This article provides information on how to pick the right trekking company for your Kalaw to Inle Lake trek in Myanmar: which trekking company to pick from depending on your needs, cost per person per trekking company to fit your budget and review of the trek.
Kalaw is a serene town up in the Burmese hills. It is located at over 4,000 ft over sea level. The temperatures are lower and the air is cooler.
From Bagan to Kalaw by Bus
We left Bagan at 6pm and were dropped off in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere in Kalaw at 1 :30 am. A couple, a solo female traveler and us two were on the side of the road. Where to go? The female traveler had a reservation for a hotel so we followed her, hoping there would be other hotels around. Luckily for us, Golden Lily Guesthouse was next door. We went in and spent the night from 2am to 6am.
Where to Stay in Kalaw: Kalaw Hotels and Guesthouses
Hotel: Golden Lily Guesthouse
Cost : USD $7
Amenities : The guesthouse has a very bad reputation and from our research, it is one of the least recommended hostels we’ve read about. Room with two single beds, seemed old but clean. Shared bathrooms were extremely dirty – very glad we did not have to use them. Management seemed nice and accommodating (surely because they wanted to sell the trek to us). Recommended only in our circumstances ( for a couple hours of rest) but would highly suggest to search for a better accommodation.
A better guesthouse would be Golden Kalaw Inn, a clean double room costs a little over USD $20, breakfast included and friendly staff.
What to do in Kalaw: Trekking Activities in Kalaw
How to choose which trekking experience you want ? Find trek maps here.
People go to Kalaw to do the trek to Inle Lake. Our situation was as follows:
- We/I wanted to do the 2 days-1 night trek to Inle Lake
- We wanted to stay at a monastery
- We preferred to be the 2 of us, if possible (and we knew this option would be pricier)
- We did not have a hotel booked in Inle Lake yet and did not want to commit ahead of time
- We did not book the trek ahead of time, we booked our trek the morning of
Following prices are (as of 2013 so expect a bit of inflation) for the 2 day/1 night trek (cost per person includes all meals for both days)
- Ever Smile (Phone: 081 50683 or 09 4016 23795 – extremely helpful and informative over the phone): very recommended trekking company based on our research (when we went to their office the morning of the trek, nobody answered, no treks scheduled for that day since we did not confirm ahead of time)
- 15,000 kyats per person per day (food+guide+sleeping arrangements) = 30,000 Kyats for the 2 of us
- 12,000 kyats total for taxi to Baw Ning Gone Village (trek starting point)
- 17,000 kyats total for boat to Inle Lake,
- 3,000 kyats total for luggage drop off in Inle Lake,
- 2,000 kyats total for monastery donation.
- TOTAL= 64,000 Kyats (USD $65.60 for the two of us)
Read the review of the trek with Ever Smile from Erohism.
- Sam’s Family Trekking (081 50377 or 081 50444/50327): the most famous trekking agency out of the three. We would have gone with them as they had a group of two people doing the 2D1N trek but they only offered an overnight at a homestay, which would have been a great experience if we had two nights, but we preferred to sleep in a monastery…even if it was an empty one. We stopped by the homestay on our way to the monastery and it looked like a regular guesthouse with other trekkers.
- 35,000 kyats per person per day (food+guide+sleeping arrangements) = 70,000 kyats for the two of us
- 10,000 kyats total for taxi to Baw Ning Gone
- 10,000 kyats for the boat to Inle Lake
- 6,000 kyats total for luggage drop off at the hotel where you will be staying in Inle Lake (deciding on a hotel ahead of time was mandatory)
- TOTAL: 96,000 Kyats (USD $98.46 for the two of us – though if we’re in a group of 4, it would have been half the price so $49.23 for the two of us)
- Golden Lily Guesthouse: $81 for the two of us which is more expensive than booking in advance with Ever Smile or going with the group of 4 at Sam’s Trekking. We had an amazing trek guide/cook: Ashok, a very dynamic, lively and passionate guide who was very knowledgeable about the vegetation in the hills of Myanmar.
What to bring to your Kalaw to Inle Lake trek?
There are shops around in case you need to buy snacks, water, etc. but expect inflated prices. Meals are included in the price of the trek so we only brought in our own water and small snacks.
In terms of gear, we brought :
– an extra pair of socks ( it can get muddy and rainy)
– a raincoat
– a long sleeve + t-shirt
– a fleece
– change of underwear
– slippers ( to be more comfortable when spending the night in homestay/monastery)
– optional: an extra pair of pants (J slipped in the mud and an extra pair of pants would have been nice) and a book.
We were able to spend the night at an empty monastery (which is what we wanted) without electricity. We had a delicious meal by the fire. It helped that our guide was of great company, we had a great evening of story-swapping. We would highly recommend him as a guide, very knowledgeable and easy to get along with. In the meantime, we had our bags dropped off at Nan Da Wann Hotel in Inle Lake and we were not obligated to stay there if the hotel did not suit us.
