Image: HotelCasa Palopo, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Casa Palopo Hotel
Guatemala's Lake Atitlan is distinguished by the three volcanoes that line its southern shore. The Hotel Casa Palopo incorporates the Mayan influence into its design scheme, bringing the local culture right into the hotel.
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updated 8/1/2008 10:36:28 AM ET 2008-08-01T14:36:28

The ocean gets all the glory when it comes to waterside vacationing. But there are plenty of reasons to head to a lake instead. For starters, stinging saltwater and crashing waves are mostly absent from lakes. Then consider that most lakesides offer incredible views and a sense of serenity—and there’s a solid argument for skipping the ocean altogether.

Indeed, there’s usually a unique sense of place one feels lakeside. Rather than looking out at the vast emptiness of the ocean, broken only by the line where water meets sky, many vacationers appreciate the dramatic and varied scenery beheld from the shores of many lakes.

More vacationers seem to be catching on. “We are seeing an increase in clients wanting to go to unique lakeside resorts,” says Lindsey Wallace, president of Linara Travel in Calabasas, Calif.

As with the most beautiful (and popular) beaches, there’s no shortage of luxury at the edges of the world’s most beautiful lakes. In fact, many of the world's lakeshores have long provided the most prestigious of addresses. Italy’s Lake Como, for example, is renowned for its extravagant villas that attract celebrities and other elite vacationers from far and wide.

“The atmosphere is totally different," says Daniele Panzarinm CEO of Target Travel in Venice, Italy. "From one shore you can see the other, from any corner you see all the lake [and] you can drive with a car around the lake and always see a nice picture. In the ocean it’s always nice, sure, but not the same panorama." Beyond the lake, there are often mountains, and, in the case of Lake Como, stunning Italian gardens. “You can see the gardens of the most beautiful Villas, like Melzi or Serbelloni."

Likewise, on Lake Pichola in India, guests at the Taj Lake Palace not only sleep in the 18th-century palace built by a Mewar royal, but also can take boat rides to see the numerous other magnificent palaces dotting the lake’s shore.

Of course, not all luxe lakesides have been centuries in the making. The Hotel Palafitte, which quite literally sits on Switzerland’s Lake Neuchatel (more than half of the rooms are built on stilts out in the lake), prides itself on its innovative technology system, which was developed specifically for the hotel in partnership with the Siemens Corporation. The hotel's modernity, in fact, sets it apart from the medieval villages and wine vineyards that otherwise surround the lake.

Image: Palafitte Hotel, Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland
Palafitte Hotel
Part of the Swiss Three Lakes Region, Lake Neuchatel is known as the largest lake contained completely within Switzerland — and the Hotel Palafitte, a proudly modern hotel with many rooms literally is on the lake (supported by stilts, of course).
When it comes to serenity, few lakes can compare to the Adirondacks’ Upper and Lower Saranac Lakes, which lie within the Adirondack Park, the largest protected area in the continental United States. With 2.6 million acres of the park destined to remain absolutely undeveloped, visitors can rest assured that the area will forever retain the sense of solitude that makes it so irresistible in the first place. The Point Resort, located on Upper Saranac Lake, mixes the finer things in life into this relaxing equation, serving formal dinners (jacket and tie required) amid the classic Adirondack ambience.

The Kaya Mawa Lodge on the immense Lake Malawi in East Africa offers an even more remote tranquility. Situated on an island in the lake’s northern waters, guests find themselves at the edge of a landscape with unpaved roads and part-time electricity. In a place like this, “getting away from it all” can take on an entirely new meaning.

Closer to home, but no less remote, is Emerald Lake Lodge in the heart of Canada's Yoho National Park. Staying at any of the 24 cabins nestled on the lake's edge means truly disconnecting—there's no internet, no cell phone signal, not even a television. Instead, get in touch with stunning mountains, breathtaking waterfalls and, of course, the Emerald Lake itself, which was discovered in the late 19th century when the Canadian Pacific Railway was being built.

Image: Kaya Mawa Lodge, Lake Malawi (or Lake Nyasa), Malawi
Kaya Mawa Lodge
Lake Malawi in East Africa is the ninth largest lake in the world. It's a sweeping setting for Kaya Mawa Lodge, nestled on Likoma Island in the lake's northern waters.
Water sports and activities are also generally easier to partake of on a lake; any novice water-skier will tell you that ocean waves are the enemy. Boating of all kinds, snorkeling, fishing or hiking the neighboring grounds are all commonplace at lake resorts, as resorts often provide guests with all the necessary equipment. And then there’s that favorite ambition of lake lovers—swimming from one shore to the other, no equipment required.

Try that at the ocean.

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