8 Stunning Temples You Must Visit In Bagan, Myanmar

If you time things just right, you can get amazing light entering some of the temples in Bagan. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Aaron Holquin)
If you time things just right, you can get amazing light entering some of the temples in Bagan. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Aaron Holquin)

Bagan is the most visited spot in Myanmar and it’s no wonder why. With about 2,000 ancient temples spread across grassy plains, it offers a stunning vista unlike any other. No doubt, you can spend weeks exploring Bagan’s temples, but most people only have a couple of days. With so much to see and do, it’s important to make the most of it. These are the eight temples you don’t want to miss.

Shwesandaw Pagoda

Enshrined within the pagoda are sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan)
Enshrined within the pagoda are sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan)

Location Close to Old Bagan

One of the most popular pagodas in Bagan, its beautiful design features five terraces of varying heights that visitors can climb for a view of the plains. This also makes it a popular spot to watch the sun rise. This pagoda is important to the local people as, according to legend, it holds a relic of Buddha’s hair.

Ananda Temple

The impressive temple is also known as the "Westminster Abbey of Burma"
The impressive temple is also known as the “Westminster Abbey of Burma”

Location Near Tharabar Gate in Old Town

Ananda is known as one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples, a vision in white, with a gilded sikhara (the dome that crowns the temple) that makes it visible from all around, especially when lit up at night. It is said that this temple was fashioned after a legendary cave temple located in the Himalayas. The king of the time wanted to replicate it, and after the temple was complete, he had the workers executed so they wouldn’t be able to build something similar ever again.

Dhammayangyi Temple

Built by King Narathu who came to the throne by assassination,  it is assumed that the temple was built to atone for his sins (Photo Credit: Flickr/Justin Vidamo)
Built by King Narathu who came to the throne by assassination, it is assumed that the temple was built to atone for his sins (Photo Credit: Flickr/Justin Vidamo)

Location Not far from Shwesandaw Pagoda

The largest temple in all of Bagan, Dhammayangyi has a mysterious and violent history. It is said that the king who built it assassinated his father for the throne and had this large, pyramid-shaped temple designed to atone for his sins. However, the murderous king was killed himself before the temple was completed. While you can enter the temple, much of it is blocked off and filled with rubble. Dhammayangyi remains one of the most intact historic temples of Bagan, but has not undergone the same restoration process as the other major temples, perhaps because of the bad karma that is associated with it.

Shwezigon Pagoda

The Shwezigon pagoda has been damaged natural calamities but has been refurbished several times. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Stefan Munder)
The Shwezigon pagoda has been damaged natural calamities but has been refurbished several times. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Stefan Munder)

Location Just outside Nyuang-U, by the Irrawaddy river

This massive golden pagoda is said to enshrine several important and sacred Buddha relics. For this reason, it is not only popular with tourists, but is a pilgrimage site for Buddhist monks. It is a busy and crowded spot, but a must-see while in Bagan. Shwezigon is a beautiful site during the day and especially magical at night when it’s lit up.

Sulamani Temple

Similar to the Thatbyinnyu Temple in design, Sulamani Temple is one of the most visited in Bagan
Similar to the Thatbyinnyu Temple in design, Sulamani Temple is one of the most visited in Bagan

Location Close to Dhammayangyi Temple

The Sulamani Temple is probably the most elegant one in Bagan. Its name means ‘small ruby’ because according to legend, the king found a small ruby on the spot where he had it built. The inside holds images of Buddha as well as frescoes depicting Buddhist mythologies. On the outside of the temple are terracotta plaques that contain the Jakata tales, or stories of the previous lives of Buddha.

Thatbyinnyu Temple

Built in the mid-12th century, Thatbyinnyu Temple is one of the first  is one of the first two storey structures built in Bagan. (Photo Credit: Marcela Tokatjian/Flickr)
Built in the mid-12th century, Thatbyinnyu Temple is one of the first is one of the first two storey structures built in Bagan. (Photo Credit: Marcela Tokatjian/Flickr)

Location Close to Old Bagan, not too far from Ananda Temple

At 60 metres tall, Thatbyinnyu is one of the tallest temples in Bagan and can be seen across the plains. It looks almost like it was pulled from the pages of a fairy tale. Its unique design makes it worth a visit, even though sadly, the terraces are closed after being damaged in an earthquake.

Nanda Pyin Nya

The interiors of this small temple are covered in paintings that you'll have to see in person.
The interiors of this small temple are covered in paintings that you’ll have to see in person as photography within is strictly prohibited.

Location Near Minanthu Village, closer to New Bagan

Often called the ‘painted temple’, the interiors of this small temple are covered in paintings that depict ancient stories and Buddhist legends. Sitting off the main temple route and in a more rural area, it will take some time to get to from old Bagan (about 30 minutes by electronic bicycle, or e-bike). Note that photography is not allowed inside in order to help preserve the ancient artwork.

Ta Wet Temple

Tha Wet is known to be one best places to catch Bagan’s famed sunrises
Tha Wet is known to be one best places to catch Bagan’s famed sunrises

Location Close to Sulamani Temple

You won’t find this on most tourist maps as this temple does not boast any special designs or famous legends. But it is one of the best places to catch Bagan’s famed sunrises, with less crowds than Shwesandaw Pagoda. You can climb to a terrace or even higher to an upper ledge. Many of the hot air balloons fly directly overhead, making for quite a breathtaking view.

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hannah (1)
Hannah is a Canadian travel addict with a goal of being as cool as Indiana Jones. You can follow her adventures on her travel blog; Eat Sleep Breathe Travel

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