7 Reasons to go on a Lakes and Mountains Holiday

A lakes and mountains holiday needn’t be reserved for the depths of winter. The Alps are just as magnificent in the summer and autumn months. It’s like a beach break with all the wilderness thrown in. Crisp mountain air and minimal civilization at the edge of some of the most breathtaking scenery you’re ever likely to set your eyes on.

Adventurous souls can hike, canyon or cycle their way around the landscape. And if you want to take it easy, soak up the sights from the shoreline or follow your tastebuds around the lakeside promenades. What’s not to love? Tempted to swap your coastal getaway for verdant vistas? Here are 7 reasons why you should.

1. For the dreamy lakeside beaches

Woman on paddleboard on the lake

Beach breaks needn’t be limited to the coast. You can still get your fill of shimmering shorelines, all backed by majestic mountains and lush green woodland. And you can do all the activities you love, like wild swimming, paddleboarding, snorkelling, diving, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing.

For white powdery sand, cocktail bars and swoon-worthy views, perch a sunlounger on Baia Bianca Beach in Lake Garda, Italy. The weather reaches a toasty 30°C from July to August, with the waters sitting at a pleasant 23°C and cooling off to 20°C in the autumn.

If you’re travelling with little ones in tow, check out Grajska in Lake Bled, Slovenia. It’s got waterslides, lidos, and a sandbox to keep them busy. Temperatures can climb to 30°C in the summer, with the water peaking at 25°C. And thanks to the hot springs in the northeast, bathers still enjoy a refreshing dip from September to October.

beach on Achensee lake in Austria

Another beautiful spot is St Jorioz, a natural sand beach on Lake Annecy, France, with jaw-dropping views of the highest mountain in the region. It’s an excellent location for catamarans, dinghies, paddle boarders and windsurfers. The best time for a dip is late summer, when the water peaks at 27°C, but it’s usually still warm enough through September and October (25°C-20°C).

2. For the quaint villages

Lakeside village

A lakes and mountains holiday gives you the chance to see a totally different side of Europe. When you’ve had your fill of wild swimming, lakeside strolls and hiking the mountain trails, take some time to uncover the fascinating history and culture behind these scenic destinations.

The traditional villages in the Gorenjska region of Slovenia are a must-see. All red rooftops and painted frescos perched along the foothills of the Karavanke range. Head into the oldest medieval towns of Ljubljana, Skofja Loka to capture a glimpse at the Loka Castle before poking your nose around the Lubniška Jama cave system. And when your feet get weary, grab a quiet coffee along the cobblestone cafes.

Village Weggis Lake Lucerne

If you're planning a trip to Switzerland, hop aboard the lake steamer to the idyllic village of Weggis, perched right on the shores of Lake Lucerne. With its flower-lined promenades and the warm winds called föhn, it’s no wonder Mark Twain described it as the “loveliest place” he ever saw. It’s the perfect spot for some lakeside dining after an outing to Mount Rigi.

3. For the remarkable natural wonders

Dalfazer Waterfall Achensee Lake

It should come as no surprise that Europe’s mountains and lakes are bursting with natural wonders. Steamy hot springs, thundering waterfalls and magical ice caves await. You could walk the footbridge above Les Gorges du Fier in France, witness the power of the Dalfazer Wasserfalls in Austria, or navigate the extraordinary Postojna caverns in Slovenia.

For an extraordinary experience, seek out the geothermal baths that ring Lake Garda. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot circular rock piles along the water's edge, creating natural bubbling hot tubs. These hot springs feed the hotel & wellness spas along the region, making the most of the healing effects of the mineral-rich waters.

Vintar Gorge Slovenia

Undoubtedly one of the most enchanting places in Slovenia is the dramatic Vintgar Gorge. You can follow the Radovna River along the suspended bridge, built in 1893, criss-crossing through massive stone walls over its turquoise waters and rapids. The trail leads to the Sum Waterfall, dropping 13 metres into its path.

4. For the otherworldly views

While there are countless hiking routes through the mountains, you can still reach dizzying heights without all the legwork. Cable cars and trains give you instant access to the peaks, offering vistas that will leave you awestruck.

Ride the rotating Malcesine gondola for 360 views of Lake Garda, from Riva to Peschiera del Garda. The 1600m ascent takes you right to the top of Mt Baldo. And then there’s the highest vertical lift in Switzerland, Bürgenstock, offering unparalleled visibility across Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains. For panoramic vistas of Austria, you could board the old-world cog railway through St Wolfgang. It’s been ascending Schalfberg since 1893.

Sphinx Observatory Jungfraujoch

If you want to say you’ve been to the “Top of Europe”, visit Jungfraujoch, it’s a classic Swiss experience, and the views are breathtaking. The mountain looks over the Bernese Alps, the Aletsch glacier, the Black Forest and beyond. To get there, you can ride the train to the highest railway station in Europe, from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. Then board the lift to the Sphinx Observation Deck, travelling 108m in 25 seconds.

