July 13, 2024
Beat The Mediterranean Crowds! Here’s 4 Of The Most Beautiful Lake Destinations In Europe

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The Mediterranean may well be the hottest place to be this summer, both literally and figuratively, and we don’t know about you, but we’re not exactly keen on sharing a narrow strip of beach with hundreds, if not thousands of beachgoers, nor risk a heatstroke with the record temperatures to come.

Lake Lugano In Switzerland, Central Europe

Yeah, yeah, there’s those vespa rides into Amalfi sunsets, pastel-colored French Riviera towns and all that, but Europe is so much more than its southern sea and the overtouristed countries that fringe it, and this year, we’re going to the lakes instead.

Where it’s calmer, less crowded, temperatures are milder, and waters are just as crystal-clear (and if you’re lucky enough, you might get it for a small fraction of the price of a Med getaway): here are 4 world-class European lake destinations you’re probably sleeping on.

Lake Iseo

Loreto Island In Lake Iseo, Italian Lake Region In Lombardy, Northern Italy, Southern EuropeLoreto Island In Lake Iseo, Italian Lake Region In Lombardy, Northern Italy, Southern Europe

You’ve probably heard of Garda and Como, but not Iseo, one of the smallest, more offbeat lakes in Northern Italy, that despite being lined by equally historic towns and beautiful villas, is skipped by tourists altogether (well, foreigners at least, seeing it’s teeming with Italians in summer).

As the saying goes, always ‘go where the locals go‘, and you most certainly won’t be disappointed in Iseo, a crystalline lake fringed by fairytale towns and lush green mountains, where the international crowds are yet to crowd, and believe it or not, prices have not gone up dramatically.

Lake Iseo In Lombardy, Northern Italy, Southern EuropeLake Iseo In Lombardy, Northern Italy, Southern Europe

Iseo is far cheaper to visit than the other Italian lakes, with lakeside guesthouses starting as cheap as $66, and plenty of affordable restaurants serving delicious, fresh $10 pizza and pasta. As great as that sounds, Iseo’s main appeal is its cultural value.

Main sights include Iseo Town, the regional capital, dominated by an 11th-century castle, the laid-back fishing port of Sarnico, and the islet of Montisola, home to around 1,770 people, sprinkled with sleepy villages and sumptuously-frescoed churches.

Lake Balaton

Aerial View Of Tihany, Lake Balaton, Hungary, Central EuropeAerial View Of Tihany, Lake Balaton, Hungary, Central Europe

A landlocked country in Central Europe, Hungary has no beaches, but it’s not like it needs Mediterranean or Baltic Sea access when it has Balaton, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the continent, and a body of water so vast it hosts grand yachts and sailing competitions.

It is every Hungarian’s go-to summer destination, especially in July, when temperatures in the area can soar above 80 degrees, and other than being a leisure zone, with busy ‘beach’ clubs and waterparks galore, it’s a wellness zone awaiting discovery.

People Bathing And Swimming In Siofok, Lake Balaton, Hungary, Central EuropePeople Bathing And Swimming In Siofok, Lake Balaton, Hungary, Central Europe

Existing in a world of its own, away from the hustle and bustle of the Hungarian capital, Lake Balaton has charming boutique hotels from only $88 per night, with lakefront pools and modern spas offering an alternative to the jam-packed, pricey Budapest baths.

On top of that, there’s a number of quaint towns to discover, from spa hotspot Balatonfüred, known for its extensive Tagore promenade, to the upscale yachting center of Siófok, to the quaint Tihany, where you’ll find a well-preserved Benedictine Abbey founded as early as 1055 AD.

Lake Ohrid

Romanesque Church Of St John At Kaneo In Ohrid, Perched On A Clifftop Facing Lake Ohrid, In North Macedonia, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern EuropeRomanesque Church Of St John At Kaneo In Ohrid, Perched On A Clifftop Facing Lake Ohrid, In North Macedonia, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

Tucked away in the heart of the Balkans, between North Macedonia and Albania, Lake Ohrid is one of clearest lakes in Europe, with teal waters that could easily belong somewhere in the Mediterranean, and considering it’s far cheaper to visit, it’s honestly shocking it’s yet to be awash with visitors.

Whether it’s swimming, going on boat tours to isolated Byzantine ruins, or exploring the stunning city of Ohrid, on the Macedonian side, whose 365 churches and imposing fortress have awarded it the title of ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans‘, you’ll be certainly spoiled for choice here.

A Small Boat On A Crystal-Clear Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern EuropeA Small Boat On A Crystal-Clear Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

Unlike the other lakes on this list, Ohrid does have what you may consider to be a beach, namely narrow strips of sand and pebbles that lead to the turquoise water, and some of them—especially Pestani and Gradiste—even have hotels and bars.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, not only Ohrid incredible, it’s dirt cheap to visit in the high season compared to its Western European counterparts: villa stays start from as low as $44 per night here, and if your budget is your usual $50 per day, my friend, you’ll be eating and living like a king.

Lake Lugano

Ornate Lakefront Gate In Lake Lugano, Switzerland, Central EuropeOrnate Lakefront Gate In Lake Lugano, Switzerland, Central Europe

The lesser-known of Switzerland’s gorgeous glacial lakes, Lugano is located near the Italian border, and as it belongs to the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, it almost feels like an extension of Italy, with its pastel towns, Baroque villas and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

The main settlement is also called Lugano, an enchanting harbor city that’s not changed much since the Middle Ages, though the mountainside Gandria, the tiny, picturesque Morcote, and the aptly-named Paradiso, famous for its water fountain and landmark Cattaneo Castle.

Lugano In Switzerland, Central EuropeLugano In Switzerland, Central Europe

If you’re an outdoorsy person who loves to do, hem, outdoorsy stuff, then Lugano is right up your alley: it marks the start of the Swiss Alps, so we’re talking countless hikes to scenic lookouts, with Monte Brè, Monte San Salvatore, and UNESCO-listed Monte San Giorgio to name a few.

Price-wise, Lugano is the odd one out, as Switzerland is probably the most expensive country in Europe, so you shouldn’t expect to find hotels, as modest as they may be, for under $181, or keep overall expenses under $281 per day, but those stunning lake views are worth shelling out the dough for.

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