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Your basic Inle Lake travel guide
Basic Info On Inle Lake
Inle Lake is a very picturesque township located high up in the mountains in the area of Shan State, Myanmar. The lake itself is freshwater and measures roughly about 22km in length and 10km in width. The lake is nestled in between two very pretty mountain ranges, and is surrounded by several very small towns, the most populated being Nyaungshwe. The Shan State area of Myanmar is also very different to the rest of the country. In the Inle Lake region, the land is fertile, the temperatures cooler, the landscape greener and the way of life more traditional.
The reason why Inle Lake is very popular for travellers, is because the way of life is very unique and the local Burmese culture is still very strong. The most interesting part of Inle Lake is exploring the many floating villages that reside on the lake. For centuries the local people have lived on the lake in bamboo stilt houses while making their living fishing and farming using floating gardens. So to experience this and interact with local families is most definitely a highlight. Other strong cultural practices include basket weaving, silk weaving, cigar making and umbrella making. These practices plus many more can be viewed in various villages around the lake.
There are also many other activities that you can do on the banks of the lake, such as bike riding and hiking. Many people actually arrive or leave the area of Inle Lake via hiking through the mountain ranges to nearby towns such as Kalaw. There are also a lot of different hill tribes in the mountains that offer overnight home stays for hikers. We have done some of the hikes and can’t recommend them enough!
Overall, a stay of about 3-4 nights in Inle Lake is ideal. It’s good to have about 2 days exploring the lake by boat, then probably another 2 days doing some hiking through the mountains. It is easily one of the best places to visit in Myanmar. However, like most of South East Asia, tourism is growing rapidly. So it’s best you get there soon, before many of the local customs and villages start to sell out.
- A taxi from nearby Heho airport should only cost around 18,000 Kyats.
- The best and cheapest place to stay is in Nyaungshwe.
- Go down to the jetty and organise a boat driver yourself to explore the lake, as it’s much cheaper (around 16,000 Kyats). Also be sure to tell them what you want to see, otherwise you will follow the regular tourist route.
- For something fun, do an overnight hike to or from nearby Kalaw.
- Be sure to carry local currency with you.
- For a great atmosphere and location, stay at Ostello Bello.
- Eat at one of the many Indian restaurants, as the area is full of many Burmese people with Indian background.
- Also try some of the local fried lake fish with a Myanmar beers at happy hour.
Where To Stay In Inle Lake
There are a few different options for accommodation in the area of Inle Lake, depending on your interests and budget. If you are a high rolling fat cat with money to burn, then there is the option of a 4-5 star hotel which is literally located on the lake. There are a few of these to choose from. However, you are seriously not going to experience anything worth while by staying in these places, as they are often isolated from local villages and virtually have no atmosphere what so ever.
We recommend staying in the town of Nyaungshwe. There are heaps of different hotels, hostels and guest houses to choose from here. The town is on the banks of the lake with the main jetty within 5-10 mins walk. So exploring the lake from here is easily done. In terms of food and drink, you can’t go wrong with many decently priced restaurants and bars on offer.
We stayed at a hostel called Ostello Bello, which was great for price, food, location and atmosphere.
Getting Around Inle Lake
Of course when exploring the lake itself, you will need a boat to get around. The best thing to do is walk down to the main jetty and negotiate a price with a local boat driver. They are really friendly and often offer very fair prices. We paid 16,000 Kyats for two people for the entire day. They will take you around to the floating villages, show you local markets and also fisherman using traditional fishing and rowing techniques. You can also let them know what in particular you want to see and they will accommodate this.
When back on land, the small town of Nyaungshwe is small enough that you can easily walk around. Most hotels and hostels also have bikes you can borrow if you wish to ride around the lake and do some exploring.
If catching an overnight bus, you will get dropped off in Nyaungshwe, and from there you can easily walk a short distance to your hotel or hostel. If flying into Heho airport, you will need to catch a taxi to the Inle Lake area, which takes about 40 mins and costs around 18,000 Kyats.