Known as the city of four million pagodas, is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia and the main tourist destination in Myanmar. It was also capital of the First Myanmar Empire. This enchanting city is situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River, about 193 km south of Mandalay. The ruins of Bagan City cover an area of 42 sq. km containing over 2000 edifices. The majority of these well-preserved temples and pagodas offer a rich architectural heritage from the 11th to 13th century era.
How to get there
It takes about one hour and twenty minutes to fly from Yangon to Bagan. There are daily flights to Bagan from Yangon, Mandalay and Heho. By overland, it takes 14 hours from Yangon and 7 hours from Mandalay by coach. There is a regular train between Bagan and Mandalay too. The newly constructed railway between Mandalay and Bagan was unveiled in September, 1996. Express trains from Yangon to Mandalay stop at Thazi, from where it is accessible to Bagan by a 3-hour drive. There is also a double-decker steamer service between Mandalay and Bagan and the cruises " the Road to Mandalay" operated by E & O Express, RV Pandaw 1947 operated by Ayravata Cruises, and Irrawaddy Princess.
Places of interest
The gateway was built during the 9th century, by King Pyin Pyar Min (A.D 846 -878). He built the fortress of Bagan with 12 gateways. The Tharaba Gateway was located on the east side of the palace. It was used as the main gate to the city. "Tharaba" meaning "The Gate which can prevent the arrows of the enemy". The gate is guarded by Min Maha Giri (the brother) and Namadaw (the sister) spirits on each side of the gate.
Completed in 1090, Ananda Temple is King Kyansittha's masterpiece and crowning achievement of the early style temple architecture. The structural layout plan is that of a perfect Greek cross with four huge Buddha images in standing position, facing in four different directions, and a series of eighty relieves depicting the early stages of the Buddha's life from the Birth to His Enlightenment.
ANANDA OKKYAUNG MONASTERY
Is a small red Brick Monastery situated within the temple compound of Ananda Temple. The inside walls are covered in 18th century paintings depicting Buddha’s life and elements of the history of Bagan.
Over 66 meters high, and built by King Alaungsithu in the middle of the 12th century, this white stucco building overtops all other monuments as the highest pagoda on the Bagan plain.
Located slightly to the west of Thatbyinnyu and inside the old city walls, is the only remaining Hindu temple in Bagan. It was believed to be built during (A.D 931-964). In the early days of Bagan, people used to believe in Hinduism, and worshipped Vishu, Brahman and many other Hindu gods. This used to be a place to worship those gods. But afterwards, King Anawrahta brought Theravada Buddhism to Bagan with the conquest of Thaton, and made the Hinduism vanish. It clearly is one of the earliest of the Bagan temples.
Is a medium size early Pyu type brick masonry stupa. Its date of construction remains uncertain. On the external walls and each face had been carved in brick the ten misadventures of Vishnu. These statues were placed upright in niches decorated with the pilasters. The murals are contemporary sculptures. The center of the temple is occupied by an enormous brick mass surrounded classically bricks. It is this mass which supports the dome and will sikhara it. The name even of the temple is curious, it means: "the temple where the spirits are confined" and perhaps announces a relation with the nats, which had taken refuge here, not being able to do it in a traditional Buddhist temple.
Standing on the high brick plinth, this temple was built by King Alaungsithu in 1131 AD. The arch pediments, pilasters, plinth and cornice molding are decorated with fine stucco carvings, evident of Myanmar architecture of the early 12th Century.
This temple was built by King Narapatisithu during the 12th century. It is about 60 meters high with a fine view over the ruins of the Bagan plains and the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River.
MYOE DAUNG MONASTERY
It’s the oldest and the finest monastery of that age. The complex contains two monasteries, numerous pyathats, pavilions, rest houses and ancillary buildings. Located in the north of Old Bagan. The Nat Taung complex actually contains two monasteries, numerous pyathats, pavilions, rest houses and ancillary buildings. The main monastery building, with an east-west orientation, is approximately 130 ft. x 115 ft. (40 m. x 35 m. Its glory and what should be a major claim to prominence lies in its numerous woodcarvings which are also mostly from the late Kon-baung period of the mid- to late 19th century.