In the morning, we left the monastery after breakfast, once again prepared by our guide, and we were on our way to Inle Lake. We made a couple of stops along the way, meeting up with other travelers and to visit a primary school.
We arrived in Inde-in ( a nice village to visit) for lunch time, I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes! We had lunch at one of the local eateries and quickly walked around before hopping on the boat to Inle Lake where you have to sign in and pay a fee of 1,500 Kyats per person. After enjoying the ride under the hot sun, we had made it to Inle Lake. Our bags had safely arrived as well and we sadly parted with Ashok, who was on his way back to Kalaw – for another trek the next day.
Given our situation, we were fortunate to have everything fall into place. We had done our research preparing for this and read horrible reviews about Lily’s GH and the Singh’s brothers’ treks. However, we couldn’t have been more pleased with our trek . If you can request Ashok as your guide, you should have a very enjoyeable trek! If you have more time to prepare, and don’t want to chance it, I would suggest to book ahead with either Ever Smile or Sam’s Family Trekking. With hindsight, I would opt for a 3 Days 2 Nights trek to see more of the Myanmar landscape and based on the 2-day trek, it was not too physically demanding and one of the highlights of our Myanmar adventures.
How long did you stay in Kalaw? Share you travel stories with us !
View our other travel tips from Myanmar for travels on a budget. View our Myanmar itinerary to plan your next trip.
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Great post, very helpful!
But I don’t understand, why did you insist so much on staying in a monastery?
Hi Kate! Thank you for reading, glad you enjoyed the post. We had never slept in a monastery and from prior research, it appeared to be a memorable experience. We thought we would be able to witness the “lifestyle” of a monastery. Though it ended up being an empty monastery, we still enjoyed the serenity of the environment.
Very informative post as we are researching on the option of going on a 2D1N trek. We planned to take the night bus from bagan, arrive kalaw at 1/2am and have a few hours rest at a guesthouse before the start of the trek. Any recommendation on the trekking company? Also, I’m wondering what time you finished the trek and arrived the hostel in inle lake. We have to go back to Yangon the next day and wondering if we can manage to have 1/2 day at least to go on a river tour and at least see some of Inle lake. Or should we just spend 2 days in inles lake as first time Myanmar visitors or you think the trek is worth it? Thanks in advance and appreciate your advice!
Thanks for reading and glad you found this post useful to your research. I am sorry for not responding sooner as our internet connection is quite sporadic in South America.
Regarding trekking companies, I would suggest to go with Sam’s Family Trekking or Eversmile. We didn’t go with them, as explained in the post but would have if our circumstances were different. They were both professional and reliable when we met with them and discussed our options.
Regarding time of arrival, we got to Inle Lake the next day mid afternoon. I am slower than most trekkers so I believe most people get in after lunch. You will get to see the lake as they take you on a boat to reach Inle Lake after the trek. You will pass some floating villages and fishermen. The main attraction in Inle Lake is a day tour on a boat where you get to visit a floating morning market, a few floating monasteries, shops for tourists and floating villages (you can see more info on Myanmar and Inle Lake here http://www.ooaworld.com/myanmar). You may be able to rent a private boat for a few hours in the afternoon of your arrival, not sure the price they would quote you but you can use the price we paid for 2 people for a full tour as a base (prices have surely inflated since). Don’t forget to negotiate if you decide to do that.
I personally thought the trek was well worth it and would probably go for the 3D2N if I could do it again and I am not even an avid trekker, but that is a personal preference. Inle Lake is a lovely place, very peaceful and relaxing so it all depends on your preferences and what you are looking for during your vacation. The trek was a very memorable adventure for us.
Hope this helps and enjoy your trip in Myanmar! One of my favorite travel experiences 🙂 let us know what you decided on and if you have any questions, I am here to help. -Carole
Avoid the Golden Lily. The female Indian owner has a serious chip on her shoulder. I stayed there overnight. Giving outrageous attitude, screaming at customers, and power tripping over customers is totally inappropriate behaviour on her part. I met another traveler who went there a week earlier and experienced the same problems from this woman. The other staff do not appear to exhibit this behaviour.
The place is weird; they shut off the lights before 8 pm and all the staff go to bed by then.
Hi Drew, thanks for sharing your experience at Golden Lily and sorry to read you had to go through that! We had heard and read similar stories while researching for accommodations and trekking companies in Kalaw and Inle Lake. I guess we were fortunate that the lady at Golden Lily behaved while we were there for a few hours and even luckier that our trek turned out to be so memorable. We thank our guide for that! Hope the rest of trip was better and you enjoyed the trek! -Carole