The most spectacular lakes in South America that you must visit
In this post, travel writers got together and shared their favorite lakes in South America hoping to inspire your next trip to this magnificent corner of the world.
South America is a wonderland for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers, brimming with spectacular natural wonders, from soaring volcanos to tropical forests, incredible biodiversity, and wildlife.
In this post, I will take you around the most grgeous South American Lakes, incredible sites that you must include in your South American bucket list.
And since I have only made it to Peru, while waiting to continue my journey south I have asked the help of other travel lovers to share their experience visiting their favorite lakes in South America with us.
The list is in geographical order from north to south. You can also click on the map picture to open the map and locate the sites.
Get ready for a whole lot of adventure!
Map of the South American Lakes
The most amazing lakes in South America
Laguna de Guatapé – Colombia
by Carley Rojas Avila @ Home to Havana
Formed after the creation of one of Colombia’s largest hydroelectric dams, the Laguna de Guatapé is one of the most stunning natural areas in Colombia. When the valley was flooded decades ago, it created countless small islands out of hilltops and an incredibly blue, pristine lake that makes the area a favorite with local and international travelers.
The quaint and historic lake town of Guatapé is easily visited as a day trip from nearby Medellín, and buses frequently depart from Medellín’s Terminal Norte bus station – tickets cost around $5.00.
In addition to its beautiful lake and scenery, Guatape is best known for the massive Peñón de Guatapé, a towering inselberg that sits over 650 feet above the surrounding land and is easily one of the most famous landmarks in South America. Climbing to the top of el Peñón de Guatapé – also known as el Peñól – is the best way to enjoy incredible, nearly 360 degrees, views over the lake.
The climb to the top of el Peñól is 649 steps, so come prepared with comfortable shoes and drinking water. In addition to the incredible view over the lake and surrounding countryside you’ll find from the top, there is also a small café and places to sit and relax before beginning the hike back down again.
Lake Guatavita – Colombia
by Venaugh @ Venaugh
There are so many gorgeous lakes around South America, one of my favorites is Lake Guatavita in Colombia. The lake is close to the capital city of Bogotá and is about 2 hours drive away.
You can drive yourself simply by following Google Maps or take a bus from Portal Norte. This is a bit more complicated but far cheaper. To enter the park at Lake Guatavita, the fee for Colombians is $12,000 pesos (USD$3) while for foreigners it is $17,000 pesos (USD$5).
As with most tours in Bogotá, they usually wait for a specific time or group size before starting. The lake is filled with history and stories which claim that gold and silver artifacts line the floor of the lake. However, most people enjoy a peaceful day at the lake rather than scourging for gold.
For those who want to spend more than just one day, there are glamping options at the lake which can cost close to USD$100 a night depending on the day of the week. Also, to get an even more beautiful view of the lake, there is Sopó paragliding close by.
It costs $360,000 pesos (USD$100) but is the most amazing view you will see in Bogotá. But keep in mind that it can get pretty chilly so make sure to wear a good jacket and protect your face from the harsh winds. Next time you’re in South America, don’t forget to add Lake Guatavita to your trip.
Glamping options around Lake Guatavita
Glamping San Martin – Read about this fabulous Glamping spot and check availability on Booking.com
Glamping Guatavita Hills – See rates and availability on Booking.com
Glamping La Villa – Check out these gorgeous domes and check availability and rates on Booking.com.
Glamping Crystal – Read more about this luxury tent by the Guatavita Lake and check availability and rates on Booking.com
Cuicocha Lake – Ecuador
Otavalo, Ecuador, is mainly known for hosting one of the biggest markets in South America but few people know that there are also many amazing things to do around Otavalo, hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, volcanoes that you can reach on a day trip from Otavalo. Among those spectacular sites, my favorite was a hike around Cuicocha Lake.
This spectacular lake fills the crater of an extinct Vulcano and a couple of islands in the middle that you can reach by boat tours offered at the entrance of the park.
The walk around the crater is 14km long and depending on your pace it may last from 4 to 5 hours. Unless you decide to run it. If you are like me and stop taking a picture every 5 minutes it will take longer.
Mind that you will be walking at 3000 mt altitudes, so it’s not like walking at sea level and your breathing might suffer.
So take it slow. Besides, you will also be busy looking at the spectacular views of the blue lake and the surrounding vegetation.
