It’s not easy to find a corner of Europe that hasn’t been invaded by masses of backpackers. The heavily traveled continent is a popular choice for those who want to experience multiple cultures in a short amount of time thanks to the ease of travel between these packed-in countries.
So, if you’re on a trip through Europe and you’re wondering where you can go to truly break free from the pack, head to one of these four gorgeous European lakes that we bet you (and most others) have never heard of:
Ohrid Lake, North Macedonia
Snuggly landlocked between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, North Macedonia makes up for its lack of oceanic coastline with the breathtaking Ohrid Lake. A visit to the lakeside town of the same name yields epic views across one of the deepest lakes in Europe. The most breathtaking view might be from the Church of Saint Jovan Kaneo which sits clinging precariously to a waterfront cliff. Cascading below is the historic Old Quarter lined with cobblestone streets and lakeside cafes. Visit the traditional fishing villages nearby, like Kaneo, for a fresh seafood treat. The whipped cream and cherry on top to this hidden Macedonian gem are the clear waters and tucked-in shores that create a beach-like environment in the summer.
Lake Hallstatt, Austria
The lake, the town, the atmosphere – everything is right out of the medieval times. Flanked on either side with an endless layer of green mountains, Lake Hallstatt scores a 10 out of 10 when it comes to its lakeside landscape. Taking a cruise is across the placid waters is a prime way to view the natural habitat of Hallstatt. Lounging on the grassy banks, sunbathing, swimming, playing volleyball and barbecuing are common waterfront activities and hiking and biking takes place on the eastern shores. On the other end of the spectrum, off-days from the water are best spent wandering the lanes of the UNESCO-listed town while taking in the atmospheric architecture and historic churches. It’s a win-win.
Lake Trasimeno, Italy
Located in central Italy’s Umbria region, Lake Trasimeno gets much of its atmospheric feel from the big clusters of olive groves, cypress trees and vineyards. Adding an Old-World flavor is the ring of medieval villages jutting out on high, waterfront bluffs.
A visit to Lake Trasimeno and its surroundings is like taking a step back into Roman times. Wandering through the rolling abbeys of the 13th century towns is a historic walking tour as crumbling fortresses, ancient city walls and Renaissance churches are found around every twist and turn. Keep your eyes peeled for centuries-old frescoes in Castiglione del Lago, the 14th-century castle in Passignano sul Trasimeno, the traditional fishermen in the unassuming village of San Feliciano, and some excellent seafood, wine, and olive oil throughout the region.
Lake Komani, Albania
Eastern Europe’s diamond in the rough has been shining for decades, but it’s only recently caught the eye of American travelers. One look is all it takes to fall in love with Albania – the new up-and-coming beach destination in 2019 – and its gorgeous landscape.
Lake Komani is the crown jewel of the north with its deep-blue water cinched in place by a seemingly infinite wall of sheer cliff faces covered in emerald-green vegetation. The best way to experience Lake Komani is with a 3-hour ferry ride through the narrow fjords said to rival those in Norway. Disembark on at Fierze and gear up for part two of your epic adventure – a hike through the remote Albanian Alps. Ground transportation is provided from Fierze to Valbona where hikers embark on the 6-hour trek to their final destination, Theth. Clearly this region offers much more than the picturesque Lake Komani, however it’s safe to say that this body of water is the area’s biggest draw.