The splendor of inland water bodies can at times surpass the beauty of the best artificial ponds created by man. Nature has a way of designing spectacular features in places beyond imagination, placing eye-pleasing lakes in extreme climes, atop mountains, and in valleys. Would you by any stretch of imagination expect a freshwater lake in Siberia? Yes, there is Lake Baikal considered the world’s oldest and the largest freshwater body by volume! Some of these wonders of creation are also home to the most diverse flora and fauna to be found anywhere on the planet and unique to these lakes only. The manmade lakes equally have their charm and splendor as intended by the designers and are a marvel of engineering. From the northern cold climes to the tropics and southern extremes, here are 10 most stunning lakes of the world to include on your bucket list.
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Somewhere in the midst of the expansive high-altitude desert plain of the Andes in southwestern Bolivia, you will behold a truly striking natural wonder – the Red Lagoon. Known as Laguna Colorada in Spanish, this spectacular high-altitude water body is unique for its red hue that has one thinking of red wine or bloodstain. Whereas the local legend ascribes the red hue to the spilled blood of the gods, scientists think it is due to a type of native algae it harbors. Laguna Colorada is a saltwater lake sited 15,000 feet above sea level but with surprisingly shallow depths at a foot and a half at it’s deepest. However, its waters are rich in plankton that attracts large hordes of colorful flamingoes to the lake adding to its beauty. The crimson waters, garnished with white borax islands, the spectacle of the rare and majestic James’ flamingos against the backdrop of snow streaked Andean peaks is a gem for photographers.
Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Lake Wakatipu is the third largest lake in New Zealand and the crown jewel of Queenstown and has a shape reminiscent of a lightning bolt. The lake occupies a deep mountain valley carved by ancient glaciers and has a scenic alpine touch to its setting. One of its unusual attractions is the “standing wave” a tide that causes the water to rise a height of 10cm and fall rhythmically every 25-27 minutes. The Maori think it is the heartbeat of Matau, a legendary monster slumbering at the bottom of Wakatipu. The lake replenishes from two rivers The Dart and Rees to the north while Kawarau River drains it near Queenstown. For those who love angling, Lake Wakatipu offers all-year trout fishing and the beaches are popular for swimming in summer. You also do not want to miss the steamship cruises!
Lake Pichola, India
One can easily say Udaipur is the Venice of the east given the prominence of its central feature, Lake Pichola and the Venetian style architecture. Boat rides on its pristine waters are to die for and the royal-like hospitality installations doting its expanse are in a class of their own with the iconic Lake Palace gracefully floating on its waters. However, the distinguishing feature of this spectacular lake is that it is manmade. The Indian state of Rajasthan has a reputation for artificial water bodies originally meant for transportation. The Pichola, constructed around 1362 AD is one of these wonderful lakes in the state and especially in Udaipur City. The majestic splendor of the renaissance theme and sheer opulence of high grade marble and granite used in buildings around the lake make this one of the most beautiful and stunning sites in the world.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Scientists have estimated Lake Baikal to be the world’s oldest inland freshwater body. This ancient lake located in south-central Siberia is the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world by volume, holding about 20%. Baikal boasts of over 1000 plant and animal species not found anywhere else in the world that include the Nerpa, a rare freshwater seal. The “Pearl of Siberia” has strikingly clear water with a visibility of nearly 130 feet. Its crescent shape and cradle in the snow-capped mountains is awe-inspiring all-year. In winter, trapped gases create a spectacular “bubbly” appearance to the ice layer on the lake adding to the fun for ice-skaters. The lake’s huge volume of water comes from over 300 rivers flowing in and only one, the Angara, flowing out. Lake Baikal is truly a marvel of nature and is like no other lake in the world.
