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The World’s 9 Coolest Lakes

Summer’s siren call is the water. For many that means coastal beaches. Others prefer the serenity of a lake. Lakes are more accessible, calmer, more hospitable on a hot summer’s day.

Whether it’s a spectacular lake in a national park, a deep green mountain lake or nothing much bigger than a glistening pond, a lake provides endless joy. Swim it, fish it, sail it — or simply sit and stare at it. Lakes refresh the body and soul.

Not sure which lake to visit? Read on to check out our list of the world’s coolest lakes.

1. Cheow Lan Lake, Thailand

The weather’s always warm in Thailand, so there’s no need to visit during summer’s rainy season. Enjoy Cheow Lan Lake from December through April. Created by the Ratchaprapa Dam in the Khao Sok National Park, Cheow Lan is surrounded by rain forest.

Its deep waters collected around natural rock formations creating stone pillar islands. Sightsee by long-tail boat, canoe, bamboo raft or kayak — and consider accommodations in a floating bungalow.

2. Windermere Lake, England

At 10.5 miles long and 1 mile wide, Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. Those with a need for speed have long found its length a great place to break records. Yet speed limits were introduced in 2000, angering many speedboat enthusiasts.

Now, Windermere is the site of the Great North Swim, attracting more than 10,000 swimmers each June for three days of races that raise money for charities.

3. Lake Calhoun, Minnesota, U.S.

In Minneapolis, a metropolis nicknamed the City of Lakes, Lake Calhoun is the largest of them all, providing scenic beauty and endless recreation.

Here you’ll find multiple sand beaches, a fishing pier, a three-mile bike path and a separate walking/running path, a boat dock, sport fields, and more. City dwellers can rent canoes, pedal boats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and bikes to enjoy more than 13 miles of lake waters. It’s a summer paradise with a city skyline.

4. Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu enjoys a spectacular location in one of the adventure capitals of the world. Activities on Queenstown’s 50-mile-long lake range from the spine-tingling (wakeboarding, water skiing) to the sedate (cruises aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw). Take a gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, where you can go mountain biking, ride a wooden luge or linger over dinner with the best view in town.

5. Lake Ashi, Japan

Take the train from Tokyo to Hakone — or drive less than two hours — for a cruise on an ornate, full-scale replica of a man-of-war pirate ship. If the fog lifts, you’ll see wonderful views of Mt. Fuji on the horizon and Shinto Shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi.

This caldera lake is filled with hot springs and geysers, creating an ideal spot for a hot springs spa resort. The tourist mecca also has a water amusement park, gardens, an aquarium, an open-air museum, an aerial tram and a mountainside train.

6. Jordan Pond, Maine, U.S.

If you can’t bear to venture far from the ocean but still yearn for the serenity of a lake, Maine’s Mount Desert Island is the place for you. Find excellent boating in addition to walking and hiking at Jordan Pond (a pond is less deep than a lake, allowing more light to pass through to the bottom) in Acadia National Park.

Be sure to work up an appetite for the popovers, rich lobster stew, fresh lemonade and homemade ice cream at the Jordan Pond House restaurant. Continue the tradition of eating on the lawn overlooking the lake, Penobscot Mountain, and the North and South Bubbles (twin peaks).

Find accommodations — and more distractions — in coastal Bar Harbor next door.

7. Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Belle Epoque steamers have traversed Swiss lakes for more than 100 years. Originally floating palaces, with etched glass and wooden figureheads, the paddle steamers now take hundreds of passengers onto Lake Geneva each day.

Ride a steamer to Chateau de Chillon, a castle dating back to the 12th century, in Montreux. Bikes can be brought onboard the boats, but if you choose to just go along just for the views from the water, you won’t be disappointed.

This lake is a favorite of Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of IndependentTraveler.com’s sister site, Cruise Critic: “The contrast between the Alps and the lake is gorgeous.”

8. Lake Superior, Michigan, U.S.

Lake Superior is the largest, deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes. Our favorite part of it is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where sandstone cliffs extend along some 15 miles of coastline.

Although there are plenty of winter activities for hardy Midwesterners, it is summer that pulls people out onto the lake’s pristine waters with spectacular views of the mineral-stained and weather-sculpted cliffs. Campers and hikers explore such treasures as the Grand Sable Dunes, Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock, and nature trails in the white-birch forest.

9. Lake Titicaca, Peru

At about 12,500 feet above sea level, the world’s highest navigable lake is actually quite cool indeed. Although the summer (January through March) sun can cause dreadful sunburn, the weather is still quite chilly and the water icy cold.

Subsistence farmers and herdsmen of llama and alpaca eke out a living in the shadow of nearby Puno’s spectacular 18th-century stone cathedral. Visitors can spend the night with the Uros people, who live on a floating island on Lake Titicaca.

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–written by Jodi Thompson

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