Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia the temples around Bagan are an inspiring sight. They date from time when Bagan was the capital of a number of ancient kingdoms.
150km south of Mandalay Nyaung U is one of the most convenient stopping off points for the area given it has an airport with regular flights from other cities in Burma, near the railway and is within about about 10km from both Old & New Bagan.
The Bagan archaeological zone covers an area of over 40km2 and an admission charge of USD 10 is levied on foreign tourists. Many of the temples date from the 11th and 12th century.
Old Bagan was cleared in 1998 and it’s inhabitants forcibly moved to new Bagan. Unesco has not added this area to it’s world heritage list. Some speculate this is because of issues such as this and not wishing to support the military government.
Hotels in Old Bagan, while they may be close to the temples are mainly luxury variety and run directly by government agencies. You may prefer to look at New Bagan or Nyaung U for other options.
How to see Bagan – or what should my itinerary be?
One of the best ways to plan your journey around Bagan is to simply print off a map of the area, with marked temples and begin to explore. Printing further history about the temple construction will further enhance understanding, or hire a local guide to understand better the history and significance.
You can hire a bicycle to make your own way around the temples, at your pace and going wherever you want. Given the climate this can be hot work. Alternatively you could hire one of the horse and carts that are abundant for the tourists. The driver know the area and can take you to areas less busy with tourists.
Maps of Bagan
Some main temples – not to miss
With such a large area it would take more than a couple of days to do them justice
Shwegugyi Temple (built c. 1131)
This temple is built on a 3m brick foundation and supposedly built in just 7 months
Thatbyinnyu Temple (built mid-12th century) The temple is shaped like a cross, but interestingly is not symmetrical. The 2 storied temple is the tallest in Bagan.
Ananda Temple (built in 1105 )
The temple is a fusion of Monand Indian style of architecture. The temple is highly revered and is also known as “veritable museum of stones”. The temple was damaged in the 1975 earthquake but has been fully restored. The temple spires were gilded in 1990 during 900 year celebrations. Situated beside Thatbyinnyu.
Dhammayangyi Temple (built mid 12th century) is the widest temple in Bagan, and has a similar layout to the Ananda Temple. The temple’s interior is bricked up for unknown reasons, and only the four porches and the outer corridors are accessible.
Gawdawpalin Temple (built early 13th century)
It is the second tallest temple in Bagan. With 2 storeys and three lower and four upper terraces. The temple was heavily damaged during the 1975 earthquake but has been since restored.
Outside OLD Bagan
In Nyaung U the Shwezigon Pagoda (built early 12th c) Has a circular golden stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. The pagoda is believed to enshrine a Buddha bone and tooth
Myinkaba – village between old and new Bagan is famed for it’s lacquer ware workshops and there is plenty of it for sale.