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Origins, localities and dimensions of Lake Garda
Lake Garda is of glacial origin. Calling it a lake is almost an understatement as it is more like a "sea in the mountains". Its views are truly incredible and very varied. From the rolling hills of the lower Garda to the fascinating overhanging rocks of the upper Garda.
Lake Garda is therefore a lake for everyone. Who prefers the Relax, special hamlets such as Valeggio sul Mincio or interesting towns such as Desenzano, Peschiera, Sirmione, you can opt for the lower Lake Garda. Who, on the other hand, loves it sport and uncontaminated nature it will surely be charmed by the northern part of the lake.
Il Benaco lake, as Lake Garda is also called, territorially belongs to the provinces of Brescia, Verona and Trento.
The towns on its banks are numerous, those of greatest interest are:
Brescia side: Sirmione, Desenzano, Manerba, Moniga, San Felice del Benaco, Salò, Gardone Riviera, Toscolano Maderno, Gargnano, Campione del Garda, Tremosine, Limone del Garda
Veronese side: Malcesine, Brenzone, Torri del Benaco, Garda, Lazise, Bardolino, Castelnuovo.
Trentino side: Riva del Garda, Nago-Torbole
Measurements of the lake
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy with its 370 square km, 51,6 km in length, 17,2 km in width and 346 meters in maximum depth.
Where to sleep on Lake Garda
It is very difficult to recommend the best place to sleep on Lake Garda. It depends on how many days you will be near the lake, how much and by what means you want to travel.
If you want to appreciate the lake and enjoy the lake view when you wake up in the morning, there is no better way than sleeping on its shores. Of course…But where? Well, the only thing I can do is advise you based on the area you want to explore:
Lower Lake near Desenzano -> CLICK HERE
Brescia side near Salò -> HERE
Veronese shore near Bardolino -> HERE
Limone / Riva del Garda -> HERE
Otherwise, try using the map below.
What to see on Lake Garda?
With this article I want to list you a series of things to see around Lake Garda. I will describe all the activities that you can do around Lake Garda that will lead you first to discover the Brescia side and then the Trentino and Verona side. Lake Garda and the River Churches they do precisely from natural border between the two provinces of Brescia and Verona.
Lake Garda, as I wrote earlier, is very visited by Germans, Dutch and Northern Europeans in general, tourists who like the lake and lake holidays, but not only. The upper Garda area is famous for its ideal conditions for all wind sports. So kite, windsurf, sailboat. This is active tourism which is very popular on Lake Garda.
Tips to better discover Lake Garda
Especially in the upper part of the lake there are not many roads. Indeed, between Salò and Riva del Garda there is only one for example. I let you imagine which one traffic there is during the summer days, especially on weekends. If you want to visit the upper part of Lake Garda I suggest you leave early in the morning, to avoid the classic and endless queue.
The afternoon return is a bit of a "lottery" because either you go back to the lower lake in the early afternoon, or maybe you should have dinner on site and then go back to the road after eating, when the traffic has returned plausible.
Garda Lake: the Brescia side
The Brescia side of Lake Garda lies between the territory of Sirmione and that of Limone del Garda. This is the western part of the lake.
1 - Sirmione and the Grottoes of Catullus
Let's start this tour on Lake Garda from one of its symbol cities, not surprisingly among the most famous: Sirmione.
If you look at the map of Lake Garda, you will see it as one small and narrow peninsula 4 km long that extends towards the center of the lake. This is the splendid historic center of Sirmione. Narrow alleys, full of charm, splendor and breathtaking views.
Sirmione is one of the most popular destinations on Lake Garda. As soon as the warm season arrives, people flock to enjoy its views of the lake. In addition, it has 3 points of interest not just:
- The very famous Grottoes of Catullus: do not think of real caves. The Grotte di Catullo are the remains of a giant villa of 167 meters in length and 105 in width. The Grottoes of Catullus are one of the most visited attractions around Lake Garda, I suggest you read more about this article of mine -> Visit the Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione.
- Il spa: the thermal baths of Sirmione enjoy an enviable position on the lake. Taking a sauna or relaxing in the heated swimming pool overlooking the lake is something I suggest you try.
