The glittering blue waters of Inle Lake lie at the heart of the Shan Highlands, surrounded by verdant hills. Myanmar’s second-largest lake is a popular destination for intrepid travelers, who come to cruise the lake, soak up the scenery, and experience local life in the lakeside fishing villages.
Visitors can explore Inle Lake on a half- or full-day cruise, a bike tour, or a day trip from Nyaungshwe. Lake cruises often stop at monuments such as Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, or Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, and offer the chance to see birds and other wildlife. Equally fascinating is the chance to learn about the Intha people who inhabit lakeside bamboo stilt houses connected by bridges and boats.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Pack sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, as there’s little shade once out on the water.
- There are a number of bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, and souvenir stalls dotted around the lake.
- Inle is a great place to pick up traditional handicrafts, especially silver items, silk scarves, and woven Shan-bags.
- Most cruises take place on wooden longboats that require passengers to clamber on board from makeshift jetties, so access for wheelchair users or others with mobility issues may not be possible.
How to Get to There
Inle Lake is located in central Myanmar, a fair distance from all the main cities. Buses run from Yangon (13 hours) or Mandalay (seven hours), but a more convenient option is to take a domestic flight to Heho airport, about an hour away. Taxis are available at the airport.
When to Get There
Most visitors arrive between October and February in order to avoid monsoon season. For the lushest scenery, visit in October or November, when water levels are still high, and consider timing your visit to coincide with the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (October), when colorful parades of boats float along the lake.
Fishermen of Inle Lake
Watch for Inle’s local fishermen, the “leg rowers.” They stand on one leg on the back of their skiffs, pinch the rudder with the other leg, and hold it with one arm. The other arm is used to swirl the water around with paddles, forcing fish to emerge from the plant growth and swim into waiting baskets and nets.