One of the things I appreciated about this hike is that it’s one of the few hikes I could do on my own without fearing getting lost or feeling unsafe. The path is very well marked and you also meet other hikers along the way.
It was one of the highlights of my 3 months in Ecuador and one of the most amazing experiences.
Quilotoa Crater – Ecuador
When I arrived in Quilotoa, and I saw the spectacular lake and the rugged rim I was excited about hiking around it picturing all the amazing views I would have enjoyed.
The majority of the travelers would venture to the Quilotoa Loop which is a 3 days trek around the small villages around the Crater. The majority of the hikers I talked to were confirming that it is very easy to get lost because the trails are not marked.
Therefore, since I didn’t want to get lost among the Ecuador Vulcanoes by myself I decided not to do the loop and do the hike around the rim, instead. By looking at the rim, it seemed as easy as the Cuicocha lake that I had just done.
As I was suggested, I started off early morning in order to avoid the rain that was usually coming in the afternoon and I was planning to be back by 3 pm after having walked around the spectacular crater.
Well, I was completely wrong. After getting to one-third of the circuit I had to go back and I had one of the scariest travel experiences.
On the way back I took the wrong path and instead of walking around the mountain I was hiking by the rim with a very slippery and narrow path right by a precipice. A wrong move and I would have fallen down.
I made it, clearly, but my legs were shaking after that passage, and my heart was pounding until I reached back to town. I have never been so scared.
Oh! You want to know the reason why I didn’t make it around Quilotoa Lake. That’s because I reached a point where the path was very close to the rim and very slippery with lots of wind and nowhere to hold on to during the walk. Considering that I am very clumsy and I lose balance very easily I decided not to risk it.
Once I returned to town and while talking to people I found out that not so long ago a traveler fell and died for that same reason. If I knew the path was so challenging I would have hired a guide.
Since it was early when I reached back to town, I walked down to the lake with the company of a lovely gentleman that I met in the morning. We had a good time and despite the strenuous hike to go back up, it was a great exercise and it made me feel less bad about having given up on my hike around the rim.
Also Quilotoa a cute small town and I enjoyed walking around and eating in the local restaurants. Besides, the views over the Quilotoa craters were just of overwhelming beauty that you never get tired to admire.
Where to stay in Quilotoa
I stayed at the Hosteria Chukirawa, a cute hotel right in front of the lookout of the lake. The rooms are small but exquisite and very clean, with red brick walls and colorful decor. Wifi is available in the common areas. They also have dorm rooms, but I opted for a private room. It’s relatively cheap.
Laguna Paron – Huascaran National Park – Peru
If you love hiking but need to acclimatize to the high altitudes you need to do this spectacular hike before going to Laguna 69.
Laguna Parón is one of the largest lakes in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, a turquoise blue lake, surrounded by glacial peaks that rise to over 6,000 meters (19,700 feet).
I went on a guided tour, but our group was left free to explore the lake and surroundings once you get there. However, the guide offered to take us on a beautiful hike to one of the peaks towering over the lake with stunning views.
I didn’t make it up there because the last segment of the hike was too exposed and I was afraid to lose balance and fall off. That’s how fearful I am.
There are other trails along the lakes as well where you can walk and enjoy the spectacular views. This is an incredible tour suitable for anyone. If you don’t want to or can’t walk you can just sit there on the benches and enjoy the views.
You can prebook your tour to Paron lake, if you want to secure your trip.
Laguna 69 – Peru
Megs @ Packing up the Pieces
In the overlooked region of North Peru, lies the stunning Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Tucked away in these high-altitude mountains are some of Peru’s most scenic hiking trails, including the path that leads to Laguna 69.
This turquoise alpine lake can be reached as a day trip from the city of Huaraz. Independent hikers can easily reach the trailhead from an early morning collectivo, or mini bus, from the tiny village of Yungay. Tell the driver you want to exit at the trail for Laguna 69.
Sit back and enjoy the ride, since the ride itself is worth the effort. Don’t fret, if you don’t feel comfortable taking public transportation or hiking through the Andes Mountains, there are multiple tour companies that offer organized day trip hiking tours.
The trail to Laguna 69 is well-marked with signage, but make sure to download an offline map. This beautiful lake is part of Huascarán National Park, so it’s essential to purchase a day pass to the park for 30 PEN ($8 USD).
