Bagan's temples - Why you can't climb them

Wondering if you can still climb Bagan’s temples? Well, the answer is no. Want to know why? Then keep reading and we’ll explain it all!

Gone are the days when you could watch the sunrise or set from the top of one of Bagan’s temples. Those famous vistas are now only available from a hot air balloon flight at sunrise or the Nann Myint Observation Tower. The ban on climbing Bagan’s temples first started back in 2017 and by early 2019, applied to ALL temples. Even the small ones.

Bagan's temples - Why you can't climb them

So why can’t you climb Bagan’s temples?

It’s important to understand why access to Bagan’s temples is now restricted. After all, those mystical rooftop views are what draws thousands of visitors to Bagan from all over the world. There’s 2 basic answers to this frequently asked question:

1. Safety concerns

Yep, an unpopular answer, but safety is one of the main reasons you can no longer climb Bagan’s temples. As tourism in Bagan grew over the years, temple tops became increasingly crowded, especially at sunrise and sunset. Finding a quieter temple, away from the hoards of selfie-stick wielding visitors became a more desirable option for many. Who could blame them?

But not all of Bagan’s temples have stairs and many aren’t meant to be climbed. Despite this, tourists began scaling these structures anyway, in a bid to find a secluded view point. These actions not only cause irreparable damage to the temples, but they pose some massive safety risks. In 2017, an American tourist fell to her death whilst trying to get a better photo from on top of a pagoda. That pagoda was prohibited from climbing.

Furthermore, several earthquakes have rocked Bagan over the years, resulting in significant structural damage of many temples. The most recent quake in 2016, left over 200 temples in need of restoration. The famous Shwesandaw Pagoda was one of them. Despite its repair, the pagoda’s lower terraces collapsed after heavy rain in 2017, further highlighting safety concerns. The task of assessing the structural status of every temple in Bagan isn’t really viable, so no-one really knows which temples are structurally safe to climb.

Shwesandaw Pagoda - The best temples in Bagan

2. Protection & preservation of Bagan’s Temples

In July 2019, Bagan became a UNESCO World Heritage site. So the protection and preservation of this ancient capital is more important now than ever. Preventing tourists from climbing all over any temple they please, helps to protect and preserve them. We witnessed brick crumbling from under tourists feet, as they scaled the sides of pagodas, as if they were Spiderman. This kind of activity will only lead to further deterioration of Bagan’s temples. So now, climbing the temples is completely off limits.

Read more – Discover Bagan’s best temples

There was talk of allowing full access to some of the main temples on a rotating basis. But when and if this ever happens remains to be seen.

Why you shouldn’t climb Bagan’s temples

It’s worth noting that Bagan is amongst Myanmar’s most respected religious sites and probably the countries most visited. We had an amazing time, temple hopping on our E-bike. If this is something you’re considering, then we can’t recommend it enough. Bagan is an amazing place. But it’s best to adjust your expectations before visiting. You can still witness Bagan’s magic without climbing a temple.

Don’t miss – 7 Beautiful sunrise & Sunset viewpoints in Bagan

In an effort to ward off untrustworthy visitors, access to temple tops are blocked, gated and locked. And some temples are even guarded. At the same time, police drive around patrolling the area, enforcing the ban.

But despite the authorities efforts to protect Bagan’s temples, tourist still continue to climb them, something we witnessed many times. The impact of irresponsible tourism, especially in areas like Bagan, can be truely devastating. Continuing to climb Bagan’s temples only contributes their deterioration. Despite your own opinion, these restrictions, although in many ways are disappointing, are in place for good reasons. As a traveller, it’s important to remember that you’re a guest in another country. You have a responsibility to act appropriately and abide by local customs and laws. It’s disrespectful to ignore these rules and ultimately, if you climb any of Bagan’s temples, you’re breaking the law.

Planning a trip to Myanmar? Check out our other posts:

Discover Bagan’s best temples

Best Bagan sunrise & sunset viewpoints

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