Bagan Temples: A guide to 5 little-known temples and secret passageways to sunrise spots blissfully devoid of tourists.

Marco Polo called the Bagan temples “one of the finest sites in the world,” and this capital city of the ancient Burmese kingdom is surreal. Perhaps the most aggressive construction project the world has ever seen was churning out temples at the rate of almost 2 a month.

The Bagan temples are actually just thin shells that house massive golden Buddha statues in every one like enormous Russian Matryoshka dolls. Each has barely enough air to breathe.

Half the fun of exploring Bagan is searching through some of the over 4000 remaining temples scattered across the sacred plain and finding seemingly undiscovered temples, secret passageways to hidden floors and sunrise spots that only the monkeys know about. Here are a few places to check out that you will likely miss if you get stuck in the tour group circuit.

Bagan Temples: Lawkaoushaung Temple (A on the map)

Best for sunrise. This beautiful temple just West of the towering Shwesandaw Pagoda that is dripping with package tourists at sunrise has second and third floor patios that hover above the tree line for spectacular 360 degree views of the Myinkaba plain shrouded in early morning mist.

Bagan Temples: Lawkaoushaung Temple in Bagan is one of the best places to watch the sunrise.

Lawkaoushaung Temple in Bagan is one of the best places to watch the sunrise.

If you show up at 5am, you will have to find the little key holder who lives in a hut just behind the temple. He will show you how to get upstairs. Your reward will be to experience the sunrise without a single tourist in sight.

Bagan Temples: The boy key holder to this secret sunrise spot

This little boy is the keyholder to the Lawkaoushaung Temple.

Bagan Temples: North Guni Temple (B on the map)

This undervisited temple has some of the best sunset views of the ancient metropolis of Bagan. See if you can find your way through the hidden passages all the way to the 7th floor (I promise it’s there). You will have to exhale to make it through a few tight spots.

North Guni Temple sits in the shadows behind the cursed Dhammayangyi Temple in Bagan

North Guni Temple sits in the shadows behind the cursed Dhammayangyi Temple in Bagan

For more pictures taken with my iPhone, click here: Top 10 Ultra High Res iPhone pics

Old Bagan

I know what you’re thinking, avoiding crowds in Old Bagan? Yes! Just after your sunrise pictures, you have a few hours before the tourist hoards transform this peaceful village into a souvenir town. You can catch the morning meditation, the locals preparing their boats, and the cutest little Buddhist monks collecting their daily food donations from the community. Many people forget that Bagan remains a living religious site and one of the most important pilgrimages for Buddhists.

Little Monks in training in Old Bagan.  This will be their only meal of the day.

Little Monks in training in Old Bagan. This will be their only meal of the day.

Bagan Temples: Pathada Temple (C on the map)

This temple has an outdoor Buddha that faces the sunset. A rare opportunity to capture Buddha with his surroundings.

Buddha facing the sunset at Pathada Temple Bagan

Buddha facing the sunset at Pathada Temple Bagan

Bagan Temples: Gawdawpalin Temple

This is an epic temple that would make Camelot jealous, with some of the biggest Buddha statues around. Problem is, the entire ground floor has been turned into a sprawling souvenir market complete with flashing neon lights and you cannot go upstairs.

Head out the gates to the south and you will find a forgotten temple with majestic views of Gawdapalin with trees covering all of the stalls selling trinkets. The keyholder can help you find all 4 levels.

The Temple just South of Gawdawpalin gives majestic views of the towering Temple.

The Temple just South of Gawdawpalin gives majestic views of the towering Temple.

Map of these Temples

You will probably get a map that shows the 15 or so most popular temples, so this can help you find these excellent places hidden just off the paths to the main attractions.

Bagan temple map showing crowd free temples Bagan temple map showing crowd free temples

 

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About the author: Brad Bernard

 

Brad Bernard has traveled through 89 countries to find off-the-map experiences and authentic adventure travel. He pushes his own personal boundaries by travelling experimentally. Brad’s personal quest to find the most extreme and unique in travel has bred misadventures and moments of enlightenment alike. You can read his craziest stories on his adventure travel blog

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