Lured by the famous Bagan sunset and sunrise, busloads of tourists arrive each day, phones and cameras ready at hand, intent on taking the perfect photograph. The real question is: where is the best spot to see these marvelous phenomena without the press of people?
Sunsets and sunrises are incredible to behold, but more so if you witness them unfold over the mesmerizing city of Bagan. Imagine the sun casting hues of gold, orange, and purple on a vast plain dotted with magnificent temples silhouetted against the horizon. From a distance, the mighty Irrawaddy River flows past, completing the surreal feel of the atmosphere.
Read on to discover the top seven places to watch the glorious sunrise and sunset in Bagan.
1# Bagan Temple for Sunset
There was a time when tourists could freely climb the temples to watch sunrises and sunsets. However, as of January 2018, most temples, many of which date back to the 11th and 13th centuries, were closed for preservation, making them off-limits to visitors to Myanmar. Some temples have undergone renovation, allowing visitors to ascend the terraces for the coveted sunrise or sunset view.
The problem is masses of tourists often swarm these spots. If you don’t mind sharing space with others, you can head to Lawkananda Stupa, located on the bank of the Irrawaddy River, or to Bulethi Stupa, whose hilltop location provides a 360 view of the countryside.
When the more impressive temples are closed, the spotlight shifted to the smaller, less-frequented ones, including Ta Wet Phaya, North Guni, and Shwegu Gyi Phaya. But, if you’re looking for undiscovered Bagan sunrise or sunset views, be sure to follow the off the beaten path. After all, you are in Bagan, home to over 3000 temples – not all of them have a name or found on any map. With myriads of temples dotting the plains, there are surely structures tucked away in the remoter parts of the region, accessible only on foot via narrow dirt roads and waiting for adventurous explorers to discover.
2# Bagan River Cruise: Bagan Sunset
Watching a Bagan sunset on a cruise along the Irrawaddy River is an experience you definitely should not miss. Onboard a boat, you don’t have to jostle with the crowd for viewing space. Here, you have an unobstructed panorama of the skies becoming purplish pink and the river turning an intense shade of orange and gold as the sun sinks behind it.
Except for a few riverside temples, there are not many grand structures to see. But the unassuming yet paradoxically dramatic scenery is as incredible as the sight of pagodas glinting in the sunlight. While the boat glides along the Irrawaddy, you will discover rustic villages, wooden houses on stilts, locals washing in the river, and fascinating abundant wildlife.
3# Flying on a Balloon
If you think sunrise in Bagan is breathtaking, wait until you see it while hovering over the plains in a hot-air balloon. Most balloon rides in Bagan are scheduled early in the morning for two reasons.
First, the cooler temperature lets the balloons glide closer to the ancient pagodas, enabling the visitors a detailed look at the intricate craftsmanship. Second, daybreak creates a hauntingly stunning picture of the landscape and bathes it in multitudes of colors and silvery mists. The cost of a balloon ride is expensive but is worth it. After a balloon ride over Bagan, you can rightfully claim you have experienced the best sunrises in the world.
4# Viewing Mounds Bagan
Hunting for the best place to watch sunrise or sunset in Bagan has become a lot trickier following the closure of several temples. Consequently, artificial mounds have become alternative viewing platforms for many tourists.
One frequently visited artificial mound is located near the Su Lar Ma-Ni pagodas and another around the 13th century Ko Mouk Lake. The downside is hundreds of people climb the man-made hills. And where tourists go, vendors follow, making the mounds packed with individuals elbowing each other for space.
Still, these elevated spots offer an undeniably enchanting panorama of the sun sinking or rising over the horizon. They are also a convenient option for those who lack the time or determination to explore the far-flung temples. While you cannot have the mounds entirely to yourself, you can still visit during daybreak when the site is relatively quieter as Bagan sunrise viewings attract fewer tourists.
5# Aureum Palace Hotel Swimming Pool
How does a perfect sunrise look? Think of a golden orb rising from an expansive skyline, then add to the image a cluster of hot-air balloons taking flight, and you get a scene so stunning, it seems unreal. Except, it does exist – and you can enjoy this incredible view unfold from the swimming pool of the Aureum Palace Hotel, one of the region’s most luxurious hotels.
This hotel offers mesmerizing sunrise and sunset views in Bagan. However, the sunrises are made extra special by the brightly colored balloons floating past golden pagodas. Take note that you need to have accommodations at the hotel to be able to have a private viewing.
6# Bagan Hotel River View
You can add a bit of romantic flair to your adventure by having a sunset dinner at the Bagan Hotel River View. The hotel boasts of an outdoor restaurant that overlooks the Irrawaddy River. From here, you have an unhindered view of the enthralling Bagan sunset.
The restaurant is surrounded by a lush tropical garden teeming with sweet smelling flowers and giant tamarind and teak trees. Within the vicinity are must-see landmarks, including the Gawdawpalin Pagoda and the Archaeological Museum. You can head straight to the restaurant for a sumptuous meal after a long day of touring Bagan.
7# On a horse ride
Do you ever wonder how the royals traveled around Bagan during the ancient times? In a horse-drawn cart, of course! Riding in a carriage allows you to feel like royalty as you traverse from one enthralling site to another and witness the spectacular Bagan sunrise from different points of view.
Let your guide help you find prime spots for taking pictures. You can strike a pose on a grassy field with balloons soaring over gleaming stupas in the background or capture the dancing prisms of the rising sun from the top of a watchtower in a secluded part of the plain. Horse rides and Bagan sunrises are sure to provide you with countless photo opportunities that will immortalize your stay in Bagan.