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11 Aug 2022

Why a European lakeside break could be a refreshing alternative to the beach this summer

Why a European lakeside break could be a refreshing alternative to the beach this summer

When Europe’s temperatures start to soar, there’s no better place to be than by the water. But that doesn’t necessarily mean heading straight for the coast.

Inland, around 15.5% of the world’s freshwater can be found on the continent, providing a calm, clean and refreshing environment to swim, kayak or relax on beaches, rocks or pebbly shores.

From family-friendly camping resorts to secluded, pine-shaded cottages, there are options to suit every budget.

Consider splashing into one of these landlocked waterways this summer.

Lake Saimaa, Finland – summer water temperature: 18.7C

Not sure where to take a dip? There are more than 188,000 lakes to choose from in Finnish Lakeland, located in the south-eastern corner of the outdoor-loving Nordic country. The largest is Lake Saimaa, a watery labyrinth dotted with thousands of islands. Measuring 14,500km, its lake coastline is the longest in the world, providing plenty of scenic spots to sunbathe on rocks or take waterside strolls, searching for the endangered ringed seal. Away from the water, rural roads wind through pine forests, farmlands and charming towns.

How: Baltic Travel Company (baltictravelcompany.com) offers the eight-day Finnish Lakes & Forests tour from £915 per person. Fly with Finnair (Finnair.com) from London to Helsinki from £155 per person.

Lake Constance, Germany – summer water temperature: 25-26C

Fringed with orchards, vineyards and views stretching towards the Alps, this scenic body of water sits in a region dubbed the German Riviera. Combine easy half-day strolls with visits to the gardens of Mainau or the monastic island of Reichenau using the efficient local boats, trains and buses to move around. Relax on sand and pebble beaches, dotted around the lake, or choose to bathe at one of the seasonal summer lidos.

How: Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) offers a six-night B&B trip in July and August from £1,260pp (two sharing), including return rail from London St. Pancras, luggage transfers, route notes and maps, GPS navigation, guest cards giving free use of some buses and trains, boat and entrance fee to Mainau’s botanical gardens.

Lake Pirkdorfer, Austria – summer water temperature: 27C

Guaranteed to make your skin feel silky soft, the water in this crystal-clear lake in the South Carinthia region is so clean it’s considered good enough to drink. Backed by the Karawanks mountains, it’s an excellent area for hiking and biking. But with paddleboards and pedal boats available for hire, there’s enough to keep you occupied on the lake. Lakeside Petzen Glamping offers safari tents, poolside lodges and luxurious tree-top tents – or bring your own A-frame and stay for just £17.98 per night for two.

How: Pitchup (pitchup.com) offers a one-bedroom safari tent (sleeps two) from £130.29 per night, with a two or three-night minimum stay. Fly into nearby Slovenia at Ljubljana (32 miles away, crossing the border by road) from £233 per person with Wizz Air (wizzair.com).

Lake Skärsjön, Sweden – summer water temperature: 23C

Swedes are masters of lakeside escapes. Every holiday season, people retreat to their summer houses to celebrate the longest days of the year. Foreign families can tap into the Scandi culture for spending quality time with each other in nature, by booking into a lakeside, off-grid eco lodge – just 2.5 hours from Stockholm via train. Enjoy a floating sauna, go on a beaver safari or head into the forest to track moose. An on-site organic grocery provides everything needed for wild dining – with the option to forage for a few extra berries and herbs.

How: Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) offers three-night breaks from £630pp (with discounts for children, minimum age 12). Includes meals, evening tours, bushcraft session, sleeping bag, canoe rental and a return transfer from Skinnskatteberg.

The Italian Lakes, Italy – summer water temperature: 24C

Synonymous with glitz and glamour, Italy’s northern lakes have always been popular with the rich and famous – making the region as much of an A-list star as the Amalfi coast. Try out a variety of water sports on Lake Como, Europe’s deepest lake, and visit the 18th century Villa Balbianello, used as a location in James Bond film Casino Royale. Botanical fans can indulge themselves at Lake Maggiore and its celebrated gardens. Italy’s second largest lake is also within easy reach of Cannero and Stresa, towns favoured by walkers.

How: Citalia (citalia.com) offers an eight-night Lake Maggiore and Lake Como twin centre holiday from £1,049 per person, including flights from London, and private transfers. Regional departures from the UK are also available.

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