The closest airport is in Heho, about 45 minutes away by taxi from the main town by Lake Nyaungshwe (walk down the road towards the main highway to negotiate a better rate). Taking a taxi from the airport can be quite expensive, from 25,000-40,000 kyat. A good way to save money is to book a taxi in advance with your guesthouse for about 15,000 kyat.
There are winter and summer rates for flights through all major airlines in the country.
Buses depart daily from Yangon and take about 13 hours. Buses take 10 hours from Mandalay. Air conditioned buses from Bagan take 9 hours with JJ express and cost USD11-20 (2 hours from Kalaw) and run during night or day. Ride is a little bumpy but stops frequently including for lunch. From Bago MYK15,000, 14hr. Bring warmer clothing on the bus as air-con temperatures can get low. If you are looking to sleep, earplugs are a good idea as music will be playing on the video screen in front of the bus.
Pick-Up / Line-ka
A very cheap option from Taunggyi is a pick-up (1 hour and around 600 kyat). Pickup trucks will leave from the main market.
You can walk around town easily or rent a bike for about 1,500 kyat per day, which you also use for touring the surroundings.
- Shwe Indein Pagoda - A stupa forest. Broken down stupas, some more, some still intact, overgrown with plants, hidden somewhere in the forest around Inle Lake, near Tone Le. You will most likely be the only one there and will get a feeling of being the first person to ever see them. Free entrance, free photos. From Nyuang Shwe this is about 90 mins drive. A return taxi will cost in the region of 40,000.
- Kakku Pagodas - 2,000 pagodas dating back to the 12th century. South east of the lake in the hills and quite isolated and tricky to get to. Only recently opened to visitors.
There is a 12500 MMK/USD10 (as of May 2016) entry fee per person to the lake, charged by the government. This fee is often collected at the bus or at the airport when you arrive. If you are lucky the bus driver won't bother stopping at the check point if only few foreigners are in the bus (go by a small bus!) or simply cover yourself with a Longyi and pretend to be a sleeping local when the officials enter. Ticket is not checked once you have passed the check point.
- The Lake tour. A boat trip on the lake is a must do. Unfortunately, it is also one of the biggest tourist traps in Myanmar, because you will visit 3-6 workshops selling items for Western prices. Most of the workshops are only set up for tourists and if you wish, you can tell your driver that you don't want to visit any of them. However, the trip to see the local small-scale industries and arts is worth it.
Right after leaving the canal to the open lake you will see two guys in traditional clothes standing on one leg in their boat and posing with a fishing basket, presenting then dead caught fish and will finally ask for tips. Full day trip takes about 7 hours and costs 15,000-20,000 K, driver will go wherever you tell them to, but remember that he is not a guide nor does he necessarily speak English. Any guesthouse or travel agency can arrange this trip for you. You may have a better experience by chartering a boat directly, clearly agreeing on the planned stops, and starting very early in the morning before most other tour boats, and also allowing you to arrive at market while it's busy. As of 2015, locals claim that the floating market doesn't exist any more due to too many tourists.
You may consider going to these common stops:
- Teak and Cheroot: Nan Pan market contains a teak wood workshop and cheroot-making. See and learn how boats are build, and browse through small teak wood souvenirs. See the local cheroots (cigars) being made, but you want to skip buying it here because you get the same stuff at a sixth of the price in the city
- Weaving: In Paw Khae, learn how thread is made and fabric weaved from lotus root string, apart from cotton and silk.
- Shan paper: See how Shan paper is made from wood, into colourful lamps and fans.
- Workshop of long neck people. A few ladies in their traditional clothing as an 'advertisement'. This can be a disturbing sight for some.
- Gold and silverware: Most tours will have a dysfunctional forge showing you how the silver is poured and molded into rings, 'Shan style earrings' and other jewellery.
- Floating village and restaurants: Good options for sea-food
- Floating garden : you can see tomatoes and aubergines among other veggies being grown
- Lay Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda: Contains 5 small Buddha statues covered with so much gold leaf that they look like golden snowmen. You can see pictures on the walls for their original appearance. You will also see tales from Buddha's life, and the story of how the Buddha statues were brought here through an adventurous route, on the walls through colourful depictions.
