With the wind at your back, a cloudless blue sky above (hopefully) and lush, mountainous scenery to the left and right, few experiences can top a boat tour on the shimmering Inle Lake. Highlights include visits to teeny-tiny stilt-house villages, local craft shops, and filling up on scrumptious seafood.
Though before a day on the water can happen, you’ll need to decide on the length of your tour and the type of boat. A full day tour tends to include lunch and/or dinner stops on the lake and visits to lesser known sights and local markets, whereas a half-day tour sticks to the main attractions without a meal break. As for the type of boat, many tourists opt for motorized canoes (with a guide) over traditional non-motorized boats to cover more ground. Motorized canoes are a bit more comfy too—the extra breeze feels mighty fine on sweltering hot days!
Accessible only by boat, Inle Lake’s stilt house villages are one of the primary reasons to hop on a boat tour. Located sporadically throughout the lake, the villages are a testament to people’s ability to adapt to their surroundings. Life here is similar to anywhere else in the world, with families working, playing, and relaxing together, except for one major difference—villages are completely surrounded by water. All of the homes are on stilts, and the only way to travel is by swimming or boat.
Another standout while touring the villages are the floating gardens, where clever locals have built grassy patches that are chock-full of nutritious, colorful produce. Meandering through the villages’ floating gardens was my favorite part of the day—be sure to have your cameras ready.
There are a series of craft shops within the Lake too, where locals skillfully whittle logs into canoes, craft tapestries out of homespun thread, and create all kinds of tourist knick-knacks. Decide which craft shops are most interesting and hop out of the canoe and into a stilt shop to learn about local crafts and perhaps purchase a gift or two to bring home.
What else? The lake is home to several monasteries (some very crowded with tourists!), rotating markets and lakeside restaurants serving fresh seafood. With so many options, be sure to chat with your guide to discuss your preferences, thus guaranteeing a fun-filled day on the lake.