Three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Luckily, that includes the spectacular lakes our editor has chosen as some of the planet’s most idyllic destinations. Here’s what makes them special.
“Part of Canada’s glorious Banff National Park, Lake Louise (named for the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria) startles first-time viewers with its extraordinary emerald hue. The coloring results from the runoff of surrounding glaciers, which is filled with a suspension of rock “flour,” created by the inexorable grinding of ice on stone. Aside from inspiring vistas, the region offers an extraordinary range of leisure options. And although summers can be crowded, the area remains one of North America’s classic destinations for outdoor adventure sports.”
“Lake Placid, along with nearby Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, comprise what is known as the Tri-Lakes region. Nestled in the unspoiled Adirondack Mountains in New York State, the village of Lake Placid originally prospered as a mining center. The wealthy discovered it in the 19th century, drawn by its spectacular setting, refreshing clean air and pristine water. Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System of book cataloguing, played a key role in the town, opening the exclusive Lake Placid Club resort, which encouraged the town’s development as a center for winter sports. (Lake Placid stands out in the annals of winter sports as being one of only three places to have hosted two Winter Olympic Games, first in 1932, then in 1980.) Today, few places can match the area’s wealth of year-round recreational activities, which include boating, hiking, biking, golf, both Alpine and Nordic skiing, skating, ski jumping and bobsledding.”
Courtesy of Linda Favata, Concierge, Lake Placid Lodge
Scenic Drive: Veterans Memorial Highway, the road to the top of Whiteface Mountain, is open until mid-October. What a panorama! There’s a stone castle on top, and you can hike the last 400 feet (or take the elevator).
Sweet Treat: The snow lasts right into maple sugar season in mid-March, when you can go to the many maple producers and watch the process on the premises. You have to sample the hot syrup on a dish of fresh snow. It’s the best.
Seasonal Attraction: Foliage comes early to us. In late August we begin seeing little pops of color among the evergreens and soft woods. By mid-September the woods and mountains are beginning to be aflame with color. Peak foliage for us lasts through mid-October. The woods are spectacular; they smell wonderful and woodsy.
“Located at an elevation of 12,500 feet in the high Andes, Lake Titicaca is more than 120 miles long and the largest lake in South America. Its many islands include the Isla del Sol, which the Incas believed to be the birthplace of the Sun God. Elsewhere, the pre-Incan Uros people live on artificial floating islands made of reeds. Despite an increase in tourism, Titicaca still seems remote and exotic. In the clear air, and beneath an intense cloudless sky, the colors of the native textiles seem to have an almost surreal vibrancy. I will never forget my first sight of the Bolivia’s Cordillera Real, a chain of snowcapped mountains that lines the lake’s eastern shore, which contains seven peaks of more than 6,000 meters (19,686 feet) in height, including 21,122-foot Mount Illimani.”
Courtesy of Carlos Sologuren, Commercial Director, The Andean Experience Co.
Healthful Tip: Take it easy on the first day. Titicaca is at a very high altitude, and the body needs time to get acclimated.
Worthy Excursion: Going to the island of Taquile to meet the locals and have the privilege of seeing them create extraordinarily beautiful textiles. Then trek across the island to a private beach on the other side. The walking is quite an experience and the sites are unbelievable.
Way to Unwind: My favorite thing is to sit around a bonfire on the shores of the lake at sunset with blankets and local teas and delicacies. Afterward, you can watch the constellations come out.
“The capital of the Argentina’s Lake District is the ski resort of San Carlos de Bariloche, which lies 1,000 miles to the southwest of Buenos Aires, close to the Chilean border. The city stands on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, a cobalt expanse at the center of an eponymous national park. My favorite town in the region, however, is pretty San Martin de los Andes on Lago Lácar. From San Martin, the Camino de los Siete Lagos (Road of the Seven Lakes) runs for 66 miles south to Villa la Angostura, through some of the most spectacular scenery in Argentina. Along the way, it passes Lago Traful, the source of the Rio Traful, one of the greatest trout streams in the world.”
Courtesy of Carlos Burgoa, General Manager, Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf - Spa
Perfect Timing: Autumn is the most scenic season, with all of our flora turning different colors. It’s ideal for scenic tours, photographic walking tours or safaris.
Happy Hour: The beer shops have turned out to be one of the main gastronomic attractions in the last few years, because they develop and produce local beers. I suggest Cervecería Blest and Cervecería Berlina.
Don’t Miss: Sailing on Nahuel Huapi Lake.
“Although the tallest of the hills in England’s Lake District National Park is less than 4,000 feet high, the region’s steep glacial valleys and deep, enigmatic lakes combine in an intensely dramatic and powerful landscape. I have often wondered which of the lakes is my favorite, but I have still failed to decide between Ullswater and Buttermere. Immortalized by Wordsworth and other English Romantic poets, as well as by the painters Constable and Turner, this astonishingly picturesque region is a walker’s paradise. In addition to its natural splendors, you can visit Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage in the village of Grasmere, where Wordsworth spent the most creative years of his life. After a day’s hiking, I often treat myself to a dinner of Herdwick lamb, a superb local delicacy.”
“The Salzkammergut is a mountainous region that lies to the east of the exquisite Austrian city of Salzburg. It is a part of Europe where modernity scarcely seems to have intruded: the landscape is completely unspoiled and the towns are absurdly pretty, with their wooden Alpine houses bedecked with baskets of flowers. The town of Hallstatt on the serene Hallstätter See is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its Iron Age and Celtic cultural remains. My favorite lake, however, is lovely Grundlsee. Nearby Toplitzsee had a particularly colorful history during World War II: As well as being a Nazi naval weapons research station, the lake became the dumping ground for forged banknotes with which the Germans had hoped to destabilize the British economy. And the salt mines in the surrounding mountains were where Hermann Göring chose to stash many of his looted art treasures.”
“On a late spring day, when the sun shines and the snow glistens on the distant Alps, there are few more pleasant ways to spend an hour than strolling along Geneva’s Quai du Mont-Blanc, before crossing the bridge into the Jardin Anglais. I love watching the ferries and pleasure craft as they make their way along the northern shore of the lake to Vevey, Lausanne and Montreux. Geneva is such a wealthy, cosmopolitan and fortunate city it can seem, at times, to possess an atmosphere of complete unreality.”
Courtesy of Alexia Beugnon, Director of Sales, La Réserve Hospitality Collection, and Alessandra Hemmeler, PR & Communications Manager, Beau-Rivage Palace
Local Legend: (Hemmeler) The 13th-century Lausanne Cathedral is very interesting. Its bell tower is home to a mysterious character whose cry of “All’s well” can be heard every night between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. This is the Cathedral’s famous night watchman, who is carrying on a tradition handed down over 600 years.
Outdoor Adventure:(Beugnon) I suggest paragliding on Mont Salève, a mountain shared between France and Switzerland. From your flight, you can see Mont Blanc and all of Geneva.
Coming Soon: (Hemmeler) Lausanne is an official Olympic city and hosts the Olympic Museum, which is reopening later this year after a huge renovation.
“Africa’s Great Rift Valley — the result of two divergent tectonic plates — extends for more than 3,000 miles, but it is the East African Rift that attracts the most visitors. There, a succession of lakes sustains a bewildering array of wildlife. Kenya’s Lake Nakuru is home to more than a million greater and lesser flamingoes, while to the south, Lake Naivasha can boast more than 400 resident bird species, as well as a huge hippo population. My own most memorable wildlife experience, however, was watching the habituated troops of chimpanzees that live in the Mahale Mountains National Park on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.”
“Italy’s three great Alpine lakes — Como, Garda and Maggiore — are all exquisitely pretty, but my favorite has long been Lake Como. On occasions its waters are bathed in a pinkish, opalescent light that endows them with an ethereal, fairytale quality. The area has had irresistible appeal since Roman times and, in the late 18th century, it was a mandatory stop on the Grand Tour. Each generation falls in love all over again: today, George Clooney has a villa in the lakeside town of Laglio, keeping the region’s glamor current. Every time I visit Como, I conclude that few places in the world are more beautiful or more profoundly civilized.”
Courtesy of Valentina De Santis, Owner and Director of Marketing & PR, Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Wet and Wild: Lake Como is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Water skiing, wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing and fishing are just a few of the many diversions.
Dinner and a Show: For something different, I suggest having lunch at Locanda dell’Isola Comacina and listening to all the stories of Benvenuto, the funny owner who since 1947 has served the same fixed-price menu and has made an elaborate “exorcism by fire” ceremony at the end of every meal. It stems from a curse supposedly laid on the island in 1169 by the Bishop of Como and involves, essentially, coffee with flambéed liqueur.
Local Treasure:Villa del Balbianello is famous worldwide for being the set of many Hollywood movies, and is literally one of the most dramatic locations on Lake Como, if not the world. Its sculpted gardens seem to drip off the high promontory like sauce off a melting ice cream cone.
