Temptingly deep and darkly dangerous, lakes attract legends like they were going out of fashion. Some have multiple creation myths from mystical creatures and meteor strikes to raging gods and vengeful goblins. Refresh your imagination and dip your toes in the waters of wonder with these lake legends from around the world.
Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands, UK
Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands is rumouredly home to one of the world’s best-known lake-dwelling legends, the Loch Ness Monster. First spotted in 565 AD, the hunt for Nessie ramped up throughout the 20th century and monster-spotting tours remain big business in the region. Head to Fort Augustus or Drumnadrochit on the loch’s shore for a highland fling and to jump aboard a Nessie-seeking boat. The scientific community disputes the existence of the creature but, well, where’s the fun in that? Grab your binoculars and prove’em wrong.
Cincis Lake, Transylvania, Romania
Romania’s Cincis Lake has myriad creation myths, many of which still send ripples of fear out to locals and visitors. Its actual beginnings are curious enough, for it swallowed a village whole, along with two churches and their graveyards. Residents say that at night, the ghostly spirits of the lost souls still walk the lake, summoning storms out of nowhere as they curse the lake for their untimely passing. Sinister past aside, the lakeshore is a beautiful picnic spot these days. Embark on a boat or hydrobike experience..if you dare.
Crater Lake, Oregon, USA
Crater Lake is the USA’s deepest fresh-water lake. The legend told by Oregon’s Klamath Tribe tells of Llao, Spirit of the Below World, who fell in love with the Klamath chief’s beautiful daughter, who rejected him. A war between underworld and heavens followed. Skell, Spirit of the Sky, won and banished Llao to the Below World, collapsing the top of Mount Mazama volcano on top of him and filling the crater with the bluest water. A myth based in memories of an ancient eruption, perhaps (for there’s no smoke without fire…)? Hike or paddle through Crater Lake National Park to create your own legendary adventures.
The Red Lake (Gyilkos-tó), Romania
This lake’s legend features local girl, Eszter, whose true love was sent to war before they could wed. The mountains listened to Eszter’s heartbreak every night. When Eszter was kidnapped by a chieftain who sought her heart, the mountains caused an earthquake whose rocks tumbled after and killed the chieftain – but caught Eszter, too. These rocks blocked a river which swelled into a lake, submerging the trees in its path which can still be seen. Less imaginative souls blame the rockfall on the volcanic eruption in 1838. Either way, paddling through the sunken pines is an unforgettable way to see the Red Lake today.
Lake Guatavita, Colombia
Wanna be covered in honey and gold and paddled out onto a South American lake at sunrise? This was what awaited ‘El Dorado’ – The Golden Man – in Lake Guatavita, near Bogota, each time the locals’ new chieftain began his new role. As the sun’s rays hit El Dorado, he’d dive into the sacred lake for a ritual bath. This rite of passage is gone but rumours of The Golden Man and The Golden City have attracted many conquistadors over the years, who tried to empty the lake to find gold (some found it). Gold body paint and a Stand Up Paddle Board, anyone? Great. See you at sunrise.
Let’s finish with Finland
Finland has a staggering 187,000 lakes. Here’s a glimpse into its bottomless lake lore. Alluring ‘Will-o-the-Wisps’ balls of light hover over lakes at Midsummer. Rather than lighting a path to treasure, they’re evil spirits that’ll lead you to danger. #Unfollow! Finland’s lake-dwelling Iku-Turso is like the Kraken – a fearsome octopus-like creature with a dragon’s wings. Not something to accidentally reel in while fishing. Finally, the lake-drenched Karelia region is home to mermaid-like Vedenemo, Goddess of Water. Her siren songs seduce humans to their fates in the watery depths. Though beautiful, spotting her is a bad omen for fisherman.