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You might’ve visited one of the Great Lakes or Lake Tahoe, or have Lake Como or the Dead Sea on your bucket list. But for every Lake Champlain and Lake Geneva, there are dozens of other pristine bodies of water around the world. Lakes come in every shape and size. They can be freshwater or saltwater and natural or manmade — and many of them are incredible. From Pakistan to Scotland, here are 19 of the most beautiful lakes you’ve probably never even heard of.
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Local legend says the water of Laguna Colorada is stained red from the spilled blood of the gods. In actuality, this 15,000-acre lake can thank native algae for its crimson hue. Located within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia on the Andean Plateau bordering Chile, this saltwater lake features floating, white patches of borax deposits on its surface. Laguna Colorada means “Red Lagoon” in Spanish, and the ethereal salt lake is especially stunning from December to April, when Andean flamingos descend on the lake to breed. The flamingos are actually white, but the algae-stained water dyes the birds pink as they feed on plankton and other organisms. At over 15,000 feet above sea level, this high-altitude lake is actually quite shallow, only reaching depths of about a foot and a half.
Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Located on New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Wakatipu features a breathtaking backdrop of the snow-capped Remarkables mountains. The views are gorgeous, but the action happens along the lake’s scenic shores. With the lakeside town of Queenstown as a home base, travelers to the area can go skydiving, skiing, hiking, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, boating, and even paragliding. Helicopter rides are also popular, and offer even better views of the lake and craggy peaks.
Referred to as the “Lake That Breathes,” Lake Wakatipu is famous for its unusual, tide-like, standing wave that often raises water levels by almost eight inches every 27 minutes.
Scientists assume this phenomenon is caused by wind and atmospheric changes in the area, but the indigenous Maori people believe it’s thanks to the pulse of a slain giant. Aside from giant legends and extreme sports, Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest lake, stretching for almost 50 miles in diameter. It’s also over 1,200 feet deep, which is so deep that sections of the lake fall well below sea level. As the third-largest body of water in New Zealand, Lake Wakatipu is fed by five different rivers.
Lake Pichola, India
In the Indian city of Udaipur, Lake Pichola appears to be a natural body of water, but is actually human-made. Designed for transporting grain within the region in 1362, the freshwater reservoir is part of a chain of lakes that earn Udaipur the nickname “City of Lakes.” Although the lake is nestled within the Indian state of Rajasthan, surrounding villages feature palaces, mansions, hotels, and temples boasting elaborate, Venetian-inspired architecture. These opulent, marble and granite structures built in the 1500s seem to be influenced by the Renaissance.
The lake, which stretches for three miles, is most stunning at sunset, when boat tours offer visitors a romantic vantage point of the sparkling water and sun-cast buildings during golden hour. For visitors who would rather stay on land, the sunset can be enjoyed from the historic gardens, waterfront restaurants, and island bird sanctuary.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Baikal in Russia is the world’s oldest lake. It’s also the deepest at over 5,300 feet, with its lowest point more than 4,000 feet below sea level! Such incredible depths mean this Siberian lake contains 20% of the world’s fresh water (about as much water as in all five Great Lakes combined). Lake Baikal is also breathtaking — the body of water is crescent-shaped and nestled among snow-capped mountains, earning it the nickname “the Pearl of Siberia.”
This pristine, blue lake is spectacular year-round and is home to the world’s only species of freshwater seal. Its water is unusually clear, and during the summer it’s possible to see 130 feet below the surface. In winter, the shoreline is covered in snow and the deep water freezes over, creating unique ice-skating conditions. Due to trapped gasses in the frozen water, the ice’s “bubbly” appearance is quite a spectacle.
Pehoé Lake, Chile
Located in Torres del Paine National Park, a 500,000-acre swath of Patagonia in southern Chile, Pehoé Lake is bright blue in color and boasts a breathtaking backdrop of the Torres mountain range. The view of the lake is surreal, with water purple at sunrise and tangerine at sunset, but getting there does take a bit of effort. Most visitors fly in tiny planes to the city of Punta Arenas before embarking on a long bus ride to the national park. Once in the park, visitors still need to reach Pehoé Lake which is only accessible by dirt roads.
The journey is worth it. Travelers will encounter different terrains, in addition to numerous glaciers, waterfalls, and craggy mountains peaks. But Pehoé Lake — fed by the Paine River and adjacent to Nordenskjöld Lake — is the crown jewel. Hikers will want to explore trails at the water’s edge as well as those on higher ground. Different vantage points offer unique views of the stunning, blue water.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
The stunning Inle Lake, located in the Shan Hills of Myanmar, is the second-largest lake in the country bordered by thousands of ancient stone pagodas and historic fishing villages. The villages are especially charming — many structures are stilted on bamboo over the water. Resident fishermen navigate the waterways completely by boats and sell their catches at floating markets.
The shores of Inle Lake are also home to monasteries. Each houses monks, along with Burmese cats. In fact, these regal creatures are so treasured in the area that there are sanctuaries devoted to the felines. If cats aren’t your thing, enjoy viewing the collections of ancient buddha statues on display inside the pagodas, find one of the famous floating hydroponic gardens, or warm up at one of the many cozy teahouses.
