Inlay lake is a freshwater lake located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District of Shan State, part of Shan Hills in Myanmar (Burma). It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles (116 km2), and one of the highest at an elevation of 2,900 feet (880 m). During the dry season, the average water depth is 7 feet (2.1 m), with the deepest point being 12 feet (3.7 m), but during the rainy season this can increase by 5 feet (1.5 m).
The watershed area for the lake lies to a large extent to the north and west of the lake. The lake drains through the Nam Pilu or Balu Chaung on its southern end. There is also a hot spring on its northwestern shore.
Although the lake is not large, it contains a number of endemic species. Over twenty species of snails and nine species of fish are found nowhere else in the world. Some of these, like the silver-blue scaleless Sawbwa barb, the crossbanded dwarf danio, and the Lake Inle danio, are of minor commercial importance for the aquarium trade. It hosts approximately 20,000 brown and black head migratory seagulls in November, December and January.
In June 2015, it became Myanmar’s first designated place of World Network of Biosphere Reserves. It was one of 20 places added at the Unesco’s 27th Man and the Biosphere (MAB) International Coordinating Council (ICC) meeting.
Inlay Lake is located in the heart of the Shan Plateau. It is a beautiful highland lake, 900 meters above sea level. The lake is 22km long and 10km across, and inhabited by many different ethnic nationals of the area. The Intha are the Lake dwellers who are unique for their leg rowing. Leg rowed traditional boats are the main ceremonial attractions of the Inlay Lake.
Inlay Lake & the environs in Shan State
Mild – generally warm with cooler evenings
Kayah State, Kayin State, Mandalay Region, Sagaing Region, Kachin State, China, Laos & Thailand
155,800 sq km / 60,155 sq miles
5.8 million (2014)
Shan, Bamar, Han-Chinese, Wa, Lisu, Danu, Intha, Lahu, Ta’ang, Pa-O, Taungyo, Indians & Gurkha
Intha, Myanmar/Burmese & limited English
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam & Hinduism
On the Lake
The lake’s serenity and spectacular scenery are often so beguiling that visitors may forget how Inlay is home to a plethora of busy communities. An excellent example of a traditional Inlay village is Nampan where you find small enterprises produce handmade cheroot (traditional local cigars) and the lake’s oldest pagoda, Alodaw Pauk, a large gem-encrusted golden shrine.
Most famous for its floating market, Ywama village also has various handicraft workshops, a monastery and a pagoda. Numerous other villages are worth visiting, many of which are accessible from the lake via narrow canals, sometimes nestled among impressive bamboo groves with small lagoons where children play.
Key ethnic groups such as the Intha (literally meaning “sons of the lake”) and the Pa-O make up the colourful social and cultural fabric of Inlay Lake. Most are devout Buddhists and live in simple houses made of wood and woven bamboo. The Intha fishermen, known for their impressive single, leg-rowing techniques, have become icons of the scenic lake and are much photographed by amazed visitors. The so-called “Five-Day Market” offers a good opportunity to meet many different local tribes.
This is where everyone comes to tout their wares, from jewellery, longhis and the distinctive Shan trousers and bags, to Buddha statues. Fresh produce grown by the Intha people on floating islands can also be found in the market. Those fascinated by this method of cultivation, a unique aspect of life on the lake, can visit floating gardens in the villages of Kaylar, Inchan and Zayatgyi, to see a variety of vegetables and flowers being grown, both for local and countrywide consumption.
Located in Shan State, this beautiful highland lake is based at about 900m above sea level, 22km long, 10km across, and inhabited by many different ethnic nationals of the area. Inlay Lake (also sometimes spelt Innlay and Inle) is famous for the unique way of life of the local tribes, for their villages on stilts, floating gardens, fresh produce markets and well-preserved traditions. In many places the authentic life on the lake shines through. Functioning communities – largely based entirely on the water – are fascinating to observe and interact with. Every experience of Inlay will leave an indelible mark on your soul.
Inlay Lake Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1995 this wetland sanctuary covers 1,664 sq km in the townships of Nyaung Shwe, Pin Laung and Peh Kon and aims to conserve and protect natural vegetation, wetland birds and freshwater fish. Inlay Lake, though not large, contains over twenty endemic species of snails and nine endemic species of fish that are found nowhere else in the world. In 2015 Inlay Lake became the first site in Myanmar to be added to the UNESCO-backed “World Network of Biosphere Reserves”.