15 Unmissable Things to do in Inle Lake, Myanmar [FULL GUIDE]

things to do on inle lake
Biking around Inle is SO much fun!

If you are wondering what to do in Inle lake as soon as you get off your bus from Yangon, well then read this guide on top places to visit in Inle lake and experiences to try on this serene lake nestled in the town of Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar.

Your Inle lake itinerary doesn’t have to be jam-packed, to be fun. Inle is perfect for slow travelers which is perhaps the best bit about a trip to Inle lake.

For me, a four day holiday to Inle lake was exactly what the doctor ordered. In this Inle lake blog post, I will share some of the top things to do on Inle lake for first-timers.

Fun Experiences and Things to do in Inle Lake Myanmar

things to do in inle lake

As soon as I got into Inle from Yangon, I realized the two cities were poles apart. People seemed happier, the pace of life was slower, kids were cycling to school and playing in their backyards – so very different from the mayhem of Yangon. Undoubtedly, I enjoyed Inle lake more and spent four days living on a bungalow over the lake. It is surely one of the best places to visit in Myanmar and has to be included in your Myanmar itinerary.

There are several interesting things to do on Inle lake if you have four days to kill. Trust me, there’s plenty – so much so that even four days seemed insufficient.  Here are a few Inle lake attractions and experiences I personally tried and would recommend –

Cheerot Cigar Making

Hand-rolled filterless cylindrical cheerot cigars are embedded deep into Burmese culture. So when our boat guide exclaimed we will be going to a cheerot cigar factory in Nan Pan, to watch how these cigars are made, we were enthralled.

It was a small setup with five women sitting on the floor, rolling cigars like a boss. I was amazed to see an “all women” cigar factory. The “manager” or as she called her, simply had to watch the women achieve their individual goal of rolling 500 cigars a day. I could see the women were extremely fast and efficient, rolling at the speed of 30 seconds per cigar (or less).

Cheerot cigar making process

Cheerot cigar making process

This entailed rolling the Cheerot leaf using a stick, stuffing tobacco, branding with company tag and clipping off both edges. Other ingredients of the cigar include – honey, tamarind, rice wine, brown sugar and banana fruit.

The “manager” gave us three different flavors to try and we quickly decided to buy a few packs of 10 as souvenirs for back home. We watched the women roll one cigar after the other, mesmerized by their speed, chatted and asked them questions about their work and lives.

Overall, it was a fun experience – the women are lovely and the cigars are cheap (and good).

Stay On an Overwater Bungalow

Pick one of the many resorts lining the beautiful Inle lake and you won’t be disappointed. Living “on” the lake is quite delightful. Our choice of stay was the stunning – Serenity Inle resort.

room at Serenity Inle Resort

Our cozy comfy room at Serenity Inle Resort

Serenity Inle resort has amazing villas on water, with verandahs overlooking the lake. Our 4d/3n stay with them was surely the highlight of our Inle lake trip.

Serenity is the perfect spot for solo travelers – safe, secure, serene and stunning.

overwater lake bunglows

Chilling in the lake view verandah was our favorite pass time

serenity resort inle lake

Rows of amazing bungalows at Serenity

Smiling and helpful staff, excellent boat trips, delectable cuisine (both local and European), swimming pool, free bikes and an array of other activities, made it the best relaxing stay I had in a long time.

serenity inle resort

Too cold to take a dip, but not to pose by the pool 😉

My friend and I both were totally rejuvenated as soon as we stepped into this fabulous resort.

Tip – Try the local massages at their in-house spa after a long boat trip, and you will be completely refreshed for another day of adventure on the lake. 

Click here to check lowest prices at Serenity or read glowing reviews here.

Try the Bike, Boat and Kayak tour of Inle

things to do on inle lake

Biking around Inle is SO much fun!

I was actually quite surprised to learn that there were plenty of cool things to do in Inle lake for adventure lovers as well. For the first three days, I was simply soaking in the unparalleled beauty, amazing seafood and pretty much just rejuvenating my senses. However, on my last day in Inle, I discovered that Grasshopper adventures has some amazing tours in/ around Inle. If you are wondering what to see in Inle lake, then taking one of their tours will give you an excellent introduction to the area.

Grasshopper adventures tour

My friend Ola and I, taking some time out to relax during the Grasshopper adventures tour

My friend and I promptly decided to try the Bike, Boat and Kayak day tour. As the name suggests, this tour takes you around Inle using the three most popular modes of transport. With around 25 km of biking involved, I would say it is a moderate level of adventure. You can easily do it if you are fit and it is suitable for children as well.

bike tour inle

Riding across different , sometimes challenging, terrains

Tour starts early around 0700 hrs in the morning and ends around 1700 hrs. This ten-hour tour of Inle takes you the back lanes of villages, local street food vendors, floating gardens, monasteries and more.

bike tour inle

Stunning bamboo forests enroute

burmese kids

Playing carom with local kids

bike tour on inle lake

Crossing sunflower fields 🙂

beautiful places in inle lake

Lovely monastery with overgrown lotus plants all around

inle lake food

Ending the epic tour with this hearty meal

You can get up close and peek into the life of villagers who live on the lake, while kayaking.

kayaking inle lake

Kayaking through the floating villages

With an experienced local guide at hand, you get a deeper understanding of the culture and local traditions. It is one of the best ways to get a complete insight on Inle in just one day. I would highly recommend this tour as one of the best things to do in Inle lake.

Click here to read more or book.

Take a Boat Trip

You have not really seen Inle lake until you take a boat trip on it. This is perhaps one of the top things to try on Inle lake hands down. You will be taken across the lake in a long tail motorboat as you visit various shops, monasteries, factories, and villages.

boat trip inle lake

Chilling like a villain on this boat trip

A full day boat trip can be booked directly with your hotel costing around USD 14 per boat (rates are not per person).

Gawk at Intha Fishing Technique

One leg paddling and this unique art of fishing at Inle lake can be very interesting to watch. Intha fishermen here stand on edge of the boat and use one leg to balance and other to paddle.

Intha fishing

Intha fishing technique typically followed at Inle lake

Not only do they get a bird’s eye view by standing and can spot the seaweeds easily but this also leaves their hands free for netting. Their cone-shaped nets are pushed into the water till they spear and catch fish.

inle lake fishing

And this is how you do it!

These days, fishermen are usually doing all sorts of tactics to get tips from tourists as the traditional methods are slowly dying.

Talk to the Long-necked Women

The long-necked women of Ywa Ma have quite a story to tell. From how they never take off their bronze rings, even when they sleep or shower, to the fact that these rings can weigh almost as much as their body weight in some cases, was quite surprising.

long necked women myanmar

Lovely long necked women from Ywa Ma

One of the shops on Inle lake sells scarfs woven by these women alongside other artifacts and antiques. For me, the best part was just talking to these women and understanding their lives and culture.

Buy Handmade Bamboo Items at Nan Pan

Making things out of bamboo is another tradition passed on from older generations at the lake. You can buy hats, souvenirs, bags and just about anything made off bamboo here. Plus things to do Inle lake that support locals are always a big recommendation from me.

bamboo hat inle

Digging this bamboo hat – ‘shikari shambu’ style

Learn about Boat Making

At the Nan Pan village, you can see how boats are made with teak wood, how much they are sold for, what’s the process and how long it takes to make a boat, various types of boats and much more. If you love boats, this is a must see!

boat making inle

Boat making process – explained!

Check out Stunning Pagodas

There are many pagodas which you can visit from the boat or via the Nyaung Shwe town. Shwe Indein (ရွှေအင်းတိန်စေတီ) is the most popular set of pagodas in the village of Indein. Sadly, we skipped this but we visited Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda (ဖောင်တော်ဦးဘုရား) instead.

Phaung Daw Oo is popular for their five gold leaf-covered unique images of Lord Buddha. The famous Phaung daw oo festival is also held here every year in Oct/ Nov.

Phaung Daw Oo

Phaung Daw Oo pagoda complex

We were surprised to read a sign that said women were not allowed inside the pagoda. There was no one around to explain the reason for this so our visit to this pagoda was perhaps the shortest. These pagodas are one of those Inle lake famous places that you kind of must check off your list during your visit.

Visit the Jumping Cat Monastery

The renowned Jumping Cat Monastery aka Nga Hpe Kyaung is one of the most popular attractions of Inle Lake. We had read tales of cats jumping through hoops as trained by monks but this jumping cat tradition is not practiced anymore. However, you do find a few cats scattered around taking a nap.

jumping cat monastery

No jumping cats around but some lazy cats for sure 🙂

With ancient Buddha images and lines of souvenir shops and tea stalls, the Nga Hpe Kyaung is another tourist spot to visit on the lake.

Nga Hpe Kyaung from the boat

Go Sunset Watching

Sunset watching on Inle lake can be quite memorable. You will find hoards of fishermen trying to hook their final catch as the sun sets in the horizon and the sky turns different hues of orange.

sunset inle lake

Lovely sunsets on the lake

Buy Souvenirs and Trinklets

During any boat trip, you are sure to hit several souvenir shops by local villages. You can even find trinklet sellers on boats, rowing across the lake in hopes of finding tourists.

souvenirs inle

Trinklet seller on boat

There is no dearth of cheap and good souvenirs on Inle lake so you will be spoilt for choices on presents to bring back home.

Get a Traditional Burmese Tattoo

Getting a traditional Burmese ink at Inle lake was high up on our agenda. Almost every village has one traditional tattoo artist. We did visit one and checked out all designs (Which consisted of hand drawn animals or scripts mostly).

Burmese tattoo

My friend Ola checking out the hand drawn Burmese ink designs

Since I got my traditional Sak Yant ink in Bangkok, I wasn’t particularly nervous about the non-machine inking method. Inking with a bamboo stick does hurt more but after my pleasant experience in Bangkok, I was very confident of trying a Burmese traditional tattoo, to add to my travel memories.

However, I wasn’t very sure of which tattoo artist to go with as there was not much information available online or at our hotel reception. Understanding that this is a life long commitment, I passed on it for now but if you know where to go, this can be a very interesting experience in Inle lake.

So if you are feeling adventurous and looking for unique Inle lake things to do, getting a traditional ink should top your list.

Devour Stone fish

Stone fish turned out to be part of the best meals I tried on Inle Lake.

Be it the ‘Stone fish in ginger and aubergine‘ which I tried at Royal palace restaurant on the lake or the delicious ‘Stuffed fish with Tomato sauce‘ at Serenity lake resort; my taste buds were blown away every single time.

stonefish in inle lake

Loving the stonefish cooked in tomato curry at Serenity Inle Resort

Lotus Weaving

This tradition has been carried on since over 100 years as women found another way to keep themselves busy and , now, monetize from their art. The lotus weaving industry (where cloth is woven out of lotus stems) is hugely popular on the Inle lake and part of every boat tour that crosses Paw Khone or Kyaing Khan villages.

We went to the Khit Sunn Yin Lotus weaving center and an English speaking employee quickly guided us to the different rooms, explaining each step of the weaving process.

lotus weaving

Lotus stems being woven into cloth

Lotus weaving process

Lotus weaving process

Your ‘tour’ ends in a shop where you can buy these hand made lotus stem products like scarfs, shirts, bags and more.  The major source of income for villagers on Inle lake comes from tourism so it is a great way to support the local communities.

Tip – There are also daily markets in all villages on the lake, each on a different day. We could not visit one due to our packed Inle lake itinerary, however, they are highly recommended by fellow travelers.

I found this lovely Inle lake vlog on Youtube which covers most of these cool Inle lake activities. So check it out for yourself for a cool video walkthrough –

How to Reach Inle Lake?

Depending on your preferred mode of travel, you can take a flight to Inle lake or a bumpy road ride. Here I have detailed 4 ways to travel from Yangon to Inle lake along with details of the mode we took (bus) – How to go from Yangon to Inle lake.

yangon to inle lake

JJ Express we took from Inle to Yangon

Inle lake on Google maps for easy reference – 

what to see in inle lake

Here was my handpicked list of things to do in Inle Lake during my 4-day long trip to Inle.

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