The temples of Bagan are a must for any trip to Myanmar; dating back hundreds of years, the thousands of temples of Bagan are an incredible spectacle. Here’s a low-down on the many temples of Bagan, from the must-see to the best sunrise and sunset spots available.
Most of the temples in Bagan have been built between the 11th and 13th century, with over 2000 temples and pagodas remaining to this day. Some of our favorite moments were aimlessly journeying through the plains of Bagan, without a set destination in our mind.
Must-see temples of Bagan
These are the temples that you do not want to miss when in Bagan, and also considered the most important ones. These are all relatively close to each other, and we managed to visit them all in one day with e-bikes. These temples are likely to house the largest number of tourists, but are also inevitable on your Bagan trip. To avoid larger crowds, the best time to visit these temples is early morning, or after sunset equipped with a flashlight.
One of Bagan’s best-known temples and also one of the first to be built in Bagan. The one that everyone who comes to Bagan is sure to visit.
Shwezigon covers a large area and is very impressive with its golden glimmer.
Sulamani is one of the bigger temples in Bagan, and very beautiful to look at as you approach it from further away.
Similar in design to Sulamani, Htilominlo is a large majestic structure.
One of the biggest temples in Bagan, Dhammayangyi resembles a pyramid more than a pagoda in its grandeur. From many of the sunset and sunrise spots, the Dhammayangyi stands out as a unique structure among all the other temples that are visible.
‘Off the beaten track’ temples and pagodas
With the thousands of temples and pagodas that are housed in Bagan, there are many outside of the more popular ones that are worth the visit. Here are some that we recommend.
Located in the ancient Bagan city, the true beauty of this temple is only discovered once inside. The natural light flowing through the opening and rooftop window illuminate the image of the Buddha. Bring a flashlight, as the beautiful images lining the inner walls will be difficult to see otherwise.
Between That-byin-nyu and Shwe-gu-gyi lies a small temple, Thandawgya, which houses a stone image of the Buddha. This image is interesting, as it shows the way in which the Buddha images in Bagan’s temples were built: brick by brick.
Nan Paya has a unique architectural structure, with decorative artwork adorning its four pillars.
This temple houses well-preserved paintings on the inside, which are thought to date back to the temple’s original construction in 1113.
The Nagayon temple has an exceptionally interesting interior, with a Buddha image sheltered under the hood of a huge serpent (or naga), and inner walls lined with mural paintings.
Best sunrise and sunset temples of Bagan
Watching sunrise and sunset from one of Bagan’s temples is something not to be missed on a trip to Bagan. There’s a serene feeling in watching the sun rise or set in Bagan’s vastness; this is also the best photo moment you’ll experience in Bagan.
Shwe Sandaw Pagoda
Offering a 360-degree view of the area, Shwesandaw arguably houses the best views of the area. If you want to watch the sunset in relative peace and quiet, this is not the spot for you. However, even with the massive number of people, the views from Shwesandaw are breath-taking and well worth the crowds. To reserve a good spot, we recommend arriving well in time for sunset or sunrise.
Buledi is a steep-stepped, pyramid-style stupa with 360-degree views, particularly great for sunset and sunrise. This is also quite popular among visitors of Bagan, and can get quite crowded. Buledi is less crowded during sunrise, and easy to reach from Anawrahta Road in the early morning darkness.
Our personal favorite for sunrise, which we shared with only a few other travellers, making the moment magical. Thein mazi is also great for sunset, with the sun setting beautifully behind Mingala Zedi.
North Guni temple
North Guni is especially great for sunset, and less people will find themselves here. There are small passages to the top of the temple, giving you a great view of the temples of Bagan.