When I go to the beach, I react a bit like Rowan Atkinson in Mr Bean's Holiday when he finally found La Mer...
The sea is exciting, with all its big and small waves, sand, pebbles (plenty in Brighton) and shells. Comparatively, lakes may seem a bit boring and cold. But if you think about it, they just have a different personality altogether: still and less noisy.
Like mountains, certain lakes have left a lasting impression in my mind, whether it's the colour, the size, the surroundings, the view of/from them, or simply the biases of my personal experience.
1. big almaty lake, kazakhstan
We hired a white four-wheel drive that arrived promptly 2 hours after we asked for it. The good thing about holidays are that you have an extra layer of patience, compared to a typical day at home or work. It's a 3 hour drive from the city centre, which wasn't too bad. I take most photos on Instagram with a pinch of salt (including my own) as I know how tempting those filters are. I was expecting this to be another potential disappointment, but as we drove closer to the lake, I knew I was going to be wrong.
I haven't seen anything like this before.
A milky-green lake in the middle of mountains south of Almaty, Kazakhstan is a (police-patrolled) precious little gem that was the offspring of a couple of earthquakes and global warming. It's at an altitude of over 2500m, and apparently is a colour-changing lake (by season) that's also a source of water supply for some of the locals... I don't know what else you can expect from a lake?
2. LaKE titicaca & UROS ISLANDS, peru
I can't erase the memory of the local tour guide, who awkwardly sang 'My Heart Will Go On' on repeat to fill the silence on the boat to Uros from Puno. This was followed by another guide who made it her mission for the day to teach us how to pronounce 'Titicaca' i.e. TITI-KHA-KHA.
It was (or felt like) a long boat ride, but we eventually got to the main island. We walked to the top to get a full view of Lago Titicaca which wasn't exactly a breeze, thanks to the altitude.
It was endless. Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and is over 3,800m high, shared by Bolivia and Peru. We enjoyed some fresh fish and chatted to some of the indigenous families who live on one of the 40 odd floating islands made with a bit of DIY, some team work, and a lot of reed. I left the island on a reed boat with a lovely handmade bracelet. The grandness of the lake, the exotic people and unique style of living won my heart.
3. iskanderkul, tajikistan
Another one from Central Asia, but it's the best USD 30 I have spent on a visa. Tajikistan was generally a scorching, dry city in my opinion, but the outskirts were the total opposite. Sparse villages with friendly Tajiks accompany the lake, making it a homely, scenic pit-stop for travellers (especially after a long, dusty journey from Dushanbe, in an old saloon car fit for a museum).
Once I got there, I took a round trip of this triangular lake on a local motorboat. I was by myself, next to a man who was asking me why I was by myself, and a couple who were being photographed for what I think (and hope) was a swim suit advert.
The lake itself is just over 2100m high and a bonus for those trekking the Gissar Range or Fann mountains. The best views are in the morning when it perfectly mirrors the image of the mountain range and clouds.
4. loch ness & LOCH LOMOND, scotland
I won't forget Loch Ness, not because of the stories about the 'monster', but the drive through the snake-like A82 roads right next to the waters leading up to Loch Ness from Loch Lomond. If you read the comic Tintin as a child, you may also recognise the name of Captain Haddock's Scottish Whisky.
Based in the Scottish Highlands, both of these lakes are the largest in the country, surrounded by villages with stone cottages, and plenty of friendly Scots. Those who like trekking can explore Ben Lomond to get the best views of the lake.
5. lake lucerne, switzerland
My parents love Switzerland and I've been hearing about it since the first time we visited the country, which was almost 20 years ago. Considering it's a country that's not short of mountains, Lake Lucerne being one of the bigger lakes in Switzerland is quite impressive.
The best views of the lake are probably from Mount Pilatus or somewhere up on a hill like Chateau Gutsch. But if you're on a budget (which is likely as like the Nordics, it's not a cheap country), walking alongside the lake, through the parks where the local Swiss residents go for runs and walks, and then occasionally dipping your feet into the water, or saying hello to the green-faced ducks, is another nice way to enjoy the lake.
6. lake victoria, kenya/uganda/tanzania
I wouldn't say this is the most beautiful lake, but it's the largest in Africa, and is a shared baby of 3 countries, 2 rivers and the Equator, which makes it quite special: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
I have seen it while we lived in Uganda, so my opinions may be skewed towards what I saw. Pollution from nearby cities has taken some of its colour and clarity away, but it is still a grand water body, keeping East Africa hydrated.
7. Llyn tarn, snowdon, wales (NORTH)
I really did not expect to find such jaw-dropping beauty so close to home. We drove five hours from London to the North of Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. The weather was in our favour and we managed to find parking in one of the parking lots that provide bus rides to the base of the six main routes. We went for the hike that was the second easiest (out of shame), and in under three hours we made it close to the top at around 800m, then walked down the rocks to the steely green coloured glacial lakes a.k.a. 'tarns'. With snow on the mountains and a not-so-tricky walking path, we had time to appreciate the beauty.
I have to say, I fell a little bit in love with Wales after this...
8. morskie oko, tatra national park, poland
This trek gets better over time... just keep walking and carry a flask with hot tea and some cake or donuts and you'll be fine. My full review on Zakopane and Krakow is here, but the highlight was certainly the mountains and the lake that is surrounded completely by mountains in Tatra National Park, shared between Poland and Slovakia. The colour of the lake can change from slate-black in colder weather, to aquamarine blue when it's warmer and sunnier. Chameleon lake!