Lake Garda in Northern Italy is a popular holiday destination among Europeans. But what makes the biggest lake in Italy a famous holiday destination? We tell you all about it in this article.
Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy, located in between the Dolomites mountains. Famous for its turquoise water and beautiful nature. Historical villages and castles like Sirmione. And a unique climate, where you can have four seasons in one day. Renowned for its winds that make the lake a perfect place for sailing, wind- and kitesurfing.
Lake Garda should definitely be on your itinerary while visiting Italy. Want to know why? Read on!
Lake Garda Facts
Let’s concentrate on some facts first. Lake Garda is located in Northern Italy, between Brescia and Verona.
The lake touches three Italian provinces — Verona in the South-East, Brescia in the South-West, and Trento in the North.
Lake Garda has a sub-Mediterranean climate. Which is a mild climate, but because of the famous winds, temperatures and weather can vary multiple times a day.
The mountain range creates typical winds because of the difference in altitude. Almost daily winds in the morning descent from the mountains. This wind is also known as Pelér, and blows from North to South.
During the afternoon, the wind turns back up to the mountains and blows from South to North. This wind is called Ora.
Lake Garda in numbers
- 142.8 square miles (370 square kilometers) area coverage.
- 213 feet (65 meters) above sea level.
- 1135 feet (346 meters) maximum depth
- 436 feet (133 meters) average depth
- 98.4 miles (158.4 kilometers) periphery
- 10.6 miles (17.2 kilometers) maximum width
- 32 miles (51.6 kilometers) maximum length
- 5 islands
- 22 million yearly visitors
Lake Garda Best Towns
Around Lake Garda, you’ll find many traditional Italian villages. It is great fun to spend a few days exploring these villages. You can easily rent a bicycle, cycle around the lake, and stop wherever you like. However, some villages are very popular among tourists, even for day trips. So when you want to enjoy the vibe to the fullest -without a swamp of tourists, preparation is needed.
Here’s a list of the best towns around Lake Garda.
Let’s start with the most famous town near the lake. Sirmione is renowned for its thermal baths, and its medieval castle that you’ll find at the entrance of the old town. Since the first century BC, Sirmione became a resort for wealthy families. Nowadays you’ll find many thermal resorts and hotels in the old town. But most tourists visit Sirmione, which is located at a small peninsula, just for one day, to walk around and enjoy the beauty of this historic town.
A fun thing to do when you don’t want to visit a thermal bad is taking a boat tour around the peninsula. You can also walk to the end of the peninsula and visit Jamaica Beach. A small pebble beach where you can relax for a while and take a dip in the lake.
Sirmione gets very busy, almost every day. So when you don’t want to walk around at the busiest moments, it is advised to go as early as possible. Visit the town before 10 a.m. or in the late afternoon.
A small fisherman’s village on the Verona side of Lake Garda. Nowadays Bardolino is known for its outstanding wines. It is probably the best village around Lake Garda for wine tasting.
The town itself is beautiful to visit, with lots of old churches and historical squares. You’ll find many restaurants here, great for a lunch stop.
Visiting the vineyards around Bardolino is straightforward. The vineyards are easily accessible and offer several tours and tastings multiple times a day.
When you are visiting Bardolino on a Thursday, make sure to be there early morning. Every Thursday there’s a farmers market in the center of the village. You can buy locally produced products, and it is a great vibe to walk around this market. The market closes around midday.
Lake Garda is named after this village. So this village is a must-visit while visiting the lake. The village of Garda is one of the oldest inhabited villages around the lake. And the Medieval fortress was a critical watching point to safeguard the entrance to the city of Verona. Which is only 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.
Walking around Garda, you’ll see many historical villas and palaces. It is a typical historic Italian town.
When you’re looking for a place where you can enjoy both the lake, a historical town, and botanical gardens, Gardone is your go-to village.
You’ll find this village on the west shore of Lake Garda, around 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the city Brescia.
Gardone was a famous tourist destination at the end of the 18th century. People believed that the location and its surroundings had a positive influence on their health.
When you visit Gardone, you might understand why. The surroundings are spectacular. It is great to spend a few days in Gardone, walking around and exploring the beautiful area.
Because of its sub-Mediterranean climate, Lake Garda has excellent vegetation. Some of them which you don’t find anywhere else in Northern Italy. Walking around the old town of Limone you’ll find many historic buildings and restaurants. But this town developed because of the growth of olives and lemons. Olive trees, palm trees, and lemon trees are thriving well in this environment.
Agriculture is important to this town, but you’ll find many other things in Limone. It is an attractive village for watersports, hiking, and cultural events.