The museum run by Archaeological Department is situated near the Gawdawpalin Temple. It has a collection of more than 2,000 items including Buddha statues, stucco pieces, terra-cotta cups and pots. Open daily except Monday and public holidays.
Built by King Narathu during A.D 1165 is Bagan’s most massive shrine. Among the four extraordinary temples in Bagan, Dhammayangyi is well known for the mass and thickness of the temple.
Standing on the brink of the Ayeyarwaddy River, the Bupaya Pagoda is a conspicuous landmark for travelers along the river. This pagoda with bulbous dome resembling the ''Bu'' or gourd is a favorite spot for visitors to watch the sunset.
Is one of Bagan's premier temple attractions. The name itself means Crowning Jewel or Small Ruby. It was the first and most important temple of the late period (1170-1300) of Bagan monument building. It was one of many temples and stupas built by Narapatisithu. This temple is similar to Htilominlo and the Gawdawpalin in architecture but with better interior lighting. It stands beyond the Dhammayangyi Temple. Important features of the Sulamani include its fine brickwork and use of stone in both load-bearing areas as well as on vulnerable external corner elements. The interior was once painted with fine frescoes but only dim traces can be seen today.
This monastery of Indian influence is situated southeast of the Sulamani. This monastery of Indian influence probably had around the timber structures, even a hall of ordination, even a small palate. Pyathatgyi is really the most interesting monastery if one is interested in the last pagoda of Bagan, and with the techniques of construction. It was perhaps the last great construction of the dynasty of Bagan. The technique of the vaults on corridors intersected from/to each other is completely exceptional.
The last pagoda of the Bagan dynasty built by King Narathihapatae (1256-1287). Started building in 1268, and before it was finished, a prophecy arose that "once the pagoda is finished, the Kingdom would be destroyed". The King thus stopped the works for 6 years. He resumed works in 1274. Ten years later, he had to run away from Bagan to escape the invading Mongols.
King Anawrahta built this graceful circular pagoda in 1057. The five terraces once had terra-cotta plaques showing scenes from the Jataka. The pagoda bell rises from two octagonal bases, which top the five square terraces. The upper terrace of Shwesandaw Pagoda has become a popular sunset-viewing spot. Try the place for sunrise.
Is a long low, rectangular brick structure, a little to the west of the Shwesandaw Pagoda. The temple itself is not very distinguished, but it houses the Shinbinthalaung Buddha image made during the 11th Century. The temple in which the Buddha image lies is about 84 feet in length, and the image itself is 70 feet in length. The Buddha is in the position of Parinibbana, the Decease, lying on his right side, his cheek resting on his right hand.
Close to the Shwesandaw stands the Lawkahteikpan Temple - small but interesting for its excellent frescoes and inscriptions in both Myanmar and Mon.
Nyaung Oo & Wetkyi-In
It is a 13th century temple with a spire resembling the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya in India. This temple is known for its wall paintings depicting scenes from the Jatakas (life stories of the Buddha).
Built in 1211 AD by King Nadaungmya, the Htilominlo is one of the largest temples of Bagan. It is a double-storied structure rising 50 meters in height. This temple is noted for its fine plaster carvings on the arch pediments, frieze and pilaster.
It was first built by King Anawrahta, the founder of the First Myanmar Empire, and completed by King Kyansittha in 1084. Shwezigon Pagoda is the prototype for succeeding generations of pagodas in Myanmar. There are green glazed plaques depicting scenes from the Jatakas. The pagoda festival is held from late October till early November.
