Indawgyi Lake is Myanmar's largest lake and forms the basis of the Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary. It was nominated for UNESCO protection in March 2014.
Indawgyi Lake has historically been a crossroads between the Kachin and Burmese people who traveled along the shores of Myanmar's largest lake.
Situated in between kachin hills .
Flora and fauna
From Myitkyina, Indawgyi Lake can be reached by south-bound train to Hopin (4-5 hours; US$6 upper class). The first train of the day departs at 7:40am. From Hopin, you can reach Lonton Village at Indawgyi Lake by shared pick-up truck (4,000-5,000 kyat; 2-3 hours), by private taxi (from 80,000 kyat; 1.5-2 hours), or by motorbike (approx. 15,000 kyat; 1.5-2 hours).
Coming from the south, you can take the train to Hopin from Mandalay (19-22 hours; US$21 upper class/ 17,900 kyats sleeper) or from Naba - the nearest station to Katha - (5 hours; $5 upper class).
From Mandalay, there is the Shwe Kachin Bus that goes from Mandalay directly to the lake. The bus leaves at 4:30 PM and arrives at the lake around 9:00 am and will drop you off right in front of the guesthouse. There is also a return bus that leaves that lake around 12:00 Pm and arrives in Mandalay at 4:00 am. You can contact Shwe Kachin at +95-096806036 or +95-09402617031, but will need a Burmese speaker to arrange your ticket for you.
There is currently no entrance fee for Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary.
Indawgyi Lake can be explored by motor-powered boat, kayak, bicycles or motorbikes and can be arranged for you by one of the local groups.
Shwe Myitzu Pagoda is the most famous cultural site at Indawgyi Lake. This 'floating' pagoda attracts around one hundred thousand people during the pagoda festival held at Indawgyi Lake in March.
Shwe Taung (Golden Mountain) at the north of Indawgyi Lake has a monastery and pagoda on top and offers great, sweeping views of the lake.
Inn Chit Thu Ecotourism is an organization based at the lake that is supported by Flora and Fauna International that provides a range of services, goods, and opportunities for visitors. They have been working at the lake since 2013 and have hosted volunteers in the past.
Face of Indawgyi is an organization based at the lake that provides a range of services for visitors and the lake's residents. If you are interested in learning more about the culture, history, and environment around Indawgyi then visit their website or their Social Media which features info about the lake and current events.
Sunrise Make sure you wake up for at least one sunrise in the morning.
Shanni Culture Make sure to talk to the local people about the long time discriminated group: the Shanni. Face of Indawgyi has a lot of information if you are looking to connect with the people, the culture, and the language
A range of adventure activities are available at Indawgyi Lake. Most services are easily made available through Inn Chit Thu ecotourism company. Note that, due to security concerns, no overnight camping is currently possible. Foreigners need to return to Lonton Village at night.
Kayaking: Kayaks are available for hire for 15,000 kyat per day at Inn Chit Thu. The lake is too big to cover by kayak in a single day, but the southern half and the western shore (including Shwe Myitzu Pagoda) can comfortably be visited by kayak. Given the size of the lake and the relative lack of boat traffic, you'll find yourself completely alone on the lake at various times without any sound of motors.
Cycling: Bicycle hire is 7,000 kyat per day (prices vary for hour or half day) and allows you to explore the villages along the western shore and southern shores of the lake. Bicycles are available at Inn Chit Thu. Make sure to test ride the bicycle before you go.
Trekking: Single day treks are available for the mountains around the lake through Inn Chit Thu or Face of Indawgyi. Unfortunately, due to security concerns, it is not possible to trek in the mountains on the west side of the lake (closest to Lonton). Treks typically cost 15,000 kyat for the guide fee plus transport fee to the starting point. Ask your guide to take you to the ice cream and beer restaurant. Great for the end of the day if it is nearby your trek.
Recreational fishing: Basic recreational fishing trips can also be done at Indawgyi Lake.
Boat tour: You can hire a local boatman to take you around. Expect to pay around 5,000 kyat per hour for the whole boat (including waiting time for sightseeing) maybe more, if you go to many places, but agree in advance.
Bird-watching: Indawgyi Lake has a reputation as one of Myanmar's premier bird-watching sites, especially during the winter months (December - March) when the lake attracts thousands of migratory birds on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
Festival: Every year during the ten days before the full moon in March, the lakeshore close to the pagoda becomes super busy during the annual festival. People come from all over Kachin state to sell things, eat, drink and have fun. There are boat races, concerts etc. The peak is in the last couple of days (when the moon is full). During this time, the water level is low and you can walk over dry land to the pagoda, which is gorgeous at sunset.
Inn Chit Thu: You can buy Kachin bags, tissue holders, and handmade jewelry at the ecotourism spot. You also can follow their map to a local weaver about 30 mins drive away where you can source homemade Kachin woven fabric.
Get a copy of Face of Indawgyi's map that has a comprehensive list of places to eat. Indawgyi Lake has incredible noodle dishes. Most places will have a copy of their English menu as well as Burmese. But some prefer to just verbally explain their menu in traditional Burmese fashion. Make sure to try the Yangon noodles and the varieties of Mohingya around Lonton.
Inn Chit Thu If you like bolder coffee without lots of sugar, you can go to Inn Chit Thu at any time of day for a Genius (Shan State) french press for only 1,000 kyat a french press. They have lots of french presses so do you not worry if you do not want to share. You can order your breakfast from across the street and sit in their shop, enjoy your coffee and breakfast at the same spot.
There is a military checkpoint at Lonton village. Foreigners are allowed to pass through it to go to the Shwe Myintzu Pagoda and other villages but must return before nightfall.
IndawMaHar: All rooms have shared bathroom (western toilet, cold shower, hot water bucket, fans). The guesthouse is right on the lake and has a nice, wide balcony. Price is 10,000 kyat per person per night (April 2018). To check if there are rooms available, you can call the guesthouse at +95-973251692. Note the guesthouse manager is super friendly, but doesn't speak too much English so would be a good idea to have a Burmese speaker call for you.
Indawgyi Budget Motel is a recently renovated guesthouse that provides slightly nicer facilities than IndawMahar. They have hot water, private bathrooms and other amenities and their prices range typically from $10-35 USD per night.
There are homestays available but typically it is only permitted to stay at them if there is overflow at the guesthouse.
At this time, due to the conflict, you cannot camp overnight.
You need to go back to Hopin from here. Foreigners are not allowed to continue on the road past the lake that leads to a jade mine.