This is an out and back trail that has a one-way distance of over four miles, but the ascent is around 800 meters. On the route, pass by streams, waterfalls, all that are engulfed by the glacial peaked mountains. Make sure to take enough snacks, water, and coca leaves, which can help combat altitude sickness. At these altitudes the weather can change rapidly, so make sure to dress in layers. Bring a rain jacket and wear ankle supportive shoes. Better yet, they should be waterproof.
Those first views of Laguna 69 may literally take your breath away because this picturesque lake sits at an altitude close to 4,600 m (just over 15,000 ft). This picturesque lake is a delight to wander around and there are multiple viewpoints.
Laguna llanganuco (laguna Chinancocha) – Peru
Part of the Huascarán National Park, in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca. you can visit the Laguna Llanganuco ( as one of the many tours you can take from the cute little town of Huaraz, that many travelers use as a base to explore the spectacular park, is a trip to Laguna Llanganuco.
It’s a beautiful blue-colored lake that you can reach by bus and many travelers decide to include in their itinerary as a way to acclimatize before taking more challenging hikes.
In fact, there is not many hikes involved besides a short walk around the rim of the lagoon.
By the lagoon, you can also take a boat tour on the lake or just chill and admire the spectacular lake embraced by the nearby snowcapped mountains.
The tour to the Laguna Llanganuco normally includes other interesting stops along the “Callejon de Huaylas”, the only road that separates the Andean Cordillera Blanca from the Cordilleran Negra.
You will also stop at Carhuaz to try the local-style ice cream prepared with fruits typical of the area. The last stop will be in the interesting town of Yungay, sadly remembered for being buried by an avalanche during the earthquake of May 1970.
Definitely a tour you should not miss if you want to explore the Huascaran national park thoroughly.
Pastoruri Glacier – Peru
A spectacular trip you can do from Huaraz is to Pastoruri Glacier Lake also part of Huascarán National Park, in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca.
Situate at an altitude of 5000 mt, make sure you are already acclimatized before reaching this altitude, but at the same time consider that you won’t walk too much. I find it a great way to condition your body for a more challenging hike at a similar altitude.
Extreme adventurers who usually love to explore on their own will be disappointed here because there is no way to go to the park on your own, unless you have your own
To be honest I was happy to join a tour this time, even though I usually prefer to use public transport because we had an interesting conversation with a very knowledgeable guide. Among the things we discussed about, it was the global warming issue, which you can clearly see in Pastoruri Glacier.
The spectacular site cannot even be called glacier anymore, although it’s one of the few left in South America but it’s retreating quickly and instead of building up ice in the winter, it is constantly losing volume.
Forecasting are not giving it more than 10 years before it’s completely melted. So make sure you plan your visit as soon as you can.
The trip also includes a stop by Pumapampa, a large plain with high mountains as a backdrop, and a small colorful pond with bubbling mineral spring, altogether a spectacular scenery for photography.
But I found the highlight of this stop the giant Puya Raimondi giant plants of the Bromeliaceae family looking like giant pineapples, towering over the plain.
Once you get to the Pastoruri Glacier you walk along a man-built path going through a spectacular moon-like landscape until you reach the spectacular lake. It was a cloudy day when we arrive but the gloomy weather didn’t stop us from appreciating the beauty of this landscape.
Even though it was an organized tour I appreciate that the guide was genuinely enjoying the place as well and didn’t rush us at all, as it usually happens. We had plenty of time to walk around, take photographs, and enjoy the spectacular views.
You can purchase the tour from any travel agent in Huaraz or even in your hotel or hostel. But you can also prebook it if you want to secure your tour to Pastoruri Glacier.
Lagoa do Japones – Jalapao – Brazil
by Paula @ Paula Pins the Planet
One of the best-hidden gems in Brazil is Jalapao, located in the heart of the country, in the Tocantins State.
Jalapao is a paradise for nature lovers, and full of surprises to explore and so-called because the property owner was Japanese. One of the highlights in any Jalapao Itinerary is to visit the Lagoa do Japones, or Japanese Lagoon considered one of the most beautiful lagoons in South America.
It’s a stunning lagoon, with crystal clear freshwater, where you can go swimming or boating.
The color of the water is impressive, so green that can hurt your eyes when the midday sun comes.
The lake is full of logs and stone platforms at the bottom, which is visible even if you are out of the water, due to its transparency.
On the right side of the lagoon, there is an interesting cave, accessible either by a short swim or by a trail between the rocks.
