The water on our planet exists in various forms- oceans, rivers, glaciers, lakes, marches, underground rivers, clouds, precipitation, or just steam. All of these forms have their own beauty, and some of them are amazingly beautiful. Now we are going to look at the lakes- they can be large or small, they can be in the mountain or in the lowland, they can be surrounded by jungle or by grassland. Yes, beauty is subjective, anyway, let’s make a journey to the 10 most beautiful lakes in the world, according to people’s experience!
The nature of the lakes
Let’s get into geography. Before we visit the most beautiful lakes in the world, let’s define what a lake is. Shortly, it is a body of water on a continent or an island that is separated from the ocean.
The largest lake on the Earth is the Caspian Sea. It is called a sea because like other seas, its water is salty, it is as large as the other seas, waves like in the other seas can be generated there, and it really looks like a sea.
And there are many other large lakes on the Earth that look like seas, such as the Great American Lakes, Victoria Lake in Africa, or the former (unfortunately) Aral Sea.
On the other end of the scale are the smallest lakes. In fact, it is difficult to define how small a lake can be. It can be a pond, a wider place in a river, or just a puddle.
There are artificial lakes, made by humans. There are three types of artificial lakes. The first type is when humans construct a dam wall on a river to create a lake. The second type is when they build a dam wall at an already existing lake to enlarge it. And the third type is an entirely artificial lake without a dam wall.
But in this article, although some artificial lakes are really beautiful, they can’t compete with the natural lakes, so we will not look at them.
Types of natural lakes
The lakes in the world can be divided into various types, according to their size, location, geological and hydrological features, origin, and surrounding nature. And all of these types offer a specific kind of beauty.
As already mentioned, lakes can be as large as seas, small as puddles, and everything in the middle. Usually, the beauty of the large lakes is like the beauty of the seas- beaches, rocks, and water to the horizon. And the beauty of the smaller lakes is often created by the surrounding landscape.
Lakes can be located in the lowland, like a plain, or in the high mountain. So again, their location creates a different type of landscape around them, hence different beauty.
Geological features and origin
There are many types of lakes, according to their geological features and origin.
Many lakes are created by retreated glaciers. These lakes are called glacial lakes, and they are usually surrounded by glacial types of terrain. Many of them are located in the mountains, but other glacial lakes are formed in the lowlands, usually in tundra zones. In this case, they can be partially turned into marches.
There are lakes, created by the interaction between rivers and the sea coast. They are called lagoons or estuaries, depending on the type of this interaction.
Finally, there are lakes created in depressions (holes) of the terrain. Most of them are endorheic- without outflow to the ocean, but some fill enough the depression, so a river can outflow beyond the depression’s edge. A special type of “hole” lake are the volcanic lakes, created in a volcanic crater.
Most of the lakes have fresh water. It can be clear (usually in larger lakes with more currents, or in mountain glacial lakes), or it can be murky.
And there are lakes with saline water- usually, they are endorheic (without outflow), or lagoons beside the sea coast (literally, pieces of the ocean cut by a strip of land). Some of the salt lakes are so salty that no life (except some bacteria) can exist in them. A typical example is the Dead Sea.
Lakes can be formed all over the world. There are lakes in the equatorial rainforest or beside the tropical seacoast- lagoons, estuaries, volcanic or depression lakes, or just small ponds (created in mini depressions).
We can find lakes in deserts too, but many of them are drying seasonally. As mentioned above, there are glacial lakes, surrounded by alpine coniferous forests, grasslands, or just rocks. And there are lowland lakes and marches with rich local wildlife.
All of these features have created a different type of beauty, and according to all of the above, some incredibly beautiful lakes are proclaimed by most people as the most beautiful lakes in the world.
The 10 most beautiful lakes in the world
Since beauty is not a mathematical value, but it can be different for different people, here I present the 10 most beautiful lakes in the world, not arranged in a chart (No.1, No.2, etc.). And of course, there are many more lakes that are beautiful, that’s why this group of the “10 best” is difficult to define, anyway, these lakes are undoubtedly beautiful and worth visiting.
