With over two thousand ancient temples dotted across a vast, dusty landscape, Bagan (Pagan) is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in South East Asia.
In-between the 11th and 13th century, Bagan flourished as the capital of the 250-year old Pagan Kingdom. During this time the city’s rulers are said to have built over 10,000 religious monuments, including gold-gilded temples, stupas and monasteries. As a result of repeat Mongol invasions and a series of devastating earthquakes, Bagan’s prominence quickly faded, meaning that the site you see today is surprisingly a shadow of its former glory.
One of the best ways to capture your first glimpse of Bagan is from the top of the 100m high Shwesandaw pagoda. Built in 1057 by King Anawrahta, the founder of the Pagan Kingdom, this offers a glorious 360-degree panoramic of the plain, making it a popular spot for anyone looking to witness Bagan’s iconic sunrise or sunset. Another must-see is the 900 year old Ananda temple, one of the oldest and best preserved religious monuments in the country. Often referred to as the “Westminster Abbey of Myanmar” the scale of this well maintained structure is remarkable, as are the Buddhist artefacts that decorate the interior.
Whilst the above sites are magnificent and should not be missed, one of the downsides is that they are inevitably going to attract crowds. With this in mind, Tour Mandalay would strongly recommend you plan an itinerary that incorporates an equal balance between the most popular and lesser-known temples. Unfortunately there is not enough room on this page to write about them all, but temples such as the fortlike Myauk Guni, built by the powerful Queen Pwasaw, have an equally impressive history yet very few make their way here.