Inle lake and Nyaung Shwe: A to Z things to do and see

what to do inle lake

What to do Nyaung Shwe

Inle Lake is a huge freshwater reservoir, 22 kilometers by 10 kilometers in size. About 70 thousand people live around the lake and on its islands - quite a lot, considering that you cannot build any high-rise buildings there. Inle residents live mainly in houses on stilts, have boats instead of bikes, and even floating gardens.

Nyaung Shwe is the main tourist hub for visiting Inle lake and we’ll touch more on this cozy town lower as we really loved it.

Nyaung Shwe seems to draw people in and keep them here. The magic of the lake and the bustle of the town are hard to resist.
— Molly, Manager in Ostello Bello, Nyaung Shwe

Boat Ride to Inle Lake

The main attraction on Inle is a boat ride and visiting interesting places around the lake. The city of Nyaung Shwe is full of travel agencies that will offer you tours on boats and tell you everything, you can also just go to the boatmen on the pier and arrange a trip. The price for a private boat is K20.000 for a half day or K25.000 with extra stop at In Dein.

Weather – be prepared

Inle Lake is located on a hill (900 meters above sea level and surrounded by mountains), so the climate here is special. In the afternoon it will be hot (+28, +30), but in the morning and in the evening it’s gonna be a bit chilly and you’ll wanna wear long sleeves. Especially if you head out for a boat ride early in the morning, it would be even colder on the water, so make sure to wear something warm, as the day progresses it becomes warm very quickly and you can use the extra clothing to protect yourself from the sun.

The tour starts from early morning (our tour was from 8:30) and lasts until the evening (around 5:00 pm). If you want to stay for a sunset - you have to arrange it separately with the "captain of the ship."

The boat route is fairly standard

Inle Lake Boat

Fishermen

Local fishermen have mastered a very distinctive way to row – with their feet! Thus, the hands remain free, and they can easily work with the net. This method is the symbol of Inle.

You will probably see a fisherman with old fashioned net right when you enter the lake from the channel. This person wearing a perfectly white shirt is obviously there for the tourists. However, as long as you go, you will see some people actually fishing or pulling out the seaweed from water onto the boats.


You’ll be taken to local workshops:

1) lotus weaving, making fabric from cotton, silk;

We found it to be the most interesting one and worth visiting as they showed us how to make threads from lotus stems and the weaving process.

It takes 4000 lotus stems and 1 month to weave a single scarf which would then be sold for $150 and more.

2) rolling of local cigars and making lacquerware;

3) a silver workshop.

Workshops look theatrical, but on the one hand, you can see how silver is melted or how women weave.

As for buying things from there - similar goods can be found on the local market of Nyaung Shwe (or any other Burmese market) for a much cheaper price. We personally tried to limit the time for these shops as much as possible.

The Kayan “Long neck” women

During another stop, we were invited to see one more shop(which we were pretty tired of by that time) but we were lucky – at the back of the shop 2 Kayan women were weaving. We approached them and realized that the rings on their necks were...fake. Two girls sitting there pretending to weave and to wear rings just for tourists entertainment. It would be fair to mention that our friends who visited a day earlier saw a real Kayan woman of a respectful age of 80.

Interesting fact:

Many people are curious about what is happening to the girls’ necks when they are wearing the rings and what will happen if they are removed. 

As X-rays showed, the girls' necks don’t become longer – such an illusion appears because their shoulder girdles get deformed. 

But if all the metal is removed, the skeleton will restore shape after some time. And the necks do not snap when the rings are removed, unlike to some popular beliefs.

Inle floating gardens

The base for the floating gardens is so-called “seagrass”, water hyacinth, which grows on the water. These plants are secured in position using bamboo poles. These are driven into the deep mud at the bottom of the lake, in areas of water between 1 and 5 meters deep.

Grass grows together, forming a single green “island”, and is encouraged to grow on the surface. The grass is then cut, dried and finally burned to ashes, which serves as an excellent fertilizer. The grass grows again, the process repeats, and as a result, the final layer is mud from the bottom of the lake.More “seagrass” is heaped on top, with a final layer of fine mud from the bottom of the lake.

After several cycles, the thickness of the water garden can reach 1 meter! Lake water has all the substances necessary for the growth of fruits and vegetables, and the harvest here is very abundant.

Inle residents grow so many vegetables that they cover not only their needs but also ship them to neighboring villages.

