Located on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River, Bagan (historically known as Pagan) is one of the great wonders of the world, home to vast plains bestrewn with over 2,000 gracefully aged and utterly unique temples. On par with Angkor Wat, the ancient city of Bagan is one of Asia’s richest archaeological sites, and a photographer’s paradise sure to leave a lasting impression with any visitor.
It is impossible to discuss Burma and not mention Bagan, Burma’s ancient capital city and today one of the major draws for the increasing numbers of visitors travelling to the country each year.
Many of its iconic temples were built during the 11th and 13th centuries when the Pagan Empire was at its height under the rule of Bamar King Anawrahta. After an earthquake in 1975, around 2,200 temples remain today (although locals argue the figure is closer to 4,000), each offering something completely unique in terms of architecture, design and history.
With so many, it is common to visit just a few of the larger temples, with some popular ones including the beautiful Ananda Temple, the towering Thatbyinnyu Temple and the redbrick Sulamani Temple. It can also be just as pleasurable to break things down a little, pick a particular area to focus on and rent a bicycle for a more leisurely tour.
A hot air balloon ride at dawn is perhaps the best way to fully comprehend the enormity of the collection, however ascending one of the taller temples also allows a similar sense of scale, both conjuring a sight you will not forget in a hurry.
Beyond the temples, a number of lacquerware workshops, traditional pottery villages and quaint riverside towns are waiting to be explored, with the striking Mount Popa also within easy reach. Bagan is often the starting or finishing point for many of the cruises down the Irrawaddy River, whilst the close by Nyaung U Airport offers convenient access to the rest of the country.