Exploring Inle Lake – The Hidden Water World of Myanmar

Inle Lake is known as an authentic wild water area in Myanmar. Every interesting destination in Inle Lake is located on the river. Here, it would be a shame without coming to flower village, cigar village, long neck Pa – O people’s village or jewelry/ handicraft village by boat. The most expected experience that visitors want to get while staying in Inle Lake is capturing its wonderful landscape. There are…

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Inle Lake is known as an authentic wild water area in Myanmar. Every interesting destination in Inle Lake is located on the river. Here, it would be a shame without coming to flower village, cigar village, long neck Pa – O people’s village or jewelry/ handicraft village by boat.

The most expected experience that visitors want to get while staying in Inle Lake is capturing its wonderful landscape. There are 3 seasons in Myanmar: cold season (November – next February), hot season (March – May) and rain season (June – October). However, the weather is always comfortable no matter what season.

Inle lake

How to get to Inle Lake

How to move to Lake Inle as convenient as possible? This is a question everyone wants to ask. After landing at Heho Airport located about 30 km from Nyaung Shwe, you can move to Inle Lake in many ways.

The first one is booking a plane ticket to Myanmar, stopping in Yangon and then transfering to Inle Lake by the night bus. You can choose famous and reputable car brands such as JJ Express, Shwe Nan Taw Express, Elite Express.

Renting a boat to Inle Lake is also a great ideal. The ticket price for the boat ride is only around 6500 kyats.

When you get here, you should hire a boat to explore the beauty of Inle Lake. The cost of hiring boat is not too expensive, around 15.000 Kyats ($9.93). A boat can carry 5 people maximum. There are 2 umbrellas on the boat for travelers in case that it starts raining or the sun is too hot.

Life on Lake

There is an ethnic group of Inthar (Inthar means “people who live on the lake”) who has been living here for thousands years. They build houses as well as local public architectures right on the river. Their greatest idea is the way they plant on the water by using floating rafts which are made from duckweed and moss. The Inthar hold those rafts with bamboo sticks, then pitch them into the riverbed, so that floating fields will float up and down following the water level.

Tomato tree is the most popular tree of the Inthar. This is considered as a specialty of Inle. As the Myanmar always says “If you visit Inle Lake without having tomato salad, then you never be here”.

Our boat crept through floating tomatoes lines growing over a meter in high, and occasionally, we see white, pink and purple chrysanthemums which are planted into a long narrow line. Looking behind the raft, there are leaf huts, making the scenery more romantic and peaceful in the middle of an immense blue river.

growing tomato on the lake

Next to cultivation, Inthar people go fishing for living. Their main rations are vegetable and sea-food. All visitors, especially photographers are surprised at the way the Inthar catching fishes. The men row a boat by one leg while they use the other leg to catch fishes by keeping a fishnet cage. They will beat the paddle into water in order that fishes will be driven toward the position of the cages. That strange-but-unique image has become a typical cultural feature of the Inthar people.

local fishermen catching fish

This traditional fishing method is safe for ecosystem of the Inle Lake. Fishermen usually catch fishes in the early morning. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful landscape here. The mist spreads up from the water combining with the light of breaking dawn which makes the landscape like a beautiful watercolors painting.

Some fisherman finds some area with nice sunlight around the lake to take performance of fishing for travelers to take photos. Then, tourists pay them a little for their performance. If you visit Inle Lake, don’t miss this show. You will feel like you are watching fishermen dancing ballet on the lake. Women don’t row like men, they sit on the inside of the boat and paddle their arms. Boats filled with grass, mop, food crept between floating lands, where people planted floating gardens on the lake. The wooden houses, the verandah, hanging with colorful flower baskets, look so fragile but steady among the water and the sky.

inle stlit houses
Inle not only attracts tourists with pristine beauty, and close-to-nature resorts, but also becomes the destination for many tourists who want to learn about a cultural area with a long history. In the southern Inle Lake, there is a remaining ancient city with the brick-built architecture from the 11th century, which was once the capital of the time.

Although life is still hard, but the Inthar people are very fond and attached to the Inle Lake area. This is the place where all cultural activities and production of the people take place. The largest festival of this region usually takes place in September every year. The peaceful beauty of Inle Lake is also felt on every quiet summer night, when you can hear the singing, echoing from the fishermen who are fishing at night or from the lovely couples dating on the romantic lake.

Every Inthar woman in marriageable age receives a floating raft from her parent. It is regarded as marriage portion. With rafts, their daughter and her husband can live in every area around the lake. They also need rafts to cultivate for making a living.

Tourists can look at wooden houses which are like stilt houses on the water. These houses are decorated by faded wood colored in blue, red, yellow and flower pots.

The transport of Inle residence is boat. People go to the market, temples by boat. The temples around Inle Lake are located on land, near the lake. All of them have their own ancient beauty and seem to be forgotten.

There are 17 villages around Inle Lake which are famous for traditional handicraft, such as silver products, lotus silk weaving, paper making, copper/ iron foundry. Among those highlights, the Kayan ethnic women, where the female wear heavy copper necklaces to lengthen their neck, are the most famous ethnic minority. Moreover, there are numerous minorities such as Shan people, Pa-O, Danu, Barma. The majority of the people are Buddhist and self-sufficient. A small part of residents makes a living by tourism, and it makes Inle become a good tourist environment, full of services but still retain the cultural identity of the region.

a souvenir shop in Inle lake

On the other hand, it would be nice if you can catch sights of the local floating markets which rotate over a 5-day period and its locations are normally changed each time.

inle lake-floating market
If you have chances to explore every place in Inle Lake, you shouldn’t miss the scene of the sunset here. A corner of sky gets bright when the sun goes down which makes the landscape look magical and glowing. Enjoying a meal, turning on the music, letting your soul free or sharing this moment with your companions, it could be a great memory to remember.

