Not many things in life could be as inviting as an ice-blue lake on a sweltering summer’s day. Or as serene as a pitch-black body of water backed by snow-capped mountains.
From lily-padded ponds hidden in the jungle to the glorious Lake Geneva, Booking.com looked to its millions of customers* to see which they felt deserved to be counted among the very best.
The glowing blue water of Lac de Sainte-Croix in Bauduen, France
The town of Bauduen is a paradisiacal Provençal town on the edge of Lac de Sainte-Croix. Consisting of a small cluster of apricot houses with blue shutters and tiled roofs next to the misty blue water. Once you’ve swum in a lake in Provence you won’t want to swim anywhere else. Up close, the water is pristine and smooth as silk. From a distance, it glows a deep turquoise colour. There are several sandy and pebbly beaches for sunbathing but you shouldn’t miss the chance to canoe or kayak here, through steep, rocky gorges and prehistoric caves.
Manapouri, New Zealand
The mountainous backdrop at Lake Manapouri, New Zealand
This glacial lake is often hailed as New Zealand’s most beautiful. It is 440 metres deep and its islands are strewn over its bottle green surface, each home to exotic flora and red deer. Choose from varying levels of hike to reach splendid viewpoints over waterfalls and valleys of beech trees and vivid, native fuchsia.
The Torii Gate appearing to float in Lake Biwa, Japan
Otsu is the main port of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan and home to the dreamlike Great Torii. Tourists travel from all over the world to visit this shrine; a large, lacquered gate structure that appears to be floating above the water at high tide. With mountains rising up in the distance, the gate symbolises the place at which the human and spirit worlds meet.
Riva di Solto, Italy
The town of Riva di Solto on the lesser-known but arguably best of the Italian lakes, Lake Iseo
Riva di Solto is small town on the shores of Lake Iseo. Though you may not hear this lake mentioned much outside of Italy, it’s superior to its more well-known neighbours, Como, Garda, and Maggiore in many ways. There are fewer tourists, so you’ll feel closer to authentic Italy, and you’ll enjoy unspoilt mountain views. Though much of the scenery is covered with deep green conifers, the lake shore is also dotted with olive groves, whose dappled shade provides respite from the Italian sun. While you’re here, visit Monte Isola in the middle of the lake (Southern Europe’s largest inland isle) and the Bogn ravine, a wall of rock that plunges straight down into the lake.
Mountain views in Gandria, Lake Lugano, Switzerland
A tiny village on the edge of Lake Lugano, Gandria is technically Swiss but feels like the southern Mediterranean. Palm trees and gardens line the lakefront, where well-kept lawns are separated from the water by elegant balustrades. Panoramas of the greenery, the grand Monte Brè to the east, and the vast expanse of water can be enjoyed while cruising the lake. But views from Gandria’s 17th-century San Rocco chapel are equally delightful.
*Destinations needed to have at least 50 endorsements each for ‘Lakes’ and ‘Scenery’ in order to be included in this list.