The Burmese cat village

The village is located on the island and the admission is free. You can take pictures and play with cuddly cats that look like real royal cats. Cat lovers would be happy! As we has a private boat we spent around 15 mins total there: visited the cats, took a look at the aquarium that hoist species of fish that live in Inle lake and continued our trip.

All the pictures are taken using our Sony a6000 camera which we find to be the most suitable for travel bloggers.

In Dein

Indein Pagoda

In Dein was a highlight of our boat trip and should not be missed.

It is often compared to Bagan and is represented by a huge collection (about 1000) of partly restored and partly ruined stupas dating from the 12th century and up until the 18th century.

Many of the stupas are modern but designed to look older than they are as commissioned by philanthropists from around the world. In Buddhism, it is believed that the one who built the stupa (or gave money for it) pays for all his sins.

Pagodas are built on a limited area surrounded by bamboo forest and located very tightly to each other with bells hanging from the top of each one.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

This pagoda is known for housing five more than 800 years old images of Buddha and is golden just as Shwedagon Pagoda In Yangon. These ancient images are completely covered in golden leaf which made them look like a solid mass of gold.

Near the pagoda is the boat shelter for the Karaweik boat. This boat carries four out of the five images in procession across the lake during the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival which we were lucky to witness. 

Cat monastery

A monastery in the middle of the lake and with such a name - of course, we decided to visit.

At some point monks started to move to the mainland, there were less and fewer parishioners and the monastery was rapidly fading. To save the situation it was decided to resort to the help of cats as the numerous amount of them already lived there.

Now the monastery has a lot of visitors, some come just to pray, some – to look at the cats.

Frankly speaking, this site is not that special and can be easily skipped. On the other side, if you want to get the most of your boat trip, why not to visit.

As for us personally, we liked the atmosphere in the temple as it was unlike the other temples we saw before. The design fostered this feeling too, as there were no Christmas lights or too bright colors.

Lunch in Shwe Kyar Pwint restaurant

The restaurant is located right on the water, the ambience is nice and it’s not overpriced at all. The drinks were even a bit cheaper than on the mainland, and the food was delicious.


Things to do in Nyaung Shwe which are not a boat trip

Most people come to Nyaung Shwe to see Inle Lake, but there are other things to do besides a in this little town with vibrant atmosphere and wide range of accommodation and cafe choices.

Bike Ride Myanmar

Yone Gyi Street

This is the busiest (and longest) street in the village. Here you can find a decent amount of cafes and restaurants, meet fellow travelers strolling around and shop at the actual supermarket where you can find yogurts, ice cream and the cheapest water. However, all this does not revoke the fact that this is a dusty road with lots of traffic.

Visit Mingalar market

The market works daily from early morning to mid-afternoon. There you can find local eats - Burmese sweets, sticky rice, rice cakes, salad from fried tofu or tea leaf. In addition, you can find clothes, jewellery, cigars, scarves, knives and other goods – vendors selling everything for affordable prices unlike “authentic” factories on Inle lake.

The prices we were offered - 4000 for longyi, 500 for a bottle of coconut oil. This is the best place to find souvenirs as it’s less tourist-orientated and managed to remain largely traditional and authentic.

Scared to eat local food from the market? Check out our complete travel guide to Myanmar to know what to look out for.

Rent Bikes

You can rent ordinary bikes for K1500 for a full day and mountain bikes for K7000-8000 for a full day. There are many rental places in town but we chose to rent from our hotel. You can bike to the winery, natural water pool, spa but keep in mind that almost all bike rides will take you a couple of hours just to get to one place.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for foreigners to rent motorbikes or e-bikes.

Visit local winery

To us, this place is a place to skip if you’re on a time-crunch, or if you’re willing to take a taxi to only catch the sunset.  The wine here isn’t anything to brag about, and honestly, you’ll find better glasses of wine in town whether it be at SinSaw restaurant or at La Riziere Buvette.  

Take a cooking class

We took a class with Myo Myo Cooking School are were highly satisfied! Myo Myo has a very outgoing personality and she will gladly teach you how to cook two curries, a salad and a soup. She will guide you through the local market explaining everything and helping to buy fresh ingredients. The price is K20.000 per person which is much cheaper than in other countries, besides, this price includes transportation and ingredients.