But unlike most of the other “Top X most beautiful lakes” that you can find, in this one, I try to give you more useful information on how to visit, explore and enjoy them. So, I hope you can be inspired by this article and let it help you to make a plan, or at least a dream to visit these natural wonders.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Let’s start from the heart of Asia, deep in the forests of Southern Siberia. Here we can find the deepest freshwater lake on the Earth (1642 m deep, 1187 m below the sea level), formed in a deep trench on the planet’s crust. This is Baikal, one of the largest lakes in the world, full of amazing wonders to reveal.
Baikal is a long and narrow lake, as you can see on the map, and it is a rift lake. Many rivers fill it with water, and only one river, called Angara outflow its waters, connecting it to the ocean. This is also the largest freshwater lake by volume, containing almost 23% of the whole fresh water on the planet’s surface.
The lake has some of the clearest waters on the Earth. In winter, you can see things in water at 40 m distance, while in summer the transparency decreases to 5-8 m. Weather is often windy, and during summer and fall, winds can raise 4-5 m high waves.
In addition, the whole landscape around the lake is incredibly beautiful. There are deep forests and high mountains full of wildlife. The wildlife in the lake waters is also extremely rich and full of unique species. Finally, the local Buryat culture at the lake’s eastern coast contributes to this amazing image.
How to reach and explore Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal is accessible by plane or by train. You can fly to Irkutsk, if you want to explore its western coast, or to Ulan-Ude for its eastern coast. The trains of the Trans Siberian Railway pass along the southern coast of the lake too. And there are regular buses from both Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude to various points beside the lake.
Today, there are several national parks established in various sections of the lake. Pribaikalsky National Park covers the area around the lake’s southwest coast, while Zabaikalsky National Park is arranged in the middle of the eastern coast. These parks include not only the water parts but also the surrounding mountains and forests.
There are two best seasons to visit. In winter (January to April), you can walk on the pure ice cover of the lake, enjoying the ice’s amazing formations like crevasses and bubbles. And in summer, you can explore the lake’s nature and wildlife.
For the best experience, you can visit Olkhon Island (one of the largest lake islands on the Earth), or go on a trek in Barghuzin and Baikal mountains in the north.
Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan
Now, let’s go to another unique and amazing lake- Dead Sea. This is another lake with dozens of “the most” records. Its shores are the lowest elevation on the Earth, with its 430 m below sea level. And it is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet, where only some bacteria can live, hence its name- Dead Sea.
Dead Sea is a rift lake, an endorheic basin, without connection to the ocean. Its water comes mainly from the Jordan River- the lowest flowing river on the Earth. Its deepest point is 304 m, which is 734 m below sea level.
The water in the Dead Sea is so salty that you can lie on it and read a newspaper- a popular image related to this place. Its water is thick and the feeling is like walking in oil. You can see a lot of salt deposits at the lake’s coast. And the surrounding naked mountains make the whole landscape uniquely fantastic.
How to reach and explore Dead Sea
Dead Sea is divided between Israel and Jordan- Israel at its western coast, and Jordan at the east, as the border between the two countries crosses through the middle of the lake. Both countries have developed tourism, establishing dozens of resorts and other attractive points, many of which related to ancient history.
In Israel, there are buses traveling from Jerusalem to Eilat, stopping at various points along the lake coast. The most popular points are Ein Gadi with its stream and waterfalls, and the resort Ein Bokek. You can also combine your trip with visiting the magnificent fortress of Masada, located on the top of one of the mountains, and Qumran, the ancient settlement where original texts from the Scriptures were discovered.
In Jordan, you can access the Dead Sea from Amman or from Aqaba. There are regular buses from these points, and there is a well-paved road along the whole eastern coast of the lake. On your journey, you can visit the lowest national reserve in the world- Mujib Reserve, as well as the Biblical Mount Nebo, and the Dead Sea panoramic complex and museum.
