When hot weather hits, travelers tend to have beaches on their brain. And while taking a refreshing dip in the ocean is a blissful way to beat the heat, there’s something special about the often-forgotten lake vacation. With opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and lounging, lakes also make for great playgrounds in the summertime. So before you start searching for sandy stretches around the world, take a look at our list of gorgeous lakeside hotels, from Idaho to Italy. Some are bright blue oases tucked beneath towering peaks, and others are backed by idyllic towns, but all are so stunning that the ocean will give you a pass for pining over them.
Casta Diva Resort & Spa, Lake Como
Why choose between whiling away the day at the pool or the lake when you can do both at Casta Diva Resort & Spa. Located on the shores of Lake Como, in the town of Blevio, this romantic retreat stars a floating pool jutting out into the water. At night, the wood-decked oasis transforms into a stage for a spectacular sound and light show, complete with fountains choreographed to operatic arias. Speaking of operas, 19th-century opera singer Giuditta Pasta resided and purchased one of the villas here in 1827. The theatrical aesthetic is apparent throughout the property, though, from the lavishly decorated rooms (expect gilded furnishings, fine art, and panoramic views of the lake) to the dramatic color schemes in public spaces. Rounding out the splurge-worthy amenities are the subterranean spa -- finished with an indoor pool, sauna, and Mediterranean bath -- and several fine-dining eateries. Honeymoon, anyone?
Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, Switzerland
From its roster of distinguished guests (Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Neil Armstrong, and B.B. King, to name a few) to its luxe decor (oil paintings, marble columns, and antiques), Hotel Schweizerhof is not short on impressive features. But it’s the picturesque lakeside location, in the city’s charming Old Town, that really steals the show. Family-run for five generations, the 101-room property provides superb views of Lake Lucerne from many of its rooms and main Pavillon Restaurant. The top-notch views also come with top-notch amenities: a chic bar with a selection of cigars and rare whiskies, a relaxing spa and sauna, and a calendar of concerts and festivals hosted on-site. And as if you didn’t already have enough Instagram material, the hotel’s exterior is lit in different colors each night, creating photogenic reflections on the lake.
L’Imperial Palace, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes
Located on the banks of Lake Annecy, in a historic building dating back to 1913, L’Imperial Palace is worth visiting for the views alone. The secluded setting, surrounded by lush gardens, befits the idyllic Belle Epoque architecture of the building. But there’s more to do than just admire the area. Guests have plenty of diversions at their disposal: a large casino, private beach area, an open-air terrace with lake and mountain views, several on-site restaurants, and a spa with a pool (though the latter isn’t free to access).
Blanket Bay, New Zealand
With hiking, fly-fishing, heli-skiing, or horseback riding on offer (all can be arranged by the hotel), Blanket Bay, on the banks of mountain-backed Lake Wakatipu, is built for those who appreciate the great outdoors. The stone-and-timber hotel seemingly blends into the natural alpine setting, and oversized windows in most common areas maximize the dramatic views, as do the balconies or terraces in rooms. The main lodge, designed by an Idaho architect, will make you feel closer to home, as it’s reminiscent of the American Rockies with antler chandeliers, antique rugs, hunting and fishing paraphernalia, and a stone fireplace. Keep in mind there’s not much in the immediate area (aside from a game room, small gym, spa, and outdoor lap pool on the property), though the town of Glenorchy (a “Lord of the Rings” filming locale) is only a five-minute drive north and Queenstown (filled with adrenaline-pumping adventures) sits 45 minutes southeast.
Lake Austin Spa Resort, Texas
Built on 19 lakeside acres in Texas Hill Country, this all-inclusive is perfect for guests who want to stay put on the property. Guests can paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or relax by the bucolic lake in lounge chairs or hammocks. Meanwhile, landlubbers will enjoy hiking, yoga, fitness classes, wellness lectures, and spa treatments. There are also several pools with sunbeds and cabanas for sunbathing, as well as a library stocked with games and books for lazy afternoons. The restaurant serves food made with produce and herbs grown at the resort’s garden. And though you’ll feel world’s away, remember you’re just a 40-minute drive to the capital city.
Emerald Lake Lodge, Canada
Overlooking pristine Emerald Lake, in the heart of Yoho National Park, this 1902-built hotel will force you to disconnect from everyday life. Guests have limited access to Wi-Fi and cell service. Instead, they spend their days holed up in cozy cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and private balconies, or sweating it out in the sauna or outdoor hot tub. The property also houses a game room, an oak bar salvaged from an 1890’s Yukon saloon, and an elegant dining room. But of course, area activities abound: Winter and spring lure skiers and ice-skaters, while summer and fall allows for canoeing, hiking, and horseback riding.
Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid
New York’s Adirondack Mountains are brimming with beautiful nature vistas -- and Mirror Lake Inn is no exception. Family-run since the 1930s, this historic property makes the most of its scenic setting with large windows overlooking its namesake lake. Some suites have balconies to take in the view, too. Beyond the natural beauty, the inn has pleasing dining options as well. The View serves locally sourced food and an impressive wine list, while The Cottage has an apres-ski vibe, with fire pits in the winter. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are even offered in the lobby. To work it all off, head to the indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, seasonal ice-skating rink, or Mirror Lake (water sports equipment is available).
Palace Luzern, Switzerland
Over a century old, Palace Luzern remains a top hotel in Lucerne today. That’s largely thanks to its unbeatable location directly on Lake Lucerne, about a 15-minute walk from Old Town. Yes, that means views are primo, especially from the outdoor terrace overlooking the water -- the perfect perch from which to enjoy a cocktail alfresco. If your budget allows for it, opt for one of the rooms with a balcony looking out onto the lake. The classy seafood restaurant, luxurious spa with sauna, cigar lounge, handsome lobby bar, and stylish gym give even more reasons to head here on your next vacation.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Lake Como
Travelers looking for a taste of la dolce vita -- and don’t mind paying the price for it -- should head to this upscale retreat, positioned on the edge of Lake Como. Originally built as a luxurious holiday retreat for an aristocratic family in the 19th century, the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni now serves as an escape for a well-heeled crowd. Everything about the grounds still drips with wealth, from the marble staircases to the crystal chandeliers. Expect crème-de-la-crème amenities, too: a luxe spa with a sauna and steam room, two pools (an outdoor option overlooking the lake and another inside), an indoor squash court, two outdoor tennis courts, raved-about restaurants, and rooms with ornate decor and views of the lake or park and village.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort, Idaho
When you picture a lakeside vacation in the U.S., usual suspects like Lake Tahoe and Lake George likely spring to mind first. Idaho might not rank on that list, but allow us to change your mind. The only hotel to sit right on Lake Coeur d’Alene, this resort is the perfect launchpad for enjoying the area’s activities. It has its own golf course, but visitors can also enjoy biking, fishing, and water sports. There’s also a spa, indoor pool, hot tub, seasonal outdoor pool, and multiple restaurants that get rave reviews. And did we mention the views of the lake and mountains are spectacular? Opt for a room with a balcony with water vistas, if you can. Given the wealth of amenities, it’s suited for both families and romancing couples.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
If active vacations are your speed, then consider The Broadmoor, a luxury hotel dating back to 1918. Located on beautiful Cheyenne Lake at the foot of the Colorado Rockies, the 3,000-acre estate spoils guests for choice, with opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, boating, fly-fishing, tennis, cycling, and horseback riding. There are also multiple on-site restaurants, several swimming pools and hot tubs, three golf courses, and a full-service spa. Best of all, after an action-packed day, the hotel’s opulent interiors (marble floors, ornate furniture, crystal chandeliers) and exterior (landscaped lawns with intricately sculpted fountains and stone-floor terraces) present the ultimate place to retire.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
Located on the shores of Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second-largest lake, Ashford Castle has enough to keep guests occupied so they never have to leave the 350-acre estate. Fun activities include falconry, clay pigeon shooting, archery, trout and salmon fishing, cycling, kayaking, horseback riding, golfing, and zip-lining. There’s even a 32-seat movie theater with its own popcorn machine, a cigar terrace, beautiful spa, and grand common spaces with chandeliers, oil paintings, and antique furniture. Rooms are equally sumptuous -- after all, the property, which was first built in the 13th century, is a castle. But what you’re really after is the dreamy views -- and they deliver throughout the property.
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino
With clear skies, soaring mountains, and beautiful blue waters, Lake Tahoe offers travelers all the ingredients for a stellar summer vacation. And this Hyatt Regency resort allows folks to stay close to the action, thanks to its location directly on the lake. That means you can enjoy lots of water sports, in addition to hiking and biking in the area. A 24-hour casino, lovely spa, indoor/outdoor pool, lakefront cottages, several on-site restaurants, and a private beach with cabanas and sun loungers add to the summertime fun. Of course, come winter, snow and access to ski-runs are thrown into the equation, making this a year-round destination.
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