Since all the guide books seem to include Inle Lake on the must-do list for Myanmar travellers, I decided to check it out for myself. Rather than just visiting the lake, I opted to hike there from a nearby city called Kalaw (which again was recommended by all the guide books).
Kalaw is a four plus hour minivan ride up the mountain from Mandalay. The minivan even had to turn off the air conditioning to ensure the vehicle had enough power up the hill!
Kalaw is a picturesque little town, where you can clearly see its main attraction is for travellers to prepare for their hikes towards Inle Lake. It’s surrounded by hills and mountains, and a stark difference from the noisy and dusty city of Mandalay.
At Kalaw, there are many, many, many tour agencies that offer the same thing – a hike to Inle Lake. I decided on a three day, two night short hike with Sam’s Family Tour Agency.
Sam’s Family seemed like the most popular agency, offering multiple group departures a day. And because they had the most customers, I also found them cheaper. I paid $40 to be in a group of seven. (The cost doesn’t include your entrance ticket into Kalaw).
We convened at Sam’s Family bright and early. For anyone doing overnight stays, they offer luggage transport to your accommodations in Inle Lake, so you only need to bring what you need for your hike.
The first day consisted of close to seven hours of hiking (when I say hiking here, it’s really just walking on a dirt path. Maybe climbing a rock). The only factor was the heat, but the scenery was breathtaking as you continue to climb up the hills.
Up bright and early again, we started our second day hike at 8 a.m. While we did less hiking today and went a shorter distance, the scenery was less inspiring and the heat was relentless. The town our home-stay was located in offered an amazing lookout and sunset spot though.
Last day and the earliest call time. We started at 6:30 a.m and hiked until noon. This was probably the hardest of the three days, as we hiked in pretty much a desert setting.
We were rewarded with an hour boat ride into Inle Lake though!