Lake Garda is among the most important Italian and European tourist destinations for both local and international tourists as well as a popular lakeside resort.
If you didn’t already know, this is the largest lake in the Bel Paese and it attracts millions of visitors each year for its charming villages, the theme parks, along with the many enchanting castles and fortresses that face its shimmering blue waters.
Many people also love Lake Garda for its wide choice of water sports to practise and other outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking.
Lake Garda, Italy
Around Lake Garda, there are so many places to visit, things to do, local products to taste, that a short stay is not enough to cover it all!
With this guide you will get to know about some of the best things to do in Lake Garda and the lake region plus how you can spend your precious time around here.
Lake Garda, Italy
If you’re considering visiting Lake Garda, keep reading this post as I’ll explain what you can do around this part of Italy and how to make the most of your time here.
Where is Lake Garda?
Lake Garda, also called Lake Benaco, is located in north east Italy and it’s the largest lake in the country. See the Lake Garda map below for more info:
With an area of about 370 km², its shores belong to 3 regions: Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. There are 25 picturesque villages, all connected by the ‘Gardesana’ state road and reachable via the motorway.
The most famous holiday destinations around the Lake Garda are:
- Peschiera and Desenzano del Garda
- Riva del Garda
- Lazise sul Garda
If you are thinking of travelling from Venice to Lake Garda then you’ll be glad to know that you have a few different options available for getting here.
The popular lake region is rich in historical monuments, castles and fortresses that can give you a glimpse into its unrivalled history. The mild climate of Lake Garda is characterised by hot and long summers (from April to October) and cool winters with low rainfalls.
Thanks to this favourable climate, all around Lake Garda you can taste delicious local products such as olives, oranges and lemons, wines and truffles.
What is Lake Garda known for?
It’s no secret that Lake Garda is one of the most loved destinations in Italy and there are many reasons why. People travel from all around the world to visit Italy and Lake Garda is a frequent addition to any respectable Italian itinerary.
These are some of the things Lake Garda is known for:
Is Lake Garda Worth Visiting?
Absolutely yes! Lake Garda is worth visiting for its landscapes, to relax at the beach during the summer months, and make the most of its mild climate all year round.
At the north, you can admire the imposing Alps peaks, lush hills on the southern shores and both rocky and sandy beaches. Whether you like strolling around the streets of old villages, practising outdoor sports, having fun at theme parks or taste local wines and other products, here you can experience all this!
Around the lake shores, there are also many castles and fortresses to explore to find out about their millennary history. You can spend a lot of time outdoors, practising both water sports such as jet-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing and snorkelling as well as climbing, hiking and cycling.
Lake Garda is also worth visiting to taste the delicious regional cuisine, such as fish based dishes and sip the famous Bardolino and Valpollicella wines.
Things to do in Lake Garda, Italy
Now that you have a better idea of why it’s worth spending time in Lake Garda, let’s take a closer look at some of the best things to do in Lake Garda, Italy that you shouldn’t miss out on during your stay here.
Visit castles and fortresses
Lake Garda’s coasts are famous for their charming castles and forts dating back to different ages. Many of them are open to the public. Since they’re located on high ground or facing the lake, visitors can enjoy magnificent views.
Here’s a list of the most interesting castles to visit and add to your itinerary:
Go on boat excursions
There’s nothing better than going on boat excursions and short cruises on Lake Garda, the most fascinating and loved Italian lake. You can either join boat tours or use the navigation services, available to everyone
Navigating the lake waters you can discover its landscapes, learn about its history and legends from an extraordinary and surprisingly beautiful perspective. Depending on the time available and the budget, you can join different boat tours and day trips.
You can circumnavigate the Sirmione peninsula admiring the Scaliger Castle from the lake, the Villa Callas (residence of the famous Italian lyric singer), the thermal baths and caves of Catullus dating back to the Roman era.
In alternative, you can go on a romantic sunset boat tour around Sirmione and sip a glass of wine and have some snacks on board.
For a more exclusive cruise experience, you can join this private sunset cruise to Isola del Garda to be able to snuggle up to your loved one. During your tour, you’ll admire the beauty of Gardone lakeside, the Gulf of Saló and coast of Portese.
You’ll then move towards the stunning Villa Borghese to appreciate its Gothic elegance and visit Fasano with the quaint private villas and luxury hotels.
If you don’t want to join boat tours and cruises, you can always plan your own tour and use the public Lake Garda navigation services.
Do wine tastings at local wine cellars
Lake Garda’s coast and the hinterland form a popular wine production region. In fact, there are several native vines, denominations of origin and well-renowned wine cellars that make this area an important wine tourism destination.