- Inthar Heritage House, Jumping Cat Monastery. So called because the monks had once trained the cats to jump. But the old monk has already passed away, and so the cats are not jumping any more. Still, it is a nice monastery worth the ambience. You can lose yourself merely interpreting the Buddha stories on the walls.
- Sunset at the lake. When your boatman approaches a fisherman, he will do the symbolic and famous Inle fisherman pose for you, balancing their net on one leg and leaning over the water. But as you near them, you will find outstretched hands demanding money for the pose. You should to tell your boatman not to wait near the fishermen if you do not wish to pay them.
- Informative guided tours are provided by the shops for free. Bring cash if you consider buying souvenirs (e.g. lotus fabric USD 30-80).
For Solo travellers in low season: It might be hard to find others to join. So walk around the jetty and the bridge. Most boats depart between 08:00-11:00. Respect: Do not take people's photo when they are showering or washing plates.
- Birdwatching. Another worthwhile experience that most tourists miss is to see some of the thousands of waterbirds that use Inle Lake either as a breeding site or on migration. Some are rare species difficult to see anywhere else. December and January are the best times, although some birds, like the spectacular pheasant-tailed Jacana, are best seen in their breeding plumage during the rainy season. The lake is a wildlife sanctuary and the local warden can arrange a knowledgeable guide who knows the English names and can show you where the birds are for a reasonable fee of about 12,000 kyat, not including boat and boatman. This fee goes to support the staff of the cash-strapped sanctuary. Bring your own binoculars and get out early when the birds are most active. Ask at your lodging to make arrangements.
- Short bicycle tour, 20km. Take a day to ride through surrounding villages. Just check your rental bike carefully before leaving. The most common route will have you crossing the lake from Khaung Daing by hiring a boat, the price should not be more than 8,000 kyat for the entire boat. The loop including the Hot Springs, the lake crossing, and the Vineyard will take approximately 3 to 4 hours.
- 1 Winery visit on bicycle. A bicycle ride to a nearby winery gives a nice view of the sleepy village life, and takes you through some scenic locations towards the wineries. One of these is Red Mountain. The pamphlets say that the hilly regions near Mandalay and Shan state have been producing robust good quality wine, competing with some of the best from Europe in international wine competitions. At Red mountain estate, you can eat at a restaurant, do a self-tour of the wine press and buy some wine The ride would be about 40 minutes from NyaungShwe.
- Full day bicycle tour to Indein, 40km. Start early in Nyaung Shwe and go counterclockwise in direction to the hot springs (sign posts). There is a nice viewpoint just 200 m before the Hot springs (where road bends 90°, look for stairs and climb them). Go south and follow the main road. When you feel like it, branch off and have a look around in the villages. After some time (3-4h, 30km in total) you will reach a bridge that crosses a canal branching in two (it's the only bridge on the way). Right after the bridge they will ask for a high entrance fee and/or a camera fee of 500 kyat, but Indein is free and the fee might only apply for the tourist shop. Just follow the main asphalt street after the bridge and turn right 50 m after the bridge, cycle up the hill where you can see broken stupas to your right. And straight ahead are the tops of the Indein stupas sticking out between the trees. So continue for about 2 min. When you see the stupas to your right look for a spot where you can pass between the bush. Explore. To go back to Nyaung Shwe go to the bridge again and ask for the jetty. Find a boat to Maing Thauk or Nyaung Shwe (1 or 1.5 h). But beware that prices rise the closer it gets to sunset. People know that you can't make it back cycling and that you depend on the boat service. Prices are around MMK 15,000-18,000 per boat. From Maing Thauk go north (ask for Nyaung Shwe). Nyaung Shwe - Hot Springs: 10 km, Hot Springs - Indein: 20 km, Maing Thauk - Nyaung Shwe: 11 km. Mountain bike not necessary. Sun screen and head cover recommended.
- Hiking. Day hikes in the surrounding hills, or 3 day hikes to Kalaw are available, and are highly recommended. Seek out Than The, a local guide who knows the area very well and comes highly recommended. Ask for him at Win's Massage. Another excellent guide is Dante, who you can hire from the agency called Thu-Thu, on the main street near the market. He and Mr. Cook will provide you the best information on the area and the best food you'll eat in Myanmar. A typical day hike usually costs about 10,000 kyat per person and starts at 08:00 and ends at 16:00-18:00. Be warned that the hikes can be very exhausting as they involve a lot of walking (typically 20 km, but you can ask the guide to shorten the trip if you are tired), walking up steep paths and the heat (especially in April) can make it quite tiring too. Bring plenty of water, 2-3 litres per person, as it can be difficult to buy clean water since you won't pass any shops, and good hiking shoes or boots. On a typical trip one will walk through mountains, forests and many villages inhabited by hill tribes, but don't expect to see them dressed in fancy hill tribe costumes as this is real life and not set up for tourists. Even if a hike is tiring, it gives the opportunity to get a glimpse of real life around Inle Lake and see some nice scenery too. It's usually not a tourist trap like the boat trip on the lake often is.
- Hot Springs. Rent a bike for the day (around USD2) and cycle the bumpy road towards the mountains for 45 minutes to visit the hot springs for a relaxing afternoon. The hot springs are actually 3 swimming pools in a big concrete spa centre, so you do not go there for the natural surroundings. The bike ride to the spa however is very scenic and worthwhile. The private pools have a full bar. USD8 per person for the private pools including a towel.
- Roller Skate (Yone Gyi Street (main road)). 09:00 - 21:00. Roller skating rink where the youth performs stunning tricks while Western Pop music is playing. Ever skated with your bare feet in a plastic bag because you didn't wear socks due to the heat? Then this is you chance to try something new. Try to catch up with the guys on the ramp. Plastic bags for your feet are for free. MMK 1000 per hour, includes rental.
Remember to bargain, Inle Lake is one of the most frequently touristed destinations in Myanmar. Prices will routinely be double what locals would pay. Products that appear old are fake (such as opium weight sets) and many goods being offered by shops are cheap products made for the tourist trade.
- Massage @ Phyu Phyu's Bamboo Hut, Yone Gyi Rd (Near bridge). Visit Phyu Phyu's Bamboo Hut for traditional Burmese massage by one of Phyu Phyu's family members. This wonderful young woman (with the nicest family) can also book boat trips (and guide you), canoes or trekking.
- Mr A Tun (Mu Kyi), Nyaungshwe (On the big road if you come from the market/jetty area, just half a block past the pizzeria (Golden Kite) on the left side). Great little tour company, run only by Mu Kyi, that tries to differentiate himself from the many other tour companies in Nyaungshwe. He speaks fluent English and doesn't rip off tourists like some of the dodgier places in town. The bus ticket to Yangon is also 1,000 kyat cheaper than elsewhere (14,000 kyat).
- Sunny Day Tour Services, West of market, Nyang Shwe Township (Follow the road down from the bridge. You will be able to see this on your left on one of the crossing streets), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hire a hiking guide for a very reasonable price. The guide Ko Thwe speaks excellent English and is able to organise hikes, and is flexible depending on where you want to go. He can also guide you to Kalaw. Approximately 10,000 kyat.
- Ma Kyi Kyi Win Costume Shop, Near Market, Nyang Shwe Township. Avoid this shop. They price gouge foreigners horribly.
- Several restaurants located on the floating village. There are several options for restaurants in the floating village. These are fairly clean and give a good view of the restaurant, with fairly cheap delicious food. Dont miss the Inle style spicy fish curry. One option is Shwe Kyat Pyint restaurant. 4000 kyat.
- Aurora Restaurant, 1 Yonegyi Rd, Nandawunn Quarter, Nyaung Shwe (Opposite Hotel Amazing, east end of town, direction cave and wineries). Burmese-run restaurant with traditional Burmese, Chinese, and pasta dishes. The portions are large. The handmade noodles are worth a try. 2,000 kyat.
- 1 Golden Kite, Yone Gyi Street and Myawaddy Rd, ☎ . The owner Mio personally makes the pasta and wood-oven pizza. Complete your meal with a sweet dessert—banana pancakes drizzled with Belgium chocolate.
- Unique Superb Food, 3 Myawady Rd, Nyaung Shwe Township (Near Remember Guesthouse and Buddha Museum). The name is rather cheesy and the restaurant is small and doesn't look very promising. They are slow at cooking too. However, they make superb food, and it is fairly cheap. Around 3,000 kyat for a main dish.
- 2 Night Market. Look for the sign that says “Night Market” along the main road and walk into a little alley with several food stalls. Everything looks deep fried and delicious.
