Just to the left of the road as you enter Myinkaba, Gubyaukgyi (Great Painted Cave Temple) draws visitors to see the well-preserved, richly coloured paintings inside. These are thought to date from the temple’s original construction in 1113, when Kyanzittha’s son Rajakumar built it following his father’s death. In Indian style, the monument consists of a large vestibule attached to a smaller antechamber. The temple was damaged in the 2016 earthquake and some parts are still under restoration.

The fine stucco work on its exterior walls is in particularly good condition. Perforated, Pyu-style windows mean you’ll need a powerful torch to see the ceiling paintings clearly. If it’s locked during low season, ask in the village for the keyholder.

Next to the monument stands the gilded Myazedi (မြစေတီ, Emerald Stupa). A four-sided pillar in a cage between the two monuments bears an inscription consecrating Gubyaukgyi and written in four languages: Pyu, Mon, Old Burmese and Pali. It has great linguistic and historical significance, as it establishes the Pyu as an important cultural influence in early Bagan and relates the chronology of the Bagan kings, as well as acting as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ to allow scholars to decipher the Pyu language.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Bagan attractions

1. Myazedi

0.11 MILES

Built in the 12th century by Prince Yazakumar as a memorial to his mother, this large and gently tapering gold pagoda is flanked by two large chinthe (…

2. Manuha Paya

0.33 MILES

In Myinkaba village stands this active and rather modern-looking pagoda (although it dates from 1059). It is named after Manuha, the Mon king from Thaton…

3. Mingalazedi Paya

0.36 MILES

Close to the riverbank, towards Myinkaba from Old Bagan, Mingalazedi Paya (Blessing Stupa) represents the final flowering of Bagan’s architectural…

4. Shwesandaw Paya

0.38 MILES

Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa…

5. Nan Paya

0.48 MILES

Just south of Manuha Paya by dirt road, this shrine is said to have been used as Manuha’s prison, although there is little evidence supporting the legend…

6. Abeyadana Pahto

0.63 MILES

About 1300ft south of Manuha Paya, this 11th-century temple with a Sinhalese-style stupa was supposedly built by Kyanzittha’s Bengali wife Abeyadana, who…

7. Nagayon

0.68 MILES

Slightly south of Abeyadana and across the road, this elegant and well-preserved temple was built by Kyanzittha. The main buddha image is twice life-size…

8. Pahtothamya

0.71 MILES

On the dirt road 500ft east towards the dominating Thatbyinnyu, the Pahtothamya (or Thamya Pahto) was probably built during the reign of Kyanzittha,…