8 reasons the best way to see Bagan is by bike


Bagan (or Pagan if you can speak Burmese) is a spectacular ancient city in Central West Burma that expands for miles across arid land. Founded in the first century BC, the city flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries AD to become the Bagan we travel to today.

Temples and pagodas galore sit amid this epic landscape, which lend the area the iconic image you’ve likely seen in travel magazines and on travel websites time and time again. Detached from the hustle and bustle of Yangon, the city serves as the perfect place to get to grips with one of our favourite modes of transport in Burma: the humble bicycle.

But that’s enough of that, here’s the rundown on why we enjoyed cycling in Bagan a million times more than we expected.


Image c/o Anthony Tong Lee, Flickr

1. See more in less time

There are several ways to get around Bagan and thus begin your day of exploring – horse and cart and mini-van being the more boring options. If you’re a true Intrepid traveller (we know you are), then biking around Bagan is literally the only way forward. The area is pretty flat with only a couple of small uphill areas, so if you can ride a bike, you can do it. Not only do you get the opportunity to get your bod moving, the real reason cycling is a must in Bagan is because there is so much to take in.

2. Creature comforts

Don’t worry about your bicycle seat getting too hot in the late morning sun, because you are likely to have a weighted cushion put on your seat to keep it cool. Now, that is great service!

3. Stop and smell the poses

A few photography stops (also know as ‘tactical rest breaks’) are a luxury only biking can offer. Don’t be afraid to hop off and get creative.


Image c/o Timothy Neesam, Flickr

4. Get lost, on purpose

Being on a bike means you’re free to explore as much as you wish down little dirt roads (which often lead to unusual temples) too. In Bagan, we took a detour and ended up having a Thanaka facial (natural sunscreen made form the bark of a tree, which you will see all Burmese women – and some men – wearing on their faces) from a chance meeting with a local lady. And we found an ice cream vendor selling neon pink ice creams down another. Score.

5. The perfect excuse to sample (all of the) local refreshments

Stopping for a cold beverage is compulsory – water can be found at most temples from small shops. If you fancy splashing out on a drink of the slightly more fizzy (or fresh) persuasion, then Ananda Temple is the place to find quirky little cafes which will be sure to quench your thirst (and those cycling hunger pangs).


Image c/o Christopher Michel, Flickr

6. Take your sweet time

When the day is at it’s hottest, just after lunch, rest! Get into the air con, take a shower, relax in a restaurant, and rehydrate. Whatever you do, stop cycling for a few hours and chill. The cycling will commence again soon enough and you don’t want to put yourself through the torture of cycling through unbearable heat.

7. Cycle through the space time continuum

Though Burma’s still relatively new to tourism, it’s getting busier and busier each year. But Bagan manages to hold on to that historic charm – so cycling here really is unlike cycling anywhere else in the world. The temples, the landscape, the people – it’s like pedalling back the centuries.


Image c/o Yulin Lu, Flickr

8. Race to the sunset

After you’ve dodged the hottest part of the day, there’s no finer way to round out the bike adventure than by heading to Shwe San Daw temple (on your bike – hence the afternoon rest!) to watch the sun melt away over Bagan. With the horizon stretching for miles around, the panoramic view is just as awe inspiring as sunset.

Things to consider:

•    Be prepared for temperatures to hit unbelievable highs in summer months – making that midday rest stop even more essential
•    Make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen at the ready
•    Make the most of breakfast and load up on energy for the day ahead – take some rations with you for the road
•    Respect the locals by having a sarong handy to cover knees when entering temples, preferably keeping shoulders covered at all times

You can cycle yourself silly on an Intrepid trip in Burma, on which you’ll have plenty of time for two-wheeled adventures.

Feature image c/o Stefan Munder, Flickr 

About the author

Louise Burton - At the age of 19 I found myself living in the Malaysian jungle for 6 months. It was there that I realised the world is my home and I have an irresistible urge to explore every corner of it. I am forever making little dents in far flung parts of our planet and it is a journey that will last a lifetime. I like Icelandic chocolate, playing catch with coconuts, and planking on paddle boards. If I could be a Disney princess it would be Pocahontas.

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Thanks for the tip. I presume you are an independent traveller – where did you stay? I am going in mid Feb


I went to Bagan twice in two weeks together with a friend, nothing pre-planned.
The first time we stayed in Nyuang U and the second time in New Bagan. I have to say I don’t have a clear preference for one over the other, but cycling back to Nuyang U at the end of the day was tough as it’s a slight uphill the whole way. In the heat, and after a long day, it was challenging!
They are both about the same distance from Old Bagan, where you will be doing most of your temple visits.
I just booked my accommodation through Agoda.com; but Booking.com is also just as good (I generally always book hotels with booking.com these days).
Myanmar didn’t seem to have many hostels, just budget hotels.

This is the post I wrote about Bagan after my visit there: http://littleduckie.com.au/bagan-myanmar/
(I also went to Yangon and Inle Lake)


I have just spent three days cycling around the temples of Bagan and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
If you stay multiple days in Bagan then I highly recommend watching a sunset from Pya Tha Da (it is near Sulamani Pahto) – there are fewer people and it’s super chilled. It isn’t as high up as Shwe San Daw, but gorgeous to see the sun set from a different angle.


Cat, which company did you use for the cycling? Did u have a guide or just rent the bikes? Thanks


Sonia, basically every hotel has bicycle rentals and if not, there will be multiple rental stands around town. I just wandered around until I found a deal I was happy with.

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