Lake Garda or Lago di Garda, a hidden gem in northern Italy, boasts stunning scenery and plenty of activities to keep any traveler busy. Join me on a culinary adventure as we explore the top towns, transportation options, and 30 must-do activities in this breathtaking destination
Lake Garda. Ah, the jewel of Northern Italy. This is a place where history, culture, and gastronomy come together in a beautiful symphony of flavors and colors.
Let's take a walk through time, shall we? This lake has been around for a long time, dating back to the Ice Age. But it wasn't until the Roman Empire that Lake Garda became a hub of trade and commerce. The Romans were enamored with the lake's beauty and built luxurious villas on its shores.
Over the centuries, various civilizations have left their mark on Lake Garda. The Lombards, for example, were known for their intricate ironwork and built many impressive fortifications around the lake.
Fast forward to modern times, and Lake Garda is still a popular destination for travelers seeking stunning scenery, charming towns, and, of course, incredible food. The region is known for its olive groves, vineyards, and citrus trees, which produce some of the most delectable olive oil, wine, and limoncello you'll ever taste.
But it's not just the food that makes Lake Garda special. It's the people. Italians are passionate about their food, and nowhere is that more evident than in this region. From the humblest trattoria to the fanciest restaurant, you'll find chefs who pour their hearts and souls into every dish.
- Map of Lake Garda – where is Lake Garda?
- Map of lake garda with best places to see
- Lake Garda or Lake Como?
- What's the best airport for Lake Garda
- How to get to Lake Garda:
- Lake Garda transportation:
- How the train system works
- things to know before visiting lago di garda
- Famous Towns in Lake Garda
- 3 day Lake Garda Itinerary
- Best places to stay in Lake Garda
- 30 things to do in Lake Garda (Lake Garda activities)
- Lake Garda tours
- Lake Garda beaches
- what is the best travel insurance for italy?
- More like this:
Map of Lake Garda – where is Lake Garda?
Lake Garda is located in northern Italy, between Venice and Milan. It's the largest lake in Italy, stretching over 50 kilometers in length and covering an area of 370 square kilometers.
Map of lake garda with best places to see
In Lake Garda, there are so many beautiful towns to visit. Here are some of my favorite:
Lake Garda or Lake Como?
While both Lake Garda and Lake Como are beautiful destinations, they offer different experiences. Lake Garda is larger and has a wider range of activities and towns to explore, while Lake Como is known for its luxurious villas and serene beauty. If you're looking for a more laid-back and authentic Italian experience, Lake Garda is the way to go.
What's the best airport for Lake Garda
The closest international airports to Lake Garda are Verona, Brescia, and Bergamo. From there, you can take a train or bus to one of the towns around the lake.
How to get to Lake Garda:
If you're traveling from within Italy, there are also direct trains to several of the towns around the lake.
- By car: Take the A4 motorway towards Venice and exit at either Desenzano del Garda or Sirmione, depending on where you want to go.
- By train: Take a train from Milan to Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione train station, which is located on the southern shore of the lake. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- By car: Take the A1 motorway towards Florence, then take the A22 motorway towards Verona. Exit at Affi or Peschiera del Garda, depending on where you want to go.
- By train: Take a train from Rome to Verona Porta Nuova station, then take a regional train to Peschiera del Garda, Desenzano del Garda, or Sirmione. The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours.
- By car: Take the A4 motorway towards Milan and exit at Peschiera del Garda or Sirmione, depending on where you want to go.
- By train: Take a train from Venice to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione train station. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
There are also bus services available from each of these cities to Lake Garda, and some towns around the lake have ferry services that can take you to different parts of the lake. However, renting a car is often the most convenient way to explore Lake Garda, as it allows you to easily visit different towns and attractions around the lake.
Lake Garda transportation:
Once you're at Lake Garda, there are several transportation options available. The easiest way to get around is by car, but there are also buses and ferries that connect the towns around the lake. Bikes are also a popular option for exploring the area. And the train system is very easy as well.
How the train system works
There are several train stations around Lake Garda that connect the area to other parts of Italy. Here are some of the main train stations near Lake Garda:
- Peschiera del Garda: Located on the southern shore of Lake Garda, this is the main train station for the lake. It is served by regional trains and high-speed trains (Frecciarossa and Frecciargento) that connect to major cities in Italy, such as Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
- Desenzano del Garda: Located on the southwestern shore of the lake, this train station is served by regional trains and some high-speed trains that connect to major cities in Italy.
- Rovereto: Located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, this train station is served by regional trains that connect to Trento and other cities in the region.
- Verona Porta Nuova: Although not located directly on the lake, this train station is a major transportation hub and is served by regional trains and high-speed trains that connect to major cities in Italy. From Verona, you can take a bus or a train to reach the towns around Lake Garda.