Pehoe Lake, Chile
Located in Torres del Paine National Park in the Magallanes region of Chile, Pehoe Lake is a scenic expanse of crystalline waters. The reflection of the horn-shaped peaks of Cuernos Del Paine (Paine Horns) lends incredible beauty to the serene waters of the lake. The journey is as much a challenge as it is an adventure through diverse terrains of mountain peaks, glaziers, and waterfalls. A flight to the nearest airstrip in Punta Arenas followed by bus ride and finally a hike on dirt roads will get you to Pehoe. The park has refugios or lodges in which travelers can take a rest as they hike between different viewing points around the lake. The sun brings out a colorful spectacle on the lake turning the water purple as it rises and tangerine as it sets in a shimmering display. Pehoe Lake is ideal for sport fishing, game watching, and photography.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Inle Lake is a stunning fresh water body located close to the Shan hills in Myanmar, next to the Nyaungshwe Township. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar, though shallow at only 1.5m depth during the rainy season. At an altitude of about 880m, it is one of the highest lakes in the region. A hot spring on its northwestern shore adds to its attraction besides the scenic spectacle of floating farms on its waters. Surrounding Inle Lake are picturesque and ancient stone pagodas as well as several monasteries. Houses, markets, and even teahouses beautifully stilted on bamboo over the lake waters make a unique vista around the lake. Fishing on the lake by locals is a major activity with a unique foot rowing expertise unknown anywhere else in the world. Inle Lake is a designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO.
Moraine Lake, Canada
Sequestered high up in the Canadian Rockies and nestled in the bosom of the Valley of Ten Peaks is this lovely turquoise gem – Moraine Lake. The lake is one of the special features of the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and sits at an elevation of 1,884m. Moraine is a glacially fed lake that peaks in summer around June when the snow melts. Moraine Lake’s striking beauty earned it the privilege of appearing on Canadian currency as a national heritage. The glacial silt that flows into the lake with melting snow remains suspended in the water causing the azure hue when light reflects on it. The stunning lake waters offer fantastic boating activities for tourists and those out to bond with nature in summer. Reaching this lovely lake is in itself an adventure as you traverse the Rockpile Trail that offers a vantage photography and viewing point atop the rock pile.
Lake Nakuru, Kenya
Lake Nakuru is without doubt flamingos’ favorite meeting point in Africa, and when they congregate, the lake is a bust of breathtaking pink. Nakuru is one of multiple lakes dotting the floor of the Rift Valley in Kenya and sits at an elevation of 1,754m above sea level to the south of the hometown by the same name. The lake forms part of the Lake Nakuru National Park that hosts a number of wildlife species including buffalo, white and black rhinos among others. However, Lake Nakuru’s distinction comes with the flamingos that literally cover the entire lake in a pink bloom as they feed on algae. There are cozy lodges in the park with game drives on offer and easy transition to the world renowned Mara a little distance to the south. Lake Nakuru makes a good case for inclusion on your bucket list when in Kenya.
Lake Powell, USA
The blue waters of Lake Powell against the backdrop of colorful rock formations that include the wonder Rainbow land bridge and spectacular canyons are stunning. Located across the Utah-Arizona border, the lake filled up in 1977 long after construction as a dam in 1963. Powell replenishes from snowmelt in the region through Rivers Colorado, Escalante, Green, San Juan, and the Dirty Devil and the lake stands out in the harsh desert environment around it. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area set up in 1972, offers leisure activities on the lake making it a popular tourist destination for swimming, sunbathing, and boat rides. However, the main purpose of this beautiful manmade lake still is water supply for the multiple States in this arid region. As a recreational facility, the spectacular canyons make a fantastic location as a backdrop for the lake.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Nature truly created a masterpiece of beauty in middle of forests and meadows somewhere in the Plitvice National Park, Croatia. Beholding the series of cascading little lakes and pools that drop one into the next via utopia type waterfalls is mesmerizing. The Plitvice Lakes create a sight out of fairy paintings that leave one with a surreal feeling and a reluctance to depart. The pools create a play a vivid color display oscillating between blue and green from one lake to the next. Plitvice Lakes are also home to trout besides other animal species in the park. There are wild boars, otters, deer, and many indigenous bird species. The park management constructed walkways to facilitate easy movement as visitors take in this wonder of nature. Plitvice is the one feature that surely takes the accolades for design, beauty, and serenity affirming that nature is the ultimate perfectionist in creation.