canada, winter, frozen

Your guide to the world’s most travel-worthy frozen lakes

Words: Josh Rakic
Photo credit: Darwin Wiggett

Discover the most beautiful frozen lakes on the planet.

Dark, cold and likely to see you put on at least a few pounds, winter is by all accounts the worst season of the year. It’s the candy equivalent of the black jelly bean - has its merits but nine times out of 10, you could do without it. But with the freezing temps comes a rare tranquility and natural phenomenon that trumps fall’s color change, spring’s budding flowers and summer’s, um, heat - frozen lakes. Snow’s pretty impressive, too, but seeing flowing waters turn stagnant with ice is next level - Mother Nature’s bridge between two sides, two states, two countries. And as those freezing temperatures draw ever nearer, here are some of nature’s frozen canvasses at their best.

Lake Superior, Wisconsin, USA
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© Nikki Vig/ EyeEm

Unless you’re an Olympic swimmer with a thermal wetsuit, endurance paddler or a boat owner, your chances of reaching the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior any other time of the year are somewhere between nought and zero. But come winter when the temp gauge bottoms out, it’s as easy as throwing on your boots or skates and making the journey by foot. And the cracked lips and freezing finger tips are worth it once you reach the islands, it’s iconic tunnels frozen solid to create ice caves, complete with frozen waterfalls. It’s one of few reasons to visit northern Wisconsin in the winter time.

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Abraham Lake, Canada
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© Naphat/Getty Images

An artificial lake, Abraham Lake looks and feels so real its as if it was designed by one of Beverly Hills’ top surgeons. Jokes aside, it’s a hybrid man-made/natural wonder, making it unique to the list for that reason alone. Better yet, at temperatures in excess of 22 degrees, it becomes a piece of art unto itself - showcasing frozen bubbles of flammable methane gas just below the surface. A Song of Fire and Ice, indeed. It’s actually created by bacteria decomposing other organic materials.

Prags, Italy
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© Wikimedia

Italians don’t do anything in halves - pizza, pasta, cheese, charcuterie, motorbikes, beer -  and one’s quick to understand why when you take a look at the country’s landscape from the waterways of Venice to the mountains - they’ve got hella standards to live up to. And one of the country’s best kept secrets is South Tyrol, an almost century-old autonomous province sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria that became a Nazi foothold in WWII. The Dolomites mountains are littered with beautiful lakes but few compare to Prags - especially in the winter time.

 
Baikal, Siberia, Russia
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© Gerald Nowak

From Marxism to Communism to Putin and the seemingly endless cold of Siberia, Russia’s hardly considered a travel destination territory. Let alone for the adventurer. But geographically, it’s a land of wonders. And few more spectacular than lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s deepest lake  (5387 ft) and home to 20 per cent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. It’s some 25 million years old and come the winter, it freezes clear with ice caves and chilled man-made swimming holes to boot - if you’re game. It’s largely untouched and if you don’t feel like getting out of the car and skating, just take a leisurely drive across it.

Chaqmaqtin Lake, Afghanistan 
trekking, mountains, frozen, nature

© Matthieu Paley

Woolie Yaks run wild and locals of Little Pamir - an area just 60 miles by six - continue to live in their traditional ways, making Chaqmaqtin Lake (try pronouncing that quickly) and its surrounds a genuine look into the ancient past. It’s largely untouched by modern civilization. And among the mountains and sand, the lake is its lifeblood, which turns into a migratory highway in the winter when it freezes over.

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