Inle Lake is an iconic Myanmar destination and the region was top of our Myanmar itinerary wish list! The reed-lined lake is simply stunning but Inle is so much more than just the lake itself. From the beautiful stupas of Indein and Kakku to the incredible sunsets that grace the region, to meeting local tribespeople Inle Lake is a Myanmar gem that everyone should experience. We’ve compiled this list of our favourite top sights that are a must see on a visit to Inle: we hope this will helps with your Inle Lake and Myanmar trip planning! Enjoy!
1 | Admire the beauty of Inle Lake
Tourists flock to Inle Lake to see the lake and for good reason: it’s one of the most stunning lakes in the world and the stilt houses and Buddhist temples rising from the water only add to its appeal. Emerging from the marshy reeds the lake is dotted with villages on stilts,and the calm waters appear like glass reflecting the surrounding beauty.
Inle Lake Essentials
A 4G Sim is essential to research and plan on the go. We collected our Myanmar sim car from the airport while leaving Bangkok and found it invaluable for our travels around the country. Pick up a sim card for Myanmar from the following airports:
- Bangkok – check Myanmar sim card prices here!
- Hong Kong – check Myanmar sim card prices here!
- Malaysia – check Myanmar sim card prices here!
Where to stay in Inle Lake
A visit to Inle Lake centres around the lake itself and we found staying on the lake itself an unforgettable experience. We highly recommend staying at one of the resorts on the lake, which all offer direct access to the lake from the hotels.
- Inle Cottage Boutique Hotel: located in Nyaung Shwe, Inle Cottage is a quiet boutique hotel. It offers free bikes and wifi and has clean and spacious rooms – check prices now!
- Inle Princess Hotel: We stayed in the beautiful Inle Princess Resort which is situated on the shores of Inle Lake. The villas are stunning, the food excellent and the views unbeatable. It’s the perfect choice if you are looking for some luxury in Inle Lake – Check latest prices here
- Myanmar Treasure Resort: Located on the lake close to the Inle Princess Hotel this collection of stilted luxury rooms look over the lake giving perfect viewing for Inle Lake sunsets – Check latest prices here
2 | Take a boat ride
The best way to experience Inle Lake is to take a ride on one of the slender long tail wooden boats used by the locals. The sleek boats are equipped with powerful long-tailed outboard motors and skim across the lake at terrific speed leaving a distinctive spray in their wake.
Jetting across Inle Lake was one of the highlights of our Myanmar adventure. Experiencing the silence and emptiness of the lake as dawn break is an absolute privilege as is watching local village life while floating by.
Most boat trips leave from Nyaungshwe, the closest town on the lake and its main access point – check Inle Lake boat tour prices here!
Alternatively, if you are staying at a lake side hotel it likely will have access to the lake via a private jetty. We stayed in the Inle Princess Resort and we were able to access a boat from our door step!
The unique rowing method used by the locals really has to be seen to be believed. At times when the outboard cannot be used they stand with one foot anchored in the slender boat, the other leg wrapped around the long paddle which dips expertly in and out of the water propelling the boat forwards.
3 | See the traditional fishermen of Inle Lake
Although modern fishing methods means the majority of fishing on the lake is now done via a net some traditional fishermen can still be seen in the quieter corners of the lake. Using the same rowing technique as the boatmen they balance expertly in the boat while they dip their traditional fishing nets into the water.
Inle Lake sightseeing tip: Rumour has it that the traditional fishermen only make an appearance for the tourists and, in return for their performance, expect a tip. Either way, it’s a beautiful sight so we weren’t bothered!
4 | Be amazed at the sight of hundreds of ancient stupas at Indein
Hundreds of red, white and brown stupas stand in varying states of disrepair on a hill in Indein, a Myanmar village located at the end of a narrow creek directly off Inle Lake. The journey to Indein is a joy: the twists and turns of the creek took us past farmers, accompanied by water buffalo, tilling the rice paddies and families bathing along the banks – click here for Inle Lake tours with Indein!
The hill of golden and white washed pagodas is surrounded by older, slowly crumbling pagodas which are being reclaimed by nature and some still contain their Buddha treasures.
Inle Lake sightseeing tip: it was during our early morning visit that I had on of my infamous encounter with Myanmar’s stray dogs, read about it here!
5 | Enjoy a stunning sunset
While incredible sunsets are a Bagan staple Inle Lake can certainly hold its own on the sunset front! The beautiful colours of the Myanmar sunset reflect from the glass like lake making for a picture perfect setting.
6 | Get lost among the thousands of Stupas at Kakku
A Shan State hidden gem, Kakku is a collection of 2,478 stupas commissioned 2,000 years ago and it is a religious centre for the Pa’O people, a Buddhist tribe from Myanmar. Due to local laws it is required to take the trip with a local guide: we made a stop along the way to collect our tickets and our Pa’O guide up in the Taunggyi tourism office en route from Kakku from Lake Inle – click here for Kakku tours from Inle Lake!
Inle Lake sightseeing tip: we debated the 5 hour round trip car transfer from Inle Lake before booking it. It was absolutely worth the trip!
7 | Stay at a lakeside hotel
Breakfast on the lake, sundowners on the lake, boat pick ups from our private jetty… our decision to stay in a lake side hotel was an excellent one! We opted for the beautiful Inle Princess Hotel and loved it from the moment we arrived: with its unique stand-alone suites to the stunning panoramic views across the lake from the restaurant deck, we highly recommend this hotel if you’re travelling to Inle Lake. Check out our review of the hotel here!
8 | Visit the long neck women of Kayan
The Kayan people are native to northern Myanmar where the women wear large brass neck rings. The practice starts as young children when rings are worn to deform the collar bones and upper ribs which, over time, creates the appearance of a stretched neck leading to a very distinctive look. It’s possible to see some of these women weaving cloth at the many crafts shops in the Inle Lake villages.
9 | Celebrate a Burmese festival
We were lucky enough to be on Lake Inle during the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Myanmar’s largest festival. We came across one of the pagoda races which occur during the festival at one of the villages along the lake. The boats held around 20-30 men, all rowing with one leg as fast as they could down a stretch of water. It was a crazy spectacle to witness!
10 | Visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
As well as being the focus of the annual pagoda festival the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is the most highly revered monastery in Inle Lake. The pagoda houses five Buddha images covered in gold leaf which set beside their original images and to which only men are allowed to offer gold foil to.
11 | Pick up trinkets at the five day markets
Inle Lake’s five day markets, so called because they rotate around the lakeside villages, are picturesque and the perfect spot to indulge in some souvenir shopping.
12 | Spend time with the Pa’O Tribe
The Pa’O tribe believe they are descendants of a dragon and the women wear brightly coloured head scarves to symbolise the head of a dragon, with the black layers of their dress representing its scales. Our guide to Kakku was a descendant of the Pa’O tribe.