The best way to explore Jalapao State Park is by joining a tour from Palmas, the closest city. You can find daily flights to Lysias Rodrigues (PMW), the closest airport, from Sao Paulo and Brasilia.
Laguna Juchuycocha (Peru, Sacred Valley)
Megs @ Packing up the Pieces
There’s a chance you’ve never heard of Laguna Juchuycocha, a pristine alpine lake that’s sitting high in the lush mountains of Peru’s Sacred Valley. This incredible, but long day hike starts from the authentic village of Urubamba.
Laguna Juchuycocha is still a hidden gem, so it’s more than likely you won’t be able to book an organized tour. This off-the-beaten-path hike is for intrepid travelers looking for a real and untouched beautiful lake in one of Peru’s most bountiful regions.
Believe it or not, this lake sits at around 4,650 meters (15,200 feet)! The winding mountain path climbs up over 1,220 meters, that’s a whopping 4,000 ft! This strenuous hike is not for the faint-of-heart, as it’s around 18 km (11 miles) round-trip. Although it’s a challenge, the rewards are more than worth the effort.
How to get to the Laguna Juchuycocha
To get to the Laguna Juchuycocha trailhead, grab a taxi to the small hamlet of San Isidro. From here, walk along the dirt road, ford a few rivers, climb over a dam, and reach the trailhead, which is straight-up. The ascent is steep, but you’ll be catching your breath while appreciating the views of the stunning peak of Chicón and its picturesque glacier.
This bright blue lake is engulfed by the mountains. Picnic, take a plunge in the frigid waters, or continue farther along the trail and find another smaller lake with an even “closer” view of the glacier.
After savoring the views and trails around Laguna Juchuycocha, follow the same scenic path back to the trailhead in San Isidro. It’s a full-day trip, so it’s best to walk down the road until you can flag down a moto taxi that will return you to Urubamba.
Casa Andina Premium – Spectacular Luxury property – Read more and check out rates and availability on Booking.com
Aranwa Sacred Valley – Exquisite luxury hotel located in an old refurbished hacienda on the way to the Inka Trail – Read more and check out rates and availability on Booking.com
Lizzy Wasi Urubamba – Mid-range priced beautiful chalet-style hotel – Read more and check out rates and availability on Booking.com
Hotel Andes de Urubamba – Budget hotel – cute property offering great value for money – Read more and check out rates and availability on Booking.com
by Vicki @ Vicki Viaja
Humantay Lake near Cusco, Peru, in the Peruvian Andes is a genuinely breathtaking hike that you shouldn’t miss. Unfortunately, the “breathtaking” here can also be taken literally, as Humantay Lake is located at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters (2.6 miles).
The hike is absolutely worth it, though, despite everything, as the scenery and the lake itself are beautiful.
To hike to Humantay Lake, you can either get there by public transportation, rent a car, or join a tour. If you are walking to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay trek, you will hike to Humantay Lake with your group.
If you are joining a tour, you will leave early in the morning and make a short stop along the way to enjoy a delicious breakfast of Peruvian cuisine.
The first part of the hike is relatively easy, as there is not yet a steep incline. However, after about 20 minutes of walking, the incline begins as Humantay Lake is located on a mountain. So most of the hike is uphill. I recommend taking it slow, especially if you are not yet used to the altitude conditions of the Andes.
The higher you go up, the colder it gets because of the altitude differences. Therefore, you should definitely have a jacket with you. At the top, with a beautiful view, the beautiful turquoise Humantay Lake is waiting for you. It’s a stunning place to fill your camera with some fantastic shots.
by Sharon @ Baby Journey
If there is one lake you have to visit in South America, it’s Lake Titicaca. Located high in the Andes and straddling the border between Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is not just the largest lake in South America but also the world’s highest navigable one at 3800 meters. I also think it’s one of the prettiest.
Lake Titicaca is a great place to explore that is not only beautiful but also home to some unique cultures. Most famous for the Uros Islands, you won’t want to miss visiting these floating man-made islands made by roping reeds together.
These islands are quite extensive (and impressive) and you can visit and see how the people live on them. It’s also possible to stay overnight on them.
These islands can be quite touristy, visiting ones further away from Puno can lead to a more authentic experience. Amantani Island is also worth a visit. Home to 10 communities with their own chiefs, this is a great place to stay in the community and learn more about local culture.
Another popular place to visit is Isla del Sol. The Incans believed their sun god was born here. There are many well-preserved Incan ruins here you can visit and it’s a good place to take a hike. Getting to Lake Titicaca is quite straightforward.
