Why Europe’s beautiful lakes are perfect for a late summer break

Lake Attersee, Austria - Moritz Ablinger

Lake Attersee, Austria – Moritz Ablinger

Beaches are not just by the sea. Lakes and enclosed bodies of water have an allure that seas and oceans do not have, and one that lasts beyond the summer days.

Instead of retreating to a flat horizon, lakes offer versatile scenery. This can range from the Alpine peaks above Annecy, and the dazzlingly elegant towns around Como to the forested shores and lush pastures of Lake Lucerne. Anywhere surrounded by deciduous trees also offers the autumn treat of a fiery watery reflection. And since water takes longer to warm (and cool) than land, lakes are often at their warmest in late summer.

Lakes often offer more variety than your usual seaside beach and water sports package: lakeside walks, high-level hiking, bird and wildlife watching, as well as swimming and boating activities. At Lake Kerkini in Greece, for example, you can see flamingos and pelicans, or see red squirrels around Derwentwater. Lakes often have islands; sometimes inhabited, such as Monte Isola on Lake Iseo, but more often a tree-covered destination for a swim or boating expedition. Either way, they have a world-within-a-world appeal that’s very satisfying when you’re staring back at the shore.

Granted, lakeside beaches tend to be the coarse sand or rocky variety – but all you need is the right footwear. Also, pebbles provide endless opportunities to perfect your rock skimming technique.

Lake Päijänne, Finland

Best for fishing

Finland may seem more water than land; around a third of the country lies in the south-eastern Lakeland region, where around 1,000 lakes lie between pine forests. This is where the Finns go to relax in their rust-red holiday homes. Lake Päijänne is the second largest – a staggering 75 ml/120 km – and perfect for hiking, fishing, kayaking or just looking at the drinking-quality water. In the middle, Paijanne National Park – a series of islands – has nature trails, sandy coves, an observation tower and excellent birding for species such as the Eurasian golden oriole and red-breasted flycatcher.

How to do it: Ilola Inn is a renovated 19th-century lakeside tavern with handsome, scandi rooms from £153 with breakfast, large sauna, pool and marina (00 358 400 469 797; ilolainn.fi)

Lake Päijänne, Finland - Johannes Sipponen Salpausselkä Geopark

Lake Päijänne, Finland – Johannes Sipponen Salpausselkä Geopark

Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

Best for the story

Tucked between Albania and Greece, North Macedonia is an often unfairly overlooked Balkan country. Nevertheless, Lake Ohrid (which it shares with Albania) and its namesake town have a Unesco list for their natural and cultural heritage. With the snow-capped Galicica mountain towering to the east, beautiful blue-green water and sandy and gravel beaches, locals have long known the lake’s attractions. When you tire of swimming, boating and hiking in the Galičica National Park, explore the city’s Roman, Byzantine, medieval and Ottoman architecture. The picture-perfect 13th-century church of St John the Theologian sits enticingly above the lake.

How to do it: Aleksandar Villa & Spa, a grand building with gardens, indoor and outdoor pools, small spa and large rooms from £83 with breakfast, is a short walk from the lake (00 389 46 261 644; aleksandarvilla.com)

A Macedonian Orthodox Church overlooking Lake Ohrid - Getty

A Macedonian Orthodox Church overlooking Lake Ohrid – Getty

Lake Iseo, Italy

Best for boat trips

Lake Garda may be larger, and Lake Como more elegant, but Lake Iseo (located between them in northern Italy’s Lombardy region) has its own charm. It has the same deep blue-green waters, wooded slopes, boat trips, beaches and lidos, cycling and hiking, but the towns retain a low-key, unassuming feel. Lovere, with its beautiful 15th-century basilica, is particularly attractive. The lake’s showpiece is Monte Isola, the largest inhabited lake island in Europe. Buildings pile up in Ferrero-Rocher style to the wooded summit where the Madonna della Ceriola sanctuary is rewarded with stunning views.

How to do it: On the southeastern shore, overlooking Monte Isola, Hotel Rivalago has a relaxed Mediterranean air, a pool and direct access to the lake. Rooms from £122 with breakfast (00 39 030 985011; rivalago.it)

Lake Iseo, Italy - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lake Iseo, Italy – Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lake Maggiore, Switzerland

Best for flora

Most of Lago Maggiore is in Italy, but I’d argue the northern Swiss section, located in the relatively undiscovered (by Brits) Ticino region, offers both the country’s highest sunshine record and an irresistible mix of Swiss efficiency and Italian dolce vita . Here you can take the passeggiata along the shores of the lake and pass gardens of camellias, oleanders and cypresses, go for a swim, putt over to one of the beautiful Brissago Islands with its lush botanical gardens, sip an Aperol in Piazza Grande in Locarno or take a look at the elegant. shops in small and artificial Ascona.