Lake Como, Italy
Now, let’s go to Europe. Here are the Alps, the highest mountain range in Western Europe. Besides the high peaks, the Alps are full of lakes- a lot of small glacial lakes in the high zones, but also several big lakes in the lower zones- mainly in Switzerland and Italy. And one of these lakes “beats” the others as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. This is Lake Como.
Lake Como is located in the southern branches of the Alps, from the end of the Plain of Po to the deep interior of the mountains. It has an inverted “Y”-shape, like a figure with two legs, without arms. In the north is the town of Colico, in the southwest- the town of Como, and in the southeast- the town of Lecco.
The lake is connected to the ocean by the Adda River, which outflows from Lecco. What makes the lake particularly beautiful is the mountainous landscape around it with a lot of villas at its coasts. In fact, this lake has drawn attention from ancient times, when the Romans started building their villas. And today, all of this has created amazing landscapes that are worth visiting and explore.
How to visit and explore Lake Como
Lake Como is easily accessible, not only from places within Italy but also from abroad. The easiest way to reach it is from Milan or Bergamo. There are trains from both of these cities to Como and Lecco, as well as a train between Como and Lecco. And there are a lot of good roads to Como and Lecco as starting points.
Once you arrive in Como or Lecco, you can travel to the north by car, or by local bus. If you arrive in Como, a better option would be to take a ferry to Colico, or to the towns of Menaggio, Varenna, or Bellagio, located at the angles between the “legs” and the “body” of the lake.
Another option is to travel by train from Lecco to Colico, along the western coast of the lake. But again, wandering by ferries between the various ports is the best way to reveal and enjoy the beauty of Como. Combine it with visiting the local towns, resorts, gardens, and historic sites and you would have an unforgettable experience!
Lake Pehoe, Chile
Now, we go to the southernmost lands of the Americas, in Chilean Patagonia. Here you can find a fantastic area of sharp mountains, forests, grasslands, canyons, lakes, rivers, and glaciers, called Torres del Paine, today turned into a popular national park. And one of these lakes is Pehoe, in the top 10 of beauty in the world.
Lake Pehoe is located south of some of the prettiest mountains in the world- Cuernos del Paine and Cerro Paine Grande. They rise magnificently right north of the lake, creating a breathtaking landscape. This is what makes Pehoe one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
This is combined with stunning grasslands, rivers, and waterfalls like Santo Chico in the southeast and Salto Grande in the northeast. The whole landscape, the pure lake waters, and the rich wildlife make Pehoe not only an incredibly beautiful lake but also a place with a lot of adventure opportunities.
How to reach and explore Lake Pehoe
Lake Pehoe is located in Chile, in Torres del Paine National Park. The main starting point for the national park is Puerto Natales. There are daily buses from there to the park, and the whole bus trip is 2 hours. Other options include buses from El Calafate, as well as additional tourist buses from Puerto Natales.
Once you reach the park, you have to pay the entrance fee, which currently is 6000 CLP for Chileans and 21 000 CLP for foreigners. Then, inside the park, the main ways to move around is by boat on the lakes, including Lake Pehoe, and by hiking. There is also a minivan between Laguna Amarga Conaf and Hosteria Las Torres, the connection points with the buses.
A great way to explore Lake Pehoe is to walk the beautiful W Trek- a multiday trek that includes the most iconic places in Torres del Paine National Park, including this lake. There is a stop at the northwestern end of the lake, called Refugio Paine Grande. Here you can spend the night and watch a fantastic sunset in the whole lake landscape.
Lake Tahoe, USA (California/Nevada)
This is the largest glacial lake in the whole continent of North America, and one of the largest in the USA, after the Great Lakes. It is a freshwater lake, located at 6225 ft (1897 m) altitude, and with its 1645 ft (501 m) of depth, it is the second deepest lake in the country after Crater Lake.
The lake is surrounded by stunning alpine forests and mountains, and this is one of the main reasons why Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Although the lake is not an endorheic basin, it is still separated from the ocean. Its only outflowing river just reaches the lower Pyramid Lake, which has no outlet.
Today, the level of Tahoe Lake is controlled by a dam wall on the outflowing Truckee River. Due to its beauty and a lot of adventure opportunities, the lake has become a popular tourist attraction, and there are many resorts at its coast, and the activities that you can do there are proper throughout the whole year.
