Landlocked? No wheels to get you around? Got a hankering to experience some water activities this summer? Fear not, millions of Europeans are in the same boat (see what we did there?) Mercifully, much of Europe sports a stellar railway system, so even if you are not blessed with the luxury of lakeside living, there are plenty of gorgeous lakes that are merely a short train ride away.
So get your water wings and inner tubes at the ready, and check out these breathtaking lakes you can visit by rail.
Italy’s largest lake (and some would argue its most beautiful) is served by no fewer than three train stations — Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda in the south, and Rovereto in the north. Each acts as a gateway to some pretty fabulous activities in the region. Take for example the Medieval Market in Tignale. Accessible by bus from the Rovereto train station, the yearly summer evening market features acrobats, fire-eaters, and period costumed townspeople offering everything from local handicrafts to jam and liqueurs.
If it’s the water you’ve come for, windsurfing is available year-round at Lake Garda. Gardasurf Water Sport School is located in Brenzone, which is linked by bus to the Peschiera del Garda rail station, offers windsurfing classes for both young and old, and if windsurfing doesn’t quite suit your fancy, the facility also offers dinghy, sailboat, and catamaran rentals.
Although most folks think of the ocean when they think of diving, Lake Garda offers some stellar fresh water diving opportunities for those up for the challenge. Many of the dive shops are situated in the southern lake resorts of Arco, Riva del Garde, and Malescine (served by the Rovereto rail station.) Ambiente Acqua in Arco offers PADI diving certification courses as well as day and night dives for those already certified.
Austrian Lake District
While technically it’s proper name is Salzkammergut, this area is more popularly referred to as simply the Austrian Lake District. And with a total of 76 lakes in the region, there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied, and of course plenty of rail options serving the Lake District.
Holding the distinction as Austria’s deepest lake, Lake Traunsee can be accessed from the train stations at Gmunden in the north as well as Ebensee in the south. For history buffs, a paddleboat steamer from the 1870s still plies the waters offering tours of the lake for visitors. There are plenty of free beaches along the 12km shore as well for those looking to take a dip on a budget.
Although the water temperature can be a bit chilly chilly (it’s worth checking), sunny days are the perfect time to visit Lake Offensee for a refreshing dip. The scenery here is amongst the best in Austria, and since it attracts fewer visitors than some of the larger bodies of water in the Lake District (Lake Offensee takes only 90 minutes to walk around), there are days that seem like you have the whole place to yourself.