Lakes and mountains: Chill versus thrill

Lakes and mountains: Chill versus thrill

Europe’s lakes and mountains offer both action and relaxation, Joanna Booth discovers

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There are two basic reactions to a mountain. For every person who’s internally shouting “climb it!” there’s another thinking “how pretty, now where shall we have lunch”. Happily, Europe’s beautiful peaks – and the lakes that nestle among them – can provide holidays for both the actively and contemplatively inclined.

Lawrence Peachey, head of sales at Dertour, says: “Lakes and mountains are still popular with the UK market, and with sterling’s growing strength against the euro it is a great time to visit. The market has been booking even later this year and there has also been a tendency to mix the resorts up with a city before or after the holiday. An ideal place to enjoy the fresh country air is Garmisch which is perfect to team up with Munich.”

Whether your clients like thrills, spills and action, or chilling out and being pampered in a spot with gorgeous views, we’ve got suggestions to suit.


Garda is Italy’s largest lake, and the terrain surrounding the narrower northern half is one of beautiful mountains.

This area is quieter than the south (a more family-focused area with man-made beaches and the Gardaland theme park), and perfect for couples who like to chill out in a gorgeous environment, perhaps visiting the picturesque, historic towns and making the most of the Italian cuisine.

Inghams recommends the new four-and-a-half-star Aqualux Hotel Spa & Suites in Bardolino. The state-of-the-art spa and wellness area has indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, Turkish baths, Jacuzzis, mood showers, a kneipp bath and an ice fountain, alongside a wide range of treatments. Seven nights’ half-board with Inghams starts from £1,059 including flights.

Garda’s position, equidistant between Venice and Milan, suits those who like a cultural day trip or two in among their rural relaxation.

Crystal Summer has a seven-night Classic Italian Discovery package, staying in the three-star Hotel Romeo in Torri del Benaco, with Venice, Verona and Florence excursions included in the price, which starts from £629 including flights and half-board accommodation.

Balkan Holidays recommends Slovenia’s Lake Bled (pictured above) for slightly older customers. “The hotels offer good-quality spas so there is plenty of opportunity for relaxing or taking a leisurely walk or boat trip around the lake to soak up the views, castle and history,” says sales and marketing director Rupert Diggins.

In Bulgaria, the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko offers luxurious pampering with its extensive spa perched at a height in the clear mountain air. Balkan Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B from £625 including flights.


The seaside isn’t the only spot for a successful family holiday. Lakes offer wave-free fun in the water, and some of them even have beaches too. In the mountains, kids can run free.

Neilson offers a range of Lakes and Mountains family holidays, with logos flagging up where child savings are on offer. The operator tips the resorts of Seefeld, Saalbach and Hinterglemm in Austria and Saas-Fee in Switzerland for families.

Neilson offers seven nights’ half-board at the Active and Spa Resort Alpenpark in Seefeld from £905 per adult and £505 per child, including flights and private transfers.

Crystal Summer recommends the city of Lucerne, nestled on a lake in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Activities to suit the kids include riding a paddle-steamer on the lake, Europe’s oldest mountain railway up Mount Rigi or even the world’s steepest cogwheel train to the top of Mount Pilatus.

The transport museum has a special section for children, and at the top of Mount Titlis there’s an adventure park and a revolving aerial cable car. A week’s half-board at the four-star Hotel Seeburg starts from £949 with Crystal. The property sits right by the lake with its own bathing area and lakeside garden, and offers reduced prices for children.

Jungfrau Express


It may be ski-central in winter, but in summer the Austrian Alps are still a playground for adrenaline junkies, with mountain biking, river trekking, climbing, paragliding, white-water rafting and more.

Crystal Summer recommends activities in a number of neighbouring resorts. Zell am See leads the way when it comes to variety, offering more than 50 activities including abseiling, stand-up paddleboarding and glacier ski safaris.

For hikers, the long-distance Eagle’s Walk is one of Europe’s great footpaths, swooping in a wing-shaped arc across the Tyrol. It’s divided into stages and there are options from easy to difficult to suit walkers of different persuasions. For the hardcore, Mayrhofen hosts the Harakiri mountain race on August 5, with amateurs and the crème de la crème of the mountain running scene able to compete.

In Seefeld there’s climbing, biking and white-water rafting, and in Kitzbühel there’s even archery too.

Prices with Crystal Summer start from £267 for seven nights’ B&B at the three-star Hotel Obermair in Mayrhofen, including flights.

Neilson Lakes and Mountains’ Multi-Active packages are designed to offer holidaymakers a week’s worth of thrills, with three or four-star accommodation and activities ranging from guided walks and mountain biking to white-water rafting and paragliding. Neilson’s Austrian Tyrol week is based in Otz, staying in a village-style Alpine resort.

Clients are give an Adventure Card charged with points which they can exchange for a range of exciting activities, including canyoning, trekking, a high-rope course and a glacier safari, but also time in the spa. The week starts from £789 on a B&B basis including flights.


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