Take a bus from Cusco or from Arequipa to Puno in Peru or Copacabana in Bolivia and you’ll find yourself on its shores. There are many tours from these towns to explore the lake and its islands or you can hire your own boat.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio de Janeiro
by Bruna Venturinelli @ I Heart Brazil
The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is more than a lake, it’s a landmark in Brazil. Surrounded by Rio de Janeiro City, this urban lake is a lovely place to go for a walk, take in the view, and appreciate the marvelous City.
Here’s the perfect place for aquatic activities away from the crowded beaches. For instance, stand-up paddle, canoe, and row are pretty popular here.
If you prefer solid ground instead, you can opt to go for a leisure walk or ride a bike around the 5-mile lake.
Still, while the lake is far quieter than the coast, it is always bustling, mainly at the end of the afternoon when locals want to enjoy the (probably) warm weather.
Got thirsty? Then you will want to stop by one of the many kiosks around the lake to sip ice-cold coconut water–there’s no better way to cool down!
Beyond that, you can spot Christ the Redeemer Statue rising high in the sky with arms wide open, embracing tourists and locals alike.
To get there, simply get to Rio de Janeiro. It’s right in the middle of the city and absolutely worth the trip!
Find an accommodation by the lake on the below map
Salar de Atacama
Tegan + Alex @ Why Not Walk Travel Guides
No trip to the Atacama Desert is complete without visiting the Salar de Atacama, or the Atacama Salt Flats. The 3rd-largest salt flat in the world, the Salar de Atacama is home to intriguing flora and fauna, an otherworldly landscape, and crunchy, multi-colored salt as far as the eye can see.
As you explore, be sure to keep an eye out for flamingos, which are native to the Chaxa Lagoon part of the salt flats. There are three distinct species, all of which get their light-pink coloring flamingos from the fish they eat.
There is a walking path that will take you all around the flats, with informative signs to teach you all about the area, its geography, and geology, that is slightly raised to protect the delicate environment.
There are many inexpensive day tours available to explore the area, which will pick you up at your hotel or hostel and drive you to the Salar de Atacama and the Altiplanic Lagoons. Some tours also include camping in the Atacama desert. The day tour is the easiest way to see the area and often includes breakfast and lunch.
While traveling in the Atacama Desert in general, keep in mind that you are in the driest place on Earth, so be sure to hydrate and wear lots of sunscreens, even in winter! Relatedly, the Atacama Desert is very high-altitude, with some of these treks ascending to over 4000 meters above sea level.
Don’t push yourself too much when you first arrive and be sure to give yourself a few days to acclimatize to the altitude before doing more strenuous hiking or biking. The Salar de Atacama is very flat and not too hiking-heavy, so it’s a good way to spend your first day in the Atacama Desert.
Laguna Colorada – Bolivia
by Matt Potton @ No Hassle Travel
In the southwest of Bolivia, close to the border of Chile, lays the spectacular, Laguna Colorada. This unusual but beautiful lake is not on many tourists’ radar, mainly because it is so close to the world famous Uyuni salt flats.
Although often overlooked, it was one of the most beautiful natural landscapes we witnessed during our South American trip. The vivid color of the lake, combined with the desolate mountainous landscape, made us feel like we had stepped on another planet.
Although the lake is massive, being 6,000 hectares, it is just a meter deep at the most. The vibrant color comes from the abundant minerals and red algae at the bottom of the lake.
What also makes this lake so appealing is the number of flamingos that flock here. There were several hundred during our visit, but we were told by our tour guides that there could be thousands on a good day.
The Flamingos come to feast on the lake’s tiny plankton fish and algae, which gives them their attractive pink color. It’s actually one of the most common places where to find the Pink Flamingo in Latin America
The lake is located in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, which is somewhat remote and a challenge to reach without taking a 4×4 Jeep tour. The best way to visit is by taking a tour of
the Uyuni salt flats, as a stop-off at the Laguna Colorada is usually included in the tour.
The Beautiful Laguna Colorada is a must-see on a trip to Bolivia, and it is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored!
Laguna Merín/Lagoa Mirim Uruguay/Brazil
by Iris Veldwijk @ Mind of a Hitchhiker
Not far from Uruguay’s brilliant beaches on the Atlantic coast is an inland backwater that’s a sight to behold. On a clear spring day, the Laguna Merín reveals its most intense blue that your eyes will witness. Your camera will have a hard time processing these paradisiacal shades.
