The Secret Ancient City of Bagan in Myanmar is No Longer Forgotten

Bagan | © Andrew JK Tan/Flickr
Tiffany Teng

Bagan was once Myanmar’s best-kept secret, but today there’s never a day when it isn’t packed with tourists coming to explore this unique, magical place of ‘a thousand temples’. The sunsets and sunrises are transcendental, there is plenty of local culture to experience and a hot-air balloon ride might just be one of the most memorable travel experiences of your life.

For a few years now, Bagan has been increasing in popularity among travelers seeking an off-the-beaten path destination. Though it is not the secret ancient city it once was, it is now Myanmar’s gem. Revered by many, it is adored by tourists who use words like magical, life changing, meditative and inspiring. Something about watching the sun rise and set atop a dusty brick temple brings out these emotions in people.

The temples of Bagan

Besides visiting the popular pagodas there are many temples that are great to climb for their views, to meditate on or just on which to sit to engage in deep conversations with your fellow travelers. With hundreds of temples to choose from, it feels like being an intrepid explorer when you finally find one without any other tourists. That doesn’t mean that these temples are always peaceful— it’s good fun to stumble on those full of local kids screaming with delight and running around on the brick floors.


Something that has made this place extra magical is the addition of hot-air balloons. There are few things more romantic than watching 20 balloons emerge from a corner and float up into the sky. And that’s just from down below. Photographers go crazy for the unparalleled views from the balloons. To see a hot-air balloon sunrise, or pay the few hundred dollars to ride one yourself, you’ll have to visit Bagan during peak season: October to March. The main companies are Balloons Over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning and both charge similar prices.

If you get the chance to come to this place, you won’t regret it. Bagan truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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