Saturday, February 14, 2015

15 Heart-Shaped Islands and Lakes

Mother Nature has a romantic side and it shows in these spectacular natural displays of hearts all over the world. This Valentine's Day, explore the stunning heart-shaped islands and lakes dotting the Earth — from a sun-drenched island resort in Australia to a snow-covered lake in the Austrian Alps.

1. Makepeace Island, Australia
Owned by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, the 9.2-hectare, heart-shaped Makepeace Island is located in the Noosa River on Australia's Sunshine Coast. Previously Branson's private home and retreat in Australia, the island is being re-launched as a boutique resort so that smaller groups can experience the luxury property without renting the entire island, according toThe Australian. The island is perhaps one of the most romantic getaways in the region. It comes with its own riverboat to transfer guests, 500,000-liter lagoon pool, a full-sized tennis court, spa facilities, and theater, according to its official website.

2. Galesnjak, Croatia
Located in the deep-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, the private, heart-shaped island of Galesnjak, located in Zadarski Kanal between Zadar and the Island of Pasman in Croatia, came to the attention of romantics everywhere via Google Earth. It wasn't long before the owner of the uninhabited island was swamped with requests from couples to stay there, according to the Telegraph. As the most perfectly heart-shaped island in the world, Galesnjak, also known as Lover's Island, may serve as a romantic wedding venue (the island is available for bookings). But it won't be convenient: The tiny island is completely deserted, containing only wild vegetation and untouched beech forest, according to the official website. 

3. Tupai, French Polynesia
It's a common misconception that Tahiti is a heart-shaped island. But what many people may have been referring to is the heart-shaped atoll of Tupai in the island chain of Tahiti. For years, visitors (mostly couples) to French Polynesia only had the opportunity to fly Tupai via helicopter but Air Tahiti now offers flights to and from the island, according to GoTahiti.com. Tupai, about 11 miles to the north of Bora Bora, is fast becoming a popular wedding (and engagement) spot, with aerial tours and diving day trips also available. If you just want a glimpse of this romantic island, make sure to sit on the right side of the plane when departing Bora Bora.

4. Trnovacko Lake, Montenegro
Located at the Bosnian-Montenegro border, Trnovacko Lake's beautiful heart shape makes it one of the most photographed locations in the region, according to the Cross-Border National Parks website. The green-blue lake is 2,300 ft long and 1,300 ft wide set amidst a "huge amphitheater of rocky peaks." The lake is drained from the Maglic, the Volujak and the Bioc hill ranges. According to Lonely Planet: Western Balkans, the lake and its surrounding areas are popular with local campers in the summer. There are several large beaches and a beech forest that provide shade during the hot summer days. 

5. Heart Reef, Australia
The Heart Reef, a beautiful composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, is perhaps the most photographed location of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays' most recognized attraction. It is best experienced from the air by helicopter or seaplane, as visitors are unable to snorkel or dive there due its protected status, according to Live Science.

6. Lago di Tom, Switzerland
Lago di Tom is one of the main lakes in the Piora Valley, in Ticino, Switzerland. Surrounded by the green peaks of the Ticenese Alps, the lake is one of the region's most scenic views, making it a popular hike. Aside from the heart-shaped wonder, however, tourists visit the valley for another rarity: local Alpine cheese, which is produced from the milk of cows that spent the summer high up on the mountains, according to the official website of Switzerland Tourism. 

7. Heart Lake, Olympic National Park, Wash.
There are many stunning views at Olympic National Park, from the sunsets at Lake Crescent and Rialto Beach to the black bears strolling through the basin meadows. But Heart Lake in the Seven Lakes Basin area may be the most romantic. In fact, it is the only Washington camping area to make the Wilderness Society's top 10 romantic nature outings. "I recommend camping alongside Heart Lake in Olympic National Park," said Andrea Imler of The Wilderness Society. "You can hike there on High Divide Trail, enjoying old-growth forests and subalpine meadows—and perhaps catching a glimpse of black bear or Roosevelt elk. After the trip, you can enjoy a soak in the hot springs at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort."

