Ride along with Jungles in Paris as they soar above Bagan in this exclusive video.
Bagan, in Myanmar, is a city of ancient temples as impressive as Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat—and, even better, it’s still a pretty well kept secret. That’s because this maple leaf-shaped Southeast Asian nation, formerly known as Burma, is only now emerging from decades of international isolation.
As its gates creak open, Myanmar has (for better or worse) become one of today’s fastest-growing tourist destinations. That means more balloons floating over the remains of this 13th-century holy city with its 2,5000 temples and pagodas, but also more visitors coming away with an awed respect for the region’s Buddhist past.
The more commanding structures are laden with strings of light at nighttime, some of them still illuminated at sunrise. Brick edifices, lashed with jungle creepers and topped with cone-shaped domes, stretch to the horizon. Scattered across 16 square miles, this is the world’s largest concentration of religious buildings. Bagan seems destined to land on many a world traveler’s bucket list—preferably with a balloon ride thrown in, too.
WHEN YOU GO
Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, still isn’t as seamlessly accessible as many major Southeast Asian cities. Qatar Airlines has flights from New York with a layover in Doha. For West Coast departures, Korean Air and Cathay Pacific offer fairly convenient routes.
Hot air balloon tours operate between October and March, which is more or less the best time to visit Myanmar. Among high-end Western operators, Butterfield & Robinson has considerable in-country experience to go along with its overall solid reputation. The company currently has five tours scheduled between December 2014 and February 2015, all of which include a tour of Bagan. (The balloon ride is an optional add-on.) B&R also arranges bespoke Myanmar trips for travel anytime.
All photography by Christopher Michael, courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson.