For many visitors, Inle Lake is the absolute highlight of their holiday in Myanmar. This beautiful body of water plays home to both wildlife and humans, and is a far calmer location to some of the country’s more bustling cities. But which are the sights that you can’t miss out on when visiting? Thahara lists our top 5 places to visit in Inle Lake.
1. Five Day Market
Arguably one of Inle Lake’s most famous attractions and one of the reasons many visitors come. Inle Lake’s 5 Day Market rotates from one village to next across a 5 days span, before returning back to the first one and repeating again and again.
This picturesque site is where many locals from around the nearby mountains, including Pa-O and Danu ethnic tribes, come and sell their wears including Thahakha, rattan baskets, food and much more besides.
How you find the location of the day’s market is a little tricky, but we’d recommend asking your hotel receptionist who is almost certain to know. The most famous village market happens at Indein (more on this later), but our favourite market is located Nam Pan. It’s certainly worth getting here early, because before long it gets very busy, with tourists coming from all over. It’s definitely a case of the early bird catches the worm.
2. Inle Lake’s Floating Gardens
It’s hard to pin point an exact location of Inle Lake’s famous floating gardens because as you make your way onto the lake, you’ll quickly notice that they are all around you. These gardens have been man made and are where the local farmers grow their harvest.
It’s an incredibly impressive feet, all the more so as you notice the farmers make their way around these gardens by paddle and canoe. Gardening can be hard at the best of times when on dry land. Now imagine doing all the weeding, picking, cutting and much more besides while balancing on a pretty small canoe. Nope we wouldn’t want to do that either.
Now in total around 25% of Inle Lake is covered in these floating gardens, meaning that only the very centre actually feels like a lake. The rest almost seems like a swamp of sorts, as you navigate through the different water channels.
These gardens are created when a farmer captures seagrass in and amongst bamboo poles that they have carefully placed. The seagrass is allowed to knit together over time and soon becomes an island of sorts, going all the way down to the bottom of the lake (sometimes as deep as 5 metres). The farmer will begin to grow grass on the top of these islands which is then burned, creating a nutritious mound on the top of the island which can grow crops.
3. Samkar Village
For a real trip off the beaten path head down to the southern end of Inle Lake. The journey by boat is half the fun as you’ll pass by villages, floating gardens, and much more besides. In total it should take around 2 hours, but we’d recommend stopping at various points along the way to stretch your legs or grab a bite to eat.
Along the way you’ll see sugarcane plantations, bamboo forests and before long be greeted by stupas rising out of the water in this largely untouched Pa-O village.
This village is rarely visited by tourists, and actually contains one of the most unique hotels in our collection, A Little Lodge in Samkar. You can either decide to stay the night here, or enjoy a well earned lunch before heading back the way you came.
Once you get to Samkar, you’ll have the opportunity to walk around this picturesque village which we are sure will be a highlight of your trip.
4. Inle Heritage Stilt Houses
Inle Heritage Stilt Houses is a hotel in the middle of Inle Lake that is made up of 6 bungalows. But more importantly for guests visiting, it also contains the best restaurant on Inle Lake, and is home to a not for profit organisation that is intent on preserving the culture of Inle Lake and also the habitat.
Here you’ll be able to walk around the organic vegetable garden, visit the Burmese cat sanctuary and also take in the little aquarium they have here which shows off the local inhabitants of the lake.
It’s easy to spend much longer then you planned here, and why not, because it is a very special place.
5. Indein Village
Last on the list, but certainly not least is the village of Indein. As we mentioned above, Indein is well known for it’s 5 day market, but that isn’t the only reason you should visit. In fact we’d almost go as far as to recommend you avoid this village when the market is taking place, and come back when it’s quieter.
Indein is located about an hour and a half from Nyaung Shwe, on the West coast of Inle Lake.
The village is probably best known though for the complex of stupas that dot the landscape. These structures, some which have been restored and some not, are hundreds of years old and play and important role in everyday life here.
The Final Word
So there you have it, our top 5 places to visit in Inle Lake. We think that these locations are absolutely worth visiting, but that’s not to say this list is finite. There’s a lot for tourists and visitors to take in while staying in Inle Lake and part of the joy is in exploring it yourself.
Get in touch with Thahara and let us know where you’d like to visit, and let us guide you around Inle Lake.