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Inle Lake in Myanmar is quickly becoming one of the most popular places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Situated in the mountainous Shan State, the Inle Lake region is comprised of Inle lake and two towns: Nyaungshwe and Taunggyj, with Nyaungshwe being a tourist hub popular with backpackers and budget travelers.
I might be a bit biased, but I think that Inle Lake is by far one of the best places to visit in Myanmar because of its unique scenery, rich culture and friendly people.
I recommend taking at least 3 days to explore this incredible place.
How to get to Inle Lake in Myanmar
Myanmar travel is a lot of fun, but it comes with some challenges because of the country’s undeveloped infrastructure. Since Myanmar has opened up to tourism only recently, it’s still catching up in terms of infrastructure and service.
Whatever your travel plans are, you should do some research before booking your tickets to avoid mistakes.
You can take a flight from Yangon to Inle Lake or other popular destinations within Myanmar. Inle Lake Heho Airport is almost 30 miles away from Lake Inle, so you will need to catch a taxi to Nyaungshwe, the gateway to Lake Inle that has hotels, restaurants and stores.
You can also catch a bus to Lake Inle, but be prepared for a long and bumpy ride as road conditions in Myanmar are in poor shape.
A bus from Bagan to Inle Lake takes between 8-10 hours, while a bus from Yangon to Inle Lake will take about 12 hours. Most companies that sell bus tickets in Myanmar provide snacks and blankets during your trip, however, you should still take snacks, water and comfy clothes for your trip.
PRO TIP: Foreign tourists are required to pay a fee to enter Inle Lake.
The fee is around $10 and you are typically required to pay it as you enter the area. As with the rest of Myanmar, you should always carry enough cash with you, as credit cards are only accepted at bigger Inle Lake hotels and stores.
Best time to visit Inle Lake
I recommend visiting Inle lake in Myanmar from November through February, which is the cold and dry season that that has little rain and mild temperatures.
The rainy season in Inle Lake lasts from May through the end of September and brings a lot of precipitation. The hot season in Inle Lake is from March through May.
To prepare for your trip, make sure to read about some the things to know about Myanmar before traveling there.
Inle Lake Hotels
There are many options when it comes to Inle Lake hotels.
You can stay in one of budget hotels in Nyaungshwe, and you can also choose a more expensive accommodation directly on the lake.
To get there, you will have to get a boat ride from Nyaungshwe. While Nyaungshwe is more on a budget side and many hotels there have a backpacker vibe to them, more pricey Lake Inle hotels have more relaxed atmosphere.
I recommend Inle Resort & Spa on the lake where I stayed during my trip. This hotel boasts amazing views and good access to the lake for sightseeing.
Things to do in Inle Lake
Exploring Inle Lake in Myanmar is a fascinating adventure.
Home to the freshwater lake, this area boasts centuries-old culture, history and stunning scenery. Here you can also find many floating villages and gardens where locals grow produce that you can try in restaurants around Inle Lake.
Take a boat trip of Inle Lake
There’s no better way to explore Inle Lake in Myanmar than take a boat tour.
The area offers a mix of amazing scenery, breathtaking cultural sites and floating villages. During the tour you will visit villages, tour pagodas and interact with local people who make silver, textiles and paper from scratch.
Most boat tours pick you up at your hotel early in the morning and bring you back late in the afternoon or early in the evening.
You can book your tour of Inle Lake through Get Your Guide ahead of your trip.
Floating villages of Inle Lake
Your Lake Inle itinerary will include many stops in Inle Lake’s floating villages linked via canals.
Many tours of Inle Lake include a visit to a silverware workshop in one of the floating villages. Silver is one of the largest exports from Shan State, and when you tour Inle Lake, you will have a chance to witness how silver goods such as cutlery and jewelry are made.
Another big stop along your Lake Inle itinerary is a lotus weaving workshop.
There, you will be able to witness the ancient technique of creating silk out of the lotus flower. As you tour the workshop, you will learn about the process of using lotus flowers to create silk for clothing.
