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By Stefan van de Wetering

What is Bagan?

The World Heritage Site of Bagan is an Archaeological Zone that covers an area of over 5,000 ha in central Myanmar. The area is scattered with thousands of religious Buddhist structures such as stupas, temples and monasteries. Originally, more than 10,000 were constructed, but due to earthquakes many have been destroyed. Approximately 3,000 are still standing today, and can be visited.

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A very large, very tall temple at Bagan in Myanmar, with a stupa on its top, which seems to be enclosed in a scaffolding of some sort. The temple looks golden in the low light.

Why is Bagan a UNESCO World Heritage site?

According to UNESCO, Bagan is an exceptional and continuing testimony to the Buddhist cultural tradition of merit making, and to the peak of Bagan civilization in the 11th-13th centuries when it was the capital of a regional empire.

What can you expect on a visit to Bagan?

It is an impressive place to explore. The area is vast, with thousands of beautiful stupas and temples everywhere you look. Some temples are still being used, others are abandoned but that does not make them less attractive. Others can be climbed, which allows for spectacular sunsets and sunrises.

A flat landscape with many low trees, and lots of round brick stupas scattered among them at Bagan, Myanmar.

Is Bagan worth visiting?

Most definitely. Allow at least two full days to be able to get a feel for the place and visit a variety of temples and stupas. Rent an e-bike to explore this huge area so you can even visit some of the more obscure temples. Bagan is just as impressive as Angkor in Cambodia.

A large brick temple with a round white stupa on the top at Bagan, Myanmar.

What sorts of travelers would like Bagan?

For most people visiting Myanmar, Bagan is the highlight of the trip. To appreciate it, an interest in Buddhism and religious structures surely helps. It is perfect for individual travelers who can explore the area on their own, but it is also possible to join guided tours. However, large tour groups only visit the main tourist sites, not the more obscure ones. Click on the banner below to see a range of tour options:

Tips for visiting Bagan

As the temples and stupas are spread over a large area, you will need transportation to make the most of it. Walking is certainly not an option. Taking a bicycle is possible, but most tracks are very sandy and temperatures are always high, so this is not recommended. The best option is to rent an e-bike (an electric scooter/moped). They are cheap, convenient and noiseless.

Click on the map below to book accommodations near Bagan:

Where is Bagan?

The Bagan Archaeological Zone is situated on the Ayeyarwady River, a few hours south-west of Mandalay, in central Myanmar. There are three centers of habitation ending on the site: Nyaung-U, Old Bagan and New Bagan. Any of these places is good for a start.

  • A private car will take you from Mandalay to Bagan in less then 4 hours.
  • A bus from Mandalay takes around 4 hours.
  • Other transport options from Mandalay are by boat (6 to 12 hours), train (8 to 12 hours) or airplane (30 min). There are also buses, trains and flights from Yangon; these take considerably longer.
A woman holding a parasol looks at one of the stupas at Bagan, Myanmar.

The Bagan Archaeological Zone is accessible day and night. A ‘Zone Fee’ ticket (US$25) is required to access some of the monuments. Tickets are also checked when entering the Archaeological Zone. There is no official website.

Text: Bagan Archeological Zone, Myanmar. Images: above, a large temple, looking golden in the low sunlight, with a tall pointed stupa on top; below, a view over a flat landscape with lots of brick stupas scattered around.

Have you been to Bagan? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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