Kalaw to Inle Lake
When we were planning our trip to Myanmar we only had a week to visit, so we followed the traditional route of most travelers who visit Myanmar. Fortunately, I’m a teacher in Thailand and we had some friends who had been to Myanmar before and I was able to ask them for their travel tips. My friends both said that “Myanmar is cool and all BUT you HAVE to do the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek. This was the highlight of our trip!” I’ll admit I was a bit surprised I’d read a lot of travel blogs about Inle Lake and none of them had mentioned this hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake. But I love hiking and with a little bit of rearranging we were able to fit in the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek, boy am I glad we did!
So because Myanmar is a rather new country to tourism most of the country’s businesses aren’t online or operate solely through their Facebook page. Make sure you have the messenger app on your phone because I communicated through all the companies we used through messenger or email. My point is there are a few hiking companies that you can use and although it seemed to me like maybe they share resources, guides, etc. and might not be that separate here’s my experience with each group.
By the time we were trying to book this hike, we had very little time so as far as my qualifications for picking a company went it was mostly first come first serve and we wanted to stay the night at a monastery. I had a really hard time finding each company’s contact information so I’ve listed it below. I might be missing one company but these are the main three companies that trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake.
The hiking companies
You can reach them at email@example.com. The main reason we didn’t go with EverSmile trekking was because they didn’t have their groups stay at a monastery. This is their itinerary
3 day trekking looks like this.
Day 1: 6 hours trekking
- Leave around 8:30 am!
- Trek for 3 hours through the jungle. Lunch is located on a mountain with Napali style food.
- In the afternoon, 3 more hours of walking. After walking for an hour, we’ll visit Hin Kha Kone (tribe- Palaung) and then see2 more villages called Myin Dike and Ywa Pu (tribe-danu).
- We will arrive at Ywa Pu village around 5 pm to spend the first night in a simple farm house.
- We will have dinner (traditional Burmese food) at 7 pm
Day–2: 7 hours trekking
- Traditional breakfast at 6:45 am…..
- We’ll walk though 5 villages and have multiple breaks along the way.
- At about 5 or 6 pm, we’ll arrive at the village where will spend the second night with a different tribe.
Day -3: 4 hours trekking
- Today we’ll visit another village, a school, and arrive at Inle Lake.
- At the lake, we will have lunch
- After lunch we will take a boat cross Inlay Lake – this proves very popular with trekkers as you get to spend around an hour and a half and on the way, you will see floating houses, floating garden and fishermen etc…
- We’ll get to the main city of Inle Lake called NYAUNG SHWE by about 3 pm.
A 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake costs 40,000 kyatt (chit). This is 29.00$ and doesn’t include the 10,000 kyatt entrance fee to Inle Lake. The 2-day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake costs 32,000 kyatt and is 22.00$. The 2-day hike will be driven to meet the three-day hikers at a designated location along the trail.
JungleKing Treks and Hikes-
Facebook or @kalawtreks The JungleKing Treks and Hikes company has the same cost as EverSmile and has a similar itinerary with the expectation that you stay at a monastery and that you get to go swimming in a river. It’s really refreshing because the hike is hot. Make sure to bring a swim suit. We went this Kalaw to Inle Lake trekking company because they were cheap, let us stay at a monastery, and frankly were the easiest to contact. They don’t rent hiking boots for hikers. We really enjoyed our time trekking with them. They took us on an extra waterfall adventure AND totally free took us to a nearby Inle Lake tourist site once we’d arrived at the lake. It was totally sweet of them.
Uncle Sam’s Trekking-
You can message them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Uncle Sam’s trekking had really good reviews but were a lot more expensive about 40$ USD. Plus they took a long time to respond to my inquiry so by the time they responded we were already decided.
What to pack-
You can get away with bringing only:
Bring ONLY MODEST clothing!!
- -portable phone charger
- -2 t-shirts
- -1 pair of hiking pants
- -1 pair of sleeping pants and a top
- -flip flops!! or easily removable shoes
- -hiking boots with comfy socks
- – rain gear
- -water bottle with Steripen and/or money for water and teahouses
- -small backpack
- -toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, don’t bother with shampoo conditioner (you won’t want to shower it’s very basic.)
- -bug spray
- -hat and sun protection including sunscreen
- -LOTS of Toilet Paper
- -a light jacket for a t night when it’s cold
- -swimsuit don’t worry about whatever type you bring because you aren’t near any villages or monks when you swim.
Kalaw to Inle Lake
Getting to Kalaw-
To get there you’ll need to take the JJ Express buses. They rock! AND are hands down the best bus experience I’ve ever had. Make sure to book early and be aware that these buses close on some public holidays.
Where to stay?
