We're not taking new bookings for travel to Myanmar at the moment. Our specialists can advise you on all the destinations you can currently book with us.

East Gate at the Citadel Alternative Southeast Asia destinations
Skip to content
Please select your location:

Vast and serene, Inle Lake is the watery heart of the Nyaung Shwe region, and a visit here gives you a glimpse into an unusual slice of Burmese village life. This is the home of the Intha people, who’ve created an amphibious world of stilted villages and floating gardens on the unruffled surface of the lake and its reedy shores. You’ll also find clusters of stupas, monasteries and, in autumn, a holy festival.

Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)Every morning, Intha fishermen set out from their villages in a fleet of long, slim wooden canoes. The men here are known for their unusual leg rowing technique. It allows them to steer and row their boat using their right leg, which is wrapped around the oar, while standing on their left in the stern.

It’s thought they developed such a distinctive style to help them spot fish among the high reeds, to make it easier to handle their large cone-shaped fishing nets, or to improve their endurance.

The shallow, unpolluted waters are rich in nutrients and teem with life, including the lake’s floating gardens. Grown on reed mats, these garden beds are loosely tethered to the lake bottom by long bamboo poles, so they can rise and fall along with the surface of the lake and avoid flooding.

In the afternoon, the farmers here paddle along the garden rows, tending to their squash, flowers, tomatoes and other vegetables.

On top of fishing and agriculture, cottage industries have sprung up in the villages that spill off the land and into the water. Blacksmiths and silversmiths ply their trade alongside weavers and cheroot rollers. A floating market travels between the villages on a five-day schedule.

Stilted houses on Inle LakeThe best way to explore the lake is on a private boat tour. Your vessel, a traditional canoe, makes its way through the narrow canals between the stilted houses, giving you an up-close view of village life.

We can also arrange for you to visit some of the many stupas and monasteries that stand on the lake’s shores.

The most sacred of these is the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in the village of Tha Lay. The giant, multi-tiered pagoda protects five 800-year-old Buddha statues, which have morphed into irregular, featureless blobs under countless applications of gold leaf. Devout worshippers come from around the region to add another layer.

Each autumn, during the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut (roughly October), the statues are feted as part of a two-and-a-half-week festival that draws devotees and celebrants from around the region.

One of the country’s largest festivals, it includes rowing races as well as a flotilla parade, during which four of the five statues are processed around the lake. If you visit during the festival, your guide will regale you with the story of why the fifth statue is left behind at the pagoda.

You can also visit Nga Hpe Kyaung, better known as Jumping Cat Monastery for its monks’ one-time custom of training cats to leap through hoops. You won’t see feline acrobatics today, but plenty of cats still lounge around, preening under the admiration of those who come to visit.

Best time to visit Inle Lake

The ideal time to visit Inle Lake is during the dry season, between October and May. November, in particular, is very popular and hotels near the lake fill up quickly, so plan well in advance.

Speak to someone
who's been there
Audley Travel specialist Hannah

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Inle Lake by contacting one of our Myanmar specialists

Map of Inle Lake

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Inle Lake

    Accommodation choices for Inle Lake

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Inle Lake. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Inle Lake

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Inle Lake, and which use the best local guides.

    • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
      Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Inle Lake

      Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

      Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

      Set in and around the stilted villages of Inle Lake the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar.

      View details
    • Stilted villages of Inle Lake by traditional canoe
      Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)

      Stilted villages of Inle Lake by traditional canoe

      Stilted villages of Inle Lake by traditional canoe

      Your rower will guide you through the canals, among the stilt houses and floating gardens of the Intha people who live on the lake. The setting sun will provide an atmospheric light for some memorable photos.

      View details
    • Inle Lake Boat Trip
      A leg rower transports his goods on one of the channels to Inle Lake

      Inle Lake Boat Trip

      Inle Lake Boat Trip

      Around Inle Lake there are many small villages which connect to the main lake by means of narrow canals. Once out on the lake you may see the unique leg-rowing fishermen who stand up on their boats to give them a bird's eye view of the fish in the very shallow waters.

      View details