It seems like you are considering spending your holidays at the well-known lake Garda, the biggest and the most diverse lake in Italy. Read the next lines if you are wondering about what to do and see on Lake Garda.
Maybe it is the first time, maybe it is the umpteenth time. Maybe you already know how to move or maybe you have no idea where to start. It does not matter what kind of visitor you are… Our suggestion is to choose carefully the destination that matches better your interests and needs.
Whether you are looking for inspirations or you are just curious, this guide is what you are looking for! So, let’s have a look on what to do and see on Lake Garda.
Lake Garda, a lake for everyone
Lake Garda, once known as Benaco, with an area of 370 km2, is part of 3 regions. These lucky regions are Lombardy, with its Brescia province; Veneto with Verona and Trentino-Alto Adige with Trento. The lake is only one, but its dimensions allow it to be extremely variegated, showing off in every place a different but always charming look.
Moving towards the alps, the landscape becomes more and more wild and fierce, offering exciting sport activities. Further south the winds subside, the landscape becomes more peaceful and you have no choice but to enjoy this marvelous calmness.
Now, are you ready to discover in detail all the wonderful places to visit on Lake Garda?
Lake Garda Lovers
The time has come, but first we would like to tell you how the idea for this guide was born. We can’t actually take all the credit.
Our team members are people of all kinds, most of them born and raised on Lake Garda. Some of mixed Italian origins with other European countries origins. Others have fallen in love with this destination and decided to stay here since their first arrival.
What we have in common is our great passion for the public relation and the desire to contribute to the enhancement of the Gardesan area. We have been present in the tourism sector of Lake Garda for over 10 years now and we are very proud of that.
During these years, we have had the pleasure and luck to meet many people from every corner of the world. People who have helped us to see the lake with different eyes and for this reason we want to thank all of them with this article. It is thanks to their questions and suggestions, even the more unusual ones, that we were able to prepare this guide about what to do and see on Lake Garda.
It is thanks to their questions and suggestions, even the more unusual ones, that we were able to prepare this guide about what to do and see on Lake Garda.
What are the archaeological sites of Lake Garda?
In the mid-1960s the ancient rock carvings dated 1500 BC have been discovered. They are present throughout the area of the Veronese shore between Garda and Malcesine. Surly these are in the list of what to do and see on Lake Garda.
To see the first engravings discovered, just go to Monte Luppia, in the Punta San Vigilio area. You will find there the famous Pietra delle Griselle and Pietra dei Cavalieri.
A good concentration of engravings is also present in Torri del Benaco; in the museum of the Castle you will also find a dedicated room. For a more complete experience, we also recommend the Naturalistic Archaeological Park of the Rocca di Manerba del Garda.
In Sirmione you can visit the Grotte di Catullo, an archaeological park that extends for more than 2 hectares at the end of the Peninsula. In this site you will find the ruins of a Roman villa built in the Augustan age (late 1st century BC), surrounded by a large olive grove with centuries-old plants. Inside the park there is also a small museum with the remains found in Sirmione.
On the lake you can also visit the ruins of the Roman Villa of Desenzano, built between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD. Distinctive and valuable feature of the Villa are its marvelous perfectly preserved mosaic floors. In addition, the various artifacts found in the villa are exhibited in the site’s Antiquarium.
There is a small archaeological site also in Peschiera, next to the church of San Martino. Symbol of the presence of the Romans in the city where they built a fortress, currently not open to visitors because it is being restored. Peschiera in Roman times took the name of Arilica and the inhabitants of the city are still called “Arilicensi”.
Moving north of the lake to Riva del Garda, on Monte di San Martino, you will find a respectable archaeological area. Due to its strategic position, already in the Iron Age, between the 1st and 3rd centuries BC. it was inhabited. Most of the remains date back to pre-Roman and Roman times, where the site became a place of worship and was the site of a sanctuary. The church of San Martino, which gave the mountain its name, was built in the 6th century AD. You can visit the archaeological site, recently become a museum, following the signs that reconstruct the entire history of the area.
What are the UNESCO sites of Lake Garda?
The main UNESCO sites in the area of Lake Garda are the Venetian fortress of Peschiera and the pile-dwelling site of Frassino. Both located in the lower lake area are part of the list of what to do and see on Lake Garda.
