The Three Main Villages of the Bagan Plain
The Bagan Plain is the largest archeological zone in the world. The sprawling Plain (whose name was changed from Pagan) has three main areas of accommodation scattered around the thousands of temples.
Old Bagan is the village that grew up amidst the Bagan Temples. It hugs the curve of the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River and is the oldest settlement in the area. It is home to the few luxury resorts in Bagan and is the perfect base from which to walk around the most important and beautiful temples.
New Bagan came into existence during the years of the military dictatorship when the Generals decided to move everyone out of Old Bagan into a newly created village – New Bagan.
New Bagan used to be some distance from Old Bagan but over time Old Bagan has sprawled southwards along the river and New Bagan has built to the north and so little now separates these two communities. I hope they one day become one large village again!
There are some excellent quality and midrange accommodations in New Bagan and it is close to the archaeological zone.
Nyaung-U is a typical upcountry dry zone village that has become the administrative center of Bagan. As the Generals limited construction and commerce within Old Bagan, Nyaung-U continued to be a hub of daily life with is markets, pagodas, schools, and shops.
There is a full range of accommodation options here.
Read on to discover the best hotels, Bagan Airbnbs, and the best locations for all budgets whether you are backpacking in Myanmar or wanting a luxury tour.
For the best things to do in Bagan and how to see all of the most significant Bagan Temples, click here on my Ultimate Bagan Itinerary: Best of Bagan Temples in 1, 2 and 3 Days
Which Area in Bagan is the Best to Stay In?
Best Location for Temples and Archaeological Zone
To be in the ‘real’ Bagan, you need to come to Old Bagan. This is where the former city-state of Pyu culture existed and where the old city walls are. It is located alongside the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River and is smack bang in the middle of the archaeological zone.
- Good quality hotels with outdoor swimming pools
- Can walk to many pagodas (see my Bagan Itinerary with its maps for each day)
- Close to the Bagan Archeological Museum
- Peaceful and the heart of Bagan culture and history
- Temple and river views everywhere!
- I don’t personally think there are any! But other travelers occasionally do. If you are only in Bagan for a short time it can make sense to stay in a busier area like New Bagan or even Nyaung U.
- There are not as many restaurants and cafes in Old Bagan as there are in New Bagan and Nyaung U. There are also fewer companies for you to book tours and transportation.
Best Locations for Restaurants, Shops & Markets: New Bagan and Nyaung U
- If you want lots of budget options, and reasonably priced cafes and restaurants, then New Bagan is close to Old Bagan. In this sense, it is perhaps the best of both worlds. There are many hotels where it is possible to have a river or Temple view.
- New Bagan is now a very well established village and it does have the feeling of an up-country village about it, whilst still being geared towards tourists.
- There are fewer upmarket options here
- You are not in the main archaeological area so transportation is a must.
- The most easterly and northern aspects of Nyaung U merge with the northern part of Old Bagan. You can be near pagodas such as the Shwezigon and Htilominlo Temple
- There are pagodas, temples, and monasteries here as well as markets, cafes, and restaurants
- It has been possible to build much new accommodation here so there is a reasonable number of 4-star options.
- You are outside the Bagan archaeological zone and need transportation
- Nyaung U can be a little noisy and dusty.
Best Location for Airport Stays
If you’re only in Bagan for a short period, it probably doesn’t matter too much where you stay and if only overnight, then a good hotel near the airport might be ideal.
- The Heritage Bagan Hotel is a good option. It is just over 8 kilometers (by road) to Ananda Temple in the middle of the Bagan archaeological zone.
Now that you’ve decided what area suits you best, read on to see which hotel is the best for your memorable Bagan adventure!
Best Bagan Hotels in Old Bagan
I have included the best original hotels in the archaeological zone as well as a much newer entrant.
But first – where I do not stay in Bagan!
THE place I DO NOT to stay in Bagan is, unfortunately, the most wonderful hotel in Old Bagan. This resort, the Aureum Palace Resort and Hotel is built in the middle of the archaeological zone and is owned by a crony of the former dictator, General Than Shwe. Tay Za also owns the Myanmar Treasure Resorts. Tay Za has been blacklisted by the U.S. Government. He worked as an arms dealer for the military regime. Now, though, like all the former elites of the military regime, he owns significant tourist infrastructure in Myanmar and is the Chairman of the Htoo Group which also owns Air Bagan.
I include the Aureum Palace Hotel below because my opinions are my own and I don’t want to remove your ability to choose what works best for you. Another view is that staying here allows locals to keep jobs. Finally, it’s also possible that Tay Za sells his share at any time – it’s not always possible to keep up with who owns what in Myanmar’s shady economy.
Luxury Hotels Old Bagan
Luxury is not what we would consider ‘urban’ luxury in Bagan. 5-star accommodation is closer to 4, 4-star accommodation is closer to 3, and so on. Prices are cheap and you get what you pay for outside Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar.
I have wonderful memories of submerging myself regularly during the midday heat in the Thiripyitsaya hotel outdoor pool in the early 1990s. It was one of the very few places in Old Bagan that were allowed to take foreigners.
This 4-star hotel has been here forever. The bungalows are delightfully private and I can’t tell you how many gin and tonics I have had on their balconies over the years! A sentimental favorite.
Another long-standing 4-star hotel with a pool and river views in a great location from which to access the Bagan Temples. (It’s 1.1 kilometers to Ananda Temple).
A new-ish entrant to Old Bagan, the Ananta Bagan Hotel is a 4-star resort-style hotel that opened in 2015. It has very good reviews for cleanliness and service. It is located in the northern part of Old Bagan, close to the Shwezigon Pagoda.
