You’ve just arrived at Inle Lake and want to get setup to see the sights. Who better to ask than the front desk of your hotel, right? After all, they live and work in the area.
“Of course I can help!” they exclaim. Then they try to sell you on a tour that is several times more expensive than what you’re actually willing to spend.
We had this exact experience when we arrived at our hotel in Inle Lake. But after pressing the concierge a bit, he revealed that the hotel has free bikes and we can actually see the lake by ourselves…for quite cheap!
If you’re also interested in seeing Inle Lake for a fraction of the price of what most tours are offered for, then this post is for you. We’ll explain exactly how to see Inle Lake independently (without an organized tour).
Travel Guide to Myanmar’s Inle Lake (How To See It Without a Tour)
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Where To Stay in Inle Lake
Unless you’re cashing out for a lakefront luxury resort, the best place to stay if you’re visiting Inle Lake is Nyaung Shwe. This is the nearby town that’s only a few kilometers north of the lake. It’s also where most buses drop off. There are quite a few restaurants in town and plenty of hotels to choose from which is why it’s your best option.
Nearly every hotel in Nyaung Shwe has free bikes to rent for the day. You’ll need to be up reasonably early to claim one, but as long as you’re out the door by 9-10 AM there still should be availability.
We stayed at the Royal Inlay Hotel and very much enjoyed our stay there. We had a beautiful balcony and really enjoyed watching the sunset at night. The breakfast included really fueled us up for a day of adventure.
How To Get To Inle Lake
The best way to get to Inle Lake is to grab a free hotel bike, and set out. Full disclosure, the ride to and from the lake is pretty long (we clocked it at about 18 miles). But don’t worry, the roads are flat and fairly well paved.
Take Yone Gyi Street west out of town, crossing over the river. The road bends and twists a little bit, but mostly it’s straight and relatively shaded. You’ll be on this road for 3 miles, before turning left.
Along the way you’ll want to stop to marvel at the workers tending to their rice fields, water buffalo, and beautiful hillside pagodas off in the distance.
After you’ve made it to Inle Lake West Corridor Road, turn left. You’ll know where to turn because the road you’re on will end, and you’ll be forced to turn. Take the left turn.
Along the way down this road, you’ll pass by a few villages with signs that say “boat here” or a variation of that. Keep on going. There will be others.
After biking a total of about 8 miles (which should take about an hour, give or take how much time you stop for pictures and water breaks), you’ll come to the village closest to the lake.
If you need a landmark to navigate to, head to Hu Pin Khaung Daing Village Resort Inle Lake.
What to pack for a day on Inle Lake, Myanmar
- LifeStraw Water Bottle. Since you can’t drink the tap water in Myanmar, we love the Lifestraw Water Bottle. It has a filter that allows you to drink the water–no matter where you go. This saves you money while also saving the planet from more wasted plastic water bottles.
- Anker Portable Battery Pack. The Anker Portable Battery Charger is amazing for long travel days. It can charge your smart phone up to 7 times so you never have to worry about running out of battery.
Finding A Boat To Take You Onto Inle Lake
The blessing and curse of being a tourist is people are always trying to sell you something. Here it’s no different.
Chances are, you won’t need to do much looking for a boat. They’ll come to you.
In our case, a rather persistent woman from InDevi Lake Boat Services won our business and we followed her down a dirt path to the landing.
What’s the rate?
We were told by the front desk at our hotel that a lake crossing should cost 15,000 Kyat ($10.48 USD). Not wanting to be suckers, we named 15,000 right off the bat, which the woman promptly agreed to.
With that said, it’s probably worth it to ask a price first. Or lead with something a little lower. Once the cat was out of the bag, there was no going back for us. You can learn from our mistakes and possibly save a few bucks.
Even if you do pay $10 USD to take the boat across, just remember this: the tour hawked by the hotel was $20+ per person, and you’re about to do it for half the price (or less, depending on your group size).
Crossing the lake
Crossing Inle Lake by boat with bicycles is apparently a common enough practice. The captain didn’t hesitate for a second to load up our bikes onto the boat before inviting us on.
It’s really quite awesome to head through the village out to the lake. All of the houses are built on stilts since the lake fluctuates in depth between rainy and dry season.
We were just crossing the lake, without any detours to see the sights. Despite our rather expedited crossing, it was plenty of time to admire the mountains on two sides, and the vast horizon on the other two.
In total, it was about half an hour from dock-to-dock (dock being a loose term here). We honestly wished it had taken a bit longer, though just sitting on a mat without any backing for half an hour is enough for most people.
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Over on the east side of Inle Lake
Your boat will have dropped you off somewhere on the east side of the lake, somewhere in the vicinity of Mine Thauk Market.
The east side of Inle Lake has a few sights to see depending on your energy levels, including the Maing Thauk Monastery, which we were too tired for.
Instead, we made our way to Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery. It’s about 5 miles up the road from where you’ll be dropped off, and only about 3 miles from Nyaung Shwe.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know Myanmar had good wine!” then you may want to temper your expectations.
While we didn’t drink (we were only there for lunch), we read in numerous reviews the wine isn’t that great. Apparently the Late Harvest is the best choice.
What To Do Back in Town (Nyaung Shwe)
Congratulations! After 18 miles on a bicycle, you’ve made it back to Nyaung Shwe, and have successfully seen Inle Lake independently without a tour guide.
Is that the sweet taste of victory you’re feeling? Or lactic acid? Either way, rest up. You’ve earned it. A good meal is in store.
Planning more Myanmar adventures?
Myanmar is a beautiful country and there is so much to see and do. Here’s a few of our other posts that you might like:
So is it possible to see Inle Lake independently?
Is it possible to see Inle Lake without an organized tour? YES! Not only is it cheaper, more eco-friendly, and all-around more fun, it’s also totally doable.
We love doing adventures like this instead of paying for a tour. The fact that almost all the hotels in Nyaung Shwe have free bikes to take for a day really makes this a no-brainer.
And of course you can modify this Inle Lake itinerary as you see fit, but we think this is a great baseline to set you off for an awesome day in Myanmar.
Are you a budget traveler like us? Check out these 53 Ways To Save Money While Traveling.
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