Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s most iconic destinations, due to its one-of-a-kind local culture and incredible scenery. Home to over 70,000 people, and 13.5 miles in length, it has plenty of things to do and see.
To help with planning your adventure, here is a list of 9 must-do activities at Inle Lake.
Enjoy Amazing Views from the Water
Recommended time: half a day
A unique and picturesque body of water, Inle Lake is surrounded by stilt-house villages and numerous Buddhist monuments. Located in a valley between two mountain ranges, the lake is the perfect place for relaxing and taking in the views, with the mountains rising dramatically on the horizon.
Inle Lake is a shallow but large body of water. The best way to experience its beauty is by taking a ride on a traditional wooden longboat. These sleek vehicles are equipped with powerful motors that help them glide quickly and gracefully across the lake, making for a relaxing journey.
The best time to enjoy the beauty of the water is at dawn, when there is more activity and visitors can watch the local people hurrying by. Boats can be found all around the lake, but the best boarding area is at the village of Nyuang Shwe, where many guides wait around in the morning.
See the Floating Gardens and Watch the Traditional Fishermen
Recommended time: 1 day
The people at Inle Lake are famous for their unique way of life, based entirely on the water. Their stilted homes surround the lake and their lush gardens dance on the surface. Local farmers use their picturesque floating gardens, tended entirely from boats, to grow vegetables for use in the local cuisine.
Around the gardens, visitors will notice local fishermen who are often seen propelling their boats forward while standing on one leg and wrapping the other around an oar. This rowing style is unique to Inle Lake and allows the fishermen to have both hands free to cast their nets.
Inle Lake gives visitors an opportunity to see a beautiful and traditional lifestyle that has survived for thousands of years. The best time to see the fishermen and floating gardens is in the morning, when temperatures are cooler and the people are more active.
Unwind on Glowing Sunset Waters
Recommended time: 2 hours
In the evening, the busy life on the lake starts to calm down. This is the perfect time to head out and enjoy the stunning view of the sunset reflecting on the glass-like water. As the sun lowers behind the mountains, visitors can take in the natural beauty of the area.
Because Inle Lake has become a popular tourist destination, local fishermen often take their boats out to pose for tourists using their traditional rowing style. Silhouettes of the fishermen against the burnt orange sky create some memorable photos.
Boats can be found at Nyuang Shwe in the afternoon, waiting for visitors who would like to see the sunset. Guides are typically local people and are a good resource, as they know where to find the fishermen and the best sunset views. Sunset at Inle begins between 6 and 6:30 pm, but it's a good idea to be on the lake earlier to catch the whole event.
Visit the Ever-Changing 5-Day Floating Market
Recommended time: half a day in the morning
This chaotic and exciting floating bazaar is called the 5-Day Market because its location rotates every day to one of 5 different lakeside villages. Many assorted and colorful goods and handicrafts are sold at the market and it is a great place for finding the perfect gift or souvenir, while enjoying the scenes of traditional villages.
Trading in the market is done in small wooden boats with sellers and buyers all changing position during trading. People from all around the Inle area, including the local Intha people, the Pa-O villagers, and the long-necked Padaung people, come down from the hills to attend this market and sell their goods.
This creates a beautiful mixture of local cultures and gives visitors the chance to see all of the different groups interacting with each other. Each culture has a unique trading style, language, and traditional clothing.
Attend the Annual Phaung Daw Oo Festival
Recommended time: 2 days
The most anticipated and significant religious event at Inle Lake, the annual Phaung Daw Oo Festival is a celebration that happens in September or October, depending on the lunar calendar, and lasts for 18 days. The festival celebrates the 5 small gold-leaf Buddha statues located at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.
During the festival, 4 of the 5 statues are taken on a large royal barge that can only be described as a floating temple. Golden and topped with stupas, the royal barge is striking when framed against the natural beauty of the lake. The statues are moved from village to village around the lake, as the lively celebration proceeds.
The festival also involves boat races, with 20-30 men in each boat, all rowing in the traditional one-legged style as fast as they can. These races are an enjoyable spectacle and give visitors a great taste of Burmese culture.
Walk through a Maze of Stupas at the Indein Complex
Recommended time: 1 day
Containing over 1,600 stupas, the Indein Stupa Complex is a forest of ornate spires rising out of the hillside at the end of a narrow creek. Only accessible by boat, the trip to Indein is an enjoyable journey through the twists and turns of the creek, passing farmers with their water buffalo and families bathing along the banks.
Many of the pagodas have been restored, but others are slowly crumbling, creating a beautiful contrast between pristine pagodas and those being reclaimed by the lush jungle. The garden of golden and white pagodas is especially stunning when viewed from the top of the hill, where visitors can also see the valley and the lake in the distance.
Relax at One of Many Resorts with a River View
Recommended time: 1 day
Staying on the lake is an unforgettable experience and is especially relaxing at one of Inle's lakeside resorts. These resorts boast beautiful views and good food as well as direct access to the lake. Their proximity to the water makes them the perfect place to relax, while taking in the incredible scenery.
Some recommendations for a relaxing stay include Pristine Lotus Spa which boasts a secluded and peaceful experience, Aureum Palace where guests stay in luxurious stilted villas, Inle Princess Resort with unbeatable views and excellent food, and Inle Resort & Spa with its stunning location further down the lake.
Visit the Wineries and Take a Vineyard Tour
Recommended time: half a day
Although countries in Southeast Asia are not typically known for their wineries, Myanmar is beginning to make a name for itself in the wine industry, with two vineyards both located at Inle Lake.
Just a few kilometers west of the lake and accessible by boat or bike, Red Mountain Estate is a popular destination for those looking for inexpensive and delicious wine-tasting. Located on the lower slopes of the mountains, Red Mountain Estate provides a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding valley from its outdoor terrace.
Although further from Inle Lake than Red Mountain Estate, Myanmar's First Vineyard Estate is an incredible winery located on gently sloping hills. Views of the countryside can be enjoyed from the "sunset wine garden" restaurant. This vineyard offers tours, tastings, and lodging for guests who would like the full vineyard experience.
Trek Through Villages in the Inle Lake Area
Recommended time: 1 to 3 days
As Myanmar continues to open up to visitors, its network of walking-trails expands, allowing access to otherwise unreachable local tribes.
The Inle Lake region is interlaced with footpaths which connect the many villages between Inle and Kalaw. On this journey, travelers will walk through the villages of the Palaung, Pa-O, Taungthu, and Danu people.
Trails in this area are mostly uncrowded, creating the opportunity for a peaceful and relaxing adventure. The scenery is exquisite with rolling hills and village farms to the west and the Inle Lake valley to the east. Trekking trips in the Inle region are flexible with regard to duration and difficulty, and many different options are possible.
Check out some trekking options here.
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