From many wineries open to visitors, you can also enjoy spectacular views of the lake from above, whilst others are part of delightful restored farmhouses. Maybe you don’t know it yet, but the vines of the Garda hills have existed since the Bronze Age!
Romans used to produce wine in the countryside houses and villas around Sirmione and Desenzano and it continued till the Middle Ages along with the oil production.
Some of the most important Lake Garda wine production places are:
These are places where the homonymous wines come from. You can learn more about local wines and taste some of them during this highly-rated Lazise winery tour, paired with cold cured meats, cheeses and Garda olive oil.
Not far from Lake Garda’s shores, you can visit the famous Valpolicella wine region. Join this popular guided tour and taste 6 great wines produced in the area and find out what makes this wine such a special one.
Have a fun day out at the theme park
Travelling as a family? Do your children love theme parks? If you decide to visit Lake Garda then, you’re in the right place!
In Castelnuovo del Garda, there’s one of the largest amusement parks in the world: Gardaland (which opened on the 19th of July 1975). Over the years the park has expanded and increased the number of attractions.
In addition to the classic roller coasters, trains and Ferris wheels, it also includes cinema halls with special effects, buildings and thematic areas dedicated to the Far West, Asia, Atlantis and more.
It continues to evolve with new installations every single year and young and old people from all over Italy and Europe admit loving it.
It’s not just about Gardaland though, because the entire area is now full of theme parks like Caneva World, the largest water park in Europe and Movieland, the amusement park entirely dedicated to the world of cinema.
Around Lake Garda, there are also fantastic gardens like the Sigurtá Park Garden in Valeggio sul Mincio, recognised as the one of the best attractions in the world in 2020 and the zoo park Natura Viva in Bussolengo.
Practise outdoor sports and activities
The hills and mountains around Lake Garda are ideal for hiking and trekking fans, also because along the way you’ll be pleased to admire the incredible panorama of the lake from above.
If you visit Malcesine, you can get the cableway and get to the top of Baldo mountain. There are many paths to follow, huts and refuges where you can refresh yourself and have a meal. In winter the peaks are covered with snow and you can go skiing or snowboarding.
For the more adventurous ones, you can also go paragliding and land directly on a platform installed on the lake. Lake Garda is also a popular destination for water sports aficionados.
In fact, thanks to the constant winds blowing in the northern part of the lake, it’s possible to practise sports such as sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
If you’ve never sailed before, then this private sailing experience starting from Mugugnano is absolutely worth joining for a fun day out in the water!
Even canoeing is quite popular in the area, and you can go on this canoeing tour from Tignale for beginners with your friends or family and enjoy the best of Lake Garda’s outdoors.
Taste Lake Garda regional cuisine
Whilst spending time exploring the lake you should absolutely try some of its gastronomic specialities. Lake Garda’s cuisine is a simple and poor cuisine and the main ingredients are lake fish and products from the surrounding hills.
Fish is used in many dishes from the appetisers to the second courses. Among the most used fishes there are: whitefish, lake trout, sardines and carp.
Some of the most traditional dishes to taste are:
If you’re into finding out more about Lake Garda cuisine and get your hands dirty, then you can join this cooking lesson in Lazise and prepare your own pasta dish!
Relax at the spa
Lake Garda is also a spa retreat resort. More specifically, the southern and southeastern parts of the lake have some natural sources of bromide-iodine and sulphuric hot water used by the best spa hotels, resorts and treatment centres.
It was common belief that the thermal activity of Lake Garda depended on the Baldo mountain, in reality the presence of thermal springs is related to the fault in the Earth’s crust that runs along the subalpine foothills of northern Italy.
Visitors from all over Italy and Europe visit Lake Garda for the thermal springs’ curative properties and to enjoy a relaxing day at the spa.
The most popular thermal town is Sirmione. A lesser-known spa destination around the lake is Colá, not far from Lazise, where you can visit the Villa dei Cedri, famous for its tub in the middle of the beautiful villa’s park.
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Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Garda is a great place in northern Italy to visit. It’s easy to get to from Venice and by bus or by car from Verona, where there’s also the closest airport.
The list of things to do in Lake Garda is huge, whether travelling solo, as a family, or with friends. Depending on your budget and preferences, you can spend time learning a new water sport, go hiking or simply relax at the spa or at the beach.
You can also spend a day in Gardaland or any other amusement park in the area with your children. I’ve been there a couple of times both as a little girl and teenager and fun is assured!
If you are planning to travel soon and you are keen on learning more about other places not far from Lake Garda, see my post on the Veneto region for more tips.
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