Indawgyi Lake


Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar’s largest natural lake, has long been an isolated destination and remains largely unexplored. It was established as a green zone in 1999 and, until recently, was accessible only by unpaved mountain roads. The region is home to a large variety of wildlife including elephant, gaur, sun bear, gibbon, rare birds, and endemic fish and turtle species.

Credit: Inn Chit Thu


The lake sits peacefully among the Mangin Mountain Range in Kachin State, the northernmost province of Myanmar. The forests blanketing nearby mountains are untouched primary growth forest while the watershed surrounding the lake is a mix of scenic woodlands and rice paddy fields. The sanctuary is also considered the country’s most important wetland site as it is critical for the conservation of migrating water birds that flock in thousands from all over Central Asia and Siberia.


The best and easiest time to visit is during dry season from October to May. The first two months provide the best visibility since they directly follow rainy season, and during this time it is possible to view the entire lake. The coolest months are November through March when average temperatures stay a lovely 25ºC and below, but even during the summer months it rarely goes above 30 degrees. The rainy season is not a popular time to visit, but new road construction through the mountains will make access during this time much easier. And if you’re looking for a quiet and peaceful getaway, this is the ideal time to go.


Basic English and Burmese can be used around Lone Ton and other tourist destinations at the lake but are not native to the region.

Three languages – Shan, Kachin, and more recently Burmese – are spoken around Indawgyi. Most villages surrounding the lake are Shan and are remnants of the Shan States which once extended all the way to India and south China. In the 1990s, Burmese migrants came to the lake seeking economic opportunities and, as a result, the Burmese language has become more prominent in recent years. 

Lone Ton Village

Lone Ton is located at the southwest end of the lake and is currently the only village that foreigners can stay. Like most villages on the western shore, only one paved road passes through the center of town and here you can find everything you need. The morning market (6-8am), small restaurants and tea shops, accommodation, electronics store, and activities can all be found on either side of the road. 

Around Lone Ton

Twelve other villages hug the lake in addition to Lone Ton and life there moves leisurely. The most famous site at the lake is Shwe Myitzu Pagoda, a gold-encrusted shrine that crowns the lake’s only island and looks as if it is floating on the water’s surface. An exciting time to go is in March when over 100,000 pilgrims visit for the annual pagoda festival the week before the full moon of Tabaung. At the end of dry season in March and April, the water level is low enough that you can walk out to the pagoda on a natural land bridge that was recently reinforced with a concrete walkway. Otherwise, you can hire a boatman for 2,000 kyat roundtrip.

Two other famous Buddhist sites are the Bamboo Buddha, sitting at 6 meters and made entirely of woven bamboo strands, in Nammilaung village and Shwe Taung Pagoda at the northernmost tip of the lake. Shwe Taung, meaning “Gold Mountain,” offer an incredible hilltop view of the entire lake but can only be reached by hired motorbike or motorboat due to its distance from Lone Ton. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a rare Gibbon species in the forests surrounding Shwe Taung.

Closer villages that can be reached by bicycle or kayak are worth a visit as many travelers say that interacting with the local communities is a highlight of their trip. Lwemun is perched on a hilltop north of Lone Ton and is a great place to stop for a break and drink a fresh coconut from one of the many roadside stands. Elephants can be seen in Namde and Nammilaung when on break from logging in the nearby forests. South of Lone Ton, you can buy textiles directly from the weavers in Maing Naung village. Across the lake and a day’s journey by kayak, Hepa village sits on the shore and is a scenic stop for both the mountains and the lake. If you walk a mile further to Intha village you can find locally-made baskets.


While more options are starting to pop up, the two main restaurants sit next to each other near the army check point. You can grab any meal here, but if you want to diversify your palette the house directly next to Indaw Mahar serves savory Burmese breakfast foods like Shan noodles and Mohinga, a spicy fish-based soup. Another great food option is across from the immigration office on the main road and serves delicious curries along with noodle dishes. A favorite in this area is the fish curry, or “nga-hin” in Burmese.