Known as a memorable and unique area in Myanmar, Inle Lake is quickly becoming a popular destination for travelers. People all over the world are journeying to its shimmering waters in search of various natural, cultural, religious, and historic sites.
To help you with planning your adventure, here is a list of 9 must-see attractions at Inle Lake.
Inle Lake—Life on the Water
Inle Lake is one of Myanmar's most iconic destinations because of its serene waters and unique local culture. Looking out across the lake, visitors will see stilt-house villages and Buddhist temples rising above the water. Vast and beautiful, Inle Lake is 13.5 miles in length and is home to 70,000 people.
Local fishermen take their boats out on the lake every day and are known for having a specific and unique rowing style that involves balancing on one foot while rowing with the other. This rowing style can only be seen at Inle Lake.
For local people, the lake is an essential part of their livelihood and has shaped their culture, as shown by the floating markets and gardens bobbing up and down on the surface of the glimmering water. The best way to enjoy the lake is by boat and sunset cruises offer the most picturesque and peaceful views of its water-based culture.
Floating Garden—Walking on Water
Although there are floating gardens in other parts of Southeast Asia, no other place contains gardens as spectacular and picturesque as Inle Lake. The local people who live in the stilted villages surrounding the lake use charming floating gardens to grow vegetables and fruit for their traditional cuisine.
The biggest and most extensive gardens are located on the northwest portion of the lake where the lush greenery spreads out in rows far past the houses. Locals can be seen tending the flourishing gardens daily from their small wooden boats.
Some of the oldest gardens are even firm enough to walk on, because roots from the plants have spread down to the lake bottom and keep the gardens firm.
5-Day Market—A Mobile Bazaar
One of Inle Lake's most popular and picturesque sights, this famous market includes everything from textiles to Buddha statues. The market rotates each day between 5 different villages in various locations bordering the lake, with all trade conducted from small traditional wooden boats. The best time to go is in the early morning, to avoid boat jams.
Local Shan and Intha people, as well as numerous Pa-O villagers and the long-necked Padaung, converge on the bustling water market to sell their wares. This colorful and animated gathering is the best place in the Inle Lake area for observing the many different and unique local cultures.
Phaung Daw U Pagoda—the Gilded Buddhas
This red-and-gold terraced pagoda is the most famous in the Inle Lake region. Absolutely breathtaking inside and out, the walls of the temple are decorated with the murals of Buddhist stories. At the center of the structure sits an ornate shrine with five small Buddha statues of great religious importance.
The statues at Phaung Daw U Pagoda are renowned Buddhist artifacts covered in gold-leaf applied daily by devotees as they come to worship. Every year an 18-day Pagoda Festival is held to celebrate the five images of Buddha. The festival involves the royal barge, as well as local boat races and other celebrations.
Nga Hpe Kyuang—Jumping Cats Monastery
The Nga Hpe Kyuang Monastery is known for its jumping cats, which in earlier years were trained by novice monks to leap through hoops between scripture recitals. Today, although the cats still live at the monastery, they have been retired from jumping. Currently, the best reason to visit the area is for the temple’s picturesque beauty.
The Nga Hpe Kyuang Monastery is one of the oldest and largest on the lake. Made of wood and built on stilts, it offers incredible views of the lake and surrounding areas. Inside the monastery, visitors get the chance to see young monks peacefully studying and golden statues sitting on thrones.
Indein Stupa Complex—Garden of Stupas
The Indein Stupa Complex is a sea of ornate spires rising out of the ground like a forest of stupas. Built into the hillside, the complex contains over 1,600 stupas, some of which are intricately carved and gilded.
Several of the pagodas have been restored, but others have cracks in their bases, creating the suspicion that the stupas are being reclaimed by the vibrant jungle.
There are two different groups of stupas at the complex. The first is located near where the boat lands and many of the pagodas here are decorated with images of mythical animals. The second group is located at the top of a hill, from which visitors can take in the striking scene of the whole Indein Stupa Complex and the surrounding area below.
Red Mountain Estate Vineyard—Relaxing Views
One of only two wineries in Myanmar, the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard produces nine different varieties of wine made from locally grown grapes. You can visit the Vineyard for inexpensive wine tastings and vineyard tours.
Perched on the lower slopes of the mountain, the winery is a perfect place for relaxing at sunset with a cheese platter, a glass of wine, and some good company. From the outdoor terrace, visitors can take in the panoramic view towards Nyang Shwe and down the valley towards Inle Lake itself.
Shwe Yaunghwe Kyuang—Window onto Buddhism
The most photographed monastery in the area, Shwe Yaunghwe Kyuang is built of intricately carved wood and is famous for its oval-shaped windows which create the perfect frame for pictures of young novice monks studying.
At around 11 o’clock every day, the monks gather to meditate, allowing visitors the opportunity to observe, or even to join in the meditation themselves.
On the inside of the temple, walls are lined with thousands of tiny alcoves each containing a small Buddha statue. These statues were donated by people from many different countries, as far away as France, the U.S.A., and Australia. Along with colorful walls and painted tile floors, they create a vivid and beautiful scene.
Kakku—Rows of Pagodas
Dating back to the 12th century, Kakku is a site containing 2,500 ancient pagodas overlooking Inle Lake. Most of the pagodas on the site are the same size and are arranged in orderly rows. However, at the center of the complex sits the impressive main pagoda standing 130 feet tall.
Kakku is on the outskirts of the Inle area, in Pa-O territory. About 3 hours by car, the trip to Kakku is a scenic ride on small winding roads through traditional Pa-O villages and fields.
An opportunity to see a truly incredible example of ancient craftsmanship and to get a glimpse into the daily lives of people from a unique culture, a trip to Kakku while at Inle Lake is highly recommended.
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