From mile-high cities to villages carved into the side of mountains, people across the globe have had to get creative when putting down roots in areas not traditionally suitable for daily life. One of the most unique arrangements are floating villages—adaptable communities forged by ingenuity—and here, you'll find the world's most fascinating.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
It’s hard to imagine a lake more peaceful than Myanmar's Inle, surrounded by wispy sugar cane in the country's central Shan plateau. There, the Intha people—which translates to “sons of the lake”—tend their crops in floating gardens from long, narrow boats and do business from floating markets that move between the various villages. A day-long boat trip is a must for anyone even remotely close to Myanmar. There you can see silk weaving, silversmithing, paper-making, and farming, up close. (The elegant Inle Princess is the top choice for easy lake access and primo sunset views.)
Koh Panyee, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Just off the Andaman Sea, past hundreds of limestone rock formations, is a bucolic village made up of descendants of Muslim families who fled Indonesia some 200 years ago. There, travelers will find a soccer field for the town's team, Punyi FC, and a huge floating mosque—one of the sights tourists can see while on a private boat excursion from the intimate Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, located on nearby Krabi.
Chong Khneas and Mechrey, Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Asia’s largest freshwater body swells and shrinks dramatically with the seasons, but regardless of the time of year, it plays host to more than 150 villages thanks to stilts and lots of empty gas drums. Visitors to Siem Reap can take a classic wooden boat with Naya Traveler to the remote rural village of Mechrey. The dreamy architectural jewel, Amansara, offers its guests guided luxury cruises down the waterways and into Chong Khneas—which features vibrant buoyant homes, restaurants, shops, and even a temple and church.
Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru
On the world’s highest lake—and the second largest in South America—nearly 1,200 people call the collection of 120 islands home. Made of totora reeds woven together, the islands have stood for generations. Naya Traveler’s tailor-made trips include stays at the luxe boutique lodge Titilaka, which, at more than 12,000 feet high, truly feels like it’s in the heavens.
Kumarakom, Vembanad Lake, India
In the backwaters of Kerala is a village perched on the 60-mile-long Vembanad Lake, which contains freshwater for nine months of the year and saline the other three (during the monsoons when it mixes with the Arabian Sea). There are plenty of houseboats and fishing boats to view while weaving through the waterways. At the Taj Kumarakom Resort & Spa, Kerala, a 19th-century bungalow-turned-resort, guests can stay the night on houseboats or take lunch cruises through canals.
Ganvie, Lake Nokoué, Benin
The 20,000-person floating village of Ganvie in French-speaking Benin is picturesque, and ancient – built in the 17th century by the Tofinu tribe who were fleeing the Portuguese. The villagers back then took refuge in Lake Nokoué and utilized its climate to create sophisticated networks for farming fish—which still exist today—and keeping domesticated animals. Though there are not large luxury hotels nearby, quality boutique properties like Maison Rouge make a trip to the lake simple.