How to reach and explore Lake Tahoe
The whole region of Lake Tahoe is a very well-developed tourist area, so it is easy to reach. Its territory is shared between the states of California and Nevada, and there are a lot of small cities, villages, and resorts along the whole lake coastline like Tahoe City, the historic Truckee, Tahoe Vista, and the popular South Lake Tahoe resort area. All of them are connected by a circumferential road.
In California, you can reach Lake Tahoe (Tahoe City) by 2 hours driving from Sacramento, or more than 3 hours driving from San Francisco. And in Nevada, you can reach it by more than 7 hours driving from Las Vegas. The nearest relatively big city is Carson City in Nevada. However, a faster way to travel to the lake is by plane from San Francisco or Las Vegas to Reno/Tahoe International Airport.
Other options are traveling by bus and train. There are bus shuttles from San Francisco to the North and South Lake Tahoe areas. And there is a train from Emeryville (San Francisco Bay Area) to Chicago, stopping in Truckee. Once you reach the lake, you can enjoy a lot of activities like hiking in the mountains, cruising, beach playing, winter sports, horse riding, and many others.
Namtso Lake, China (Tibetan Autonomous Region)
Now, let’s go to the Roof of the World- the Great Tibetan Plateau. This is a desolate highland, covered only by grasslands and on the higher parts even by moss and stones only, with harsh climate and endless pure views to the horizon under the deep blue sky. And there are a lot of lakes, especially in the western part of the Plateau.
Many of these lakes are saline endorheic basins, completely separated not only from the ocean but also from human civilization. One of these lakes is Namtso- the largest lake in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is located at 4718 m (15,479 ft), north of the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains.
The whole landscape of the lake and around it is incredibly beautiful, and its beauty comes mainly from the combination of water, snowy mountains, and grasslands with Tibetan nomads and yak herds, everything in a silent vastness. There are also several uninhabited islands on the lake, home to migrating birds.
How to reach and explore Namtso Lake
Namtso Lake is located in a wild and remote area, so it is more difficult to reach, although tourists regularly visit it. First, you can’t travel to the lake independently, since it is located in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and traveling in TAR requires an organized tour (by a local licensed company) which arranged the necessary travel permit.
Once you arrange your trip to TAR, you can include Namtso Lake in your organized tour itinerary. There is a 112 km paved road connecting Lhasa with the lake, and you can travel on this road only by minibus, arranged by your local travel company. Usually, the companies arrange one or two-day trips to Namtso, and the second option is much better.
The area around Namtso Lake is designed as a national park, so there is a 120 CNY entrance fee for the park. Travel companies often include this fee. And if you choose a two-day trip to the lake, you can enjoy not only the beauty of the coastline with its fantastic views of the snowy Nyenchen Tanglha, but you can also visit the nearby Tashi Dor Monastery on Nam Island, and to meet the drokpa camps of the Changtang Tibetan nomads.
Saimaa Lake, Finland
One of the most beautiful lakes in the world can be found in the north of Europe, on a large plain, covered by boreal taiga forest, and a lot of other lakes and rivers. It is called Saimaa Lake, and it is one of the largest lakes in Finland and the four largest freshwater lakes in Europe. The lake’s surface lies at 76 m altitude and its maximal depth is 82 m.
This lake doesn’t look like most of the lakes on the Earth. Its surface is not too large, but its shape is extremely complex- it is so complex that its coastline is more than 13 000 (thirteen thousand!) km long! It is full of smaller and larger islands, and the whole network of islands, straits peninsulas, bays, and isthmuses form an amazing labyrinth. Besides, there are hundreds of smaller satellite lakes, some of them considered as parts of the main lake.
Saimaa Lake is surrounded mainly by boreal taiga forests. These forests make the lake’s labyrinth like a fairy tale, and if there is a mist, this fairy tale looks like from another world. The lake’s waters come from hundreds of rivers and natural canals between Saimaa and the other lakes around it, and its outlet is Vuoksi River that connects it to Lake Ladoga and the ocean.
