Inle Lake is one of Burma’s most tranquil, scenic and charming destinations. Surrounded by rugged hills, it’s home to stilt villages, floating gardens, monasteries, exciting markets and much more. You can find out all about it with our guide, while this website is another useful source of inspiration.
Inle Lake – an overview
Whether you’re in search of natural beauty, traditional culture or simply some relaxation, Inle Lake has it all. Home to the Intha people, who we’ll talk more about in a moment, Inle Lake is just over 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. Most of the attractions here, such as the stilt houses and floating markets, are situated directly on the lake itself. That’s not to say there’s little in the surrounding area, though – indeed, nearby you can find famous caves (like Pindaya), not to mention fantastic walks in the local hills.
The Intha people
The Intha people live on the lake, and are famous for their unique one-legged rowing style. While it looks complicated to outsiders, the Intha are adept at this skill, which involves them balancing on one end of a boat on one leg, and using the other to handle an oar and paddle the boat. In fact, they’re so skillful on boats that they also fish in them – again standing up.
The Intha people have adapted to life on the lake with real ingenuity; indeed, the lake is deeply embedded in their lifestyle. For example, they live in the high-stilted houses that you’ll see dotted across the lake, while their chief means of transport is their boats.
They also farm directly on the lake, by creating floating gardens. This is done by collecting floating weeds and securing them in place with bamboo poles so they can’t float away. Then, they gradually add more silt and weeds to create a static vegetable bed.
Now you know a little about Inle Lake, we’ll take a quick look at its main attractions.
As the vast majority of sights here are on the lake itself – and as the local rowing style is so unique – taking a few boat trips is perhaps one of the most obvious attractions. And they’re more than just a means of getting from A to B – after all, they give you a chance to immerse yourself in the culture of the Intha people too. There are plenty of tourist boats available to take you to the various attractions, so you needn’t worry about struggling to get around.
The five days market
Inle Lake’s traditional market is another of the main attractions here and, because it calls round all its stops over five days – before beginning the cycle again – it’s known as the five days market.
People from all over the lake, as well as the nearby dry land, come here to shop, and it’s a great place for tourists to browse. Food and crafts are the main thing on sale here.
Nge Hpe Kyaung monastery
As one of the lake’s most unusual attractions, Nge Hpe Kyaung monastery is not to be missed. It’s known for one particularly unique quirk – the monks here have taught the local cats to jump through hoops. Definitely worth seeing!
It’s also worth paying a visit to the village of Inthein (also known as Indein). There are some amazing ruined stupas tucked away behind it, the nearest of which is Nyaung Ohak. You should make the effort to go further up the hill, though, and see Shwe Inn Thein Paya – this complex of more than 1,000 zedi has the added bonus of offering great views back across the lake.