5. For the authentic treats and tipples

Italian cheese

The Alps are a paradise for foodies. Afterall, the mountainside is where most of the best produce comes from. From classic comforts like fondue to the regional wines and freshwater fish. The verdant landscapes and fertile soil lend these destinations an abundance of wholesome ingredients. Not to mention the endless supply of one-of-a-kind cheeses - we can hear the cow bells already.

No foodie list would be complete without a nod to Lake Garda’s vineyards. Thanks to its temperate climate and morainic soils, the province is renowned for its tipple. And nothing beats a glass of timeless Lugana, paired with striking vistas. If you’re visiting in early October, you’ll make the Wine Festival in Bardolino, when the small town promenade is adorned with oak caskets and food stalls.

Cream cake in Lake Bled Slovenia

Then there’s dessert. From Austria’s famous apple strudel to the Swiss Bündner Nusstorte and Italy’s furtaies, you can’t say you’ve been to the lakes without trying the traditional sweets. The most famous of all is the local cream cake of Slovenia, called Kremsnita. Head to Cafe Belvedere for a taste of the old Vojvodina recipe. Layered butter pastry, custard and whipped vanilla cream, all with outstanding views over Lake Bled.

6. For the love of mountain pursuits

Mountain hiking

The biggest draw for a lakes and mountains holiday is undoubtedly exploring the natural landscape, whether by foot, two-wheels, paddle or air. If you’re an amateur rambler or seasoned hiker, you’ll find spectacular trails for all abilities, from leisurely downhill strolls to challenging ascents. And for adrenaline junkies, you’ve got white-water rafting, paragliding and climbing at your fingertips.

One of the most beautiful and least demanding walks is on the edge of Bovec in Slovenia. Follow the emerald Soča River, through the unspoilt Triglav National Park, and deep into the Julian Alps. It’s an easy downhill route that can be reached by bus. You'll pass majestic gorges, mesmerising waterfalls and remote villages along the 8km descent.

Serious hikers could take on the La Jonction trail in Chamonix. The trek takes you through the glaciers of Bosson and Tconnaz, where Michel-Gabriel and Jacques Balmat first ascended Mont Blanc in 1786. It’s a strenuous 6 hr zig-zagging path, but hugely rewarding, with views over a glacial amphitheatre.

Rapids on River Soca

Here's one for the thrill-seekers. Where there are the Alps, there are freshwater rivers teeming with rapids. Grab your life jackets and paddles for an unrivalled white-water rafting experience. You could take on the almighty Peri in Lake Garda, cross through the tunnel of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, or get wet and wild along the Lütschine River in Interlaken.

7. For the endless family fun

Family Holiday in the Lakes and Mountains

There's so much to do on a lakes and mountains family holiday, from exploring historic villages to paddling in the waters and getting up close to the local wildlife. Create unforgettable memories together in some of the most beautiful destinations in Europe.

Lake Garda is home to some of Italy’s top amusement parks. Chase thrills together at Gardaland Park with jungle rapids, a Mammoth arctic convoy and a magic village. Teens will love the daredevil rollercoasters, while tots can ride the teacups in Kung Fu Panda Land.

There are heaps of activities around Austria's lakes too. In Mayrhofen, you can watch a bird of prey show in the Ahorn mountains, the highest stage in Europe. Or head into the heart of Scheuling Forest to climb the natural wooden playground of Brindlang, with sandpits and water mills galore.

Animal lovers can spot free-roaming alpine wildlife in Chamonix, France. Follow the path through the forests and meadows of Merlet Park, and you’ll meet grazing deer, mountain goats and fluffy Marmottes along the way. All with the breathtaking Mont Blanc panorama in the fore.

An incredible way to experience the Swiss Alps together is to ride the steepest toboggan in Saas-Fee. The whole family can take the lift to the summit of Hannig before hurtling back down the mountain a 40km/h. And if you're planning a grown-up day out, many resorts offer great kid's clubs to keep your mini explorers entertained.

Ready to discover the most spectacular landscapes in Europe?

We’ve partnered with Inghams Lakes and Mountains to bring you closer to authentic adventures in the heart of the Alps. They've been organising special interest holidays for over 85 years, so you’ll get the best out of your Lakes and Mountains getaway.

You’ll also find a wide range of spectacular hotels and apartments with panoramic views of these majestic landscapes. What better way to take in these incredible vistas than from the warmth of a sauna, or candle-lit terrace?

Lydia Davis

About the author

A thrill-seeking globetrotter, Lydia is passionate about trying out new experiences. From rushing down the slopes of Savoie to quad biking over the dunes in Cape Verde, she wants to help holidaymakers get the most out of their next adventure.