Yangon and Inle Lake are two of the best destinations in Myanmar. There are roughly 400 miles (650 km) between them so traveling by road can be a long journey, ranging anywhere from 9 to 12 hours. Fortunately, there are flights available that will zip you there in just over an hour.
You can also hire a driver or rent a car which allows you to take the trip at your own pace and make stops along the way. The Moe Yun Gyi Wildlife Sanctuary is a beautiful nature reserve about two hours down the road, and the capital city of Naypyitaw is another three to four hours where you can check out the National Museum or the walk around the Uppatasanti Pagoda. Another option is to take an overnight bus which allows you to sleep the whole way.
Alternatively, you could consider this 10-day tour which includes cooking Shan cuisine with a local family, or this 8-day trip with a sunset horse cart ride, both of which provide transportation between the cities.
Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes
The easiest and most comfortable mode of transportation between Yangon and Inle Lake is by air. There are at least five airlines that offer direct flights between the two destinations including Myanmar Airways International (MAI), Myanmar National Airlines, Golden Myanmar Airlines, Air KBZ, and Mann Yadanarpon Airlines. You'll fly out of the Yangon International Airport (RGN) in Mingaladon, about 9.3 miles (15 km) north of the city, and land at the He Hoe airport (HEH), about 45 minutes from Nyaung Shwe. The flight itself only takes a little over an hour; however, the journey will be about 4.5 to 5 hours with travel time. Nevertheless, it's much faster than going by road.
By Private Vehicle
Duration: 10 to 12 hours
If you don't want to fly, the next best option is to arrange a private transfer. You'll still have to navigate the sometimes bumpy roads but you'll have more space and comfort than in a bus or train. You can also rent a car and do the trip on your own. To do that, head north to Mingaladon—the same town as the airport—and then onto the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway. You'll take this most of the way to to Inle Lake to Thit Sone Gyi where you'll head east. About 4.5 hours down the road you'll head south on Shwenyaung-Nyaungshwe Road the last few miles to your destination.
If you decide to break the drive up into two days, Naypyitaw is a great place to stop for the night. It's about halfway between the two destinations and, as the capital of Myanmar, there are plenty of accommodations.
Duration: 12 hours
JJ Express and Mandalar Minn Express operate VIP night buses that run directly from Yangon to Inle Lake. Both of them have air conditioning and reclining seats. They depart in the evenings and arrive in Nyaung Shwe between 6 am and 6:30 am. When the bus arrives, there will be taxi drivers (both land and water) waiting at the bus stop. The great thing about this option is that you arrive just after sunrise—if your lodging is on the lake, opt for a water taxi and you'll see egrets swooping down and herons wading in the morning light. Lodging is sprinkled along the lake and in the town of Nyaung Shwe with transport times ranging from 10 to 45 minutes.
Duration: 30 hours
A final option is to take a train; however, it's not recommended. It is painfully slow, some cars lack air conditioning, and the cabins aren't known for comfort. The journey involves a 12-hour trip to the town of Thazi where you'll have a layover, followed by a transfer to the final 10-hour stretch to Nyaung Shwe. The silver lining is that you'll wind through the mountains and the scenery is truly beautiful. If you're not in a rush, it can be a nice option if you enjoy watching the landscape roll by. Just don't expect creature comforts.