Skip to content

Our top lesser-known lake districts in Europe

lake districts in Europe

There are some lake districts in Europe that are world renowned, such as Lakes Como or Constance, Loch Lomond or England’s Lake District of course. However, we want to add a few more watercolours to the picture and highlight lakelands that are lesser known to some, but where walking or cycling trails abound, not only in and around the lakes, but in the landscapes that surround them. In some countries such as Denmark or France they are already beloved places for swimming or sailing by local people, with jetties and beaches ready for running and jumping from. And in others, such as Montenegro, they are wilder wetlands, where you are more likely to see pelicans than people. Dive into our top lakes to fall in love with. 

Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Rila Mountains National Park’s leading player is Mt. Musala, the country’s highest peak at 2,925m, but the park’s seven Rila Lakes are colossal cameos that feature on our Rila and Pirin Mountains and Lakes holiday. They are in the Damgski area of the Rila Mountains, and they create a collection of blue amphitheatres between Mounts Suhi Chal, Harmiyata, and Otovishki at elevations of between 2,095 and 2,535m. Each of the Seven Rila Lakes is named to match its natural shape, such as Salzata, which translates as ‘the tear’ because of the clarity of its water making it look like a pool of tears – of joy that is. Or Okoto, meaning ‘the eye’ because of its perfect oval shape. 

Lake Skadar, Montenegro and Albania 

Also known as Lake Scutari, Shkoder or Shkodra, Lake Skadar is the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula and forms a natural border between Montenegro and Albania. In Montenegro it’s protected by national park status, and is on the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. Lake Skadar covers 400km², and the peaks of the Prokletije Mountains that look over it are reflected in its calm and biodiverse waters. Our Montenegro cycling fans love the Lake Skadar route, with exquisite views and exciting descents to its shores and swimming spots to cool down at. Virpizar is the lake’s main town and, although tiny, it’s the centre of the country’s wine region where Vranac and Kratosije are the ones to look out for. With no shortage of lakefront picnic spots to raise a glass. 

Call it Lake Scutari, Shkoder or Shkodra, it’s simply sublime.

Silkeborg Lake District, Denmark 

There is some superb leisurely lakeshore walking to do in the Silkeborg Lake District (Søhøjlandet) in Denmark’s Jutland, which boasts over 200km2 of lakelands and forest. Over fifty lakes in fact, as well as a scattering of sublime small towns such as Silkeborg itself, Skanderborg and Ry. Your gentle walks include a journey along the Trækstien, or towpath that follows the Gudenåen, Denmark’s longest river, through lakefront forests and to the popular bird reserve at Lake Sminge. Sø is the Danish for lake and, if you want to combine some swimming with your sauntering, Julsø, Brassø and Sminge are just a few that have infrastructure to do so.  

Lake Iseo, Italy

You’ve heard of Lakes Como and Garda, but Lake Iseo is like the quiet relative of these Lombardy lovelies, sitting pretty between the two. Starting in the south in the lakeside town of Paratico, and finishing in Pisogne up on its northern corner, this is not too taxing a trek, with the sub-alpine foothills as your backdrop rather than always underfoot. One mountain that is accessible is Monte Isola, a highlight for many on this tour, as it’s an exquisite elevated island in the middle of the lake. Staying in small lakeside hotels, Iseo is also perfect for walking solo.

Seven Lakes Valley, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Although the shimmering Slovenian waters of Lakes Bled and Bohinj are rightly well known to natural adventurers, it’s hardly surprising that the Julian Alps have a few other aquatic arcadias tucked away. The Seven Lakes Valley in Triglav National Park is one of these, where the lakes lie like a discarded string of pearls between the contrasting Alpine karst surroundings. They are all located above the treeline, the most elevated being Lake Podstenje at 1,993m. Also known as the Triglav Lakes Valley, on this Summits of the Julian Alps trekking holiday you stay in a mountain hut overlooking Dvojno jezero, or Double Lake, as well as many other beauty spots en route, including the iconic Lakes Bled and Bohinj. 

Seven Lakes Valley, Slovenia – you have to keep walking to see the rest.

Salzkammergut, Austria

Salzkammergut is Austria’s lake district and one of the most accessible lake districts in Europe, just under 50km from Salzburg. When you take in the colourful, traditional houses and mountains around Lake Hallstatt, the largest lake, you feel transported to an era when people came to enjoy deep rest in the mountain air and ‘take the waters’. Historically a salt mining region, the goodness of heated salty waters are still enjoyed at Bad Ischl spa, but the natural goodness of the region as a whole can be imbibed on one of our Salzkammergut hiking holidays. 

Lakes of the Jotunheimen Mountains, Norway

Norway’s fjords take centre stage in this country of spectacular landscapes. However, when you go trekking in the Jotunheimen Mountains, you enter one awesome aquatic arena. And you can go for full immersion too on our hut to hut holiday. Staying at Gjendebu, the oldest hut in the Norwegian Mountaineering Association’s (DNT) impressive network of hiking retreats, sip your goodnight gløgg on the shores of Lake Gjende or watch sunrise over the mighty Besseggen Ridge. Another waterfront wakeup is at Lake Bygdin, on day one of the aforementioned hut to hut tour and also on this trekking holiday along the King’s Road over Filefjell, perfectly poised between Lakes Bygdin and Vinstre. 

Lake Gjende translates from the old Norse as staff or stick, because of its long, narrow shape.

If water is where your wanderlust leads you, you may also enjoy our Best coastal walking tours blog. If these walking holidays have got you dusting off your boots and delving into maps, then don’t hesitate to contact us for more details. And one more tip for lake lovers, if you don’t know it already, Lakepedia is a peaceful place to escape to for inspiration.