It boasts very large rooms and bathrooms and a modern outdoor swimming pool area. There’s a bike rental service, free wifi, and 24-hour reception.
Mid-Range Hotels Old Bagan
The real advantage to 2 and 3-star accommodation in Bagan is the great swimming pools and relaxed and friendly staff you’ll encounter. It’s why I have enjoyed staying at the Thande.
The 3-star Thande Hotel is of a similar age to its upscale cousin, the Thiripyitsaya, and both these hotels are brilliantly located – often with one side of the property overlooking the Bagan Temples, and the other side ending at the Irrawaddy River. Throw in a swimming pool and Old Bagan is unforgettable.
Free wifi, 24-hour room service, and a sparkling outdoor swimming pool are the main attractions of this 3-star hotel in Old Bagan.
Enormous rooms and great views are also a real bonus of the Bagan Hotel River View.
Best Bagan Hotels in New Bagan
Luxury Hotels New Bagan
A four-star hotel with a lovely bougainvillea and palm-tree edged pool. It boasts views of the Bagan Temples.
One of the southernmost hotels in New Bagan, it’s difficult to get closer to the Bagan Temples than here and you can have breakfast looking over them.
The rooms are modern and tasteful in this 4-star hotel in New Bagan. The decor is neutral and the rooms are light. This is a good thing if you are a bit over the teak used lavishly in many hotel rooms in Myanmar.
As well as the large outdoor pool there are a number of other facilities in this large hotel complex including a billiards room, bicycle hire, and free wifi.
This is an elegant, very well-reviewed hotel. The decor and furnishings of its rooms are a cut above most other Bagan accommodations. The 4-star Bagan Lodge has a daily buffet breakfast, a bar, a restaurant and….a shopping mall!
The hotel, opened in 2013, lies to the east of New Bagan, not far from Dhammayazika Pagoda. It is a great place if you have a car and if not, the hotel provides a limousine service!
Mid-Range Hotels New Bagan
In the northernmost area of New Bagan, this 3-star hotel has great pagoda views. It boasts views of 10 major Temples and has an expansive outdoor pool. It is set on the edge of a village, overlooking farmland and Temples – lots of them!
This is a special place – animals roam the grounds, there is water lapping just below your bedroom terrace and the pool area sits in what seems like a farming village in the shadow of the pagodas.
A fantastic 3-star hotel with exceptional rooms and the most wonderful outdoor pool area! It is modern and includes breakfast and free parking in the heart of New Bagan.
Budget Hotels New Bagan
This hotel has 2.5 stars but has a large outdoor pool and free wifi. It is in the northeastern corner of New Bagan so not far from the Bagan archaeological zone.
I like hotels with libraries!
A very well-reviewed 2-star hotel with a pool and free wifi. The hotel is a little out of the way at the very southernmost end of New Bagan. I like the food here!
Best Bagan Hotels in Nyaung-U
Luxury Hotels Nyaung-U
Nyaung-U does not have a ‘land’ problem. It’s been possible for a raft of new hotels to be built here and you are spoiled for choice in the 4-star hotel range. I have included the best three below.
A 4-star hotel with what many consider to be the best hotel breakfast in Bagan!
The rooms have been recently renovated and there is a wonderful outdoor swimming pool. Free wifi and just under 3 kilometers to Bagan.
Like the Ananta Bagan, the 4-star Bagan Umbra Hotel sits midway between Nyaung-U and Old Bagan.The Hotel is close to Htilominlo Temple. It has an outdoor pool, a Thai restaurant, and a gym.
The airport is very close to the Heritage Bagan Hotel. The Aung Myay Thar Monastery is even closer. The hotel has a swimming pool, a kids pool, a spa and bicycle hire.
Mid-Range Hotels Nyaung-U
This modern 3-star hotel has an outdoor pool and free wifi. It is located near the bus terminal and it has excellent reviews.
A centrally located, new 3-star hotel with a swimming pool, modern decor, a gym, and an outdoor terrace.
Budget Hotels Nyaung-U
A brilliantly located 2.5 stars hotel midway between Htilominlo Temple and the Shwezigon Pagoda and close to the river. The hotel has a delightful garden and pool area as well as a gym, spa, tour desk, and an airport shuttle.
This good-value 2-star guest house has large, modern rooms with free wifi. There is a rooftop (covered) terrace where meals are served with views to the Temples.
The only downside to the Sky View is its location – whilst its never far from anywhere (with a bike or car), the hotel is a little further away from amenities and Temples than the other hotels included here. It’s modern, light rooms and value for money are worth considering if you have transportation.
Airbnb Stays in Bagan
Airbnb stays in Myanmar are generally not for first-time visitors to Myanmar. The exception to this rule may well be Bagan. Quite a number of homes have been purchased by several ‘super hosts’ and these include whole houses with views of the Temples, as well as apartments within resorts.
Further Links and Information
- Visiting Bagan? Click on my ultimate itinerary for one, two or three days in the largest archaeological site in the world: Bagan Itinerary: Best of Bagan Temples in 1, 2 and 3 Days
- For the Best Yangon Hotels and Neighborhoods, click on my Best Yangon Hotels: Where to Stay in Yangon.
- And as for what to do in Yangon, here is the ultimate Yangon Itinerary for 1, 2, or 3 days in Yangon
- For a comprehensive guide on the most important of all the things to do in Yangon – visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda – see my post here: Shwedagon Pagoda: The Best Pagoda in Myanmar
- Get Your Guide Myanmar travel activities are here
- For another spectacular and must-see Asian temple, see the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobodur here
- More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page