Seven Great Lakes in Asia

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Nature

Who doesn’t like a great lake? No, not those great lakes, but any lake where you can see an amazing reflection or view that forces you to make your own reflection. Whether it’s a serene place or an amazing lake that has a story, these are great places to stop for a rest and think. Write in your journal. Or just relax – isn’t that what lakes are for?

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Mirror Lake, New Zealand

Sunrise at the Mirror Lake in New Zealand, near Fox Village, is no mean feat. You must drive or bike a few miles from town, then trek in the darkness around the lake to get this view. But it is certainly a noteworthy goal, as a lake clear as glass and silent makes way for this surreal mirror image as light fills the sky. It is a must-see when seeing the glaciers in the area, and even during midday a walk around the entire lake is lovely.

If you’re looking for more reasons to visit New Zealand, look no further than our Dreaming of New Zealand photo blog.

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, expanding many times its size during monsoon season. Because of the incredible change in landscape between dry and wet seasons, the people who live near here stay on floating villages – complete with televisions, petrol stations, and other typical amenities. It is a surreal sight to behold, especially since the far shore of the lake cannot be seen, leaving you feeling as if you are afloat at sea. It is possible to visit as a daytrip from Siem Reap.

There is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - Susonauta

Photo credit - Susonauta

Lake Biwa, Japan

Lakek Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan; because of its location next to the historic capital of Japan, it is well known to Japanese historians, but the lake’s beaches are also popular to those not interested in history or literature. Other popular attractions include Ukimido, the floating temple, the Seta no Karahashi Bridge (especially at sunset!), and biwako Hana Funsui – the world’s largest water fountain.

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border in Russia, is a geological phenomenon. It is massive, containing 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and the deepest (and strangely, clearest) lakes in the world. Because of this and the hundreds of unique species that live here and nowhere else, Lake Baikal is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Listvyanka is also a UNESCO site and popular stopping point.

Not far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia.

Photo credit - George Lu

Photo credit - George Lu

Lake Wuhua Hai, China

Wuhua Hai, meaning ‘five flower lake’ in Chinese, is one of several of the amazing lakes in the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The name is appropriate, because just in the span of a few meters the lake changes color, from blue to black to yellow to green and back again. It is surreal, spooky, and amazing. Don’t miss the other lakes here in the valley, such as China’s version of the Mirror Lake featured above.

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Would you believe the above photo was shot in Kyrgyzstan? Lakes are a popular tourist attraction in the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan, and Lake Issyk-Kul is no exception. It’s hidden inside a deep valley, giving you endless views of the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. It was a popular resort destination during Soviet times, and although those resorts fell into disrepair, they are making a resurgence with foreign tourists.

Check out our recent series of posts, where we covered the four “Stans”, starting from Kazakhstan, Tajiskistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is the second largest lake in the country and one of its highest. An entire population of people, called the Intha, have built their lives and villages around this lake. Visit in September or October where you can experience Hpaung Daw U Festival, where Buddha images from the nearby Pagoda are paraded around the lake and there are dozens of boat races. This is followed by the Thadingyut festival of lights celebration.

Myanmar is also home to off-the-beaten-path Putao, a destination that is a veritable paradise on earth.

* Note: Some people seem to get held up with my definition of Asia. Asia = all of the destinations featured on Unearthing Asia, which includes places you might call “Australasia” or “Middle East.” Enjoy.


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best Cheap Holiday Deal and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

July 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Nature, Uniquely Far East

You’ve probably never heard of Kamchatka. It’s a peninsula on the far eastern edge of Russia. During the days of the USSR, Soviet controls meant that no foreigners were allowed into Kamchatka – even Russians required special permission to travel. Thus the area today remains one of the most unexplored regions in this part of the world. But with its many volcanoes, geysers, and a lake of acid (a geological feature, not a leftover from previous governments), the area should be on your bucket list of things to see.

The view from the top. Photo credit - Sputnik Mania.

The view from the top. Photo credit - Sputnik Mania.

The Volcanoes of Kamchatka

The Volcanoes of Kamchatka are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; there are nearly 300 of them and 29 are still active, although as the link above mentions, no serious eruptions have happened in recent years. As far as volcanoes go, I think these are some of the most majestic and beautiful – sharp peaks, snow covered sides, and pools of water so thickly colored they looks solid.

Karymsky Volcano is where you’ll find the largest natural reservoir of acid water in the world. An unusual geological combination of events caused Karymsky Lake – which is almost four miles from the volcano – to literally boil, killing off everything in it and turning the freshwater into a salty, acidic mess. Swimming not recommended.

Abundant wildlife in the region. Photo credit - AP Photography & RobNunn.

Abundant wildlife in the region. Photo credit - AP Photography & RobNunn.

Wolves, Bears, and Fish – Oh my!

Given the little human involvement in the area, it’s no surprise that wildlife is thriving here. The best shot for sending your postcards home is one of the adorable brown bears – there are far more of them here than humans. Steller’s sea eagles also breed, never mind the other many species of wolf, fox, wolverine, lemming, reindeer, and moose. Kamchatka is also home to the world’s most diverse set of salmon – Kurile Lake has one of the largest sockeye salmon populations in the world.

Keep in mind if you wish to hunt, a license is required and they are in limited supply. Hunting is also restricted by season. It is best to work with a travel agent or specialty tour company to make necessary arrangements.

Snow-capped mountains. Photo credit - Val.

Snow-capped mountains. Photo credit - Val.

Hiking and Skiing

Depending on the season you visit, you’ll probably opt for either hiking or skiing. Hiking is the best (only?) way to see many of the most intriguing sites as there isn’t exactly a robust transport infrastructure. Hikes will take you to some of the many hot springs and geysers and let you get up close – but not too close! You’ll also have some great photo stops of scenic views and vistas – remember this is a peninsula so the ocean is never too far away – as well as checking out all the local flora and fauna. Recommended is to combine your hike with a helicopter tour – some of the best sights just aren’t accessible on foot or via four-wheeled transport.

Speaking of helicopters, a popular skiing option is the heli-ski; a helicopter drops you in an otherwise inaccessible location and off you go. I’ve seen this in action in Switzerland and I have to say, this is only for the brave of heart – if you’re a little unsettled on the skis, then this is not for you. For generic downhill ski, head to Moroznaya Hill – that’s where the Russian Olympic team has been training for the past ten years. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. Other hot spots include Krasnaya Sopka, and Edelweiss; like any typical ski area, there are runs for all skill levels and instructors can be arranged for lessons and refresher courses.

If You Go

Book your airline tickets now, as that’s the only way to reach Kamchatka. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the second-largest city in the world which cannot be reached by road. Flights into the airport (called Elyzovo, not Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) connect with various cities in Russia, as well as Alaska and seasonal charter service to Korea. Once you arrive, you’ll note the lack of public transport and a lack of accurate maps. Thus, it is highly recommended only to travel to Kamchatka via a reputable travel agent, to ensure safe travel with the appropriate visa paperwork and permissions.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.