Ananda Temple is one of the most famous, most visited, and most renovated temples in Bagan, and it has been an active place of worship for nearly a millennia.
Ananda Temple is one of Myanmar’s most revered sites. Built in the 11th-12th centuries, it has remained an active worship site since, nearly a millennia. With its striking gold hti, or umbrella, it stands out brightly against the landscape and red bricks.
It is laid out as a large crucifix (the shape, that is—it has nothing to do with Christianity) and is considered a masterpiece of the Mon architecture, celebrated especially for its balanced proportions. The tower stands 40 meters (131 feet) high, with the base spreading out in several cascading terraces. Each of the four symmetrical entrances leads to its own massive wooden Buddha statue in the heart of the building.
Among its highlights are over 1500 stone plaques telling the story of the Buddha.
Ananda is also one of the temples that has received the most attention in renovating. That’s either a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. For visitors, it means that you’re greeted by a lavish and ornate sight. The detail of the stucco has been restored, and the interior decorations renovated to something approaching their former glory. But the way in which Ananda, along with many other temples in Bagan, have been restored is one of the elements that has given UNESCO pause in listing Bagan as a World Heritage Site.
Ananda is immediately adjacent to Old Bagan. If you’re staying in one of the hotels in Old Bagan it’s only a few hundred yards to the east, just off Anawrahta Rd.
If you’d like to download any of my photos from Bagan, Myanmar, you can license them directly from Alamy here. It includes most of the photos displayed on this page, as well as others. Pricing depends on the type of use, and there are licenses for various types of uses, including personal use and editorial publication.
You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Myanmar (Burma) (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.
The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Myanmar (Burma) here and the Australian Government's here.
The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Myanmar (Burma) here.
Very few of the temples, pagodas, or stupas in the Bagan Archeological Zone have any information about them on site. And with literally thousands of sites to choose from, it's handy to go armed with information on what to see and where to start--especially for independent travelers without a guide.
If you're looking for something that goes beyond the patchy information in the standard guide books, I've found these to be good:
Approach Guides, 2017
With maps, diagrams, and pictures, it's pitched as a "travel guidebook for the ultra curious." It offers detailed profiles of 21 of the major sites. It's an especially good option if you traveling with a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone and don't want to take up any space in your luggage or deal with the extra weight of a hard copy.
Bangkok: River Books, 2013
Written by a former professor of Art History who has authored many books on Indian and Burmese art, this book offers authoritative and detailed information on not just the architecture and art of the temples of Bagan but also the history of the region. It focuses on 33 of the major sites. Its photos by Michael Freeman are a standout feature. It's only available in paperback.
Yangon: Tanintaye Sarpay, 2011
Ma Thanegi is a Burmese writer and journalist. The book doesn't offer the level of detail of the other two and is harder to find in the West, but it still offers useful summaries of a number of the major sites. It's available in paperback only (when you can find it).
Rangoon: Ministry of Union Culture, 2nd rev. ed. 1963
This is a guide compiled under the auspices of the Burmese government in the mid-1950s and early-1960s. Despite being quite outdated, it has its own value with background on a number of pagodas and temples as well as fascinating historical photos of how the monuments looked in the middle of 20th century--sometimes quite different to how they appear today after being renovated. It's long out of print and hard to find, but I've scanned it and posted it here.
Maps: When you get to Bagan, there are good local maps available for free at the hotels that show many of the major sites.