For many, the opportunity to gaze at the ruins of ancient Bagan, silhouetted against their distinctive backdrop of dusty acacia scrub and distant hills, is reason enough to travel to Myanmar. Over 2,000 brick, gold and stucco stupas and temples are scattered across this wondrous archaeological site – the remains of a once glittering city that thrived on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River between the 11th and 13th centuries. Spanning the period when Theravada Buddhism gradually eclipsed Hinduism and indigenous Nat worship in Myanmar, the monuments come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from modest cave shrines to soaring, hollow structures sprouting giant spires. Many are exquisitely decorated inside and out, holding huge Buddha images and vibrant medieval murals.
We generally recommend a stay of at least three nights in Bagan, which will give ample time to explore the most prominent monuments, as well as plenty of lesser-visited gems on the fringes. Horse carts provide a leisurely way to cover the sandy lanes linking the sites, which our expert English-speaking guides will help bring to life. Your guide will also be able to identify the best vantage points from which to admire the legendary sunsets at Bagan – whether one of the romantic waterfront restaurants dotted along the river bank or a west-facing pagoda terrace, from where the views over the ruins and its surroundings are other-worldly.