Situated on the Shan Plateau to the southeast of Mandalay, Inle Lake is a beautiful stretch of water with its own unique waterborne cultural features, characterised by stilted villages, floating gardens and island temples.


There are a few lakeside resorts, especially the upmarket Inle Princess Resort, often used by honeymooners, which encourage the visitor to linger for a few days to imbibe the tranquil atmosphere and explore the lake. Another interesting option is the Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort.

A popular attraction is the local five-day market, so-named due to its progressive rotational siting around the lakeside towns, returning every five days, with the exception of full moon dates.

The most popular stops are the Ywama floating Market and the large Inthein Market, though if you visit the more authentic, less touristy markets, the reward is a true appreciation of the culture and lifestyle of the local communities.

Long-tail boat trips of the lake are a must for the visitor, as the most effective way of seeing the lake’s floating gardens and surrounding settlements.

At Inthein (also known as Indein), the covered stair walkway brings you to the top of the hill and its atmospheric forest of stupas dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Pagoda sited here, Shwe Inn Thein Paya, also affords fine views over the lakeland scene.

At the nearby Phaung Daw U Pagoda, the region’s most sacred site, are the five sacred gilt statues, which are ceremonially transported via an ornate barge to sites around the lake during the Phaung Daw U Autumn Festival.

For those interested in local crafts, Ywama, aside from its floating market, is also home to some interesting gold leaf workshops, sculptors and umbrella makers. Other craft sites are Nanpan, for its traditional boatbuilding and Inphaw Khone for its weaving workshops and handmade Burmese Cigars.

The numerous settlements are home to interesting pagodas and temples, such as the ‘Jumping Cat’ Monastery at Nga Hpe Kyaung. If you have the leisure of a relaxed stay at Inle Lake, a good way to explore, especially if you enjoy the charm of local life at the lesser visited sites, is to cycle and hike around the area.

For more serious trekkers, a variety of longer guided treks are available, the most notable of which is the 3 day westward trek to Kalaw, a former British Hill Station, with the journey a great way to explore the countryside and rural culture up close. Kalaw itself is a good base for trekking around its pagodas, tribal villages, caves and hilltop views.

Kalaw’s British heritage still survives in and around the town, alongside local structures such as the Hnee Pagoda, which houses a five hundred year-old bamboo Buddha. Not far from the town the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp is an ecologically sound place to enjoy an elephant ride.

To the north of Kalaw, and one of its trekking destinations, Pindaya is another small and pleasant town with a few colonial features, set by Pone Taloke Lake, but is most visited for the adjacent hillside caves at Shwe U min Pagoda, which between them contain around six thousand Buddhas and makes for a pleasant scenic stroll.

The town is famed for its brightly coloured paper parasols, which are an icon of the Shan identity. A hot air balloon ride is a popular way to enjoy the views.

To the west of the lake, Kakku is home to a visually stunning stupa forest, comprised of almost 2,500 individual stupas, dating back to the 3rd century.