Though technically a lagoon, the only significant settlement on the Uruguayan side goes by the name Lago Merín – Lake Merín – a village of about 500 people. This binational lagoon is only connected to the Atlantic Ocean via another lake called Lagoa dos Patos in Brazil. A dam on the channel between the two lagoons makes Laguna Merín a freshwater reservoir.
In early spring and late autumn, the Uruguayan resort town Lago Merín will be deserted save for its permanent inhabitants. But in the summer holidays, the town swells to ten times its population. It has all the amenities you’ll need.
Activities on the lake are windsurfing, kitesurfing, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and birdwatching. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot wild capybaras (oversized guinea pigs). On the Brazilian side, the focus lies more on preserving nature under the Taim Ecological Station. Though there are villages where you can enjoy similar activities like in Uruguay.
To get there, you’ll need to travel to the town of Río Branco first. If there’s no scheduled public transport and you don’t have a rental car, hitchhiking is the best and fastest option. Out of season, it’s possible to free camp on the shores of Laguna Merín, though you can also rent a cabaña or stay at one of the hotels that are open year-round.
Todos Los Santos – Chile
Ucman @ Brown Boy Travels
The Lake of All Saints or Lago Todos Los Santos is one of the most beautiful lakes in The Las Lagos region of Chile. The closest city is the beautiful Puerto Varas.
It is also called the Emerald lake due to the color of its water. On one end of the lake is the small town of Puella which is the first stop into Chile from Argentina. It has a quaint little port to take the ferry to and from whether you are coming from Puerto Varas or heading to it.
The lake is surrounded by the giants of Andes including the ever towering volcanoes of Tronador, Puntiagudo, and oat beautiful of all Osorno. The lake has an ever-changing landscape as you glide over its emerald green water.
The town or rather village of Puella is a great place to stop for a while when taking a break on the other side if you’re coming from Puerto Varas.
The other side of the lake is Petrohue which has a river of the same name flowing near the town. It is a popular tourist destination and there are plenty of day trip offerings from surrounding towns to make things easy for you.
Lake Todos Los Santos is one of the most spectacular natural lakes in South America and if you ever happen to be there n the region, it will not disappoint you.
By Maartje & Sebastiaan @ Tidy Minds
San Carlos de Bariloche – or just Bariloche – is one of the top places to visit in Argentina and its stunning lake area is the main reason for it.
Bariloche is known as one of the most popular destinations among locals in Argentina. They visit the mountain town especially in winter, as it’s a great ski destination. Foreign travelers mostly prefer to visit Bariloche in the summertime, when it’s easy to explore this stunning mountain area with its deep blue lakes.
The town of Bariloche might make you feel like in a European city and is often compared to Switzerland for both its woodfen chalets, snowy mountains, and beautiful lakes. The town is located in the center of Nahuel Huapi Park and right on the border of Nahuel Huapi lake. A great way to explore the lake is by renting a kayak and head out by yourself.
The Cerro Campanario viewpoint is also a great way to have the most stunning overview of the national park and its lakes. It’s just outside Bariloche and you can take the public bus to get there. You could hike the 30 minutes up or take the chairlift. The views of the unworldly blue lakes won’t disappoint you.
Bariloche has its own small airport, but you can also easily get there by bus from many other destinations in Argentina or Chile.
Lago Gutierrez, Argentina
By Or @ My Path in the World
Bariloche is an enchanting Patagonian city surrounded by lakes, and Gutierrez Lake has to be one of the most beautiful and most serene.
This is a perfect place to soak up some sun and relax, and with its crystal clear water and mountainous views, it’ll win you over in a heartbeat.
Although you’ll find public beaches on the lake (where you can also rent kayaks), they can get quite crowded during the high season, so instead, base yourself in a secluded corner, which is not difficult to find considering how big this lake is.
Other points of interest near the lake include the Cascada de los Duendes waterfall and the Lago Gutierrez lookout point (both require some easy hiking). If you want to spend the night, there are also plenty of cozy lodges around the lake, as well as about five camping sites.
Luckily, like other parks and lakes in this area, Lago Gutierrez is easily reachable by public transport from Bariloche.
Take bus number 50 from the city center and get off at Villa Los Coihues, which shouldn’t take more than half an hour to get to. Alternatively, if you don’t mind spending a bit more, you can also take a taxi.
