Inle Lake is a popular tourist destination in Myanmar. Visitors head to the Inle Lake region to see the famous floating villages and gardens and to witness the local fishermen’s unique fishing style.
Measuring 13.6 miles (22km) by 6.2 miles (10 km), Inle Lake is the second largest in Myanmar and lies between 2 mountain ranges in the Shan State. It is a freshwater lake inhabited by a wide range of animal species including many rare snails and fish.
Why is Inle Lake Famous?
Offering natural beauty and a chance to experience the local culture, Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s most well-known sites.
The Intha People in Inle Lake
Inle lake is home to the Intha people, meaning ‘sons of the lake’. This Tibeto-Burman ethnic group is made up of around 100,000 to 200,000 people who live in the cities around the lake and on the water itself, residing in wooden and bamboo houses on stilts.
The Intha are self-sufficient farmers and are known in particular for their distinctive fishing style in which one leg is wrapped around the stern of the boat and the other around the oar.
The local economy of Inle Lake
In addition to fishing, the local economy is also supported by trades such as silk weaving and silversmiths. Tourists have the opportunity to visit handicraft workshops and see local people at work.
How to Visit Inle Lake
To see as much of the lake as possible, tourists are recommended to take a boat trip.
Take a boat tour of Inle Lake
The starting point for the majority of trips is Nyaung Shwe. An entrance fee of 25,000 Kyat (17 USD) is paid on entering Nyaung Shwe.
The boat drivers, who are also tour guides, offer recommendations on what to see and do. The list below also suggests some must-see sights. As the lake is so large, it is impossible to see everything but it is best to set off early to enjoy a full day of sightseeing.
Practical tips for taking a boat tour of Inle Lake
- Look for a boat with life jackets for safety
- Check with the driver about swimming in the river, the water is shallow (1.5-3 meters) and pollution can be an issue
- Take a hat and sun protection, even during the cool season temperatures reach 72ºF (22ºC) and there is no shade on the water
Hiring a bike in Inle Lake
It is possible to rent a bike to explore Inle Lake with easier and more challenging routes available. A mountain bike costs around 7,000 to 15,000 kyat per day (5 to 10 USD).
Some companies also offer bike tours with expert guides, a half day bike tour costs in the region of 38,100 Kyat (26 USD).
Hot air balloon rides over the Inle Lake region
To get a birds-eye view over the lake visitors can take a hot-air balloon ride lasting 60 to 90 minutes and costing approximately 50 to 51,000 Kyat (350 USD).
Balloon flights can be booked online or by telephone in advance and tourists should be aware that flights may be cancelled in the case of adverse weather conditions.
What to Visit in Inle Lake
A guided boat tour of bicycle route allows visitors to access the villages situated on and around the lake. The following are some of the best places to explore in Inle Lake.
Nampan Village and its floating gardens
A traditional floating village with wooden houses built on stilts and offering an insight into local community life and culture. Tourists can see hand-made local cigars, called cherrot, being made in factories here.
Nampan village is also home to the Alodaw Pauk Pagoda, the largest pagoda on the lake and one of the oldest shrines, featuring a gem-encrusted Buddha statue.
For visitors interested in the Intha people, Nampan village is the perfect opportunity to interact with them as they work here tending to the gardens and flowers.
With a number of good, inexpensive restaurants in the village, it is a great place to sample the Shan cuisine typical to the area including tofu, sticky rice and noodles.
Ywama Village, a typical Inle Lake settlement
This settlement in Inle Lake is best known for its floating market but also offers several artisan workshops. The presence of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, visited by many Buddhist worshippers from across Myanmar each year, also makes this village particularly noteworthy.
Tourists in Inle Lake in October can enjoy the annual Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival during which 4 Buddha images are taken around the villages of the lake, on a route taking 18 days to complete. Rowing races using the distinctive leg-rowing technique also take place.
Quality restaurants offer traditional Shan food and freshly caught local fish dishes.
Due to the popularity of this village, tourists are recommended to visit Ywama Village early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Indein Village, hundreds of ancient stupas
Accessed via a winding canal from Yyama, passing by rice paddies and water buffalo farmers, Indein Village is worth visiting to see the red, white and brown stupas crowded on the hillside. Of particular note is Nyaung Oak with its carvings of mythical animals. There is also a lively market here.
Tourists should be prepared to pay slightly more for their tour if they choose to visit Indein Village as it is slightly away from the main route.
How to Get to Inle Lake from Yangon and Mandalay
There are several onward transport options for international visitors arriving into Myanmar’s main airports.
Flying to Ines Lake
The fastest way to reach Inle Lake from Mandalay and Yangon International airports is to take a connecting flight to Heho airport.
Heho airport is situated around 28 miles (46 km) from the lake. From there, tourists are recommended to take a taxi to Nyaung Shwe. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes and costs in the region of 25,000 kyat (17 USD).
It is also possible to travel to Nyaung Shwe by pick-up truck or public bus. Although cheaper, this is less practical given that the departure point is Heho town rather than directly from the airport.
Public and private buses to Inle Lake
Private bus services connect Yangon and Nyaung Shwe. The journey takes around 10 hours to complete and tickets cost in the region of 30,000 Kyat (10 USD).
The bus journey from Mandalay to Nyaung Shwe takes around 8 hours to complete and tickets cost in the region of 20,000 kyat (14 USD).
Slow train from Yangon
It is possible to take the train from Yangon, however the journey is very slow and it is necessary to change trains in Thazi.
A good option is to take the overnight train departing Yangon at 5 p.m., stopping in Thazi for a couple of hours before finally arriving into Nyaung Shwe, the closest train station to Inle Lake, at 5 p.m.
An ordinary seat costs 1,500 kyat (1 USD) whilst upper-class tickets are 3,000 kyat (2 USD).
The journey is slow but it offers some beautiful scenic views.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Inle Lake?
Due to the wet and dry seasons, it is important to carefully consider the best time to visit Myanmar when planning a trip to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake is generally cooler than elsewhere in Myanmar due to its geographical location with temperatures ranging from 72ºF (22ºC) in the dry season (November to February) to 95ºF (35ºC) in the hot season (March and April).
Like the rest of Myanmar, the best time to visit Inle Lake is from November to February, avoiding both the monsoon season (from May to October) and the hot season when temperatures are uncomfortably high.
As temperatures drop in the evening, visitors should take warm clothing.
Is a Visa Required to Visit Inle Lake in Myanmar?
Most foreign nationals require a visa to enter Myanmar.
Citizens of 100 countries are able to apply for the Myanmar (former Burma) visa online. The quickest and easiest way to gain access to the country, applicants are not required to visit their embassy or consulate and can fill out the form online. Foreign visitors can check Myanmar’s evisa requirements to make sure they qualify.
Once the eVisa application has been approved, applicants are emailed a copy of the authorization to be printed and presented at the border.
The Myanmar tourist visa allows for single-entry stays of up to 28 days.