Visually striking and just plain cool to say you’ve visited, volcanic lakes are a great vacation option for geology enthusiasts, photographers and waterfront family fun in general. For independent travelers, a little down time along the shores of one of these beauties can go a long way toward alleviating the travel fatigue that often frequents getaways taken on a backpacker’s budget.
While there are a number of volcanic lakes around the world worthy of a visit, these represent what I consider to be the most visually impressive. Here are five cool volcanic crater lakes worth checking out.
5. Lake Bolsena, Italy
A large volcanic lake near Rome, Italy’s Lake Bolsena offers waterside serenity along with a number of bed and breakfast options and agricultural tourism opportunities. It’s one of several volcanic lakes in the region, and has been a popular holiday spot for several generations. Technically a crater lake formed by a collapsed caldera, Bolsena also contains two volcanic islands that were formed by underwater eruptions. One of them, Bisentina, is accessible by ferry and is home to oak groves, Italian gardens and several historical monuments. The other, Martana, is privately owned and not open to outside visitors. Dining enthusiasts will also find plenty to enjoy when visiting Lake Bolsena, as there are a number of eateries there to accommodate the tourist crowd.
4. Crater Lake National Park, United States
Known for its strikingly blue water and awe-inspiring beauty, Crater Lake, the centerpiece of Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, is located about 250 miles south of Portland. Formed nearly 8,000 years ago during the explosion of Mount Mazama, the lake was kept secret from explorers until the mid-1800s by the native Klamath people. Crater Lake is popular with visitors from around the world, and is also a sought-after field-trip destination. It’s also a fun park to visit during the offseason, when you can take ranger-guided snowshoe hikes on the park’s trail system.
3. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Bordered by three volcanoes on its southern edge, Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan is known for its depth and for being exceptionally picturesque. The basin supports abundant agriculture and animal life, which in turn supports a significant local indigenous population. Traditional dress is still prevalent, making for phenomenal photo ops for tourists to the area. Those looking to take the expected “drive around the lake,” however, should be forewarned. There is no road around the lake to speak of, with the towns along the lake’s shore reachable only by water, or via separate roads in from the mountains. So if you’re looking to explore the various villages along Atitlan, chances are you’ll need to hop on a boat.
2. Lake Toba, Indonesia
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, Sumatra’s Lake Toba offers an exotic getaway to a destination known for its on-the-ground affordability. The lake was formed some 74,000 years ago after one of the largest explosions in the Earth’s history. Today, Lake Toba is home to those who make their living off the tourists who flock there to see its exquisite beauty.
1. Lake Nicaragua, Central America
Larger than some U.S. states, Lake Nicaragua is one of the true gems of Central America. Tectonic in origin, Mar Dulce also has a chain of volcanoes running through it that have created a number of small volcanic islands reachable from the lake’s shore. While visiting, check out the waterfront colonial capital of Granada. Established in 1524, it’s one of the oldest cities in the New World and has been lovingly restored to a practically pristine condition. Stroll through the cobblestone streets to see idyllic churches, fountains and courtyards, or enjoy a day on the water. Lake Nicaragua is one of the most impressive lakes you’ll find, volcanic or otherwise. So it pays to take time and smell the roses while you’re there.
One More: Lake Kivu, Africa
While a little more out of the way, and in an area bordering on dangerous by some people’s standards, Africa’s Lake Kivu is certainly visually impressive. Known by some as the “exploding lake” due to the gas trapped on the bottom, Lake Kivu borders both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is one of Africa’s Great Lakes.