- Jamaica Beach: crystal clear water, it is no coincidence that the name evokes the Caribbean beaches. Here you will also see numerous boats and rafts docking offshore and people jumping off the boat to swim in one of the best spots on Lake Garda.
2 - A half day visiting Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano is one of the major cities overlooking Lake Garda. Regardless of your desire to focus on cultural aspects or not, of which you can find extensive information online, I want to recommend Desenzano for a half a day spent at a slow pace, the classic holiday rhythm. A few strolls through the shops of the historic center, a walk, an aperitif overlooking the lake and to conclude a fish dinner.
Desenzano del Garda is a bit like the VIP resort of Lake Garda, the capital of the local nightlife.
3 - The tour of Lake Garda by boat
Do you want to spend a different day? Well, the tour of the Lake Garda by boat it is a valid alternative to the car. No traffic, no problems with parking, but just a great day in which you can enjoy wonderful views directly from the lake and discover the various villages / cities arriving directly in the city center.
there daily rates that allow you to make an unlimited number of trips and stops between the various stopovers. The daily rate varies based on several factors, including the areas you want to visit. The entire network obviously has a higher cost but allows you to visit both Riva del Garda and Desenzano on the same day. Alternatively you can choose either only the lower lake, or the upper one. All rates, including connections between the various towns, can be found at THIS LINK. As for other information on how to visit Lake Garda by boat, I refer you to official site of the lakes navigation.
4 - The island of Rabbits, known as the island of San Biagio
Also known as the island of San Biagio, this tiny island is just a few meters from Punta Belvedere and the beaches of Manerba. Famous for its beautiful waters it is characterized by green meadows, cypresses and obviously little rabbits in the wild.
To get to the island there are two ways:
- By ferry: from Porto Torchio it is possible to use this connection service
- On foot: when the water level is low, it is possible to start from the beach near the San Biagio campsite and reach the islet with your own legs.
Access to the Isola dei Conigli is free for those who are guests of the campsite, while for a fee for all others, even if you use a private boat.
5 - Look at the view from the Rocca di Manerba
If you are a lover of panoramic views, you cannot miss the show from the fortress of Manerba, absolutely one of the things to see on Lake Garda. In my article I called it the "Mirador" of Lake Garda, in reality it is one of the many observation points that sweeps from the lower to the upper lake. If the sky is clear, you can also clearly see the Sirmione peninsula.
On the Rocca, now reduced to ruins, it is possible to identify three circuits of defensive walls of medieval origin. L'access to the site is free and you will find many people relaxing in the surrounding greenery.
If you are a walker and you love to do some trekking in the green, know that in Archaeological Natural Park of the Rocca di Manerba there are numerous itineraries to follow, some challenging, others less so.
I described the Rocca di Manerba in a special article -> Discover the Rocca di Manerba
6 - A guided tour of the island of Garda
The island of Garda is an island with an elongated shape "facing" the territory of San Felice del Benaco. It measures about 1 km in length and can only be reached by boat. The island is private and can only be visited with a guided tour.
HERE you will find all the information about prices and departure ports, since there is no public service but only private and contextual to the purchase of the ticket.
7 - Motor boat rental
It is undoubtedly one of the experiences to do on Lake Garda. Rent a dinghy or a small boat with a few horsepower engine. You will not need a boating license and with extreme caution you can explore the lake.
Admiring the shores from the water, visiting Jamaica beach by diving from your boat and the silence of the open lake will make your day unforgettable.
Be careful though, I advise you to jump into the lake only with a life jacket on and navigate its waters with extreme caution and awareness!
8 - Visit Salò
Another town on the shores of Lake Garda where I like to return often and willingly. I appreciate it more than in Desenzano del Garda. Perhaps because it is more intimate and with an enviable panorama behind it.
When you arrive in Salò, even before descending towards the city, you will be able to see the entire gulf from above.
Salò is considered the first town of the Riviera dei Limoni. The road from Salò onwards becomes incredibly panoramic and on your left, especially near Limone del Garda, you can see (and visit) the lemon houses.