5-day market

There is a 5-day market that takes place each day in a different location, you can ask at a hotel or a travel agency where the market works today. People from local tribes descend from the mountains and trade in their products, cattle, handicrafts, so you can come here for the authentic atmosphere

Hot Springs

Located on the road to the village of Khaung Daing to the west of Nyaung Shwe. This is where the routes to Kalaw begin and end, so you can relax after a hike or especially come by bike from town. The entrance fee for foreigners is $10.

Kaung Daing tofu village

Located some 8-9 km from outside of town, this village offers you amazingly delicious fresh tofu! The villagers make tofu from yellow peas, also they processes peanuts and make peanut oil. Located off the tourist track, the tofu village combined with hot springs can be a great activity for the day.


Trekking

The most popular route is the Inle-Kalaw route (or vice versa). The journey takes on average 3 days and passes through remote areas of Myanmar in the mountains. You can spend the night in the homes of local residents or in a tent. Cost - approximately $15 per person per day, including food and a guide. Another route leads to the town of Kakku, where 2478 stupas are located, and also takes 3 days.

Send a card from the Post Office

The cost of sending a postcard is 1500 kyat for the stamp, and the price for a card itself is 1000 kyat, so you can easily send a couple postcards back home.


Where to stay in Nyaung Shwe

Budget - Bright Hotel. This hotel was the saviour of all hotels here in Myanmar thus far.  For $8 a night we were able to secure a private room queen size bed and with a private bathroom.  The room was basic, but we had an unlimited supply of hot water and wifi. On this trip, our goal has been to stay within an average of $30 a day and with a room of this price, it gave us so much room to go out and eat very well and do any activity in town that we pleased... besides the hot air balloon of course.  A clean hotel located 2 minutes from the boat launch and central to all restaurants and bars in town, this place is a no-brainer.

Mid Range - Ostello Bello. A backpackers dream hostel whether you’re in Italy or Myanmar, this is always the place to be staying there or just hanging around to mingle over a cup of coffee or beer. The best wifi we found in town, friendly staff, daily events on the terrace and plenty of fellow travelers to hang out with.

Luxury 5Star - Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort. This hotel & resort accommodates their guests in luxurious villas just as Aureum Palace in Bagan, where we were happy to celebrate our engagement. Aureum Palace is located on the shores of a unique seascape in the Shan Mountains every and has indoor Jacuzzis and a terrace with spectacular sunsets.

See more of our luxurious getaway in Bagan!


Where to eat Nyaung Shwe

La Riziere Buvette

Situated one mile outside of downtown, lies this lovely paradise hidden behind an entire fence made up of trees and water.  Making it almost impossible to know it’s there unless you’re actually looking for it. Compared to the rest of the food in the ci the prices are extremely fair, and it has a view and vibe that cannot be duplicated!  Average cost per person with an entree and beer/wine is K4500. See more

Linn Htet Restaurant

This restaurant is a family owned place with very friendly stuff, amazing local cuisine for incredible prices. The portions are quite large: if you order a curry, for instance, it comes with a small soups and a couple side dishes. Find out more here

Chillax

Mostly known to travellers that are flowing into this town for its western food, this lovely modern restaurant honestly boasts one of the best cappuccinos in all of Myanmar.  For 2000kyat you can get yourself an iced cappuccino made with Italian ILLY espresso and served up with fresh milk and your own dose of liquid sugar...in our opinion this is a no-brainer and a must try here in Nyaung Shwe. See more

Paw Paw

A self-funded, family run, home kitchen restaurant and community development project aiming to assist marginalised young women from remote areas of Myanmar.  Not only is this place a good cause, but the food, ambience, and service are great. Sure it may take some time to get your food, but you’ll never feel out of place or not taken care of whatsoever. See more

Pub Asiatico

This place is by far one of a kind when it comes to entertainment, pub food, and getting some drinks.  Located on one of the main streets in Nyaung Shwe you’ll find this multi-levelled sports bar equipped with pool tables, dart boards, Jenga, and all sorts of board games.  It’s mostly western food and at a pretty decent price with beer set at the same price as most touristy places around.

Genius Coffee

Located inside of the information centre along the river, this little cafe boasts some of the best coffee in Nyaung Shwe as well.  But not only is it a good cup of coffee, but it also supports the local coffee trade.

With 4 tables on the backside of the building in the shade, you can enjoy your coffee without being hassled by all the boat drivers out front.

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