With the likes of Lake Como, Saimaa and Ohrid carved into the European landscape, there is an abundance of stunning waterside destinations to consider visiting, without being confined to the cliché of a seaside holiday.
However, if you’re looking for somewhere a little more secluded and less familiar to the average traveller, have a browse through five of Europe’s best-kept secrets below and, with easyCar, you have the added benefit of only being a short drive away from both serenity and civilisation.
Derborence Lake, Switzerland
Oceans may reside many miles away from this landlocked country, but Switzerland is a nation most certainly defined by water. Over 7,000 lakes are dotted across its landscape, acting as a glittering backdrop to the picturesque cities, towns and hamlets for which it is known. Renting your Swiss easyCar on arrival is the best way to make the most of these.
Derborence Lake was the result of two immense landslides in the Alps during the 18th century, the devastation of which was thought to be the work of the devil. Diableret, or the ‘Devil’s Mountains’, saw the surrounding terrain conquered by nature, as the rubble created a dam which, in turn, formed the heavenly landscape we see today.
Now, the valley is a nature reserve and sits around 2 hours drive from Geneva Airport, with a stunning view of Lake Geneva, also worth a visit (although far busier), on your travels.
Lake Iseo, Italy
As it’s not widely known outside of Italy, Lake Iseo is a considerably quieter place to visit and, arguably, far more charming than some of the better-known lakes of the country with far fewer sun-seeking tourists.
From Milano Malpensa Airport, having picked up your Italian car rental with easyCar, the drive is around an hour and a half to the east and will take you through Franciacorta, the heart of Lombardy’s wine-growing region. The countryside surrounding the lake features immaculate vineyards, medieval castles and monasteries.
From the lakeside towns of Sale Marasino or Iseo, you can take the short ferry ride, empty even during the summer months, to Monte Isola, the largest inhabited lake island in southern Europe. At only 3km in length, 2,000 residents and no cars (you’ll find plenty of free parking at the aforementioned towns), this remote island is quite the spectacle, with blue and white paper flowers strung around the cobbled waterside paths and doorways for decoration.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Said to be one of the most beautiful parks on Earth, and known to be the oldest natural reservation in south-eastern Europe, the Plitvice Lakes are a harmonious combination of lush forests, meadows and waterfalls, cascading into sixteen blue or grey lakes.
Now, there is a slight catch. The park attracts over 1 million visitors every year, but these are concentrated heavily in the summer months. Our suggestion would be to visit in the spring or tail-end of summer, as the changing seasons cause various hues of rich autumn and crisp winter colours, and the levels of visitors significantly drop, allowing you to enjoy the lakes largely to yourself.
Located roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar along the coast, the lakes are around one and a half hours away from each airport (where you will be able to pick up your Croatian car rental with easyCar) and offer spectacular views along the way. There are entrances at either end of the lakes, with parking spaces that cost 7 Kuna (around 60p) per hour and entrance fees that vary between 55 Kuna (around £5) to 180 Kuna (around £18) depending on the time of year.
Kerid Crater Lake, Iceland
Iceland, known for its dramatic glacial landscapes, has seen clusters of crater lakes scooped from its terrain, the most famous being that of Kerid. A combination of non-seasonal tourism and poor signposting (yes, really) means that the Grimsnes area in southern Iceland, an hour’s drive from Reykjavik International Airport, doesn’t receive overwhelming swarms of people throughout the year. Book your Icelandic car rental through easyCar and discover these hidden Nordic gems.
While the lake is small, the towering cliff walls surrounding the lake make the site all the more impressive, while the walls and water levels, emitting a brilliant aquamarine colour, are signature features of a collapsed volcano, extinct for over 3,500 years. It remains the most photographed feature of Iceland, yet still provides a tranquil, thought-provoking setting with quite a remarkable view.
Hallstätter See, Austria
At the northern foot of the mighty Dachstein mountain range, the Hallstätter See is a spectacular mountain lake in Austria’s Salzkammergut region. Steep, wooded slopes, providing fjord-like character, surround its monstrous presence, while the pretty villages of Obertraun, Steeg and Hallstatt dot the shoreline.
There is an abundance of beaches and, because of its size, there will always be space to find peace and quiet along the shore. For those looking for something to do, after renting your Austrian car rental from easyCar and taken an hour’s drive from Salzburg Airport, there are plenty of opportunities in the UNESCO world heritage site for hiking, biking, fishing, diving and boating on their traditional flat-bottomed boats (Salzkammergut).
While the sea holds a sort of unbridled, untamed draw. Lakes tend to be a whole different kettle of fish; the millpond flat and non-salty water are an obvious draw. We are blessed with a whole range of lakes in Europe, don’t limit yourself to this selection, go out and discover a lake on your next break.