Holidays to Italian lakes such as Como, Maggiore and Garda have been very popular this year, with many travellers looking to soak up the sun, explore the charming lakeside towns and maybe even spot a celebrity or two. However, it’s not just this renowned region that offers a relaxing retreat amidst beautiful surroundings.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative destination (perhaps you’ve already ticked the Italian lakes off your list or availability isn’t great during the period you want to travel), here are some other fantastic options to consider.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Once upon a time, Slovenia’s Lake Bled could be described as a hidden gem, but it is becoming more popular every year as more and more people experience its beauty. And speaking of ‘once upon a time’, this is a true fairytale setting, characterised by the alluring tower of the church that sits on an islet in the middle of the lake.
Bled attracts all kinds of tourists – honeymooners, short breakers, those looking for great hiking trails in the surrounding Julian Alps and many more. Much like Garda and the other Italian lakes, Bled features a range of five-star hotels and spa resorts in which you’ll be truly pampered. However, there are options for smaller budgets too in the form of pensions (B&Bs) and even campsites on the west side of the lake.
The highlights are definitely the church on Bled Island and Bled Castle on the lake’s northern shore. Even the journey across the water by Pletna boat has a certain air of romance about it. For more active pursuits, head to Straza Bled for tobogganing, Pustolovski park for zip lining and Vintgar Gorge for hiking past thundering waterfalls.
Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Lake Lucerne is one of the more well-known options on our list and offers the chance to take it easy or really get active in the Alps. The views here are stunning and practically every part of the lake offers some fantastic activities – all aided by the efficient transport systems in place to help you get around.
If you are looking to explore, there are so many peaks to climb, each of which features its own thrilling pursuits to get the heart thumping. Pilatus, for example, offers paragliding and a rope park, whilst Mount Titlis’s Glacier Park is home to a range of winter sports that you can try.
If you like your holidays at a much slower pace, consider strolling through Lucerne’s peaceful streets before being lured in by one of the many chocolate shops. The ferry is also a relaxing way to explore the lake, taking you to small towns like Weggis, Vitznau and Verkehrshaus-Lido. The nostalgic belle époque boats offer night time cruises and gourmet cruises as well as being a form of transport.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia/Albania
Macedonia doesn’t get the attention it deserves for its spectacular natural scenery but Lake Ohrid is definitely the perfect example of what the country has to offer. Albanians and Macedonians have known about this relaxing retreat for many years, but the arrival of tourists from further afield has brought about an influx of villas and hotels along the shores. Many of these give you the opportunity to start the day with a breakfast backdrop like no other.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site provides plenty to do, especially in the cities of Ohrid and Struga. As well as beaches in both, you can discover the 13th-century Church of Saint Jovan Kaneo in Ohrid or walk through the old bazaar amidst the poetic surroundings of Struga.
You should, however, take the time to travel further south, to the edges of the Galichica National Park. Here, Europe’s deepest lake offers scuba diving in the Bay of Bones, where an ancient settlement of people living on top of the water was found (along with the many animal remains that give this spot its name). Along with the underwater excavations, you can also see some of the artefacts found in the Museum on Water.
Lake Annecy, France
Lake Annecy, and the town of the same name on its shores, will not only give you the feeling of being in the Italian lakes but also, thanks to its canals, offer Venetian vibes. Known as Europe’s cleanest lake, this is an ideal choice if you like to swim in the water or lounge on one of the lakeside beaches without a care in the world.
Art lovers may recognise the blue water and verdant green hills from Cezanne’s ‘Le Lac Bleu’ and there are many beautiful spots from which to enjoy this same view. If you want to visit many of them in one trip, consider renting a bicycle and cycling along the path that runs around the perimeter. Other, less demanding, sporting activities include pedalos, sailing boats and stand-up paddle boarding – many of which can be done in the ideal swimming spot of Talloires.
Back in the romantic town of Annecy, the medieval sights and artistic touches create the perfect environment for a lazy day stroll. Visit the markets to see the influence from nearby Switzerland (especially in the form of raclette), admire the Palais de l'Isle (a former prison, mint and courthouse) and cement your love with a kiss on the Pont des Amours (said to bind couples together forever).
Lake Balaton, Hungary
If you like your lake holidays on a large scale, Europe’s biggest lake has to be a perfect choice. With no beaches to enjoy when the temperatures rise, residents of Budapest and other cities in this landlocked country head to the shores of Lake Balaton to cool off.
Visitors take to this vast body of water for sports such as sailing, water-skiing and wakeboarding. There are even cruises available that take you to many different parts of the 93-mile long coastline. There’s no need to be that active if you don’t want to though, as a wide range of beaches give you the perfect excuse to simply lie back and do nothing – not to mention the various spa towns in the area.
Nature lovers will definitely want to explore the northern shore and its wild spots. One of the key areas of interest is the peninsula that juts into the lake from the village Aszófő. On this peninsula, you will find the picturesque village of Tihany, complete with a medieval monastery, lavender fields and a lake of its own that freezes over in the winter.
For more information about any of these lakeside retreats, call us on 0800 021 3237. We will help you choose the perfect spot in which to relax and offer some friendly advice in terms of where to stay. Alternatively, if you want to stick to the Italian Lakes we can help you plan that too.