Beautiful Italian mountains and speed boats cut across stunning cobalt blue waters. Picturesque towns look right out of a postcard. Welcome to Lake Garda, Italy. No ordinary lake, this location is a picture-perfect setting for unforgettable experiences. Soak up the sun on a white sandy beach while experiencing the best in luxury travel. You may have never heard of this Italian lake, but we are here to change that!
Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake nestled between Venice and Milan. The lake is known for its stunning scenery, beautiful towns, incredible food, and excellent wine. This region offers the perfect getaway destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of life. It’s hard to beat Lake Garda for a holiday with loads of romance, beauty, and style. If you are thinking of Lake Garda for your destination wedding, check out A Lake Garda Wedding: What You Need to Know where we cover Isola del Garda, Lonato Castle, and more!
Lake Garda is divided into three areas:
The northern region is the steepest, with mountains coming down to the lake’s edge. On the other hand, the middle area features large flat land areas. Round trip around Lake Garda is 95 miles so we recommend staying at a central location.
Due to its sheer size planning a Lake Garda trip can be daunting. We are here to help! This guide will help you determine which towns to visit, where to stay, and what to do around this region of Italy. Whether you are here for a couple of days or several weeks, you will not run out of things to do. Let’s explore our top three cities you can’t miss when visiting Lake Garda.
Let’s start with Sirmione. Famous (and touristy) Sirmione sits on a peninsula stretching into the lake. The town itself is a mix of cobbled streets, old buildings, and pretty squares. It’s also home to the ruins of a vast Roman villa, the Scaligero Castle, and thermal baths. This medieval castle was built in the 13th century and is one of Italy’s best preserved castles. In summer, Sirmione swarms with visitors; so, try to visit in the off-season to best enjoy this charming town. If you want to make the most out of your visit, try going on a weekday in May or September when it’s more peaceful.
The main attraction in Sirmione is simply wandering through the narrow streets and soaking up the spectacular views. There are some interesting shops, all kinds of restaurants, and even a few bars are hidden away down tiny alleys.
Additionally, Sirmione is easily accessible, located upon the popular tourist route between Milan, Verona, and Venice. Desenzano del Garda is also located in the southern region, only 20 minutes away from Sirmione. Overall, we recommend spending a full day in this area to experience this town to the fullest.
One of our favorite towns in Lake Garda Italy is Malcesine, a small town on the edge of Monte Baldo mountain. This picturesque little town has lots of great restaurants and shops, as well as an impressive castle you can stroll around. Many visitors also come here for the striking Palazzo dei Capitani, declared a National Monument in 1902.
Additionally, the fantastic views from Malcesine are some of the best you will find anywhere in Northern Italy. Therefore, we recommend taking the cable car to Monte Baldo for breathtaking, panoramic views of Lake Garda. Undoubtedly, Malcesine is stunning – and unforgettable. But, since Malcesines features relatively steep terrain, it can be difficult for people with mobility issues.
Lastly, we recommend Limone sul Garda, a popular destination that’s retained its small-town charm. This lovely lake garda town on the northwestern side of the lake is known for its lemons, grown here since Roman times.
It has a historic centre, with shops selling fresh local produce and traditional crafts such as glassblowing and ceramics. Whether you want to rest in the sun by the sparkling blue waters or stroll through the quaint environment, there’s much to do when you come to Limone.
Without a doubt, a must-visit is the 18th-century Castel lemon house. Acquired by the city in 1995, it houses a museum and an educational center. The San Pietro church is also worth a visit, with beautiful 13th- and 14th-century frescoes. Overall, Limone is a beautiful city full of fun things to do, with an unbeatable blend of nature and culture on Lake Garda Italy.
Of course, Lake Garda has many elegant accommodation options scattered across the region. Finding your ideal spot to stay of course depends on what you want from your stay on the lake. Desire lake views and beautiful gardens? Then look no further than Villa Giulia, which boasts a gorgeous garden with olive groves and stunning views. If you’re looking for something more modern, then check out Lido Palace in the northern region of Riva del Garda. Accommodation options will also determine what day trips will be feasible during your stay.
First, we suggest one of the most exclusive Hotels at Lake Garda, the romantic Victorian-styled Villa Giulia. Located on the western shore, this boutique hotel is the perfect spot for ultimate Lake Garda relaxation. Its luxury rooms are enclosed by a splendid garden with a swimming pool and a solarium and offer all the comforts of a modern, exclusive setting.
In addition to its exclusivity, this 5-star hotel features romantic old-world balconies overlooking the lake, with Murano glass chandeliers and prosecco under the stars. The beautifully maintained gardens are a feast for the senses with climbing roses, olive groves, and lemon trees.