Moraine Lake, Canada
Banff National Park in the province of Alberta, Canada is one of the country’s most iconic parks, home to Moraine Lake. Hidden within the Valley of Ten Peaks in the Canadian Rockies, the lake is famous for its turquoise water and majestic mountain backdrop. Though often skipped by tourists in search of the more famous Lake Louise nearby, Moraine Lake offers a more tranquil atmosphere. The lake is so striking, it’s even been printed on Canadian currency.
As a glacier-fed lake, Moraine Lake owes its piercing, blue hue to ice melt. As glacial water melts, the water flows into the lake along with bits of glacial silt or rock flour, which are transferred and remain suspended in the lake water, reflecting sunlight. This phenomenon gives the lake its azure color. For the best views of the spectacle, visitors should hike to lookout points overlooking the lake or canoe or kayak in the summer.
Lake Nakuru, Kenya
Depending on rainfall that fluctuates water levels, Kenya’s Lake Nakuru can cover up to a third of the 73-square-mile national park of the same name. Located in the Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru National Park was founded in 1968 and is part of the Great Rift Valley Lake System — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the stunning alkaline lake, the area encompasses a savannah, forest, and wetland, home to a wide range of protected wildlife. Visitors should look out for zebras, giraffes, cape buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceroses.
The real stars of the show, however, are the 450 resident and migrating bird species — especially the flamingos that feed on the lake’s algae in January and February. The algae gives flamingos their signature pink feathers. When enough of the flamingos show up (two million birds is not uncommon), the already striking lake can actually appear pink as well.
Lake Powell, United States
Created by the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell stretches for 186 miles across the Utah-Arizona border. Though the dam was constructed in 1963, this man-made reservoir didn’t have water until 1977. The water, which is snowmelt from across the region, flows into Lake Powell and the national recreation area surrounding it via the Green, Colorado, Dirty Devil, Escalante, and San Juan Rivers.
Lake Powell is a magnet for tourists. The surrounding area is a desert paradise of orange-red rock formations and canyons that juxtapose the lake’s crystal blue water. With almost 2,000 miles of shoreline, the lake is ideal for swimming and sunbathing. Charter a boat from one of the lake’s six marinas and travel to the magnificent Rainbow Bridge National Monument. As the world’s largest natural land bridge, it’s a sacred spot for the Navajo tribe nearby.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Located in Croatia’s oldest national park, which is also an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park features a series of aquamarine-hued lakes and pools connected by 16 stunning waterfalls. Visitors can take in the views from a network of wooden walkways channeling lakes and falls. What’s especially captivating about the Plitvice Lakes is how the colors of blue and green vary from pool to pool — the lakes are terraced, rich in mineral deposits, and feature varying depths, making each body of water a slightly different shade of green-blue.
Covering 186 square miles and located near the Bosnian border, the park is a popular tourist destination that welcomes roughly 14,000 visitors each day. Aside from the trout-filled water, the park features miles of walking paths through rugged terrain and lush forests. Keep your eyes out; it’s not unusual to spot deer, wildcats, wild boars, otters, and numerous endemic birds.
Derwentwater, United Kingdom
Derwentwater is the third-largest lake in England’s Cumbria countryside, also known as the Lake District. That said, the lake isn’t exactly tiny — it’s three miles long and over a mile wide. Also called “Queen of Lakes” by locals, the enchanting Derwentwater is surrounded by rolling green hillsides and craggy rock formations. Preserved as part of the National Trust, the open spaces near Derwentwater offer popular walking paths with access to the lakefront. These very views actually inspired legendary children’s book writer Beatrix Potter, who wrote the Tales of Peter Rabbit and famously summered in the area.
West Lake, China
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, West Lake is located in China’s verdant Hangzhou region. Dotted with small islands and surrounded by traditional temples and pagodas, the freshwater lake is certainly enchanting. It’s no surprise West Lake is famous for inspiring generations of Chinese artists and poets from as early as the ninth century.
Covering about 2.5 square miles, West Lake is acknowledged as a unique juxtaposition of human design and nature. The lake’s perimeter includes many flowering trees, stone pavilions, arched bridges, and multiple pedestrian walkways. While spring is ideal for viewing peach blossoms, summer welcomes thousands of spectacular lotus blossoms.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
A vivid blue pool nestled in the Julian Alps, Slovenia’s Lake Bled is famous for the 15th-century, Gothic-style church often mirrored on the water’s surface. Located in Triglav National Park, the lake is a popular tourist attraction for folks in search of fairytale charm — complete with medieval castles perched on the surrounding cliffs. In fact, local legend says that fairies created the lake. Angered by shepherds who allowed their sheep to eat all the grass and vegetation in the valley, fairies flooded the area. They left only the island — a sacred spot where they could convene and dance without any meddling grazers.
Whether or not you’re into folklore, Lake Bled and its surrounding parkland are ideal for outdoor recreation year-round. The fall foliage in the area is stunning, while witnessing the area dusted in snow in winter only adds to the lake’s allure. Canoeing and rowboating are popular during warmer months, offering visitors a chance to see the exquisite frescoes and golden altar within the island church. Ample trails through dense forest are also great for hiking.