Pile-dwelling site of the Frassino
The Frassino site was added to the list of 111 “prehistoric pile-dwelling sites in the Alps” in 2011. It is a submerged area 3-4 meters deep in the homonymous lake not far from Peschiera. Precisely this characteristic has allowed it to remain unchanged over time and today it is one of the best-preserved sites. Underwater research has brought to light several finds, preserved in a dedicated area of the Natural History Museum of Verona. In the museum you will also find a model showing the appearance of the submerged site.
The fortress of Peschiera del Garda
The pentagonal fortress in which the city of Peschiera del Garda is enclosed is not the first defensive wall that the city had. But it is certainly the most characteristic. The lakeside village has always been considered a strategic control point. Built in 1500 under the domination of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, it is a fortress with 5 bastions and 2 access gates.
It became a UNESCO site in 2017 in the list of “Venetian defense works between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”. It can be visited with audio guides independently or with guided tours.
Interesting, right? For some time there has also been talk of nominating the entire lake as a World Heritage Site… we’ll see! Now, let’s continue our journey to the places to visit on Lake Garda.
Contemporary history, art and museums
If you love XX century history, the MU.SA and the Museo Storico Nastro Azzurro in Salò are two must see. If you are passionate about Italian literature, you will surely enjoy the Vittoriale degli Italiani at Gardone Riviera, the historic residence of the poet Gabriele D’annunzio.
Do you want to know something more about the lake and its activities? We therefore suggest you visit the Museo della Pesca in Peschiera and the MAG (Museo Alto Garda) in Riva del Garda. The Arboreto in Arco and the Limonaia del Castel in Limone are also worth mentioning, as they are two unconventional outdoor museums.
If you are interested in topics such as technology and ecology, the Museo della Carta in Toscolano Maderno and the hydroelectric central in Riva del Garda are what you are looking for.
For gastronomy lovers, a visit to the Museo del Vino in Bardolino or at the Museo dell’Olio in Cisano will be very interesting.
Which spiritual sites should I visit?
In addition to the views along the lake there are several very beautiful religious sites. Some places to report are:
Sanctuary of Montecastello
Also known as Madonna della Stella, is located in Tignale. It is one of the most popular sacred places on Lake Garda. Definitely due to its geography. As the peak on which it is located offers a view of both Monte Baldo and the peninsula of Sirmione. It is also curious to know that it arose on the foundations of an ancient temple, presumably dating back to 800 AD.
Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona
This sanctuary is located in Ferrara di Monte Baldo and is a jewel embedded in the rock with a view overlooking the valley. You won’t forget this kind of emotion. To reach it, it is necessary to climb a series of stairs but the effort will be repaid by the spectacular view. It is not accessible to strollers and prams.
We have dedicated an entire article about this amazing place!
Hermitage of Valentine
Another interesting spiritual place is the Hermitage of San Valentino, in Gargnano. According to the legend it was built by the inhabitants to escape the plague of 1630. This hidden corner can be reached by a walk of 2 hours, considered of easy level. However, as for all walks in the hills and mountains it is always recommended to wear hiking shoes.
Madonna del Frassino Sanctuary
Equally recommended and not far from the center of Peschiera del Garda is the Sanctuary Madonna del Frassino. It was built in Renaissance style near the homonymous lake between 1511 and 1514. It is famous for the appearance of a bronze statue of the Madonna and Child, illuminated by a beam of light. This sanctuary can also be reached comfortably by car.
Which are the gardesan traditional foods and wines?
Dear visitor, welcome to Italy, the homeland of good food and excellent wine!
As you probably know, this area, thanks to the mild climate, is famous for its cultivation of olive trees, vineyards and lemons. Therefore, some suggestions on this topic could not be missing in our article about what to do and see on Lake Garda.
Do you love wine?
Then, you will have no problems finding wine cellars and oil mills guided visits, to discover the production processes of our most valuable products.
When it comes to wine, you have surely heard of our Bardolino, Lugana and Valpolicella, made in the homonymous cities. MASI Tenuta Canova in Lazise and Cantina Ottella in Peschiera, for example, offer multiple guided tours with tasting of their best wines.
Tortellini di Valeggio
If you love traditional food, you have to stop at Valeggio sul Mincio, birthplace of the tortellino “Nodo d’Amore”. We then suggest you complete the experience of an authentic Italian meal with a local “grappa” (Italian liquor).
If the only thought of a static holiday bores you, don’t worry… we have the perfect solution! If you don’t want to miss any of the places to visit on Lake Garda, keep reading the next lines about how to move around easily.
How can I move around easily?
What to do and see on Lake Garda is one of the most frequent questions we get. Another frequent question is about how to move around to visit the places on Lake Garda!
