The vastness of the Bagan plain, an area of 40 square miles, with over 10,000 pagodas constructed over 250 years, is hard to visualize. And that’s not including the 3000 teak monasteries that once stood among the temples! If you are on the ground in Bagan, you can see Pagodas and Temples everywhere but it’s important to get some height and distance so that you can see just how many ruined Temples remain.
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From hot air balloons over Bagan, atop a Temple, on the River and from the Viewing Tower, you can get a panoramic view of the Bagan Temples as the sunrises or sets.
The sun cuts through the mist of the morning and the dust of the evening, creating wild colored skies of red, orange, and purple.
Truly one of the most magnificent sights in Asia, you’ve come to the right place to find the perfect spot for you to experience a Bagan sunrise or sunset.
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Hot Air Ballooning in Bagan
It’s hard to think of a better way for tourists to see all of the temples on the Bagan Plain than to take a hot air balloon in Bagan. This is a particularly wonderful way to see and understand the scale and complexity of this UNESCO site if you have only a little time to spend in Bagan.
For a comprehensive post on the three ballooning companies in Bagan, their pros and cons, what’s included and the costs of seeing the sunrise from a hot air balloon over Bagan, see my post on Bagan Hot Air Balloon Experiences
Best Spots on Temples to see the Sunrise
After many years of terrible damage, the Myanmar government finally banned the climbing of temples and pagodas. This means only five are able to be legally climbed onto their terraces to watch the sunrise.
It is possible to climb onto the many mounds in Bagan to get a decent sunrise view, but chances are, you’re standing on a pagoda, and why not climb to the terrace level of these incredible temples to see the best sunrises possible from the ground?
Shwesandaw Pagoda (ရွှေဆံတော်ဘုရား)
Closed through the 2019-2020 cool-season for repairs, the Shwesandaw Pagoda is the most popular choice for viewing a Bagan sunrise or for a romantic sunset spot. As with all of the remaining temples and pagodas that allow climbing, you will never be along, and often you’ll be in a crowd at this spectacular viewpoint!
Constructed in the eleventh century, this five-tiered Temple is one of the earliest built in Bagan. It is no longer allowed to climb the stairs that rise to the top of the Shwesandaw on all sides.
For a comprehensive guide to the Shwesandaw and to all of the significant pagodas and temples of Bagan, see my ultimate Bagan itinerary here: Bagan Itinerary: Best of Bagan Temples in 1, 2 and 3 Days
Law Ka Ou Shaung Temple (လောကဥသျှောင်ဘုရား)
The next best spot to view the sunrise is Law Ka Ou Shaung Temple. This sunrise spot is for those of you who want to get a bit off the beaten track in order to have to share your sunrise or sunset with only a few other people! No longer a secret temple, it is still one of the least crowded sunrise spots.
I love the view from the Law Ka Ou Shaung Temple and during the sunrise, the pink glow seems to radiate from its red brick stupas. Like all of the temples mentioned here, Law Ka Ou Shaung Temple also provides for an incredible sunset view.
Thitsarwadi Temple (သစ္စာဝတီ)
9 km (5.6 miles) from the Shwesandaw temple you will find the majestic Thitsarwadi Temple. This temple embodies everything that is magical about the Bagan plain – an enormous crumbling wreck of what was once a mighty Empire of the Burmese Kings – seemingly abandoned to the elements and there for you to discover. You can channel your inner Indian Jones if you get here early enough in the morning to have the place to yourself!
Uncrowded and at its best at sunrise and sunset, Thitsarwadi is definitely worth seeking out. It lies northeast of New Bagan and Southwest of Old Bagan.
Bu Paya (ဗူးဘုရား)
Bu Paya, the oldest known pagoda in Bagan, is situated on the old Pyu city walls on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. It has a long platform surrounding the Pagoda (in part because Bu Paya slid into the river during an earthquake and has been reconstructed). There are panoramic views of the Bagan sunrise and sunset from this venerable old pagoda on top of a hill beside the Irrawaddy.
Irrawaddy River and Riverbank
For thousands of years trade and everyday life have occurred on this river and its muddy banks. The sky turns incredible shades of red, orange and purple at sunrise and sunset. If you have more than one morning or evening in Bagan, this is a wonderful view.
It’s also possible to watch the sunset on the River while drinking cocktails! An organized tour that allows you to watch the sunset from a boat sailing the Irrawaddy River is easily organized. Check out these two tours below.
Several hotels front the riverbank, especially in Old Bagan, and it’s possible to simply draw back your curtains and catch the sunrise views over the Irrawaddy River!
Bagan Viewing Tower
The best two things about the Bagan Viewing Tower are the fact that it’s legal to go there to see the sunrise, and, you can see the whole of Bagan from the Observation Deck.
It is open from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and costs around US$5.
The worst thing about the Bagan Viewing Tower is that it’s not near anything else and it mars an otherwise beautiful horizon. Eventually, I suspect it will be the only highpoint on land to see the sunrise or the Bagan sunset.
There is an elevator to the 11th floor to the Observation Deck but I would much prefer to watch the sunset over the Bagan temples from the bar on the 13th floor. Happy hour coincides with the Bagan sunset – and it’s hard to think of a better way to end a day in Myanmar!
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, including a Bagan Map for each day: Bagan Itinerary: Best of Bagan Temples in 1, 2 and 3 Days
- How do choose where to stay in Bagan? See my detailed guide to the best Bagan accommodation from luxury resorts to guesthouses in the three main areas of Bagan, Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung U: Bagan Hotels: Where to Stay in Bagan, Myanmar
- For the most spectacular Bagan sunrise experience, read my post on Bagan Hot Air Ballooning Experiences
- See all of my posts on Myanmar here
- Get Your Guide Myanmar travel attractions and activities are here
- More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page
- For another spectacular and must-see Asian temple, see the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobodur here
- If you love riding an e-bike or hiking in Asia, then Bagan is a unique destination!
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