Inle Lake is the second largest natural lake in Myanmar. It is a beautiful highland lake situated in the middle of the Nyaungshwe Valley of the Shan Plateau, nestled between two mountain ranges that extend from north to south, feels like a different world to the rest of Myanmar.
Inle Lake has been selected by the world prestigious magazine Condé Nast Traveler as one of the five new destinations of Asia that any traveller should explore. The beauty of Lake Inle comes not just from nature but from its relationship with the people who live in the neighbourhood.
Named as "big lake", Inle is located at an altitude of 889 m, surrounded by high mountains and has an area of 220 km2. The deepest part of the lake is about 6 m. The water level here varies according to the season difference between the dry and the full water season. Coming to the lake, tourists can feel their soul calm while enjoying the very peaceful scenery of the villages in the lake area.
The scenic view over the hill in Inle Lake
Inle Lake is home to the Inthar ethnic group for thousands of years. Coming here, explorers will have a chance to understand more about the cultural beauty of ethnic minorities such as Padaung, a long-neck ethnic group. They build houses, structures; organize social and cultivation activities right on the lake.
From the carcasses, mosses, bamboo poles, the people of Inthar have created "floating fields" that float up and descend according to the water level in the lake. In addition to farming, Inthar people also earn their living by catching fishes from the lake. The image of Inthar men rowing with one leg on a small wooden boat has become a typical cultural feature of the lake area that will give tourists the liveliest photos ever.
Fishermen are catching fish in the traditional way
Inle Lake has many places worth visiting, such as Phaung Daw Oo temple, Cat jumping monastery, flower-growing and cigar-making villages; silver jewellery, fabric, handicraft goods villages where tourists can shop for souvenirs. Especially, the Ywama floating market meeting once every five days is also an opportunity for visitors to shop and discover the indigenous culture of the locals here. Moreover, in the south of Inle Lake, there are vestiges of the ancient city of Indein, with constructions built from bricks back in the 11th century. It was once the capital of King Shan's reign that will surely make tourists curious.
A floating garden in Inle Lake
It is said that tourists would be regrettable to leave Inle without trying out tomato salad, as tomato is the most popular crop of the Inthar people and a speciality dish as well. After discovering the landscape, tourists should spend some time watching the sunset in Inle Lake. At dusk, the sun slowly dives down and dyes the landscape into a reddish colour to create the most beautiful and romantic scene ever.
Inle Lake is 35 kilometres away from the nearest airport at Heho, and there are flights to there from both Yangon and Mandalay. The tourists arrive by boatload every day. With no roads or sidewalks to speak of, locals and visitors alike get around in one-person-wide wooden boats outfitted with outboard propellers, which emit a noisy whine when at full throttle and can be raised and lowered depending on water levels.
The only way that tourists can fully feel the beauty and culture of the locals living in the lake is by using a motorboat service with a price range of 8,000-9,000 Kyat (around 7 USD) for 5-6 people.
The best time to explore the lake is in the morning when the sunlight is not too bright. There is an entry fee of around US$10 for the Inle Lake area, which you have to pay when entering Nyaungshwe.