8 Beautiful Lakes Around the World to Plan a Trip to Right Now

Waterside beauty goes beyond the beach.

Boat on a lake with a volcano in the distance

Lake Atitlán is one of the many jaw-dropping lakes around the world.

Photo by Lucy Brown-loca4motion/Shutterstock.com

Though beaches get plenty of fame as the summer getaway trip (and there are plenty of beautiful ones), lakes shine in their variety, ranging from turquoise gems to ones with views of volcanoes and others so salty that they make people float. Plus, they offer a special sense of stillness, and some can even be enjoyed in the winter.

Craving a yacht ride in Italy, or fancy a swim in one of Oregon’s ancient volcanoes? There are more than 100 million lakes to explore across the globe. Here are eight legendary ones to plan a trip around.

1. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Can something be too good? Brave New World author Aldous Huxley thought so, writing about Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán in Beyond the Mexique Bay: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” The immense volcanoes in question—Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro—can be seen with the naked eye and dramatically stand in the background over the lake’s horizon.

At about 1,050 feet deep, the lake is the deepest in Central America. Part of enjoying Atitlán—besides the usual lakeside activities—is exploring the dozen or so towns nearby, each with its own atmosphere. San Marcos, on the lake’s northwestern side, has a reputation for drawing the likes of yogis, while venturing south takestravelers to backpacker hot spot San Pedro La Laguna.

Where to stay: Casa Palopó

Relais & Châteaux property Casa Palopó was originally a private home before converting into a boutique hotel in 2000. The 15-room property features indigenous Guatemalan artwork on its walls, as well as private terraces to take in the views from the lake’s east side.

Lighthouse On A Rocky Coast by lake waters

The Great Lakes were recognized as one of Afar’s best places to travel in 2023.

Photo by ehrlif/Shutterstock

2. The Great Lakes, United States and Canada

Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario—North America’s five Great Lakes create the planet’s largest freshwater system and even landed a coveted spot in Afar’s Where to Go list in 2023. Travelers have long admired the Great Lakes’ beauty from the shores of beaches like Lake Michigan’s South Haven, but cruises have become an up-and-coming way to experience them. An estimated 20,000 individual passengers are forecasted to come to the region in 2024 (which is more than double the visits compared to a decade ago.)

Don’t just consider the lakes for a summer vacation. Afar contributor and Michigan native Elaine Glusac raves about the offseason: “Winter brings ephemeral ice caves and adaptations such as iceboats, or sailboats on blades.”

Where to stay: Viking’s Great Lakes Cruises

Cruise company Viking offers the opportunity to take an overnight lake cruise on the Great Lakes, offering 348-passenger expedition vessels Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris to explore the region. Sailings all start at seven nights, but travelers can see all five lakes on its 14-night cruise. If you want to stay on land, consider the Grand Hotel in Lake Huron’s Mackinac Island; it’s one of the best historic hotels in the country.

A clear, turqouise lake with a tree on the right side of the photo

In-the-know beach lovers seek Secret Cove on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, where the turquoise water could stand in for the Caribbean.

Photo by Shutterstock

3. Lake Tahoe, United States

Lake Tahoe, on the California and Nevada border, is well-known for its slew of wintertime activities, as it has the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America. Skiers flock to the area in the snow season for beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada can be admired from a gondola ride. Adventure abounds in the summer as well. Kayaking, relaxing on a sailboat, fishing, and cruising on a paddleboat are just a few ways to enjoy Lake Tahoe in the warmer months.

Where to stay: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Featuring a 17,000-square-foot slope-side spa and a stone fireplace in each room, the Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe is one of the best luxury hotels in California. Its ski-in, ski-out access makes it a great base for outdoor adventure, while a temperature-controlled pool makes deckside relaxation a year-round activity.

Gravedona ed Uniti is but one of the Lake Como region’s many unforgettable villages.

Gravedona ed Uniti is but one of the Lake Como region’s many unforgettable villages.

Valentina Selva/Italy Tourism

4. Lake Como, Italy

Italy’s Lake Como is famous for its elegance and luxury, gaining affinity from celebrities that include George Clooney and Madonna, who have bought villas on its shores. Located by the Italian Alps in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, Lake Como stuns with scenery from its shores (or while on a yacht). The only island on the lake, Comacina Island, gives a view of the red-roofed houses on the mainland and can be reached by ferry. Climb to the top of the UNESCO-recognized Sacro Monte di Ossuccio, a sacred mountain on Como’s western shore, to get views of the lakes and the neighboring mountains.

