Bagan is located in approximately central Myanmar and is accessed via flight or bus – the closest airport is the Nyaung U Airport about 30 minutes from Old Bagan city and daily flights operate to and from Yangon as well as select other domestic cities. Visitors may also take a bus from Yangon to Bagan – allow 10 hours for this journey and dress warmly as the buses are often quite chilly inside.
The Bagan Plains are situated along the banks of the great Irrawaddy River – over 10,000 pagodas were built here over a span of 250 years mostly in the 1000’s and 1100’s. Over time with rain, wind and general erosion and subjected to a number of earthquakes, the pagodas have been whittled down to now just over 2,000. Still enough to visit one pagoda per day for nearly 5.5 years!
Visitors can choose from a variety of lodging (many budget guesthouses) spread out over a number of miles including in New Bagan and northeast of Old Bagan. The area is well setup for tourists – with many restaurants and tour operators doing business in the area. One can also rent electric bikes and explore on your own.
Highlights include visiting the Pagodas – which are fairly spread out but easily accessible (usually via short dirt roads leading off of the main roads). A must visit is the impressive and well-maintained Ananda Pahto containing four prominent Buddhas in it’s interior. Several hot air balloon companies offer 45-60 minute early morning balloon rides (the thing to do at Bagan if you can afford it, as the prices generally start in the $375+ range per person. Or get up early and take photographs of this impressive sight.
And for those wanting to do a half day trip, consider taking a tour to Mt. Popa – an impressive stand alone rock mountain which towers above the nearby landscape and contains a golden temple on top.