Inle Lake was our absolute favourite place in Myanmar. Although some travellers find it a little touristy – especially in the context of the wider country which has relatively few tourists – we loved it. It has a laid back and chilled atmosphere, making it the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing and taking in what’s on offer. There are so many awesome things to do in Inle Lake we could have spent at least a week here.
The fact that the tourist scene is a little more developed than other destinations we visited on our 2 weeks in Myanmar means there are lots of great bars and restaurants to enjoy alongside the many daily activities on offer.
1. Boat Trip
The number one of all the recommended things to do in Inle Lake for good reason, no visit to the area is complete without a day spent exploring the lake itself by boat. For just 15USD you can enjoy a private boat tour where you can see how people live and work on Inle lake. From traditional fisherman to floating villages complete with post offices and schools, its an incredible community. Try to avoid stopping at too many ‘shopping points’ as there are plenty of places trying to sell silver jewellery, lotus and silk scarves and tobacco.
2. Red Mountain Estate Winery
Just a short distance from Nyaung Shwe is a winery that gives amazing views of the area from high on the hill. For less than 5USD you can enjoy a wine tasting that includes 4 locally produced wines together with cheese and bread. The whites are much better than the reds but all are surprisingly drinkable. We spent a lovely afternoon here and would recommend to anyone. This is one of the lesser known things to do in Inle Lake, but was one of the most fun in our experience.
3. In Dein Village
A little touristy now but well worth visiting, this destination can be added onto your boat trip for a couple of dollars. It’s home to beautiful blue waterways, bamboo forests and, most magically of all, hundreds of pagodas clustered together from crumbling remains to modern reconstructions. It’s a fascinating place and has a different atmosphere to everywhere else we visited. Most similar to Bagan by far due to the pagodas, but a completely unique place to see.
4. Bicycle Hire
For less than a dollar a day you can hire bikes from guest houses and tour agencies in Nyaung Shwe. It’s the best way to get around the town and a great way to explore. It’s also the best way to get to the winery so for that reason, when it comes to things to do in Inle Lake, it’s basically a must.
5. Shop in the Market
The local market is open daily in the centre of town and once a week the five day market is also hosted there, bringing numerous more stalls to the area. From clothing and souvenirs to fresh fruit and vegetables, when you come to planning things to do on your trip to Inle Lake, it’s worth spending an hour having a wander round.
6. Take a Cooking Class
We highly recommend Bamboo Princess which is owned and run by the lovely Bamboo Sue. Not only will your group shop for ingredients, cook and share delicious meals and just generally have an amazing time, Sue is also in the midst of setting up some exciting projects including English teaching and homestays. Best of all, 15% of proceeds go back to the local community. Another one of our favourite things to do in Inle Lake and I’d go so far as to say the best place in Myanmar to take a cooking class.
7. Watch Aung’s Puppet Show
These shows last half an hour and run twice per night, showcasing traditional Myanmar puppet techniques. Marionettes are extremely popular here and this is a great way to see them being used to tell traditional stories. It costs less than 5USD and the local family who run the show are lovely and working hard to preserve the art of puppetry.
8. Visit Pagodas
Just in case you haven’t seen enough Pagodas in Myanmar there are a couple more you can visit while exploring the area.
9. Go Trekking
There are lots of really popular trekking routes around Inle Lake, most starting from the village of Kalaw and descending down to the lake. Sadly we didn’t make it as I wasn’t feeling great but there are 1,2 and 3 night trekking routes that are supposed to be excellent. We’ll definitely be trying one if we go back as it’s supposed to be one of the most incredible things to do Inle Lake as well as being a great way to arrive in the village!
10. Eat Dimsum
I know it sounds random but we managed to stumble across some of the best dimsum we’ve ever eaten in Nyaung Shwe. Make sure you visit Live Dimsum House and enjoy their extensive menu – we had an absolute feast with plenty of beer alongside for less then 10USD!
Travelling to Inle Lake?
As you can tell, we had an amazing time exploring all the best things to do in Inle Lake and would recommend anyone to include it as part of their Myanmar Itinerary. Try these hotels in and around the area:
Budget > Yar Pyae Hotel: located in Nyaung Shwe we stayed here and loved it
Mid Range > The Grand Nyaung Shwe Hotel: a 3* hotel located centrally in town
Luxury > Paramount Inle Lake Resort: located right on the lake