Based off of the blogs I’d read it seemed like there were many late night and 24 hour options of places to stay. So when we were dropped off at 4am, our plan of attack when we arrived in Kalaw was to walk up to any random hotel and book a room. This was NOT the reality of what happened. In reality, it’s really cold there at least in April. NOTHING!! Let me emphasize that NOTHING WAS OPEN!! A sure sign of defeat we spoke to one backpacker who was like I’m just going to find a chair to spend the night on. So unless you want to be like him, prebook a room.
When you get off the bus, there are a some hustlers who have rooms to offer but make sure that you get it for a good price, we paid 7,000 kyatt a person for a room. ( There were 3 of us.) Sometimes they try and make you pay a lot for a room. And we ended up staying at the Golden Lily Guesthouse. Also, our bus dropped us off near the Gold Lily Guesthouse.
The Golden Lily guesthouse has horrid reviews online. While I agree they aren’t luxury the reviews made it seem worse than it was. So a few things about the guesthouse they have some relatively nice rooms or cheap rooms. We got the cheapo rooms which were cheap and cramped. I had a minor hole/divet in my bed which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The more expensive rooms looked a lot nicer. The bathroom is kinda gross, but the breakfast is free, huge, and REALLY Good! Also, what really made me like the guesthouse more was that the owners were really nice, caring, and friendly. Overall, it was much better than I thought it would be. I would stay again for another 5 hour night.
*The wifi is only reachable downstairs.
The Hike: Kalaw to Inle Lake
After waking up at 8 am eating, it’s time to head down to the hiking companies. Jungle King Trekkers was a 5 minute walk from the Golden Lily Guesthouse which was really nice. The location of the guesthouse makes walking to most of the companies easiest. Since we were doing the 2 day trek we all hopped into a prepaid taxi and were driven through the hot, dry country to meet the group of 3 day trekkers. We got lucky and saw a local festival for Songkran. I was really impressed by their local dress. Once, we met up with our group we were off.
This hike is pretty flat and doable for most people. The hardest part is this small climb up a mountain pass into a village. If you take it slow you’ll be fine. The hike takes you through really peaceful rice fields, small villages, and small monk camps. It’s not exciting per say but it’s very relaxing and it feels good to walk through nature since a lot of travel requires being in cars and passing through places quickly.
By the time we got to the river, we were hot, sweaty and were thoroughly looking forward to cooling off in the river. Another added bonus was watching first-hand water buffalo including the calves swimming in the same river we were swimming in!!
After cooling off, it’s the final trek to the monastery, this was a favorite part of the hike because we walked through layered rice paddy fields, got to see many local people, and passed through some really interesting geology. The rocky part we climbed had what appeared to be lava rock, really cool! The view was beautiful especially since we could see a storm rolling in.
Staying at the Monastery
By the time we got to the monastery we were ready for a rest. I was imagining a quite calm peaceful area. Filled with a few buildings and maybe a fancy one with gold trim. This was not what we got at all!!!
It was like Peter Pan. All the little monks were running around playing soccer, chanting, singing, chasing each other and playing trumpet type instruments. There wasn’t a single adult!!! AND the buildings were huge but the emptiest I’ve ever seen in a building. It was very disconcerting. I’ve never seen a very lived in place so empty and buildings so empty. It really weirded me out.
when we arrived all ladies had to cover their legs and shoulders, so have something easy to change into available.
The only furniture there were some small dinner tables and we ate using candle light. We had zero interaction with the monks in training. They didn’t even acknowledge us it was odd.
The food was plentiful and delicious, so don’t worry about running out of food.
We woke up to the pattering and giggling of little monk feet at 4 am, which then transformed into full-on karaoke. It was such a disconnect to see that there was nothing here in this building and everyone was so poor yet they had an old tv and karaoke. We didn’t sleep much after they woke up.
After breaking fast, we headed out to finish the hike. If you get the choice to see the waterfall you really should!! It costs a bit more but it’s totally worth it. The waterfall was beautiful and takes you to completely different scenery than the day before. Plus, you get to cool off in the water.
Another bonus of this trip was that they took us to see a really remote but cool tourist site at Inle Lake, which wasn’t on the itinerary. They did this because my friends and I were only in Inle Lake passing through on our way to Yangon. We were there less than 6 hours total. But the trip back from where we arrived at the lake, enabled us to see the famous fishermen, the floating gardens, and the wonderful scenery of the lake. Our other travelers who had already visited said that we saw more in our few hours than she saw her 5 days in Inle Lake.
Overall, I don’t think you need to spend much time in Inle Lake. If you plan on traveling all around the lake a few days is enough, but if you are only seeing the town a day is enough. It’s pretty small.
I loved our hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake!!! When you visit Myanmar you have to add the hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake on your list of must-do items. Tell all your friends about the Kalaw to Inle Lake hike because this wonderful activity isn’t popular enough. It’s also a great way to promote healthy ecotourism and ensure that as Myanmar becomes more developed they make it a priority to protect their land. Let us know your thoughts and opinions below about your hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Did you love it? If you have any questions feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com. Also, for more wonderful activities and places to see in Myanmar check out our other blog posts.