Bagan is a spectacular plain stretching away from the Ayeyarwaddy River, dotted with thousands of 800-year old temple ruins. Although human habitation at Bagan dates back almost to the beginning of the Christian era, Bagan only entered its golden period with the conquest of Thaton in 1057 AD. A selection of these temples will be visited among others:
ANANDA PAHTO: one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples. Thought to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period.
SHWEGUGYI: built by Alaungsithu in 1311, this smaller but elegant pahto is an example of the Middle period, a transition in architectural style from the dark and cloistered to the airy and light.
THATBYINNYU PAHTO: this 'Omniscient' temple is one of the tallest in Bagan, rising to 61m and built by Alaungsithu around the mid-12th century.
PITAKA TAIK: following the sacking of Thaton, King Anawrahta carted off some 30 elephant-loads of Buddhist scriptures and built this library to house them in 1058. The design follows the basic Early Bagan gu plan, perfect for the preservation of light-sensitive, palm-leaf scriptures.
NATHLAUNG KYAUNG: Bagan's only Hindu Vaishnavite temple probably built in the 10th century to serve Bagan's Indian community of merchants and craftsmen. PAHTOTHAMYA: probably built during the reign of Kyanzittha (1084-1113), although it is popularly held to be one of the five temples built by the non-historical King Taunghthugyi (931-964). Painting remnants along the interior passages may rate as the earliest surviving murals in Bagan.
GAWDAWPALIN PAHTO: one of the largest and most imposing of the Bagan temples, it was mostly built during the reign of King Narapatisithu but was finished by his son, King Htilominlo. The name literally means Platform to which Homage is Paid. BUPAYA: right on the bank of the Ayeyarwady, this cylindrical Pyu-style stupa is said to be the oldest in Bagan. Local residents claim it dates to the 3rd century. The distinctively shaped bulbous stupa stands above rows of crenellated terraces.