Fancy something a bit different for your next best summer holiday? Here´s an idea. Why not trade crowded sands and salty seas for calm, sparkling waters and glorious mountain views?
Picture this: sun-dappled lakes fringed by beautiful olde world towns, flanked by forests and overlooked by majestic mountain ranges. That´s the scene that awaits you at some of Europe´s top lake destinations, and it´s a far cry from the usual run of the mill package holidays you´ll find in the Med. There are thousands of lakes across Europe offering all the beach activities you have come to love, and plenty more besides. Swimming, bathing, snorkelling, diving, canoeing, windsurfing, sailing… the list goes on.
Many lakes offer pristine waters fed by springs or glaciers, with flat beaches and bathing platforms. Everyone has their own set of criteria for what makes the perfect swimming lake, so here are a few of our favourites. Some are great for families, others are remote and serene – yet all of them offer a refreshing dip in spectacular surroundings. Dive in, the water´s lovely!
Lake Bohinj: Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Think Slovenia and Lake Bled may spring to mind. As beautiful as it is, it´s quite a tourist trap and can become busy in summer. Just half an hour´s drive from Bled is Lake Bohinj, a serene and unspoilt spot that´s nothing short of spectacular. The calm, glassy lake is fringed by mountains and pine trees and makes a beautiful, relaxing spot for mid summer swimming. Take to the water or join a guided swimming trip. Development is limited thanks to restrictions within Triglav National Park, providing a truly unspoilt oasis, although families may benefit from a trip to nearby Bohinj Water Park. When you fancy a change of scenery, take the forested path which runs around the lake and offers glorious scenery.
Bathing Lake Going: Tirol, Austria
A cracking spot for families. Fed by the mountain springs of the Wilder Kaiser range, this beautiful lake has it all: pine forests, mountain views, a flat white beach, oodles of activities and of course, fantastic lake swimming. It´s no wonder it was named Tirol´s most beautiful natural swimming lake. Keep the little ones entertained with a 100m water slide, tunnels, a Kids´ Park and Pirate Ship, or take to the sunbathing lawn to catch up on some precious R&R. Talk about watery family fun!
Lake Garda: Italy
There´s nothing better than diving into the pristine waters of the enormous Lake Garda to cool off from those searing summer temperatures. Located in Northern Italy under the Alps´ Brenta range, Lake Garda is Italy´s largest lake with 143 square miles and 90 miles of shoreline. Steer clear of areas like Torbole that become busy with windsurfers, and don´t swim near the boat docks – other than that, there are stacks of superb swimming opportunities. The water is generally warm enough for swimming from May to September, although you may be able to swim a little earlier or later with a wetsuit.
Lake Cauma: Grisons, Switzerland
Lake Cauma is a tranquil emerald gem flanked by woodland with an island in the middle. It´s quite the spectacle at any time of year, but particularly in summer when you can swim in its pristine waters. Based south of Flims, the lake is based on the location of the prehistoric Flims Rockslide, where the landscape is completely forested and undeveloped. Keep an eye on the water levels as they can fall quite low, but swimming is usually possible from April.
Lake Annecy: France
One of the most famous swimming lakes in France is Lake Annecy. It´s a glorious spot with mountain views and lush green forests, and dozens of beaches and little bays from which you can enter the water. You can also swim in the River Fier which feeds the lake. Approximately 10km west of Annecy is the Fier Gorges, a stunning place with a spectacular canyon and natural beaches.
All of these lakes are generally easy to reach, particularly the larger spots like Lake Garda and Lake Annecy. Some of these destinations can also be visited as part of a swimming holiday package. We offer a 4-day lake swimming holiday on Slovenian lakes and you have several options to get there (flights are not included in our trip). Locations like France are also easily accessed by car from the UK, via the Eurotunnel or a ferry crossing.
Which European swimming lake gets your vote?