Brief but important historical anecdote
Salò also brings to mind the Republic of Salò. In fact, in September 1943 this delightful town on Lake Garda became famous all over the world. Mussolini chose it as the seat of some offices and ministry of the new state he had created: the Italian Social Republic (RSI).
9 - The Vittoriale degli Italiani
Many call it the Vittoriale di D'Annunzio because they associate it with this important guest that the house had. It is actually the Vittoriale degli Italiani. In fact, if a licensed tour guide heard you say "Vittoriale di D'annunzio" he would beat your hands in a second.
This grand monument is a monument to the Victory of Italy in the Great War. To put it in the words of another article of mine: “a place where the sacred and the profane hold hands, a reliquary that preserves the memory of the fallen, a private cemetery where the beloved greyhounds rest not far from their master”.
By the way, delve into mine article on the Vittoriale degli Italiani.
10 - Excursion to Monte Pizzoccolo
Lovers of trekking and "scary views"? Lake Garda, both from the Brescia side and from the Veronese side, amazes with itineraries and walks that lead to places with spectacular views.
There are a lot of them, but theexcursion to Monte Pizzoccolo will allow you to wander with the view from the upper lake to the lower lake. If you find a beautiful clear day, it will be a priceless experience.
11 - Champion of Garda
If before I asked you if you were a trekking lover, now I ask you if you are a lover of wind sports. If so, Campione del Garda is absolutely one of the places to see on Lake Garda. In a setting dominated by imposing mountains behind it, from a splendid green lawn overlooking Monte Baldo, kitesurfers and windsurfers have fun in one of the best spots on Lake Garda.
Even if you are not sporty, a ride on the lawn or on the beach of Campione del Garda is not so bad.
12 - Tremosine, the Brivido terrace and the Forra road
Shortly after Campione del Garda you can go up to the Borgo di Tremosine through what is considered the most beautiful road in the world: the road of the gorge. Indeed, Winston Churchill called it the eighth wonder of the world.
It is a very suggestive road that I recommend you to do by motorbike, at least you will have the opportunity to fully enjoy the view. In the car you have to be very careful and therefore only those who do not drive will enjoy it.
The road reaches the village of Pieve di Tremosine. Here you can impress and relax at the same time in one of the must-see attractions on Lake Garda: the Brivido terrace. It is so called because it is a terrace suspended in the void 350 meters high.
You can imagine the superlative panorama that will present itself to your eyes!
13 - Limone del Garda
Limone is a small town on the north / west shore of Lake Garda. It is the last town before entering the Trentino area. This village has some truly suggestive views and still retains the typical atmosphere of a fishing village.
Unmissable are the lemon houses that characterize this stretch of Lake Garda.
14 - Visit a lemon house
Speaking of Limonaie, do you know that it is possible to visit one? You will be on the Riviera di Limoni, you can only visit a lemon house. It is one of the things that I absolutely recommend you to see during a tour of Lake Garda.
You may also be interested in: How to visit a Limonaia del Garda
15 - The cycle-pedestrian from Limone
Finally, we are at the last point of what to see on Lake Garda on the Brescia side. This is a fairly recent attraction: one bike path of 2 and a half kilometers overlooking Lake Garda which begins near Limone.
It is the first of what will become the Garda cycle path, the longest cycle path in Europe that will connect as many as 19 locations on the lake.
For more information and how to follow it ->
Lake Garda: the Trentino area
The Trentino shore of Lake Garda lies between the territory of Riva del Garda and Nago-Torbole. This is the northern part of the lake.
16 - Visit Riva del Garda
I always like Riva del Garda a lot. I always go back willingly. It is part of the Trentino area and is a renowned and popular location among all those who practice windsurfing or sailing sports.
Riva del Garda is known above all by those who practice tourism arrival, but also by those who want to spend time in a pretty town surrounded by mountains with the possibility of making a thousand excursions in nature or, more simply, in history such as with the Castle of Arco.
Another positive aspect of the Trentino part of Lake Garda is that motorized navigation is not allowed. So no big noisy boat, but many silent sailing boats that will only make Lake Garda even more fascinating.
