Myanmar (Burma): The Best Way to See the Bagan Temples

The temples of Bagan are located in the Mandalay region of Burma and are the remnants of an ancient city once known as Pagan.  These seemingly forgotten temples are now scattered across the scorched Burmese plains and connected by a labyrinth of dirt roads.  The modern day town of Bagan is the jumping off point for viewing the temples which can be reached easily via a number of options.


The temples of Bagan are often compared to the numerous temples surrounding the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  Although despite their similarities, it’s obvious at first glance that the temples of Bagan are far less touristed than those in Cambodia and therefor offer a more intimate experience.  Outside a handful of “popular” temples, you will more or less have the place to yourself….for now.  Here’s how to see them:

Tours:

Yes, even in this remote part of Burma tours are still available.  Package tours of the temples can be booked in advance or on arrival in Bagan town.  They will hit all the “major” temples as well as some of the “not-so-major” temples.  As always tours tend to be more expensive but offer a greater level of comfort…especially from the brutal heat in this part of the country.

Bicycle:

This is the most popular “backpacker option” by far.  Bicycle rentals are available all over Bagan town for a very affordable price.  They are usually rented by the day and give you the freedom to explore the temples at your own pace.  The only down side is that you are exposed to the scorching sun all day long, so stay covered.  No guide needed…just lots of water!

Taxi/Buggie:

Somewhere between the luxury of a package tour and a bicycle is the “taxi tour”.  Although not quite as adventurous as the bicycle option, it can be done if you’ve either failed to plan ahead or have decided that you just can’t be bothered to bike around in the heat.  Prices are negotiable.

Hot Air Balloon:

That’s right….even in one of the worlds most repressive countries you can still jump on a luxury hot air balloon and see one of Asia’s most exotic destinations.  It’s capitalism at work.  Although this is hardly in the realm of budget travel, it makes sense to mention it here.  If you’ve got the money and don’t mind soaring above the temples themselves, this is a great way to experience Bagan.  But keep in mind that prices start at around $300 per person.

December 31, 2013