For most tourists on a trip through Myanmar, visiting famous Inle Lake is one of the best things to do when backpacking Myanmar. The Inle Lake is particularly famous for the fishermen, who acrobatically balance on the boat while fishing. Here I would like to give you more information about the best things to do in Inle Lake in Myanmar as well as share important travel tips with you about visiting Inle Lake.
Best things to do in Inle Lake, Myanmar
During your boat trip around Inle Lake, there are some cool things to do and to see on the lake. I recommend to agree beforehand what you want to see and what you do not want to see with your boat driver to avoid complications (see below).
The fishermen at Inle Lake
The most famous attraction on Inle Lake in Myanmar are probably the fishermen. Those balance one legged on their narrow boats with a large, cone-shaped net. Note, however, that this fishing method originated from an ancient tradition and is no longer used today. The fishermen demonstrating this method on Inle Lake do so for the tourists and ask for a tip after taking pictures (make sure you have enough small change). For some money, you can even sit down directly with them for the best view. The fishermen are right at the “entrance” of Inle Lake when you come by boat from Nyaung Shwe and visiting them is one of the best things to do in Inle Lake.
Floating Villages & Floating Gardens
In and around the lake, some Burmese people live in the so-called Floating Villages, where the houses are built on steles and people move around with boats. This is very interesting to see. You will also be able to visit the gardens, where the villagers grow vegetables directly in the lake.
Floating Markets & 5 Day Market
Around the lake there are floating markets in the water. A special attraction is also the 5 Day Market, which rotates every 5 days and changes its location so that the locals can sell and shop at every corner of the lake in the market. Make sure to visit a market on your tour around Inle lake.
The small town of Indein is connected to the lake by a canal. Here you can climb the stairs for about 5 minutes to the countless Indein stupas, which are beautiful to look at. Probably my favorite thing to do in Inle Lake!
Nga Hpe Kyaung (Jumping Cat Monastery)
This monastery is located in the Inle Lake and is known for the cats, who were trained to jump through hoops. While I have seen a few cats there during my visit, they were quite lethargic and immobile.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
This is probably the largest and most famous temple on Inle Lake, which is also visited by many locals to pray. Read more about this pagoda here.
Visiting a weaving factory (Cotton, Lotus)
Here you can see how the locals weave cotton and lotus and create fabric. Of course you can also go on extensive shopping trips here.
Visiting a silver smith
During a tour you will be shown how the silver is processed into jewelry and other objects.
The longneck women
The women of the “long neck” tribes can be found in various parts of Asia, as well as in the north of Thailand around Chiang Mai and on Inle Lake. Note, however, that this tradition is often shown mainly for tourists in recent years. At Inle Lake, I could see women sitting in a gift shop posing for photos for tips.
Sunset at Inle Lake
Do not miss the beautiful sunset on Inle Lake. This is also the best time to watch the fishermen and shoot great pictures.
Travel tips for visiting Inle Lake in Myanmar
After telling you the best things to do in Inle Lake, I will give you some important travel tips for your visit.
How do I get to Inle Lake?
Inle Lake is roughly located in the middle of Myanmar and is accessible by both Mandalay and Bagan by night bus or day bus. On the map, the distance does not look that far. But keep in mind that the Inle Lake is located in the mountains and the route is very tiring and full of curves and bad roads. This delays the ride and it takes from each of the above mentioned destinations about 8 hours to the lake. Note, by the way, that the high altitude in the mountains on the Inle Lake can also be very cool, especially at night and in the morning. Here in January we had only 4 degrees at night! So make sure you pack a jacket. I took the JJ Express VIP bus from Bagan to Inle Lake, where we arrived at about 5:30am in the morning (and fortunately I was able to check in directly to my guesthouse).
Where should I sleep at Inle Lake?
North of Inle Lake, there is a small town called Nyaung Shwe, which has a variety of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. Most tourists stay here and take Nyaung Shwer as a base to explore Inle Lake. By a river, the place is also connected to the Inle Lake and direct starting point for the boat tours. Directly in or on the lake, there are also some expensive resorts.
How much does it cost to visit Inle Lake, Myanmar?
At the entrance to Nyaung Shwe and the Inle Lake area you have to pay a tourist tax of 15,000 Kyat (about 8,50 €). I already had to pay for this directly on the bus.
How do I visit the Inle Lake? How much costs a tour?
Of course, the best way to explore Inle Lake is by boat. From Nyaung Shwe, a river flows into the lake and the place is a good starting point for your boat trip to all the cool things to see in Inle Lake. Depending on your negotiating skills, for 15,000-25,000 kyat you will get a boat with a driver who will drive you around the lake for a day. You can organize this through your guest house or directly on the bank of the river. By the way, you should also agree in advance on a route, otherwise you may be unlucky (like me) and your boat driver takes you actually not to the cool attractions and best things to see on Inle Lake but rather to souvenir shops and tourist traps around the lake to earn a commission.
What should I keep in mind when visiting Inle Lake?
As mentioned, there are unfortunately many tourist traps on Inle Lake. A weaving mill, a silversmith, a tobacco factory… The list is long and it’s always the same concept. As a tourist you get a 5-minute guided tour of the factory or the shop and of course you are led into a huge souvenir shop, where you are urged to should shop properly. I found this quite annoying at some point. There are some very cool attractions and sights to see on Inle Lake, such as the Floating Villages and Markets, the Indein Stupas and a few more temples and pagodas. Since your driver will not get a commission there, if you are unlucky, he will take you rather to the tourist traps in the first place. Here you should make clear at the beginning what your priorities are and determine what you want to see and what not.
Unfortunately, I had a very negative experience here. Although the sights and stops were agreed on in advance, my driver refused to take me to the interesting places (such as the Indein Stupas) and I had to get into endless and annoying discussions with him. He even demanded 10,000 kyat more at the end of the day for taking me to the places I wanted to see in the end! Of course I did not let him scam me, there was a lot of discussion and this incident sadly overshadowed my experience of the Inle Lake.
How long should I stay at Inle Lake?
Of course, this depends on you and your travel plans. The boat tours take one day as mentioned above and during this time you have ample opportunity to discover some parts of the lake. If you have more time, you can rent bikes on your second day as there are some beautiful routes for cyclists around the lake. Of course, the Inle Lake is also good just to relax a bit. But if you do not have much time left, 1-2 days is enough to get a good impression of Inle Lake.
Conclusion on Things to Do in Inle Lake when backpacking Myanmar
As you can see, there are some pretty cool things to see and do at Inle Lake in Myanmar. However, personally, I think the Inle Lake is just at the turning point. The lake is becoming more and more of a huge tourist trap and I was increasingly asking myself here how “real” everything is that I see here. The famous fishermen, for example, now use other methods and only pose for tourists, but ask for tips as soon as you take a picture. The women of the “long neck tribes” sit as more or less decoration in some souvenir shops, so that tourists can take pictures with them for tips. There’s not much real culture to see anymore. If you have enough time, you should not miss a visit at the Inle lake, anyway. Just keep in mind that this might not be the most authentic place when backpacking Myanmar.
Have you been to Lake Inle? How was your experience? Write it in the comments!