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Nestled among a trio of volcanoes and seven Mayan villages in the Guatemalan Highlands, Lake Atitlán is an ideal stop to take in stunning scenery. The lake actually formed from a volcanic crater 84,000 years ago and it’s huge! Covering 50 square miles with a depth of over 1,100 feet, the lake is perfect for boating, kayaking, and watching the sunset Adventurous visitors are welcome to climb the nearby San Pedro volcano and thermal springs, but plan ahead since the journey can take up to five hours or more if the weather is problematic.
Nearby villages are still steeped in ancient traditions — many residents still wear traditional Mayan clothing and worship Mayan deities. Visitors can admire preserved archaeological sites or shop for exquisite hand-woven textiles, handmade artwork, and other local handicrafts.
Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan
There are five lakes surrounding Mount Fuji (locals call them the Fuji Five). The most accessible lake for those visiting from Tokyo is Lake Kawaguchiko. Clear days at the lake, though somewhat rare, offer incredible views of the iconic peak and when boat traffic is sparse, the lake surface perfectly reflects the famous snow-capped mountain in the distance. Visit in spring when the promenades surrounding the lake burst with Japan’s signature cherry blossoms.
Wake up early for your best shot at clear views of Fuji — even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the idyllic scenery and the famously deep blue water of the lake are stunning. Boat tours that travel the perimeter of Lake Kawaguchiko are popular, as is the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. The cable car is a fun and fast way to get to an impressive panoramic viewing platform. Many travelers opt to hike it though, since it only takes about 45 minutes. Another must-see scenic spot is Oishi Park. With the mountain as its backdrop, the park offers colorful flower beds that blossom with tulips in spring and begonias all summer long.
Attabad Lake, Pakistan
Attabad Lake, located in the Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan, has only been around since 2010. In January of that year, a devastating landslide buried the village of Attabad and stopped the flow of the Hunza River. The valley quickly flooded, displacing thousands of residents on either side of the new dam in the valley and downstream. Following the tragedy, the region had a 13-mile-long lake with a depth of 300 feet.
Fed by glaciers and tinted aqua in spring and early summer thanks to deposits of glacial silt, the lake’s icy water is stunning. And, perhaps because of its striking, blue-green color, the region now unexpectedly buzzes with tourists. Various water activities like jet-skiing and fishing are popular, as are boat tours that highlight the area’s stunning mountain scenery. A slew of hotels and campsites have opened up, catering to these outdoor enthusiasts. Though most travelers visit in warmer weather; winter offers a frozen wonderland.
Hidden within Kromlauer Park in Kromlau, Germany, not far from Berlin, is a relatively small lake called Rakotzsee. Surrounded by 200 acres of lush vegetation that includes a spectacular collection of flowering azalea and rhododendron bushes, the lake features a unique devil’s bridge called Rakotzbrücke. Devil’s bridges were designed to create the illusion of a perfect circle when reflected in the water below. The arresting effect seems almost impossible — something that could only be created by some otherworldly or possibly evil force, hence the name.
The bridge in Kromlau was commissioned by a local knight in 1860 and built with local stone. The delicate arch is flanked on either side with narrow spires inspired by the region’s natural basalt columns. It’s an unforgettable, fairytale-like scene — one that has garnered a lot of attention on Instagram in recent years. Unfortunately, in order to preserve the impractical structure, crossing the bridge is no longer allowed.
Lake Bratan, Bali
You’re probably more familiar with Bali’s incredible beaches than any of the country’s inland lakes. But a trip in from the coast and up into the central highlands of the Indonesian island reveals terraced rice fields, lush jungle, spectacular waterfalls, and volcanic rock formations. You’ll also discover the island’s second-largest lake, Lake Bratan. Covering nearly two square miles, with a maximum depth of 72 feet, the lake’s pure water is used in part to irrigate the region’s farmland.
Often shrouded in mist, Lake Bratan is considered sacred and is home to the Pura Ulun Danu Beratan temple. Built in 1663, the mystical temple dedicated to the goddess of water appears to float on the water. But Lake Bratan isn’t only a spiritual place. The lake is popular for water sports, while villages on the shore boast Balinese restaurants on the waterfront and open-air markets.
Loch Duich, United Kingdom
Located in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Duich is considered a sea loch. Each loch is beautiful, but Loch Duich tends to be among the most memorable, thanks to the incredible Eilean Donan Castle. Built on an island in the center of this saltwater lake, the fortress is a 20th-century replica of the 13th-century castle built by two of the region’s most venerable clans. Today, it is one of the most recognizable monuments in Scotland.
The Glen Shiel Battleground is another historical site of interest in the area. A protected meadow located at the eastern end of Loch Duich, Glen Shiel commemorates a 1719 battle between the Jacobites and the British. But the region's natural beauty and wildlife are the real draws. People regularly fish in the lake for salmon, since salmon thrive in the cold water among a rare underwater system of reefs. Keep an eye out for otters and porpoises on the loch’s choppy surface, and look for badgers, wild goats, and purple martins (a species of bird) on land.