For those who want to start the day a little earlier there is an opportunity to visit the iconic U Bein teak bridge at dawn. Built in 1782 at the time when Amarapura was the royal capital, it’s an impressive piece of engineering, claiming the title of 'world's longest teak bridge', and is still used by the residents of Amarapura and its surrounding villages. Dawn is the perfect time to see the picturesque bridge and watch locals going about their daily business from one of the nearby teashops.
Continue on to Mandalay Airport in time for your flight to Nyaung U. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel in Bagan.
Bagan, sometimes written ‘Pagan’, is one of the most significant ancient religious cities in South-East Asia, matched only really by Angkor Wat. Myanmar’s capital during the 9th century, Bagan is defined by the thousands of spires and temples filling its green valley, many of them hundreds of years old.
Bagan’s temples are the main reason people visit this historic city, but whenever you’re in danger of feeling templed out there are numerous interesting villages to discover nearby, an excellent and sociable restaurant street in Nyaung U, and in New Bagan there is a lively market and tea shop culture. To further ring the changes, you can also head off to explore the temples or villages by bike, with electric bikes available for those with less stamina.
With literally thousands of sites to choose from, it's no easy task selecting which temples and pagodas to make a bee-line for. However in true Selective Asia style we have a secret gem up our sleeve which you will visit. We can’t divulge any information about the place aside from the fact that it is not on the tourist radar.
If time permits, continue on to a lacquerware shop where you will learn about this regionally famous, age-old process before taking a break for lunch. Your guide will be able to make recommendations for lunch: our current favourites are The Secret Home which serves home-cooked Burmese specialities based on Ma Kyi Kyi’s family recipes, and Sanon - a training restaurant designed to offer greater employment opportunities for marginalised local youth.
In the afternoon you may wish to visit the iconic temples of Ananda with its 1424 Buddhas mounted in the walls, and Shwezigion Pagoda with its golden stupa. Enjoy sunset at the temples, or return to your hotel for a dip in the pool and a well earned sundowner.
Maximum experience, minimum crowds
During your tour of the Bagan temples we ensure your day remains both flexible and personal. Having met with your guide you will be able to discuss in detail what you are looking to achieve from your time in the region. While some wish to explore as many temples as they can during their stay, others like to travel at a slower, more relaxed pace.
For many it’s the smaller pagodas tucked away in the corner of a rice field, whilst for others it’s those journeys through the countryside, following little-used dust tracks, or leaving the air-con for an hour in favour of a horse-drawn cart amongst the temples and pagodas.
Sunrise and sunset are often considered the most impressive time of day in Bagan and your guide will be glad to suggest a choice spot to take in the view. It’s important to note, however, that to prevent un-necessary damage to these ancient structures, the Ministry of Culture have restricted the number of stupas that it is possible to climb to five specific pagodas.
We do appreciate that some visitors are wary of becoming ‘templed-out’. To combat this we can create more varied days, with visits to villages, such as Myinkaba, to observe the process of traditional lacquer-ware crafting, or Bagan town centre, or just simply create more time to leisurely laze by the pool.
All our guides are highly experienced Bagan specialists, fully trained and licensed to work at the temples. Along with their exceptional knowledge of the Bagan region, the various temples and pagodas, and the civilisations that built them, your guide will know how best to avoid the busier times of day, not to mention where to catch the best sunrises and sunsets. Put simply, they’ll adapt the itinerary to suit your preferences and know every trick in the book when it comes to getting the best photos and most tranquil moments.
If you have any specific requirements or special interests, be sure to let us know and we will arrange the guide with the most suitable expertise.
Overnight in Bagan.
Touring ideas in Bagan
Take to the skies
By far the best way to view the ancient temples of Bagan is from the basket of a hot air balloon, floating serenely above the plains as the sun rises and the ground mist disperses. Coffee and pastries are served as you watch the efficient ground team inflate the balloons. To complete the experience, a glass of sparkling wine awaits you on your return to the ground. According to SA’s Lionel this is ‘a not-to-be-missed highlight of any Myanmar trip’.
Explore on two wheels
If leaving the safety of terraferma makes you nervous and you would prefer to keep your feet on the ground, there are other unique ways of exploring this captivating area. In true traditional style, a fun and leisurely way to explore the temples is by horse-drawn cart. Alternatively, if you feel the need to be active, take a guided bicycle tour.
Take a break from the temples and visit some of Bagan’s outlying villages by bicycle. As you cycle, enjoy the views of rice paddies and distant temple spires before stopping at local villages for an insight into traditional rural life, to learn about the small cottage industries that are prevalent in the region and, of course, meet with the curious locals. You may even be invited to join a local family for tea.
What better way to experience sunrise over the ancient temples of Bagan than whilst soaring hundreds of feet up in the air; passing slowly from one remarkable temple to the next?
You will be collected between 0445-0515hrs from your hotel and transferred by your Oriental Ballooning guide to the launch site. Tea and coffee are served as you listen to a safety briefing and the ground crew prepare the balloons. When the balloons are partially inflated join your flying companions and the pilot in the balloon’s basket, taking off as the sun rises.
Drifting with winds not exceeding 15 mph, you'll typically fly for 45 minutes, taking in the remarkable Bagan panorama from a totally unique angle before touching down (location unknown, this is a balloon after all!). During your flight your skilled pilot will be on hand to discuss the temples you are passing near, and you'll also enjoy spectacular views of the Ayeyarwaddy River, showing off in its best light. Back on terra firma you will be treated to a glass of sparkling wine before returning to your hotel in time for breakfast.
The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Bagan.
Very early risers may wish to witness the magical sunrise across the temple-strewn plains of Bagan, before returning to their hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast drive out of Bagan for about an hour, passing by fields and rural villages, before arriving in the town of Chauk. Famous for oil and natural gas production, the town has grown from a tiny village to a thriving regional centre, and you will notice ‘nodding donkeys’ and a number of pipelines during your visit. It is a great opportunity to mix with the locals; the vibrant central market is fascinating and well worth exploring, and the tea shops make for an enjoyable al fresco break.
Continue towards the ancient town of Salin, stopping en route at Tanyaung village, famous for high quality blacksmiths.
Salin is located on the eastern Chin Hills and has been an important trading site for hundreds of years. The area is dotted with many pagodas, and a huge lake near the centre of town is covered with thousands of huge lotus flowers.
Take time to explore the U Ottama Monastery, where monks trained novices as resistance fighters against the British during WW2. The monastery has hidden tunnels which were used by the monks during its time as U Ottama Fort. Nearby is the ornately carved Salay Yoke Sone Monastery, with hundreds of teak pillars supporting the towering roof. Salin has a large central market which is well worth exploring, with produce from the regions farms and smallholdings on sale most days. Hidden in a quiet corner on the edge of town is a small, moving British Cemetery where soldiers from the campaigns of the 1880's now rest.
Return to Bagan in the late afternoon. Whilst today is a relatively long day it’s worth it to visit unique locations that are well off the radar of mainstream tourists.
Overnight in Bagan.