The tranquil beauty of Inle Lake can captivate even the most jaded traveller. Despite being one of Myanmar’s most visited destinations, this vast expanse of water (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is a calm and peaceful place to stay. Situated in Shan State, Inle Lake’s main access point is Nyaung Shwe, a relaxed town at the north end of the lake. Base yourself here, taking advantage of the plentiful, well-priced eateries, or opt for a cosy stay in one of the properties right at the water’s edge.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
A traditional long-tail motor boat is the best way to explore Inle Lake, and you’ll see these vessels buzzing across the lake from dawn to dusk. Visit cottage industry workshops, pass stilt villages, and marvel at the floating vegetable gardens created by the Shan community to grow marrows and tomatoes actually on the lake. Away from the water, there are some fantastic trekking opportunities to be enjoyed in the surrounding hills. A two day trek from Inle Lake to Kalaw (or vice versa) offers a deeper glimpse into daily rural life. Passing through traditional villages, and staying overnight in a Buddhist monastery, you’ll witness first-hand the lifestyle and customs that make Myanmar such a remarkable place to visit.
Atmospheric and swathed in greenery, the In Dein pagoda complex is not to be missed. This vast collection of ancient stupas, most of which are crumbling and overgrown, sits atop a small hill overlooking the lake. Further south, linked by a tributary to Inle’s main body of water, Sakar Lake offers a quieter, more local experience, and the leisurely boat journey to reach Inle’s ‘little brother’ is a particularly picturesque way to pass a morning. Wine tasting may not immediately spring to mind when you think of Myanmar, but within cycling distance of Nyaung Shwe you’ll find the thriving Red Mountain Estate. Take a trip through the vines to sample the vineyard’s best offerings.
Every October, Inle Lake comes alive for the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival which sees four deeply revered and richly gilded Buddha images ferried around the lake from village to village by barge. The festival also includes some fiercely competitive races in which Inle’s iconic leg-rowing boatmen show off their expertise in this distinctive way of moving across the water. Balancing on one leg at the front of their wooden boats, they wrap their second leg around the oar, rotating the oar-leg to propel them through the water. By standing, they are able to see reeds and water plants that could otherwise slow their progress and, in daily Inle life, it leaves fishermen’s hands free to use their large conical fishing nets.