- 1 Crater Lake, Oregon
- 2 Dead Sea, Jordan
- 3 Lake Como, Italy
- 4 Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
- 5 Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
- 6 Lake Pichola, India
- 7 Lake Tahoe, California
- 8 Lake Baikal, Russia
- 9 Pehoé Lake, Chilean Patagonia
- 10 Inle Lake, Myanmar
- 11 Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada
- 12 Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
- 13 Lake Bled, Slovenia
- 14 Lake Hillier, Australia
The 14 Most Beautiful Lakes in the World (See If You Agree)
All told, there are more than 117 million lakes on Earth. While we didn't sift through them all, we did tackle quite a large list in order to bring you this—the 14 most stunning, awe-inspiring, picture-perfect puddles of water our planet has to offer. How many have you checked off?
Crater Lake, Oregon
America's deepest lake is also one of its most peculiar. Its famously clear blue water pooled here after Mount Mazama erupted more than six thousand years ago, leaving behind a cavernous caldera. At one end sits Crater Lake Lodge, where you can enjoy breakfast with a view before a ranger-led boat tour that touches on the park's geology.
Dead Sea, Jordan
The saltiest spot on Earth is a swimmer’s favorite thanks to its natural buoyancy, but as the lake continues to recede at an astonishing rate, we're reminded not only of its beauty but of its importance as the sole feeder of the Jordan River as well as a major center for health research. While it's still here, it's worth a pilgrimage. After soaking in the salty, cobalt-blue waters, tour the ancient fortress of Masada before resting your feet at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, a romantic resort 1,400 feet below sea level.
Lake Como, Italy
With its sprawling villas, Riva-lined marinas, and romantic promenades, this glamorous Italian playground continues to seduce today’s biggest stars. At Villa d’Este, a 16th-century old-world palace loved for its fountain-filled formal gardens and floating pool, you can rent the hotel boat for a cruise across the lake. Is your taste a bit more modern? Head to Torno and check in at Il Sereno Lago di Como, a contemporary showstopper designed by Patricia Urquiola.
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Bolivia’s “red lagoon” is otherworldly. Red algae gives the shallow salt water its distinct rusty hue, which is broken up every so often by white pools made up of borax deposits that sit on the surface. Even more striking are the famous flamingoes that flock here to feast on plankton—white by nature, their feathers take on a pink glow from being stained by the algae they wade through.
Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Queenstown, on New Zealand's South Island, is the adrenaline capital of the world—the birthplace of bungee jumping as well as one of the best spots to go sky-diving, whitewater rafting, paragliding, and hiking. The base of your stay should be anywhere land meets the shore of Lake Wakatipu, which is surrounded on all sides by mountains—most notably the snow-capped Remarkables range. Our pick: the rustic-luxe Matakauri Lodge.
Lake Pichola, India
In 1899, Rudyard Kipling wrote in Letters of Marque, “If the Venetian owned the Pichola, he might say with justice, ‘see it and die.’” It’s easy to understand what he was talking about when you lay eyes on this serene escape in the middle of Udaipur. Many don’t realize the lake is actually man-made, first built in 1362 as an easier means of transporting grain across the city. Check in at the floating Taj Lake Palace hotel, accessible only by boat, to take in the city’s Mediterranean-esque waterfront from afar.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is one of America’s great destinations—an outdoor adventure paradise backed by the Sierra Nevadas that’s beautiful in every season. During the summer, visitors flock to its turquoise waters and sandy beaches for sailing and kayaking or tackle the Tahoe Rim Trail for views of the basin. When winter hits, the area’s lauded ski resorts kick into high gear. Base yourself at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe for access to its private beach, fleet of boats, cabin-like rooms, and heated outdoor pool.
Lake Baikal, Russia
This ethereal body of water in Russian Siberia holds a lot of records. Not only is Baikal the world’s oldest lake, it’s also its deepest, containing 20% of the world’s fresh water (that’s as much as all five Great American Lakes combined). Due to its isolation and absence of minerals, Baikal is also one of the world’s cleanest and clearest lakes, which makes for a fantastic show. During the summer, runoff from the Siberian mountains means that in some spots, you can see as far as 130 feet below the surface. Come winter, when the lake freezes over, fissures and methane bubbles can form in the ice—or not, creating the illusion that you're walking on air.
Pehoé Lake, Chilean Patagonia
Torres del Paine National Park covers roughly 500,000 acres of southern Chile—enough space to cover many climates and terrains, from snow-capped granite mountains and glittering glaciers to rolling grasslands and pampas and—yes—ice-blue lakes. Its most panoramic view is of Torres range beneath the Salto Chico waterfall on Lake Pehoé.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Once closed to American travelers, Myanmar is now full of discovery. The monasteries of Bagan and the capital of Yangon continue to be its biggest draws, but you’d be remiss to skip Inle Lake, in the Shan Hills. There, stilted villages, built out over the water, are interspersed with centuries-old stone pagodas and monasteries, and the lake itself is plied by one-man boats whose fishermen balance on one leg and steer their oar with the other.
Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada
Canada is hot, hot, hot this year—travelers are finally discovering its vast swaths of beauty and heading in droves. Banff National Park is one of the country’s best and is home to one of the area’s best hotels—the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Lake Louise itself is an obvious attraction, but we suggest leaving the crowds behind and driving an hour deeper into the park to Moraine Lake, whose tranquil turquoise waters and surrounding mountains and waterfalls are picture-perfect.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Wooden walkways let you explore each of the 16 pristine waterfalls that cascade into a series of emerald lakes and pools inside Croatia’s oldest national park. The surrounding forest is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and makes for an equally picturesque hike.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Backed by the looming Julian Alps, the cobalt-blue Lake Bled in lesser-known Slovenia is tranquil and mirror-like, with a fairytale-like central island occupied by a single Gothic church built in the 1400s that houses old frescoes and a gold Baroque altar. Romantics make Vila Bled hotel their base before hikes through forested trails in Triglav National Park and visits to Vintgar Gorge—home to the country’s tallest waterfall.
Lake Hillier, Australia
Yes, that color is natural! Scientists predict that this pretty-in-pink lake on Middle Island, off the coast of western Australia, gets its hue from pigmented micro algae that live in its salt-saturated waters. Because it's a protected nature reserve, paying a visit in person is difficult to impossible—but flybys by boat or airplane can be arranged.
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