The world's 10 greatest lakes

Lake Taupo, New Zealand

A smidgen smaller than Singapore, Lake Taupo is a rather frightening volcanic caldera. If it blows, the world will sure know about it. The mountains of the Tongariro National Park provide the backdrop, while kayaking tours head to Mine Bay, where 10-metre tall Maori carvings have been painstakingly dug into the rockface. See

Lake Tahoe, California

The views from Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe are about as beautiful as it's possible to get. An island perches in the middle of impossibly blue waters, while mountains soar up high either side. The second largest alpine lake in the world after Titicaca in Peru, Tahoe is a magnet for seekers of good times, whether skiers heading to the neighbouring Heavenly resort, gamblers flocking to the casinos on the Nevada side of the border, or fishermen happy to find a quiet spot and enjoy the day. See

Lake Taal, Philippines

A short day trip from Manila, there's something very Russian dolls about Lake Taal. It's a lake inside a large volcanic crater, but there's also a volcano island in the middle of the lake. And that volcano also has a lake, with a little island inside said lake. It's probably best to just enjoy the trip out there on the traditional fishing boat, then the climb up to the rim ... See

Lake Como, Italy

Formed by glaciers, Lake Como has long been the favoured retreat of Europe's wealthy and aristocratic. The spindly, Y-shaped arms give an almost fjord-like feel. Sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing are there for the more energetic, but it's really all about holing up in a villa with magical views, and perhaps enjoying a few spa treatments. See

Dal, India

Colourful houseboats dot the shores, the snow-topped Pir Panjal mountains rise behind, and plenty of Srinagar's most appealing attractions surround it. These include the Shankaracharya Temple, which dates back to 250BC, and the Hari Parbat hill fort. The Mughals have left a strong mark here, especially in the form of primped, formal gardens such as Shalimar Bagh. See

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Long Eastern Europe's best kept secret, Ohrid is sandwiched in the mountains between Albania and Macedonia. The 87-kilometre shoreline is dotted with ever-so-pretty little churches, while boat trips head out to pebbly beaches and rocky sunbathing plateaus. The town of Ohrid itself is one of the cheapest places in Europe to eat and drink – you can basically feast like a king for a relative pittance. See

Lago Atitlan

Guatemala's tourism honeypot has photogenic volcanoes rising up alongside it – treks to the lava flows are available. But a major part of the attraction is the towns and villages surrounding it. Panajachel is a laid-back visitor hub full of craft stalls, Santiago Atitlan is notorious for the worship of chain-smoking bad boy god Maximon and Spanish language schools cluster in San Pedro. See

The Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan

The Dead Sea is by no means the prettiest lake in the world, but it's not necessarily the views you come for. Its shores are 430.5 metres below sea level – the lowest land elevation on the planet – and the water is astonishingly saline. It's nearly 10 times saltier than the ocean – and that means it takes a really concerted effort to sink in it. Many visitors are content with floating on the surface, although there are plenty of spa hotels on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides promising to harness the lake's supposed curative properties. See

See also: A dip in some of the weirdest water on the planet


Lake Malawi, Malawi

Home to more species of fish than any other lake, Lake Malawi is formed by the African continental plate slowly pulling apart. It can be up to 700 metres deep at the northern end, while lodges and fishing villages spread out along the shoreline. The most spectacular stretches are arguably in the south, where the Lake Malawi National Park is found. For those not put off by the thought of hippos and crocodiles, kayaking is an option. Otherwise, there are plenty of golden beaches to laze on. See

Lake Eyre, South Australia

When Lake Eyre fills with water – and that generally only happens a couple of times per century – it effectively becomes a vast inland sea covering 9500 square kilometres. That's when the wildlife flocks in. The rest of the time? It's a vast, twinkling salt pan, best taken in from the air. See

David Whitley has travelled as a guest of the New Zealand, California and Philippines tourism authorities.

See also: Seeing Japan's most beautiful lake could ruin your life

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