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Lakes and Mountains DMO, Tui

Lakes & mountains: the most beautiful destinations in Europe for all budgets

Snow-capped mountain peaks behind a crystal clear alpine lake; an aperitivo on a warm summer’s day with a cool breeze coming off the lake just in front of you – if this image is calling to you, then you’ve come to the right place.  

We’ve put together a list of our favourite European destinations that perfectly combine a beautiful lake setting with stunning mountain landscapes. From well-known lakeside towns in Italy, to lesser-known spots in North Macedonia, here's our guide to the must-visit summer holiday destinations for all budgets, packed with tips and tricks – plus the deals to get you there!

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North Macedonia

You might not be too familiar with North Macedonia as a holiday destination, and that’s okay. Located just north of Greece, and sandwiched in between Albania and Bulgaria, the country features stunning landscapes and a Mediterranean climate. The country is packed with culture and history, without being overly touristy, which makes for an authentic, yet affordable holiday destination.

There’s no denying that North Macedonia is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe at the moment, but we're here to tell you that we think it’s the next hottest budget-friendly destination. A bold statement, we know, but North Macedonia is currently one of the cheapest European destinations for travellers, and when you look at what you can get for your money – the average pint will cost around £1.50, need we say more – you’ll be adding this destination to your travel list!

Super saver: Lake Ohrid

Head to Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the southwest of the country and home to Lake Ohrid, Europe's oldest lake. Here, you'll not only find beautiful views and lovely people, but also incredibly affordable accommodation and food.

To get better acquainted with the city and its history, we highly recommend taking a walking tour (which costs around £13 per person) with a local guide. You’ll discover everything from why the city’s called Ohrid to where you can find the best pastries in town! Walking tour highlights include visiting the Church of St John at Kaneo and the ancient amphitheatre, wandering the cobblestone streets of the Ohrid Old Town, and shopping market stalls for traditional wares. Stop to admire the hand-painted pearl jewellery – a local product, which dates back generations, from the family-run Talevi and Filevi pearl jewellers. Princess Di and the Queen of England even wore necklaces from these jewellers.

Those looking for a bit of nightlife should head to the Harbour Club, Jazz-Inn or Liquid, all of which serve affordable drinks and are frequented by locals.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: For the best view of the lake, visit the 13th-century Church of St John at Kaneo, located just below Tsar Samuel’s Fortress. It’s an easy walk from the old town and stunning at sunset.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: While Macedonian cuisine features a lot of meat and potatoes (a must-try is the freshly-caught Ohrid trout) it is surprisingly light and fresh. And vegetarians will not go hungry! We recommend ordering the shopska salad (which includes a mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and occasionally roasted peppers, topped by white brined cheese) or taratur (a salad consisting of dense yogurt, cucumbers and garlic). For an appetizer, you can try makalo (a very strong garlic spread served with bread) or ajvar (a red pepper and aubergine spread that is also served with bread). Both are delicious!

Wine tasting in North Macedonia

North Macedonia actually makes for a really fun, budget girls' trip. As well as enjoying the affordable food and drink or a fun night out in Skopje, you might be tempted with a trip through the mountains for wine tasting.

Head to the Tikveš wine region, which is the main region for Macedonian wines. The region is best known for its dessert wines, but it also produces a range of varieties including Vranec, Plavac Mal, white Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.


If we're talking about lakes and mountains, then we can't forget to include Slovenia! This beautiful country is famous for its mountainous terrain, crystal-clear rivers and lakes, rugged hiking trails and rich cultural heritage.

Medium budget: Lake Bled

A short 50-minute drive from Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, you’ll find Lake Bled. The glacier-formed lake features an island in the middle of it, which is where you'll find Bled Castle. You can walk leisurely around the entire lake in around 2 hours, though we suggest stopping along the way for a coffee and slice of cake.

Contrary to popular belief, a holiday to Lake Bled is not as cheap as you might think. We actually found that accommodation, especially when booking hotels, is pretty pricey in comparison to some of its European neighbours.

This shouldn’t stop you from planning a holiday here, and there are many options if you want to save money.

While in Bled, we recommend taking a boat trip to Bled Island in the morning. You can spend a few hours wandering around, exploring the famous church that is there, and you can ring the church bell. Then, after lunch, head to Straža Bled and try the toboggan run. It is fun for both children and adults alike!

Pirate tip 🏴‍☠️: A slightly cheaper option would be to look for holidays in Kranjska Gora, which is located in the very north-western part of the country, just a 40-minute drive from Lake Bled.

Bargain spa breaks in Slovenia

If you're looking for a day to pamper yourself, you're likely to spend at least £100 on a spa day in the UK. And that's before you even start talking about treatments. So if you're thinking about a proper spa day with the girls, you're probably expecting to shell out an arm and a leg.

