I got really excited seeing pictures of Bagan, where hundreds of ancient temple tops, illuminated by golden sunset light, peered out from the vast riverside plains. It was no surprise that Bagan would be my favorite destination in Myanmar.

I explored Bagan for four days, which was the longest time I spent in a single destination during my two week trip in Myanmar. On arrival at the bus station in Nyaung-U village, I met two other travelers, who became my travel buddies. We stayed at Winner Guest House, a small family-run hostel found on the road to Old Bagan.

A few temples that had decent sunrise views were a comfortable walking distance from our guesthouse but the major temples were much farther away. To get to the temples we visited on our first and second days in Bagan, we hired horse carts and split the cost. On our third day, we hired a van for a half day tour of Mount Popa Temple.

I also rented a bicycle so I can explore Bagan my own way. This was by far my favorite because I felt like I was discovering the crowd-less ancient temples myself.

I loved that I was able to explore Bagan in four days but, I suppose, one full day touring the temples will suffice for most travelers.

Itinerary Rundown

PreviousCentral Yangon and Shwedagon Pagoda
Day 0
  • Yangon to Bagan Bus
Day 1
  • Old Bagan
  • Myinkaba
  • Arrival in Bagan
  • Sunrise at Shwe San Daw Pagoda
  • Bagan Hostel Check-in
  • Myinkaba Village and Old Bagan Horse Cart Tour
Day 2
  • Old Bagan
  •  Old Bagan Horse Cart Tour
Day 3
  • Mount Popa
  • Nyaung-Oo
  • Mount Popa
  • Nyaung-Oo Bicycle Tour
Day 4
  • Nyaung-Oo
  • Old Bagan
  • Nyaung-Oo and Old Bagan Bicycle Tour
  • Bagan to Mandalay
NextMandalay: Mingun, Amarapura, Sagaing, Innwa
TopMyanmar: Central and Northern Burma

Trip Date — October 2012

Itinerary Notes & Tips

Day 1

Arrival in Bagan

The town was still covered under pitch black darkness when we arrived. From the confusion, I soon met other travelers who were also on the same bus. We teamed up on the horse cart transport around town and started our hostel search.

  • 3am – Arrival at bus station in Nyaung-U
  • Charter horse cart to find a hostel in Nyaung-U – K2,000 per person
    • All of the cheap hostels were fully booked. So, we decided to reserve a room at Winner Guest House and wait until 10am for their guests to check-out.

Bagan Sunrise

In the meantime, we thought of maximizing our time by seeing the sunrise from one of the temple tops.

  • Horse cart ride to Shwe Sandaw Pagoda – K5,000 for the whole cart (round trip)
  • 5:30am to 7am – Sunrise view of Bagan Temples from the temple top of Shwe Sandaw Pagoda
    • Although teeming with other tourists, the Shwe Sandaw Pagoda did offer the best sunrise view in Bagan.

Bagan Hostel Check-in

  • Check-in at Winner Guest House
    • Aircon room with twin beds (shared TB) – US$16
      • Good value for the price. The staff were friendly and helped us book rooms for our onward journey in Mandalay. There was a decent restaurant next door.

Bagan Horse Cart Tour

  • Horse cart rental for the whole day – K15,000 for the whole cart
  • Pay Bagan Archeological Zone admission fee – US$10 (valid for 7 days)10am to 6:30pm – Horsecart tour of temples at Myinkaba Village and Old Bagan
    • Nobody asked us to show our tickets the whole 4 days we were in Bagan. We could have gotten away not paying for it.
    • Myainkaba Village Temples – many temples in this group had impressive stone carvings on the interiors.
      • Gubyaukgyi Temple
      • Myazedi Pagoda
      • Manuha (Guphaya) Temple
      • Nanpaya Temple
      • Abe Yadanar Temple
      • Nagayon Temple
      • Sein Yet Ama and Nyima Pagoda
      • Lawkananda Pagoda
      • Ashe and Anauk Petleik Pagodas
      • Mingala Zedi Pagoda
  • Old Bagan Temples – the biggest and most impressive temples in Bagan. They were definitely must-visits.
    • Dhammayan Gyi Temple
    • Sulamani Temple
    • Lunch at food stalls in front of Sulamani Temple
      • Decent food, cheap, and very friendly locals.
  • Tha Beik Hmauk Pahto
  • Bu Le Thi Temple (Sunset)

Day 2

Continue Bagan Horse Cart Tour

  • Horse cart rental for the whole day – K15,000 for whole cart
  • 11am to 6:30pm – Horse cart tour around (mostly) Old Bagan Temples
    • Htilominlo Temple
    • That Byin Nyu
    • Ananda Temple
    • Shwegugyi Temple
    • Mahabodhi Temple
    • Shwe Leik Temple (Sunset)

Day 3

Bagan Sunrise

  • 5am to 7am – Walk to Shwe Leik Too (20 minutes)

Mount Popa Temple

  • 10:00 Ride chartered van to Mount Popa Temple – K30,000 half-day van rental (per van)
  • Climb steps to temple top (20 to 30 minutes)
    • Horribly lots of monkey poop on the pathway way up. They did manage to finish cleaning the floor when we were already on our way down.
  • Mount Popa Temple sightseeing
    • It looked amazing when seen from a distance, and the green views on top were nice … but the temple itself was not so remarkable.
  • 12nn – Ride van back to Winner Guest House

Bagan Bicycle Tour

  • Rent Bicycle at Winner Guest House
  • 4pm to 7pm – Bicycle tour in and around Nyaung-U
    • Thagya Phone / Tha Kya Bon Temple
    • Shwezigon Pagoda
    • Old Bagan
    • Tree-lined road to Bagan Golf Course area
    • Khay Min Ga group (sunset)

Day 4

Bagan Bicycle Tour

Although taking the bicycle was my favorite way of exploring Bagan, one downside of it  was braving the intense desert-like heat. It didn’t bother me much though because we only cycled our way to nearby temples.

  • 10pm to 3pm – Continue bicycle tour around Nyaung-Oo and a bit of old Bagan
    • Thagya Hit Temple
    • Upalithein – Temple structure with elephants and monkey-like sculptures (located along the main road)
    • Chatumukha Temple
  • Wooden Monastery in Taung Bi Village
  • White Pagodas at Paya Nga Zu group
  • Dhammayan Gyi Temple
  • Shwezigon Pagoda

 Bagan to Mandalay Bus

  • 3:45pm – Free pick-up transfer from hostel to bus station in Nyaung-U
  • Eat at New Bagan bus station
    • Chicken curry and rice
  • 4pm to 11pm – Ride Bagan to Mandalay Bus (7 hours) – K15,000
    • Arranged the bus ticket reservation at Winner Guest House