How to do it: The family-run Art Hotel Riposa in Ascona has a rooftop pool and terrace, and weekly jazz sessions. Rooms from £185 with breakfast (00 41 91 791 3164; hotelriposo.ch)

Lake Attersee, Austria

Best for turquoise water

Among the lakes in the Salzkammergut region (salt domain) of subalpine peaks east of Salzburg, the Attersee is considered by many to be the bluest; a stunning Caribbean turquoise that captivated the artist Gustav Klimt who spent his summers here. Surrounded by forested mountain sides, rich pastures, tidy farms and equally tidy towns and villages, it offers hiking, boating, sailing, water skiing and well-equipped public bathing areas. Dare to whine down the slide at the Attersee town’s lido, which tips you right into the lake.

How to do it: The lakeside Hotel Stadler am Attersee has modern country-style rooms from £126 with breakfast, most with lake views, plus spa and private beach (00 43 7665 8346; seegasthof-stadler)

Lake Attersee, Austria - Moritz Ablinger

Lake Attersee, Austria – Moritz Ablinger

Lake Annecy, France

Best for grassy beaches

Lake Annecy, 30 miles south of Lake Geneva, is fed by alpine springs, and sparkles with turquoise prettiness. It charms as much for the clarity of the water and the jagged peaks that rise above wooded slopes as for the town of the same name, where arcaded houses and narrow passages line the flower-covered waterways of the Canal du Thiou. There are grassy beaches in the town plus sandy and grassy beaches around the lake, some with diving boards and games. When you’ve had enough of the water, you can go hiking or mountain biking in the surrounding hills, or join the locals on the 25-kilometer bike ride by the lake.

How to do it: Clos Marcel is one of the few lakeside Annecy hotels, elegant in wood, glass and metal, with Scandinavian-style rooms from £145, and a private beach (00 33 450 686747; closmarcel.com)

Lake Zurich, Switzerland

Best for outdoor pools

The Swiss are crazy about swimming; any excuse and they will jump into a river or lake, even during their lunch breaks. Zurich offers the alternatives of both the river Limmat and the lake whose water – unsurprisingly, this is Switzerland – has been declared of drinking water quality. Jump in either from one of the “badis” – organized outdoor pools with boardwalks and changing rooms (mid-May to mid-September) – or from one of the grass or pebble beaches. Boats cross the lake and the city is much more than a tight financial center with a medieval old town, a hip industrial district and wallet-stuffing shops.

How to do it: The neat and nautical Hotel Seehof is in a quiet side street on the edge of the smart Seefeld district, yet just two minutes from the lake, rooms from £183 (00 41 44 254 5757; seehof.com)

Jump into Lake Zurich, Switzerland - Alamy

Jump into Lake Zurich, Switzerland – Alamy

Derwentwater, Lake District

Best for wild swimming

We’re not talking sandy beaches and lilos, but the region’s lakes in all the right ways. Derwentwater is varied but not too big, pretty but with a rough edge, and with lots to do, from a lakeside theater to mountain walks. When autumn comes, reflections from the tree-lined banks are magical. Picnic or take a dip in one of the bays – perhaps Strandshag or Calfclose – kayak or row to one of the islands or putt across the water in a traditional launch. There are lakeside walks – even a full lake circuit – or just take in the stunning views south to Castle Crag and the Borrowdale mountains.

How to do it: Inn on The Square, in Keswick town centre, has a colorful Scandi style and is a 10-minute walk from the lake. Rooms from £150 (01768 773333; innonthesquare.co.uk)

Lake Tegernsee, Germany

Best for sandy beaches

An hour south of Munich, in the Bavarian Alps, the drinking-quality blue waters of Lake Tegernsee reflect the surrounding wooded and pasture hills with the Alpine peaks rising above. There are well-organized swimming and bathing spots on sandy beaches – including beach volleyball, children’s playgrounds, water slides – plus sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and boat trips. Tours range from leisurely strolls along the lake to a hike up the 5,650-foot Walberg (or is it a cable car) with glorious lake views.

How to do it: The Althoff Seehoff Überfahrt is a luxury lakeside hotel with a spa and a three-Michelin-star restaurant among its dining options, rooms from £241 with breakfast (0049 80 22 6690; althoffcollection.com)

The beach at Lake Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany - Alamy

The beach at Lake Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany – Alamy

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Best for cable car rides

Most flock to the fairytale beauty of Lake Bled, but head further west and you’ll find the tranquil blue-green beauty of Lake Bohinj, framed by the rugged peaks of the Julian Alps. Take a deep breath and your head will feel peppermint fresh. Explore a low or high level trail, admire the Savica waterfall, sit back in a cable car for the ride up Mt Vogel and magnificent views, visit the cute rustic alpine dairy farm museum, skim the lake from a kayak – or find a quiet cove on the north coast for a swim.

How to do it: Chalet-style Hotel Jezero, next to the pretty stone bridge of Ribčev Laz at the eastern end of the lake, has simple, modern rooms from £120 with breakfast, pool and Finnish saunas (00 386 4 572 9100; hotel-jezero.si)

Covid rules

For full details of entry requirements and Covid rules for your favorite destinations, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-travelrules.
See gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for further travel information

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