Inle Lake is probably the fourth most popular destination in Myanmar after Bagan, Yangon and Mandalay. You can reach it through the town of Nyaung Shwe. This is the nearest town for the lake and where all the buses and vans stop. This is also where you will find a lot of accommodations and restaurants. The town of Nyaung Shwe is basically a good base for exploring Inle Lake. It is a freshwater lake and the second largest lake in Myanmar.
BY PLANE – Air Bagan flies to the Heho airport which is the closest airport to Inle Lake. It is still an hour away from the Lake. This is the fastest and also the most expensive mode of transport.
BY TRAIN – There are trains coming from Kalaw, Thazi and Yangon. The train stops at the town of Shwe Nyaung. From Shwe Nyaung to Nyaung Shwe takes a 20 minute drive.
BY BUS or VAN – This is probably the most common mode of transport. It takes 7-8 hours from Bagan and Mandalay. 12 hours from Yangon.
HOTELS ON THE LAKE ON STILTS – These ones are a novelty. You are on the actual lake but your food option would be limited, can’t explore the town as much and I imagine would be expensive to venture out.
HOTELS IN NYAUNG SHWE – There are a lot of good options and some are really good value.
GUESTHOUSES IN NYAUNG SHWE – These are pretty decent and very comfortable. I was a little apprehensive at first since it didn’t look too good online but my friend had stayed at the Inle Star Motel before. We had a good experience with our stay. You can read it here.
WALKING – It’s a really small town, you can walk everywhere.
BIKE RENTALS – If you are staying at a place a bit further away or you want to explore the whole town, you can opt to rent a bike for a day for 1000-1500 KYATS or $1-$1.50
BOAT RENTALS – If you want to explore the lake, it would be wise to rent a boat for a day for 15,000-18,000 KYATS
LAKE TOUR – You can DIY it by renting a boat or go to any travel agency in town and ask on rates for tours. Places of interest are the tomato plantations, the floating gardens, Phang Daw Oo Pagoda, Ywama Floating Market, In Dein, Go to any of the tourist shops around and see the Ladies with long necks, the Jumping Cat monastery, sunset on the Lake. You can read more about our experience here.
HOT AIR BALLOON – I can never afford this or even if I can, I don’t think I would like to spend that much. Just in case you do, there is a company called Oriental Ballooning that does it BUT only in the winter season understandably. They also operate in other cities like Bagan and Mandalay. It costs $420 per person for advanced booking. I don’t wanna know how much it would be if you did not book in advance. 😛 This is their website for more information.
PUPPET SHOW – If you feel like doing something traditional. There is the Aung Puppet Show and costs 5000 KYATS per person and the show lasts 30 minutes.
COOKING LESSONS – A company called Bamboo Delights offers cooking lessons. It seems like a husband and wife team. They are located at No. 6/261 Aung Chan Thar Quarter, Nyaung Shwe. This is their facebook page for more information. There’s also another entity that does cooking classes called Mr. Min cooking class. This is their facebook page.
SPA – I found a few of them in Nyaung Shwe. I’m just not sure how good they are. I had a not so good experience with a massage in Mandalay so I’m not sure if it’s any good in Nyaung Shwe.
I only tried two restaurants while we were on Inle Lake so I’m just gonna list those. Haha.
FRENCH TOUCH NYAUNG SHWE – We loved this place. We went twice on our very short stay. They serve French and Burmese food. It’s also a bakery. They make their own croissants and breads. The restaurant is well designed. You can see and read more about it here.
THANAKA GARDEN – It has really good reviews on Tripadvisor, that’s why we looked it up and walked our way there even if it was really out of the way. We didn’t like it. Maybe that’s just us. You can read more about our experience here.