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Skip the Crowds: The Best Place for Sunrise in Bagan

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Perfection

Imagine standing on top of a 1000 year old temple as the stars fade and the sky changes from inky blue to soft yellows and pinks. Watching the red, yellow, and green hot air balloons slowly fill up and lift off, floating across the sky in front of you as the sun breaks over the horizon. That is what its like watching the sunrise in Bagan from a temple. It’s pure magic, and I know if I lived here I would get up every single day to see it happen.

There are several popular places in Bagan to watch the sunrise. The most popular, and also the biggest, is the Dhammayangyi temple. It offers beautiful panoramic vistas and has a large viewing platform that is easily accessible. Another big one is Shwe San Daw Pagoda, which offers multiple viewing platforms for those brave enough to climb the steep stairs. Of course these are also the busiest temples; hosting hundreds of viewers every morning.

It took me ages to get a photo without people pushing me

There are more, less popular, temples and pagodas from which you can watch the sunrise in Bagan. But, if they are on the map, chances are you won’t be the only ones there. And although the sunrise looks beautiful from everywhere, having spent my first morning at one of the busiest view points (Shwe San Daw) trying to get a clear photo while ducking under dozens of flailing arms and cameras, I can honestly say it doesn’t exactly make for a magical and relaxing start to the day.

After my first morning at Shwe San Daw, I was bummed. What I wanted was somewhere quiet and peaceful. Where I could take a photo without having to wait for my turn, and sit or stand without being bowled over by someone with a tripod who thought their photo was more important than mine just because they had a more expensive camera. In an area with thousands of temples, I didn’t think that would be too much to ask for.

Of course it wasn’t. While there are a dozen or so major temples and pagodas listed on the maps, there are hundreds more not listed at all. I asked the reception team at Ostello Bello hostel for some suggestions and he quickly drew several on my map, listing them for sunrise or sunset, or both. The final one he added fell into the ‘both’ category. “This is my favourite” he told me. “It’s tricky to find, so go a little earlier, but it’s the best.”

map to the best place for sunrise in bagan

He explained that there were stairs up to a flat viewing point, but if we were feeling a little adventurous we could scale up the walls to the next level to walk around for a 360 degree, panoramic view. He told me that occasionally there might be a local taxi driver with a tourist or two, but chances are we would have it to ourselves.

It sounded pretty perfect, and it was. I had my magical sunrise in Bagan moment, not once, but three times. I took dozens of photos without people blocking my view, and I felt kind of like Indiana Jones which, for me, is always a good thing. Which is why I am now recommending it to you.

At the time I didn’t know the temple’s name (though now I’ve learned it’s called Ta Wet ). However, when we compared the map from the hostel to online maps, it did appear. It’s unnamed on these maps, but you can definitely find it on maps.me which helps a lot when you are trying to find it in the dark on a motorbike. That being said, I still suggest heading there a little early because it is off the beaten track and Bagan’s motorbikes are really e-bikes and (heads up) batteries tend to die at very inopportune moments. Yes, that’s me speaking from experience.

 

 

The secret temple

 

Directions (from New Bagan)

-Head towards Old Bagan, but don’t go inside the walls. Where the road forks take a right and head as if you are going to Ananda (a major temple on all maps)
-There is large dirt road on your right side- check the map posted above to make sure you take the right one.
-Head down this road for awhile. There will be two paths on your right side and one on your left that will lead to Sulamani temple- don’t turn on any of these.
-After the first turnoff to Sulamani (the path to your left) there will be a small path on the right- its almost directly across from Sulamani temple and its beside a pond. Go down this path to find the temple.
-At first the temple looks closed off, the front is gated but you can get in from the left side. Climb up the stairs to the main platform, then climb the tiny staircase to the next level. From here you can use the pillars on the side and ridges to climb up to the next level.
-Prepare to be amazed and feel free to thank me for the most magical sight ever in the comments below.

Note: It takes about 30-40 minutes to get here from Old Bagan on an ebike, so make sure you allow yourself the time. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.