You can also buy some clothing and other products made out of hand-woven lotus, however, they can be a bit pricey since production of hand-made lotus is very labor intense.
PRO TIP: Make sure to take some cash with you in case you want to make a purchase since credit cards are almost never accepted at local markets in Myanmar.
Watch fishermen of Inle Lake
Hundreds of fishermen come to Inle Lake to make their living.
While they wrap one leg around the paddle and use it to move their boats, they try to catch fish with a conus-like basket made out of bamboo and net. The process makes for an awesome photo opportunity and some fishermen even strike a pose when a tourist boat approaches them.
As a tourist, you are encouraged to give these fishermen a small tip, as most of them live off what they catch in the lake.
The downside of this popular tourist attraction is that there are some enterprising locals who pose as fishermen on the lake for money.
The fake fishermen can be very demanding when it comes to tip and always try to find naive tourists who are looking to take a photo. Don’t give into the pressure and give the money if they demand it from you after striking the famous pose in front of you.
Attend Taunggyj balloon festival
Every year Taunggyj hosts a balloon festival in its scenic mountain valley. The event takes place in November near the end of the Buddhist Lent. If you want to see an event off-the beaten-track and see dozens of balloons soar into the sky, you plan your trip to Inle Lake in Myanmar around November.
Visit Indein Village
As part of your tour of Lake Inle, you will get to visit Indein Village located on the west edge of Lake Inle.
After arriving to Indein Village via boat, walk across the bridge that leads to two groups of pagodas: Nyayng Ohak that have a collection of stupas and pagodas, many of which are crumbling, and Shwe Inn Thein, a complex of over 1,000 colorful stupas with umbrellas on top that produce a light ringing sound.
The sight of these stupas and the sound make for a truly magical experience!
These two sites are connected by a stairs that go up the hill. The stairway is lined up with stalls where vendors sell handcrafted goods and souvenirs. Most vendors are willing to haggle, so you should keep it in mind if you want to buy something.
Get produce at a local market
don’t forget to visit one of local markets near Lake Inle where artisans and vendors sell their fresh produce.
One of Inle Lake’s most popular markets is called a five-day market. The name of this market comes from the fact that it travels along many lakeside villages five day per week. If you are interested in learning the local culture and stocking up on some souvenirs, a five-day market should be on your list.
Try Local Wine
Not many tourists know about a winery in the Inle Lake region.
Red Mountain Estate Winery is located just 3 miles away from Nyaungshwe, and you can even walk there, however, it’s much faster by bicycle. The winery is located on a steep hill and the views are truly incredible.
Here you can taste some authentic Myanmar wine, however, as in many other places in Myanmar, you will have to pay in cash. Even if you are not a fan of wine, I recommend visiting Red Mountain Estate Winery because it’s one of the best kept secrets of the area.
Tour Kakku Village
If you want to explore more local culture, take a day trip to visit the ancient Kakku Village.
The village is located about 1,5 hours from Lake Inle that contains a remarkable collection of 2,478 stupas. Kakku a religious site for Pa-O people, the second largest ethnic group of Shan State. Foreigners can access Kakku village only with a Pa-O guide who typically wears a colorful turban and a traditional Pa-O dress.
The guide will accompany you throughout most of the area and will tell you everything about local traditions and life.
PRO TIP: You can book a full-day excursion to Kakku with a local guide through GetYourGuide.
Unfortunately, many of the stupas in the village were damaged by the series of recent earthquakes and inclement weather.
The stupas constructed in recent years can be easily spotted by the light pink color, while some of the old stupas are crumbling. As you walk among rows of stupas, you will be impressed by the intricate designs of each stupa adorned with mythological creatures and ornaments.
Visiting Lake Inle is a fantastic experience. From floating villages, to ancient stupas and local markets, this region is a true gem of Southeast Asia.
Make sure to include on your Myanmar itinerary when you get ready to explore this country.
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