Exploring the Temples in Bagan, Myanmar – Part 1
If you’re traveling to Myanmar, at some point you’ll find yourself at the Bagan Archaeological Zone and boy, will you be blown away! Thousands of temples, stupas, and pagodas within a 20 square mile radius, this site is the key to experiencing the true Myanmar and understanding the religious devotion of its people. Although your K25,000 ($18) entry fee will be valid for five days, you won’t get time to visit every single monument. So how do you choose which ones to see? Each religious site has a unique story to tell or provides views unlike anywhere else in the world! To help you decide and make the most of your time here are our top picks for the best temples in Bagan and which ones to visit.
1. Ananda Temple
The most beautiful and best-preserved temple in Bagan, Ananda Temple is one that lives up to its name! The architecture itself is reason enough to visit, from its glazed tile floors and glowing golden leaf exterior that makes it look white compared to the other reddish tinted temples. However, it's the remarkable Buddha sculptures that make this temple unique; standing face-to-face with the Buddhas they appear to be scowling, whilst when you continue to step back further and further they begin to smile until they are completely grinning.
In late December to early January, there's a huge festival on the Ananda Pagoda to celebrate the lives of local farmers. Expect mass camping on the plains from surrounding villages, local entertainment, and formal alms ceremonies!
2. Gawdawpalin Temple
One of the largest shrines of Bagan, the Gawdawpalin temple is famous for its history as the “temple of forgiveness.” Legend has it that the King committed crimes against his ancestors and in return was punished with blindness. This temple was then constructed to worship his ancestors in atonement and his sight was miraculously returned! As well as this pretty cool background, this double-storeyed temple is also fun to explore. Check out the secret passages on the ground floor that were revealed after an earthquake in 1975.
3. Dhammayangyi Temple
The ‘mama’ of all temples in Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple is impressive in both size and history. You can see its imposing pyramid structure from a distance or by ballooning over Bagan, but you will have to venture inside to experience its full effect. Full of long narrow corridors with extremely high ceilings, you will feel insignificant walking through this mammoth monument. Built by the demands of a tyrant King who killed his own father, brother, and queen, as well as countless slaves, locals believe the temple is haunted by his sins.
4. Sein Nyet Sister Temples
Although not the biggest or tallest or architecturally beautiful, the Sein Nyet Sister Temples are the perfect place to go to avoid the tourist crowds and appreciate the sacred temples in a natural setting. Surrounded by a low brick wall, the monuments stand by slightly overgrown grass ready for you to take them as they are.