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When you picture travelling in China, you probably fantasise about places that look exactly like Hangzhou’s West Lake.

1. West Lake, China

It has glassy waters, low-hanging tree branches, old-fashioned boats, and knock-your-socks-off sunsets that seem to seep from the sky into the lake itself. When there aren’t any crowds, the atmosphere is almost spiritual – so much so, there’s even a Chinese proverb that says: ‘In heaven there is paradise and on earth there is Hangzhou.’

The West Lake is less than an hour away from Shanghai by train, so lots of overworked urbanites visit at the weekends to soothe their stressed souls.

It takes about four hours to walk around the whole lake and along the way, come rain or shine, you’ll pass endless bridal parties posing for romantic shots.

Wedding photos in China are possibly even a bigger deal than they are in the UK, and so the West Lake is an incredibly popular shoot location – after all you couldn’t ask for a more heart-stopping setting.

When dusk starts to fall, seek out one of the gondolas dotted along the shore, and ask the boatmen to take you out for a paddle on the water, which shouldn’t cost more than £15 for one hour.

You’ll have to break out your best haggling skills to agree a price quickly, though, as time is on their side and you don’t want to miss the most beautiful part of the day.

There’s a rumour that after nightfall, daring locals go in for a sneaky dip in the more secluded corners of the lake. This is strictly forbidden, but we imagine also pretty good fun ... so we’ll leave it to your discretion!

The rest of Hangzhou is relatively modern – restaurants line the roads away from the water, serving local delicacies such as beggar’s chicken, West Lake sour fish, and prawns stir-fried with Dragon Well tea.

An increasing number of international chains are appearing around the lake too – to the irritation of some and the delight of others, a Starbucks frappuccino is never more than a few hundred metres away.


2. Bled, Slovenia

Slovenia’s prettiest lake is a magnet for swimmers. The water in summertime is a balmy 27˚C, and the length of the lake a manageable 2km.

Not a strong swimmer? Ride the boat taxi to the tiny island in the centre of the lake instead.

Here you can spend time poking around the very quaint Queen Mary’s church and museum, or eating ice cream while you gaze at the lake and bask in the glorious Slovenian sunshine.


3. Titicaca, Bolivia-Peru

Titicaca sits at 3820m, in between Peru and Bolivia. Take a trip from the Peruvian side to visit the famous floating islands (made from the lake’s totora reeds) of the Uros tribe.

The tribespeople constantly build new layers as the old ones disintegrate.

Might sound like an uncomfortable home, but older Uros claim their tribe’s ‘black blood’ helps protect them from the cold.


Travel: The top five most stunning lakes in the world to visit
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