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On the beautiful banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, Bagan is a magical place of misty plains sprouting the largest concentration of Buddhist temples, stupas and pagodas in the world. This is an 'area', rather than a town, covering around 26 square miles, but the original village, now called Old Bagan, and the new centre, New Bagan, are the best places to stay in Bagan if you want to be right in amongst the magic of the monuments.
Some of Bagan's beautiful structures date from the 11th Century, with the area being added to over the decades. Photos of Bagan show many spires and domes - like inverted ice cream cones, but each monument is different with its own shape and significance to Buddhist thinking. Part of the magic of the place is the wonderful red of the temples, which is actually the exposed brick, visible now that much of the original stucco has eroded. So there's a feeling of graceful decay, added to by the plants growing in and out of the temples and squirrels scampering all over the place.
Bagan is often compared to Angkor, the main difference being that Bagan's monuments are spread out over a much greater area, though not hidden by jungle, so your view is always full of more great temples, stupas and pagodas.
Ananda Pahto, with its gold cladding, is one of the largest, at 170feet tall, and best preserved of Bagan's monuments. Dhammayangyi Pahto, is another of the largest, and best preserved temples, but this one is also famous for its grizzly history - workers who didn't produce masonry that fitted so perfectly that a pin could not pass between the stones supposedly had their arms amputated just inside the west entrance where there are arm shaped groves in the walls. Shwesandaw Paya is white, pyramid shaped pagoda worth visiting because it also offers one of the best views of the whole region.
New Bagan and Old Bagan are linked by good paved roads, but the area around them is littered with bumpy dirt tracks out to one or other of the temples, stumps or pagodas. Both centres are large villages, and aren't really set up for nightlife.
Our pick of the best places to stay in Bagan features properties in both New and Old Bagan, so there's something for everyone, wherever you choose to be.
For excellent value
- Bagan Thande is right in the heart of Old Bagan, on the Ayeyarwady River, surrounded by 27 acres of beautiful tropical gardens. The Bagan Thande first opened in 1922, to welcome King Edward, and is extremely comfortable and beautifully decorated. There are 92 rooms, ideally located to see the best of Bagan's archaeological treasures.
For New Bagan
- The Bagan Lodge, in New Bagan, is also a new hotel, with 82 rooms and all the mod. cons. including a large spa with a long menu and a the sort of looked after feeling you get from a luxury safari camp.
- The Areindmar Hotel, also in New Bagan, is an elegant, 50 room hotel, built around a beautiful, acacia filled garden. You're well located for exploring the town, but this hotel is also full of its own charms, like antiques, wooden sleigh-beds, and traditional lacquerware.
Best Hotels in Bagan
Bagan Thande 92 rooms from $100Archeological Zone, Old Bagan
A picturesque hotel set in 27 acres of tropical gardens, right on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River – with a swimming pool and spa to boot.Sights nearby - Ideally situated to make the most of Bagan's archaeological sites.Country EscapeViews - Some of the rooms have views over the Ayeyarwady River.Swimming Pool - Outdoor pool
Bagan Lodge 82 rooms from $164New Bagan
Opened in 2013, this is one of the newest and best places to stay in the temple city. Great service and beautifully designed – this is a slick operation.Sights nearby - Archaeological sites, temples, pagodas on your doorstep.Spa - Eight treatment rooms with a range of massage and beauty therapies on offer.Swimming Pool - 20x0m outdoor pool
Areindmar Hotel 50 rooms from $195New Bagan
A charming, antique-filled bolthole tucked away on a quiet, dusty street in New Bagan. A peaceful place to put your feet up and relax after a day’s temple-hopping.Sights nearby - Ideally situated for exploring the ancient temples and pagodas of Bagan.Swimming Pool - Outdoor pool