- Brescia: Located about 20 kilometers south of Lake Garda, this train station is served by regional trains and high-speed trains that connect to major cities in Italy. From Brescia, you can take a bus or a train to reach the towns around the lake.
things to know before visiting lago di garda
Currency: The official currency of Italy is the Euro.
Language: Italian is the main language spoken in Lake Garda, though English is widely understood in most areas. Weather: Summers are usually warm with temperatures between 18-30 °C (65-85 °F). Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from 0-15°C (32-60°F).
Public Transportation: Lake Garda's main public transportation includes buses, trains, and ferries. I will dive deeper later in this post.
Time Zone: Lake Garda follows Central European Time (CET).
Italian Visa: Depending on where you are from, you may need to obtain a visa before entering Italy. You should check with your local Italian embassy or consulate for more information. If you are an American, Canadian, or Australian citizen, you will not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days.
Electricty Socket: Electrical outlets are Type F, which accept plugs with round pins or Europlug adapters. The voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Italy SIM Card: It is recommended to get a local SIM card when traveling in Italy. This will give you the best coverage and access to data services while roaming.
Car Rentals: If you are planning on renting a car in Lake Garda, it is important to do your research beforehand. There are several rental companies that offer competitive rates and good customer service. I recommend this car rental service.
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Famous Towns in Lake Garda
Let's start with Sirmione, a stunning town located at the southern tip of Lake Garda. Sirmione is famous for its thermal baths and its stunning Scaliger Castle, which sits at the entrance to the town. You can spend your days here relaxing in the thermal waters or exploring the town's narrow streets and ancient ruins.
Insider Tip: Head to the "Grotte di Catullo," an ancient Roman villa that is now a museum. It's one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy and offers a fascinating glimpse into the area's ancient history.
Ps: This is my favorite town to swim in. The water is so clean you can literally drink it.
Peschiera del Garda
Pescheria del Garda is a charming fishing village located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. This town is known for its fresh fish and seafood, which you can enjoy at one of the local restaurants. You can also take a stroll along the lakefront promenade or visit the nearby Parco del Mincio, a beautiful nature reserve.
Something to also note about this town are the walls that are surrounding it. The town's walls were built during the 16th century as part of the Venetian Republic's defensive system to protect its territories from invading foreign powers.
Over the years, Peschiera's walls played a significant role in several historical conflicts, including the War of the Spanish Succession, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I. Today, the town's fortified historic center and its walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction.
Insider Tip: Head to the local fish market early in the morning to get the freshest catch of the day.
Peschiera was also where my cousins live. So when I come to Lake Garda, I like to stay here and then visit the rest of the towns. This particular town is very walkable, there is a train station in the center, and it has great scenery and food.
Valeggio sul Minicio
Valeggio sul Mincio is a small town located just a few miles from Lake Garda. This town is famous for its tortellini, a local specialty made with a filling of meat and cheese. You can enjoy this delicious dish at one of the town's many restaurants or visit the nearby Parco Giardino Sigurtà, a stunning botanical garden.
Insider Tip: Visit during the "Borghi e Sapori" festival in September, where you can sample local food and wine and enjoy traditional music and dance performances.
Lazise is a picturesque town located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. This town is famous for its medieval walls and its lovely lakeside promenade. You can spend your days here exploring the town's narrow streets, visiting the local shops and restaurants, or taking a boat trip on the lake.
Insider Tip: Head to the weekly market on Wednesdays to pick up some local products, including olive oil, cheese, and wine.
Bardolino is a charming town located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. This town is famous for its wine, which you can taste at one of the local wineries. You can also enjoy the town's lovely beaches or take a stroll along the lakefront promenade.
Insider Tip: Visit during the "Festa dell'Uva e del Vino" festival in September, where you can sample local wines and enjoy live music and dance performances.
Garda, as I mentioned earlier, is a lovely town located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. This town is known for its panoramic views of the lake, its beautiful gardens, and its lovely lakeside promenade. You can spend your days here enjoying the lake's beauty or exploring the town's lovely streets and squares.
Insider Tip: Head to the top of the hill behind the town to the "Punta San Vigilio" viewpoint. This is one of the most stunning views of the lake, and it's worth the steep climb.
Torri del Benaco
Torri del Benaco, located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, is a charming town known for its medieval castle, narrow streets, and colorful houses. The town's promenade is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the views of the lake. You can also visit the Scaliger Castle, a fortress built in the 14th century that now houses a museum.
Insider Tip: Head to the old port and take a ferry to the other towns around the lake. It's an excellent way to see the area from the water and get a different perspective on the towns.
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda, located on the northern shore of Lake Garda, is known for its stunning scenery and outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and sailing. You can also explore the town's historic center or take a boat trip to one of the nearby islands.
Insider Tip: Visit during the "Lago in Festa" festival in August for an unforgettable experience. This three-day event includes live music performances, street parades, and fireworks over the lake.
