Framed by the cool hills and fertile valleys of the Shan State, Inle Lake feels far removed from the rest of the country with its breezy climate, lush greenery and calm blue waters. Stilted fishing villages, monasteries and pagodas litter both the lake and its shoreline, with the nearby market town of Nyaung Shwe adding some buzz to this tranquil haven.
Stretching roughly 14 miles in length, Inle Lake is the lifeblood for the surrounding towns and villages. Amongst the myriad of ethnic communities that inhabit the surrounding hills are the Intha people, a fishing community who live in stilted houses over the water and can be spotted travelling across the lake with their distinctive leg-rowing technique, forming one of Inle Lake’s most iconic images.
By far the best way to explore the lake is by boat. Board a traditional long-tail motorboat and cruise past floating vegetable gardens and stilted villages to visit cottage industry workshops, ancient monasteries, gilded pagodas, floating markets, and the ancient whitewashed stupas of nearby Indein.
Back onshore, there are a number of cycling routes and walking trails through the surrounding hills, whilst tasting some local wine at the Red Mountain Estate winery at sunset is a fine way to finish the day. For keen birders, the unique wetland environment of Inle is a haven for an array of birdlife, including herons, egrets, cormorants and wild ducks.
Fast becoming one of Burma’s most popular tourist destinations, a number of resorts have sprung up at lake’s edge, whilst there are also a number of properties in the nearby market town of Nyaung Shwe for those who like to get out of their hotel in the evenings. As with many places in Burma, Inle Lake is best accessed through a domestic flight into the nearby airport of Heho, whilst a two-day trek from the nearby hill station of Kalaw is a great experience for the particularly active.