Known as the heart of Shan State, Inle Lake is about 39 km away from the capital city of Shan State. The massive highland lake is located 900 m above sea level and is 22 km long. Mountain ranges that surround the area is reflected on the lake’s surface, offering an impressive view. The natural lake is untouched and clean. Its shores and islands are mostly populated by villagers called the Intha people who are famous for their unique leg-rowing method. Visitors can tour the lake by getting on motorboats or experience the one-legged rowing method of the locals by taking a tour in their canoes. The area of the lake is big enough to house a wildlife sanctuary as well as several pagodas, markets, and gardens. Tourists can enjoy visiting landmarks and villages around the impressive lake.
Origin: Villagers of Inle are mostly Intha people, followed by other small ethnic groups like Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O, Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar. The people of Inle practise Buddhism and they mostly speak Myanmar.
Geography: Inle Lake has a monsoonal climate. The size of the lake is 116 km2.
Interesting Facts: Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar and is home to some of the rarest species of snails and fish. As of 2018, the lake is listed under the protection of the Ramsar Convention, a convention of wetlands.
Inle Lake is labeled as one of the ASEAN Wildlife Heritage Park in 2003. The area has a healthy ecosystem packed with plenty of flora and fauna. The quaint lake is also home to a wildlife sanctuary, where the rarest species of animals could be discovered. It is said that Inle is the nesting place of the worldwide-endangered sarus cranes. Tourists can also find woodland and wetland birds, multiple species of aquatic animals, insects, amphibians and reptiles at Inle Lake, including some of the rarest species of orchids. Tourists can go jungle-trekking while admiring beautiful creations of nature, making this an educational and inspiring tour. Visitors should not miss seeing the majestic mountain range, plantations and ecosystem surrounding the lake that makes it look surreal and magical.
Inle is bountiful with interesting places that offer exciting activities all year round. Several pagodas and temples can be found at the place. These religious sites are very sacred and important to the locals, especially the Buddhists. These places serve as a great start for those who wish to learn more about one of the country’s main religions while getting the chance to admire the wondrous architecture of these religious landmarks. Tourists can also participate in many types of activities in and around the lake. Boat rides are very enjoyable as the locals (only men) would use the unique one-legged rowing method to row their canoes. The villages surrounding the lake are also worth visiting because the area is rich in culture, traditions and handicraft skills of the villagers that are passed down for generations. Inle Lake also has unique floating gardens or islands, where tourists could witness how locals plant and harvest vegetables to be sold. The fertile soil surrounding the lake coupled with the constant flow of lake water into the lands make the areas around the lake ideal for paddy plantation.
Villagers of Inle are highly self-sufficient and self-sustainable. They possess an impressive set of skills that could help them earn a living and to feed their families. They are widely known as prominent silversmiths who still use the traditional way of extracting silver as well as crafting and selling silverware and trinkets to tourists, providing large contributions to the local tourist economy. They also produce and sell exquisite silk-woven fabrics, scarves and bags that can only be found in the region. The fabric is made of lotus plant fibres that are exclusively produced at Inle Lake. Handmade tools, trinkets and souvenirs could be found in the floating markets at Inle Lake where locals would trade and sell their items to other locals and tourists. The villagers are also expert farmers who are extremely self-sufficient due to the fertile environment of the lake. Lush paddy fields are also available at this area. There are special floating gardens in the lake in which they can harvest a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, squash, long beans) to be sold in the market along with freshly caught fish.
Sakar is a quaint and humble village isolated from other villages in Inle with a small population of only 1,300 people. The village, established in 1479 is chosen as the base for the government’s Community-based Tourism project which involves meaningful and educational interaction between locals and tourists. A ruined royal capital can also be found at Sakar, located at the southern side of Inle Lake.
Alo Taw Pauk Pagoda The pagoda that was built on stilts is known as one of the oldest religious sites on Inle Lake. There are four different Buddhas in the shrine and the pagoda is only one out of thousands of pagodas built by King Thiri Dhamma Thawka. It was rebuilt by King Alaungsithu. The King added jewellery, pearls, ivories, gold, and silver, in which all are still intact today.
Shwe Indein PagodaTourists can find a white-washed stupa in Indein village, where a Buddha image is placed on. There is a cluster of ancient stupas around the hill, below the white stupa, making the area a unique religious site to visit. Tourists will have to travel 5 kilometres on boat from Ywama in order to reach the village.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Five small images of Buddha can be found in the pagoda. These Buddha images are covered in so many gold leaves that their original state is unrecognisable. However, there are old images of how the original Buddhas look like decorated on the monastery walls. The monastery is open to all locals and tourists, but only men are allowed to apply gold leaf on the images.
The floating garden in Inle Lake is a sight to see. Besides fishing, the Inthas are great farmers who plant vegetables on floating islands in the lake. The unique part of the garden is that along with the produce, locals also sell the entire garden as if it is a piece of land. Tourists will be intrigued to see how the locals farm in the lake.
The floating market here is unlike the usual floating markets in the river as this is situated on a lake. Vendors would row their boats along the lake and sell or trade vegetables and rice that they have planted and harvested. Some fishermen would even sell fish that they have freshly caught from the lake. Tourists can also browse and purchase handmade souvenirs from locals.
Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was founded in 1995. Many species of plants and animals are protected here, giving visitors tons of opportunities to discover unique flora and fauna that are only found in Inle. Due to its role in protecting rare species, Inle lake is chosen to be Myanmar’s first site to be listed under the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Naung Shwe Saw Bwa Museum was initially called the ‘Haw’ mansion and it was the residential area of Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa, one of the rulers of Shan State. Tourists can find ancient sculptures and majestic architectures on the building’s interior. As it is now converted into a museum, visitors can also find the ancient belongings of all the Saw-Bwas, like thrones, divans, attires, and images.
Phaungdawoo Pagoda Festival: The Phaungdawoo Pagoda was built when the area was deemed as sacred after King Alaungsithu stopped by Inle Lake. Processions and boat races will be held at Inle Lake based on the dates in the Lunar Calendar. The huge pagoda used to house five Buddha images, but only four remained after a storm made them fall into the lake.
Thadingyut Festival: In this three-day light festival, locals would turn on lights and light up candles that symbolise the stairways that were built for Lord Buddha during his descent to the mortal world after preaching his mother who was in heaven. This meaningful celebration attracts tourists from all over the world to visit Myanmar to witness the beautiful light displays.
Thingyan Festival: Thingyan is a water festival in which locals would usher the new year. Celebrated annually in April, locals would splash water on each other in means of washing away bad happenings of the pass year. They would welcome the new year by having a gathering with family and friends to exchange good wishes.