In a nutshell
The town of Sagaing is located to the southwest of Mandalay and lies on the powerhouse Irrawaddy River.
Why go to Sagaing
Visitors usually choose to visit Sagaing as part of a day trip from Mandalay and it is definitely worth it if you are in the area and have the time. Arguably one of the most scenic spots in Myanmar, Sagaing is covered in pretty gold-topped pagodas and filled with delightful temples. In the hills that surround Sagaing you will find scenic monasteries and nunneries and this would once have been the capital of the Shan State in the days of old.
Many people liken Sagaing to a miniature version of Bagan and while the sheer number of temples in the latter is mesmerizing, the laid back atmosphere and picture-postcard views of the former are more than enough reason to stop off here for a pleasant day of sightseeing.
When to go to Sagaing
The rainy season in Myanmar lasts roughly from June to October and many roads in rural areas are flooded. The countryside bursts into a riot of colour thanks to the rains, so this is arguably one of the prettiest times to visit but it can make things rather damp and uncomfortable if you want to get out and about. As such, November or December just after the rains have finished is said to be one of the best times to visit. After December the temperatures begin to rise and the heat can be fierce especially for those who are not used to the weather in the tropics.
Where to stay in Sagaing
Most people visit Sagaing for the day from Mandalay and it is less common for visitors to stay here overnight. The other issue is that guesthouses in Myanmar need to be licensed to allow foreigners to stay which limits the choices in many areas. If you do want to sleep overnight in Sagaing and see the town at a more leisurely pace then one choice is the Shwe Pyae Sone Guest House on Ohe Tan Road which has basic rooms.
Where to eat in Sagaing
Sagaing is not particularly well known for its food scene but it has a few places to eat if you are only in town for the day.
As with all towns in Myanmar there is a vibrant market here where you can get some typical Burmese fare such as grilled meats and simple noodle dishes. This makes a good choice if you want to explore the market at the same time, or if you prefer there are some actual restaurants to choose from.
One of the top spots in town is Sagaing Hill Restaurant which is also owned by one of the main tour operators in the area and serves Burmese and other Asian classics in a scenic setting. Note however that they are only open for lunch so make sure that you go early.
How to get around Sagaing
There is not much choice when it comes to getting around Sagaing although the centre of town is small and you can easily walk around the central attractions on foot. If you want to go out to some of the temples located a little way outside of town then you can rent a motorbike taxi which will cost about MMK 500 for a short trip.
How to get to and from Sagaing
If you are staying in neighbouring Mandalay then you can rent a motorbike and easily drive down to Sagaing for the day. Alternatively you can get a taxi from Mandalay which will cost around MMK 20,000 or, if you are on a budget, a taxi-truck which should cost around MYK 500 and will take you to the local market in Sagaing.
It is also possible to move on from Sagaing to Mingun although the road is rough and many drivers may be unwilling to make the journey. As such if you want to travel on to Mingun then you are better off going back to Mandalay and taking a boat from the central jetty.
Is Sagaing a safe place to visit?
Sagaing is a safe place to visit and violent crime, particularly aimed at foreigners, is very rare. Take care however with your valuables as there have been some reports of snatch theft by gangs on motorbikes who grab items from foreigners such as bags, phones, and jewellery.