The trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake is a great way to see rural Myanmar. We did the 3-day 2-night option. You can also do 2-days 1-night where your guide will drive you part way. We used the trekking company A1, out of Kalaw and were really pleased with them. Our guide, Sithu, was excellent. He has extensive knowledge of the people, their customs and their farming techniques and speaks excellent English. A1 took our large bags/suitcases ahead to our hotel in Inle so we only had small packs with enough to get us through the 3 days. All meals were provided, and the food was all delicious. They prepared so much food for each meal, we may have gained weight on the hike!
The trek takes you on roads, hiking trails and railroads up and down the undulations of this hilly area. Getting to see rural Myanmar and its people going about their day is the best part of this hike, and the picturesque mountain scenery makes it even better.
At night you stay in a village home, sleeping on long wooden platform with a thin mattress and 3 blankets. The air is much cooler than you’d expect in Myanmar. Morning and evening ae very chilly, 7 – 8 °C in February.
It begins at the quaint town of Kalaw which is situated in the mountains in the Shan Highlands. Kalaw is at 1300 m.
Day 1 – 22km, just over 7 hours trekking with a few breaks
On the first day, you begin walking literally from your hotel. As soon as you get out of the town you trek through a dense protected forest, passing a few locals collecting wood and carrying the bundles in bamboo baskets. After a couple of hours, we were out of the forest and were treated to beautiful mountain views. The mountains are more like rolling hills than high rocky peaks, but they still are beautiful. The hills are covered in farmers’ fields and the trails go through and beside these small farms and between villages. You first pass tea and orange groves, and then turmeric, ginger and rice fields. The tribes in this area on the first day are Palaung and Danu. You slowly climb over the morning to reach the highest point of 1380 m where we stopped for lunch and had an excellent view of Elephant Mountain.
We stayed overnight in a small Danu village in a family’s home. It’s a very simple home, but they fed us a terrific meal and make us feel very welcome.
Day 2 – 23 km, 8 hours with a few breaks.
The second day continues through the hills passing many farms where you see the farmers tilling their land with a buffalo-drawn wooden plow or planting their crops by hand. We trekked past rice fields, gardens growing cauliflower, celery, kale, chilies, ginger, turmeric, chilies and other vegetables. It’s still a very hilly area and so the trek is up and down and has gorgeous views of the countryside. Today the tribes are Danu and Baoh. We stayed overnight in a Baoh family’s home in a large village with 2000 residents. We went for a walk around the village before dinner to see the villagers coming home from a day in the fields. There were ox-drawn carts, lady’s carrying baskets on their heads full of wood and crops. There’s also a monastery in town where we saw the monks outside playing hacky sack.
Day 3 – 15 km, 3 1/2hours
The final morning involved a slow climb up a hill to reach the highest point of the trek at 1500m. From here the trail is downhill with flat sections to the reach Inle Lake.
Our long boat ride was about 1 1/2 hours and the fee was included in the trekking company fee. The first 20 minutes was down a narrow canal, bordered on each side by water hyacinths. It takes almost an hour to cross Inle Lake. Even though this wasn’t our lake tour we saw several fishermen on their dug outs or long-boats, a few were the famous foot propelled net and basket fishermen balancing on the end of the boast. The final 20 min of the ride is up another canal to reach Nyuang Shwe. You pass several stilt houses before reaching town.