Bagan is a fascinating place that lures many to see one of the world’s greatest archeological sites. Located on the banks of Ayeyarwady River in Central Myanmar (Burma), Bagan is a vast plain, partly covered of palm and tamarind tree with silver-grey distant mountains as its background. From the plain’s green spots, a dozen, hundreds or thousands of temples rise. Their silhouettes are beautiful, haunting and other-worldly. Originally 4,450 temples were built by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287, however, only 2,230 of them survived.
To explore all of them would be a long and tedious feat; however, just seeing 10 of them will give you a glimpse of the amazing place that is Bagan.
10. Gaw Daw Palin Phaya (Temple)
This is the 2nd tallest temple in Bagan. It features pointed arches and vaulted that looks good from the outside. However, its exterior is more impressive than its interior design. Inside are highly decorated ceilings with white-washed corridors and traces of formerly impressive murals can be seen behind the heads of Buddha statues.
9. Shwe Gu Gyi Temple
This is a temple that boasts fantastic views of the surrounding temples of Bagan’s plains. Taking a steep and narrow stairs take you to a veranda where you can see different views from each side. It is also a good alternative sunset watching spot because it is less crowded and has almost as nice view of the river and temples.
8. Thatbyinnyu Temple
Thatbyinnyu which also means “omniscience” is the tallest temple in Bagan. It is known for its impressive brickwork covered in white stucco and stone pavements. Take a closer look at its brick masonry because of its intricacy that one cannot put a knife blade between the bricks. Its white façade looks beautiful which is actually the most interesting part of the temple.
7. Manuha Paya
This temple will surprise you with the Buddhas inside the small temples. They looked too large for their enclosures. It feels cramped and uncomfortable inside which is said to represent the stress and lack of comfort of King Manuha who was held captive in Bagan and built this temple to represent his displeasure. This temple is one of the first places that Aung San Suu Kyi visited when she was released from prison.
6. Gubyaukgyi Temple
Visit this “cave temple” for its interesting Indian-style spire and intricate murals that are blissfully preserved by not allowing photographs to be taken. UNESCO restored the paintings on the wall so bring a torch to clearly see the colored illustrations. A really nice stop if you’re biking along the highway. This is one of my personal favorites as well.
5. Dhamma Yangyi Temple
The largest of all temples in Bagan but comes with an eerie story which makes it more fascinating. Locals consider this temple as the ghost temple because of stories that the work on the temple had to be so perfect that if a worker leaves even a really small gap in between the bricks, his arm has to be cut on one of the stones. The guide mentioned that it is the only temple with two Buddhas sitting side by side as well.
4. Shwe Zigon Pagoda
It is considered one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bagan. It resembles the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and it is also covered in gold. Make sure to visit in the morning as the floor can get really hot in midday.
3. Shwesandaw Temple
This is the temple to be for sunrise. Be prepared for a very steep climb but well worth the view for there are hundreds of other pagodas and stuppas in sight from the top. Come early and enjoy the fascinating view of Bagan.
2. Sulamani Guphaya Temple
This is my favorite temple in Bagan because of its fantastic exterior, stunning frescoes and beautiful murals. It is a photographer’s heaven and the place has a very relaxing feeling. It is a temple that should not be missed!
1. Ananda Temple
The most beautiful temple in Bagan stands out for its unique architectural style. It is one of the most visited and well preserved as well. Its murals, frescos, paintings and overall design give you the feeling of awe and wonder. It is simply stunning.
Take a whole day to explore these temples then another day to bike around. Enjoy the smaller ones and feel the ambiance of the entire place. It is one of the places that will make you feel in awe of history and past civilizations.