Best Lakes to Visit in Europe Outside of Italy

Best Lakes to Visit in Europe Outside of Italy

It’s a well-known truth that Italy is home to some of the world’s most popular lakes that attract millions across the world each year. But instead of going to well-trodden banks of Lake Como and or the bustling Lake Garda, you can take the path-less-travelled to the most beautiful lakes in Europe that are worlds away from the tourist traps.

We have curated a list of the best lakes to visit in Europe outside of Italy. From the hidden gems in Europe and best-kept-secret bodies of water nestled between alpine peaks to the culturally rich trans-boundary lakes with UNESCO-listed and medieval villages, churches and even castles littering their shores, there’s much to see.

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1. Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal

Sitting in the crater of a dormant volcano in the Azores is the twin lake, Lagoa das Sete Cidades. The Azores are littered with beautiful lakes, but this lake in particular is one that stands out to us, especially because of its natural beauty that has deemed itself as one of Portugal’s seven wonders.

The two otherworldly lagoons are enclosed in thick, vibrant swaths of forestry that cover each curve and slope that border the water. Although the two are joined by a long, narrow straight, one lagoon is a deep blue where the other is a vigorous green.

“The captivating beauty is not the only enchanting aspect about this lake. Legend says that the lake was formed by the tears of a princess and a shepherd, who cried a lake of tears when their forbidden love ended. The green lagoon is the tears of the princess’s emerald green eyes, and the blue lagoon is the tears of the shepherd’s hydrangea-blue eyes – a lovely folklore that somehow enhances the lakes charm.” – Andrea Godfrey, Head of Regent
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2. Lake Ohrid, Albania and North Macedonia

Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. This lake stretches from North Macedonia to the Albanian border in southeast Europe, with the UNESCO-listed town of Ohrid sitting on its banks in North Macedonia. This charming lake is the perfect place to enjoy a scenic boat ride over to Sveti in the summer, which is home to the ancient Naum Monastery. For something more relaxing, enjoy a delicious glass of North Macedonian wine whilst watching the sunset on the other side of the lake.

There’s plenty to do around Lake Ohrid, and you can enjoy an unforgettable city and lakes tour in Skopje and Lake Ohrid. Not only are there numerous excursions available to explore contrasting cultures, but you can learn about the eels that begin their migration in the lake, going towards the Sargasso Sea to nest.

“Surrounding Lake Ohrid is a deep history that I loved exploring. The city-museum is home to numerous archaeological treasures that date back as early as the Christian basilicas, and marvelling at the abundance of ancient churches such as St. John at Kaneo perched at the top of the cliffs that frame the lake was stunning.”- Andrea Godfrey, Head of Regent
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3. Lake Peipus, Estonia and Russia

Lake Peipus is the largest trans-boundary lake in Europe, lying between the borders of Russian and Estonia. This lake is also Estonia’s biggest lake, with long, picturesque shores home to culturally rich towns and cities, charming villages and driving routes that are both stunning and enriching. Tartu, European Capital of Culture 2024 is located on the west side of the lake, making it effortless to explore this cultural heart home to rich heritage and 18th century architecture.

Circling the lake is a world of medieval allure and natural beauty, from unique marshy national parks such as Soomaa and Vilsandi to traditional towns and history along the Onion Route which is home to the Old Believers Museum and Alatskivi castle dating back to the 17th century. While you’re exploring the charm of this region and discovering Estonia on the road, you’ll always encounter the rural landscapes of the lakeside, either as you drive to your next destination or along hiking trails.

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4. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is not necessarily one lake, but a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s brimming with picturesque lakes and lovely waterfalls. 16 stunning lakes are dotted across the national park, and an impressive 92 waterfalls await your exploration.

For the adventurous travellers, you can walk around this park between four and five hours. However, there are several walking routes throughout the park that you can enjoy, including our favourite, Walk B. On this journey, you’ll traverse through the limestone canyon of the lower lakes, and then across the largest lake, Lake Kozjak, by electric boat.

If you’re looking for a Plitvice lake tour, Regent have curated an excellent option to explore the city and lakes of Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes. For seven days, you can enjoy a blend of medieval historic discovery and UNESCO World Heritage Site visits in one of Croatia’s oldest and largest national parks.

Where to stay in The Plitvice Lakes National Park?

We recommend you stay in 16 Lakes Hotel, which offers idyllic location just a ten minutes’ drive from The Plitvice Lakes National Park. Enjoy a modern stay in this excellent resort that offers outdoor and indoor wellness, featuring a Jacuzzi and sauna when you’re not out exploring the natural beauty of Croatia.

