The astonishing beauty of the Swiss lakes has to be seen to be believed.
As Switzerland’s largest body of freshwater, opportunities for outdoor activities on and around Lake Geneva are almost endless. With a mild climate and historic vineyards stretching along its scenic shoreline, it comes as no surprise that the lake attracts many visitors in both summer and winter. From Geneva, a diplomatic hub at the southern tip, to the shores of Lausanne with its breathtaking views across the water to the French Alps, and the charming Château de Chillon in Montreux, there is a wealth of history and scenery to enjoy. Swimming, boating and other water sports are possible on Lake Geneva and there are plenty of hiking and cycling opportunities along its picturesque shores. Regattas are held at various places on the lake throughout the year. A number of popular ski resorts including Gstaad on the Swiss side and Les Gets and Morzine on the French side are within a 2 hour drive of the lake.
Encircled by mountains, Lake Lucerne is the fourth largest lake in Switzerland, stretching from the historic canton of Lucerne to Flüelen in the heart of the country. Known as the “Lake of the Four Forested Settlements” due to bordering on the three original Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwaldem, as well as Lucerne itself, the region fascinates visitors with its diverse mountain landscape. To fully explore the lake, a steamer cruise is a must - hop across to one one of the villages or enjoy the full round trip. In addition to boating, hiking and cycling, popular activities include visits to the meadow of Rutli, the legendary site of the founding of Swiss independence. Lucerne is also famous for its summer festival which incorporates four weeks of more than 100 concerts featuring many international classical music stars. This year the festival runs from 17 August to 16 September with the theme of “Childhood” at its centre. Those who wish to stay outside the town itself may consider Andermatt or Grindelwald, both picture-perfect regions within a 2 hour drive of Lucerne.
Upper Engadine Lakes
Between Maloja and St. Moritz lies the beauty of the Upper Engadine lake plateau. Due to the legendary Maloja wind, the four main lakes (St. Moritz, Silvaplana, Champfèrer and Silser) are popular for water sports, but there are a large number of smaller mountain lakes hidden in the forests suitable for more relaxing pursuits. The best option for swimming is Lake Statz which is a 30-minute walk or 10-minute bike from St. Moritz Dorf. Lej Mersch’s sun-blessed and wind-sheltered sandy beach on its northern shore provides an attractive picnicking spot whilst Lej Nair, also known as the “Black Lake”, is ideal for ‘wild’ swimming.
Lake St. Moritz transforms into a watersports hub in summer with everyone from elite rowers to stand-up paddle boarders and sailors honing their skills. With its excellent side-onshore wind, Lake Silvaplana is a draw for kite and windsurfers, whilst Champfèrer is a paradise for anglers. Lake Sils is the largest and arguably the most scenic of the Engadine lakes. Europe’s highest scheduled boat service takes you from Sils Maria to Maloja in 40 minutes. Cruising past the peaks of Margna, Piz Lagrev and Piz Lunghin, you can hop on or off at the Chaste peninsula, or the hamlets of Plaun da Lej and Isola.
Davos in Grisons is a major winter and summer sports centre with a wide range of accommodation, excellent shopping and numerous bars, cafes and restaurants. Bordered by steep pastures and forests, and fed by sources of the Rhine, Flüelabach and Totalpbach, Lake Davos is located at the northeastern limit of the town. Used as a hydropower reservoir, the lake comes alive in summer as a venue for various water sports. The constant valley wind provides the perfect conditions for windsurfing whilst fine weather periods bring thermic and often gusty winds from the northeast making kitesurfing a popular pursuit. However, this is prohibited from 1 July to 22 August as space on the lake is limited during peak periods. Stand-up paddle boards and pedalos can be rented at the lake and a temporary water ski lift is located at the lower southern end of the lake for keen wakeboarders. Many of the resort’s cable cars remain open in the summer giving access to a total of 700 km of marked footpaths and there are many mountain biking trails too.
Zermatt is blessed with over 150 lakes, the most famous of these being Stellisee and Riffelsee which reflect the Matterhorn on the water surface. The best time to visit is when there is no wind and the surface of the lake is completely still - usually early in the morning or in the evening. Another popular lake is the Moosjisee which is fed by the Findel Glacier, resulting in a milky hue of sediment-rich glacial meltwater. The Moosjisee lies on the Fives Lakes Walk, a classic hike taking in the lakes of Grindjisee, Stellisee, Grünsee and Leisee. Each lake is different in terms of colour, shape, character and size. The Leisee is extremely popular for swimming whilst the shores of the Grindjisee is a magnet for biologists and botanists who come to view the wealth of alpine flora and rare flowers. It is also possible to enjoy a day’s fly fishing on a privately owned lake with freshwater trout.