Laguna de Los Tres
by Bailey @ Destinationless Travel
Without a doubt, Laguna de Los Tres is one of the most picturesque lakes in South America. It is bright blue and sits at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy – one of the most beautiful mountains in all of Patagonia. But a view like this one doesn’t come easily and the only way to get there is to hike.
From the town of El Chalten in Argentina the trail to Laguna de Los Tres begins. The trail starts off relatively flat as you make your way through the forest and valley.
But at the final kilometer, the real work begins as you must climb over 400 meters in elevation to reach the viewpoint of the lake. In total, the hike is 21 kilometers long and takes most people around 8 hours to complete.
Sure, it is a task, but the lake is so stunning that this hike is definitely worth it. In fact, hiking to Laguna de Los Tres is easily one of the best things to do in El Chalten and one of the most famed hikes in all of Patagonia.
The only downside to Laguna de Los Tres is that it can get very busy. For this reason, I recommend getting on the trail by 7 am. This way, you’ll beat the crowd and be one of the first people at the lake!
A note from the curator: If you happen to be alone and don’t feel confident about hiking on your own you can always join a guided tour to the Laguna de los tres, as I usually do.
Laguna Torre, Argentina
by James Ian @ Travel Collecting
Laguna Torre is a jaw-droppingly beautiful lake in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinean Patagonia. It sits at the base of the craggy Cerro Torre, which creates a dramatic backdrop for the lake.
A glacier slides down the slope of the adjacent cliff, into the lake. A couple of iridescent blue icebergs float around the circular lake, which is approached by a pebbly beach opposite the glacier. It is truly breathtaking!
The lake can only be reached by a 5.6-mile (each way) hike from El Chalten. The trail is long, but not especially difficult, and you will be rewarded with incredible Patagonian views the whole time.
The last section is up a pebbly path, and you can’t see the lake or Cerro Torre until suddenly, you hit the top of a ridge and BAM – the view of the lake, the ‘tower’ and glacier is right in front of you.
I recommend setting out early in the morning. The tower was cloud-free when we got there, but was covered in clouds by the time we left after lunch. I also recommend staying in El Chalten a few extra days than you think you need.
The weather is unpredictable and chances are that it will be cloudy some days. You really want to see the lake and the mountains when the sun is shining.
Lago Argentino + Perito Moreno Glacier
by Tegan + Alex @ Why Not Walk Travel Guides
One of the most spectacular parts of Argentine Patagonia is the Lago Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno glacier and fourth-largest lake in South America. If you are short on time while in Patagonia, the lake and glacier are absolute can’t-miss attractions.
As you drive from El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park, where Perito Moreno is located, you will start to see the massive Lago Argentino on your right-hand side, as well as fantastic examples of the flowers and mossy “alpine steppe” topography.
The lake is a sublime light-blue and is surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Definitely be sure to stop to take photos prior to arriving at the entrance to the park, as the views of the lake change often. Once you pay to enter Los Glaciares (~12 USD per person), be on the lookout for the “Curve of Sighs,” a turn in the road that will give you the first peek at Perito Moreno. Once there, you should absolutely spring for the boat tour.
It isn’t cheap, and budget travelers will certainly think twice about the add-on, but the opportunity to get that “up close and personal” with one of the world’s most stupendous natural formations is worth every penny.
The boat meanders up the “Rico Arm” of the Lago Argentino, navigating between huge chunks of floating ice before pausing in front of the glacier’s front wall. If you opt not to do the boat ride, there are a series of fabulous accessible wooden walkways that offer different angles and viewpoints of the glacier, and nature trails with different colors for difficulty.
Be sure to listen for “calving,” the process where a massive chunk of ice breaks off the glacier and hits the water below.
Lake Grey, Patagonia, Chile
by Lina @ Bucket List Places
In the Chilean side of Patagonia lies one of the most beautiful national parks, Torres del Paine. Lake Grey, created by a melting glacier inside the park, is one of the prettiest lakes in South America.
Most people visit this lake and the Glacier that feeds it during an adventure hiking the W trek. Depending on which direction you choose to do the W trek hike, Lake Grey may be at the beginning or the end of your route.
To reach the lake, you can take a bus from the bus station in Puerto Natales, Chile. Buses run regularly throughout the day however it is best to take a morning bus to be able to get a full day at the lake and hike the surrounding area.