**Since posting this originally in early 2016, Ta Wet seems to have become a bit more popular as a viewing spot for sunrise in Bagan. Over the past couple of years I have received quite a bit of traffic to this post and other bloggers have written about it (though I not-so-secretly like to think I was the original). That being said, while you may share it with a few people, you won’t get hundreds like at the other spots known for being great for sunrise viewing.

I should also point out that since my visit in 2015 there have been a couple of earthquakes. I have received comments and notes from readers that my special temple (aka Ta Wet) did sustain a little damage but is still standing and fine. That being said, do be careful climbing the ledges.

Want to see what sunrise in Bagan looks like? Check out my time-lapse video here.

Update October 2018:  Reader Eva has informed me that this temple is no locked and no longer accessible. Bagan has prohibited climbing the majority of their temples to best preserve them.

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45 thoughts on “Skip the Crowds: The Best Place for Sunrise in Bagan

  1. Terra

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tip. I will be traveling to Bagan later this year, and will keep this in mind. Out of curiosity, what was the name of the hostel you stayed at, and would you recommend staying there?

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I stayed at Ostello Bello in New Bagan. I definitely liked it; great area, e-bikes for rent and laundry across the street, lots of restaurants nearby and free breakfast. But heads up- not cheap!

  2. Vicki

    Thank you sharing such a wonderful post. Myanmar is so high on my list I can’t believe I haven’t got there yet. I’ll be saving this post so I can pick out the best sunrise spots – I don’t really fancy all the pushing, shoving and arm-flailing you mentioned – but I suppose it’s all part of the experience! Happy Travels!

    -Vicki
    http://www.maketimetoseetheworld.com

  3. Vicki A

    I found this temple!!! And it was amazing!!! Especially with the balloons floating almost directly in front… Thanks so much!

  4. Eric Anderson

    I came back after our first day exploring and scoured the internet looking for places to shoot tomorrow. This is the temple we discovered on our way back into town after sunrise and decided to shoot tomorrow. Funny and happy to know it will be great!

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  7. Sd

    I LOVED Myanmar and the people! We visited 2 years ago and Inle Lake region fascinated me with the variety of people from so many cultures, costumes and foods. The open markets, the fishing techniques, the water farming and so very scenic. Funny, for us, Bagan was not as interesting except for the hot air balloon ride.

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Oh wow, I LOVED Bagan. Probably because I felt like Indiana Jones, haha. I need to go back one day to see more of the country, one week wasn’t enough to see Inle Lake as well but I have heard amazing things!

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  9. Ivan Städler

    UPDATE SEPT 2016: Due to the earthquake of last week, the above mentioned temple is closed. BUT, it’s still possible to climb up (just ignore the caution tape) , just a bit more risky (rocks mights fall). We were fine and enjoyed a great sunrise this morning.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    …was pretty hary to find in the dark, but your description was perfect 😀

    1. Clare Rickard

      Do you not think that you and others scrambling up a temple which is struggling to stay up, may indeed result in the temple not being there in years to come. Sometimes you have to look past your own wants and desires think about preserving an ancient building ?? try and think next time, dont be selfish and spoil it for future generations. If everyone went scrambling up without it being repaired or made stable, it may well not exist in years to come.

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  11. Alex

    Thank you thank you thank you! I really wanted to find a quiet temple to welcome in the new day and (after getting totally lost in the dark, barefoot in knee deep mud from the rain, ebike left on the last solid earth) this temple was perfect! It was just me and the sunrise, space to contemplate, do my sun salutations and make it back to the hostel in one piece! So thank you again for sharing :):)

  12. Vish

    Hanna, I just wanted to take the time to thank you big time for this wonderful tip. I am in Bagan right now and this was a cracking find. It was so peaceful and the hunt to find it was the best bit. Just to let you know that this is temple 842 and the name is ‘ta-wait’ (that’s how the taxi driver pronounced it). Also, there are a number of roads going left and right now and the best help I can give to anyone is to go towards sulamani temple and when you get to near the entrance stay right and look for the pond with the wall of sulamani on the left. The right turning before the pond will take you there but there are bits that are covered by hanging bushes…just keep following the path and you will start to see the temple. Can not thank you enough Hanna, really appreciate it

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  15. Steven

    Hey. We went there this morning. Great spot and perfectly accessible still. Thanks a lot.

