Alpine Lakes in Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy

he alpine lakes of Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy, forming various lake districts, are top holiday destinations. Whether you’re up for an active holiday or fancy soaking up a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere, these beautiful lake districts have something for you. Almost every kind of sport is practiced in the Alpine lake districts, from conventional activities like hiking and cycling to paragliding, hang gliding, Nordic walking, white water rafting and tobogganing, throughout the year.

View onto Zellersee and the old town of Zell am See, Austria

Lakes in Austria
In the Salzkammergut region of Austria you’ll find several lakes including Attersee and Mondsee, but the most famous of the area is undoubtedly Lake Wolfgang (Wolfgangsee). There’s plenty to see and do around Lake Wolfgang – tons of hiking routes surround the lake, from the gentle to the strenuous, or you can have a crack at summiting one of the surrounding mountains, such as the Schafberg. Another popular lake to visit is Lake Zauchen (Zauchensee), with its crystal-clear water and its beautiful location. Zauchensee is a top ski destination in Salzburgerland, with elevations ranging from 1350m (where you’ll find the lake) up to 2188m, and a ski season which starts earlier than most Austrian resorts. It is particularly popular with skiers because the snow tends to last quite late into the spring. Lake Achen (Achensee) is the largest lake within the Tyrol state of Austria, and its size and wind conditions make it a popular place for windsurfing. Furthermore, the lake is so clear you can see easily to a depth of 10m, with the lake itself reaching down to 133m, and it is so clean it is considered drinkable. On Achensee you will find the immensely picturesque village of Pertisau in which the popular Chalet School series was initially set (after the Nazi party rose to power the setting was moved to various places throughout Europe). Achensee is extremely beautiful, especially at sunrise when the rays illuminate the wild area of Isar to the north of the Karwendel range.

Lakes in Switzerland
The most famous lake in Switzerland is, without a doubt, Lake Geneva. It is the largest lake in the Alps, one of the biggest in Europe and 40% of it stretches into France (see below for France’s lakes). Lake Geneva reaches through the cantons of Savoy and Vaud, famous for their vineyards. It is a wealthy, elite area, well populated by plenty of towns and cities on the shores, the largest and most famous being Geneva, Montreux and Lausanne. You’ll always find somewhere to stay and plenty of entertainment around the lake, as well as on the lake itself, as swimming, sailing and watersports are in great supply here, as well as frequent professional yacht racing. Lake Constance is another large and popular Swiss lake which also stretches over its borders, this time into Austria and Germany (the German name being Bodensee). The striking alpine setting and excellent climate ensure an excellent holiday – there are 38 lovely beaches along the shores, 24 yacht ports with boats for hire and sailing schools, and tons of hiking and horseriding paths in the surrounding mountains. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants along the shores and even a couple of casinos.

Lakes in Italy
Italian lakes may be smaller than the giants found in Switzerland and Austria, but there’s still plenty going on. Lake Como is justly famous throughout the world for being a scenic paradise and a cultural gem, having been popular as a mountain retreat for the wealthy since the Roman times. It is the third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe with a depth of over 400m. It’s expensive but stunning, and very relaxing. Lake Maggiore, on the south side of the Alps, is the second largest lake in Italy (after Lake Garda) and has a fairly mild climate throughout the year. Reaching into Swiss territory, Lake Maggiore is a ski paradise in winter for the Italians, with alpine skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Lakes in France
France has its share of lakeside towns and beautiful waters. Lac du Bourget, upon the banks of which sits French spa town Aix-les-Bains, is bordered by Mont du Chat to the west and Bauges mountains to the east, and is the largest lake in France. This lake has been inspiring poets and writers galore to immortalise it in print for hundreds of years, including Alphonse de Lamartine, Dumas and Balzac. Its little brother, Lake Annecy, is the second largest in the country, and is frequently raved about for its beauty and the lovely villages that sit shoreside. Ten main towns surround the lake and its adjoining regions, among them Annecy, Doussard and Sevrier. Hiring a boat on the water is popular here, as is waterskiing, paragliding and swimming, and there is a cycle path around part of the lake.

View onto Zellersee and the old town of Zell am See, Austria