experience in Thai
All of this was well organized by the local office. The holiday was wonderful. Our guide, Mr. Longdy（ Siem Reap）were exceptional. He shared his extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. Thank you so much .shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions.More
kelli, Jul 2023
From the day I submitted an inquiry request, I instantly received a response from Monica asking my preferences for my trip. She has been attentive and responsive to our every needs and we very much appreciate it. Looking forward to our trip in November but many thanks to Monica for making this experience to seamless thus far.More
Sana Samhouri, Jul 2023
Very professional agency for a memorable trip to Asia
A special thanks to Albee who worked with us and helped to tailor the itinerary to our taste, she was amazing and always available for whatever we needed. The trip would not have been the same without her and her team. Thank you!More
Daniela, Jul 2023
It was our first time in Cambodia and …
It was our first time in Cambodia and we had a wonderful time. The accommodations, food, and sites were really beautiful. We ended our trip with a relaxing massage. Sam was very accommodating to our needs and knowledgeable. Thank you for the laughter and for being so kind.More
Amy Oakes Moon, Jun 2023
Our guide Borin - never boring!
Our guide Borin, in Cambodia, was knowledgeable, understanding and thoughtful in every aspect of the plan he put together for our trip to Siem Reap and in its execution. He can read the room, and knew exactly how to pace the tour, when to pause, when to break, and how to prepare us for the maximum benefit. He is extremely kind and caring, and it showed at every turn. He also is a dab hand with the camera, and we have a lot of great pictures to show for it. Kudos to my Asia Highlights coordinator - Cathy Chen, for picking Borin. Borin works with a driver (007) who was also very kind and caring. Whenever we returned to the car, he would have cold towel rolls and chilled water to refresh us. So amazingly considerate. It was an unforgettable experienceMore
David Muliyil, Jun 2023
Our guide, Anna, was fantastic! She was highly informative and a delight to spend our days with. Would request her again if we were to return!More
Alejandra M Almonte, Jun 2023
We've had such a great experience…
We've had such a great experience planning our honeymoon with Alisa at Asia Highlights! We gave her our dream itinerary, thinking that it might be impossible to do all the things we wanted, but Alisa made our dreams a reality! She's gone so far above and beyond to answer ALL of our questions and make little adjustments that will make a huge impact on our experience.More
Lauren, Jun 2023
Alisa knows how to work fast and please a customer.
Alisa is very helpful and works very fast. I am a very difficult client because Inknow what I want in therm of hotels and comfort. She had a lot of patience with me, and moved a lot the plan of the trip, always following my requests. It was a pleasure organizing my trip with her. I recommend her a lot! Thanks Alisa. Malala from Argentina.More
maria laura artola, Jun 2023
In addition, I want to specifically mention the guides provided in certain locations. Rum, in Siem Reap, made the most memorable experience possible. His positivity was contagious - even when it felt like 1000 degrees and we were tired. He brought it all to life, and created a couple days of Ankor Wat, etc. that we will never forget! He heard my daughter's request for specific Cambodian food, and changed our itinerary to go to a village and eat at a locally known shop. He brought the dessert she asked about to us in the car! Overall, he and his driver "Lucky" were a reason to go to Siem Reap. In addition, the other guides (minus one which was switched out immediately) were stupendous. Mon in Bangkok was friendly and provided a great day there; Eak in Chiang Mai gave us a world-class food-tour and day touring the city and its surrounding temples with lots of laughs; Tommy in Hanoi kept us from getting killed in the traffic and gave a stupendous food and architecture/history tour - so very friendly and funny; the fishing village tour in Hoi An, as well as the side-car tour in Saigon, were both unforgettable! Thank you Sharon, and Asia Highlights. Would definitely use again for future trips!More
Teri Simpson, Apr 2023
Cambodia and Vietnam adventure!