Desenzano del Garda
Moving on to Desenzano del Garda, this town is located on the southern shore of Lake Garda and is known for its lively atmosphere and picturesque waterfront. It's a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops to explore.
One of the main attractions in Desenzano del Garda is the 16th-century castle that overlooks the town. It's worth taking a stroll up to the castle to take in the views of the lake and the surrounding countryside. Another must-visit attraction is the Roman villa, known as the Grotte di Catullo, which dates back to the 1st century AD and features a fascinating collection of archaeological remains.
If you're looking for something a bit more active, Desenzano del Garda has plenty to offer. You can rent a bike and explore the surrounding countryside, or head out on the lake for a spot of windsurfing or sailing. The town also has a number of beaches where you can relax and soak up the sun.
Insider tip: Head to the weekly market in Desenzano del Garda, which takes place every Tuesday morning. Here, you can find everything from fresh produce and local cheeses to handmade crafts and souvenirs. Be sure to haggle with the vendors to get the best prices.
What is Gardaland?
Gardaland is an amusement park located in Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy. It's one of the largest and most popular theme parks in Europe, with over 1 million visitors each year. The park features exciting rides, a large waterpark, and attractions for children and adults alike.
There are also plenty of shows, restaurants, and shops to explore. Gardaland is a great way to spend a day out with the family or just have some fun with friends. Whether you're looking for thrills or relaxation, there's something here for everyone.
Insider Tip: Visit during the summer months when the park has extended evening hours on weekends, giving visitors even more time to explore. Also, make sure to buy your tickets online before you go, as this is the cheapest way to get in.
3 day Lake Garda Itinerary
Day 1: Sirmione & Peschiera
Start your journey at the picturesque town of Sirmione. Take a stroll through its cobbled streets, exploring the ancient ruins and castle walls before taking a boat ride around the harbor to appreciate this incredible location from the water.
After that, head to Peschiera and explore its charming old town, with its 17th-century Venetian fortifications and quaint canals. End the day with a delicious Italian dinner in one of the restaurants overlooking the lake.
Day 2: Lazise & Torri del Benaco
Spend your second day exploring some of the smaller towns around Lake Garda. Start in Lazise, where you can visit the stunning Villa dei Cedri spa and admire its thermal lake and Roman ruins before visiting the nearby town of Torri del Benaco. Here, you can take a tour of the old castle or explore its tiny fishing harbor.
Day 3: Garda, Bardolino, & Desenzano del Garda
Start your third day in the small town of Garda. Visit the beautiful lakeside promenade and take a stroll to admire its old buildings and churches before having lunch in one of its many restaurants.
After that, head to Bardolino, where you can hike up Monte Baldo for stunning views of the lake. Finally, end your journey in Desenzano del Garda, with its picturesque waterfront and 16th-century castle. Be sure to check out the weekly market for some unique souvenirs before heading home.
Insider Tip: Make sure to bring comfortable shoes on your trip to Lake Garda as most of the towns are best explored on foot. There's so much to see and do around the lake, so make sure you plan ahead and don't forget to bring your camera!
Best places to stay in Lake Garda
- Sirmione: This is a popular town on the southern shore of Lake Garda known for its thermal baths and historic castle. There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Sirmione, and it's a great place to stay if you want to explore the lake's southern shore.
- Desenzano del Garda: This is the largest town on Lake Garda, and it's a popular destination for tourists. There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in Desenzano del Garda, and it's a good choice if you want to be in the heart of the action.
- Malcesine: This town is located on the eastern shore of the lake, and it's known for its medieval castle and stunning views of the lake. There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Malcesine, and it's a great place to stay if you want to explore the lake's eastern shore.
- Garda: This town is located on the eastern shore of the lake, and it's known for its beautiful beaches and charming old town. There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Garda, and it's a great place to stay if you want to relax and soak up the sun.
- Limone sul Garda: This town is located on the lake's northwestern shore, and it's known for its lemon groves and picturesque harbor. There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Limone sul Garda, and it's a great place to stay if you want to explore the lake's more rugged terrain.