8. Heart Lake, Junik Mountains, Kosovo
Kosovo is surrounded by mountains in the west and the south, where some of the best hiking can be done, according to the Kosovo Tourism Center. There are many scenic lakes in these mountains, but located in Junik, a heart-shaped lake has become the favorite of many hikers. Zemra Lake is located 1,312 ft from the Albanian border and is found in the Prokletije near the 8,330 ft-high peak of Gusan. Several other lakes dot the area around this heart-shaped lake.

9. Tavarua, Fiji
The heart-shaped island resort of Tavarua in Fiji is considered one of the world's most best surfing destinations. It's known as home to one of the most famous breaks in the surfing world—Cloubreak. With waves breaking in the 10-20ft range, the island attracts surfers from all over the world. Located close to the main Fijian island, Viti Levu, and surrounded by a coral reef, Tavarua also offers a variety of vacation activities such as sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking.

10. Coeur de Voh, New Caledonia
New Caledonia's Coeur de Voh, a large landscape formation of mangrove vegetation with a heart shape that can be seen only from above, was made famous by Yann-Arthus Bertrand, who used an aerial photograph of the mangrove in his book "The Earth from Above." But its image constantly changes. As the mangrove vegetation changes, the colors and textures of the formation also change over time, according to Karen McKee of the U.S. Geological Survey - National Wetlands Research Center.  Few people have seen the Coeur de Voh up close but in December 2012, a group of mangrove experts visited the location. They had to pass through a tangled forest of Rhizophora trees to get there, but they found the area teeming with rich wildlife, such as mudskippers and tree-climbing crabs. The experts believe climate change may affect the heart shape of the Coeur de Voh in the future however. With rising sea levels, Rhizophora trees may dominate the formation and obliterate the heart border and shape, according to a video produced by McKee. 

11. Valentine Lake, Canada
Valentine Lake is a beautiful spot to camp for hikers of the Saxifrage and Cassiope Peaks in Pemberton, British Columbia in Canada. The heart-shaped lake is an easy 4-hour hike from the end of the Spetch Creek road, according to Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia.

12. Island near Port Chalmers, Alaska
While one may not be able to visit this heart-shaped island, lovers can enjoy this amazing aerial photograph taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Located at Port Chalmers in Alaska, the tiny island displays the color banding of various bands of marine and terrestrial flora, according to NOAA.

13. Lake near Chembra Peak, India
At 6,900ft, Chemra Peak is the highest peak in Wayanad, India and a popular trek for hikers. But the summit is not the only attraction in the region. A heart-shaped lake on the way to the top of the peak is a major tourist spot.  The crystal perennial lake is fed by natural springs, according to KeralaTourism.org. Even during a scorching summer, the lake brims with water and helps hikers quench their thirst. 

14. Gaislachersee Lake, Austria
Located in Sölden in the Ötztal valley of Tyrol, Austria, the crystal-clear Gaislachersee Lake offers spectacular views of the Ötztal Alps, according to the official website for Sölden tourism. The lake, located around 8,871 ft in altitude, is a three-hour hike from Sölden, a popular ski resort which regularly hosts the first Alpine Ski World Cup races of the season.


15. Heart Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Calif.
Extending along the crest of the Sierra Nevada of Calif., the John Muir Wilderness is home to spectacular landscapes and stunning lakes, but near Selden Pass in the John Muir Trail is one of its most beloved features, Heart Lake. It's one of the smaller lakes one encounters on the trail, but it's also one of the most scenic and photogenic, especially as it's framed by snowy peaks. Want to get there? The John Muir Wilderness is accessible from both sides of the Sierra Nevada. Most visitors, however, enter from the east at various points along highway 395, from the town of Mammoth at the north end down to Whitney Portal above Lone Pine at the south end, according to SierraWild.gov.

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