Although extremely crowded, one of the best times to visit Riva del Garda is during the Fairy tale nights. 4 days of celebration that take shape on the last weekend of August and sublimate with an impressive fireworks display. Don't miss it.
17 - Lake Tenno and the Canale di Tenno
Lake Tenno has waters of such an incredible color that when you are on its shores you will not be able to believe it. This small turquoise lake it was formed following a landslide around 1100 which blocked the course of two streams: the Ri Sec and the Laurel. I recommend that you spend at least half a day on the shores of Lake Tenno, perhaps even trying to swim in its waters.
Before returning to your base, stop and discover the characteristic Tenno canal, one of the four villages that make up Ville del Monte, the largest fraction of the municipality of Tenno.
18 - Lake Ledro
The northern area of Lake Garda is very interesting for a whole series of neighboring lakes that you can visit (I haven't mentioned the Valvestino lake but that is also a short distance away). The Ledro lake it is one of the most beautiful and cleanest in the whole of Trentino which, despite being beaten by tourism, has not lost its main vocation: love for nature, trekking; an active but conscious tourism.
For more information, here is the official site of the Ledro valley.
19 - The Varone waterfalls
Another exceptional place to see on Lake Garda, or rather, in the surroundings of Lake Garda. High almost 100 meters the Varone waterfalls are just 3 km north of Riva del Garda.
20 - Visit the Castle of Arco
Beautiful, incredibly beautiful and with an exceptional view - this is the Arco Castle, a town a stone's throw from Riva del Garda. We are in the province of Trento; on top of the fortress, the homonymous fortification was erected to dominate the area of Arco.
If you are in the upper Lake Garda, a "jump" to visit this castle and enjoy the fantastic view will be an excursion to do absolutely.
Reaching it is particularly simple. Just a short 20-minute walk from the town of Arco. I recommend you park in the "ex carmellini parking“, Search for it on Google Maps.
21 - A sailing boat ride on Lake Garda
If there is one thing that is not lacking in Lake Garda and precisely in the upper Lake Garda, that is wind. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the Trentino part of the lake is forbidden to motor boats, which makes it ideal for trying out theemotion of the sailboat.
I tell you this from direct experience because, a few years ago, my girlfriend gave me 5 hours of sailing on a boat of about ten meters. Being in the middle of the lake and hearing only the sound of the wind is priceless. Absolutely recommended.
22 - Strada del Ponale on foot and by MTB
Garda Trentino is a paradise for those who want to practice healthy sport on holiday and the Ponale road is one of its best expressions. It is a trail either pedestrian and cycle lane. It is ideal for excursions in the summer, including autumn.
The path connects Riva del Garda (it starts right from the town) to the Ledro Valley and is considered one of the most beautiful European trails. My advice is to ride it on a mountain bike. For more information -> in-depth study and map of the Ponale road
Lake Garda: the Veronese side
We have therefore arrived at the shore of the province of Verona between the territory of Malcesine and Peschiera del Garda. In practice, the eastern part of the lake, to which I will add some experiences to do in the territories adjacent to the lower Lake Garda.
23 - Visit the Castle of Malcesine
Malcesine is a splendid town on the shores of Lake Garda. As I told you, in this article on things to see on Lake Garda, I am ideally following an "hourly" itinerary. We are therefore in the upper Veronese part of the lake. Here we find the Scaliger castle of Malcesine, a medieval castle in which Lombards, Franks, Scaligers, Venetians, as well as French and Austrians succeeded.
Entrance fee: 6 euros.
24 - Discover the medieval village of Campo di Brenzone
Coming down from Malcesine and following the coast of Lake Garda, we find Brenzone and a short distance "Campo di Brenzone“, An ancient medieval village (200 meters above sea level) that can only be reached on foot or by bicycle.
A village that is absolutely worth a visit. If you want to know how to reach it, I suggest you read -> this article by Visit Malcesine.
25 - Torri del Benaco and the Scaligero castle
About ten kilometers south of Brenzone del Garda we find Torri del Benaco, exactly opposite Gardone Riviera and Toscolano Maderno (on the Brescia side).
