The hiking trails from the hill station of Kalaw to Inle Lake vary in length, but all of them offer an undiluted Myanmar countryside experience: you’ll walk past farmlands that used to grow opium, but now specialize in cash crops like cabbage, potato and canola; you’ll explore villages occupied by Taung Yo, Danu, Palaung, and the brightly-hatted Pa-O tribespeople; and you’ll spend the night at an authentic Myanmar home.
All throughout, you’ll watch the landscape change as you walk through this part of Shan state: forested ridges and gently sloping valleys give way to vegetable farms, the hilly terrain finally yielding to the waters of Inle Lake.
The longer the trek, the further afield you’ll go – two-day tours take the most direct but least scenic path to Inle Lake, but the grand five-day tour lets you cover greater ground in between and see more of the surrounding countryside.
As soon as you arrive at Inle Lake, your tour options expand greatly – you can take the ever-popular boat tour that makes the rounds of the shoreside villages, or you can stay on dry land and rent a bike to meander through the area’s quiet rural roads.
Feeling ready to take on the trail? Try this only if you’re sufficiently fit and your tolerance for discomfort is high. You’ll find yourself spending hours on the trail – most treks start at 8am and end at 6pm. And you’ll spend the night on thin mattresses, with cheap blankets to ward off the cold and squat toilets to do your business in. Scenic as it is, the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek is not for the faint of heart.