“Lake Pichola is an artificial lake that was created in 1362 at the edge of Udaipur, a magnificent city of golden sandstone, located in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Originally it was conceived as a source of water for drinking and irrigation, but soon the lake became the exquisite setting for lavish palaces constructed by successive maharanas. The view from the island of Jag Mandir, back to the famous Lake Palace and the great City Palace of Udaipur, is quite simply one of most beautiful in the world. Every time I return, I find myself moved to tears.”
Courtesy of Shyam Kaikini, General Manager, Taj Lake Palace
House Call: Be sure to visit the unfinished Monsoon Palace, conceived by Maharana Sajjan Singh but never completed due to his untimely death. One can enjoy soaring views of Udaipur, the beautiful City of Lakes.
Nature Calls: Lake Pichola is a bird-watcher’s paradise, as a large number of migratory birds make their way here from colder climes.
Recent political changes in Burma have engendered a great deal of optimism and a surge in the number of foreign visitors. But travel to the country has always been possible, subject to restrictions, and I first visited Inle Lake in Shan State more than 25 years ago. There, the 70,000 Intha people live in bamboo houses constructed on stilts, and they cultivate remarkable floating gardens of fruit and vegetables. Local fishermen employ fragile wooden rowing boats and large, conical bamboo fish traps. In the dawn mist, the scene is reminiscent of a Japanese scroll painting.
“Although the Chinese city of Hangzhou now has a population of more than six million, its famous West Lake remains pretty, tranquil and clean. It is possible to walk, jog or cycle around much of the shoreline, pausing on the willow-shaded paths to gaze out across the expanse of glassy water. Here, China’s ancient civilization remains very much alive. Sometimes, I rent one of the numerous leisure craft for an idyllic private cruise. Hangzhou has always been a prosperous city, thanks to the silk trade and its proximity to the Grand Canal. These days, however, the city enjoys a reputation as the most affluent in the entire country, where the newly wealthy of Shanghai buy hillside properties overlooking the lake, a combination of mountains and water which is said to possess especially potent feng shui, or mysteriously auspicious power.”
Courtesy of Yuko Yanagimoto, Business Development Manager, Amanfayun
Perfect Timing: Spring and autumn both enjoy moderate and comfortable climates, though spring tends to be rather wet. Spring is the season of tea picking and autumn is the season of osmanthus and autumn delicacies.
Cultural Appreciation: Hangzhou was praised by Marco Polo as the most beautiful city in the world. Being one of the ancient capitals, it has developed itself as a center of commerce, art and culture for centuries.
Go Green: Hangzhou is often celebrated as the greenest city in China. Here, appreciation and consciousness for nature is deeply rooted in people’s lives. We enjoy visiting the Botanical Garden, parks and scenic areas, and walking through bamboo forests to reach temples and village teahouses.
“Located in the Queenstown District of New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Wakatipu is justly renowned for its breathtaking scenic splendor, its southeastern shore being dominated by The Remarkables, a chain of jagged, snow-covered mountains. The area provided a backdrop to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and from the village of Glenorchy at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, one can see the northwestern slopes of Mount Earnslaw, which were featured in the opening sequence of The Two Towers. From Glenorchy, one also can discover Lothlorien, the beech forest on the road to Paradise. The most popular way to tour the lake, however, is aboard the T.S.S. Earnslaw, a vintage paddle steamer, complete with a white hull, kauri timber decks and a bright-red 36-foot funnel.”
Courtesy of James Cavanagh, General Manager, Eichardt’s Private Hotel, Apartments and Residence
Outdoor Fun: The quintessential Kiwi summer activity, a rope swing into chilly waters, is high on the list of favorite things to do — kids love it! So is bungee jumping and taking a dip in the Kawarau River, which feeds out of Wakatipu. Lots of folks go out there just to watch the action. Backcountry fishing is also a great pastime.
Road Trip: A drive up the lake to Glenorchy and back offers spectacular views. And the bakery in Glenorchy has the best meat pies I’ve ever seen. Drive the other direction towards Kingston at the southern end, and 25 minutes out of Queenstown you can walk down a rugged track to a deserted beach. Take a picnic and enjoy the sounds of silence.
Get Airborne: We send a lot of guests heli-sightseeing. There’s no better way to view the beautiful Wakatipu basin, right out to Milford Sound and the west coast World Heritage areas.