Vibe: Beguiling, serene and undoubtedly picturesque, Inle Lake in Shan State is one of Southeast Asia's most unique destinations. It’s becoming increasingly popular with travellers, but still maintains an authentic feel, especially once you’re out on the water.
Must Do: Life in Inle revolves around the lake and the best way to get the full experience is to take a longtail boat tour of the winding waterways, floating gardens, stilt houses and temples and artisan workshops.
Known for: Entire floating communities created on the water by the local Intha people, who are famous for their unique leg rowing technique.
Top Things to See and Do at Inle Lake
Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary
With a number of rare endemic species living in the surrounding marshlands, Inle is part of a great area now designated as a wetland sanctuary. Keep your eyes peeled for cormorants, cranes and egrets while traversing the lake.
Floating villages, such as Ywama or Nampan
The villages are a fascinating sight within themselves, where stilt houses hover over the silver surface of the lake and floating gardens sway in the wake of passing boats. Moving from one village to another, visitors have the chance to stop along the way at a variety of artisan workshops, where you can watch local silver smiths, cigar rollers, iron workers, and lotus weavers at their trade.
Phaung Daw U Pagoda
This is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Myanmar and well worth a visit. On its innermost altar sit what look like 4 massive nuggets of gold – but which are actually 4 ancient Buddha statues buried under years of gold leaf offerings.
Nearby Intheinis home to hundreds of ancient, crumbling pagodas on a hilltop, and can only be reached by a boat ride through the lake's western winding waterways. The scenic trip to get there is part of the appeal.
You could also visit the Nga Phe Chaung Monastery or the ancient stupas at Kaung Mwal Taw Pagoda, but don't feel rushed to visit all the sites – half the pleasure of Inle Lake is simply gliding across its surface, seeing children bathing on the banks with water buffalo and waving to fishermen as they pass in flat-bottomed boats.
Eat & Drink
You won’t have any trouble finding something to eat in Inle. Take your pick from Burmese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and even Western cuisines. And there’s no shortage of street vendors selling BBQ skewers for a quick, cheap snack on the go.
For a true taste of Inle Lake, Mingala Market is open daily, but doubles in size when it hosts the regional market that rotates around neighbouring villages on a 5-day cycle. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce and interact with the local Pa-O, Intha, Danu, and Palaung communities.
If you want something slightly more upscale, hire a bike and peddle to the Red Mountain Estate Winery for a wine tasting with a spectacular view of the lake. They serve lunch and dinner as well, and it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset.
Want to spend 10 days exploring Myanmar with a knowlegable guide and a small group?