How to reach and explore Saimaa Lake
Saimaa Lake is located in the southeastern part of Finland, not far from the most populated areas of the country, including the capital Helsinki. The largest city on the lake coast and one of the most popular starting points for exploring Saimaa is Lappeenranta. The time for driving from Helsinki to Lappeenranta is around 2 hours 30 min.
The lake is not far from Russia, and it can be easily reached from the city of Vyborg, as well as from the smaller town of Svetogorsk, located at the border with Finland. Other towns at the Saimaa coasts are Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Imatra, Joensuu, and Kuopio. There are regular buses and trains to most of these towns, and there are even flights from Helsinki to Savonlinna.
Once you arrive at one of these points, you can explore the lake in various ways. There are cruises on certain routes, and some of the routes include the Vuoksi River or the artificial canal to the Bay of Finland. Popular activities include kayaking and canoeing through the lake labyrinth, also fishing, camping, and hiking in the endless forests. And of course, all of these activities offer great opportunities for amazing photos.
Lake Tianchi, China (Xinjiang)
Let’s back to the heart of Asia, to some of the farthest places from the ocean. Here is Tianshan, the Heavenly Mountains- a land of magnificent alpine peaks, glaciers, grasslands, and forests. Here, in the eastern branches of Tianshan, we can find a lake with a similar name- Tianchi, the Heavenly Lake. And its name fully fits the landscape and the image of this lake- it is like a piece of Heaven on Earth.
What makes it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world is its glacial origin and its location under the snowy Bogda Peak (5445 m) that rises stunningly above the lake and reflects on the lake water. The surface of the lake is at 1907 m altitude, and its deepest point is 105 m. Although the lake has an outlet, it is not connected to the ocean, but its waters reach only the deserts north of Tianshan.
The lake is surrounded by wild alpine mountains and deep forests consisting mainly of the gorgeous Asian spruce. And the lake water is pure, coming from the melting snow on the slopes of Bogda Peak. In addition, Tianchi keeps a lot of secrets from ancient history and some beautiful legends.
How to reach and explore Lake Tianchi
Lake Tianchi is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Most of Xinjiang is free for foreigners to visit, there are no restrictions, requirements for travel permits or organized tours, and Tianchi is in the free parts of the region.
The lake is easily reachable from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang- at a 35 km distance in straight line eastward, or on a 95 km road that passes the nearest city of Fukang. So, the cheapest way to visit the lake is by bus from Urumqi Beijiao Station to Fukang, then by another bus from Fukang to the lake. Another option is just to join an organized tour from Urumqi.
Or, you can drive a car to Tianchi, but only if you have a Chinese driving license. Otherwise, you can arrange a shared van (your hotel or hostel in Urumqi can assists you with that) with a driver to the lake. Once you reach it, you have to pay 95 CNY for the entrance fee in summer, or 45 CNY in winter. Then, you can go hiking or cruising on the lake, enjoying fantastic views of Tianshan.
Moraine Lake, Canada
The Rocky Mountains in the west of North America reveal fantastic landscapes of wild alpine forests, snowy peaks and glaciers, rivers, lakes, meadows, and grasslands. And no wonder that so much beauty can make the existing lakes in this part of the world like splendid jewels. However, one of these lakes is a “winner” in such a competition. This is Moraine Lake in Canada.
Moraine Lake is a glacial lake, located in a gorgeous valley called “the Valley of the Ten Peaks” surrounding the lake like ten crowns. The glaciers that descend from these peaks feed the lake and its waters flow out from its northern end by a stream into the Bow River, and from there- to Saskatchewan River, Winnipeg Lake, and the ocean at Hudson Bay. The elevation of the lake surface is 1884 m, and it is relatively shallow, with a maximal depth of 14 m only.
The lake is relatively small and is surrounded by steep and rocky mountain slopes, partially covered by alpine forests. Its water is fresh, and it has a specific pale blue color, formed by the sediments of the lake bottom and the purity of the water, making the lake even more beautiful.
