Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake was definitely one of the best highlights of our trip to Myanmar along with the temples of Bagan. For anyone thinking of visiting this wonderful part of Southeast Asia, we definitely recommend sticking this trek on your list.
Now we must be honest, the scenery and landscape from Kalaw to Inle Lake will not be the most impressive you have ever witnessed. With an exception for Inle Lake, we didn't find it to be any more different to the hills of northern Thailand or Lao.
But what does make this such an amazing experience is the insight to the lives of the Shan people. A Tai ethnic group of Southeast Asia.
Along the trek, you will get a chance to see what life was like before we ever had to rely on electricity, cars, and everything else we take for granted in this day and age.
Kalaw to Inle Lake
Kalaw is a small humble country town in the Shan state located 60 km from the highly popular Inle Lake. Rising 1300 meters above sea level, the town sits in the mountains of Myanmar. Nights here can get pretty cold and you will need to pack some warm clothing.
Arriving in Kalaw, you will find several tour companies offering trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake as this trek grows in popularity. We chose to do ours with Golden Lily Guest House, the accommodation we were staying in.
Being the cheapest company offering a 3-day 2-night trek with a maximum group of six people, we were happy to book there and then.
For the price of 39000 MMK (29$), you get two nights accommodation, all meals freshly prepared and an experienced guide. Our guide was pretty cool and spoke really good English, and made our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake that much more enjoyable.
We were spending so much time laughing and joking with our guide, we almost forgot we were trekking for a whole day.
Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake is not a difficult trek but does require you to be at least moderately fit. Depending on your group, you will be trekking between six to eight hours, covering up to 23 km a day.
Each morning begins just after sunrise, where you will start with breakfast to fuel up for your day of trekking. During the trek, you will pass over the mountain hills, passing by rice paddies, chilli fields, locals herding their buffalos, and some beautiful viewpoints of the valleys below.
Although, do be careful of the buffalos you meet along the tracks. Our guide was chased off the side of the mountain, while we stood pin against the wall. Luckily for us, the big bull only had an interest in our guide who could easily avoid him.
Entering the tiny villages, you will be greeted by huge grins on the faces of excited kids, while their parents go on with their day.
During the trek, each meal is freshly prepared by your own private chef who travels with you. Well, he actually travels ahead of you on a motorbike, stopping at local markets for ingredients to prepare food for your arrival.
The variety and portion size of the meals are better than what you receive in most restaurants. You will have everything from stir-frys, rice, eggs, chicken, fresh fruit, and local deep-fried dishes.
There will be no chance of you going hungry trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake. If anything, we think we gained weight 🙂
Depending on which company you choose, accommodation may vary. Trekking with Golden Lily, you get the opportunity to stay in the home of a village elder and a monastery.
Our first night was spent in a large two story house in one of the local villages. We slept upstairs on thin but comfortable mattresses, while downstairs was used as a large storage area for harvest chillies. Outside is a small outhouse with a squat toilet and showers were taking from scooping water from a big well.
Our second night in the monastery with the monks and other groups was our most enjoyable of the two nights. That evening, everybody including the monks got together in the courtyard for a big football match.
Arriving At Inle Lake
On our last day, we woke up early once again for the final section of our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. With a shorter distance to cover than the previous two days, we arrived in the south of Inle Lake just before lunch time.
After lunch, we took a long narrow wooden boat across the beautiful lake to our final destination. A small village to the north called Nyaungshwe.
Along the journey you will pass by floating villages, watching local fishermen balancing on one leg, as they wrap their other leg around their oar casting their nets out onto the water.
Trekking From Kalaw To Inle Lake Packing List
- Hiking boots if you are carrying some. Do not worry if you don't have any. We did it in trainers and had no issues at all. The terrain from Kalaw to Inle Lake is a well-trodden trek.
- Two spare pairs of shorts, two t-shirts, 3 pairs of socks for trekking.
- A warm set of clothes for the cool evenings and cold nights.
- Rain jacket.
- A pair of flip flops for when you shower and during the evening.
- Toiletries like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste etc.
- Toilet-paper and wet wipes.
- A travel towel or a sarong to dry yourself. We recommend bringing a sarong. They are lighter to carry and dry quicker than travel towels.
- Suncream (sun lotion).
- A large water bottle (you can buy water along the way).
- Cash to buy water and snacks.
- A power bank to keep your phone and camera charged for photos.
Note: You will only need to carry a small day pack while trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake. You can arrange for your bigger backpack to be dropped off at Inle Lake with your tour company. This will cost you an extra 3000 MMK (2.20$). We did our trekking in January 2016, so prices may vary slightly.
Are you planning a trip to Myanmar soon? What do you plan on seeing and doing, is trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake on your list? Let us know by sharing in the comments below.