As we love photography we wanted a temple with these requirements… and this is a sentence from one blogger: “to get the famous Bagan sunset temples stretching into the horizon”. Challenge accepted.

Best Bagan sunset temples:

Spoiler alert! Bagan sunsets are not THAT good. That being said, we have seen some epic sunsets in many places in Asia, especially in Thailand where you can see that red burning dot with the sky painted with millions of soft tones, or it slowly disappearing between the hundreds of tall buildings buildings.

Of course, if you come during the cool season, like December-January, the view and the colours would be different, and most likely there would be more fog/mist in the morning. I say that beause we expected the hot air balloons (for sunrise), pink and purple sky tones, but you just have to appreciate and work with what you have – it was still beautiful!

Taung Guni Phaya:

One of the Bagan sunset temples is called Taung Guni Phaya (on, and we chose it by googling quieter temples to watch the sunset. It isn’t that easy to find one, actually. The area is huge with thousands of temples (true fact), you can drive wherever you want, but most of the temples are locked (especially all the taller ones), so you can’t climb up.

This Taung Guni Phaya temple had pretty OK views, and it wasn’t busy at all…UNTIL sunset. Only around 5.30 pm more people started coming and it was a mix of vendors chatting to tourists, tourists chatting with other tourists, and just chat chat chat, to a point where you have to give an angry look to someone who steps in front of the camera. But we’re good people, we’d just like others to stop chatting and enjoy some nature.

View from Taung Guni Phaya
East side view from Taung Guni Phaya. Auste isn’t always there though

Shwe San Daw Phaya:

We sat at Taung Guni Phaya for a bit to enjoy the silence as most of the people left the second after the sun disappeared. There were only a handful of us still up there, and we could see the others around us felt a sigh of relief, just as we did when the noisiest group of #twenty-something-wanderlusters were gone.

It was getting dark and we decided to head home. But just before it got completely dark, we managed to climb up another one of Bagan sunset temples, called Shwe San Daw Phaya. If you’re lost by now, just download the MAPS.ME app and bookmark the temples so you get the idea of where they are. We read that it usually gets busy af, but it had better view because of higher altitude. The word altitude doesn’t actually fit in that sentence, because it’s not a mountain, it’s just like a meter or two higher than Taung Guni Phaya. Ok, maybe a bit more than that, it was actually pretty tall. We did a quick investigation of the east side view and decided to come back there for sunrise the next morning. Considering the Taung Guni Phaya got pretty crowded I don’t really want to imagine how busy Shwe San Daw gets during the actual sunset.

Late evening west-side view from Shwe San Daw Phaya

Bulethi Pagoda:

We found this one by accident. We were driving around on our last evening, enjoying ourselves (it’s nice to just drive around!) and noticed a few people on quite a tall temple. A few narrow dirt roads later we parked and climbed up – it was niiice! On one side we could see the temple complex, and on the side where the main road was – the sunset. This temple was actually one of the best ones, and it was just before we left our hotel, too. Jackpot!

Sunset view from Bulethi Pagoda. We had no idea what was coming

There’s another pagoda almost identical to Bulethi just behind it that we climbed up first. Bulethi is getting in the way of watching the actual sunset, but if you look east the view is better from this (no name) pagoda (even at sunset!). It was quiet. And you could also really feel the height as the stairs and the edge we were sitting on was preeetty narrow. We loved it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a fear of heights.

No-name pagoda next to Bulethi Pagoda
View to the east from No-name pagoda next to Bulethi Pagoda. I’m very creative with these names, aren’t I?

Once up on Bulethi the waiting game began. It was sunset time, and also check-out time to catch the evening bus from Bagan to Yangon. Around 20 people were sitting quietly (some people are never quiet, are they?) on the sunset side of the temple. The sky was beutiful with soft colours, and of course temples in the horizon. It made a nice scenery because at times the sunrays would peek throught the distant clouds. The people were chill, with some birds flying around, just having a good time. Then the sun completely disappeared into a huge cloud and everyone was patiently waiting for it to show up again. It was getting near 6 pm and we knew we had to leave by 6:30 to make it to our night bus to Yangon.