NANPAYA AND MANUHA TEMPLE
Built by Mon King Manuha of Thaton, who was a prisoner of war by King Anawrahta. Some say King Manuha used Nanpaya as his residence during his years of exile in Bagan. The quality of masonry in both of these temples is very fine. The finest feature of the whole temple is the stone relief carvings of the Hindu deity Bhrama in Nanpaya.
GUBYAUKGYI TEMPLE (MYINKABA)
Was built during the A.D 1113, by Raza Kumar, the son of King Kyansitthar and Queen Thanbula. The Gubyaukgyi Temple is a fine temple in the Early Style, square, with a vestibule in the east. The Gubyaukgyi is also noted for the paintings, which cover the walls of the vestibule, the corridor and the sanctum. These paintings are among the earliest now extant in Bagan.
A portico in the north, paved with green glazed stones and having niches holding stone reliefs of the Buddha, provides access to the Nagayon. Within the temple itself, the central shrine contains a huge standing image of the Buddha. Two smaller images flank the main one. A corridor, also paved with green glazed stones, runs around the central shrine. Dim light comes in through the perforated windows of the outer walls. The walls of the corridor have niches holding stone sculptures depicting the Buddhas previous to Gotama, as well as paintings showing scenes from the Jatakas and the Final Life of Gotama Buddha.
Situated at the edge of the river, this large gilded Stupa is one of the prominent visual landmarks of Bagan and can be seen by all boats that pass along the Ayeyarwady River.
ASHE PETLEIK AND ANAUK PETLEIK PAGODAS
The two Petleik pagodas (the Ashe (Eastern) and Anauk (Western) - belong to the 11th century and have been assigned to the reign of Anawrahta (1044-1077). The Western pagoda is better preserved and has a bell-shaped dome, with rings of moulding at the middle and towards the base. An unusual feature of the dome is the four deep niches at the cardinal points to house images of the Buddha. A damaged bowl-shaped disc rests on the dome in the Western Pagoda, while in the Eastern Pagoda a box-like relic chamber occupies the corresponding position. The finial, which rises above, is in the form of a truncated cone.
Masterpieces of lacquer ware have been the pride of Bagan since the days of the Bagan Empire. It is still the main industry of Bagan today and you can observe the making process of lacquer ware from the beginning to the finished products ready for sale at the shops. Lacquer ware like bowls, boxes, trays and paintings are the best souvenirs of Bagan.
Resting on a platform, the temple is square in plan, with porches projecting on all four sides, and with the main entrance in the east. The superstructure consists of receding terraces, with crenellated parapets and small stupas at the corners, surmounted by a curvilinear spire, which is crowned by a stupa.
The name Phayathonzu Temple was given because the three pagodas of the same size, appearance and height existed on the same plinth. It is adorned with paintings of the 550 Jataka stories and ten other depictions plus small Thambuddhay figures. The frescoes and architecture are guessed to be of the late 13th century.
Dhammayazika Pagoda was built by King Narapati Sithu in 1198. At first glance looking much like the famous Shwezigon, the Dhammayazika is unusual because it has pentagonal terraces instead of the usual square ones. Above the three receding terraces, which are ornamented with glazed Jataka plaques raises a bell-shaped dome, which merges directly into a sharply tapering conical finial. On each of the five sides of the pagoda there is a small temple. The temples themselves are of the usual form, square in plan, with a porch for entrance, and surmounted by terraces and a curvilinear spire.
Other places of interest near Bagan
Mount Popa, 1,500 meters high, rising out of the plain, is an extinct volcano located about 67km southeast of Bagan. It is generally known as the abode of legendary Nats or Spirit gods, for which the annual festival is held during the Myanmar month of Nayon (May-June).
A town in Magwe Division in Central Myanmar, lying on the east bank of the Ayeyaerwaddy River is famous for three things; first it is the birthplace of a reputed Myanmar playwright named U Ponnya of the late Konbaung Period; secondly the plums of Salei which are seedless and of good quality and thirdly there is the largest Buddha Image of Lacquered wicker work in Myanmar. The 18-foot high image is now entirely gilt and its headband is adorned with glass mosaic, it bears the appearance of a solid metallic work though two or three persons can effortlessly lift it up. The Yoke Sone Monastery is closed every Monday & Tuesday.
