Pagan is a priceless archaeological site with 2,000 temples and pagodas, spread out over 25 miles. The city was founded in the IXth century and the building of the temples and pagodas started in the XIth century, under the reign of Anawratha. Two centuries later, over 1,000 more were built. In the old district of Pagan you'll find Ananda temple, one of the oldest and most impressive, Nath Laung Kyaug temple, dedicated to Vishnu and the only Hindu temple in the country, Thatbyinnyu temple, the highest monument of the site, and Mahabodi pagoda, of original architecture, surrounded by niches holding sitting Buddhas and a nat frieze. Beside those archaeological gems, do not miss out on the laquerware workshops (Pagan is the capital city for Burmese laquerware) and cheerot workshops (Burmese cigars).
Watch the sunrise and sunset from the top of one of the temples of Pagan, such as the Pya Tha Gyi Temple, or from the terrace of the Thatbyinnyu Temple, the highest in Pagan. The most beautiful sunset can be seen from the top of the Damayazaka Temple, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the temples and stupas of the Bagan plains. You can also take a hot-air balloon ride over the Bagan plains at sunrise, and we recommend taking a cruise on the Irrawaddy, it's simply magical! If you have the time, take a trip to Mount Popa, 31 miles from Pagan. At 1518m high, this ancient volcano is the 'Mount Olympus' of Burma and a place of pilgrimage where people come to honour the Nats, the spirits of good and evil.
In the old district of Pagan, worth mentionning are Ananda Temple, one of the oldest and most impressive; the Nathlaung Kyaung Temple, dedicated to Vishnu and the only Hindu temple in the country; the Thatbyinnyu Temple, the highest monument on the site; and Mahabodi Pagoda with its original architecture, surrounded by niches containing sitting Buddhas and a frieze of Nats.
In this country, you will be taken on a journey back in time, where the oxcart is still used as a means of transport (you will see many of them in Pagan), and where trips are made by small plane (Air Mandalay ATR 72) to compensate for the lack of actually navigable roads! You thus arrive at Pagan by plane from Yangon (1 hour flight), but another great way to reach the city is by taking the famous cruise on the Irrawaddy, the 'Road-to-Mandalay'!
Take precautions and always tell your loved ones where you're going: it is not always easy to contact them. Internet access is unpredictable and mobile phone networks are often non-existent.
Don't forget to take mosquito repellent and a soothing cream, and be aware that it is particularly hot in Pagan.
The monsoon season, which runs from May to October, and more specifically May to July, as the heat is unbearable. The best season is from November to January, and especially November for taking the best pictures!
You will find dishes from £22. The most common dish is fish served with Burmese-style fried rice and vegetables. The national dish (mohinga) is made with fish, noodles, coriander and onion. There are also many different prawn and seafood dishes, and the main seasonings used are curry, coconut, garlic and chilli. Vegetables are the basis of most soups. As far as desserts are concerned, you should try the coconut flavoured semolina cakes and banana cakes.
Burmese subsoil is rich in ruby, sapphire and opal. In the jewellery shops, you will find very beautiful and affordable pieces. However, beware of fake gems! The handicrafts are beautiful and varied: lacquerware, puppets, bronze Buddhas and musicians, and silver objects, such as boxes, vases and goblets. Taking antiques and ancient religious objects out of the country is prohibited. Make sure you don't leave without a few cheerots, hand-made Burmese cigars. In Pagan, the lacquerware workshops (Pagan is the capital of Burmese lacquerware) and cheerot workshops are not to be missed.