    So how we found it was to download the app maps.me and use its offline navigation. If you search for Su-la-ma-ni Pahto and follow it a little way down, you’ll see the pond and then a grey square marked ‘Unknown Place’. This is the Secret Temple. It might sap the fun out of finding it a little but we found it very quickly with this method.

  16. Marcus

    Thank you sooooo much!

    We went there this morning and were the only ones there. What an amazing location! It’s really not the safest anymore though. A lot of rubble and lose stones. We enjoyed the sunrise nevertheless 🙂

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I’m so glad! To be honest, I don’t think it was necessarily ‘safe’ when I went either (especially standing out on the pillars like I did) but I heard it got a bit worse after the earthquake. Glad its still accessible and amazing though!

  17. Eduardo

    thanks for this great tip, Hannah. after seeing your photos of that secret temple, I can’t wait to go there myself. Psyched!

  18. Rebecca geiger

    Thank you so much for this post! We used your guide to plan our trip and went to the secret temple for our last day sunrise trip. It was so spectacular! We were so happy to have done that instead of the popular temples. It was the highlight of the trip.
    Update from March 2017 – there were 4 others there besides us when we went, so it’s possible the secret temple is now a little more known. They were all there on e-bikes, no taxi drivers. However it still felt still secluded enough for us, and compared to the number of people we saw taking the path to shwe san daw, we knew we had made the right choice!

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I’m glad it was so great! TBH given the amount of traffic this post sees every day, and knowing obviously some locals tell travellers about it, I’m not surprised there were a few other people. Still better than the massive crowds at the other temples though!

  19. Fabien

    Hello! Thank you for your secret, we went there yesterday for sunset and liked it a lot! However, even in low season (end of September), we found a dozen of bikes in front on the temple when arriving, so it’s not really a secret anymore… We went back this morning though and we were only 4 people there 😉 Good views and quiet (in the middle of Bagan). I think there’s fewer people in the morning because you have to drive several kilometers on dirt roads by night, and some might be muddy and slippery if it rained the day before.

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Yes morning is definitely the time to visit! Based on the number of views this post gets I’m not surprised it’s not really a secret anymore, however a dozen people is still way better than a couple hundred! I’m glad you enjoyed it- still one of my best memories two years later.

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  22. Adrian

    Thank you for so many useful infos!
    We are already very excited About our future trip ti bagan. We will get there for vlogging and we are so grateful for your “secret temple” tip for sunrise! We sure want to avoid the crowds!
    Let’s hope the temple will be safe for climbing and that we will be allowed to do that!!
    Alecsandra & Adrian

  23. Clémence Bougerol

    Hi,

    Thanks a lot for all this info!

    I’m going to Myanmar in october and was wondering if it is still possible to climb this temple as legislation has changed since 2015. Some temples are forbidden now, but as this one doesn’t seem to be one of the main ones, maybe it is still open.

    If anyone has this info, I’d like to know!

    Thanks in advance,

    Clémence,

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      To be honest, I’m not sure. I haven’t been back. I think there are- legally- only a few you are allowed to climb. However, this one is off the beaten track so…? You’d have to ask a local. Sorry!

    2. Gemma

      Hi Clemence. I’m in Bagan at the moment, I found out (this morning lol) that the interior stairs of this temple have been closed and it is only possible to ascend by actually scaling the outer wall, which is a shame, and while I was there 2 people successfully did this, but it looked a bit difficult. If I find another good option I’ll let you know 🙂

      1. Courts

        Hey Gemma, I’m in bagan at the moment and not sure which ones are still open for climbing sunrise.. did you happen to find any?

  24. Eva

    Morning everyone, I went to check out this temple this morning and found out that there is a lock on it. I personally wouldn’t recommend climbing the outer walls. The easiest way to find out which temples are still open is to follow the local people in the morning. They do expect a tip or that you buy one of their paintings though. It looks like the government is shutting down more and more temples.

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