Pakokku is a typical upper Burmese market town. With the large and bustling market, a cigar factory and hand weaving workshop. You can make a tour by local bus which is a fun way of seeing the real life of this busy place and then travel outside the town to the little know archaeological site of Pakhangyi. We see the walls, visit the museum and a spectacular 19th century wood carved monastery.
Tharabar III: a small roadside eatery amongst a cluster of tea and food stalls just outside the Tharabar Gate. There are a couple of restaurants in this area that cater to tourists and tour groups, called Sarabha, and Sarabha II. Because of those two restaurants, the locals jokingly refer to this food stall as "Tharabar Three". Here you pick a curry or fried chicken, along with a plate of rice, some vegetables, a soup, and a few other small dishes of salads, relishes and condiments to complete your meal. A thermos of hot tea is always provided for free at each table.
Nu Wa Restaurant
For Myanmar home-style cooking at amazing local prices it’s hard to go past this restaurant on the Bagan Main Road. For lunch try their special which includes 23 different dishes; five types of local curry – the lamb and chicken are our favorites, an crazy number of sides including pickled bitter melon, fish, morning glory and a plate of fresh and zesty greens.
Opening hours: 08:00 - 20:00
Address: West of Market, Nyaung Oo, Bagan Main Road, near the Township Development Committee
Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant
A real gem, nestling in the outdoor market near Ananda Temple. It is a family-run, friendly restaurant serving up a wide range of vegetarian dishes. The guacamole with papa dams and Tomato Peanut curry are house specialties and both are excellent and the owners are friendly and helpful.
Opening hours: 09:00 – 19:30
Address: Bagan-Nyaung Oo Road, Old Bagan (near Ananda Temple)
Marlar Theingi Restaurant
Located on the right side of an unpaved lane north of the Ananda Temple, offers a genuine Myanmar dining experience. The family owned restaurant - there is a large collection of family portraits hanging from the walls - is regularly frequented by locals and visitors alike. There is no menu; instead diners are seated on wooden benches at long tables that are laden with an array of Myanmar vegetable, meat and fish curries, salads and side dishes. You can eat as much as you like - the supply of food is endless - for the outrageously economical price of K1500 a person.
Opening hours: 09:00 - 23:00
Address: Khayae Street, Opposite of Morning Market, Bagan
An Old Bagan favorite, with a pleasant open-sided, thatch roofed dining area surrounded by a garden of well-tended plants and trees. Its excellent central location - within view of Tharabar (Sarabha) City Gate, and close to the famous Ananda Temple - makes it an excellent place to take a midday break from touring the plains of Bagan. The à la carte menu features Myanmar, Chinese and Thai food, and there are also Myanmar and Chinese set menus, the latter including vegetable tempura, lentil soup, a range of vegetable and meat curries, salad, rice, dessert, and tea or coffee. Even if you’re not hungry, Sarabha is a good place to stop off for a cool, refreshing drink on a warm afternoon.
Opening hours: 11:00 - 22:00
Address: Old Bagan, Myanmar
The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant
Bagan is famed for its romantic, untouched landscape of crumbling temples and pagodas. The Moon Vegetarian restaurant is the perfect place to re-fuel in the middle of a long day of sightseeing. Located on a dirt path, off the main road, on the way to Ananda Temple, the restaurant is an al fresco affair, complete with trees and parasols for shade. It is an extremely popular vegetarian restaurant, regularly called the best in Bagan, with an extensive menu of freshly prepared food, including tamarind leaf curry, guacamole and poppadum, and a range of fruit juices and lassi. With friendly service and good prices, The Moon is hard to beat, though others will argue that Yar Pyi (just opposite) is just as good.