The largest city around Lake Garda. Historically an important city for the surrounding villages. Nowadays it is an essential place for tourism, where many people stay during their visit to Lake Garda. From Salò it is easy to reach the other villages on the west side of the lake, but also to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and nature.
The city itself is also worth exploring, with many historic buildings, small streets and great restaurants.
Riva La Garda
You’ll find this village in the most northern point of Lake Garda. Located in the Trento region. Locals refer to this village as ‘The Pearl of Garda.’ In this village, you’ll find many historical buildings and monuments. Among them the fortress ‘La Rocca.’
From Riva La Garda it is recommended to spend a half-day to visit its surroundings. A few hiking trails up the mountains are great to follow and bring you to Varona Falls, Lake Tenno, and a small village Pregasina. From where you’ll have great views over Lake Garda.
Lake Garda Famous Landmarks
History around Lake Garda goes back for thousands of years. It is interesting to see how society has developed around the lake. A few of the famous landmarks we recommend to visit are:
- Botanical Garden Arboretum (Andre Heller Garden)
Located near Salò, it holds over 150 differents plants from over the whole world. Enjoyable to spend a few hours.
- Piazza III Novembre
A square with many historical buildings. The Famous ‘Rocca’ Fortress, which was important during medieval times. You’ll find this square in Riva La Garda.
- Grotta Tanella
A cave which you’ll find at the eastern side of Lake Garda. You can only visit this cave with a guided tour. The cave is about 400 meters deep in the mountain of Baldo. Where you’ll find spectacular stalagmites in different colors. It is a great visit when you’re interested in the underground world.
Almost every town around Lake Garda has some beautiful historical buildings or monuments which you can visit. You’ll find many old churches and fortresses. Many of which are built in the 15th and 16th century AD.
Lake Garda Activities
Besides relaxing and wandering around the historic villages, Lake Garda is an excellent place for many sports activities. Here is a list of the best (sport)activities in Lake Garda, and where you should go to have the best experience.
Swimming at Lake Garda
Almost everywhere you can go for a swim in the lake. Every village has several pebbly beaches and places where you can swim. Because of the busy traffic on the water, it is not recommended to cross the lines in the water. The lines are there for your safety as a swimmer and are designated swimming areas.
Swimming in Lake Garda is safe. Sometimes there can be a strong current because of heavy winds. The water can be a bit cold in the lake, especially when you go a bit deeper. On the surface, the water is warmed up by the sunlight. But the lake is very deep, so water a few meters below the surface can be very cold. It is something to keep in mind while swimming. Make sure that you don’t go too deep when you’re alone.
With the clear water in the lake, it is also great for snorkeling.
Scuba Diving Lake Garda
Where there are deep waters, people like to go scuba diving. You might not expect it, but Lake Garda is an excellent place for scuba diving. You’ll find several diving spots in Lake Garda. There are diving spots for beginners and more experienced divers.
It is even possible to follow a PADI course (beginners diving course) at Lake Garda. Therefore you’ll need the visit Baia Azzurra on the north side of the lake.
You’ll find the most diving spots on the north and east side of the lake. All the diving spots vary in difficulty level. Riva La Garda (North Coast) has 3 diving spots, Torbole Sul Garda (North East Coast 2 diving spots, Navane (East Coast) 2 diving spots, and Tempesta (East Coast) 2 diving spots.
Wind- and Kitesurfing
The biggest lake in Italy, and almost all day favorable wind conditions. It is a paradise for wind- and kitesurfers!
There are many places to find where you can take off for wind- or kitesurfing. However, most sites are on the east side of the lake. Probably because you’ll find the most campsites on the side of the lake, and many watersports fanatics staying in campers while visiting Lake Garda.
Lake Garda is also the right place when you want to start learning to kitesurf. KiteCenter Lake Garda is one of the oldest schools on the lake and gets good reviews about the kitesurfing courses.
Of course, Lake Garda is also an excellent place to go sailing. And with the favorable wind conditions, it is almost every day an excellent time to go on the water.
You can rent several sailboats in the villages around the lake. When you don’t have any sailing experience and want to learn sailing Lake Garda is an excellent place to start.
There are many companies offering sailing courses for several days.
With so many beautiful nature around the lake, the environment is perfect for hiking. Closeby are the Dolomites, the famous Italian mountains. Which is even better for long hikes. But there are many hikes you can do around the lake.
A few of the most famous hikes are, according to Komoot.com:
Lago di Ledro
6.23 miles (10 kilometers), duration 2.45 hours. Easy hike, where you’ll have beautiful views over the lake.
Treppen Bussatte – Tempesta
6.11 miles (9.8 kilometers), duration 3 hours. Intermediate hike, because of the difference in height. You’ll need to climb some stairs. On top, you’ll have the best views over Lake Garda.
