Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Nyaung-U, Myanmar (Burma)

Bagan

Over 2,000 ancient temples dot the Myanmar landscape at the site of this famed archeological site. 

What was likely a wondrous metropolis of ornate, gleaming temple spires ritual artistry, the former city of Bagan on the plains of central Burma is possibly even more beautiful and mysterious now that it is a jaw-dropping ruin.

During its hey day around the 12th century, the city of the capitol of the kingdom of Pagan containing well over 10,000 Buddhit temples, stupas, and pagodas. Eventually the city was brought to ruin by natural disasters and hordes of rampaging mongols who made light work of the Buddhist inhabitants of the city. Down the centuries thousands of the temples and pagodas crumbled under their own weight or were destroyed leaving only a little over 2,000 of the structures today. However this has done little to diminish the scope of the city’s grandeur.

The almost impossibly ornate temples that remain rise up out of the overgrown foliage bursting from the plains look like the creations of a lost civilization, and while that is not strictly true as many of the inhabitants of Bagan would sire the generations that created modern Myanmar, a sense of mystery still pervades the city. Still covering 26 square miles of land, the thousands of remaining temples and religious monuments are now a protected historical site. while some of the structures have fallen into complete ruin, many others look almost as if they haven’t aged a day thanks to modern restoration efforts.

Bagan can be toured on foot giving one impressive perspective to the old city although the preferred method of experiencing the ruins (technically known as the Bagan Archaeological Zone today) is via hot air balloon. Balloon rides are offered that bring visitors to a vantage point where they can view the thousands of temples at once.