How to reach and explore Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is located in Alberta, Canada, and the whole area around it is included in the Banff National Park. The nearest big city and traditional starting point for visiting the national park is Calgary. From Calgary, you can drive a car to the lake for more than 2 hours drive.
Only one hour before the lake, you reach the entrance of the national park. The entrance fees are 9.80 CAD for 1 day for adults, and 4.90 CAD for children. From here, you can proceed driving to Moraine Lake, as well as to many other points of interest around the Banff National Park, including other lakes like Lake Louise.
There are also buses that travel from Calgary to Lake Louise, and trains, connecting Banff to Vancouver. Once you arrive there, you can explore Moraine Lake and other places in the national park by hiking. Moraine Lake is small and can be circled for about 40-50 min. But there are many other trails, much longer and with higher difficulty for those who love hiking. Also, you can go kayaking or canoeing on the lake, but only with your own kayak or canoe.
Kanas Lake, China (Xinjiang)
The central parts of Asia are full of fantastic beauty, so if we want to find lakes for our Top 10, we should back there again and look for more treasures. And we can find one- a lake in the southern frontiers of Siberia, in the wild Altay Mountains, surrounded by deep forests and local Siberian culture. This is Kanas Lake, a blue jewel in the southern Siberian taiga.
Kanas Lake is a crescent moon-shaped body of water, located in one of the southern valleys of the Altay Mountains. Its surface has an elevation of 1340 m above sea level, and its maximal depth reaches 185 m. The lake has fresh water and it is fed by the Kanas River. Then, the same river outflows its waters into Burqin River, which reaches the Irtysh, and by Ob River, it reaches the Arctic Ocean.
The beauty of Kanas Lake comes from the watercolor and the surrounding landscape. Its waters have unique colors that change according to the season from pale blue to dark green, and it is surrounded by deep forests. The forests are mostly coniferous but often mixed with broad-leaved trees, mainly birches. This makes the whole landscape amazingly beautiful, especially during the fall when the forest is “dressed” in various colors.
How to reach and explore Kanas Lake
Kanas Lake is located in the northernmost part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Unlike Lake Tianchi, this one is close to the border with Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia. So it requires a border area permit that costs 50 CNY and can be obtained from Burqin County (yes, it is not so convenient, so you have to plan your itinerary in advance).
Today, Kanas Lake and its surroundings are included in Kanas National Park. You can reach the park by plane to Kanas Airport that is located between Burqin and Kanas Lake, and there are shuttle buses from the airport to the park, however, firstly you have to back to Burqin to obtain your travel permit.
Or, you can travel by bus from Urumqi to Burqin (it is an overnight bus and the whole trip is 12 hours). Another option is to travel by train to Aletay City and by bus to Burqin. Once you are ready with your permit, you can take another bus to Jiadengyu, the entrance of the national park where you pay 160 CNY entrance fee (or 80 CNY in winter). Then you can reach the lake itself by local tourist buses and enjoy its beauty by hiking, cruising or just relax.
More beautiful lakes
As I mentioned above, these 10 lakes are my Top 10 most beautiful lakes in the world, but of course, many other lakes deserve this title too. I would mention the following:
- Lucern Lake, Switzerland
- Wakatipu Lake, New Zealand
- Titicaca Lake, Bolivia, and Peru
- Attabad Lake, Pakistan
- Crater Lake, USA
- Karakul Lake, China (Xinjiang)
- Songkul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
- Lake Bled, Slovenia
- Hutt Lagoon, Australia
- Lake Nakuru, Kenya
- Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
- Kawaguchi Lake, Japan
- Lake Pichola, India …
And many others
Probably you have your own, different list of beautiful lakes? Anyway, most of the lakes have their own color of tranquility and their own unique landscape that makes them beautiful. And here, in this long post, I wish I would inspire you to visit these lakes and experience their world on your own.
Want to see more charts of best natural features and go to explore them?
Take a look at the following ones:
Best coral places for scuba diving
Most beautiful karst hills in China and Southeast Asia
Check some travel books about the lakes:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.