For an unforgettable experience, dine at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant. Enjoy modern, Mediterranean cuisine on a stunning terrace overlooking the lake. Indulge in fresh fish from the lake or try a quick bite to eat at lunchtime. Overall, this elegant hotel is the perfect spot for your Lake Garda adventures.
Another five star luxury hotel stay on the shores of Lake Garda is Lido Palace. This beautiful hotel is home to designer flair, with rooms and suites that have all glass walls, modern gadgets, huge beds, and stand-alone bathtubs. Markedly, Lido Palace is known for its fabulous spa, gourmet restaurant, and grounds.
The Lido Palace on Lake Garda opened in 1899 as a resort for European royalty. The hotel’s renovation employs a top-quality design that creates a stunning, luxurious environment with attention to detail. Spend your days lounging by the amazing pool and enjoying fine dining and wine tasting.
Finally, we recommend Hotel Bella Riva. This hotel offers a mix of comfort, modern sensibility, extraordinary style with an exceptional level of service in a unique, contemporary, and friendly environment. Without a doubt, this hotel has gorgeous views over the water and is close to Salò, Desenzano del Garda and Toscolano Maderno.
Contemporary but still classic, this hotel has fabulous rooms and suites, an excellent restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool. Try your hand at some water sports or traverse bike paths to get a taste of Lake Garda life. Overall, this hotel is a perfect choice for family holiday or a romantic break.
First, we suggest visiting one of Italy’s best-preserved castles. With a rich history, Castello Scaligero is a site you can’t miss. Built in the 13th century, this historic castle sits on a peninsula that stretches into Lake Garda. Its position makes it an impressive sight, and visitors can walk around the castle grounds before heading inside to explore the rooms and museum. If you’re visiting with children, they’ll be thrilled with the sword demonstrations and other family friendly activities held on weekends.
Following that, we recommend the Grotte di Catullo. As the largest villa ever discovered in the northern Italy region, the Grotte di Catullo is a must for Roman fans and those interested in history. Markedly, this site was built during the 1st century BC (around the time of Julius Caesar). These ruins are at the northernmost end of the Sirmione peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Garda. The site is pretty easy to get to, with a bus from the Sirmione town center, around 15 minutes away.
Fun fact: The site was one of the sets in the 2017 movie Call Me by Your Name.
The Cascate del Varone (Varone Falls) is one of Lake Garda’s most popular attractions. Located in the small village of Tenno, just a few kilometers from Riva del Garda, this site is worth the trip. The waterfall cascades down a natural gorge and creates an impressive spray.
The first observation point is the Lower Cave, where visitors can see the last phase of the waterfall. The second observation point, the Upper Cave, is 40 meters further up, offering panoramic views of the entire waterfall. From here, you can stroll through a botanical garden overlooking the lake with varieties of flowers and plants from around the world. The falls are open to visitors all year round, but we recommend visiting during the morning, before the midday crowds.
Tip: Bring a waterproof coat to avoid the spraying water.
Lake Garda is in northern Italy, about halfway between Venice and Milan. The lake sits in the foothills of the Italian Alps and is surrounded by three provinces: Trentino (north), Brescia (west), and Verona (south).
An excellent transport network services Lake Garda. Whether you prefer to fly, drive, or take the train, getting to Lake Garda is very easy. Just half an hour from the southeast corner of Lake Garda, Verona is by far the most popular arrival point for travelers to Lake Garda and is home to two airports – Valerio Catullo (VRN) and Verona Brescia (VBS).
A pleasant way to see some of the lake’s towns and villages is via boat service. Regular ferries run between several locations along both sides of the lake. On the eastern shore, explore Malcesine, Torri del Benaco, Lazise, Bardolino, Garda and Sirmione. Or check out the western shores with Riva del Garda and Desenzano del Garda. Additionally, many Taxi companies offer transfers from the airport and train station.
Yes. U.S. citizens may travel to Italy for any reason, including tourism. For guidance on current requirements look to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. Regional governments in Italy may also impose restrictions on travelers so make sure to check the restrictions in the region of your destination. It is important to note that Lake Garda is part of two regions: The Veneto region & the Trentino Alto Adige region. For more information on COVID restrictions in Italy, consult the US Embassy Website.
Ready to jet off to a luxurious Lake Garda Italy adventure? Esprit Errant is here to help! Contact us here today to plan your Italian dream getaway. Thinking of Lake Garda for your destination wedding? Check out A Lake Garda Wedding: What You Need to Know
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This post was updated on February 17th, 2022