When planning a trip to Myanmar make sure to spend at least two to three days in Inle Lake. Inle Lake is unlike any other tourist spot in Myanmar. Located in the middle of Myanmar, Inle Lake is in the Shan State. It’s a shallow lake that’s over 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide. The Lake is famous for the floating villages and gardens around the lake.
There are 10 different Shan ethnic groups living around the lake and the surrounding hills are home to myriad minorities that come down to sell their goods in the villages. Due to the size of the Inle Lake, you’ll need a few days to explore. We’ve put together an Inle Lake guide with everything you need to know before visiting Inle Lake.
Inle Lake Myanmar Guide
How To Get To Inle Lake
You can fly, bus, drive or trek to Inle Lake from various other tourist destinations in Myanmar. We took the JJ bus from Bagan to Inle Lake and hired a private driver to bring us to Mandalay from Inle Lake. The easiest way would be to fly but the closest airport to Inle Lake is Heho airport (HEH) which is 45 minutes away. There are daily flights to Inle Lake from Bagan and Mandalay, flights typically cost $70USD and are only 30 minutes. But considering the airport is 45 minutes away that’s an added cost, average taxi cost to Nyaung Shwe is 20,000k and higher if your hotel or accommodation is around the lake.
Where To Stay In Inle Lake
Since the lake is huge, hotels in Inle Lake are spread out all around the lake. The main hub for Inle Lake is Nyaungshwe the main town and there are hotels here as well. We opted to stay at a hotel right on the lake which was a 40-minute taxi drive to Nyaungshwe and cost $25 USD one way. We had amazing views and were able to get on a lake tour right from our hotel. If you stay at a hotel on the lake make sure to plan a day in Nyaungshwe and rent a bike and hit up all the things to do in Inle Lake closer to town.
- On the lake: Amata Garden Resort this is where we stayed and highly recommend this 4-star hotel right on the lake with gorgeous views
- In Nyaungshwe: Mingalar Inn this budget 3-star hotel is located right in town within walking distance to everything and is under $30 a night
Things To Do In Inle Lake
There are tons of things to do in Inle Lake to keep you busy for the whole week. Here were our favorites from our trip.
1. Inle Lake Tour
The best way to get an idea of how big the lake is and how the locals live is spending a day out on the boat on an Inle Lake Tour. We suggest an early morning private tour, you can book Inle Lake Tours online here. Most tours include hotel pickup and drop off, we suggest having them drop you off in Nyaungshwe that way you can have dinner there and only have to pay for a taxi one way back to the hotel if you’re staying in a hotel around the lake.
2. Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Inle Lake
One of the best views of Inle Lake is from high above in a hot air balloon. If you saw the balloons over Bagan or happen to be in one, this is just as awesome (or honestly even better). On our hot air balloon ride, we were 10,000 feet above the lake (yes, you saw that right 10,000 feet/3,050 meters) and our ride lasted over 2 hours. We went with Oriental Ballooning, you can check rates here.
3. Rent Bikes in Inle Lake
You can rent a bike for about $1 a day and explore the town and surrounding area. We love just getting lost and seeing where it brings us. TIP: Make sure to inspect your bike and tires before heading out of town.
4. Visit the Inle Lake Fisherman
If you’re lucky you’ll get to see the famous Inle Lake fisherman fishing. They balance on one leg while the other leg is wrapped around an oar paddling through the water. It’s truly amazing to watch them. They say early morning is the best time to see them but we ran into several guys still fishing in the early afternoon. There is a particular “tourist spot” where a few fishermen are there to “fish” for the tourists. Basically, just there for great photos, make sure to tip them. If you want to see the real fisherman in action just ask your boat driver.
5. Go Wine Tasting in Inle Lake
You might not think of wine when you think of Myanmar, but in the hills around Inle Lake, they are actually able to grow wine grapes and produce wine. While wine snobs might not be blown away, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon around the lake with great views of the countryside. We would give the cheese plate a miss, but some of the wines were actually pretty okay.
Weather in Inle Lake
The weather in Inle Lake was much cooler than I had anticipated when we visited in January. January is the coldest month where the average low is 40F (4C) and the average high is 77F (25C), we were living in Thailand at the time of our visit and just assumed it would be the same. I didn’t pack accordingly and it was freezing every morning. Definitely, pack layers and bring a jacket.
August & September are the wettest months, the dry season in Inle Lake is December through April. It never get’s super hot either with April being the hottest month 88F (31C) which is nothing compared to Thailand in April.
Best Restaurants in Inle Lake
If staying at a hotel around the lake restaurant options will be limited to the hotel. We opted to stay in town for meals, we kinda fell in love with Innlay Hut Indian food house. When eating out in Myanmar we highly suggest not eating street food and instead spend a little more money and going somewhere busy with a good reputation. This is what we did on our two weeks in Myanmar and we never got sick. Here are our favorite restaurants in Inle Lake:
- Innlay Hut Indian Food House | Hands down the best Indian food we’ve ever had outside of India – #3 restaurant on TripAdvisor. Get the butter chicken, it’s the best thing on the menu and garlic naan. Portions are HUGE but so tasty you won’t want to share. You’ll need to stop by or Facebook message them to make reservations, as there are only a few seats. The owner Stan is awesome and also the biggest Eminem fan in the world.
- One Owl Grill All day breakfast with real coffee. Great menu selection and chill place to catch up on emails.
- Pub Asiatico Inle Great happy hour and a trendy rooftop bar with 2,000k happy hour cocktails. The restaurant looks like it would be in NYC it’s so modern and trendy, much different than any other restaurant in Myanmar.
Inle Lake FAQ
Q: Is there an ATM in Inle Lake?
A: Yes, there are several ATMs in Inle Lake, there is even a machine out in the middle of the lake on one of the small islands that is popular with tourists, near Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.
Q: Can you bike around the lake?
A: No, there is no word that follows along the edge of the lake.