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 old-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!

1. 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 natural lake is fringed by mountains and pine trees and makes a beautiful, relaxing spot for mid-summer outdoor swimming. Take to the water or join a swimming holiday 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.

Google Map: Lake Bohinj Swimming

2. Faaker See Lake, Austria

Faaker See Lake is located in the south of Austria near the Slovenian border and it is known as Austria’s southernmost glacial lake in Carinthia. It presents turquoise-blue water with a backdrop of the jagged rocks of the Mittagskogel and Karawanken mountain range. This shining lake attracts rowers, open water swimmers and triathletes. One of the main attractions of this lake is an idyllic forested island in the middle which splits the lakes into two parts. In addition to its natural beauty, the lake is also known as the warmest lake in southern Austria. The water temperatures in the summer months reach up to 26C (78F).


3. 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 – otherwise, there are stacks of superb swimming opportunities. The water is warm enough for swimming from May to September, however, you may also be able to swim a little earlier or later with a proper wetsuit. Back in 1999 Slovenian marathon swimmer, Martin Strel swam the entire length of Lake Garda in one go.

4. Lake Cauma: Grisons, Switzerland

Lake Cauma is an emerald gem flanked by woodland with an island in the middle. It’s a 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 late April.

5. 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

We offer a 4-day lake swimming holiday on Slovenian lakes and you have several options to get there. The closest airports would be Ljubljana (Slovenia), Zagreb (Croatia) and Venice (Italy). Locations in France are also easily accessible by car from the UK, via the Eurotunnel or a ferry crossing.

Which European swimming does lake get your vote for? We hope to see you in the water soon.

Video: Lake Bohinj Swimming in Slovenia