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Home > Myanmar Highlights > Inle Lake & Surroundings

Inle Lake & Surroundings

Inle Lake environs Sagar Kakku Pindaya Kalaw Taunggyi

Uniquely Inle Lake… a breathtaking vista and rich tribal culture

Mystical, magical, and outrageously beautiful are a few of the words used to depict the azure Inle Lake nestle amidst the mist-shrouded Southern Shan plateau, and the amazing Intha who populated its surface and shores. The Intha built their houses over the water on stilts, grow different vegetables from the region’s most important cash-crop tomatoes to the flowers for their alters year-round on the one meter-thick floating islands formed by the weaving of dry grasses, hollow-stemmed weeds, and water hyacinth, then attached with the lakebed by using bamboo poles not to float away. This minority tribe earns their fame for a unique way of catching fish with conical-shape fishing gear, and rowing the boat by standing at the stern of a slender boat, rowing with one leg! There’s so much life on the lake, where Inthas busy growing things on the floating lands, or getting the fertile lakebed mud and weeds to be used as natural fertilizers; fishermen squatting on the stern approaching quietly over the fish-like movements before thrusting the trap to the lake bottom; whereas the other villages on the lake may specialized on the produces from gorgeous Silk and Lotus fiber woven fabrics, Blacksmithing of various farming or kitchen utensils, beautiful silverwares of various designs; and Shan traditional lacquerware; to making of cheroots, the local cigar, while people inhabited on the shores may focus on growing of much needed rice, and other crops including sesames, sunflowers, leeks, garlic, onion, potatoes, and cabbages. Since the Inthas are also Buddhists, one can find some impressive ancient monasteries on the water and the remarkably beautiful & fascinating ruins of Inn Dein and Sankar villages, not to mention Paung Daw Oo pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site of all southern Shan state, where four out of five out-of-the-shape Buddha images make annual tour in October to 20 or so villages on the lake with decorative barge towed by the leg-rowers on the specially made-up lengthy canoes in the form of procession. One of the most captivating events on the lake is the colorful 5-Day marketplace, where the hill-tribes of surrounding Lake Region come to exchange their goods with the Inthas. There are also endless souvenir stalls selling woodcarvings, colored beads, silverwares, woven products and various enviable items etc., which one could really hard to ignore. The bargaining is a must here and inferior quality or fake items need to be examined before making up your decision.

Shweyanpyay Monastery

Just before entering the gateway town of Inle Lake, Nyaungshwe, there’s lie one of most impressive monasteries in Myanmar. A typical Shan monastery with unique oval-shape windows have quite a eye-catching appearance when little novices come to pose for the photograph. The monastery was decorated with glass mosaics even on the supporting teak posts. While most of the people satisfy seeing from the outside, it is encourage taking a look at the cozy interior where the ceilings are beautifully carved and covered with gold leafs while the Shan-style lacquer images set in the middle on a plinth. The monastery is still in use and nearby stupa attached with a shrine also has an interesting story.


This is the main town having direct access to Inle Lake via 4-miles (6lm) long canal. The town dated back to almost 12th century when the Sao Bwas (Shan Chieftains) ruled and controlled the entire rice-growing Nyaungshwe plains. There is an old Shan Palace exhibiting some interesting items like royal throne, & regalia of former Shan Sao Bwas, historic photos, Shan chronicles. In fact, the present building was the resident of the first president of independent Burma. Most of the budget accommodations based in Nyaungshwe and there are a lot of Italian food & pancake serving restaurants. The town is an ideal place to begin bicycle tour to villages on the on the rim of the lake. The town most revered Ratanar Maung Aung temple has unique glittering pinnacles, and has beautiful relief-molding works at the main entrance, as well as a good collection of religious antiques. The southern part of the town, along the canal, has some picturesque monasteries and keeps bustling every day.

Ngaphe-chaung Monastery

Located close to the southern end of the main lake, nestled among the floating gardens of tomatoes and beans, is over 150-years old wooden monastery of Ngaphe-chaung constructed with teak. This Shan style monastery was built in 1843, by the order of Nyaungshwe Shan Sao Bwa, contains a very nice collection of northern Thai style image-houses as well as Shan inspired Buddha images made out of bamboo and lacquer and then gilded. This monastery is dubbed as “Jumping Cat Monastery” since there are some cats trained by the enthusiastic monks to jump into the ring, draws a lot of package crowds.

Paungdaw Oo Pagoda

The main religious site and most important pagoda in all southern Shan state, is located in Tharlay village. The temple houses 800-years-old five out-of-the-shape images of Buddha and his disciples, where four images out of five make annual tour to 20-plus villages on the huge decorative barge towed by over 50-long boats, each with around 40 leg-rowers, and dance & music performers, in October/November. The festival lasts for around 20 to 22 days depending on the lunar calendar.

Inn Dein Ruins

Located on the southwestern shore of the main lake, Inn Dein village area can be said the most scenic part of Inle Lake. The creek leading to the village is beautiful at all seasons, animating with different activities on its banks. Inn-Dein village serves as the main western portal to the lake for nearby Pa O villages on the hills. There are a couple of footpaths from boat-landing to reach impressive stupa ruins numbering 1094 in total as to the last count, densely or sometimes in rows erected on the hillock topped with a temple, which housed for a Buddha image believed to be donated by famous King Asoka of India in 2nd century BC . And you need to hike up inevitably along a kilometer or longer souvenir stalls whether you are an enthusiastic or not.

In Thar Villages

There are around 60-villages on the stilts and shores of the lake. Depending on the geographical locality, the socio-economical situation has also change. For the villages close to the main lake may be the production of tomatoes and a few other vegetables, while most villages on the eastern shore and the far south may emphasize on producing rice, sugar, and edible oils. The In-Thars on western shore, especially Kaungdaing village area produce Soya related foodstuffs. The people at Ywama village tend to produce beautiful Inthar traditional silverwares, and various products made from Shan papers. There are Cheroot factories, boat-making, & Shan traditional bas-relief molded lacquer-ware can be found at Nampam village. The very attractive & seductive Chiang Mai or Shan-styled silk, cotton, and lotus fiber woven products centered at Inn Paw Khon village. In addition to the Inthar villages, visitors can visit to a number of Pa O villages on the hills that rimmed the Inle Lake. The best time to hike these villages is from November to March.




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