It is one of the most characteristic towns of Lake Garda, made even more interesting by the imposing Scaliger castle, a fortress of Roman origin.
If you are choosing the things to see on Lake Garda, I suggest you plan a half day of relaxation and culture in Torri del Benaco.
26 - Trekking on Monte Baldo
Mount Baldo is the most important panoramic peak to see on Lake Garda on the Veronese side. IS full of trails where to practice excursions at any time of the year: on foot, by mountain bike, skiing or snowshoeing.
You should also read -> The best hikes and trails on Monte Baldo.
If you love the mountains and breathtaking views, this is an excursion not to be missed on Lake Garda. On its slopes you can find numerous huts and shelters, with many refreshment points. During the summer they are all operational, while in winter only the Fiori del Baldo Refuge.
How and why to go to Monte Baldo?
Because it presents countless hiking trails to reach it. Among the many treks I would like to point out one that, essentially, is among the most beaten ones and can also be covered by e-bike.
How to reach the summit of Monte Baldo?
To reach this well-known mountain overlooking Lake Garda you can start from locality "due pozze - prada". There is a large dirt car park there. To avoid parking problems, especially in the high season, I recommend that you arrive early in the morning. From this point starts a road which is also unpaved which initially develops inside a splendid beech forest (in autumn with exceptional colors). After about 40 minutes of walking you will be able to see Lake Garda from a very panoramic point.
Another 20 minutes and you will reach the Forte Naole refuge, which takes its name from the fort of the same name built by the Italians in 1913 in anticipation of a possible Austrian attack near the border. Privately owned, unfortunately this fort is now in a serious state of neglect and decay.
Returning to the main path, in an hour's walk you can reach the Fiori del Baldo refuge and then the Chierego refuge with a magnificent terrace overlooking Lake Garda. For those who are more trained, there is the possibility of further extending the trek arriving in an hour and twenty minutes at Telegrafo refuge, the only refuge still owned by the CAI.
27 - Punta San Vigilio, overlooking Lake Garda
Punta San Vigilio is that part of the Veronese territory that leans towards the waters of Lake Garda. The place is particularly fascinating, just leave the car at the "free parking park of the sirens bay”And proceed on foot for 150/200 meters. On your tour around Lake Garda, stopping at Punta San Vigilio is absolutely worth it… consider that it is considered the “Portofino of Lake Garda”. There is also a paid beach called "Baia delle Sirene beach".
28 - Gardaland, the famous amusement park on Lake Garda
Who does not know Gardaland, the largest amusement park in Italy !? I don't think he needs any further introduction. As children, but also as youngsters, I think everyone went to Gardaland at least once; at least those who live in northern Italy.
If you are in the area and have time to devote to it, both you and your children will surely have fun. Beware that in summer the queues reach unspeakable levels of waiting.
29 - Sigurtà Park
As I announced in the rest of the article, I want to give you two more suggestions of things to see in surroundings of Lake Garda. The Sigurtà park is located in Valeggio sul Mincio just 10 km from the shores of the lake.
This place is a nature park of 60 hectares which in 2013 won the prize for the most beautiful park in Italy and in 2015 even came second among the most beautiful parks in Europe.
You will find countless flowers, pristine green meadows, ponds and lots and lots of peace. A day dedicated to relaxation and nature. It goes without saying that in an itinerary around Lake Garda, the Sigurtà park cannot be missed.
30 - Borghetto di Valeggio sul Mincio
Finally, I close this article on the things to see on Lake Garda with a special location: Borghetto di Valeggio sul Mincio. (I also talked about it in the article of 5 experiences to do in the lower lake). It is a very characteristic hamlet of Valeggio as a small and charming village on the waters of the Mincio.
In addition to the classic and famous tortellini of Valeggio (I recommend you make a large stock) here you will find a lot of romance and more. It is also a great location for photographic readers. If you love photography, in this village you will find many views to photograph.
An advice: go there at sunset when the street lamps begin to create the typical romantic atmosphere.