When looking to have the most relaxing time by an Italian lake, everybody knows that the lakes in northern Italy are some of the most beautiful to visit in the country.
Lakes have always been popular with tourists in Italy, as much as the mountains and the sea, and over the years they have charmed visitors from all over the world.
Why? For the spectacular views of Alps in the background, the surrounding lush woodland and romantic castles, hotels and villas overlooking their shores.
With so many lakeside resorts in the northern Italy to choose from, with minimal research, any traveller planning a lakeside getaway can have their needs met.
No matter what style of travel you intend to do, they can be the perfect destinations for your next Italian beach holiday or even only for quick weekend getaway.
Lakes in Northern Italy
In this inspirational travel guide, you can find a list of the best northern Italian lakes worth visiting as a day trip or for a relaxing lakeside holiday.
I will share some of my best ideas on what to see and do during your stay and even give you tips on how you can get there from cities like Venice or Milan.
Which is the best lake to visit in northern Italy?
The best lake to visit in northern Italy is Lake Garda. Lake Garda is the largest lake in the country and the one with more things to do and see than the others.
There are many types of activities to do while staying in Lake Garda, for example:
Visiting Lake Garda is perfect for all types of travellers and by that I mean everybody from couples on a romantic escape, families with young children looking for some fun time to nature and hiking lovers looking to the next adventure.
Lakes in Northern Italy map
Here’s a map of the lakes in northern Italy worth visiting that you can easily reach from important cities served by airports such as Venice, Verona and Milan.
You can either get to them by car or even by public transport like trains and buses. Alternatively, you can book your stay in one of the towns and villages around the lake or cities in Veneto then access the lake by driving a short distance.
For most visitors to Northern Italy, driving is usually the best option to be able to see and learn more in and around this region. If you’ll be arriving in the city of canals and bridges (Venice) you can even rent a car in Venice, Mestre or from the airport.
If you plan to travel in the summer (August) and you decide to rent a car, book in advance, as this time of the year, rental costs can go up a lot! Not to mention, you can get some the best car rental deals in Italy when you book well ahead of time.
Best Lakes in Northern Italy
The best lakes in northern Italy are famous for their crystalline water in which majestic mountains plunge and picturesque villages await you with open arms.
In northern Italy there are numerous lakes, from the best known to the surprising unrevealed gems, that deserve to be explored.
Below is a list of famous lakes worth visiting during your stay in northern Italy.
Lake Garda is one of my favourite day trips by train from Venice and if you have decided to explore other parts of Veneto it is even better to explore from Verona.
It’s an ideal destination for long holidays in Italy, and no less fascinating than some of the best-renowned seaside locations in the country.
It’s the largest Italian lake and is divided between 3 regions: Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. From a stay in Lake Garda you can expect to enjoy postcard views, romantic fortresses and castles overlooking the lake, fun theme parks for the whole family and relax by the beach.
Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Limone sul Garda, Malcesine, Lazise and Bardolino are some of the best towns to visit around Lake Garda. In terms of things to do, there’s a wide choice and a lot will depend on your travelling style and preferences.
You can uncover the beauty of the charming town of Sirmione from a different angle and go on a boat cruise tour or if you love to add a pinch of adrenaline to your holiday, go on a guided trike or ryker tour near Lazise!
Lake Garda is the perfect place to spend a family holiday because you can go hiking with your little ones and enjoy the wonderful panoramic views and have a fun day out in Gardaland, the biggest theme park in Europe.
If you’re going to Lake Garda with your other half or friends, apart from exploring the small towns and villages around the lake, you can pamper yourself and relax at the spa in Sirmione or in Colà di Lazise.
How far is Lake Garda from Venice?
Lake Garda is 183 kilometres from Venice and it takes approximately 2 hours and a half to get there.
If you’re staying in Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda, the best way to get to Venice is by direct high-speed train (Frecciarossa by Trenitalia or Italo) in just under 1 hour and a half. See this guide on Venice to Lake Garda for more tips.
Lake Como is one of the most visited lakes in northern Italy by tourists from all over the globe. This lake keeps being on the bucket list of many people, especially because it has the reputation of one of the dreamiest wedding locations in the world.
Frequented by wealthy people of the international jet-set, Lake Como is famous for its splendid villas and mansions, some of them are even open to the public.
It’s the ideal destination for a trip out of town from Milan, but also for a long holiday. Don’t miss: the city of Como, and the villages of Varenna, Tremezzo and Bellagio.
During your time around Lake Como, you can just walk around the lovely streets of Como or even go on a sightseeing boat tour. Seeking adventure? Then this small group kayak tour is perfect for any active type that loves the outdoors.
Spend some time admiring the beauty of the magnificent Lake Como’s villas, all of them offering picture postcard views.
On your list there should be: Villa Olmo in Como, Villa Monastero in Varenna, Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo and Villa D’Este, one of the leading hotels in the world, located in the tranquil town of Cernobbio.
How far is Lake Como from Venice?
Lake Como is 344 kilometres from Venice which corresponds to a 4 hours drive. The best way to reach Lake Como from Venice is certainly by car.
The closest city to the lake, served by an airport is Milan which is 1 hour and 50 minutes drive away (83 kilometres).
On the border between Switzerland and Italy, one of the most fascinating lakes in northern Italy: Lake Maggiore.
Its shores are divided between Lombardy and Piedmont regions in Italy and Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and the largest of all the pre-Alpine lakes in the country.
It’s an ideal holiday destination for families or a group of friends, but even if you’re travelling solo, there’ll be plenty to see and do and you’ll never get bored.
On top of the best activities to do around Lake Maggiore, you can visit the picturesque Borromean islands of Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre.
