Sailing the world's most beautiful lakes

Story highlights

  • The best sailing adventures aren't always to be had out at sea
  • Inland lakes and waterways offer an alternative nautical challenge
  • CNN has highlighted some of the most popular inland sailing hotspots from around the world

When it comes to notable water attractions, the humble lake has a hard time keeping up with the swelling oceans, seas and rivers of this world.

But for many a water-faring holidaymaker, these picturesque, calm and often overlooked expanses can offer an interesting -- even challenging -- alternative to the their more voluminous counterparts.

Indeed, tourists wishing to combine a sailing holiday with other cultural and sightseeing activities may consider an inland boating getaway the perfect vacation solution.

See also: The best tropical island sailing spots

So, with the big-lake holidaymaker and landlocked sailor in mind, we bring to you a selection of the world's most spectacular lakes tailored especially for the boating enthusiast.

Lake Baikal

Tourists boats moored on the shore of Lake Baikal, Russia.

The deep Siberian hinterland may not seem like the most likely hotbed of adventure sailing activity.

But it is here that Lake Baikal offers potent sailing challenges against the inspiring backdrop of one Russia's most treasured national parks.

The largest and most biologically diverse lake in the world, Baikal hosts 45 islands and contains roughly one fifth of all freshwater on the earth's surface.

Charter companies offer private yachts for hire, throwing in all manner of scuba and diving equipment for use during the summer months.

As the winter temperatures drop below freezing however, diving gear may be swapped for fishing equipment and winter warms for on-board activities.

These additions may come in handy in April 2013 when visitors will be able to attend the Baikal Ice Yachting Championships.

Lake Garda

A tourist hot-spot since the days of the Roman Empire, Lake Garda is today one of Italy's premier water-sport destinations.

Azure blue waters and strong winds mean the lake is an attractive base for many a professional sailor, while regattas and races, such as the popular Centomiglia and Intervela, attract crowds and competitors alike.

See also: Incredible racing images from the sea

For those seeking a less competitive sailing getaway however, Lake Garda still offers plenty to see and do.

Idyllic lakeside towns and water-sport resorts offer extensive cultural and adventure activities and the well preserved Grotte di Catullo ruins on the lake's southern shores provide a spectacular example of Italy's Roman past.

The Netherlands

Boats sail on a lake near the town of Harderwijk in the Netherlands.

Barging, sailing or wind surfing; there's always something happening on Holland's bustling inland lakes.

Could anything else really be expected from the small, low-lying country where nearly every town is accessible by water?

The Frisian, de Kaag and Vecht Lakes all offer fantastic sailing, swimming, rowing, water-skiing and surfing facilities.

In the summer months, regattas and boat races are also a common site here and all along the country's nearby North Sea Coast.

A jaunt along Hollands extensive canal system meanwhile enables sailors to venture further towards the country's cities and pretty interior.

Lake Titicaca

Straddling the border region between Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the second biggest lake in South America.

At more than 12,000 feet above sea level in the Andean mountain range, it is also one of the highest navigable lakes in the world.

Tour operators have long offered Titicaca boat trips and cruises but a number of companies now charter yachts and catamarans.

See also: Charter a superyacht like a billionaire

Visitors to the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca can stop of at the mystical Isla del Sol (Island of the sun) and Isla del Luna (Island of the moon), taking in spectacular vistas of the surrounding lake.

The ancient ruins of Inca towns and villages can also be found on these islands, enabling the archaeologically inclined to drop anchor and explore.

Lake Geneva

A boat sails across the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva.

Part Swiss, part French (where it is known as Lac Leman), Lake Geneva is the largest of Europe's Alpine lakes.

Sailing and yacht clubs for boating enthusiasts abound, but there are also water-borne activities for beginners and thrill seekers.

Numerous sailing schools cater for children and first-timers while the more confident can try their hands at water-skiing.

Those looking to experience the beauty of the lake at their own pace can cruise the 46 mile long on stretch of water stopping of to sample the delights of picturesque towns such as Montreux along the way.

Summer visitors meanwhile can catch a glimpse of the Bol d'Or Mirabaud, one of the most important inland races in the world.

Where did we miss? Let us know your favorite sailing lakes in the comments section below.


    • Wide shot of a sailboat from a drone

      Drones offer new angle on superyachts

      "Sometimes, I fly the drone with my head in a trash bag so I don't get salt spray from the sea on my equipment," says drone operator Justice L Bentz.
    • Dave Swete and Nick Dana on the bow of Alvimedica for a windy downwind sail change during the team's second trans-Atlantic training session, this time from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to Southampton, England

      Disney duo's new 'fairytale story'

      Navigate the world's most treacherous seas, crossing 73,000 nautical kilometers in a confined space with stressed-out, sleep-deprived crewmates. 
    • The Triton Submarine.

      Millionaire water toys

      Personal submarines, jetpacks, even 'walking boats.'
      Why the Monaco Yacht Show is a bit like stumbling upon James Bond's secret gadget lab.
    • London's new superyacht hotel, in Royal Victoria Docks.

      Inside $67M superyacht hotel

      London's new superyacht hotel is so enormous, authorities had to lower the water level by five meters just to fit it under a bridge.
    • Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

      What next for sailing's daredevil?

      His mast-walking stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube, but Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best.
    • Endeavour, a 1934 J-Class yacht, racing during The America's Cup Anniversary Jubilee around The Isle of Wight 21 August 2001. The four entries in the J-Class category represent the oldest remaining class used in America's Cup competition. Over 200 boats, including vintage yachts are taking part in the America's Cup Jubilee to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the first America's Cup race in 1851. AFP PHOTO Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

      Through hell and high water

      Elizabeth Meyer talks to CNN's Mainsail about the "Armageddon battle" to restore the pioneering J-class boat Endeavour.
    • Specatators use a boat to watch as boat crews race on the River Thames at the Henley Royal Regatta on July 2, 2014 in Henley-on-Thames, England. Opening today and celebrating its 175th year, the Henley Royal Regatta is regarded as part of the English social season and is held annually over five days on the River Thames. Thousands of rowing fans are expected to come to watch races which are head-to-head knock out competitions, raced over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 m) which regularly attracts international crews to race. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

      'Downton Abbey' on the water

      Like "Downton Abbey," Henley's Royal Regatta reminds its visitors of an England of old. But for how much longer?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge poses next to the America's Cup as she visits the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for the Ben Ainslie America's Cup Launch on June 10, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

      Britain's $134M secret weapon?

      Can a $134 million budget and the royal seal of approval bring the coveted America's Cup back to British shores for the first time in sailing history?
    • Eyos Expeditions offers superyacht journeys to the most remote places on Earth.

      Yachting to the ends of the Earth

      Bored of lounging on your superyacht in the Mediterranean? An increasing number of millionaires are now sailing their luxury vessels to the ends of the Earth, to get their kicks.