The landscape of Italy’s largest and most popular lake, Lake Garda, contrasts greatly – with dramatic mountains in the north, and sun-kissed promenades in the south. And just like the landscape, the activities on offer around Lake Garda are widely different too.
So whatever you’re on holiday to do – whether that’s recline with a book or snap all the sights – there’s more than enough to keep you busy. And with that, here are our top things to do on Lake Garda.
Monte Baldo views
Take the rotating cable car up the Monte Baldo mountain in Malcesine for some of the most scenic views over Lake Garda and the town below – you may be able to catch a glimpse of the historic Scaligeri Castle from up here. It’s the only cable car on the lake and takes about 20 minutes to get to the top. Once you alight, you’ll have 360° views of the Brescia Trentino and Veneto hills, too, as well as a wide choice of walking trails.
Sirmione thermal springs
Do like the Romans did and head down to Jamaica Beach on the Sirmione peninsula to experience the lake’s historic bathing waters. Reaching up to 69°C, the springs bubble up naturally from the lake bed – a perfect alternative to an expensive spa day.
The gardens of Gardone
With over 2,000 different species of plant, the Heller Botanical Gardens in Gardone Riviera is truly a sight to see. Set over 10,000m², the gardens – opened by Arturo Hruska in 1901, but owned by artist Andre Heller since 1988 – grow everything from orchids to cacti, and display an array of sculptures and Japanese water features.
If you can’t get enough of nature, just down the road is the extravagant Il Vittoriale. The complex is the brainchild and former home of poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and is made up of squares, gardens and waterways that sit on the hillside overlooking the lake. As well as its landscaping, it’s a must-see for the collection of artefacts from D’Annunzio’s eccentric life.
Riva’s Sabbioni beach is one of the largest pebble and grass beaches along the north side of the lake. With the area’s breezier climate, the beach is the ideal spot to take the plunge and try windsurfing or sailing. If you’re feeling less active, the beach’s bars, cafés and sun loungers invite you to sit back and relax in the Italian summer sun.
Between the southern resorts of Peschiera and Lazise you’ll find one of Europe’s largest theme parks – Gardaland. From log rides to rollercoasters, there are loads of thrills dotted around the park’s themed lands, including Peppa Pig World – a must-do if you’ve got the little ones with you.
A few miles north is Canevaworld, full of more exhilarating rides, as well as a fantastic waterpark with plenty of splashing and sliding for the whole family.
It would be wrong to visit Lake Garda without getting out on the water. With steamers and hydrofoil ferries operating from every resort, it’s pretty easy to jump on a boat to explore the beauty of the lake and its charming towns. From Torbole, for example, you can travel by water to Limone in just 30 minutes, accompanied by vivid views of brightly coloured buildings nestled between spectacular hills.