It’s also possible to rent canoes and pedal boats and venture in the lake or follow hiking and cycling trails immersed in the surrounding woods.
Be sure to visit Stresa, famous for the Villa Pallavicino’s gardens and the iconic Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, where the American novelist Ernest Hemingway stayed.
How far is Lake Maggiore from Venice?
Lake Maggiore is 348 kilometres away from Venice and it takes nearly 4 hours to get to the lake by car and at least an extra hour by public transport.
The best way is renting a car and driving from the Lagoon city or visiting it from Milan, which it’s only 1 hour and 28 minutes away.
Lake Orta is considered one of the most romantic lakes in Italy and a very peaceful place. Lake Orta, also called Cusio, is located in Piedmont, west of Lake Maggiore.
Less touristy than Lake Garda and Lake Como, this lake is a great destination if you’re looking to completely disconnect from the world and spend a day or a few days admiring breathtaking scenery.
If you’re staying in Lake Maggiore and have a couple of days at your disposal, then why not visit Lake Orta too? It’s only 30 minutes away and would be a great addition to any northern Italian itinerary.
From Orta San Giulio, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, you can get to San Giulio island by motorboat. Here you can see the basilica and walk down the famous Via del Silenzio.
There are other towns around the lake worth visiting like Omegna, Pella and Ameno and if you want to relax by the beach check out Ortello beach, the Lido di Gozzano and Rialaccio beach.
How far is Lake Orta from Venice?
Lake Orta is 373 kilometres away from Venice and it takes almost 4 hours to get there by car via the A4 motorway. The closest airport is Milan Malpensa, 42 kilometres away.
Lake Iseo is in Lombardy and the shores are divided between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia. Lake Iseo is one of the most beautiful lakes in northern Italy, the one with the largest natural lake island in Italy (and the highest in Europe) called Monte Isola.
Whether you like to keep active during your holiday or just chill by strolling around the peaceful villages, Lake Iseo can please any travellers’ desire.
First, visit Monte Isola, the largest inhabited island of the European lakes. Admire the colourful boats, its narrow streets and steep stairways, and buy souvenirs from the small pretty shops.
Other little gems overlooking the lake are: Lovere, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Iseo, Sarnico and Pisogne. Do you like spending time outdoors in nature?
Look no further, you have come to the right place! You can go kayaking in the Baia del Bogn among the giant cliffs diving down into the crystalline waters or hiking along the Antica Strada Valeriana or the old coastal road Vello-Toline.
Lake Iseo extends in a very well-renowned Italian wine region: Franciacorta. If you love wines, then go on a wine tour and let expert guides introduce you to the prestigious local wines.
How far is Lake Iseo from Venice?
Lake Iseo is 248 kilometres away from Venice and it takes around 2 hours and 42 minutes to get there by car.
You can even travel by high-speed trains Frecciarossa or Italo and arrive in Iseo in 2 hours and 30 minutes. You are only required to change train once, in Brescia.
Lake Misurina is considered one of the most fascinating places in the Dolomites that can be visited all year round. This lake belongs to the municipality of Auronzo di Cadore, in the Veneto region and it’s 1756 metres above sea level.
The closest tourist destination to Misurina is Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is a popular day trip from Venice. There are many lakes in the Cadore area, but Lake Misurina is definitely the largest natural lake and the most scenic one.
If you decide to visit it, make sure to read the beautiful legend of King Sorapis and his little daughter Misurina, who gave the name to the lake.
The most popular activity you can do is hiking around the lake, but there are many trekking trails you can follow based on your fitness level and time at your disposal to complete them. I really recommend spending more than one day exploring these mountains.
For a memorable stay with a lake view, why don’t book a night at the Grand Hotel Misurina? During winter, those who have travelled to it before know that Lake Misurina has the most magical atmosphere.
You can admire the snowy landscape by going skiing, one of the most popular activities in the area during this season.
How far is Lake Misurina from Venice?
Lake Misurina is 172 kilometres away from Venice. It takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes to get there by car via A27 motorway and nearly 4 hours if travelling by public transport.
You can get the Cortina Express 100 coach from Venice Mestre train station and reach Cortina in 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Cortina d’Ampezzo, catch a local bus to get to Misurina. Alternatively, join this popular Cortina and Dolomites Mountains Day Trip from Venice.
Lake Dobbiaco, also called Toblacher See, is located in the South Tyrol, in the region of Trentino Alto Adige.
The lake is located in the Val Pusteria, the most visited valley (and Instagrammable) in the whole region thanks to its astonishing natural beauty and dramatic landscapes.
More precisely, the lake is on the border between the Fanes-Sennes and Braies Natural Park and the Tre Cime Natural Park.
This means that from Dobbiaco you can visit the wonderful Lake Braies and the mountain range of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. You can cross the lake by boat or pedal boats, but be careful, its waters are freezing cold!
For all the sporty types out there, you can also go mountain biking and during winter skiing. If you’re around here in December or January, stop at the Christmas markets, popular all over the country and beyond. The most famous ones are: Dobbiaco, Lienz, Brunick and San Candido.
How far is Lake Dobbiaco from Venice?
Lake Dobbiaco is 186 kilometres away from Venice and it takes 3 hours by car to get there via A27 motorway.
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Lakes in Northern Italy
Now you know exactly what some of the most beautiful lakes in northern Italy offer. There’s plenty to see in all of them and you’ll never feel short of things to do.
Whether you end up visiting the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda (my absolute favourite), or the lesser-known gems of Lake Orta or Lake Dobbiaco, you will more than likely fall in love with their scenic landscapes as soon as you get there.
If you’re looking for further inspiration of places to stay to visit these lakes, check out my guide that covers the Veneto region so you can see where to go while here.
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