Here's What a Sunrise Balloon Flight Over Bagan Looks Like From Start To Finish

by Ben Mckechnie February. 26, 2017 2115 views

Bagan, Myanmar. Perhaps you've glimpsed it in pictures or heard its name mentioned in conversation. Either way, the place doesn't seem like it could be real until you lay eyes on it for the first time. As though it was conjured up in someone's dream at night, thousands of ancient temples and crumbling Buddhist stupas spread out across a vast plain beside the Irrawaddy River. 

When I was there in December '14, I arrived by river boat from Mandalay. Then, I spent 3 days exploring the plain on foot. On my final morning, I took a hot air balloon up into the sky to view Bagan from above. I'd like to share my pictures from that early morning with you. Hope you enjoy!

Heave-ho! After a 5AM hotel pickup, the friendly ground team began flight preparations. Along with the other passengers, I took photos and munched on croissants with coffee. 

The balloon was then gradually inflated by these ferocious burners and the hot air created by them.

In the background, a rival company called 'Balloons Over Bagan' set up in their field. I was flying with the newer 'Golden Eagle Ballooning' company. 

Almost ready! The ground team steady the balloon, keeping it grounded until the all-clear signal is given. 

Golden Eagle had two balloons. I was in the first one to take off. This was taken just after leaving the ground.

The second Golden Eagle balloon is up, up, and away. I think this could be a good shot to advertise their company... ahead of the rivals.

The third of three companies offering flights over Bagan is Oriental Ballooning. We were quite high by now. It was so exciting to look directly down upon the same temples I'd been climbing on just the day before.

I felt sorry for the red balloons that appeared to float in the wrong direction over the Irrawaddy River. Our pilot told us this was simply an optical illusion. In fact, they were right on course over the plain of temples.

The balloons sometimes appeared to get quite close. Here you can see the density of temples and stupas on the ground. There are more than 2,200 of them.

Bottom-right: Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest at Bagan. All around the outside are exquisite carvings of Buddha, while inside are beautiful wall paintings.

Perhaps unknowingly, the pilots in the deep-red balloons were flying in a curve formation.

As my balloon began to descend, I began noticing the patterns present in the landscape when viewed from directly above.

From directly down to directly up.

After landing, we were treated to a champagne reception. I'd traveled with a Colombian woman named Paola and 3 generations of the Takahashi family from Chiba, Japan. Popping the champagne cork was our skilled pilot all the way from Portugal. What a great job to have!

Finally, we were all presented with a flight certificate. It was $350 for an experience that lasted no more than 3 hours from pick-up to drop-off. Expensive, but no regrets at all. How often are you going to find yourself in Bagan in your lifetime? It is 100% worth splashing the cash while you're there!


Thanks for taking the time to look at this post. I'd love to read your comments below if you have any. If you're planning a trip to Myanmar anytime soon, then please feel free to send me a PM for some travel tips. 

Here's one last shot I feel best sums up the magic of a balloon flight over Bagan: 

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There are 24 comments , add yours!
Antonio Gil 3 years ago

Amazing views, fantastic experience, great pictures. Love them all. I've also tried this experience and I can say it is the best way to fly. Congrats Ben

3 years ago Edited
Jill Bahm 3 years, 1 month ago

When I got to the end, I realized my mouth was hanging open! Just amazing - what a beautiful story and images!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Amy Daniels 3 years, 1 month ago

These are all fun and breathtaking. Golden Eagle is my alma mater mascot 😊

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Helen Hooker 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow, what an amazing opportunity and such wonderful photos Ben!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow, were you crowded in the balloon? The scenery is breathtaking. Mx

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Emily May 3 years, 1 month ago

Great story! Thanks for sharing :) What did you shoot with?

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Steveandjustyna 3 years, 1 month ago

Looks like a pretty place to visit and explore! I envy you that baloon ride! ;) J

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Shah 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow these are stunning Ben! I love #7 and seeing so many temples in that one shot!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Shah 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks Shah! You should go and see it with your own eyes. Breathtaking!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Giancarlo Fosci 3 years, 1 month ago

wonderful set, thanks for sharing your experince with us

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Giancarlo Fosci 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks Giancarlo. Glad you enjoyed! Have you ever taken a hot air balloon up into the skies above Tuscany?

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Dzmitry Samakhvalau 3 years, 1 month ago


3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Dzmitry Samakhvalau 3 years, 1 month ago


3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Maura Elko 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow, these images are amazing! I can't believe how many temples are there dotting the landscape either. That is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, must have been awesome! :)

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Maura Elko 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Maura. Great comment :) It's a sight to behold. I recommend it to anyone.

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Aniket Pant 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing. Lovely story!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Aniket Pant 3 years, 1 month ago

Cheers Aniket!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jay Boggess 3 years, 1 month ago

WOW!!! Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure with images we may otherwise never have seen! Great camera work, as always, Ben!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Jay Boggess 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the comment Jay! And the 'favorites' :)

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Ben Mckechnie 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank YOU, for sharing!!!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ram Ya 3 years, 1 month ago

Beautiful story from start to finish.
I have always wanted to go on one of these hot air balloons, now even more!
The view from the top is really beautiful, especially with those temples.

Thanks for sharing with us.

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Ram Ya 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks Ram, glad you enjoyed this post. If you've always wanted to ride a hot air balloon, then Bagan is the place to do it!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Mooreeffoc 3 years, 1 month ago

Very cool!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Mooreeffoc 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited