Top Things to Do in Bagan

Widely considered as the richest archaeological sites in Myanmar with ancient relics of temples and pagodas and being the most signature feature, Bagan has been becoming an emerging hotebed of tourism in recent years.

However, once you set your foot in Bagan, there are a wide range of activities for your touristic indulgence apart from 2000 ruins of religious monuments dotted over Bagan’s plain. Below is a list of top activities you must not miss out on when it comes to Bagan tourism.

1. Taking a Hot Air Balloon Ride

It is widely admitted that a trip  to Bagan can’t be complete should there be no experience of hot - air balloon ride. The short flight over Bagan, which offers you a magnificent panoramic view is one - in - a - lifetime local taste. Not only the ride itself but the whole process from getting up early to get to the launch site to observing the inflattened balloon readily set up is undoubtedly intriguing. As we marvel at the scenery surrounding, the pilot will go through short introduction to balloon riding’s origin as well as the some of the most prominent pagodas’ history. 

As seat availability is limited, don’t forget to make a reservation. Balloon ride may be cancelled shortly in advance if the weather is not favorable enough. Although the price is expensive, this is truly rewarding for a unique hot - air balloon ride. 

things to do in bagan

» For more information about balloon ride over Bagan, check out:

2. Exploring Temples

Pagodas visit remains the highlight of all trips to Bagan. Each religious site offers a unique experience. The more pagodas you have a chance to visit, the better understanding into Burma’s religion you are likely to have. However, should there be time limit, we highly recommend the list belows for your most overall insight into this ancient city.

  • Ananda Temple
  • Gawdawpalin Temple
  • Dhammayangyi Temple
  • Sein Nyet Sister Temple
  • Sulamani Temple
  • Thatbyinnyu Temple
  • Thambula Temple

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Dhammayangyi Temple

3. Cycling

Since motorbikes are banned in Bagan to protect the archaeological zone, many visitors choose to ride a bike instead as they can go wherever they want at their own pace. Apart from exploring the temple ruins in Bagan, you can also ride to the local villages to experience Burmese daily life. Bicycle can be hired at almost every hotels in Bagan and many shops around the city. The price ranges from $1 - 3 USD.

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Another interesting means of transport to tour around Bagan is e-bike which is most popular among tourists. This electricity - powered vehicle is convenient and capable enough to endure your hopping through various pagodas. At around $7 per day, you are already secured an easy trip without any difficulty.

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» There are only a few things to bear in mind:

  • As most of the paths are not only well-paved, prepare yourself to travel on dusty roads. Sun cream and face mask are necessary.
  • Insert GPS to navigate through the routes.
  • Chek the bike carefully before hiring such as the battery (for ebike), brake or tires. Remember the contact of the rental shop or your hotel in case of unexpected situations with your bike.

Hop on and hop off to wherever you want. It is now a piece of cake.

» Group Tour Myanmar operates the most interesting Bagan cycling tours with the best price.

4. Explore Local Market

Beyond Bagan’s archaeological zone, which is dotted with temples and pagodas, “New Bagan” and “Old Bagan” is two other locations, in which “New Bagan” to the west is the setting for former residents of archaeological zone, who must move out under the government’s policy, while “Old Bagan” to the north is home to some of the most unique local markets - the lively puzzle in Bagan picture.

Nyaung U market is one of the must - see. Located near the central round-about of the main road, this market provides you a chance to mingle with a hectic daily routine of indigenous dwellers. There are a wide range of local produce contained in overhead baskets like fresh fruits, vegetables. Other stalls of live livestocks, freshly butchered meats, cooking oil, dried fish are also attractive enough for your snapshot capture. 

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5. Visit Lacquerware Workshop

Leaving market, let’s proceed to another colorful slice of the traditional Bagan’s lives, the local lacquer workshop. Myinkaba town is the most famous for lacquer crafting technique. These traditional formulas in making hand - carved materials still remain almost unchanged, starting from curing lacquerware in underground cellars to hand crafting and adjusting to form the best designs. If you are attentive enough, you will realize that black, yellow, green and red are the most favorable colours used in lacquer. Observe the technique in awe and get some back home as souvenirs. 

» Some famous lacquerware workshops in Bagan are: Golden Cuckoo, Jasmine Family, Ever Stand, Chan Thar.

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6. Watch Sunset over Irrawaddy River

Sunset in Bagan is so majestic that you must at least for once, enjoy the reddish glow sky while the sun slowly hides away mountain ranges. Any pagodas’ summit in Bagan is capable of offering you the best location for this breath - taking experience. The golden spectacle reflected into Irrawaddy River in late afternoon is so impressive a view to marvel at. 

In the past, climbing up to the top decks was allowed in most temples. However, nowadays, due to congested tourism, there is a new rule that not allow tourists to climb on temples in Bagan for their own safety and for the protection of the temples. Alternatively, you can enjoy the mesmerizing sunset at a riverside restaurant or a romantic Bagan sunset cruise.

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7. Climb up Mount Popa

Break from temple routine, we pay a visit to one of the most renowned mountains in Burma - Mount Popa. Once a volcano, this 1518-metre mountain is famous for pilgrimage as there are various Nat temples, golden stupas and ruins site on top of it. 

Prepare yourself to conquer up to 777 steps to arrive atop. You are requested to have proper dress code: no shorts, no shoes, no vests, no hats and bags as well because of naughty monkeys. Regarding monkeys, they are very unique at Mount Popa, as you catch sight of it along your ascending journey. At the top of Mount Popa are golden bells and statues, which create a majestic stun for the whole view. 

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8. Take a Day Cruise to Mandalay

Let’s experience travel onboard to Mandalay, one of the most prefered means of transport to the second largest city in Burma. Although we have to get up early at around 4am, the journey is truly rewarding. You are picked up from your hotel to Nyaung Oo Jetty in Bagan just in time to catch the epic sunrise.

We then embark on a tour setting sail along Irrawaddy River to Mandalay. Take your time to enjoy natural surroundings and sights of local people busily carrying out their daily tasks as we indulge in a romantic world of blue sky and chilled wind. Not only sunrise but sunset also makes our trip worthy. In short, it is highly recommend that you take a chance to try this unique travel to witness Burma’s waterway and local taste of a entire boat.

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» Read more: Myanmar Travel Guide

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