Our guide in Cambodia, Meas Darapolaith (Pol), was absolutely amazing. He was knowledgeable, friendly and so helpful. His English was excellent and he shared important insights about history and the magnificent sites we visited. We highly recommend him!More
Jennifer Roth Krieger, Apr 2023
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE…
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE Asia. Being the first in that region, we wanted to use a tour service company. We ended up using Asia Highlights. From the beginning we were impressed with their services. We left home with of mind because all the pre-travel arrangements were taking care and communicate to us efficiently. All our questions were answered promptly. Once in the countries, we were welcome by our excellent tour guides. Everything was taking care for us. We did not have one issue. They selected the right tours guides for us, they were highly knowledgeable and so much attentive to our needs. We had Dhat in Vietnam and Borin in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I came back home so much rested, and with plenty of wonderful pictures and memories. I will definitely use Asia Highlights again for my next trip to Asia.More
Isabelle Dessaux, Apr 2023
Fabulous tour and guide in Cambodia
We have been touring Cambodia, guided by Borin ( and driver 007) for the last 2 days. What a fabulous experience! Borin has been a wonderful guide, the best so far in Southeast Asia, explaining the history and culture of Cambodia through his tours of the temples in and around Angkor, as well as the Landmine museum. He has answered all our questions, made sure we were comfortable, and that we have had great food. 007 made sure we always had enough water and cool towels for our face/neck.We highly recommend Borin as a tour guide for Cambodia!!More
Monica, Mar 2023
Best Travel Service for Asia Travel
Alisa Liu was in charge of making the arrangements and she helped us from the start to make all of the arrangements and also helped us when we had questions and requested some adjustments. Her service is of the highest professional level. We are 100% confident that our trip will be perfect. We’re also 100% confident that, if anything comes up during our trip, that Alisa will be there to guide us through and take care of us. We won’t even consider using another agency for travel around Asia and we would like to have Alisa work for us again.More
Leo Pospichal, Mar 2023
Tour of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand
The tour guides and drivers were another high point. All were very good, friendly, knowledgeable and spoke English well. There were two that I want to call out for their excellence. Chan Sovannarith in Siem Reap was our guide in Cambodia. He really made the experience special. His knowledge, willingness to answer all my questions, helpfulness and general attitude made him fun to be around. In order to praise the second exceptional guide I have to explain about an unfortunate occurrence that I had. I'm normally a very active senior, but after leaving Cambodia for Laos I was suddenly struck by the most intense back pain I've ever experienced, couldn't even roll over in bed (turned out to be sciatica). The guide, Mr. Sonophet, really went the extra mile. He went with my traveling companion and bought a back brace and medications for me. When that didn't help much he took me to a clinic where I was seen by a doctor, given a shot and pain meds. He hand-made a walking stick for me that I'm still using! He made it possible for me to somewhat participate in the activities, i.e. a bed on the boat down the river. When it was time to move on to Bangkok he got me a wheelchair at the airport. I can't thank him enough for these kindnesses! This problem lasted for the remainder of the trip, through Bangkok and Phuket and these guides were also very helpful getting wheelchairs, etc. It was a terrible disappointment to have this wonderful trip disrupted, but it would have been SO much worse without the great help that I received from the guides and my poor travel companion!More
Deb M, Mar 2023
In good hands with Sam
Sam Ol took very good care of us - lots of information, listened to and answered all our questions, was passionate about the places we visited and about his people and country. He was kind, had a great sense of humor, and made sure we felt safe and comfortable at all times. He helped us to fall in love with Cambodia in 3 short days.More
Carol Jones, Feb 2023
Best tour guide in Cambodia
