I spent three weeks backpacking around Myanmar starting in Yangon, then traveling to Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake before returning to Yangon for my flight. These three weeks were filled with chasing sunrises and sunsets as these are the best times for taking photographs. Most people are looking for the best sunrise spot in Bagan, but there are many other cities too where you can get some awesome sunset and sunrise views.
The Best Sunrise and Sunset Spots in Bagan
Sunrise view from Utrecht temple
Let’s start with Bagan because as I mentioned earlier, this is probably the place most people are interested in. First I want to say that don’t use Google Maps in Bagan, but instead, an offline maps app called maps.me. This app has all the temples and small paths that Google Maps doesn’t show and because it’s an offline map you don’t even need a SIM-card to be able to use it. When you have this map, it’s easier for me to explain where everything is.
Nowadays, most of the pagodas are closed for climbing, and the official rule is that climbing the temples is prohibited. However, there are still some pagodas which are suitable for climbing and give you an excellent view to watch the sunrise or sunset. The best and cheapest way to get around in Bagan is renting an ebike and driving around yourself.
In maps.me, search for Utrecht temple which is the best spot for sunrise. You have to climb, but it’s not too challenging.
Utrecth temple is the one on the left
Watching the sunrise from the pagoda
The best sunrise view in Bagan!
This is a wider picture of the area and Utrecht temple is circled with blue. The red circle indicates for another temple which is especially good for sunset. Here you don’t have to do any climbing because they have proper stairs going up.
Sunset views from the pagoda
The sunset pagoda as seen from my drone
Go here just before sunset for perfect lighting
Another red pin down from this is a nice place to go just before sunset to get some beautiful lighting for the photos. After that, you can head to the actual sunset pagoda.
The Best Place to Watch the Sunset in Mandalay
Sunset view from Mandalay Hill
Moving on to Mandalay, the best sunset spot is definitely Mandalay Hill. You can either hike up there or if you’re feeling lazy, just take a moto taxi. If you haven’t already downloaded an app called Grab, do it now. It’s like an Uber and works in most countries in Southeast Asia. It’s so much easier when you don’t have to haggle, and the prices are very low.
Mandalay Hill is a holy place with pagodas which means that you have to leave your shoes downstairs before taking an escalator up. Tourists also need to pay a small entrance fee. Even though there might be quite a lot of people watching the sunset, the atmosphere is still lovely and tranquil.
The Best Place to Watch the Sunrise in Mandalay
U Bein Bridge is a must for everyone visiting Mandalay. Most people visit it for sunset, but I highly recommend waking up early for the sunrise instead. Sunset time can get very busy with lots of tourists as most of the tours include this bridge for sunset watching. During the sunrise, it’s very quiet, and you can only see some monks crossing the bridge. Great photography opportunities if you visit in the morning!
The Best Sunset Spots in Yangon
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Yangon, and while you can’t really see the sun setting from there, the lighting is perfect for taking pictures. As the sun set, this golden pagoda begins to glow. The place will be buzzing with locals and some tourists too. As always when visiting pagodas, you need to take off your shoes and dress conservatively (cover up knees and shoulders).
Atlas Rooftop Bar & Lounge is another option for sunset watching, and you can get great views over the city. However, because of the air pollution, the sunset will probably not be very impressive. You can also see the Shwedagon Pagoda from there, and it’s worth staying after the sunset, to see the night lights.
Inle Lake – Great for Both Sunsets and Sunrises
Everyone traveling to Myanmar should visit Inle Lake, and this place also offers fantastic photography opportunities. Both sunset and sunrise are perfect times to be at the lake and get good pictures. You’ll probably stay in Nyaung Shwe where most of the hotels and hostels are located, and from there you can organize a boat trip to the lake. If you go there for the sunrise, wear a lot of layers! It’s freezing cold sitting in the boat and waiting for the sun to rise. Don’t underestimate how cold it can get!
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