A trip to Bagan, Myanmar would not be complete without a morning watching the sun peak over the mountains and dye the sky a rainbow of colors. After watching a magical sunrise, a good sunset is also a must! On my recent trip, I spent lots of time researching where to watch the sunrise and sunset that would give me unforgettable views without a ton of people pushing me out the way. Below you will find a list of some of the best spots including a relatively unknown one!
Best for both Sunrise and Sunset!
1) Ta Wet Hpaya: The Secret Temple
I stumbled across this temple while riding my ebike through the dusty roads searching for a great temple I could climb (my favorite thing to do in Bagan after watching sunrises or sunsets was climbing temples as high as I could go!). There was literally no one there when I arrived on a sunny afternoon, and I spent hours exploring every nook and cranny. The temple is well situated in the middle of the Bagan archaeological zone, making it a great place for both sunrise and sunset! If you manage to get up early enough, you will only share the sunrise with a few other explorers (the same goes for the sunset). I found this temple at the very end of my time in Bagan, so unfortunately I did not get to witness the sunrise, but the location can’t be beat and there won’t be crowds!
Getting There: This temple is a bit hard to find since it is well off the main road. The easiest way to get there is to drive your ebike as if going to Sulamani Temple. There is a small dirt road across from it that leads south and takes you to the secret temple. After parking, pass through the archway and enter the temple on the left side. The stairs up are on the left side inside the temple. Check the map below for the exact location. A dropped pin on google maps is helpful for navigating!
2) Thitsarwadi Temple: Close up of Ballons over Bagan
This small temple was quite close to my hotel and recommended for sunset but also turned out to be a cool spot for the sunrise. The day I decided to check this view out it was quite cloudy, so there were no magical colors. However, I discovered that many of the hot air balloons that rise over the archaeological zone fly right over this temple! This means you could get some great photos of the balloons and morning colors (if you are lucky and have no clouds!). I still loved watching the hot air balloons float slowly in my direction and eventually over my head. If you come here for sunset, you can get cool photos with the silhouette of a nearby pagoda that is topped with gold.
Getting There: This smaller temple is located off the main road leading from New Bagan to the bus station. If you are coming from New Bagan, it is just past Dhammayazika Pagoda (a very big golden pagoda that is impossible to miss). Look for a small sign that signals the turnoff. When you enter the temple, there are stairs up on either side.
3) Shwesandaw Pagoda: A Well Known Spot
Another place that is quite popular (for both sunrise and sunset) is Shwesandaw Pagoda. Although you will have to get there quite early for a good spot, this temple is popular for a reason. It gives uninterrupted views of the vast plain and is a great spot to watch the balloons slowly rise in the distance. Be prepared to fight for the chance to snap a photo as the tour buses almost all bring groups to this temple. If you get up early to secure a spot, your efforts will be well rewarded!
This pagoda is also popular for sunset, but I thought it was better as a sunrise spot since the parking lot with all the tour buses is quite visible during sunset but is hidden behind the temple during the sunrise. Nothing ruins a picture quite like a parking lot of cars and buses.
Getting There: Very easy to find (follow the crowds!). Just one turn off the main paved road. See the map below for exact location!
Best for just Sunrise!
4) Law Ka Ou Shaung: Stunning Sunrise views
A great spot for the sunrise is Law Ka Ou Shaung. This temple gives great sunrise views with the well known Shwesandaw Pagoda (see #3) in the background. I managed to get a spot high up on one of the higher levels that gave great views without anyones head (or camera) in my way. It took a bit of clambering and was a quite precarious position with a long drop if I had fallen – so be careful! There was a small crowd here, but nothing compared to some of the more well known sunrise spots. And people were quite gracious in moving out of the way for other people to take a photo.
Getting There: This temple can be accessed from two different directions. One way is to drive as if going to the popular Shwesandaw Pagoda and turn right on a small dirt road just past it. Follow this and Law Ka Ou Shaung will be on your right side. Alternatively, you could turn off the main road and drive from the opposite direction, with the pagoda being on your left side. Check the map below for specifics!
Best for just Sunset!
5) Pyathetgyi Pagoda: Popular Sunset Spot
This pagoda is well known but worth braving the crowds for the sunset views! I arrived well before the sunset and scored a great spot to watch the sun go down. While I waited, I got to see more of the locals life in Bagan when a huge herd of cows came by, led by a local; it was a lot of fun to see.
Because this pagoda is popular, you will see small shops selling souvenirs outside of it as well as cold drinks. After a hot day exploring, nothing beats watching a sunset with an ice cold coca cola.
Getting There: This pagoda is located pretty far into the plain and can only be accessed on dirt roads. These roads can be quite taxing on the battery of an ebike – if you are using one, make sure you have sufficient battery before venturing there!
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Been to Bagan? Where was your favorite place to watch the sunrise or the sunset?? Share in the comments below!