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How to Visit Bagan, Myanmar in One Day from Yangon: Our Experience
A couple of summers ago, we backpacked one of the most majestic places in the world, Bagan, Myanmar. Boasting over 2,000 ancient temples, it is a truly magical place that we still reminisce on fondly. With this large number of pagodas, one day in this world heritage site would seemingly not be enough. However, there is a way to maximize a full day where you can catch the sunrise, sunset and see plenty of temples without the need to book a hotel or Air Bnb on a tight itinerary.
With four nights in Myanmar penciled in and Bagan a must-see, we found that overnight buses would be a great option to make the trip north from Yangon. Not only would this option eliminate the need to find accommodations in Bagan, the bus itself would serve as our place to sleep for two nights! After doing some research, we saw favorable reviews for the JJ Bus, which left the Yangon bus terminal around 8PM, arriving in Bagan before sunrise. Timing was perfect, as we still had plenty of time to explore Yangon during the day. With the snarling traffic of the city, we allowed a few hours before the bus was scheduled to leave.
The Ride from Yangon to Bagan, Myanmar
Backpacks in tow, we arrived at Yangon Bus Terminal earlier than most of our fellow riders. Soon before the bus left, a small snack and bottle of water were given as refreshments for the long ride. The seats had a nice amount of legroom and with the jetlag from traveling east; it was easy to fall asleep. On the other hand, the one downside of this journey is that the rest stop was mandatory, so the driver woke us up and made us get off the bus. Fortunately, the stopover was only a couple of hours into the trip, so there was still plenty of time to get some much needed sleep before the day of temple climbing ahead of us!
A bit groggy after the 8 hour ride, we arrived at the bus terminal in Bagan with a pack of locals touting different services – car rides to the temple for sunrise, horse rides, e-bikes and full-day transportation. We resisted the initial offers and assessed the pricing for each option while also seeing what other people on the bus were doing. Many opted for bikes, e-bikes and horse-riding. If you prefer these options, be sure to bring a lot of wet wipes to keep clean on the mostly dirt roads.
After discussions with a few locals, we chose to take the full-day transport, which offered the best value and allowed us to store our backpacks in the trunk. Our guide for the day was a friendly local in his late teens who spoke English quite well.
Be patient when you arrive and get a sense for what the market is for each service.
Don’t jump at the first offer or feel pressured. Wait for everyone to disappear, prices will lower.
There are plenty of eager guides and it is to your advantage to shop around a bit.
Sunrise and Additional Destinations
Our first stop was to catch the famed sunrise over the temples, a MUST for every visit. We left our shoes at the base, climbed up waited and watched the sun’s glow slowly creep in amidst the howling winds of the morning. This sight alone was worth the 16 roundtrip hours on the bus.
After we visited a few temples, our driver asked if we would like to visit Mount Popa for an extra $10, an offer that we quickly accepted. This additional destination allowed us to see more of the towns and scenery on the way. In addition, we stopped at a coconut farm which specialized in crafting various coconut candies and other goodies. As we picked out a couple of bags to buy, we were treated to some fermented tea leaf salad with crunchy peanuts, our breakfast along with samples of the candy. Jumi was brushed with thanaka – a traditional Burmese paste made from ground tree bark used as a natural sunscreen, a common sight throughout the country.
As we drove up to Mount Popa, the skies became cloudier and temperatures cooler. Several monkeys roamed the grounds and climbed up the entrance to the temple. Never let your belongings out of your sight, as they can be quite aggressive! We removed our shoes and began walking up the smooth tiles that made up the walkway. However, after about ten minutes of walking, we decided to come back down to the entrance, as we wanted to conserve time and energy to explore more temples in Bagan. There was also the issue of our bare feet and monkey droppings that we wanted to avoid!
If you take the trip to Mount Popa, be prepared to remove your shoes for the duration of the trek to the top.
Ladies, wear appropriate clothing (no shorts)
There are plenty of monkeys along the way and you will need to dodge their droppings to get to the top
Back to Bagan
As we returned to the lower grounds of the old town, the sun re-appeared with a vengeance. The day became hotter and we became even happier with our choice to ride with our new friend in his air conditioned car! Exploration of more and more temples built up our hunger and we asked him for a lunch recommendation. Within minutes, he led us to a gem that specialized in a medley of curries that was full of locals enjoying. Months later, we recognized what looked like the same spot on the Myanmar episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Our final stop was to watch the sunset, which was a nice end to our marathon temple run day. Despite some cloud cover that muted the splendor compared to sunrise, the experience of sitting atop a structure that dates back hundreds of years was a calming and introspective one. Our guide took us back to the station ahead of our journey back south and we took good care of him with a nice tip, well-deserved for the outstanding hospitality.
We have expressed our desire to return to Bagan sometime in the near future, as it was one of the most memorable places that we visited over the past few years. Although we wouldn’t repeat this itinerary on the next trip, it was an excellent way to maximize the 12+ hours we spent in this magnificent site. This method is highly recommended if you are pressed for time like we were.
We went two years ago and likely a lot has changed . Please let us know of any major recent changes. Don’t forget to comment below and share this article.
Spent $77.50 each!
