The Glacial Lakes of Slovenia
f you think the Italian lakes are romantic, you’ll love the picture-book prettiness of Slovenia’s glacial lakes. With the majestic Julian Alps as its backdrop, Lake Bled, a vivid turquoise tongue of water ringed by thick forest and stunning snowstreaked mountains, is the must-see here. There are superb views across the lakeshore to a fairytale castle of medieval turrets and ramparts. At the center of the lake, a 17th-century “floating” church stands on a tiny island reached by a gondola. It’s a romantic place and should be coupled with a trip to nearby Lake Bohinj, a body of crystal-clear water overlooked by woodland and jagged peaks.
Practical Information – Getting There and Around
International flights arrive at Ljubljana. Trains and buses run from the airport to Triglav National Park, where the lakes are found. The trip by road from the airport takes an hour. An hourly bus service runs between the two lakes, which are 16 miles (25 km) apart. When to Go Visit in June and July for long days and blissfully few tourists
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Nature’s own champagne pyramid, Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes are arranged on stepped limestone terraces that are linked to one another by a series of rapids and waterfalls. The views across these overflowing pools and sparkling white cascades to Eden-like emerald forest are mesmerizing. The lakes change hue constantly, from deep blue to azure, green, and gray, according to sunlight and changing mineral content. These tumbling pools lie in Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is also home to threatened fauna, including bears, wolves, and lynx
Practical Information – Getting There and Around
International flights arrive at Zagreb, from where buses and coaches run to the national park. The best way to get around the lakes is by hiking, but there are also boat and bus services. When to Go Aim to travel here in late September, when temperatures are pleasant and the fall colors are truly amazing
Lake Balaton, Hungary
Affectionately known as “the Hungarian Sea,” beautiful Lake Balaton is the largest of all central Europe’s lakes, and also one of the most diverse. A 105-mile (170-km) shoreline fringes this expanse of green water, offering something for everyone. The southern shore boasts sandy beaches, shallow water, family-friendly resorts, and lively beachside nightclubs. But it’s the northern shore that utterly beguiles, its volcanic hills studded with geyser cones, crater lakes, and wine caves. Nearby, pretty medieval towns and the centuriesold spas of the Tihany Peninsula beckon
Getting There and Around FlyBalaton International Airport lies on the shore of the lake. Shuttle buses run from here to the lakeside towns. Regular ferries and buses serve the lake, though car rental is wise if you want to explore more freely. When to Go Visit between June and August for summer sun and warm water.
Band-e Amir Lakes, Afghanistan
Few bodies of water can match the stunning, otherworldly beauty of the Band-e Amir Lakes. Set high in the Hindu Kush mountain range of central Afghanistan, this chain of deep-sapphire lakes lies across a desolate landscape of bone-dry canyon rock like shiny jewels on the fingers of a withered hand. Spread out across natural terraces, the enormous, interconnected ice-cold pools flow into one another, from the highest to the lowest in the chain, via a series of sparkling waterfalls and gushing rapids.
Getting There and Around Flights to Kabul from Europe and North America go via Dubai. Minibusses make the 149-mile (240-km) bone-shaking journey across dirt roads from Kabul to Bamiyan, the gateway city to the Band-e Amir Lakes. Privately hired cars and minibusses carry visitors onto the lakes, which are 47 miles (75 km) away. Local drivers are essential as several of the roads in the region remain heavily mined. Once at the lakes, hike their banks or rent a paddleboat to take in vistas from the water level.
Kerala’s Lakes and Backwaters
At the southwestern tip of India, the magnificent Keralan lakes and backwaters are a shimmering tropical labyrinth of five lakes and more than 621 miles (1,000 km) of rivers, canals, rivulets, and lagoons. Trips aboard houseboats – converted barges once used to transport rice – depart for the backwaters from lakeshore towns. Using long bamboo poles, oarsmen slowly steer you through a maze of silent channels dotted with isolated hamlets and fringed with coconut palms, dazzlingly green paddy fields, and plantations of banana and yam. Plan your trip around Alleppey, known as the “Venice of the East” for its myriad canals
Practical Information Getting There and Around International flights arrive at Bangalore, Delhi, or Mumbai, where connecting flights go to Cochin and Trivandrum. Take a train, car, or, best of all, boat on to Alleppey and the other lakeshore towns. When to Go December to May is the best time to visit Kerala – this way you avoid the monsoon season and southern India’s unbearably hot summer