To truly comprehend the magnificence of Bagan — a massive plain of ancient Buddhist temples — it must be see from the air. When viewed from above in a hot air balloon, the 2,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas of Bagan resemble a mountain range. Yet upon closer look, the 26-square-mile site near the banks of the Ayeyarwady River is comprised of structures ranging from plant-covered ruins to the magnificent Ananda Temple. Situated in central Myanmar, Bagan is one of Asia’s most important archeological sites. Now, thanks to the recent easing of military rule in the nation formerly known as Burma, visitors can explore this vast landmark like never before. Today, Bagan is both breathtaking and serene, yet unspoiled by tourists.
Taking in the sheer spectacle of Bagan requires a full day. Of course, we’ll start by arranging that hot air balloon ride. Then, we’ll ensure you fully experience this epic site, from wandering quiet overgrown paths to visiting the most important historical structures, some of which date back to the 11th century. Buddhism flourished here at Bagan, and its’ estimated 13,000 temples once dotted the landscape. The region became a seat of power in the 9th century under King Anawraha, until it ultimately fell to the Mongols in 1287. Our guide will share the stories of his land and how they relate to the remaining temples. Here, as per Buddhist direction, every element of the temple architecture has a meaning: every carving, every spire and every stone. You’ll hear the stories, you’ll understand the meanings.
Discover the glazed frescos of Gubyaukgyi dating to the 13th century, and marvel at the vaulted cave temple of Htilo Minlo. Wander the ruins, and feel the past. Then, visit the Ananda Temple, which functions as a museum sharing the architecture, history and stories of the land. Our local guide will further impart the history and wisdom held in the architecture of Bagan. From a sunrise balloon ride to a carefully though-out spot for viewing sunset over the temples, your day in Bagan will stay with you long after your departure.
Of course, your exploration of Myanmar hits the must-see Bagan, but we’ll also take you to bustling cities and the gorgeous countryside. The trip begins in the south, where you’ll stay at the former home of the ruler of Burma’s southern states, now a fine hotel. Here in the capital city of Yangon, cast your eyes upon the gilded Sule Pagoda and it’s 200-foot-long reclining Buddha. Take in the gold-domed, diamond-, ruby- and sapphire-encrusted stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda, what some consider the world’s oldest pagoda and the uncontested favorite sunset viewing spot in Yangon.
After a short flight to the Inle Lake region, visit the surprising wine country of Myanmar. Boats are the primary mode of transportation here, and you’ll explore the region’s waters. Shopping, fishing and even housing all rely on the rivers. Here, feel ensconced in the community as our hotel sits on stilts above the waters, nestled near rice paddies.
While the majestic Bagan and its 2,000 temples anchors our tour, the visit to Myanmar would not be complete without experiencing the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw. For centuries, elephants have helped locals manage their land and build their railways. Visit the retired elephants at this camp, and connect with these majestic animals with a ride through the forest.
An ancient land that’s becoming increasingly viable to Westerners, now’s the time for travelers to visit Myanmar, and especially Bagan, before tourism changes the cultural and physical landscape forever.
Read more about the sites and people of Myanmar.