Suddenly we saw what we thought was rain, quickly swallowing the temples in the horizon. It looked amazing. The rain cloud was coming towards us pretty fast and it got ridiculously windy. Something was different though. The sky was really dark, but it wasn’t raining, and we were getting random grains of sand in our eyes – SANDSTORM.

I went into safety mode and urged Auste to go down, but with her hair flying around and holding onto a construction rail she was like, “But don’t you want to see the sun going down? That’s the best part.”
And then we saw the red burning dot peaking through the cloud of sand. It was beautiful! And a bit scary.

We stayed until the end and it was for the best because people downstairs were bathed with sand. Some of the gusts of wind were so strong, it was difficult to stay in one spot. We started climbing down, well, actually it was more like crawling as we were trying to stay low to not get blown away! Looking down we could see everyone’s shoes and sandals flying away from the stairs. Luckily we managed to find ours. With masks and sunglasses on it wasn’t the most glamorous drive back to the hotel. We saw a few trees on the road – it looked like we were lucky and waited out the worst of the storm on top of the pagoda, and it seemed to be calming down. When we got back to the hotel my hair looked like the hair of the man who walked China (the one on the right-hand side)

Waiting out the storm (people on the no-name pagoda)
Darude – Sandstorm

Myauk Guni:

The Myauk Guni temple is just next to Taung Guni Phaya, but is completely closed with a big red sign on the gates saying not to enter.


This one looks a lot taller, you can walk in, but the stairs to the second level have locked gates.

Smaller temples with no names:

Google maps isn’t really helpful as it only has the main temples marked, but in app you can find a lot of smaller pagodas with no names, which are mostly empty, unlocked and some have better views than the taller ones. We really liked driving around the area on the Bulethi pagoda side, towards Sulamani (which was locked), Pyathada Paya (also locked) with lots of beautiful small pagodas dotted around.

Not easy:
The truth is, it is quite time consuming to find good Bagan sunset temples, because most of them are closed, being restored, or the stairs are locked, so use your time wisely. We dedicated 2 nights just for the temples, because anything less than that makes it very rushed. And even 2 nights was nowhere near enough, we wished we had stayed longer. It helps when you explore the area during the day, and mark certain spots on your app. The GPS works perfectly fine.

Bagan photography tips:
-Golden hour starts at 5 pm, but it takes ages to find a decent location. Between 6 pm and about 6:20 pm is the time when the sun becomes a huge red bubble sinking into the horizon.
-If you’re photographing a true British person (sorry, we’re the same), ask them to wear a hat and sunscreen during the day, as you don’t want to retouch their magenta coloured face in postprocessing.
-Use the time before and after sunset for zero crowds. Everyone leaves as soon as the sun goes down, so you have the whole temple for yourself, and it’s still quite bright.
-Explore the tiny temples, they’re perfect for making video, or even photo, as they usually don’t have any people in the way.

General Bagan temple tips :
-Bring food and water because it’s hot, and vendors go to wherever tourists are. So if you’re exploring the smaller temples – no annoying vendors (yay!), but also no water to buy (nay…) .
-Bring a shawl, cover your knees and take off your shoes before entering the pagodas. We always want to avoid scams so we carry a bag for our shoes. You should respect their culture, even though it doesn’t make sense sometimes. In some temples you can find anything from plastic bags, broken glass bottles to dead dogs.
-If no one wants to charge you the entrance fee, don’t worry about it. Pay when asked. We bought our tickets when we were watching the sunset on Taung Guni Phaya, and were also asked to show them at Bulethi (the passes are valid for 5 days).
-Bring a face mask, it’s dusty there.

Bagan temples scam:
Having read about it online we knew what to expect. At 5 pm we were sitting atop one quiet temple, and one guy who sells paintings sat next to us and started chatting. He asked the staple ‘where we were from’, then what currency we use, and then he showed his collection of notes, and offered a painting in exchange for our currency, lol. We also saw quite a few painting sellers, some of them lurking around on motorbikes and as soon as you walk into an empty temple, they come and set up shop at the entrance and of course start talking to you.

If you’re pretty new to travelling in Asia and don’t know that you shouldn’t talk to strangers, this blog sums up the most common Bagan scams pretty well.