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:

 

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About the author

Hi there! We are Stefan and Sebastien, Greek/French couple behind the travel blog Nomadic Boys. Since we met in 2009, we have been travelling all around the world together, visiting over 100 countries.

Our mission is to inspire you, the gay traveller, and show you that you can visit more places in the world than you thought possible, by providing a first-hand account of our travel adventures, to help you plan a fun and safe trip.

To find out more about us

23 thoughts on “Bagan temples in Myanmar: best for sunrise or sunset?”

  1. 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…

  2. 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

  3. You guys are hilarious! Loved reading this. I’m in my hotel bed in Bagan with temple fatigue and was laughing at your sections. Thank you!

  4. Hey this is good information about Bagan – I am heading out next week. Kinda nervous because I am traveling solo. Will the hotel or the people around be able to point me to the right spot for all these great shots??? Thanks in advance!

  5. Hello. Thank you for sharing your experience in Bagan. I would like to know if going to Pagodas has entrance fees? Is it safe to go to one of the temples to watch sunrise alone (and I’am a woman)? Thank you.

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