Where to stay: Grand Hotel Tremezzo

The 84-room Grand Hotel Tremezzo has more than 100 years of history, preserving its Italian neoclassical design from the Belle Époque era. If you decide to dine at Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi, hotel CEO Valentina De Santis recommends the saffron risotto, which is topped with a gold leaf.

Blue lake with an island in the middle at sunset

Crater Lake’s famous body of water is deeper than any other lake in the United States.

Photo by Bill45/Shutterstock

5. Crater Lake, United States

When Mount Mazama erupted around 7,7000 years ago in what today is Oregon, it left a depression that eventually accumulated enough melted snow and rainwater to form a lake. Measuring 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the star of Oregon’s only national park. Looking for the perfect view? Drive around the 33-mile Rim Drive, which circles the lake and includes 30 outlooks, or embark on the more than 90 miles of trails that wind around the lake.

Only one trail, the Cleetwood Cove trail, gets you access to a swimming point when it’s open from mid-June to late October. Be sure to brace yourself before a dip in its clear waters, as the lake surface only warms up to a chilly 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Where to stay: Crater Lake Lodge

To snag a spot at one of 71 rooms at Crater Lake Lodge, you need to reserve a spot well in advance. Afar writer Amy Bizzarri describes this property as an ideal place to spend a lakeside beach getaway in the summertime: “Cool summer evenings here call for cozying up by the massive stone fireplace in the lodge’s dining room, where locally sourced cuisine showcases the flavors of southern Oregon.”

6. Moraine Lake, Canada

Banff became Canada’s first national park in 1885, protecting boreal forests and glacier-fed lakes over about 2,500 square miles in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. One of its lakes is the 120-acre Moraine Lake in Banff’s southwestern portion. Travelers can hike to the lake or visit by shuttle from Lake Louise and get majestic views of Moraine against the Valley of the Ten Peaks. From mid-June to mid-September, Moraine Lake Lodge rents canoes so you can paddle through the lake’s turquoise waters.

There are several hiking trails for exploring Moraine’s different views. Climb the Rockpile Trail for incredible panoramas, or take the three-quarter-mile Lakeshore Trail for an easy trek on its south side. If you want to beat the crowds of Banff when you visit Lake Moraine, try getting an early start. Alternatively, consider some of Banff’s lesser-visited turquoise lakes, like Lake Agnes.

Where to stay: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Conveniently located in the town of Banff, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is known as the “Castle in the Rockies.” The more than 130-year-old property features a Châteauesque-design and is nestled into the mountains. When you’re not venturing into the lakes of the national park, stay and choose one of the hotel’s adventures, which range from 27 holes of golf to its 40,000-square-foot spa. Near Moraine, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits on the shore of another alpine lake that’s equally as beautiful.

Ruins of an ancient castle on a hill in front of a lake

The dark color of the Loch Ness is attributed to the soil washed into the lake.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock

7. Loch Ness, Scotland

Whether or not you’re searching for the serpentine creature (lovingly called Nessie) that lives in Scotland’s Loch Ness, this lake is a must-stop place on a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Swimming isn’t recommended due to its frigid temperatures (water temperatures remain at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit year-round), but companies Cruise Loch Ness and Beastie Boats allow you to explore on a boat. The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition even has sonar-equipped cruises (if you are actually searching for the creature). Drive up the A82 highway along the lake’s western shore to get to Castle Urquhart, which dates back to the 13th century, for a fantastic view of the dark abyss.

Where to stay: Loch Ness Lodge

“Loch Ness Lodge is the size of a modern-day castle, with modern amenities to match,” Afar contributor Matt Kirouac writes in his guide to the Scottish Highlands. Loch Ness Lodge has nine rooms, but each is decked out with details like goose-down duvets and flat-screen TVs. Of course, each room also has a view of the lake and the neighboring hills.

In Jordan, you can float in the Dead Sea, which is considered the lowest point on earth.

In Jordan, you can float in the Dead Sea, which is considered the lowest point on earth.

Courtesy of Visit Jordan

8. Dead Sea, Jordan

Despite the name, the Dead Sea is a lake that sits between Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. It’s a salty one at that, being almost 10 times saltier than the world’s oceans. In fact, the amount of salt in the water makes it so dense that people can easily stay afloat without swimming (objects that are less dense than water will float due to the scientific principle of upthrust). Bring a pair of goggles—you really don’t want salt in your eye—and enjoy the natural phenomenon. Don’t forget to slap on some local mud before your dip, as it’s reputed to be great for the skin.

Where to stay: Marriott Dead Sea Resort and Spa

The 250-room Marriott Dead Sea Resort and Spa has direct access to the Dead Sea. Sitting on the water body’s northeastern shores in Jordan, this property also features indoor and outdoor pools.

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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