Opening hours: 07:00 – 22:00
Address: North of Ananda Temple, Old Bagan
Star Beam Restaurant
The quirky French-style bistro, Star Beam, can be found right next door to The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant. The eating experience seems otherworldly in the beautiful surrounding of Ananda Temple. This bistro, which was once charmingly named Star Beans, serves a mixture of good quality European fodder, such as crunchy baguettes and salads, and traditional Myanmar fare such as grilled Ayarwaddy River fish and tea leaf salad. The owner and executive chef, Tin Myint, trained under a French chef for 15 years at what is now known as the Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon. He is also a friendly character, who will regale you with tales of his travels and culinary exploits.
Opening hours: 07:00 – 22:00
Address: North of Ananda Temple, Old Bagan
Mahar Bagan Restaurant
Mahar Bagan (which means ‘I love Bagan’), offering tranquil off-the-beaten-path surroundings. There are no cultural shows, but rather soft xylophone music intended to promote conversation and discussion. The focus here is on serving tasty hygienic food from an à la carte menu covering Myanmar, Chinese, Thai, Italian and other European cuisines. There are plans to add Indian food to the menu, but it can be made now with advanced notice. There are also Myanmar, Chinese, Thai and European set menus, as well as an international buffet mixing Asian and European foods that is available for groups of 10 or more people with 24-hour advanced notice. The owner of Mahar Bagan, U Aye Thwin (Edwin), was formerly a top tour guide in the area. With relaxing xylophone music playing in the background, he can answer any questions you might have about what you’ve seen so far, or where to go tomorrow.
Opening hours: 07:00 – 22:00
Address: Kayae Street, New Bagan
Weather Spoons Restaurant
Travelers craving a taste of home often stumble upon this place and find themselves enjoying not only the European and American food, but also the irresistible Burmese dishes. Justifiably popular. The Thai curries are also delicious. Particularly popular in the evenings, head by in the afternoon for a quieter time. Located on "restaurant row" in Nyaung Oo.
Opening hours: 07:00 – 22:00
Address: Restaurant Row, Yarkinthar Street, Nyaung Oo
San Thi Dar Restaurant
A mixed Myanmar menu featuring an excellent vegetarian range. This is an authentic local restaurant that caters to tourists’ needs. Located near Bagan’s laquerware stores, many people end up here on their way back from a day at the temples. Friendly, tasteful and great value.
Opening hours: 09:00 - 18:00
Address: South of Old Bagan, Main Road, Myin Kabar Village
Black Rose Restaurant
This is a simple, street-side place set up by a friendly Indian family. The menu is a mixture of Myanmar, Chinese and Thai classics with an impressive range of fresh soups, tempura fish and noodle dishes. Ask if the special duck curry is available. Prices are very reasonable. When it's busy the kitchen can become slow to deliver and dishes will arrive in a random order. When it's busy the kitchen can become slow to deliver and dishes will arrive in a random order.
Opening houers: 09:00 – 22:00
Address: New Bagan, (Bagan Myo Thit)
The Black Bamboo Restaurant
Is a quiet place in a garden, which is particularly nice in the evening. Caters a bit upmarket, but the veggie dishes in particular are decent, though unfortunately "European spicy" (aka not spicy at all). Located just off of "restaurant row" in Nyaung Oo (look for the sign)
Opening hours: 09:00 – 22:00
Adresse: Yar Khin Thar Street, Nyaung Oo
San Kabar Restaurant
The unassuming but longstanding San Kabar restaurant near Schwezigon Pagoda focuses on low-cost Italian food, including pizza, spaghetti, fettuccini, ravioli and lasagna. However, a wide range of other food and drink options are available, including Chinese recipes (prawn, seafood, duck and other meats), crepes (fruit and honey, cheese and tomato, cheese and mushroom), snacks (French fries), fruit juice, milkshakes, Indian chai tea, beer and soft drinks. What better way to top off an afternoon of sightseeing than with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream?