When we first arrived at the airport in Siem Riep it was so nice to be greeted by Mr Sam Ol. We instantly fell at home when we saw his friendly smile. We were impressed by his great English and knowledge of the temples. On the tour to the temples Sam took care of us every step of the way. He took awesome pictures of us. It felt like we were on a tour given by our brother who is also a professional photographer. Also, we appreciate his humor as well as the fact he had an answer for every question we had. I give Sam 5 stars, best tour guide ever :)More
Len S, Feb 2023
Mr. Sam our guide in Cambodia, he and the driver out standing service they went above and beyond touring, my wife so amazed beautiful country, we're planning back here near the futures. Thank Mr. Sam,We'll feedback the whole trip next week when we be home in USMore
Pho Lover, Feb 2023
We are still in the middle of our trip, but we are just finishing up our time in Cambodia and our guide, Borin, has been AMAZING!!! He has truly made our time here unforgettable and I plan on referring all of my friends and family to come visit this beautiful country! Thank you, Borin, for everything you did to make our trip so fantastic!More
Danielle Blount, Feb 2023
Excellent service and Wonderful Guides
All of our guides have been terrific. Mr. Sam in Siem Reip was especially wonderful. Both he and our driver were polite, safe knowledgable and informative. Sam made our trip memorable and enioyable. We will definitely recommend Sam and Asia Highlights to our friends.More
Kaaren, Feb 2023
Shwesandaw Pagoda—A Climb with a View
Shwesandaw Pagoda is one of the most impressive temples in Bagan. Standing at 328 feet tall, it is visible from a great distance. The Pagoda itself is different from the usual golden bell shape seen in Myanmar. Instead, Shwesandaw has two octagonal bases and five square terraces, each topped with a stupa.
A stone staircase ascends through each terrace to the top of the pagoda, where travelers can take in the view of the surrounding temple-dotted plain. The best time to see the scenery from the top is at sunrise, when there is a soft mist clinging to the ground, or at sunset, when the sky's reflection dances on the Irrawaddy River.
Shwezigon Pagoda—Graceful and Glimmering
An important center for prayer and reflection, the Shwezigon Pagoda is an excellent place for interacting with locals as they come to worship. It has a classical golden bell shape and was one of the first of its kind to be constructed. After it was built, Shwezigon became the model for all subsequent pagodas in Myanmar.
The Shwezigon Pagoda is resilient; a survivor of invasions and natural disasters. Because of this, Shwezigon has occasionally been renovated over the centuries.
Originally, the pagoda was gold-plated but during one of its renovations, it was re-plated with copper, giving it a stronger but equally beautiful finish. It's an especially breathtaking sight during sunset and sunrise, when the oranges in the sky mix with the golden monument and create an incredible glimmering display.
Sulamani Temple—Ruby of Bagan
The most frequently-visited temple in Bagan, the Sulamani Temple was built by King Narapatisihu, who found a small ruby on the ground on the Bagan Plains and built a temple in its place. The word Sulamani means "small ruby" and is a fitting name for this sand-orange and elegant "crowning jewel".
The temple itself is surrounded by a high wall which can be entered through elaborate gateways, one at each cardinal point. Sulamani is especially well-known because of its layers of terraces and spires, which give the structure a mystical fairytale appearance.
Inside, intricately carved stucco embellishments adorn the doors and windows, exhibiting incredible craftsmanship and artistry.
Thatbyinnyu Temple—Two-Story Giant
Thatbyinnyu Temple is unique because it is one of the earliest two-story Buddhist temples and unlike many other temples in Myanmar is not symmetrical. At over 120 feet tall, Thatbyinnyu towers above other monuments nearby. The area around the temple is just as beautiful as the temple itself and offers a panoramic view of Bagan.
In contrast to many beautiful temples, Thatbyinnyu is quiet and not crowded. It offers a peaceful setting for photographs and for enjoying the scenery. The interior is quite large and visitors can explore and interact with locals who set up stands to sell their paintings and artwork. Thus visitors can find authentic souvenirs, as well as relax and enjoy Bagan culture.
Gubyaukgyi Temple—Murals of Buddha
Known for containing the oldest original paintings in Bagan, Gubyaukgyi Temple is a must-see for lovers of art, beauty, and history alike. The temple's exterior is Indian-influenced in its architecture, with an elegant spire on top.
