Many lakes and mountain enthusiasts will tell you that the best times to go are the non peak periods. In spring and early summer, meadows and pastures are rich in wild flowers and bird songs

Villaseek: lakes and mountains  

Villa and chalet holidays in the lakes and mountains

Countries blessed with mountains, peaceful lakes and rushing rivers are great places to head if you want either a truly relaxing holiday or one full of activities – or a mixture of both.

Some lucky people get the best of both worlds by heading for somewhere sunny like Florida, the Caribbean, India, Thailand, Madeira or the Canaries in the winter and then going to a lakes and mountains destination, usually in Europe, in the summer.

Higher up in the cooler mountain air, you can escape the heat and bustle of the coast during peak holiday times – instead of concrete and crowds you’ll find greenery, peace and quiet and abundant wildlife. And if you choose the Austrian, Swiss or French Alps you may even hear the tinkle of cow bells – a sound guaranteed to relax you.

Many lakes and mountain enthusiasts will tell you that the best times to go are the non peak periods. In spring and early summer, meadows and pastures are usually rich in wild flowers, the bird song is everywhere (as long as it’s not in a bird hunting area) and it’s not too hot for getting out and exploring.

The best way to enjoy this kind of holiday is to rent a cottage, house or chalet. You’re free to come and go as you please, eat when you like, where you like, and you’ll probably have a beautiful garden and a view to match.

The Alps

The Alps are, of course, a major ski-ing area and that means there is a wealth of self catering chalets. For their owners, summer is the low season and rental prices can be very attractive. What better than to wake up to the sight of stunning mountain peaks? After a leisurely breakfast you can take a cable car to catch more views and then stroll back down in time for lunch (or dinner if it takes that long!)

Walking, cycling, boating, fishing, white water rafting, sight-seeing – there are endless opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and scenery. But if you don’t feel that energetic, just touring around by car or even settling down to some serious reading in your chosen hideaway can make for an idyllic holiday.

Most tourist offices lay on a wide range of summer attractions, from guided walks and local cuisine to parapenting, downhill mountain biking or rock climbing.

A bonus of heading for the Alps is that they’re within easy motoring distance of Britain, so you can drive there in your own car. That means you don’t have the expense of having to hire one at your destination and you can take – and bring back – much more than if you flew.

But you don’t have to choose a high-altitude resort – the lakes of Austria, France and Switzerland have well developed summer resorts, and so of course do the incomparable Italian Lakes like Como and Maggiore.

Something different

If you’re looking for something different, it’s worth taking a look at what eastern Europe has to offer. Increasing numbers of people are discovering its comparatively hidden charms.

For instance, in Poland there’s a delightful lake district – miles apart from our own overcrowded one. The Polish one is quite easily reached because it’s only an hour or two’s drive from the German border. It’s a similar distance from the Polish lake district to the spectacular Carpathian mountains, which extend into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has some stunning mountain scenery and is remarkably inexpensive. What all these countries have in common is lots of unspoilt countryside with a 1950s feel, with prices almost equally old fashioned.

If you set your sights further afield the choice of delectable destinations becomes vast. The Rockies, running for thousands of miles through Canada and the USA, offer almost unimaginable beauty and emptiness and a good range of accommodation from ski chalets and holiday developments to isolated cabins. But once you cross the Atlantic you have a whole continent at your disposal, from New England, the Atlantic provinces of Canada and the Appalachians in the East to the lakes, forests and islands of Oregon and Washington in the Pacific Northwest.