|It's twilight on Lake Bled's only island - the Church of the Assumption rises in the center. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
For those who love to vacation on or near the water, there's a tendency to look toward southern Europe's incredible beaches and coastal towns. Indeed, all along the Mediterranean Sea and near Spain and Portugal's coasts on the Atlantic, travellers can find some of the most picturesque beaches, and most pleasant coastal towns, anywhere in the world. However, for travellers who like to find destinations that are "off the beaten trail," so to speak, it's important to recognize that European tourism for water lovers isn't entirely limited to the southern coasts!
Specifically, Europe is home to absolutely stunning lake regions and accompanying towns. Now, a lake vacation isn't always the same as one to a warm, seaside beach, but it can certainly be just as enjoyable—and even more beautiful. So with that in mind, here are our picks for Europe's top-five lake destinations.
1. Lake Orta, Italy
|Benvenuti a Lake Orta in northern Italy, just one of many in Italy's Lake District. All photography property of Travel Marketing unless otherwise noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Noted by HouseTrip as the "Godfather of lakes" in Europe, Lake Orta is about as picturesque as tourism gets. Located in northern Italy, Orta itself is a charming village with colourful architecture, wonderful food, and stunning views of the lake. Don't miss the daily boat trip to the island situated in the middle of the lake. The island itself is wonderful to look at, but the boat trip is a common highlight for visitors.
2. Lake Saimaa, Finland
|The Saimaa Lake region promises pristine waters and spectacular landscapes.|
The Saimaa lake region draws thousands of tourists to Finland and features several the most delightfully still waters you'll have ever seen. Finland's largest lake and Europe's fourth largest, Lake Saimaa offers dramatic scenery among its countless activities for the region's visitors. During the summer in particular, there's fishing, swimming, and even canoe routes available to visitors.
3. Lake Annecy, France
|Lake Annecy near the borders of France, Switzerland and Italy offers a holiday on the water without the hoards of tourists.|
Part of the Savoie lake region in France, Lake Annecy may just make you feel as if you're actually in the south on the Mediterranean... just without the crowds! It's a bit remote, but a realistic drive (just one to two hours) away from the popular destination of Grenoble to the south. Travel-assistance site dialaflight has tips on Grenoble tourism, including helpful information on car rentals that could be of service in reaching Annecy. And once you're there, you won't want to leave! Blue waters, water sports, and sunny days make for an incredible vacation spot.
4. Lake Constance, Germany/Austria/Switzerland
|Lake Constance unites Germany, Austria and Switzerland with shared borders.|
This is one of the most intriguing lakes in Europe, simply because it touches so much of the continent. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland each claim coastline along its periphery, though Telegraph notes that many of the highlights are on the German stretch. These highlights include Lindau, a beautiful small island town, and Meersburg, quintessentially medieval Europe.
|Meersburg is split into the Unterstadt or lower town and the Oberstadt or upper town. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
5. Lake Bled, Slovenia
|The natural wonders of Lake Bled in Slovenia.|
If dramatic scenery is your thing, Lake Bled simply must be on your list. Pictured in a post on Europe's prettiest lakes by World Inside Pictures, Lake Bled is like something out of a fantasy film filled with natural splendor. Situated at the foot of the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is a glacier lake featuring renowned hiking and cycling trails. There's even a castle with commanding of the surrounding Alpine landscape and an old winery! But the piece de resistance is the lake's only island and the Church of the Assumption. Don't miss this! Pletna or ferries are the primary transportation on the lake since motor boats are not allowed.
|The Church of the Assumption on Lake's Bled only island, and 99 steps will take you there upon disembarkation from your pletna. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
The truth is that Europe is full of gorgeous lakes. In any single country there are close to a dozen options that make for wonderful tourism. These five, however, are a great start!
But what are your favorites? I can think of a few: Lake Hallstadt, Lake Garda, Lake Como, Lake Geneva, Lake Maggiore—among others.