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About Inle Lake
Glide along Inle Lake and you'll soon see why this part of Myanmar is a sparkling jewel in the country's crown. En route you'll witness charming water villages made up of woven bamboo houses perched on stilts, as well as fishermen practising an age-old rowing technique using their feet. On dry land and into the Shan Hills, you can look forward to tiered pagodas, charismatic market towns and crumbling Buddhist stupas.
You can stay in an Inle Lake hostel that has a courtyard scattered with deckchairs and oversized tropical plants. Other stand-out extras include top-floor hangout spaces, friendly bars with regular happy hours and rooftop Jacuzzis. Some Inle Lake hostels hand out free tea, coffee and cheroots (Burmese cigars) all day long. To have a little more privacy when staying in a dorm, look out for curtain-lined bunk beds. You could even have a traditional Burmese experience in a hostel inside one of Inle Lake's age-old wooden buildings.
Nyaungshwe is the main town for travellers who come to Inle Lake as this is where boat trips on the water leave from. Head to the west shore for the small village of Indein, where ancient pagodas reach for blue skies and farmers plough rice paddies with the help of water buffaloes. Ywama, the largest settlement in the area, is home to handsome teak buildings that lead off to floating gardens full of cultivated fruit and veg like tomatoes and cucumbers.
When you take a boat trip out on the lake, you can visit stilt-house workshops like the small weaving factory where locals craft scarves out of lotus flowers. You'll also be dropped off at a working monastery; make sure to ask to be taken to the Hpaung Daw U pagoda to see ornate Burmese architecture and gleaming ceremonial boats. Get out into the countryside by renting a bike and pedalling towards the Red Mountain Estate Winery, about 20 minutes from town.
To travel around Inle Lake, you could commission a rowing boat and driver near the bridge at the western end of Yone Gyi Road. You can get to Inle Lake by public bus from destinations like Yangon (12 hours) and Mandalay (8 hours), though many travellers come on foot after a multi-day hike that starts in Kalaw. The nearest airport is Heho Airport, about an hour's taxi ride from the lake. Buses, taxis and tuk-tuks are available in town once you arrive.