JJ Bus rountrip ticket- $40 (roundtrip) each; Bagan tour + Mount Popa – $30 each; Food- $5 for two people; Local Guide Tip- $5 each
Let your friends know a day-trip to Bagan is possible 🙂
Stay tuned for our guide to local eats in Yangon!
Thank you for reading! ☼
Great pictures! Looks like you had a lot of fun. Sunrise (and sunset) over the temples is definitely something I would want to do.
Thank you! We really did – Burma is fascinating and Bagan in particular. You definitely should if you can!
I have never visited Myanmar before but it looks wonderful. Exploring Bagan temple must have been such a lovely experience. Thanks for sharing all the useful tips and info its good to know that its quite easy to get to. Those kind of night buses are always a bit harsh but that coach looked pretty decent and I bet the journey was worth it.
Thanks for reading and glad you found the tips helpful. The bus wasn’t bad at all, but our jet lag sure helped us sleep easier than usual on it! Definitely well worth the journey
Sunrise and sunset at Bagan look phenomenal. I got to experience this once in Tikal, and it was the highlight of the trip for sure. There is no time that you feel more connected with a place, than when you can watch day turn into night, or vice versa. Seeing it in every light and hearing every sound leave an indelible memory that can last a lifetime.
So well said! The howling of the winds at sunrise will stick with us. Tikal must be an amazing experience too – hope to visit someday!
Hearing about road trip to Bangan for the first time. Love the view of the temples at sunrise.
Wondering if there are trains rather than bus ride for people who are averse to bus trips?
The sunset and sunrise are truly spectacular! There is a train option, but we read that it takes twice the amount of time as the bus.
What a fascinating culture! And I loved your tips, especially the fact that one shouldn’t jump at the first offer, so right!
Bagan was a fascinating place for sure! Considering that we did Angkor Wat a few days later, it was a big difference! Waiting a bit allowed us to meet a great guide
Great post! I regret not having made time to visit Bagan when I lived in SE Asia and I’m hoping to make it there this year! Thanks for the tips 🙂
Thanks for the kind words! Hopefully you can leverage some of these tips this year. Bagan is a must!
Thank you for sharing this infomative post about Bagan Temples of Myanmar. I really enjoyed reading this post of yours, thanks for the tips! I really love the photos, thay are all amazing. Watching sunrise and sunset peacefully while sitting and taking some photos while witnessing the sun’s beauty is such a perfect way to start and end this trip, it looks so relaxing.
Thanks for reading! It was truly a special trip and the journey round trip was worthwhile!
Bagan is a really fascinating place. The temples have a timeless beauty and sunrise over the temples seems like a magical experience.. I did not know that you could do Bagan as a day trip. There are some really invaluable tips that you have provided. Hope to go there someday and this would be invaluable.
This is certainly a magica place I’d love to see the temples.
It is a magical place indeed! Hope you get to visit and explore the temples.
SO great to have posts like these to help people squeeze in another sight on a tight itenirary! Great tips!
Thank you! It is a bit less orthodox, but there are always people looking to fit in as much as they can into tight time frames
Wow! Bagan looks amazing! Great post! I’m adding it to my list.
Thanks a lot! Great choice – hope you get to visit
Such useful tips! Thank you so much, especially the bit about appropriate attire for women. There’s nothing worse than sticking out like a sore thumb.
Glad you found them useful! It is a crucial point for sure
It is so great to find a great guide to take you through such an iconic location. It sounds like the side trip to Mount Popa was great, and the coconut candies sound great. I might visit just for the candies. What an experience to see Bagan at sunrise and sunset.
2000 temples would certainly keep you busy for the day! Stepping around monkey poo in bare feet is certainly an adventure (hope you made it through ok). I love visiting places with as much history as here. Watching the sun rise and set would be magical.
Wow, 16 total hours on a bus for just one day?! I would definitely need a rest day in Bagan.
Unfortunately, that’s all the time we had! Crazy, we know. But, it was well worth all of that travel.
Bagan is an amazing place, you managed to fit a lot in your day trip too. We would be terrible with day trips, I would definitely be sneaking off and trying to stay for longer!
Ideally, a longer trip is the way to go. We didn’t have the time, but would love to go back and enjoy it more slowly.
Very detailed post . And valuable tips . Loved the dont wear shorts & dont jump on the first offer 🙂
Hope you had a great time!
Thank you! Those two tips are key for this type of visit. We definitely had an incredible time
Is amazing 2000 temples. Só much to see and learn…. I love Ásia so i need to visit this place too 😉
For sure! Highly recommend visiting
That’s awesome. Im checking out now how to squeeze my 4 day trip in myanmar. After reading your blog i might be doing the same thing as you did. Because is always in my bucket list. Unfortunately i only have 4 days in october. Thanks. Really helpful blog.
Thank you so much! Glad you found our post useful. It is a short time and ideally you would be able to spend more, but it is enough to create lots of great memories. It is such a beautiful country and well worth fitting into even four days. Burma will remain a pleasant memory for us until we go back, which we definitely will!
Perfect! I am tired of everybody descouraging us: “Bagan in 1 day- IMPOSSIBLE!”. Super adventures, so well described. We will go there for vlogging, I am still searching for an overnight transportation from Thandwe to Bagan 😉 Cheers!