Once you arrive, you can take a ferry to cross the lake to get to Grey Campsite for some refreshments and a delicious lunch.
Declared an International Biosphere Reserve, Lake Gray is fed by glacial waters melting from Grey Glacier. Hike along the lake to the majestic glacier and witness the giant icebergs floating in the lake first hand.
Rent kayaks or canoes to get up close and personal and get some incredible shots of the incredible scenery surrounding you.
by Cecilie @ Worldwide Walkers
Lago Nordenskjöld is located in the incredible Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. The magnificent turquoise color and the mountainous surroundings make it one of the most beautiful lakes in all of South America.
Lago Nordenskjöld is named after Otto Nordenskjöld, a geologist and polar explorer from Sweden, who was the first person to discover the lake in the beginning of the 20th century.
You can visit Lago Nordenskjöld by following the beautiful hiking trail Mirador los Cuernos in Torres del Paine. During this 6-kilometer hike, you’ll get several viewpoints of the incredible Lago Nordenskjöld on the way.
Notice that during the first part of the hike, you’ll also visit Mirador Salto Grande, which is a powerful waterfall that marks the beginning of Lago Nordenskjöld. You should also be on the lookout for wildlife such as condors and guanacos, which are frequently seen around the lake.
You can get to the beginning of the hiking trail by taking the bus from Puerto Natales to Lake Pehoé. From here it’s a one-hour hike to the best viewpoint over the lake. Even if you’re not a keen hiker, you’ll most likely enjoy this easy and flat trail that provides the most magnificent views over the incredibly colorful Lago Nordenskjöld.
Lake Pehoe Torres del Paine – Chile
Julia @ The Cure for Curiosity
Located in the famous Torres del Paine National Park of southern Chile, Lake Pehoe is best known for its distinctive hue of turquoise water.
This comes from being mostly glacial-fed by the Paine River. To add to its beauty, it is also surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the national park making it one of the most picturesque lakes in South America.
Reaching Lake Pehoe can be a bit time-consuming as it is located a couple of hours from the closest town, Puerto Natales. However, if you’re in the Patagonia region of Chile, Torres del Paine National Park is likely at the top of your list of places to visit.
How to get to Lake Pehoe from Puerto Natales
Simply catch a bus from Puerto Natales to the Laguna Amarga entrance of Torres del Paine National Park two hours away.
From there, pay the park entrance fee and continue on the bus a half-hour further to Pudeto on Lake Pehoe. Here you can take a catamaran across Lake Pehoe to Refugio Paine Grande which offers breathtaking views!
While you can visit Lake Pehoe as a day trip from Puerto Natales, the most popular ways to visit are hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, which will take 5 days, or hiking the 9 day O Circuit. They give you the best chance to take in the stunning scenery of the park.
by Sophie and Adam @ We dream of Travel
Located in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province, Laguna Esmeralda is one of the most beautiful lakes in South America. Nestled against a backdrop of rugged snow-capped mountains, this spectacular emerald lake is a dream destination.
Access to this glacial lake requires a 6-mile total walk (there and back), however, don’t be put off by the distance – it is mostly flat and one of the easiest trails in the area. The easy accessibility and breathtaking views make it the most popular hike from Ushuaia outside of Tierra del Fuego National Park.
The trail to Laguna Esmeralda is equally stunning and will take you through a variety of landscapes. The beginning of the trail is at the car park in Valle de los Lobos off the Ruta 3 road, about 17km northeast of Ushuaia. From here you’ll follow the blue marks to the lagoon.
Along this hike, you’ll pass through the native lenga forest, squelch through muddy peat moss and amble alongside a turquoise river before reaching the lake. You may also spot beavers along the way, or at least their dams. Unfortunately, they’re not native to the area and have caused a lot of environmental issues… but they are still very cute!
Be prepared to have your breath taken away as you first catch sight of this pristine lake. It truly is mesmerizingly beautiful. It’s well worth taking a picnic with you and relaxing on the lake’s shores to soak in the tranquility of this area before heading back out the same way you came.
If you prefer to join and pre-book a guided tour, there are tours available from Ushuaia at relatively affordable prices.
Here we are at the end of our long list of the best lakes in South America. I don’t know what you think, but I can’t wait to hit the road and see them all. I have included them all in my South America bucket list I will add more as I find more amazing spots to visit. If you think we have missed some important sites please don’t be shy and let me know.