The capital of Myanmar’s first dynasty was constructed by King Anawrahta in 1044 - Bagan. It is situated about 193 km south of Mandalay. There are over 2000 temples and stupas spreading in forty-two square kilometers of desert-like plain on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River.

Watching sunrise in Bagan with the hot air ballons rising in the sky.
Photo by Sébastien Goldberg / Unsplash

All those red bricks and stucco religious monuments were built during the eleventh to the thirteenth century. The temple has impressive architecture, amazingly fine mural or frescos pictures, brilliant stucco carvings, and the most elegant Buddha pictures. Those show motifs of the sublime culture of the old Bagan dynasties.

In its heydays, within the 2 centuries from 1057 and until the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan overran and destroyed most of it in 1287, over 13,000 temples and other spiritual structures had been built around Bagan. You may not be able to cover even a small percentage of what's left, however during your stay, you will be ready to visit a number of the best and most renowned ones.

Photo by Ye Linn Wai / Unsplash

Among pagodas and temples valuable visiting are Shwezigon Pagoda, a prototype of later Myanmar stupas, Wetkyi-in Gubyaukkyi Temple with fine mural paintings of Jataka scenes, Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi, a huge temple with the best brickwork, Manuha Temple with large Buddha pictures, a captive king’s impression of life in jail, Nanpaya, with the finest stone carvings, Thatbyinnyu, the highest of Bagan temples, and Bupaya pagoda on the brink of majestic Ayeyarwaddy river, Lawkahteikpan temple with mural paintings and ink inscriptions; and in the evening, sunset from your riverside building.

Further exploration of Bagan, visit the local market in Nyaung U and one of the numerous workshops that make the renowned Bagan lacquerware and if time permits before lunch, a number of pagodas, and temples leftover from the day before.