Shwesandaw Pagoda

If you want to see a breathtaking sunset in Bagan, Myanmar, you need to check out Shwesandaw Pagoda or the Sunset Temple.

It would definitely be on my “Best of Myanmar” list for any photographer, since the view is a stunning 360 degrees of plains of temples.

The Nitty Gritty

Best time of daySunset for sure! But do know that it will be busy.
Read on for tips on how to get great shots anyway.
Specialty gear
The scenes are breathtaking and expansive so an ultrawide could get you more in one shot.
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 HSM Lens for Nikon
Useful AccessoriesIf you plan to stay late and get some intense colors, a travel tripod is a must have.
Dolica LX600B502DS Ultra Premium Professional 60-Inch Lightweight Aluminum Alloy Tripod (Black)

A polarizer will bring out the most detail and color out of the lush foliage and radiant sky.
Hoya HD circular polarizer

Sunset Pagoda

The Shwesandaw pagoda is a pyramid with multiple levels. To get between the levels, you have to climb some steep, but well-maintained stairs with a railing.

You should definitely have a moderate level of fitness to climb these stairs. It’s also probably pretty important that you don’t have a fear of heights!

If you can be patient, the angle of the stairs and the perspective might get you some great shots.

Shwesandaw Pagoda Photography

1/2500s ƒ/4.5 @ ISO 1250
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:16 pm

For an eye-catching focal point, watch for the beautiful red of the monks’ robes against the sky or the green of the forest.

Young Myanmar Monk

1/1250s ƒ/5 @ ISO 1250
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:17 pm

A Sense of Scale at Shwesandaw Pagoda

As you shoot the pagodas in the surrounding area, it’s easy to lose a sense of scale.

I mean there are huge temples in Myanmar, and then there are tiny ones. Hard to tell which is which in your photographs.

So you know how ebay sellers put a penny in the photo? You should put the large-scale equivalent – a human being!

Here I waited for some people on horse-driven carts to come around the corner. Once you see them, you really get a feel for the size of this temple.

Sunset Pagoda, Myanmar

1/60s ƒ/11 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:30 pm

In this one, there is just one tiny person in the photograph, but the moment your eye catches him, you can almost feel the image grow in scale and depth.

I’d recommend you use a polarizer to bring out the greens in the lush vegetation. Check the nitty gritty table for my recommendation.

Burma Pagodas

1/30s ƒ/11 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:39 pm

To get a wide image like the one above, it really helps to have a good ultra-wide lens.

I recommend the Canon EF-S 10-18mm which is the lens I used above.

Best Views

The first thing I noticed was that the views don’t differ that much from one level to the next. But the top level is very popular.

So my suggestion would be to enjoy the peace on a lower level and find a good spot to capture the sunset.

There’s not much of an advantage throwing elbows on the top level, photographically speaking.

Sunset Photography Bagan

1/15s ƒ/11 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:54 pm

As the sun gets lower, the colors in the sky get more and more interesting. Walk around your level to enjoy the views from all directions.

Myanmar Destinations

1/320s ƒ/11 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 29, 2016, 5:33 pm

This is one of those situations where just when you think the colors couldn’t get any better, they do.

You’ll take a hundred pictures and only want the last five.

I was so sad when we had to leave because I knew that the colors were just going to keep getting more incredible, but I was with a group and had to go.

Haven’t seen enough? I found some more incredible images here taken by John Einar Sandvand – definitely worth checking out.

I hope you get to check out this location and come back with some amazing photographs. Do post here when you do! Do you have a tip for the next traveller?

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Shimona Carvalho
Photographer, Engineer, Traveler who wants to help you take incredible photographs on your next trip.