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Bagan temples in Myanmar: best for sunrise or sunset?

Bagan temples in Myanmar: best for sunrise or sunset?

Bagan is an ancient town in central Myanmar with over 2,000 temples. We visited Bagan in January 2015 as part of our travels in Myanmar.

We based ourselves in the nearby backpacker friendly town of Nyaung U at Eden Motel, although for more upmarket options, consider staying at the nearby New Bagan at somewhere like Bagan Nova.

We conquered the temples over 3 days with rented bicycles, enjoying 2 sunsets and 1 sunrise.

Pagoda selfies, monk spotting and temple fatigue

The pagodas (“payas” in Burmese) are sacred Buddhist tiered towers usually containing a sacred relic from the Buddha. They are fun to climb and from the top you get an impressive 360 degrees view of the entire temple area of Bagan.

Sebastien on the Buledi pagoda
Sebastien admiring the view from the Buledi pagoda
Selfie from the top of the Buledi Pagoda
Stefan enjoying a selfie moment from the top of the Buledi Pagoda

The temples alongside some of the pagodas are grand and impressive, attracting many Buddhist pilgrims.

Monk spotting became the new game Sebastien used to keep a low concentration span Stefan stimulated.

Young monks visiting the Shwezigon temple
Young monks visiting the Shwezigon temple use their robes to cover their heads from the strong sun rays
A monk visiting the Dhammayangyi temple
More monk spotting in Bagan, this time at the Dhammayangyi temple

But with so many temples to visit, we quickly got templed out, especially with Stefan’s very low concentration span.

The midday heat burning down on us didn’t help either (January in Bagan is very hot and dry).

Templed out in Bagan
After visiting so many temples in the midday heat of Bagan, we quickly got tired

So to make things more interesting, Sebastien devised a cunning game: trying to find the best temple during the day to return to later on to watch the sunset and sunrise.

Chasing the best sunset spot in Bagan

Bagan is the #1 attraction in Myanmar so attracts many tourists.

On top of this, it’s super sacred for Buddhists, so pilgrims visit in their numbers…and therefore, a heaven for the souvenir sellers.

Souvenir seller at the Dhammayangyi Temple
One of the more photogenic souvenir sellers at the Dhammayangyi Temple.

One of the most advertised activities is to watch the sunset (around 5:30/6pm) from one of the pagodas.

We heard stories of people finding a particular pagoda all to themselves with no one else except a few monks and the sunset…

…this was never the case for us. Any spot we found was soon swamped with people and souvenir salesmen by about 5:30pm.

Our 'help we're surrounded' selfie
Our ‘help we're surrounded' selfie at the Buledi Pagoda, although we managed to take this photo without a face in it.

Sunset spot #1: the Buledi pagoda

Our first day exploring the temples climaxed at the popular Buledi pagoda.

Unfortunately it quickly got packed out with people, especially Koreans taking 900 photos per second, of the same thing.

But we found the sunrise itself is quite stunning, particularly just after the sun fully set, leaving pretty silhouettes.

Sunset view from the Buledi pagoda
Silhouettes of the temples across Bagan just after the sun fully set

Sunset spot #2: the North Guni pagoda

On our second day we eventually stumbled on the popular North Guni and South Guni pagodas.

We picked the south Guni because the top of it it was slightly harder to access, so we thought it would attract fewer package tour groups.

The sunset itself was quite beautiful, especially after a long day of cycling in the sun from temple to temple.

Sunset close up from the North Guni pagoda
Close up of the sunset taken form the North Guni pagoda

But again, by the time the sun started to set, we were surrounded by a large number of people and this time many souvenir sellers as well.

So, we made the difficult decision to rise early for day 3 and try our luck with the sunrise in Bagan (we are not successful early morning risers).

Finding the best spot for sunrise in Bagan

We slept through our alarms and got up ‘late' – nearly 6:30am. We grabbed our bikes rushed over to the closest pagoda to our hostel (Buledi) to enjoy the sunrise in Bagan.

Sunrise in Bagan at the Buledi pagoda
Sunrise in Bagan at the Buledi pagoda was one of the most spectacular images on our travels

To our surprise there were only 2 other couples there, and, it remained like that throughout.

And the view, one of the most stunning images of our travels to date, rivalling the sunrise over the rice terraces in Tiantouzhai in China.

The beautiful sunrise in Bagan
The beautiful sunrise in Bagan with the morning mist over the temples

A layer of mist rises across the Bagan area in the early morning, creating a mystical like atmosphere. Alongside this are the hot air balloons setting off.

You can of course take a hot air balloon ride, but at over $300 per person, this was well outside our budget.

Hot air balloon ride during sunrise in Bagan
Hot air balloon ride during sunrise in Bagan was a little bit outside our budget!

So, sunset or sunrise in Bagan?

The sunrise in Bagan was our favourite. It was spectacular and worth the early morning rise. The early morning mist with the hot air balloons made it very special.

Plus, it’s before the tour groups arrive so you’re more likely to have the entire pagoda all for yourself. Whereas during sunset, you are more likely to share the area with a large number of people.

The popular Buledi pagoda all for us
During the day, the Buledi pagoda is swamped with people, during sunrise, it was all for us!

Watch our video Myanmar travel video as we made our way from Mandalay to Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon:


Happy travels are safe travels

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Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends most of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details and if not, he'll probably be cooking. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

Dordo Brnobic

Friday 31st of January 2020

Hi, When were you in Bagan? I have heard that it is no longer possible to climb the temples for sunsets and sunrises, that authorities forbid it. Is that true? I'm going there in a month. Thank you.

Stefan Arestis

Friday 31st of January 2020

This is fantastic news if they have now started to enforce this! We were surprised they allowed this when we went.

Johnny Friskilä

Thursday 26th of December 2019

And soon I will be there. Looking forward! :-)

Stefan Arestis

Friday 27th of December 2019

Nice :)

Nang Htet

Saturday 19th of October 2019

Best option to watch sunset in Bagan North Guni Temple Ta Wet Phaya(Secret temple) Irrawaddy river bank Buledi Pagoda

Best option to watch sun rise in Bagan Loukha Oushang Temple Ta Wet Phaya(secret temple) Shwesandaw pagoda Thitsarwadi Temple Nagayon Pagoda Buledi pagoda

Night view Htilominlo Temple(after sunset)

Stefan Arestis

Sunday 20th of October 2019

Agreed :)


Monday 26th of February 2018

Thanks for your tips! I was in Bagan last week and read your blogpost to find more info about the sunrise in Bagan but things are moving very fast with the closures of most pagodas...

Nomadic boys

Monday 26th of February 2018

Yikes! Thanks for letting us know.

Miss M

Saturday 18th of March 2017

Hi guys, Great photos - what camera did you use? I'm wondering if iPhone alone will be sufficient for the photos I plan on taking. Thanks so much :) M

Nomadic boys

Saturday 18th of March 2017

Thanks! It was our Panasonic TZ60