In central Burma sits the city of Bagan, one of the Earth’s most tremendous archeological sites and a landscape that rivals the beauty of Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. And for now, at least, not many people know about it.
The setting is serene, with a flourishing 26 square-mile flatland, partially covered in palm trees and tamarind. The bend of the slow-streaming Irrawaddy River sits beneath the faint sliver of mountains in the distance.
Bagan’s temples, a symbol of beauty and stature
Billowing from the flatlands are hundreds of temples and other gorgeous, out-of-this-world statues and silhouettes that were built almost a millennium ago between 1057 and 1287 A.D. by the kings of Bagan.
The flurry of construction came to a halt when earthquakes and an invasion by Kublai Khan devastated the kingdom, but over 2,000 of the original 4,000 temples still stand. They are the legacy of a Buddhist belief that merit was earned by the building of such temples.
Take a balloon ride
The ideal way to see the temples for the first time is from the vantage point of a hot-air balloon. You can book a flight that lasts roughly 45 minutes, and I recommend going at sunset, when you can drift over Bagan and see the breathtaking orange-yellow hues cast upon the river, mountains and temples.
There are a few different privately owned balloon companies that will take you on your journey for the price of roughly $330 per person. Flights are dependent on the weather though, so keep that in mind as you plan your trip.
Best time to visit Bagan
Bagan, Myanmar experiences very hot temperatures, so your window of time to visit with a comfortable climate is closing soon! But you should plan a trip for next Winter anyway, as many balloon and horseback tours of the city tend to book months in advance.