Revered as one of the most famous and beautiful archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, Bagan and its 2,000-plus ancient pagodas will leave you in awe. The best, and most popular, time to visit Bagan is in the dry winter season between November and February. Temperatures will be tolerable, there will be no rain in sight, and the light during sunrise and sunset will be prime for taking unforgettable pictures of the temples and surrounding landscape.
Start your two-day trip off by settling into accommodations at a clean, family-run and budget-friendly guesthouse or hostel close to the temples and to various restaurant options. Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to begin exploring! Since you’ve most likely missed the sunrise, be sure to catch the sunset later on, with its spectacular views and colors, over the sea of pagodas. Head to a local tea shop for a breakfast of Myanmar’s traditional Mohinga and a cup of sweet tea. Once you make your way to the temples, be prepared to walk, climb and explore! Make sure you have daytrip essentials with you: water, money sunscreen and hat, a light jacket if you plan to stay for sunset, modest clothes to show religious respect, and a camera to capture the surrounding scenery.
There are a few options for getting around Bagan, including bike, E-bike (electric bike), car, or horse carriage. A map or guide book of the temples and paths is essential, as navigating thousands of pagodas is overwhelming enough! You can spend hours here exploring the ins and outs of these fascinating temples, but make sure to take a break from the heat and rest up! Grab a delicious bite to eat in Old Bagan at The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant near the famously beautiful and sacred Ananda Temple. Savoring some late afternoon drinks along the Irrawaddy is a relaxing way to enjoy the last of the sunshine before it begins its descent. Head back to the temples to enjoy your hot air balloon reservation with the esteemed Eastern Safaris Balloons Over Bagan. As you float up into the evening sky, the soft, golden glow of the sunset will bathe you in warmth as you take in the all-encompassing beauty of Bagan.
Wake up early to catch the sunrise in either another glorious hot air balloon ride or simply perched atop one of the pagodas. Enjoy this quiet and peaceful time to begin your day on the right foot. Spend this second day in Bagan exploring the temples in the morning, then heading over to Old Bagan where you can stroll around and enjoy the stunning lacquerware products created by local artisans. Savor a delectable lunch at Star Beam Bistro, complete with local wine, eggplant hummus, green papaya salad, and impeccable service. Bagan’s magnificence lies not only in its temples, but in its exquisite riverside restaurants and river cruises on the Irrawaddy, its presence of skilled artisans in the lacquer ware industry, and its proximity to the famed Mount Popa less than a two-hours’ drive away. Spend the afternoon and evening journeying to Mount Popa by hired car, taxi or van. Climb the 700 steps to the summit of this magnificent monastery, making sure to dodge the lively monkeys along the way. Mount Popa is also home to the surrounding Mount Popa National Park where you have the opportunity to hike paths on this extinct volcano. Wherever you decided to venture, soak in the panoramic views, wander through the historical monastery, and take plenty of pictures!