- 3 Diamond Restaurant. Authentic, delicious Indian food. Good choice for vegetarians, and the paneer is made in-house, with plenty of options for meat-eaters. Also some tasty dessert options. The owner, Mr MD is very friendly, speaks excellent English, and offers an insight into the daily life of the local people. About 2000-4000 for a main dish.
- Red Star Restaurant, 4, Phaungdampyan Road, Nandawunn Quarter, Nyaung Shwe (next to Aquarius Inn, opposite Little Inn), ☎ . Little family run restaurant, quiet athmosphere, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have different types of lassi, all extremely good (MMK 1000) and big mojitos (MMK 1000). mains MMK 1,500.
- Try the freshly made Shan tofu salads at the Market. You will see women preparing these meals to go (or to eat from tiny plastic stools) in the market area. Other local spots are located across from the market where you can get good Shan noodle soups, tea leaf salads, etc., for around USD1.25.
- Smiling Moon Restaurant, Yone Gyi Rd. Great price for milkshakes and lassi. The food is another story, so eating somewhere else is advisable. Owner also changes money.
- 1 Red Mountain Estate (4km south-east of Nyaung Shwe). 09:00-18:00. Rent a bicycle and make your way up a small hill to this winery (20 min). Sip locally made wine as you admire the setting sun. Likely to be packed with tourists. Wine tasting of 4 different wines for MMK 3000.
- 1 Aquarius Inn, ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. Near the lake, very friendly family-owned inn with a fantastic breakfast. USD5-20.
- 2 Gypsy Inn, No. 82, Kann Nar Rd, Win Quarter, NyaungShwe (On the canal, to the west of town), ☎ . Check-out: 12:00. A growing guesthouse, with a new building (with more expensive rooms, featuring TV & fridge) and an older building (with some rooms without bathroom, shared shower block outside). Includes breakfast. Friendly staff. Dorm 8$. USD8-20.
- 3 Joy Hotel, Jetty Rd (On the canal). Friendly staff, clean, with nice view of busy canal each morning. Less touristy end of town, but still pleasant and close to cheap local restaurants. USD15-20.
- 4 May Guesthouse, 85, Myawaddy Rd, NyaungShwe, ☎ . Very friendly, clean and comfortable family-run hotel. Amidst many monasteries. single 15 USD, twin/double 25 USD, three bed 35 USD.
- 5 Min Ga Lar Inn, Phuang Daw Pyan Rd, Mingalar Quarter, Nyaungshwe (Next to the main pagoda in town), ☎ , e-mail: , (Mobile)firstname.lastname@example.org. Super friendly staff, excellent English and very helpful if you need information or to arrange excursions. Rooms are large and clean with hot water showers. Staff can organise boat trips for 17,000 kyat and travel arrangements. A recommendation is a canoe trip around the local villages and attractions on the lake and canals. It's a different experience to the motorboat tour of Inle Lake tour that the guesthouse can also arrange. USD30-45.
- 6 Remember Inn (In the north of town), ☎ . , , , Fairly clean but old rooms and a lovely rooftop relaxation area. Nice breakfast and they are happy to help with organising flights, boats and hikes. The owner is very nice and helpful. 15-50.
- 7 Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Thar Lay Village (On the lake itself, quite close to the floating gardens), ☎ . ,
- 8 Little Inn, Phaung Daw Pyan Road (south eastern corner of sport field, opposite Aquarius Inn), ☎ . Clean rooms, private bathrooms, hot water, nice garden, pancake or omelette for breakfast, wifi, helpful staff, provides map, 5min walking from the Jetty. double USD 18.
- The phone numbers in Nyaungshwe have changed recently. For example: +95 8129352 has become +95 81209352
- Internet @ iNet, Ahletaung Kyaung Rd (First right past Smiling Moon restaurant). Cheapest Internet in town (400 kyat per hr) but still fast. Don't pay the rude people at Comet (more than double the price) for Internet.
- Internet @ Pancake Kingdom (Follow the signs from the bridge at the canal). Inexpensive Internet (and good food). 300 kyat per hr for Wi-Fi and 500 kyat per hr for computers.
- Kalaw - take a memorable train ride from, from Shwenyaung station (#131 or #143)
- Meiktila - attractive lakeside town
- Thazi - take a memorable slow train ride from nearby Shwenyaung station on your way back to Mandalay.