By Mabel Collins
In the veiled embrace of time and whispers of ancient stories lies a city frozen in the mystic dance between history and legend. Nestled along the banks of the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, Old Bagan unfolds like a mesmerizing tapestry woven with the threads of antiquity. This ancient city, a treasure trove of architectural splendor and spiritual resonance, holds within its embrace a timeless legacy that speaks volumes of a bygone era.
In this blog, we will explore the Old Bagan ancient city. This can be seen as a travel guide for travelers on what to visit, when, and anything else before traveling.
About Old Bagan
Old Bagan ancient city - Spanning over 26 square miles, this archaeological wonderland boasts over 2,000 well-preserved pagodas, and temples, each bearing the imprints of an empire's grandeur and the fervor of religious dedication. The whispers of the past seem to linger in the air, mingling with the gentle rustle of leaves and the distant chants of monks, creating an ambiance that transcends mere sightseeing, offering instead a journey through the heart of a civilization steeped in reverence and resilience. Now, we are going to flip back the history of all Old Bagan temples and why Old Bagan was built!
Old Bagan history
Old Bagan, once the thriving capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, flourished as a cultural and religious center from the 9th to the 13th centuries. This ancient city became a testament to the devotion of its rulers to Theravada Buddhism. The era marked an unprecedented architectural renaissance, birthing over 10,000 religious structures across its sprawling plains. These edifices, ranging from simple stupas to ornate temples, reflected a fusion of diverse architectural influences, showcasing the craftsmanship and spiritual dedication of the builders.
The whole view of Old Bagan city
Why was Old Bagan built?
The city's creation served multifaceted purposes, encompassing political, religious, and economic significance. Its establishment centralized power, allowing rulers to govern and administer the kingdom more efficiently while leveraging the river for trade and commerce, fostering economic growth and cultural exchange. However, the city's significance transcended governance and commerce; it stood as a testament to the fervent embrace of Theravada Buddhism by the rulers.
The construction of thousands of temples, pagodas, and monasteries was not merely an architectural feat but a symbolic demonstration of religious devotion and the accumulation of spiritual merit by the rulers, shaping the cultural identity of the kingdom.
Old Bagan Facts
Old Bagan, an archaeological wonderland nestled in the heart of Myanmar, is a treasure trove of intriguing history, cultural richness, and architectural marvels. So let’s find out what are some interesting facts about the Old Bagan? This might explain the city's popularity among tourists.
Here are some details about the area.
1. Bagan is first known as the 'sea of temples'. The Bagan Archaeological Zone stands as the primary attraction for tourists visiting the city, often compared favorably to Cambodia's Angkor Wat.
2. Bagan earned the affectionate moniker, 'sea of temples,' boasting over 2,200 temples and pagodas today, a mere fraction of the estimated 10,000 structures that once graced its landscape, each devoted to Buddha.
3. Bagan combines the culinary expertise of Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines, resulting in some of Asia's finest dishes.
4. The historical origins of Bagan are somewhat debated, with the 'Burmese chronicles' citing its establishment around 100 AD, though many historians argue for its founding in the 9th century, given the scarcity of evidence before then. This is maybe why tourists and historians want to visit this mysterious site.
5. Bagan's downfall in 1287 AD came after Mongol invasions, leading to a significant decline in the city's population.
6. Exploring the narrow streets among the temples offers a captivating experience, but the city's true splendor is often best captured from the vantage point of a hot air balloon, offering unparalleled views of this magnificent landscape.
Old Bagan is one of the most visited places among travelers
How can travelers get around the Old Bagan temples?
The entrance fee for the Old Bagan region amounts to 25,000 Kyats or an equivalent of 20 USD/EUR (According to 2024).
Both currencies are accepted, but considering the prevailing exchange rates, using Myanmar Kyats might be the most economical choice. The ticket grants access to all the temples in Burma and remains valid for five days.
Myanmar upholds conservative values, and Bagan, renowned as the city of temples, adheres to certain dress codes. Inside the larger temples, it's customary to cover knees and shoulders, although wearing shorts that extend to the knees is acceptable.
Conversely, many smaller temples in Bagan are unmanned and typically do not enforce a specific dress code. In these instances, revealing shoulders might be permissible, but it's advisable to carry a sarong for coverage if required.
Way to explore the Old Bagan ancient city
Walking remains the most intimate way to explore Old Bagan. Travelers can wander through the narrow paths, discovering hidden temples, capturing intricate details, and experiencing the city's serene ambiance. Guides or self-guided tours allow for flexibility, enabling visitors to delve deeper into the rich history at their own pace.
Horse Cart Rides
For a more leisurely and traditional experience, horse cart rides offer a charming way to explore Old Bagan. Travelers can relax in these nostalgic carts, letting the horses guide them through the ancient pathways while absorbing the serene beauty and grandeur of the temples.
Travelers can hire a horse cart to travel around the Old Bagan temples
E-bike or Bicycle Rentals
Renting e-bikes or bicycles provides a convenient and adventurous way to traverse the vast expanse of Old Bagan. With the freedom to navigate the temples and pagodas independently, travelers can explore off-the-beaten-path sites, relishing the freedom of discovery while enjoying the gentle breeze and stunning vistas.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
An extraordinary way to witness the panoramic splendor of Old Bagan is through hot air balloon rides. Floating gently above the temples during sunrise or sunset provides a breathtaking bird's-eye view, offering unparalleled vistas of the sprawling cityscape and the Ayeyarwady River.
Where to stay?
Three distinct towns encircle the temples in Bagan, Myanmar, yet their characteristics bear striking resemblances.
Old Bagan features pricier options with upscale hotels and hosts several renowned Burma temples. Meanwhile, New Bagan offers numerous budget-friendly and mid-range accommodation choices, boasting easily accessible temples. Nyaung-U, on the other hand, offers the most affordable lodging options and a plethora of dining establishments. It's home to NYU Airport and the Nan Myint Tower, an ideal spot for catching breathtaking sunset views.
Best time to visit Old Bagan temples
The ideal time to visit Bagan's temples in Myanmar is during the cooler, drier months from November to February. This period offers pleasant weather with lower humidity, perfect for exploring the temples comfortably. The clear skies during this time also provide exceptional views of the sunrise and sunset over the temple-filled landscape.
Travelers can visit Old Bagan anytime in the year
Old Bagan stands as an exceptional testament to human creativity, devotion, and resilience. Its rich tapestry of history, spirituality, and architectural brilliance offers a glimpse into a bygone era while retaining a mystical allure that transcends time. Preserving this treasure trove of ancient heritage for future generations remains a shared responsibility—a commitment to honoring the past and embracing the cultural legacy that defines the essence of Old Bagan. As the sun sets over the pagodas, one can't help but feel the weight of centuries of history and the enduring spirit of a place that remains eternally magnificent.
This season is the perfect time to visit the Old Bagan ancient city. Let’s apply for a Myanmar e-visa and start your trip right now! Check your qualifications in order to know that you are eligible for this type of visa.