05 July, 2024

A dozen of the best Lakes and Mountains holiday hotspots you can reach directly from Manchester Airport

If you’re heading abroad on holiday this summer, chances are you’ll be visiting somewhere known for sun, sea and sand. The likes of Majorca and Tenerife, famous for their golden beaches, are consistently in the top five most-visited destinations among more than 200 served by Manchester Airport’s global network.

For those of a more active persuasion, though, a trip to a scenic national park holds more appeal than a week or fortnight by the sea, and many hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers leaving Manchester this summer will be indulging their adventurous side. Places like the Alps are a hive of activity during the ski season, but offer a quiet and breathtakingly beautiful retreat in the summer. And many lakeside resorts offer all the amenities of a coastal tourist hotspot, but without the daily battle for a sun lounger.

Here, we round up some of the best Lakes and Mountains holiday hotspots you can reach directly from the North’s global hub.

Mercantour National Park

Fly to Nice with easyJet and Jet2.com

Almost a million visitors converge on Mercantour National Park in south-east France every year. Tourists can enjoy traversing over 370 miles of footpaths which criss-cross the mountain ranges, or take to their bicycles and explore on two wheels. They’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery such as the stunning Lac d’Allos, a crystal-clear glacial lake over 7,000ft above sea level, and the National Park’s famous ‘perched villages’, built onto steep mountainsides which bloom with an abundance of wildflowers.  Mercantour National Park is located just north of Nice on the French Riviera, with direct flights from Manchester year-round with easyJet and Jet2.com.


Fly to Munich with easyJet or Lufthansa

Few places encapsulate Alpine culture and scenery quite like Tyrol, in western Austria. Famous for yodelling cowherders in lederhosen, medieval castles and The Sound of Music, Tyrol is proud of its unique culture and heritage but also offers plenty to do for adventure enthusiasts. Some of Europe’s best white water rafting and rock climbing hotspots can be found here, and Tiefenbach Gorge is a picturesque hiking spot, with ancient forests and impressive waterfalls.

Foodies should try a Marend, the region’s answer to a ploughman’s lunch with local cheeses, breads and charcuterie, typically enjoyed with a serving of schnapps, beer or wine.

The German city of Munich is served directly from Manchester by easyJet or Lufthansa, and is around an hour away by car from the border with Austria – and the Tyrol region.

Lake Iseo

Fly to Milan-Bergamo with Ryanair

The Italian Lakes are world-famous, but if you’re looking for a quiet and relaxed break away from the crowds then dodge Como and Garda and head to Lake Iseo. It’s one of the smaller lakes in the region but that means its attractions are closer together and the scenery is just as incredible.

On Monte Isola, an island in the middle of the lake, no cars are permitted and the villages have barely changed in centuries. It’s a great spot to stroll and explore at a leisurely pace – but if you’re looking for a challenge, take on the hike to the Santuario della Madonna della Ceriola, a medieval chapel with sweeping views over the area. Agritourism is popular here, with local farms offering family-run accommodation.

Lake Iseo is only 20 miles from Milan-Bergamo airport, which is served directly from Manchester by Ryanair.

Croatia is a popular spot for a beach holiday – but the mountains that line its coast have plenty to offer to those looking for a different kind of break.  The sweeping views on offer from its cycle paths and mountain passes, as well as regular pitstops at quaint coastal villages and vineyards, make cycling a particularly popular way to explore this region.

Things to see here include Split’s 200-year-old Palace of Diocletian, built for a retiring Roman Emperor, and the Biokovo Skywalk near the town of Makarska, a glass-bottomed walkway suspended over a sheer cliff face – it’s not for the faint-hearted but offers outstanding views over the mountains and coastline.

You can fly from Manchester to Split with easyJet, Jet2.com or TUI.

Norwegian Fjords

Fly to Bergen with Norwegian

If you’d rather not spend your summer in the heat of the Med, this is also one of the best times of year to explore Scandinavia, where northerly latitudes guarantee long hours of daylight. Bergen, on the west coast of Norway, makes a great base to explore the country’s famous fjords. You can book a half-day boat tour or a more extensive package, and take in natural wonders like the 600ft-high Vøringsfossen waterfall.

Bergen itself has plenty to keep you entertained, including colourful wooden houses along the harbourfront and a funicular railway ascending Fløyen Mountain, offering panoramic vistas and walking trails.

