When temperatures in Europe 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, approximately 15.5% of the world’s fresh water is on land, providing a calm, clean and refreshing environment for swimming, kayaking or relaxing on beaches, rocks or shores pebbles.
From family camping resorts to secluded cabins shaded by pine trees, there are options for every budget.
Consider diving in one of these landlocked waterways this summer.
Lake Saimaa, Finland – summer water temperature: 18.7°C
Don’t know where to swim? There are over 188,000 lakes to choose from in Finland’s Lakeland, located in the southeast corner of the outdoor-loving Nordic country. The largest is Lake Saimaa, an aquatic labyrinth dotted with thousands of islands. Measuring 14,500 km, its lake coastline is the longest in the world, offering plenty of scenic spots to sunbathe on the rocks or take walks along the water’s edge in search of the endangered ringed seal. Away from the water, rural roads wind through pine forests, farmland and charming towns.
How: Baltic Travel Company (baltictravelcompany.com) offers the eight-day Finnish Lakes and Forests Tour from £915 pp. Fly with Finnair (Finnair.com) from London to Helsinki from £155 pp.
Lake Constance, Germany – water temperature in summer: 25-26C
Bordered by orchards, vineyards and views stretching towards the Alps, this scenic body of water is in an area dubbed the German Riviera. Combine easy half-day walks with visits to Mainau Gardens or the monastic island of Reichenau using the efficient local boats, trains and buses to get you around. Relax on the sandy and pebble beaches, dotted around the lake, or choose to swim in one of the seasonal summer lidos.
How: Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) offers a six-night B&B trip in July and August from £1,260 pp (two sharing), including return train from London St. Pancras, luggage transfers, route notes and maps, GPS navigation, guest cards giving free use of certain buses and trains, boat and entrance fee to the Mainau Botanical Gardens.
Pirkdorfer Lake, Austria – swater temperature in summer: 27C
Guaranteed to make your skin silky smooth, 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 a great place for hiking and biking. But with paddle boards and pedal boats available for hire, there’s plenty to keep you busy on the lake. Lakeside Petzen Glamping offers safari tents, poolside lodges and luxury tree tents – or bring your own A-frame and stay for just £17.98 a night for two.
How: Pitchup (pitchup.com) offers a one-bedroom safari tent (sleeps two) from £130.29 per night, with a minimum stay of two or three nights. Fly to neighboring Slovenia at Ljubljana (32 miles away, crossing the border by road) from £233 pp with Wizz Air (wizzair.com).
Lake Skärsjön, Sweden – water temperature in summer: 23C
The Swedes are the masters of lakeside getaways. Every holiday season, people retreat to their summer homes to celebrate the longest days of the year. Foreign families can tap into the Scandi culture to spend quality time with each other in nature, by booking into an eco-friendly, off-the-grid lakeside lodge – just 2.5 hours from Stockholm by train. Enjoy a floating sauna, go on a beaver safari, or head into the forest to track moose. An on-site organic grocery store provides everything you need to eat wild – with the option of foraging for a few extra berries and herbs.
How: Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) offers three-night stays from £630 pp (with discounts for children, aged 12+). Includes meals, evening tours, bushcraft session, sleeping bag, canoe rental and round-trip transfer from Skinnskatteberg.
Italian Lakes, Italy – water temperature in summer: 24°C
Synonymous with glitz and glamour, Italy’s northern lakes have always been popular with the rich and famous, making the region an A-list star alongside the Amalfi Coast. Try a variety of water sports on Lake Como, Europe’s deepest lake, and visit the 18th-century Villa Balbianello, used as the setting in the James Bond film Casino Royale. Botanical enthusiasts can indulge themselves at Lake Maggiore and its famous gardens. Italy’s second largest lake is also close to Cannero and Stresa, towns popular with hikers.
How: Citalia (citalia.com) offers eight-night holidays in the twin centers of Lake Maggiore and Lake Como from £1,049 pp, including flights from London and private transfers. Regional departures from the UK are also available.