Why not combine your girls' trip with a spa break in Slovenia? For the money you'd spend in the UK, you could get a night's accommodation, full board, sauna access and a treatment in Slovenia.


In need of a relaxing holiday? We are right there with you! Check out Italy’s lake district, for a sweet summer getaway. The only hard part is deciding between Lake Como, Lake Maggiore or Lake Garda. The choice boils down to what type of holiday you’re looking for, however we're certain that whichever lake you choose won’t disappoint!

Medium budget: Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore occupies three different regions; the western shore lies in Piedmont, the eastern in Lombardy and the northern tip in Switzerland. A quick transfer from either Turin or Milan makes Lake Maggiore a popular place to holiday in the summer months, when locals and tourists alike flock to its shores to cool off.

Stresa is the most well-known town on the lake, mostly due to its beautiful lake-side promenade that is lined with large villas. Holidays here are laid-back, so you can happily fill your days with cafe-hopping and lake shore strolls, as well as boating excursions and swimming.

The public ferry is cheap and sails to most main towns on the lake, as well as the Borromean Islands. The area is also well-connected via local buses, and you'll find the bus stops opposite the ferry ports in Stresa and Baveno.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: You can reach the Borromean Islands from the jetty in Piazza Marconi, Stressa which makes for a nice day trip.

Other places in the area that are worth visiting are: Arona, the Sacred Mountain of Ghiffa, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Isola Bella, a tiny island off Stresa.

Medium budget: Lake Garda

Think romantic castle ruins, beautiful hiking opportunities, and charming old towns, all of which surround the largest lake in Italy. It’s also the most family-friendly lake and offers several waterparks and theme parks nearby.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: Check out Gardaland if you’re on holiday with the kids. This family-friendly park, features attractions for all ages.

A personal pirate-favourite is the town of Sirmione, which is located on a little peninsula at the southern end of the lake. While the town is only slightly less touristy than some others, it is full of charm! You’ll enter Sirmione via a big gate which opens to a beautiful old town. Our favourite activity was eating gelato while taking in views of the lake. In the evening, we particularly liked watching the sunset from one of the many lovely trattorias. If you're not staying in Sirmione then we suggest visiting during the week, either in the morning or in the evening, to experience it with fewer crowds.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: if you grab a ferry north from Sirmione (or rent a car and drive around the lake), there are rugged hiking and biking paths far from any development.

We actually found the city of Salò to be the most underrated city at Lake Garda. The lovely esplanade makes for the perfect summer stroll, with gelato in hand of course. Gelato fans should head straight to Gelateria La Romana. And because no holiday is complete without pizza, we recommend getting your fix at Pepe Bianco.

Other towns worth visiting include Peschiera and Lazise.

Pirate Tip 🏴‍☠️: A must-do while on holiday in Lake Garda is to visit a winery and try Lugana, which is a dry white wine. Not sure which winery to stop at? Our faves were Cà dei Frati, Montonale and Azienda Agricola Fraccaroli (which also has a nice restaurant, too).

Sip and stroll around Lake Garda

If Aperol apritz is your go-to happy hour cocktail, you'll love sipping it overlooking one of the lakes. After your aperitivo, take a stroll along the lake and listen to the buskers.

Did you know that Italy produces more wine than anywhere else in the world? Wine snobs should head to Bardolino on Lake Garda, where they can try the Chiaretto rosé. Every June, the town has an entire festival dedicated to the wine. We recommend a vineyard tour or simply going out to dinner and tasting the local wines.

Those looking for a spa getaway should book a holiday in Sirmione, which is famous for its thermal springs, first discovered by the Romans around the 1st century BC.

Splurge-worthy: Lake Como

For those hoping to experience a bit of the luxe life while on holiday – or even hoping to spot a celebrity (yes, George Clooney and Madonna both have summer homes here) then Lake Como is the perfect choice. Of course, there’s a reason why it’s so popular with celebrities – stunning sunsets, opulent villas, and rugged mountains surrounding the lake make for a beautiful backdrop to your holiday snaps.

Short on time? Skip the city of Como, which can be crowded in the summer months with tourists, and head for the quaint towns and villages that dot Lake Como’s shores. Our personal faves include Menaggio and Bellagio, which are all connected to one another by boat.

Due to Lake Como's proximity to Milan, July and August are the busiest months, especially on weekends, as many Italians head to the lake to escape the summer city heat. If you're hoping to avoid the crowds, we recommend visiting in late spring or early autumn, when the weather is still enjoyable. Avoid winter months as most of the cities and towns close down, unless you are wanting a secluded holiday.

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