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Sailing the world's most beautiful lakes

By Eoghan Macguire, for CNN
updated 6:27 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
The largest lake in Italy, Garda has been a popular tourist destination since the days of the Roman Empire and is now a magnet for sailing enthusiasts. The largest lake in Italy, Garda has been a popular tourist destination since the days of the Roman Empire and is now a magnet for sailing enthusiasts.
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Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
The Netherlands
The Netherlands
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Lake Michigan, Chicago
Lake Michigan, Chicago
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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

MainSail is CNN's monthly sailing show, exploring the sport of sailing, luxury travel and the latest in design and technology.

(CNN) -- 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.

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

Lake Baikal

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.

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

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.

A boat sails across the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva.
A boat sails across the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva.

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.

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