Opening hours: 07:00 - 23:00
Address: Nyaung Oo
Serves Chinese, Myanmar, Thai and Italian cuisine. It’s why this restaurant is one of the most popular restaurant for tourists from all over the world. Food is served well and rapidly. The diverse menu is really an advantage of the restaurant and more importantly, each cuisine features its own typical flavor that guests expect to try.
Opening hours: 09:00 – 22:00
Address: Bagan – Nyaung Oo Road, Wetkyiinn Village
Is the best Indian restaurant in Nyaung Oo. Prices for meat dishes will set you back a little more, but the veggie dishes start at 3000 kyat (US$ 3), and are served on a banana leaf (in season). If you're dining as a duo or more, pick up a chapatti for 3000 kyat (US$ 3), but keep in mind that they're pretty big for eating solo. Particularly nice spot in the evenings, with the tables moved outside lit by candles and with views of the stars above. Located on "restaurant row" in Nyaung Oo.
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00
Address: Yarkhin Thar Street, Nyaung Oo
The Green Elephant Restaurant River View Restaurant
The Green Elephant River View has more of a picnic feel, with tables set on a lawn at the top of a high riverside cliff, the perfect place to listen to the afternoon breeze rustling the dry leaves of the garden’s bamboo trees. There is also a wood- floored area with a roof in case of rain. Myanmar, Chinese and Thai food are served, with changing cultural shows that might include anything from puppets to traditional harp music adding to the atmosphere. The owner also runs Green Elephant restaurants in Yangon and Mandalay.
Opening hours: 11:00-16:00 and 18:00-22:00
Address: Yamonar (river view), Thiripissayar Quarter, New Bagan.
This is the best of the riverside restaurants in Bagan. There is a cavernous dining room built of teak and bamboo but most customers prefer to take a table on the lawn which has a great view over the Ayeyarwady on a stretch where fishermen cast their nets. Despite the restaurant’s name, I prefer to drop in here for lunch. Avoid the 12.30-2pm period during October-March when the tour groups descend. Some dishes have that been-cooked-a-while taste so opt for the fish of the day, fried or steamed with rice and stir-fried vegetables. Sunsets are magnificent from here but you will share them with a lot of people after 5.30pm.
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00
Address: New Bagan (Bagan Myo Thit)
Tel.: 60594 / 65037
Eden BBB Restaurant
Eden BBB has gained a reputation for its excellent service and spotlessly clean dining areas - two outdoor, and one indoor with air conditioning. On offer is an à la carte European menu with breakfast options, and everything from lobster to hamburgers, pasta and pizza. There are also several European, Chinese and Myanmar set menus from which to choose. The drinks menu includes a selection of imported red and white wines. Also on the restaurant grounds is a lawn area backed by a brick gate dating from the 11th or 12th century, where puppet shows are often held. There is also a gallery featuring traditional and modern paintings by local artists, and a small gift shop with lacquerware and silk for sale.
Opening hours: 10:00 - 23:00
Address: Bagan-Nyaung Oo Road, Wet Kyi Inn Village
Tel.: 60040 / 60467
Open for about 15 years, Nanda restaurant is so well known for its evening puppet shows that the owners had to build a second stage to handle spillover on busy nights. Its classic design, with a floor made of locally produced red bricks and a roof held up by big teak pillars, complements the traditional experience, which is completed by the mostly Myanmar food menu (with some Chinese and European options as well). Nanda specializes in daung-lann Myanmar meals, which are served in lacquerware trays with small compartments to hold steamed rice and a variety of delicious curries and salads. The meals also include glass noodle soup, dessert and seasonal fresh fruit. Be sure to arrive early and ask for a seat up the front for the best view of the traditional puppet show. The restaurant has an attached souvenir shop with a wide selection of puppets and lacquerware for sale.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
Show Time: 18:00 - 22:00
Address: Main Road on the way to Nyaung Oo, Wet Kyi Inn Village
Tel.: 061-60754 / 061-60790