Out of approximately 40 temples I explored, here are the top five temples in Bagan for sunrise and sunset that you can climb up for an elevated view. I have never been to a country where information becomes so dated so rapidly. All of the blogs, maps, and books I read about temples in Bagan were already out of date, so I hope this is helpful while it lasts. One thing that should remain the same is that the best time of year to visit Bagan is in October, before it gets too dry and the dust makes the air (and your photographs) hazy.
Disclaimer: Climbing up most temples is now officially forbidden, as the stamp on the back of your ticket will likely attest. I do not advocate violating these regulations, and, of course, you do so at your own risk. (I heard that the new, heightened restrictions are due to an American tourist dying from injuries after falling off of a temple at sunset in November 2017. Similarly, foreigners are no longer allowed to overnight at Mount Zwegabin because a French tourist committed suicide there, also in 2017; not that staying overnight necessarily has anything to do with committing suicide, and people can just as easily do so during the daytime, but that’s government logic for you.)
Best Temples in Bagan for Sunrise:
The greatest concentration of temples is in Old Bagan, so the general rule of thumb is that the most scenic sunrise views are found in the west of Old Bagan, looking east. (Or from a hot air balloon.) For sunset, the opposite is true: You want to be east of the temples, looking west.
Best Temples in Bagan for Sunset:
Other tips for Bagan:
- In dry season, bring eye drops or goggles as you navigate the dusty roads.
- A face mask is useful for the dust and exhaust (like much of Asia).
- Wear sandals (“thongs” for you Aussies) for ease of taking off /putting on visit the temples.
- Bring a headlamp for exploring dark temples and navigating in the dark before sunrise & after sunset.
- Bring a jacket for sunrise/sunset as it gets chilly when the sun isn’t out.
- Instead of an e-bike, take it slow at least one day and use a bicycle to visit the temples nearest you.
- If you can afford it, stay in old Bagan as it’s most central to the most temples.
- If you want to interact with locals, they tend to live in new Bagan.
- Don’t buy things from kids (or give them money), as this incentivizes them to skip or drop out of school.