Our planet is covered in lakes, with the latest estimates putting the total number at over 117 million. It’s no wonder then that many lakes have become popular tourist destinations and there is a lake fit for everyone as they come in all shapes, sizes, and colours.
Some travellers love lakeside holidays for the natural beauty and sense of calm they bring while others like to take advantage of water sports and luxurious lakeside resorts or villas. So, let’s paddle our way through 5 of the world’s most beautiful lakes that have really made a splash when it comes to luring travellers and are ‘shore’ to take your breath away (pun intended!).
Before you jump into a lakeside holiday, make sure to avoid that sinking feeling should something not go to plan by having travel insurance that will keep you afloat should the waves of travel get rough.
One of Europe’s deepest lakes, Northern Italy’s Lake Como offers breathtaking views of the Alps that surround it. It has long been a top holiday spot for the rich and famous, with a great many celebrities having owned luxurious villas along its shoreline including George Clooney and Richard Branson.
The lake has its own microclimate, with several beautiful lakeside towns including Bellagio which is known as the Pearl of Lake Como. The towns offer charming pedestrian-only streets lined with cafes and restaurants serving up local dishes like risotto con il pesce persico and missoltini del lago.
You can observe the many opulent palaces and villas by taking a boat tour on the lake and the various towns can be reached by using the public ferry transport system or by renting a vehicle and taking a scenic drive around the lake. Swimming is popular during the summer months, with many swimming beaches or lidos located in the lakeside towns.
While many visitors focus their attention on the lake itself and partake in the numerous water sports available such as kitesurfing, waterskiing, paddleboarding, and kayaking, there is also a large network of hiking trails in the surrounding mountains as well as numerous organic farms you can visit to enjoy fresh produce such as cheese and honey.
This stunning glacial lake offers a peaceful Slovenian retreat in the Julian Alps. Its crystal clear water makes it popular for swimming during the summer months, however, come winter there is the opportunity to do a bit of ice skating. While the lake itself might not freeze over every year, the town does create a man-made ice rink each winter season and there are skate rentals available.
One of Lake Bled’s most iconic landmarks is the Assumption of Mary Church which sits perched upon a small island in the middle of the lake. The church can be reached by taking a local rowboat known as a pletna to the island and then climbing the nearly 100 steps to the church.
The medieval Bled Castle which dates back to the 11th century also overlooks the lake upon its clifftop perch. Visitors can tour the castle and its museums and during the month of June the castle hosts an annual medieval fair with knights, jesters, musicians, and craftsmen.
Enjoy hiking trails from spring through autumn or visit during winter to enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the surrounding forests as well as sledding on Straža Hill. You’ll also want to be sure to sample the local dessert specialty known as kremna rezina. It’s so popular that the local pastry is even celebrated with its own annual festival.
A bit closer to home, we have Lake Wakatipu which can be found on New Zealand’s South Island. Queenstown is situated on the lake’s aptly named Queenstown Bay where it acts as the country’s capital for adrenaline-filled outdoor adventures and eco-tourism experiences.
Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest lake and abounds with outdoor recreational opportunities. There are plenty of areas to swim and trout fishing is popular year-round. Take in the grandeur of the Remarkables mountain range as you book a scenic voyage on the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship which is said to be the last remaining coal-fired steamship available to tourists in the Southern Hemisphere.
The TSS Earnslaw leaves from Queenstown and visits the Walter Peak High Country Farm where you will tour the farm, enjoy afternoon tea, and meet the farm’s deer, alpacas, Highland cows, and more. Alternatively, The Spirit of Queenstown catamaran also cruises the lake and takes passengers into secluded bays to observe various landmarks of importance.
Other popular activities on the lake include parasailing, jet boating, and a unique semi-submersible experience known as Hydro Attack that will see you reaching speeds up to 80 kph. Of course, around the lake you will also find plenty of hiking and mountain biking opportunities as well as bungee jumping near Queenstown.
This glacial lake is one of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions, with many visitors making it a stop along their road trip along the country’s popular Ring Road tourist route. Situated within Vatnajökull National Park, the lagoon is filled with large icebergs that have broken off from the nearby glacier.
The ice makes its way to the Atlantic as the lagoon connects with the ocean. The large chunks of ice end up on the picturesque black beach known as Diamond Beach where you can walk amongst the beached icebergs.
You can simply drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and walk the shoreline to take in the serene surroundings or you can book more adventurous zodiac boat tours as well as ride in an amphibious vehicle.
While there may not be a lot of aquatic wildlife to spot, you can regularly observe seals and seabirds both on the boat tours and simply from walking along the shoreline. There is also the option to book kayak tours and add on a visit to Vatnajökull Glacier that often includes riding in a super-jeep and doing activities like glacier walks and exploring ice caves.
Often referred to as the Jewel of the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe sits on the California-Nevada border. It is America’s largest alpine lake and one of the deepest in the country. Outdoor recreation is popular year-round thanks to a range of water sports and some of the world’s best winter ski resorts.
Enjoy alpine downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing at popular ski areas such as Palisades and the Heavenly Mountain Resort. During summer, fishing for lake trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee Salmon becomes popular. Summer also brings about opportunities to rent boats or jet skis, parasailing, and standup paddleboarding.
Lake Tahoe is also home to a number of annual events including the popular wooden boat festival known as the Concours d’Elegance, as well the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival which hosts summertime performances in an outdoor theatre at Sand Harbor State Park.
There are actually a number of state parks surrounding the lake such as Emerald Bay State Park which sports some of the region’s most scenic landscapes which can be enjoyed by hiking the network of nature trails. Because of the depth of the lake, scuba diving is also popular during summer.
You’ll also find sailboat cruises, a nice scenic drive around the lake, and a number of sandy beaches like Kings Beach which rents out water sports equipment, offers barbecue facilities, and have playgrounds for children.