Best Bagan, Myanmar Temples with a View

Climb these temples to see Bagan's awesome sunsets

Tourist climbing Shwesandaw in Bagan
Mike Aquino

The sunset views from Bagan's temples are to die for. But not all of them provide the proper vantage point for this awesome view; some simply aren't built to accommodate climbers, and others have upper decks that have been closed due to orders from above. 

The most recent closure has affected all but the temples on this short list. The riverside temples in this list don't have an upper terrace, but their location on the shores of the Irrawaddy make for exceptional views. (They're also more accessible to the mobility-impaired.)

The temples with upper terraces you're allowed to climb - Thitsa WadiSouth GuniNorth Guni and Pyathatgyi (Shwesandaw is temporarily closed) - provide stunning vistas of the Bagan countryside and brick temples as far as the eye can see. 

All combined, there's more than enough room for everyone looking to experience Bagan's stunning sunsets, closures aside: this list of temples ensures you won't get left out.

For more about Myanmar's stunning temples of worship, check out our Myanmar temple cheat sheet.

  • 01 of 06

    Lawkananda Stupa

    Bird's eye view of Lawkananda Stupa, Bagan, Myanmar
    Tony Wheeler/Getty Images

    The two temples on the banks of the Irrawaddy River are perfectly placed for sunset viewing; the bigger one of the two, Lawkananda, is also better for catching the local color. As you ascend to Lawkananda's main terrace from the road, you'll pass by vendors hawking dry tea leaf and other local essentials.

    The terrace is dominated by Lawkananda's golden stupa, which encloses a replica of Buddha's tooth donated by King Anawrahta's Ceylonese ally Vijayabahu I in gratitude for his assistance (Anawrahta provided troops to quell invasions in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka; he also provided monks to replenish the depleted ranks of the local clergy).

    The sunset light reflects off the golden stupa beautifully, set off by the sun's reflection on the nearby Irrawaddy. Leave the lofty heights of Shwesandaw and Dhammayazika to the crowds; Lawkananda provides all the sunset color you need.

    Location: Google Maps
    Alternate spelling: Lawka Nanda, Lokananda

  • 02 of 06

    Thisa Wadi Temple

    Thisa Wadi Temple, as seen from Dhammayazika
    Cultura RM Exclusive/Adam Seward/Getty Images

    Completed in 1287 AD, the Thisa Wadi temple was built in the twilight of the Bagan Empire, completed just as the Mongol invaders swept in from the north. The temple was commissioned by a Queen, not a King: Pwa Saw was renowned as the "consort of three kings", Uzana, Narathihapate and Kyawswa, who all benefited from her savvy advice.

    The view from Thisa Wadi's upper deck stretches out to the west and south, with the golden spire of Dhammayazika immediately visible from nearby. Inside Thisa Wadi, the white-washed Buddha images wait for wealthy sponsors to cover them in gold leaf.

    Thisa Wadi is quite some way off the beaten path; it doesn't figure much in most climb-this-temple lists, which makes it a valuable alternative for tourists looking to avoid the crowds.

    Location: Google Maps
    Alternate spelling: Thitsa Wadi, Thit Sa Wadi, Thitsar Wadi

  • 03 of 06

    Bupaya Stupa

    Sunset at Bupaya, Bagan, Myanmar

    Mike Aquino

    The second of Bagan's two riverside temples looks like a gilded gourd, and its name and putative origin refer to its vegetative form.

    According to legend, the hero Pyusawhti vanquished a giant gourd-bearing vine that had endangered farmers' livelihoods; the vines just kept growing until Pyusawhti found the taproot, which he then uprooted, ending the gourd-vine menace. In his honor, the villagers built Bupaya ("bu" means "gourd") on the spot of the taproot.

    The entrance to Bupaya is level with the street, making it an excellent stop for the mobility-challenged. As the sun sets over the Irrawaddy, Bupaya's bulbous golden shape glows red in the dying light. The pagoda itself, incidentally, is a replica of the original which was destroyed in the 1975 earthquake.

    Location: Google Maps
    Alternate spelling: Bue Paya, Bu Paya

  • 04 of 06

    Bulethi Stupa

    Bulethi stupa in Bagan, Myanmar
    Mike Aquino

    Architecturally, the Bulethi stupa is frozen mid-evolution between an older Pyu style and the newer Bagan style – the bulbous body recalls the style of stupas more common in Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka), but Bulethi's architects innovated with the addition – for the first time – of a terrace, which is a Bagan innovation introduced after the 12th century AD.

    The narrow terrace circles the body completely, allowing 360-degree views of the Bagan countryside. Given the temple's relatively small size, only a few climbers can be accommodated on the terrace; Bulethi can be a nightmare during peak season, with tourists jostling for viewing space.

    The view from the top, though, is completely breathtaking in good weather: Bulethi's hilltop location makes it a perfect vantage point for landscape viewing, sunset or no sunset.

    Location: Google Maps
    Alternate spelling: Buledi

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    North Guni Temple

    View from North Guni Temple, Bagan, Myanmar

    Zniper/Flickr/CC BY 20

    North Guni's views may have been long overlooked by travelers converging on more popular temples like Shwesandaw, but with the recent closure of all but four other Bagan temples, expect to see more and more tourists paying more attention to this heretofore undervisited structure.

    Built by the "consort of three kings" Pwasaw during the reign of Narathihapate, North Guni was completed in with only a few decades to spare before the devastating Mongol invasion of Bagan. Tucked away in one of the corner pillars, you will find a narrow, winding passageway to North Guni's seventh floor terrace. If you can make it through the stair without a claustrophobic attack, the tunnel will open suddenly up to the view, where you can make out nearby Shwesandaw and Dhammayangyi.

    Location: Google Maps
    Alternate names: Myauk Guni, North Gu Ni

  • 06 of 06

    Shwesandaw Stupa (Temporarily Closed)

    Sunset from Shwesandaw, Bagan, Myanmar

    Mike Aquino

    NOTE: Shwesandaw is temporarily closed for repairs; additional charges to climb this pagoda will be levied should it be ever opened again for climbing tourists. 

    The staircases leading up the five terraces of Shwesandaw Stupa tend to be crowded at any given day. Considering that the views from Shwesandaw are some of the most scenic you'll find in Bagan, that should be no surprise.

    Built by King Anawrahta in 1057 to preserve a few holy hairs of the Buddha captured from Thaton Kingdom, Shwesandaw stands in a privileged position within Old Bagan. The view to the west provides a magnificent vista of almost innumerable brick stupas stretching out to the Irrawaddy River, visible as a silver strip in the distance.

    The steps leading up Shwesandaw are steep, and the addition of a steel bannister helps somewhat in the ascent.

    Location: Google Maps