Cascate di Canai
3.1 miles (5 kilometers), duration 2 hours.
Challenging hike, because of the steep path. During this hike, you’ll cross some beautiful waterfalls and small lakes. It is not advised to walk this hike alone or when you don’t have much experience.
Bastion – St. Barbara Loop
3.7 miles (6 kilometers), duration 3 hours. Amazing hike which crosses old villages and historical buildings. Walking distance is not far, but there are a few climbs during this hike. Fantastic views over Lake Garda.
How to reach Lake Garda
Traveling to Lake Garda is straightforward. Lake Garda is located in between the cities Brescia and Verona. From both cities, it is easy to reach the lake by car and public transport.
The closest airport to Lake Garda is Verona Catullo International Airport, which is about 50 miles (70 kilometers) from the lake. However, there aren’t direct flights from the USA to Verona airport. But you can easily catch a flight from somewhere else in Europe or Italy (Rome) to fly to Verona airport.
Verona – Lake Garda
When you’re traveling to Lake Garda from Verona, either the city or airport, you’ve several options;
- Traveling by train:
You can take a train to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano leaving from Verona. Both trains run several times an hour. A train ride is around 25 minutes.
- Traveling by bus:
There’s a bus (line 173) leaving every hour from Verona Porto Nuova to Caprino. A town on the east side of lake garda. Timetables can change often. You can find the latest information here.
- Traveling by car:
There are several ways to reach Lake Garda by car. Depending on which part of the lake you want to visit. When you’re going to the west side of the lake, you’ll need to take the E72 from Verona.
Traveling to the East side of the like, you’ll need to follow the SP1 and SS12 until you reach the village Garda. The drive takes between 40 minutes – 2 hours, depending on traffic and your final destination.
Brescia – Lake Garda
- Traveling by train:
Several trains are leaving multiple times a day from Brescia to Lake Garda. Total travel time is about 30 minutes. It is the best way to travel from Brescia to Lake Garda.
- Traveling by bus:
There are leaving several buses daily from Brescia to Lake Garda. You can even take a bus from Brescia to Verona and stop at different villages at the lake.
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need to take a different bus line. Timetables and routes can change quite often. You’ll find the latest information here.
- Traveling by Car:
With only around 30 miles (48 kilometers) to reach Sirmione at Lake Garda, traveling by car is straightforward. Depending on the village you want to reach, your travel time can vary. Traveling by car from Brescia you’ll need to follow the E70 East and take the exit that says ‘Sirmione’. After around 50 minutes you’ll reach the village.
Getting around Lake Garda
There are a few ways to get around Lake Garda. We prefer to leave our car in a village and rent some bicycles. You can even rent electric bikes if you like. It is great to cycle around the island and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Cycling around Lake Garda is great fun but time-consuming. So if you have less time on your hands, we recommend traveling by car.
Going around Lake Garda by car is also straightforward. In some villages, it can be hard to find a parking place, and you may need to park outside the town and take a bus, but still, it is easy to accomplish.
There are only two main roads around the lake. SR249 on the east side. And the SS45bis on the westside — a few small ways reaching the different villages, like the SP39 on the west side. Just follow the signs, and you’ll be alright.
Best time to visit Lake Garda
Lake Garda has a sub-Mediterranean climate. Which means weather is mild on average. However, because of the different winds from the mountains, weather can vary several times a day.
On some days, when it a beautiful summer day in the morning, in a few hours it can change to a rainy period.
The months June, July, and August are the best months to visit Lake Garda weather-wise. You’ll have the most chance on the sun and less rain. We visited Lake Garda in May and had good weather as well. Only during the night, there was some rain.
October till April is low season months. Many campsites will be closed during this period, and weather is not favorable to have a great time unless you don’t mind the rains in that period.
Averages temperatures Lake Garda year-round
- January 30 – 44 F (-1 – 6 Celsius)
- February 32 – 48F (0 – 8.8 Celsius)
- March 39 – 57 F (3.8 – 13.8 Celsius)
- April 45- 64F (7.2 – 17.7 Celsius)
- May 54 – 74F (12 – 23.3 Celsius)
- June 61 – 81F (16.1 – 27.2 Celsius)
- July 65- 86F (18.3 – 30 Celsius)
- August 65- 85F (18.3 – 30 Celsius)
- September 57- 77F (13.8 – 25 Celsius)
- October 48 – 65F (8.8 – 18.3 Celsius)
- November 39 – 53F (3.8 – 11.6 Celsius)
- December 31 – 44F (-0.5 – 6 Celsius)
What is Lake Garda famous for? Are you planning a trip to Lake Garda? We wrote this article with our booking recommendations, which can help you plan your trip