Here is another suggestion for you. When you come back to the shore, let’s experience the local people’s life by riding a bike around Nyaungshwe. Lying close to the town, on the direction to Shwenyaung, the famous Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung temple with its teak oval window panes and the images of young monks in dark red robes skimmed through the doorway, has become a special highlight of Inle. Monks as well as other monasteries are always welcoming and friendly to visitors, but you should not bother them during the lessons.

Nyaung Shwe is really a gate to Inle Lake, where you find the special features in the lives of the Intha, Shan before boarding your boat to start a journey full of sunshine and wind. You should also check in Shwe Yan Bye abbey and taste wine on the mountain. Besides, you can visit a big temple called Phaung Daw Oo or few other attractions. This would be unforgettable experiences.

Hotel and Services

To make it easier to visit Inle Lake, you should rent motels near the lake. The motel’s prices in the town of Nyaung Shwe are quite reasonable ranging from 10 to 20 USD / room / night.

If you don’t want to stay in a motel, you can choose a hotel right next to the station. With a distance of only 500 meters, there are many clean and comfortable hotels. More than that, the prices of these hotels are not too expensive, ranging from 20 to 25 USD / double room / night, which also include breakfast.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that there are resorts providing rooms on the lake, bit the price of these rooms is quite expensive, ranging from 45 USD / room / night.

The people here are mostly Shan people, so the dishes here are also bold with the indigenous characteristics. You can enjoy these delicious dishes at restaurants located on the lake or inside the town of Nyaung Shwe. Some of the special dishes that you can choose here are chicken sauce, sweet and sour soup, soup and curry soup, ….

tomato salad
myanmar traditional food
Similar to Bagan, there are restaurants serving western food and local traditional food in some specific area in town. In the center, it is easily to spot one. In addition, few of them are also held cooking classes teaching you how to make Burmese traditional dishes. Sound exciting, isn’t it?
If you are interesting in visiting Inle Lake, Far East Tour offers you few of our tours including these:
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18 thoughts on “Exploring Inle Lake – The Hidden Water World of Myanmar

  1. Hi all, I’m planning to visit Myanmar but I need some advice on which part should I go with only 6 days. Day 1, I will be arriving Yangon at around 12:45pm and I will be flying back to my country on Day 7 6:45am. My current plan is, Day 1 explore Yangon and midnight bus to Bagan so I will be arriving Bagan on the 2nd Day. Spend 4 days there and midnight bus back to Yangon on day 5. Day 6 last day in Yangon, Day 7 fly back to my country. Is there any better plan? Should I includes inle lake?

    1. 6 days is not too much so Yangon plus one other destination would be enough. Yangon is a fascinating city with so much to do and see. We spent 4 full days there and could have used a couple more. Stick to your plan otherwise it would involve too much traveling

  2. Inle Lake is a major tourist attraction, and this has led to some development of tourist infrastructure. Many small and large privately owned hotels and tour operations have arisen during the past few years. Local shops are flooded with consumer items, both local and foreign. The nearest airport is Heho Airport which is 35 km away. There are flights from both Yangon and Mandalay. Yangon is 660 km away by road, Mandalay 330 km.

  3. Hey, thank you so much for replying. Hmmm do you think I should spend more days in Yangon?
    Day 1 Yangon, Day 2-4 Bagan, Day 5-7 Yangon

  4. A week is good enough to do three destinations. Here I recommend…
    1- Yangon arrival
    2- Yangon – Bagan
    3- Bagan
    4- Bagan – Inle lake
    5- Inle lake
    6- Inle lake – Yangon
    7- Yangon departure..
    Sound it helps… let me know for more inputs…

  5. Really appreciate for your reply! I think Day 6 at Yangon is much safe in case anything happen i still can get on my flight haha

  6. I would like to suggest you the following
    Day 1 : Yangon Arrival + Full Day Sightseeing
    Hotel : on the Bus
    Yangon – Bagan
    Day 2 : Bagan Full Day Sightseeing
    Hotel : in Bagan
    Day 3 : Bagan – Mt. Popa Full Day Tour
    Hotel : in Bagan
    Day 4 : Bagan – Inle
    Hotel : Inle
    Day 5 : Inle Full Day Sightseeing
    Hotel : On the Bus Inle – Yangon
    Day 6 : Yangon Sightseeing + Departure

  7. Three days in each of Yangon and Bagan. Overnight buses are a good idea as they are quite comfortable (the VIP ones) and cheap, and you don’t lose time travelling during the day (as long as you can actually sleep on buses, otherwise you then waste a day recovering/sleeping). Three places is just way too much travelling.

  8. I had three nights stay at Bagan and Inle lake,who can tell me stay two nights at Bagan or Inle Lake.

    1. i arrived at early morning 7:00 by JJ express bus
      Totally i had nine day holiday ,first day i arrived yangon 19:00 and directly to aung Mingalar bus station to ride my 20:00 to Bagan,and the last two nights i want to stay at yangon

  9. So you will arrive early morning in Bagan. You could take night bus to Inle on 3rd night. That will give almost 2 full days in Bagan

  10. 2 full days in Inle is enough, one for the boat trip and another to explore Nyuamg Shwe museum, monasteries, Red Mountain Winery and the Puppet Show in the evening

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