01. Víti – Iceland
Translated from Icelandic, víti means “hell” — which makes sense, when you consider that people used to believe hell lurked under volcanoes. In 1724, a huge volcanic eruption shook Krafla in Northern Iceland. After it stopped, its cauldrons of mud continued to bubble for more than a hundred years. The result is Víti, a 1,000-foot (300 meter) crater filled with picturesque turquoise water. The most accessible of the lakes listed here, the Víti crater can be accessed via paved road from the highway. If you go, remember to stay on the path — the volcano is still active
02. Tobavarchkhili Lake – Georgia
Experienced hikers delight in the landscapes surrounding Tobavarchkhili Lake in Georgia. It is so remote that even some residents aren’t aware of it. The total trek takes an average of five days, requires a local guide, and can only be completed in late July or early August. The rest of the year, the views are shrouded in fog or snow. After wending your way through forests, river gorges with views of glaciers and waterfalls, and fields of rhododendrons, you arrive at the lake: a silvery, reflective pool surrounded by craggy peaks and delicate wildflowers. You may spot shepherds on the way, and you can sample handmade local cheeses.
03. Laguna Verde – Bolivia
In Bolivia, the volcano Licancabur is so remote that it was used by NASA scientists to train astronauts for missions to Mars. After the difficult ascent from the village of Uyuni, look down on Laguna Verde (“Green Lake”), nestled at the base of the mountain. The sea-green hues defy description. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot one of the three types of native flamingos bathing by the arsenic- and mineral-infused waters.
04. Spade and Venus Lakes – United States
Starting just outside of Cle Elum in Washington State, it takes 14 miles on a flat, repetitive trail to reach Spade and Venus Lakes. There’s a section of the trail where you have to remove your boots and wade through the chilly river water. But for those backpackers who manage, the views are worth the effort. Snow-capped peaks and evergreen forest surround the deep blue waters. The fragile alpine terrain is sensitive to the footsteps of hikers, so remember to camp away from the lake and meadows.
05. Llyn y Fan Fach – Wales
This beautiful and remote lake is located in the Black Mountains. The Welsh name can be translated as “Lake of the Small Beacon Hill” — a fitting moniker, given its hilly surroundings. If you manage to find Llyn y Fan Fach despite the poorly maintained road, lack of signage, and necessity of going through a sheep farm, relax by the ancient, glassy waters as red kites, kestrels, and skylarks wheel overhead.
Written by Lindsay Vermeulen
Headline image of Laguna Verde by Marc Turcan/Shutterstock