Breaking apart a long journey from Bagan to Yangon, Inle Lake serves as an outdoor lovers hub, a pass-through spot that leaves you thinking it was worth it. You’ll hear about it over conversations, about how Inle Lake was one of the best parts of one’s travels to Myanmar – a few days trekking overland, and a diverse number of things to do and see on the water. You can take a boat tour on the vast lake – speeding down the flat waters on a narrow and tippy boat. Then, when the boat motors stop churning, it’s calming and almost unsettling. You’ll hear every drop of water. When the boat starts up again, you can see floating villages, narrow river passages, pagodas, and people’s handicraft. Fishermen who still catch fish the traditional way – with a large net and foot paddles – greet visitors as a way to make a tip. It’s worth a stop if you have time.
What to Do:
Inle Lake Boat Tour – A boat tour that starts in the morning and ends in the late afternoon will take you to all the important Inle Lake spots. It’s a group tour that needs 6 people per boat to run and only costs $6,000 Kyat (Approx $4 USD). You can inquire at the Diamond Star Guest House to reserve your spot – but it’s not run by the hotel. They make sure you have a great trip.
Lavander Spa and Massage – After trekking for a few days, you might want to stop by a massage parlor and loosen up all the muscles that were worked. This store has really good reviews and it’s a good value for how long the massage lasts.
Thousand Island Rooftop Bar – Go to the top of this hotel and grab a drink for an awesome sunset and view of the Inle Lake Canal. The motor boats will pass by along shore – a cooling breeze and cold beer will keep you staying longer than expected.
In Dein Pagoda – An hours boat ride on Inle Lake and up narrow rushing waterways, lies the In Dein Pagoda Complex. A set of hundreds of small stupas – crumbly and eroded. You have to climb through a covered walkway 20 minutes to reach the site.
Jumping Cat Monastery – This could be a site to skip, but for cat and animal lovers it’s a good rest spot to end your day of exploring Inle Lake, as it’s on the way back – the last piece of land before the open waters. Here, you’ll find many adopted cats by the monastery.
How Many Days to Spend:
It’s recommended to stay at least two days. One day you can do the boat tour and a second day you can visit some of the other activities (see below).
Where to Stay:
Budget Options, Value Options, Luxury Picks
Diamond Star Guest House – This small inn was very accomodating. We arrived at 5am in the morning off the bus from Bagan and nothing was open. They allowed us to come in and drop off our stuff, even though they were closed as well. A simple call was all we needed to do to get someone to help us in the early morning. We even slept in one of their extra rooms from 5am till midday. It was actually some of the best sleep I got on the trip. It’s a good value and runs around $6, but make sure to book ahead of time, otherwise you’ll be booked out. On a plus note, They partner with an Inle boat tour that was the highlight of our stay.
Sin Yaw Guest House – After foolishly booking only one night, I learned that the Diamond Star Guest House was fully booked, and we had to move out and find new accommodation. This Sin Yaw Guest House was a good option – only three blocks away. The rooms were very spacious, bathrooms clean, and came with a large mosquito net. There’s a good rooftop to watch sunset as well.
Thousand Island Hotel – Only a few steps away from the water, Thousand Island Hotel offers a rooftop viewpoint that is unmatched by any other location in Nyuang Shwe. It’s quite fancy and fairly affordable for being a nice hotel. This is a good option for a couple or anyone trying to relax after trekking for three days.
Inle Lake is located in the middle of the country – a 12 hour overnight bus from Bagan, or eight hours from Mandalay. Many visitors to Inle Lake actually get off two hours before at the small village of Kalaw to do a two to three day trekking trip (See below). Be prepared for a very early morning off the bus, if you decide on the overnight bus. You will end up on the streets of Nyuang Shwe, Inle Lake at around 4-5am on the overnight bus. It’s hectic when you get off the bus, but walk a few blocks and then the city is sleeping once again. To get to Inle Lake, you’ll want to type in Nyaung Shwe for the actual town that resides north of the lake. Don’t take the train.
Kalaw to Inle Lake Trekking:
Having gotten food poisoning in Bagan the day before going to Inle Lake, I opted to not do the Kalaw to Inle Lake Trekking. It was disappointing to miss out on this adventure, but I heard many good stories about it being a great three days on the trail. Here’s what you need to know, if you’re planning on doing this on your trip to Myanmar.
Jungle Trek and Uncle Sam’s – these companies can provide you with trekking. You can opt for a two day or three day trek. Most people recommend doing three days so as not to be rushed on the trail.
From the sounds of it, it seems fun. The tour company you book with will drop your stuff at the hotel or hostel of your choice in Nyuang Shwe, leaving you free of all your heavy stuff. You can then enjoy the trekking, unencumbered by any luggage. Along the way, you’ll pass traditional villages with friendly locals. Lots of agriculture and farms. The first and last day might be a drag for some – as it becomes flat and you’re not seeing as much as during the other times. However, the rest of the trip will be exciting with all the food stops and pagoda views along the way.
Within Nyuang Shwe, there’s many food options.
Dosa King – Super good Indian Food. Cultures come together in Myanmar and Indian is no exception. This was some of the best food in Myanmar and very affordable. The owner and staff are super friendly and speak good english.
Inle Palace Restaurant Bar & Cafe – serving a mean smoothie or fruit juice, this is a good stop for western food along the way. You can relax on the ground floor, or on their terrace. It’s a humble little spot that can serve as a place for a meal or dessert after stopping at another restaurant.
Night Market Food Stalls – classic Asian street food, these stalls whip up many delicious choices. You’re free to pick from the many different options. If one stand looks better, then you can try their food one night and come back for another another night.
What Else to Do in Inle Lake:
Rent your own boat and get a guided tour of some of the other locations.
Cycle around the lake and go to the winery on the top of the hill. A bycicle rental should be a $1 or $2 from the rental shop next to Lucky Star restaurant (try Google Maps). Then, cycle around the lake to find locals, village life, and many other sights to see. A popular route is the Nyaungshwe – Red Mountain Winery – Kaung Daing – Hotspring – Nyaungshwe.
Go Wine Tasting – as mentioned above on one of the stops for cycling (although you could get a tuk-tuk there too), there is a winery in Inle Lake. This is one of the few places to get wine in the country so take advantage while you can. Especially since there might be a nice sunset on the terrace.
More Myanmar Guides Here:
These are my other guides for Myanmar:
Explore the whole country: Your Travel Guide to Myanmar
Explore Bagan: Your Travel Guide to Bagan
Explore Inle Lake: Your Travel Guide to Inle Lake
Explore Loikaw: Your Travel Guide to Loikaw
Explore Hpa-an: Your Travel Guide to Hpa-an
Explore Yangon: Your Travel Guide to Yangon
Get Inspired for Myanmar: Top Five Reasons to Visit Myanmar