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5. Lake Saimaa, Finland

Finland is home to over an impressive 188,000 lakes, which is why it has been nicknamed ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’, or ‘Lakeland’. However, its largest freshwater lake is Lake Saimaa, and there are many reasons why we believe this is one of the best lakes in Europe.

The lake is comprised of small, pine-shrouded lake islands and flora and fauna that makes it one of the most unique and beautiful looking lakes in Europe. It stretches so far across Finland, and its catchment basin is so large that it spans across nearly all the east of Finland.

Lake Saimaa is also home to a large variety of marine life, from the colourful species of fish like the landlocked salmon, to the rare Saimaa ringed seals. Springtime is the best time to see these lovely creatures, usually lounging under the sun on the lakeshores.

“Lake Saimaa is truly something special. Its beauty can be enjoyed at any point in the year from the vibrant nature that surrounds the sparkling waters in spring and summer to the alluring autumnal colours and winter scenery at the end of the year. However, summer at Saimaa Lake is unlike anything else: with sauna rituals and midsummer activities to enjoy (even during the Midnight Sun), summer is the time to go to immerse in Finnish cultures.” – Daniele Boni, Product Manager
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6. Lake Päijänne, Finland

The second-largest lake in Finland is Lake Päijänne. Excellent for scenic cruises, this lake is extremely picturesque with many places on land nearby to explore.

This lake is located in Finland’s Lakeland area, a region of pristine wilderness, and surrounding this gorgeous lake is a land of outdoor activities, cultural experiences and opportunities to learn about the arts culture of Finland, such as the Alvar Aalto Museum and Moomin Museum.

Watersports is popular on this lake. What better way to pass through the deep green forested shores than on a peaceful boat river cruise. Alternatively, the adventurous travellers can enjoy some kayaking or canoeing. There’s much to enjoy on and around this lake and with Regent, you can embark on the ultimate land of 1000 lakes fly-drive during summer.

“Driving across Pulkkilanharju Ridge was so awe-inspiring, I would say it is one of the most scenic routes in Finland. Driving over the vast body of gorgeous turquoise water with endless glorious lake views was an extraordinary experience.” – Daniele Boni, Product Manager

7. Lake Pielinen, Finland

Located in the North Karelia region is Lake Pielinen, Finland’s fourth largest lake. Karelia is known for being a paradise for nature lovers seeking an adventurous getaway. Best enjoyed in the summer, this lake offers plenty of summertime things to do. For wildlife enthusiasts, there’s are wildlife-watching observation cabins to stay in overnight to catch glimpses of bears, wolves, eagles, and more animals native to Finland.

“Lake Pielinen and its surrounding regions boast adventure all year round. With its Koli National Park, spectacular backdrops, breathtaking hikes and even the watersports across the lake. White water rafting and kayaking with the diverse and beautiful landscapes of this lake are not to be missed. This is all best experienced on our best of North Karelia fly-drive tour.” - Daniele Boni, Product Manager
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8. Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Iceland is known for its diverse landscapes and out-of-this-world phenomenon’s such as the Aurora Borealis and exploding Geysir's. However, Iceland is also home to many beautiful lakes including Lake Mývatn. This ancient lake is a product of the eruption of one of the Krafla fissures 2,300 years ago and is now a very flat lava field that’s a one of the highlights of the Diamond Circle route in Iceland.

Surrounding the lake is rich flora and fauna that is one of its most famous qualities. This area is also a popular destination for bird lovers. Find rich birdlife as well as many species of ducks, including the Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Whooper Swans and much more.

Take the ultimate North Iceland fly-drive tour with Regent to explore the best of the lake, plus staying overnight in a hotel nearby the beautiful lake.

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9. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Nestled in the Julian Alps of northwest Slovenia is the picturesque Lake Bled. This region has been a popular destination for cosmopolitan visitors for centuries with its remarkable natural beauty, inviting hot springs and superb climate.

This former volcanic lake is mostly known for the picturesque medieval Bled Castle perched on a cliff, overlooking the beautiful emerald green water – a true fairy-tale castle. This castle is open for visitors, boasting an expensive restaurant and a museum detailing the area’s history.

In the western part of the lake is Bled Island, which has been home to a Christian church since the 9th century. It has become a tradition for lovers to swim out to the island and ring the church bell.

You can see this magical lake with Regent’s Lake Bled holidays. Why not enjoy discovering the city and lakes of Ljubljana and Lake Bled, soaking up stunning views and strolling through the streets framed by baroque architecture.

Travel to Europe’s best picturesque and historic lakes.

If you’re seeking a lake holiday in Europe, escaping the crowds and losing yourself in rich history and culture, get in touch with our Travel Specialists at Regent today.

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