Once inside, visitors are met with a beautiful surprise. The interior walls and ceilings of the temple are covered with ancient murals, telling stories from the previous lives of Buddha. The murals have been well-preserved because the temple is lit with natural lighting from large perforated stone walls.
Each mural is paired with a caption written in old Mon. These captions are the earliest examples of Old Mon in Myanmar making it an important site for the study of the ancient language. No photography is allowed inside the temple, in order to preserve the murals for future generations.
Hot-Air Balloon Flight—Temples from Above
Taking a hot-air balloon ride is the uncontested best way to see the thousands of temples scattered across the Plains of Bagan, and provides an unforgettable experience.
Balloon tours normally begin at 6:30 am, just a few minutes after sunrise. They offer a bird's-eye view of the monuments in the misty orange morning light. The picturesque spectacle of the temples at sunrise from red balloons above, has become iconic for travelers in Myanmar.
Hot-air balloon flights in Bagan normally cost around $330 per person and are seasonal (from October to March). Because the experience has become a crowd-favorite in recent years, tours should be booked well in advance. For more information on hot-air balloon flights in Bagan, travelers can look here.
Irrawaddy Sunset Boat Trip—Relax on Still Waters
After a full day of temple sightseeing, sometimes a little laid-back relaxation is in order and a sunset boat trip on the Irrawaddy River is a great way to achieve that. From the river, travelers can gain a charming view of boats silhouetted against the sun, with mountains behind, not to mention the monuments scattered across the plains.
Truly picturesque and romantic, an Irrawaddy sunset boat trip is a good way to cool down at the end of the day.
Tours normally last about an hour and boats hold around 10 people. More private and romantic boat rides are available for couples willing to pay a little extra. Normally tea and snacks are served on the boat
Horse-Cart Ride—Authentic Adventuring
The archeological site of ancient Bagan is contained within an area of 16 square miles. Never mind traveling from temple to temple, sometimes one monument in itself is almost too big to be explored on foot.
One option for your transportation within Ancient Bagan is to take a horse-cart ride. Horse-carts are the traditional mode of transportation and can be easily booked in the city, or found near the larger temples.
Although more time-consuming than other forms of transportation, a cart ride allows travelers take in the scenery while exploring, instead of hurrying from site to site.
The landscape in the Bagan Plains is very beautiful and makes for some great pictures that can be easily missed when in a rush. Most cart drivers speak a little English and can act as your guides for the less-visited areas of Bagan.
Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights
At Asia Highlights we provide three set tour options to Myanmar, so you can choose the one that suits your circumstances best. The tours last between 9 and 16 days, and are tailor-made to ensure an unforgettable experience.
- 9-Day Myanmar Highlights Tour
- 14-Day Myanmar and Thailand Essence Tour
- 16-Day Myanmar Tour with Irrawaddy Cruise
You might like to read
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
- 2-Week Southeast Asia Itineraries for Couples, Families, and More
- 5-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary: 3 Options (2023/2024)
- How to Plan a 10-Day Southeast Asia Itinerary (2023/2024)
- How to Plan a Trip to Southeast Asia 2023/2024
- The Ultimate 4-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary for You! (Expert Advice)
- How Long to Spend in Southeast Asia (for First Timers): from 2 Weeks to 2 Months
- How to Plan a 3-Week Southeast Asia Itinerary
- Myanmar Weather in January - What to Wear and Bring
- Myanmar Weather in February - Lots of Sunny Days
- Myanmar Weather in March - From the Cool to the Hot
- Myanmar Weather in April - the Hottest Month
- Myanmar Weather in May - Beginning of the rainy season
- Myanmar Weather in June - the Rainy Season
- Myanmar Weather in July - Rainfall Reaches its Peak
- Myanmar Weather in August - Heavy Downpours
- Myanmar Weather in September - Monsoon Rains Let up
- Myanmar Weather in October - Rainfall Decreases
- Myanmar Weather in November - Dry and Cool
- December Weather in Bagan - The Peak Travel Time
Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.