Lake and mountain holidays are full of panoramic views that are sure to leave you breathless – but equally impressive beauty can also be found right under your feet.
The diverse geography of our resorts means they’re bursting with colourful flora and unique fauna. Italy and Austria come into bloom from May to September, with flower-lined promenades and Alpine meadows full of buds. In the peak of summer, visitors are drawn to the many elaborate formal gardens, endless walking trails and nature reserves. Look out for ibex, marmots, chamois, eagles and more, as you stroll among the thousands of plant species that bring these regions to life. The edelweiss flower should be especially familiar by the time you leave – it’s become a symbol of the Alps for its rugged beauty, and grows all over the mountains in summer.
Gardens of Eden
If beautifully landscaped gardens are your idea of paradise, then a stay on the Italian Lakes is a must. Close to Peschiera, Sigurtà Park has 560 square kilometres of ornamental flowerbeds, herb gardens and fish ponds. In the heart of Gardone Riviera is Heller Garden, home to 3,000 plant species from all over the world. And you can catch a ferry to Isola del Garda to stroll through its bluebell woods, fruit trees and English-style rose garden.
Not to be outdone, Lake Como’s Villa Balbianello is famous for its elegant terraced grounds with sweeping views across the water, while Lake Maggiore’s Villa Taranto invites you to explore 16 hectares of botanical gardens.
On a day trip to Salzburg, you can wander the elegant rose garden, orangery and hedge theatre of Mirabell Palace, or follow the world’s oldest tree avenue to explore the landscaped grounds of Hellbrunn Palace.
A walk in the park
Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park – close to Kitzbühel, Kaprun and Mayrhofen – is the largest in Central Europe. Take a guided walk to spot shy marmots and learn the names of rare flowers and herbs. From Achensee or Seefeld, the Karwendel Naturpark is right on your doorstep, while Obergurgl is close to the Ötzal Nature Park. Fuschl is also in the heart of a nature reserve, and from Kitzbühel, you can stroll through the Alpine flower garden on the Kitzbüheler Horn.
While in Lake Garda, take the cable car from Malcesine up to the Monte Baldo to discover the Garden of Europe, an area that has fascinated botanists since the 1700s. Meanwhile, days in the Dolomites can be spent hiking through the Adamello Brenta Nature Park.
And in Switzerland, photo-worthy views go well beyond the Matterhorn. The Krienseregg nature reserve in Lucerne weaves together flora, fauna, history and myths, while the Schynige Platte Alpine Garden showcases 650 species of plants.
Sights to remember
Visit Lake Garda in May or June to wander along Bardolino’s lakeside promenade when it’s bursting with rainbow-coloured tulips, or stroll around the quiet parks and gardens in Gardone Riviera.
The Swiss equivalent is the 10km Promenade Fleuri in Montreux, which lures locals and tourists alike to admire swathes of exotic flowers. For animal-lovers, Interlaken offers walks where you can spot ibex, chamois and eagles. Or you can follow the info boards – and your stomach – along the Apple Fritter Trail in Wengen.
Austria also loves to celebrate nature’s bounty with a calendar of events and guided walks. Almrosen days in Alpbach mark the bloom of deep red mountain azaleas, and Niederau’s Filzmoos walk invites you to stroll barefoot over the moor. Learn about the medicinal uses of plants on Saalbach’s Herbal and Alpine Flora Trail, or explore a drunken forest on Senn’s Wonder Walking Trail in St Anton.