Things To Do In Bagan
You may know Myanmar's famous city of Bagan for it's ancient temples, but there are so many amazing things you can experience in Bagan beyond the pagodas. This travel guide includes some of the best activities you can do during your time in Bagan to make sure you have the most memorable experiences. Here is everything you need to know if you are looking for what to do in Bagan during your trip.
Bagan Burma Things To Do
Get ready to have the most amazing trip in Bagan. Even if you spend just 2 to 3 days in Bagan, you'll be able to fit these activities into your itinerary. We include some budget friendly things to do as well as some high end luxury experiences. No matter your budget, you can have a wonderful time enjoying the sights offered in Bagan. Take a look at all of the options we list below.
Tour The Historic Temples
It goes without saying that the most attractive aspect of Bagan is exploring the thousands of ancient temples and pagodas scattered over a vast area along the Irrawaddy River.
It can take a couple of days to tour around this magnificent landscape and still not have seen everything!
To save time, we've made a list of the best temples you should see in Bagan. This guide should help you when deciding which ones are unique and a must-see so you don't miss the best ones.
Pro-Traveler Tip: The best way to get around and see the temples is on motorbike. However, if you want to be even more efficient, you can take a guided tour.
Catch Sunsets and Sunrises
While you are in Bagan, make sure to get up before dawn and make it out to see at least one sunrise.
We are not morning people, but while we were in Bagan, we went out every day to see the sunrise. Pick a different spot each time you go so you can get a unique point of view.
Pro-Traveler Tip: It helps to get a local tuk tuk driver to take you as it can be hard to find spots last minute. There are usually locals out before light waiting around for tourists who want to get to a sunrise quickly. They don't charge much so you can do it even if you are on a budget! Check out our full Bagan Travel Guide for more insider tips!
We loved staying out and getting to see the sunsets after a full day of temple hopping in Bagan. The landscape takes on a magical vibe at sunset that is an experience one can only have at a unique place like Bagan.
Go On A Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you've got the budget to splurge on one thing in Bagan it should be to go on a hot air balloon ride. The availability of the balloon rides will be based on the season you visit. If you happen to be in Bagan between October and May, take the change to ride one of the balloons up at sunrise.
The hefty price tag is well worth it!
Only about 22 balloons will fly each day during the season, so make sure to book yours in advance. If you don't reserve your spot on the day you want to go up at least a month in advance, you may loose the chance to experience this on your visit! During the peak ballooning months you may even need to book a couple of months ahead of time to make sure you don't miss it!
Check Out The Views From Nann Myint Tower
We mentioned catching a sunset and Nann Myint Viewing Tower is the ideal place for it when in Bagan. You can get a bird's eye view of the temple lanscape from the viewing rooms on floor 11 to 13.
There are also restaurants on the top level which are great for a truly one of a kind dining experience.
With a height of 196 feet and 13 levels, it is no wonder the name literally translates to "The High Place!" Getting a 360 view of an ancient temple scenery while eating a delicious meal and gazing out as the sun's rays slowly hide away down the horizon is nothing short of spellbinding!
It only costs about $10USD to enjoy the panoramic views of Bagan from the Nann Myint Tower, so even if you can't fork out the cash for the balloon ride, you can still enjoy similar vistas!
Take A Day Trip To Mount Popa
I don't think many tourists know about visiting Mount Popa when they are in Bagan. I know I had never heard of it before and it took a bit of searching around to run into the tip!
I'm so glad that I randomly found some information around on this extremely unique spot in Bagan!
Most of the attention goes to the main temples in Old Bagan, but even if you can spare a half day, you should really consider a visit to Mount Popa (referred by locals as Taung Ma-gyi).
This is not necessarily a tourist attraction. It is, however, a MUST SEE and something unique to learn about and experience!
The sacred mount is inundate with legends, stories of spirits and nats, and superstition. It is a pilgrimage site for many Burmese, especially during festivals.
I can say that I had never been to a place quite like this. I can imagine it would take a lot of research to really get a good idea of what this places is and has been in it's history. I'm sure the stories may also vary depending on who you talk to, but I hope that one day there will be a lot more information available in English for Western Visitors to learn more.
It was easy for us to visit Mount Popa on our last day in Bagan. We hired a car through our hotel to drive us to Mount Popa and then take us to the airport afterwards.
You can also book your own tour from wherever you are staying in Bagan. The good thing about a tour is that there will be a guide to explain everything to you!
Some things to keep in mind for your visit to Mount Popa:
- There are over 700 steps to hike up, so be prepared for that! You will have many opportunities to stop and catch your breath. Use these as a chance to take in the views. There are also several worshipping areas and rooms along the path and at the top where you will have a chance to look into the interesting cultural and religious practices.
- Dress conservatively (no showing of shoulders and knees) as this is a religious holy place.
- You will have to take off your shoes at the entrance. You will be going up several hundreds of stairs barefoot (not even socks allowed) and they may be slippery so use caution.
- Take some cash with you for donations along the way. There are several stops along the hike up the stairs where you can place money into donation bins. You will see plaques of donors' names along the way (those who have made considerable donations). You may also want to "tip" the people who are cleaning and doing the up-keeping of the stairs. The local poor people take care of the path up and do ask for change for their work rather than just beg.
- There are a lot of monkeys, particularly at the very beginning of the hike. Mind your belongings because they may try to snack them from you. Make sure you don't have snacks and food in your back as this causes curiosity for them and may be more reason for them to bug you. As you go up there are less and less, but stay vigilant!
Cruise The River At Sunset
The Irrawaddy River is a significant waterway running down a big part of the country of Myanmar. It is the river that has encouraged most of the settled cities of Myanmar to grow and prosper along its banks. So, if you're spending some time in Bagan, Mandalay, or Yangon, you will undoubtedly be introduced to it on your travels.
The serene river creates the perfectly relaxed setting for a sunset cruise. Families traveling with children are sure to enjoy this beautiful scenery where they can observe the wildlife as well as the local life in Bagan. The romantic atmosphere of a lovely sunset as you drift down the river is also perfect for couples!
Visit The Local Market
Visiting locals markets in Bagan also deserves to be on your Bagan to do list. Mani-Sithu is one of the local markets right in the heard of Nyaung-U. It's best to go and check it our earlier in the day.
You'll be able to see the local life through these markets and enjoy some fresh fruits and vegetables, too! If you're looking for some tourist goods, this is a great place to get some unique handmade items like woodwork and lacquerware.
Pop Into A Lacquerware Workshop
The local handmade lacquerware items are truly some unique items that tourists can take back home for themselves or friends and family.
They are sometime sold around the temple areas and markets, but you can also go to the workshop and see how they are made. The process is quite painstaking and time consuming which add value to these items as apposed to just being some trinkets.
Bagan House is a good place to go check out how the lacquerware is made. This workshop is the perfect place to make your gift purchases!
I really wish I had bought a couple of items for myself!
What Will You Do In Bagan?
As you can see from our article here, there's no shortage of amazing things to do while in Bagan. There are so many opportunities to discover a glimpse into the culture and history of Myanmar all around Bagan.
We hope you set aside some time to get to see all of the intriguing spots in and around Bagan because this is what made the trip so memorable special fro us.
Let us know if you you have ever done any of the things we list here or if you think we missed something!
If you like temples, you might also enjoy reading about our visit to Chichen Itza, the ancient city in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!