Bagan and Inle Lake are two great reasons to visit Myanmar. Getting from Bagan to Inle Lake is a relatively easy trip that can be done in one day. The small fishing community, which sits on a network of canals between two lush mountain ranges, lies about 215 miles (345 km) east of Old Bagan. It’s not a centralized town but rather a cluster of tiny communities connected via fishing boats, floating markets, and houses on stilts.
To get there from Bagan, you can go by plane, minivan, bus, or private vehicle. By land, it's a scenic trip that passes fairly close to Mt. Popa, a sacred monastery on top of a volcano that makes a great day trip. There are no trains that travel this route.
Another way to experience these two cities is viaa 10-day tour which includes a sunset boat cruise on Irrawaddy River, or this 8-day trip which includes a stop in Amarapura to see monks and silk-weavers.
Duration: 40 minutes
The fastest and most convenient way to travel from Bagan to Inle Lake is by plane. Myanmar Airways International (MAI) and Air KBZ both operate flights from Nyaung-U airport (NYU), about 20 minutes outside Old Bagan, to He Hoe Airport (HEH), about 45 minutes from Nyaung Shwe. It is only a 40-minute flight but keep in mind that getting to the airport early and getting to Nyaung Shwe from the town of He Hoe make it about 4 hours or so total. Still, it’s a much quicker option than traveling by road.
By Private Vehicle
Duration: 8 to 10 hours
Another option is to hire a private vehicle to take you to Inle Lake from Bagan. You have the choice of either arranging a private transfer with your driver included, or renting your own car and making the journey yourself. The duration is roughly 7 to 8 hours. You'll take Route 2 (also called Anawrahta Road) out of town to Nyang-U where you'll head southwest most of the way to Inle Lake. When you arrive in the town of Shwenyaung, head south for the final 30 minutes to your destination.
Duration: 8 to 10 hours
You can also book a minivan which takes the same route as the bigger buses. These vehicles also have air conditioning; however, they’re more cramped and the customer service isn’t as top-notch. The drivers also sometimes strap your luggage to the top of the vehicle which can result in unnecessary wear-and-tear to your suitcase. That said, it’s a great option for budget travelers.
Duration: 8 to 11 hours
JJ Express is the main bus that connects Bagan with Inle Lake. It’s a comfortable, full-sized VIP bus with air conditioning and reclining seats. There isn’t a bus station in Bagan but they will pick you up directly at your hotel. At the end of your journey, the bus will drop you off at the bus terminal in the nearby town of Nyaung Shwe.
Once you arrive in Nyaung Shwe, you’ll need to take a taxi to your accommodations. As of July 20129, there is no Grab available. The lodges and hotels scattered along Inle Lake range anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes from the bus terminal. If your hotel is on the water, a great way to get there is by water taxi. It costs about the same as a regular taxi but the ride is much more scenic, particularly if you arrive on the morning bus when the sun is coming up. Alternatively, you can take a land taxi which follows the road, some of which features a mountain range on one side. When the bus pulls up, a group of both water and land taxis will be waiting at the terminal.