No. 10 - FUCHUN RESORT, HANGZHOU, CHINA - Rice paddies. Tea plants. Terraced green hillsides. Trees on which each branch seems to have a mind of its own, flowing out into a hundred twisted directions. The Fuchun Resort is reminiscent of a beautiful Chinese watercolor. It's a luxury hotel that was actually inspired by a famous painting called "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains." The hotel sits on the placid banks of Fuchun River, and that placid ambience is enhanced by classes such as yoga and tai-chi...and even classes in tea-picking on the surrounding hillsides!
No. 9 - OBEROI UDAIVILAS, UDAIPUR, INDIA - This resort appears out of the desert mist almost as a mirage...a traditional Rajasthani palace with curved spires and steeples overlooking Pichola Lake, upon which glide Indian-style gondolas with canopies protecting the occupants. Most of its windows offer dramatic views of the lake and the city of Udaipur on the other side of it, carved into these desert hills by royal families in the 16th Century. The interior of the hotel is palace-like, as well, with ornately-crafted windows and arches, large fountains with floating flowers, and distinctive chandeliers. And the service, food, and amenities are all world-class.
No.8 - GRAND HOTEL DES ILÊS BORROMÉES, STRESA, ITALY - Lago Maggiore, surrounded by forested hills and mountains, and dotted with scenic islands upon which sit colorful villages, is simply one of the most beautiful and majestic lakes on Earth. And the majestic Grand Hotel is worthy of its place alongside it. Though its exterior is reminiscent of a baronial castle, the inside is filled with modern comforts and amenities. The hotel has been hosting sophisticated international guests for 150 years now. Its blooming plants lend a vivid splash of color to its manicured gardens and statuary in the spring and summer, and the winter snows bring a touch of quiet serenity.
No. 7 - LAKE LUGANO VILLA PRINCIPE LEOPOLD, LUGANO, SWITZERLAND - Switzerland, of course, is a land of legendary beauty. Take a first-class hotel that's an old baronial villa, plop it in the middle of this beauty, situate it on a lake, and fill it with luxurious touches...and you have the Villa Principe Leopold. The grounds are filled with classic European gardens and paths, and terraces overlooking the lake, where you can dine or just enjoy a cocktail while taking in the spectacular 360-degree views. The food is so good that you'll probably leave this hotel a bit heavier than when you arrive! But leave the kids at home on this trip, folks; this is an adults-only hotel.
No. 6 - LAKESDE LODGE & RESORT, ISLAND PARK, IDAHO, USA - I love the classic Pacific Northwest lodge...with log construction and log furniture and huge (but intimate) Great Halls and homey handicrafts and blazing fireplaces and majestic locations. The Lakeside Resort, dating back to 1891, is small and friendly, with eight rooms in the main building and six scattered cabins, cozy and comfortable and authentically-furnished. The resort's only 31 miles from Yellowstone National Park, and it sits in the volcanic heights of the Island Park Caldera. From here, you can watch the sun set behind 10,000-foot peaks such as Jefferson and Sawtell. And, since the lodge sits on Henry's Fork of the famed Snake River - one of the best fishing spots in America - you can reel in some real whoppers!
No. 5 - LAKE TIMARA LODGE, MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND - This is a homey, intimate lodge with only four guest rooms, and you'll be treated more like family than like guests. For an extra touch, it's smack in the middle of New Zealand's most prominent wine region, where pretty much every road leads to atmospheric wineries that, increasingly, have been producing world-class wines. (One of which, the Spy Valley Winery, is within walking distance!) Guest rooms are furnished in early-20th-Century country-style. And you can choose your view - overlooking either the mountains of the Richmond Range or the beautifully-manicured gardens. The menu features freshly-caught fish from Marlborough Sound, and produce from the property's own garden.
No. 4 - LOCH NESS LODGE, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND - Think of the elemental Scotland - misty moors shrouded in fog, heather and highlands, a classic Scottish manor house with spires and rounded corner rooms, and a location overlooking one of the deepest lakes in Great Britain...and you've come up with Loch Ness Lodge. Except for one very big extra - this lodge, of course, is said to have a prehistoric monster gliding around the depths of the lake right in front of it! (And there are a few grainy photos from the past century compelling enough to make you think there just might be something down there!) The lodge is actually a bed-and-breakfast, with only seven rooms, a very friendly ambience, and hearty breakfasts and Afternoon Tea fit for royalty. And the views will take your breath away!
No. 3 - GOOSE LAKE LODGE, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, USA - Anchorage is Alaska's cosmopolitan city, with a vibrant commercial and cultural life. But right outside the city is nature with a capital "N." Here - only four miles from downtown - you'll find Goose Lake, and the beautiful bed-and-breakfast lodge that bears its name. Everywhere you look are snow-capped mountains and glaciers. The breakfasts are hearty and bountiful...and you take them in a lakeside room with beautiful views. The surrounding mountains and forests are the picture of serenity. After dinner, you can relax on the outdoor deck and watch the sun go down over one of Earth's most magnificent landscapes. Talk about splendid isolation...this is one of only two houses on the lake. And the owners will be happy to arrange some real Alaskan adventures for you, from flying in a bush plane to "mushing" a dogsled team.
No. 2 - FAIRMONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE, LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA, CANADA - If location is everything, the Chateau Lake Louise has it all. It's surrounded by stunning mountain peaks, the enormous Victoria Glacier, and the glistening alpine lake on which it sits. In addition, it's located in Banff National Park, known for some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. The hotel looks much like a classic English castle, and it offers great recreational opportunities both in winter, when the slopes are full of people who come here to ski from all over the world, and summer, when the land blossoms with vivid colors and smells and sensations. The Chateau Lake Louise was originally built as a haven for adventurers more than a century ago. Today, however, it's a luxurious hideaway with every conceivable amenity. And after your own adventure, you have the option of soaking or getting a treatment in the world-class spa, enjoying a fine wine and a gourmet meal, or just relaxing in a room certainly much more comfortable than where those early adventurers slept a century ago!
And now...my No. 1 pick for the Top Lakeside Hotel in the World!
No. 1 - EDEN AU LAC, ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - This regal hotel sits on the beautiful Lake of Zurich, surrounded by mountains and valleys and forests, yet also backing up against one of Europe's great mid-sized cities. It offers the serenity of stunning natural beauty, in a location only minutes - by foot - from sophisticated shopping, cultural venues, ancient churches and guild halls, and classic Swiss dining. Eden Au Lac means "Paradise on the Lake" in English; but, whatever language you speak, the name rings true. This Five-Star hotel, with its dramatic Baroque façade and its elegant guest rooms and public spaces, has been enchanting visitors since 1909. The Restaurant EDEN offers gourmet specialties from all three of Switzerland's main cultures. The Sky Bar, overlooking the lake from an outdoor terrace, offers dramatic views of the city to your right and the foothills of the Alps all around you, as well as the boat traffic on the lake. The lake, of course, offers a variety of recreational opportunities, as well as interesting sightseeing cruises. There are jogging and hiking trails all around the hotel...including along the lakefront. And you can walk to all of Zurich's attractions, such as Old Town, filled with the city's original guild houses; the Grossmunster, a Medieval church that's Zurich's landmark; Le Corbusier House, the famous architect's last building; the Fraunmunster, with church windows by Marc Chagall; and the Bahnhofstrasse, one of Europe's most famous shopping streets. And, when you stay at the Eden Au Lac, you're also within walking distance of some of the finest watch-makers in the world...as well as some of the best chocolate shops!
Those are my top 10 lakeside hotels in the world. What are yours? We'd love to hear your thoughts!