You can get to Bergen from Manchester in less than two hours with Norwegian.

Lake Ohrid

Fly to Ohrid with TUI

An alternative to the Italian lakes with a growing reputation, Lake Ohrid’s emerald waters are nestled between Albania and North Macedonia, in southeastern Europe. The town of Ohrid, on the North Macedonian side of the border, and the lake jointly make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Bisophere Reserve. You can explore the town’s cobbled streets on foot, take one of 687 cycle routes around the lake, or learn about the region’s ancient history at the Bay of Bones Museum, a reconstructed Bronze Age village on stilts over the water.

TUI flies to Ohrid from Manchester.

Montenegro is still relatively little-known but is sometimes billed as the ‘next Croatia’ and it’s easy to see why. The neighbouring ports of Tivat and Kotor are popular stops on Mediterranean cruises, set into narrow bays with steep-sided mountains towering over them. The Kotor Serpentine, a winding mountain pass with incredible views ove the town, is hugely popular with cyclists and will take you to Lovcen National Park, home to the ‘black mountains’ from which the country takes its name.

You can fly from Manchester to Tivat with easyJet or Jet2.com.

The Lycian Way

Fly to Antalya or Dalaman with Corendon Airlines, easyJet, Jet2.com, Pegasus Airlines, SunExpress or TUI

One of Europe’s most impressive long-distance hiking trails, Turkey’s Lycian Way, covers more than 300 miles of rugged coastline. It extends from the town of Hisaronu in the west to the major resort of Antalya in the east, and offers hikers a taste of everything Turkish – from archaeological sites connected to the ancient Lycian Kingdom, to nature reserves and small villages with a traditional way of life and authentic Turkish cuisine.

Hisaronu is less than an hour by public transport from Dalaman airport, and at the other end of the trail, Antalya also has an international airport. Reflecting the huge popularity of Turkey this summer, both airports are served by six airlines from Manchester - Corendon Airlines, easyJet, Jet2.com, Pegasus Airlines, SunExpress and TUI. With so many options, you’re sure to find a deal that suits you.

The Basque Country

Fly to Bilbao with easyJet

The Basque Country is on the opposite side of Spain to tourist hotspots like Alicante and Malaga, but in many ways it feels like the opposite side of the world. The food, the culture and the architecture are all totally different from other parts of the country and the region even has its own language. The city of Bilbao is one of the region’s most striking, surrounded on three sides by mountains and makes a great base to explore what the Basque Country has to offer. Nearby San Sebastian is great for foodies, with the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita of any city in Europe.

easyJet serves Bilbao from Manchester.

The Great Lakes

Fly to Toronto with Air Canada or Airtransat

If you want to escape Europe altogether, Toronto is the perfect gateway to North America’s Great Lakes, the largest connected system of lakes in the world. The city is perched on the shore of Lake Ontario, and its lakefront parks and trails are complemented by its urban hubbub, with plenty of things to see and do. The famous CN Tower has a revolving restaurant at the top, and the Toronto Music Garden hosts dozens of live open-air performances throughout the summer. On the opposite side of the lake, a little over an hour’s drive away, are the stunning Niagara Falls.

Air Canada and Airtransat fly from Manchester to Toronto.

The Bodensee

Fly to Stuttgart with Eurowings

The Bodensee, sometimes referred to as Lake Constance in English, is in the foothills of the German Alps. It is the country’s largest freshwater lake, and is popular with German and international tourists alike for its nature trails and watersports. Its somewhat quirky claim to fame is as one of the last places on Earth where you can still experience a flight in a Zeppelin airship – and once you’ve finished taking in the views from above, you can tour the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, a resort town on the lake’s eastern shore.

Fly into Stuttgart from Manchester with Eurowings, and you could be by the side of the Bodensee within two hours.

Loch Ness

Fly to Inverness with Loganair

Closer to home, Scotland’s biggest, deepest and most infamous lake is well worth a summer visit, and not just to try and catch a glimpse of its notorious beastie. Loch Ness boasts historical sites like Urquhart Castle, beauty spots like the Falls of Foyers, and some of the UK’s most unspoilt countryside. Long sunlight hours in summertime give you plenty of opportunities to get out and explore.

The only city in the Highlands, Inverness, is at the northern tip of the Loch and has direct flights from Manchester with Loganair.