Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s top experiences and it will not disappoint you. The atmosphere around the lake is pretty relaxed and it’s worth to spend a couple of days at Nyaungshwe, the main access point to Inle Lake. If you have at least 4 days to spend in the area, you can enjoy the following activities. You can do a 1/2/3 day hike, a boat trip on the lake (this will take you a little bit more that half a day) and a bycicle ride around the lake (that can be done in a morning or afternoon). Everything is easy to arrange via your guest house / hotel or simply via touts that will stop you on the street.
After visiting Yangon, we spent three full days in Nyaungshwe. Below you will find our suggested itinerary.
Rent a bike at your guest house to cycle around the lake. Leave Nyaungshwe in the morning towards Khaung Daing – ask your guest house for a map. On your way to Khaung Daing stop at the Khaung Daing Hot Springs and climb up to a viewpoint (right in front the hot springs entrance). You can also stop for lunch and drinks on the way. Once you arrive at Khaung Daing, take a boat to the other side of the lake, to Maing Thauk, and from there you can cycle back to Nyaungshwe. Once you arrive at Maing Thauk, you will probably be hungry (at least we were!). Cycle towards Nyaungshwe and look for the sign indicating Bamboo Hut restaurant (it’s not on the main road). There we had one of our best meals in Myanmar with views of a dragon fruit plantation! Both food and service were outstanding! Make sure you finished with your dinner before 6pm when it gets totally dark 😉
Once back in Nyaungshwe, arrange your boat trip for the next day, as you’ll probably leave around 7am. The boat comports up to five people, so make friends at your guest house to share the boat costs 😉 Prices range from K15000 to K20000 per boat – cheaper of course if you arrange it on the street than via your guest house. If you arrange your boat trip on the street make sure that you see the boat and that the boat driver has a map of the area. Agree beforehand on the places you will visit and demand the map on the day of your trip. Ask the driver to communicate well with you, informing where you are and what’s next.
It’s time to explore the interesting life on the Inle Lake! We had a very interesting trip, passing fishermen, floating gardens and villages, witnessing locals washing their clothes and themselves at the lake. During our cruise, we stopped at the Hand Weaving Centre, Inn Joe Phyu (handcraft and cigars), Khaing Stone War (gold and silversmith) and at the Win Yadanar Kayan Tribe. The places were very tourist focused but pretty interesting nevertheless (and good for shopping). The boat also took us to Buddhist temples like Phaung Daw Oo Pay and to the famous Nga Hpe Kyaung or Jumping Cat Monastery (although the cats were more busy sleeping than jumping). Around 3pm we were back at Nyaungshwe.
You can choose to do a 1/2/3 day hike alongside the lake. We decided to chill instead 🙂 We started the day visiting the local Mingala Market (5am – 2pm), a great place to buy décor items, silver accessories and, of course, to spot locals and experience a bit more of their culture. Next, we had a very good lunch at Green Chili Restaurant, as described by the Lonely Planet as one of the fanciest in town. We continued our day going a bit deeper into the Burmese culture by having a demonstration of Thanaka, Myanmar’s traditional make-up.
We finished our relaxing day with cocktails and the traditional Inle Lake tomato and avocado salads at Thanakha Garden Restaurant – the daiquiris here are the best in town!
On the fourth day, being totally recharged from the peaceful days at Inle Lake, we headed to Bagan. Check out our experience there!