- Tonle Sap – Cambodia
From Siem Riep it’s a forty-five minute tuk-tuk ride to Tonle Sap – the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia. Once one leaves the insanity of the ‘highway’ traffic, it’s a bumpy picturesque drive past the rice paddies and along narrow streams to the wooden boats that ferry villagers from their homes built on stilts in the water, to the main land. In the dry season, their homes, schools, restaurants, and small family enterprises are reached by climbing tall, wooden ladders. In the rainy season, the river is level with their front doors. The villagers of Tonle Sap are primarily fishermen. For the best experience arrive early in the morning when the locals are getting going, and the tour boats have yet to arrive. Join the locals for a breakfast bowl of noodle soup at a restaurant in the water.
- Lake Louise – Canada
Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies cradles glacier-fed, turquoise, tranquil, Lake Louise like a precious gem. It’s so stunningly beautiful that it looks too perfect to be true. Surrounded by snow capped peaks and watched over by the five star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, its beauty changes with every season. Covered by snow and ice in the winter, the lake and its surroundings offer skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. In spring, summer, and fall: Cycling, hiking, horse riding, and canoeing. Treat yourself to high tea at the Fairmont Chateau with a lakeside view. It’s an elegant, memorable experience and a perfect way to relax after a day outdoors.
- Yamdrok Lake – Tibet
At 14,750 feet above sea level between Lhasa and Gyantse, lies one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes. Depending on the color of the sky, the season, the light – its still waters surrounded by the stark caramel colored hills are a bright turquoise or a deep sapphire blue. Seventy-two kilometers in length, this sacred fresh water lake meanders across the landscape. Yaks – dressed in brightly embroidered blankets and saddles – graze happily beside the water’s edge or on the stubby hillsides where an array of colored prayer-flags flutter in the breeze.
- Lake Como – Italy
Lake Como has a long history of welcoming European aristocracy to its shores. They built villas and palazzos with exquisitely manicured gardens which have graced the lakeside for centuries. Today, the lake continues to draw visitors and celebrities who are attracted by its tranquil magnetic beauty. Covering fifty-six square miles, it is also one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Villages with a fairytale atmosphere jut into the lake and rest on its shores; snow capped mountains provide a perfect backdrop. Visit Villa Carlotta and Parco Meier in Tremezzo; Ballagio for its cafés, cobblestone lanes, and boutiques; Menaggio for its gorgeous vistas and gardens; and Cernobbio’s Villa ď Este built in the 16th century which is now a five-star hotel.
- Lago Argentino – Patagonia
Lago Argentino gets its soft, milky color, from the melting ice of the glaciers. Stay in El Calafate and visit Perito Moreno Glacier, a two hour bus ride away. Reserve well in advance to take a boat ride the next day on Lago Argentino and get an up close view of the spectacular, sculpted, floating icebergs. If possible, spend the night at Estancia Cristina or at least the day, so that you can visit the Upsala Glacier. Savor the journey back to El Calafate on Lago Argentino. (The lake covers five hundred and sixty-six square miles).
- Lake Titicaca – Peru/Bolivia
The rugged, jagged, snow capped Andes stand watch over immense emerald blue Lake Titicaca. The lake straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia and is the highest navigable body of water in the world. Revered by Bolivians and Peruvians alike, it is said to be the birthplace of the first Inca King. Although tourism has flourished, the villages, the customs, the traditional dress, the style of building, and ancient Inca ruins, still endure. In Bolivia, Isla del Sol is a gem. Spend a night at Posada del Inca and enjoy the atmosphere of the village and the beauty of the sunset. In Peru visit the touristy but fascinating floating Uros Islands, and the islands of Amantani and Taquile. No traditional hotels here, only homestays owned by warm, welcoming families who take great pride in their spotless accommodation, and prepare fresh, healthy meals, with love. ( Lake Titicaca covers 3,232 square miles).
- Inle Lake – Myanmar/Burma
For generations, people have lived in Inle Lake in homes constructed from wood and woven bamboo, built on stilts. Life in the villages goes on much the same as it has in bygone days. Artisanal handicraft is produced in the villages by families who have passed down their skills from generation to generation. These include weaving, cigar making, boat building, ironmaking, and jewelry making. Fishermen provide fresh water lake fish, primarily carp. Weeds rich in nutrients are gathered from the bottom of the lake and used to construct floating gardens which produce vegetables and fruit. Electric green rice paddies provide rice. The villagers travel the lake on single-cylinder wooden boats while fishermen stand on one leg on their sleek, wooden boats, wrap their other leg around the oar and paddle while lifting and lowering their nets. It’s a sight poetic in its beauty. (Inle Lake is 44.9 square miles in size).
- Lake Tahoe – California – U.S.A.
Lake Tahoe straddles the states of California and Nevada. At six thousand, two hundred and twenty-five feet above sea level and with a shore length of seventy-one miles, it is the largest alpine lake in the USA. In summer, the crystal clear sapphire blue waters edged by beaches are a summer vacation paradise for swimming, kayaking, and windsurfing. Horse riding through the fragrant pine forests delivers gorgeous views and silence broken only by the breezes and the horse’s footsteps. The Nevada side of the lake is popular for its casinos and night life. Winter brings snow and ice which turns it into a winter wonderland. Cozy up next to a warm hearth with a mug of hot chocolate after a day of skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or snowshoeing. While Tahoe is famous for its summers and winters, it’s a beautiful destination in all seasons.
- Namtso Lake – Tibet
Namtso Lake – which means Heavenly Lake – is a saltwater lake covering seven hundred and forty square miles which sits at fifteen thousand, four hundred and seventy-nine feet above sea level. It’s tented by a sky swimming in blue, the air is crisp and pure, and the silence absolute, save for the gentlest lapping of little waves on its shore. Snow covered mountains cradle this remote lake revered by Tibetan Buddhists who trek here on pilgrimages to circumvent the lake; a ritual which can take seven days to several weeks to complete. The surrounding sandstone cliffs hold a small monastery and caves where it is believed the Buddhas came to meditate. The lake is pristine. Tibetans do not disturb the waters of this sacred lake. They neither harvest its salt nor bathe in its waters. Fish may only be caught and fed to a woman in the last stages of her pregnancy as it is believed that this will facilitate giving birth.
- Hoan Kiem Lake – Hā Nôi – Vietnam
Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the bustling Hā Nôi is an enchanting reprieve, from the city’s chaotic traffic. Encircled by pedestrian paths, wispy weeping-willow trees, and park benches, it’s a place where locals come to engage in all manner of exercise: From Thai Chi to jogging, to bench pressing, aerobics, ballroom dancing, and other strange creative and unusual forms of exercise. Young lovers stroll and cuddle on park benches, friends meet and socialize, and school girls in their ‘non la’ (lampshade hats) and white ‘ao dai’ (long tunics worn over slacks) cycle along the pathways. The tortoise Pagoda rests in the center of the lake and to the north is the Ngoc Son Pagoda which one reaches via The Bridge Of the Rising Sun. It’s a wonderful place to linger and observe the daily rituals of life in Hā Nôi.
Disclosure : The following photos were not taken by me: