Inle Lake is a 45 squarekm freshwater lake located in the Shan Province of Central Myanmar. It is approximately 330km from Mandalay and 660km from Yangon.
How to get to Inle Lake
The best way to reach Inle Lake is by a completing a moderate difficulty 2 or 3 day trek from Kalaw, averaging 20km per day depending on the route chosen.
Alternatively a taxi can be hired for about $20 or the train offers a picturesque, bumpy 3.5 hour journey for only a couple thousand MMK to Shwe Nyaung, 20 minutes from the main hub.
From the main cities buses are frequent which head to the main town area of Inle Lake; Nyaung Shwe where there is an abundance of hotels and guesthouses.
The bus to and from Bagan, usually the next stop on the backpacker route is from 16,000MMK to 21,000 depending on the agent and bus chosen. JJ bus seems to be the most reputable, but others are also fine and slightly cheaper.
Heho Airport is 35km away with taxis fixed at 25,000MMK to Nyuang Shwe.
Inle Lake Price
Entrance to the Inle Lake conservation area is 12,000 MMK or 10USD. This is valid for 5 days and goes to the irrigation department who are responsible for the upkeep of the area. If you happen to miss the tax collection point, nobody checks that you have paid.
When visiting, one should definitely take a full day boat trip around the lake which cost 15,000 to 18,000 MMK per boat.
Whee to stay
There are many guesthouses and hotels with varying costs in the Nyaung Shwe township which is the main hub, but this can become quite touristy.
There are some luxury hotels located on the east side of the lake such as the Novotel, Inle Princess and Aureum Palace which offer discounts in the low season.
How much time will you need there
The usual 3 days seems to be enough time to complete most activities here.
When to visit Inle Lake
As with all of Myanmar it is seasonal due to the Monsoon season with the wettest months being from end of May to September. It is however quieter during this time with deals to be had if you can brave the the occasional downpour.
Most tourists arrive from October to February where the highest water levels are achieved around November with flowers galore.
What to do there
- The main attraction is the Lake itself which can be seen by a small wooden boat in a full day trip.
- I suggest starting early in the morning (7am!) in order to experience the morning market.
- There are plenty of stops and visits at the floating villages where the houses sit on bamboo stilts; including handmade silk/cotton and lotus weaving factories, handmade cigarette and cigar (‘Cheroots’) factories, silver smiths and other handcrafts along with an aray of floating gardens harvesting different crops..
- There are many Temples and Monasteries around and an area not to miss is In Dein which has hundreads of ruined and partly restored Stupas from the 12thto 18th Century which is eerily quiet.
- The Red Mountain Winery which offers panoramic views over the landscape and lake which is a great place to watch the Sunset with the locally made wine and food.
Why should Inle Lake be on my bucket list ?
Inle lake is a step inside real Myanmar where you can see the local ‘Intha’ fishermen row with their feet (the only place in the world to do this), the locals bathing in the river and experience a floating market. It is sure to become influxed with tourists in years to come with new large hotels popping up around, but there is a reason for this; it is an area of outstanding beauty lined with Burmese locals who welcome you open armed with ear to ear smiles.