The lure of the lake: Romantic islands and tranquillity at every turn, Lake Constance is a constant joy
- Surrounded by Switzerland, Austria and Germany, Lake Constance is enormous
- The 170 miles of coastline is dotted with quaint towns and mountain ranges
- Kate Johnson recommends exploring the shoreline with the odd inland detour
You could eat breakfast in Switzerland, enjoy lunch in Austria and dine out in Germany all in one day if you followed the shoreline of Lake Constance. But why the hurry? A better plan is to meander the 170 miles with a diversion inland to Liechtenstein.
We start with an electric bike tour of the Swiss harbour town of Rorschach, freewheeling along the promenade and effortlessly speeding up the winding hills for a panoramic view of serene Lake Constance.
After a night in St Gallen, we set off anticlockwise around the lake – called the Bodensee in German – and arrive at the teeny-tiny, 62 square mile, landlocked Liechtenstein.
The Swiss harbour town of Rorschach has panoramic views of spectacular Lake Constance
The pedestrianised centre of its capital, Vaduz, overlooked by the 12th-century fortress inhabited by its royal family, and with the Alps as a backdrop, is immaculate and quiet to the point of eerie. It has no atmosphere whatsoever.
But it packs a punch with its must-see epic mountains that are entirely out of proportion with the size of the country and ideal for winter skiing and hiking for the rest of the year.
A chair lift from the village of Malbun sweeps us over the treetops, 6,500ft up the Sareisjoch mountain ridge, and deposits us at the Sareis restaurant, where the menu laughs in the face of dairy-free, gluten-intolerant lightbiters. My rösti is a monument to the alchemy of potatoes covered in melted cheese.
We walk back to base, admiring the views across to the Vorarlberg in Austria, past sheep endearingly wearing bells around their necks, and striding the track that winds elegantly around these mountains, verdant grass in the foreground and towering granite rock in the background.
The islands on the lake are the highlights. Germany’s Lindau (the name dates as far back as the year 882 and means ‘island on which linden trees grow’) is a large town divided between the mainland and the island, united by a bridge.
Lindau’s harbour was built in 1856 and the pedestrianised old town is a must-visit
Don’t drive: it’s romantic to arrive by ferry into the imposing harbour built in 1856, which has a lighthouse, a 20ft, 50-tonne Bavarian lion statue and a tower with a glittering, chevron-striped roof that seems to be made of sequins.
The pedestrianised old town – Altstadt – with cobbled lanes lined with tiny shops, fountains, squares and Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, is pure mooching heaven. Make time for coffee outside the harbourside, salmon-pink Hotel Reutemann and watch the world go by.
Our final stop is some 100 acres of nature at its bright and beautiful best. Mainau, nicknamed the ‘flower island’, is home to the Swedish Bernadotte family.
The palace gardens at Minau, which is nicknamed the ‘flower island’, make for a magnificent day out
It’s a mark of the astonishing scale of the gardens that the vast Baroque palace originally built for the Grand Duke of Baden is by far the least spectacular sight.
Throughout the seasons, you can drink in thousands of orchids, or hundreds of different types of tulips planted to create a multi-coloured sea, or a thousand varieties of roses or dahlias, as well as 500 species of trees and an amazing butterfly house.
I’d like to say you get the picture, but you can’t unless you see it with your own eyes. And you really should.