30 things to do in Lake Garda (Lake Garda activities)
- Explore the town of Sirmione and visit the Scaliger Castle
- Take a boat tour of the lake to see the different towns and landscapes
- Visit the Roman ruins at Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione
- Go wine tasting in Bardolino or any of the other wine producing towns around the lake
- Visit the Papier-Mâché Museum in Cenina, which features beautiful handmade paper art
- Explore the medieval castle in Malcesine
- Go hiking in the mountains surrounding Lake Garda
- Visit the charming town of Peschiera del Garda and see the Venetian fortifications
- Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the lake (I recommend Sirmione)
- Visit the Vittoriale degli Italiani, a grandiose villa and garden built by poet Gabriele D'Annunzio in Gardone Riviera
- Take a cable car up to Monte Baldo for panoramic views of the lake
- Visit the botanical gardens at the Heller Garden in Gardone Riviera
- Go rock climbing or bouldering in Arco, known as the "Mecca of rock climbing"
- Explore the town of Limone sul Garda, known for its lemon groves and fragrant limoncello
- Go windsurfing or kitesurfing in Torbole sul Garda, a popular spot for water sports
- Take a scenic drive around the lake, stopping at various viewpoints along the way
- Visit the medieval town of Lazise and see the ancient walls and castle
- Explore the town of Desenzano del Garda and its 16th-century castle
- Visit the Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona, a stunning church built into the cliffs above the lake
- Take a cooking class and learn to make traditional Italian dishes
- Visit the town of Bardolino and its picturesque harbor
- Go on a bike tour around the lake, stopping at various towns and attractions
- Visit the town of Malcesine and take a boat to the nearby Isola del Garda, an island with a beautiful villa and garden
- Go paragliding or hang gliding for a bird's-eye view of the lake and surrounding mountains
- Visit the town of Torri del Benaco and its medieval castle
- Go on a guided hiking tour to explore the hidden corners of the lake
- Visit the town of Riva del Garda and take a dip in the waterfall-fed Lake Tenno nearby
- Take a scenic drive up to the Ledro Valley for breathtaking views of the lake and mountains
- Go on a truffle hunting excursion in the hills around the lake
- Relax at one of the many spas and wellness centers around the lake, such as the Aquaria Thermal Spa in Sirmione.
Lake Garda tours
Lake Garda beaches
- Spiaggia dei Sabbioni -
- This beach is located in the town of Riva del Garda on the northern shore of Lake Garda. The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming. The beach is also surrounded by mountains, making it a scenic spot to relax.
- Spiaggia Jamaica-
- There is also a beautiful beach in Sirmione, a town located at the southern end of Lake Garda. The beach is called Jamaica Beach, also known as Spiaggia Jamaica. This beach is located on the southern tip of the Sirmione peninsula and has a long stretch of sand and crystal-clear waters. The beach is surrounded by beautiful trees and vegetation, creating a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
- There are also plenty of facilities available, including bars, restaurants, and beach clubs. It's a popular spot for both locals and tourists, and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
- Lido di Lonato -
- This beach is located on the southern shore of Lake Garda and is known for its golden sand and clear waters. There are plenty of amenities here, including beach volleyball courts, cafes, and restaurants.
- Spiaggia di Porto -
- This beach is located in the town of Porto di Brenzone on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It's a peaceful spot with a rocky beach, but the water is still great for swimming. You can also enjoy some stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
- Baia delle Sirene -
- This beach is located in the town of Garda on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It's a secluded spot with a pebble beach and crystal-clear waters. The beach is surrounded by trees, providing plenty of shade on hot summer days.
- Spiaggia di Campione -
- This beach is located on the western shore of Lake Garda and is a popular spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The beach is surrounded by mountains, creating a stunning backdrop for your day at the beach.
what is the best travel insurance for italy?
There are a number of different travel insurance companies that offer coverage for Italy. Before purchasing a policy, it is important to do your research and compare policies to make sure you are getting the best coverage for your needs. Some popular choices include World Nomads, Allianz Travel Insurance, and Travelex Insurance Services.
The best time to visit Lake Garda is during the months of May, June, September, and October. The weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller than in July and August, which are the busiest months.
A holiday in Lake Garda is a mix of stunning scenery, outdoor activities, and relaxation. The lake offers many opportunities for water sports such as swimming, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, while the surrounding area has hiking trails, cycling routes, and historical sites to explore.
The cheapest month to visit Lake Garda is usually November, December, or January when the tourist season is low. However, keep in mind that many attractions and restaurants may be closed during this time.
While you can certainly enjoy some of the highlights of Lake Garda in three days, it's recommended to spend at least a week to fully appreciate the lake and its surroundings.
Yes, you can take a train from Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda to Venice. The journey takes around 2-3 hours.
The best town to stay in on Lake Garda depends on your preferences. Sirmione is popular for its ancient Roman ruins and hot springs, while Riva del Garda is known for its stunning mountain scenery and water sports. Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda are both convenient for transport connections.
Lake Garda is famous for its stunning natural beauty, clear blue waters, and picturesque towns and villages. It's also the largest lake in Italy and a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and water sports.
Yes, it is safe to swim in Lake Garda. The water is clean and clear, and there are designated swimming areas in many of the towns around the lake.
English is widely spoken in Lake Garda, especially in tourist areas. However, it's always a good idea to learn a few basic Italian phrases to make your trip more enjoyable.
Lake Garda can be expensive, especially during the high season. However, there are also many budget-friendly options available, such as campsites, hostels, and affordable restaurants.