Still relatively unknown, Inle Lake is a treasure located in the western Shan State of Myanmar. Most tourists pass up this gem when rushing to the more popular Bagan area, little do they know what they are missing out on! If you’re on the lookout for serenity and authentic interactions with the Myanmar people, Inle Lake is the place to be.
One can simply spend hours just watch the locals go about their day along the vast, tranquil lake. Well, at least that’s what we did! I vividly recall snapping away while the birds were landing on buffalos, while the local farmers went about their day tending to the floating gardens. With significantly fewer crowds, we highly recommend including Inle Lake in your Myanmar itinerary. Check out our short film production featuring Inle Lake!
[Last updated: 14 Aug 2019]
Before we get started on the things to do, here are our recommendations on the best places to stay at in Inle Lake !
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Best Places to Stay in Inle Lake:
Villa Inle Boutique Resort offers peace of mind, allowing guests to enjoy the scenery and serenity of Inle Lake while sitting in the comfort of their own private villa. The charming wooden villas line the lakeside, all made with natural materials to truly be one with nature. We had the magical experience of quietly watching the comings and goings of locals in their boats while sipping our good morning coffees on our balcony. We also had the chance to marvel at the buffaloes bathing in the lake and migratory birds flying overhead.
Villa Inle Boutique Resort boasts a restaurant serving authentic Myanmar cuisine as well as western fare. Might we add, give the pastries at breakfast a try. Fluffy on the inside yet crisp on the outside, those pastries were a touch of class. You can also lounge by the pool or visit the organic vegetable garden. Tired at the end of the day exploring Inle Lake and its surrounding attractions? Rejuvenate your senses and loosen those sore muscles at Villa Inle’s relaxing spa facility, a prerequisite for a good night’s sleep!
What we love most about this lakeside resort is its firm commitment to environmental friendliness and sustainable tourism. The wooden villas are designed to highlight nature, hence only having a limited number available to preserve the trees. If you are looking for a rejuvenating breather in the middle of a hectic trip, Villa Inle Boutique Resort would be ideal to slow down the pace.
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7 Reasons to Include the Enchanting Inle Lake in Your Myanmar Trip
1. Marvel at the 2000+ year old Kakku Pagodas complex
Built 2,000 years ago, 2,478 stupas complete this majestic collection. The Kakku Pagodas complex was commissioned to serve as a religious shrine for one of Myanmar’s Buddhist tribes, the Pa’O people. Located in the Shan State, you need to be traveling with a local guide before you can enter Kakku as this is mandated by the law. When walking around the complex, we didn’t think there were that many stupas, but we were blown away when we captured an aerial photo from afar. It’s quite a distance from Inle Lake I must say, but give this a shot!
2. Admire the ancient overgrown Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda
On the west side of Inle Lake, navigate your boat up a winding river, and there you will find Indein Village, another of Inle Lake’s hidden gems. Here, you will see what seems to be infinite rows of pagodas and ancient stupas. They look like an assembly of bishops from a chess piece at a glance—only with much more grandiose. It takes about 20-30 minutes to walk to the pagodas, with a never-ending tunnel featuring hundreds of small shops selling scarfs, antiques, souvenirs, clothing. Basically almost everything you can think of!
3. Cruise along the serene Inle Lake
One of the highlights of our Myanmar trip was Inle Lake itself. The vast, enchanting lake alone is a feast for the eyes, while the accompanying fishermen and houses on stilts added to its charm. Words simply can’t describe the allure of the place, and the magical feeling evoked in us throughout our boat ride.
The boat ride comes with a driver, and it can seat around 4 people. We highly recommend to hire a tour guide should you wish to hear the stories or more information about Inle Lake and its surroundings.
4. Discover the traditional fishing techniques at Inle Lake
Fishermen in Myanmar mostly employ the modern style of fishing using nets, but there is a handful who still prefer doing it the old fashion way—using a basket-like net. Watch these traditional fishermen expertly navigate using only one oar, dipping their old school nets into the water while maintaining perfect balance.
5. Hunt for goodies at the five-day markets
Who doesn’t love shopping time! The renowned 5-day market is made up of Pa’O villagers, Shan and Intha people selling their wares on boats. The tricky thing is, they set up at a different village each day, so double check with your hotel or guide on the location before visiting. Handicrafts and souvenirs are aplenty here; presents problem solved. Remember to head down as early as possible to the market, latest at 8 in the morning. Any later and you risk getting stuck in boat traffic. Yes, there is such a thing here!
6. Take flight with a mesmerising hot air balloon experience over the lake
When you think of hot air balloons, tourists usually associate that with Bagan, with wondrous views of the ancient temples scattered across the vast plains. Riding one over Inle Lake is actually a pretty surreal experience. The aerial view of the floating gardens complements well with the endless lake, and we dare say nature lovers might love this experience even more than Bagan. Even if you visit between October and March, the peak season for hot air ballooning, there won’t be that many balloons around the lake area, thereby providing an unobstructed view of the entire calming landscape.
7. Stopover at the floating gardens on Inle Lake
Your Inle Lake boat ride will probably lead you past the fascinating floating gardens, only made possible through extensive manual labour by the local farmers. It was pretty incredible seeing people on stilts manoeuvre around the water with so much ease! The constant availability of nutrient-laden water makes the floating gardens incredibly fertile, helping the farmers grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and rice as well.
This post was brought to you by Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM).