Myanmar might not be quite as popular a destination as the likes of some other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, for example, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot going on there. In fact, quite the opposite.
One of the most highly rated things to do in Myanmar is to explore Inle Lake and the surrounding areas. The lake resides within the Shan Hills of Myanmar and is home to numerous pagodas, market towns, forests and villages.
If you’re intrigued by Myanmar, but you’re not quite sure where to begin when it comes to planning your travel itinerary, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide.
How to get to Inle Lake
There are several routes to take in order to get to Inle Lake.
Providing that you’re already in Myanmar itself, you can either take a bus or a minivan from Bagan. There’s really not much difference in these methods of transport to/from Bagan and Nyaungshwe (where you will be dropped off, just north of Inle Lake); both take approximately 9 hours and prices start between US $11 and $12.
The cheapest way to get from Yangon to Inle Lake (Nyaungshwe) is via bus which is by far the cheapest and quickest option. Prices for the bus between Yangon and Inle Lake start at just US $11, whereas the price of a car or minivan will cost you over US $450 as these are private transfers. Save yourself some money and opt for the bus!
If you’re traveling to/from Mandalay, you’ll be pleased to know that you can catch a bus or minivan from just US $9. These journeys from Mandalay will take you between 7 and a half hours and 8 hours, so just sit back and enjoy the journey!
Once you arrive in Nyaungshwe, you can then take a private boat cruise with a local operator to get to Inle Lake. It will take around 6 hours and cost approximately US $15, depending on which tour operator you choose. You can find the companies and boarding area near the bridge at Yone Gyi Road.
Things to do in and around Inle Lake
Inle Lake covers over 116km² so it’s safe to say that there is an awful lot of ground (and water!) to cover when it comes to exploring Inle Lake.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of just some of the best things to do in and around Inle Lake which will hopefully fill your weekend itinerary and then some!
See the fishermen
While it might seem strange to have a simple people-watching activity on this list, seeing the local fisherman at Inle Lake is actually one of the most enjoyable things you can do in the area.
These fishermen have frequented the waters of the lake for decades, with their fathers and grandfathers fishing there before them.
Get up nice and early one morning and take a little stroll along the water’s edge to catch a glimpse of the fishermen heading out on the water.
Pay your respects at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda or Kyaung Daw Pagoda as it’s sometimes referred to, is arguably the most famous pagoda around Inle Lake.
It’s a very notable Buddhist site on the lake and inside there are five gold Buddha statues.
If you pay a visit to this religious site, it’s important to remember to dress appropriately and ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. This pagoda not only is the most highly revered monastery in the area, but also is the site of the area’s major, annual pagoda festival, one of the largest religious festivals in Myanmar.
Hours of operation: Every day from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
See the golden stupas at Ywama Village
Located on the western side of the lake, Ywama Village is home to many golden stupas that can be seen either from the lake itself, or from Ywama Village. This village is one of the most well-known tourist spots at Inle Lake.
Ywama Village is the largest at Inle Lake, so it’s a great place to have a little wander around in order to soak up some of the local village life as well as explore the floating markets which are held
See cats at Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery
Also known as the Jumping Cat Monastery, this landmark is named as such due to a monk that once lived there who used to teach cats to jump. It is considered the oldest and largest monastery in Inle Lake region.
Although this activity ceased to continue once the monk died, you can still visit Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery and, indeed, see some of the cats that still live there.
Visit the many craft workshops
There are so many different kinds of workshops to be found around Inle Lake.
From local workers specializing in weaving, fabric, silver, wood carving, boat craftsmanship and much more, these workshops provide you with an insight into the local way of working life.
One of the most special and fascinating workshops to visit is a Lotus Weaving Lab. Due to the abundance of lotus plants that decorate the landscape around the lake, the locals have come up with ingenious ways to make use of the plants.
You can find textiles of all kinds made from lotus here, including scarves, blouses, blankets, tunics and much more.
Observe tranquil, monk life at Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery
Over 150 years old, the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery might look a little worse for wear, but it’s a place that holds so much history at Inle Lake and is worth a visit if you have time. Famous for being built entirely from teak and painted bright red, this monastery also boasts elegant statues and a ceiling decorated with gold leaves.
Lighted with candles throughout the premises, the monastery houses young boys who are just beginning their Buddhist journeys as monks, where they learn and practice their teachings.
Hours of operation: Every day from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Take a tour of a Cheroot factory
A Cheroot is a type of traditional Asian, but primarily Burmese, cigar and is enjoyed by both men and women in the country.
One of the best things to do at Inle Lake is to take a tour of a Cheroot factory to discover the process of making these Asian cigars and, of course, to try one yourself!
It’s certainly not something for everyone, but Inle Lake is one of the best places in Myanmar to soak up this kind of local culture so it’d be a shame to miss out.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained during a weekend at Inle Lake in Myanmar!