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Best things to do in Bagan

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Where in the world: Asia  /  Myanmar  /  Mandalay Region  /  Bagan

Top 15 things to do in Bagan

1. Bagan Temples

Thought by many to be a Burmese version of Angkor Wat, Bagan Temples stands as the remains of an ancient capital of the Kingdom of Pagan that reached its height between the 11th and 13th centuries. Spreading over 42 sq km (26 sq mi), the archeological zone features ruins of more than 2,200 richly ornamented Buddhist temples, monasteries, and pagodas. The sheer size of the area makes it difficult to explore on foot, so consider renting a bike or a horse-drawn cart. It's also worth hiring a local guide who can show you some hidden gems. However, the most spectacular way to see the temples is from a hot air balloon. Note that you have to take of your shoes off to enter some of the sacred sites, and the stone floors can get scorching hot after 1pm.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Ananda Temple

A well-preserved masterpiece of Bagan architecture, Ananda Temple displays delicate stone-carved facades and an impressive pyramid-shape structure, with a magnificent gilted central tower that can be seen from far away. Built in 1105, this outstanding example of fine craftsmanship, a landmark of Bagan, has been well-restored, and still displays some of the original murals and stucco. Marvel at four 9.5 m (31 ft) tall gilded statues of standing Buddhas inside this simple but very large corridor temple. A popular escape from the busy city, the grandiose 53 by 53 m (174 by 174 ft) yard of the temple provides tranquility set against the tall carved cliff. Take an ox-drawn cart for a time machine trip during your visit to this must-see attraction.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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4. Dhammayan Gyi Temple

Discover the dark history of Dhammayan Gyi Temple, dating back to the 12th century. Built by a king who killed his own brother and father to get the throne, the temple has a sinister reputation and the locals often avoid it. Nonetheless, the temple--the largest in the country--affords scenic views if you climb to its upper floors. Walk the long hallways and admire the vast space of the temple, noting the two statues of Gautama and Maitreya. The high ceiling makes the building a perfect nesting spot for bats. Bring a face mask as the place isn't cleaned regularly.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. Mt Popa, Popa

Climb to the top of a 1,518 m (4,981 ft) tall extinct volcano at Mt Popa, a scenic sacred volcanic mountain lying 50 km (31 mi) from Bagan. With over 200 springs and brooks, the mountain makes a great hiking area, its huge 1.6 km (0.9 mi) wide cauldron-like volcanic depression and debris landslide paying testament to the awe-inspiring power of nature. Considered the main abode of the most powerful spirits in Myanmar, the area also houses the country’s most important temples, which blend ancient folk religion with Buddhism. Perched on a huge volcanic plug, Taung Kalat Monastery--with its gilded stupas--offers spectacular panorama, which you will reach after a steep climb of 700 steps. Bring food and water along if you want to conquer the peak, and beware of the thieving macaque monkeys.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Htilominlo Pahto

Marking a spot where its founder was chosen to be the successor of the Pagan dynasty throne, Htilominlo Pahto attracts visitors with its lavish stucco decoration. King Htilominlo--who was more interested in practicing Buddhism and studies than in leading the country--built this 46 m (150 ft) tall red-brick temple at the beginning of the 13th century. Notice the elaborate exterior carvings that depict mythological female monsters and hybrid creatures. The interior retains some faded frescos and four gilded statues of the Buddha. The temple is surrounded by souvenir stalls.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Sulamani Guphaya Temple

Encounter a time-honored remnant rich in the country’s cultural heritage at Sulamani Guphaya Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple from the late Bagan building period. Constructed in 1183 by the industrious King Narapatisithu, the temple remains one of the most visited in the region. Translating literally to mean "small ruby," the temple’s name comes from a gem whose story is now told in the northern porch, where an inscription tells of how the King found a precious red stone at the site before starting to build the temple. Admire the delicate glazed terracotta brickwork depicting the life of Buddha as you explore the two-story structure, partly restored after the earthquake of 1975.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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8. Shwesandaw Pagoda

Visible far away from the ancient city's plains, Shwesandaw Pagoda draws Hindu pilgrims, Buddhist devotees, and casual tourists to immerse themselves in a thousand-year-old religious tradition. Take a steep 100 m (328 ft) climb to reach the top of the pagoda, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding grassland and temples. Examine the white symmetrical structure built in 1057, along with its bell-shaped stupa and terracotta terraces. Sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha lie enshrined within the pagoda, while statues of Ganesh and other Hindu deities adorn the corners. The weather can get very hot here, so carry extra water and take care while climbing up and down the pagoda.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Shwezigon Pagoda

Built at the end of the 11th century by the father of the Burmese nation, King Anawrahta, Shwezigon Pagoda represents a priceless reliquary and pilgrimage center for thousands of Buddhist devotees. The holy site enshrines a collection of sacred relics, including Buddha's collarbone, tooth, and emerald images imported from China. The cone-shaped pagoda with five terraces has endured many earthquakes and natural disasters throughout history, but it was restored several times and, until recently, reinforced with 30,000 copper plates for better protection. Head inside to witness the inscribed pillars, golden bell, shrines with Gupta-style statues of Buddha, and the hall of 37 nats (revered spirits). Beware of ticket scalpers at the entrance, as they can get pushy and distractive.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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10. Thatbyinnyu Temple

Explore one of Bagan’s most famous temples at Thatbyinnyu Temple. The temple towers over its nearby neighbours and is famed for its height and its white exterior. Built in the 12th century by King Alaungsithu, the temple takes its name from the Omniscience of the Buddha. Explore the serene grounds and admire the temple's imposing presence. Inside, you’ll find a large seated Buddha on the second story, and from the terraces you can take in the magnificent views of the surrounding scenery. Take a seat and enjoy the surroundings while admiring the fortress-like architecture of the temple.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Dhammayazika Pagoda

Visit Dhammayazika Pagoda to see terracotta tiles depicting scenes from the Jataka tales, stories about previous lives of the Buddha. You can enter the building through any of five entrances, with the layout of the pagoda in a pentagonal shape. Each side of the pagoda displays an image of the Buddha, enshrined in a small temple. Pay attention to the bell-shaped dome on the top of the pagoda, with concentric rings and lotus buds giving the dome an impressive aesthetic. To see the Maitreya Buddha, the future Buddha, go to the fifth shrine.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Manuha Temple

One of the oldest temples in the Bagan region, the unusual Manuha Temple features three enormous Buddha statues, crammed into small rooms inside the impressive structure. The temple was reputedly built by the imprisoned King Manuha, who was allowed to build it in 1059, and constructed these large effigies trapped internally as a way of conveying his plight. Climb to the top of the central gold-leafed pagoda, where you can see the largest sitting Buddha; his face, which appears grim when viewed below, takes on a contented expression with the changed aspect.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Bulethi

Climb to the top of the Bagan temple of Bulethi and take in panoramic views of the evocative ancient structures that pepper the skyline. Situated in the heart of the Bagan plain, which abounds with thousands stupas and temples, this is a place renowned for its photo opportunities. You'll likely see hot air balloons floating above the plain, adding to the peaceful compostition of the view. Consider visiting the site at specific times of the day to watch the sunrise or sunset.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Jasmine Family Lacquerware Workshop

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Spas

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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