If you are staying in the southern area of the lake, you can easily reach places of interest such as Mantova, Valeggio sul Mincio and Verona. Are you going to stay in the northern area,? Then you can visit places such as Trento, the Lake Ledro, Arco or Torbole.
From Pacengo, Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione, Desenzano e Padenghe it is easy to reach the A4/E70 that connects Torino and Venezia. This option is perfect for visiting cities like Milano, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Padova e Venezia.
The SS 249 (Gardesana Orientale) connects all the east side towns of the lake, from Peschiera to Riva del Garda. Even though it is very busy during the high season, it allows you to visit the various towns of the venetian and trentine side.
Meanwhile, the SS 45 bis (Gardesana Occidentale), connects the towns of the occidental side, from Riva to Salò, while following the coastline.
If you do not own a car, we suggest you stay in Peschiera or Desenzano, connected to the neighbouring cities by a rail network. If you are a good strategist, you can also organize your movements combining ferries and buses. (link trasporti)
Lake Tour by boat: debunking the myth
At the top of the list of what to do and see on Lake Garda there is “how to make a tour of the lake by boat”.
Comprehensibly you want to be able to plow it from north to south, but it is better to clarify how to do it.
The big two-floor ferry-boats that you will surely see sailing the lake act as a transport service, just as the buses. This means that, if you want to take a tour of the lake, you need to be careful to the timetables and stops for each ferry-route. Pay attention especially to the travel times, a ferry is a transport service, this means that it will stop in every intermediate port. Therefore, the more practical ones may be able to organize their movements just by studying the ferry navigation times.
If you are looking for a short ride just for the experience, or because sometimes you prefer to move with this transportation, with a timetable you can combine the two things!
A nice alternative to ferries is the many organized boat tours that are available every year from May to September.
If so far it seems you have already discovered a lot about the places to visit on Lake Garda, actually we just started. Read on to learn about the most beautiful sports, cycle paths and scenic trails…
Which sports can I practice on the lake?
If you love to be always on the move, one of the things to do and see on Lake Garda is definitely some sport: your daily bread!
Sports in the northern area
As we anticipate, the lake activities vary depending upon the position. The northern winds, from Brenzone and upwards, are perfect for sports like sailing, windsurf, kitesurf and canyoning. Moreover, the surrounding mountains allow trekking, excursions, climbing, vie ferrate and MTB/E-mtb lovers can have fun on the many paths. Basically, choosing cities such as Malcesine, Nago, Torbole, Riva, means choosing a holiday full of adventure and excitement!
Sports in the southern area
The calm waters and winds of the south, on the other hand, are perfect for activities like SUP (stand-up paddling) and canoeing.
Hikes, jogs and runs on the lake, bike excursions and, above all, refreshing swims, are practicable pretty much anywhere. But be careful, the water and air temperature are not the same for every locality!
Usually, in every town, it is possible to rent a small boat to enjoy a sunny day, admiring all the beauties that surround you. The possession of a boat licence is often not even required.
If you are looking for something more extreme, have you ever tried skydiving on the biggest lake in Italy? Well, Monte Baldo is the perfect place for, literally, jumping off!
Which bike paths can I find?
If you want to combine an amazing landscape with some culture, we recommend you take the E7 (or E6), i.e Eurovelo 7. This is the longest Italian bike path that, following the Mincio river, connects Mantova to Peschiera, passing through the marvellous Borgetto.
In the same city of this small medieval burg, you will find the renowned Parco Giardino Sigurtà, accessible also by bike.
If you do not want to part from the lake, you should follow the first part of the Garda by Bike, in Limone (see the dedicated paragraph). Alternatively, we suggest you the road paths between Riva del Garda and Torbole or Peschiera. The latter, between Pacengo and Lazise, is interrupted, therefore you will have to ride a stretch of Gardesana (a specific lane of a few km has just been realised).
Do you consider yourself fit and you love wine and the countryside? A trip from Garda to Verona, through Valpolicella, will allow you to experience a day of unforgettable smells and colours.
What is Garda by Bike?
It is an ambitious project that aims to offer the possibility of riding the whole lake perimeter on a cycling ring of about 140km. it essentially means connecting all the already existing bike paths. Unfortunately, to date, only the first segment (Limone) of this masterpiece is completed, but we highly recommend it! As for the rest, we will have to wait a few more years.
What are the panoramic paths of the garda lake?
We start by saying that every corner of the lake hides breath taking views and it is impossible to mention them all. However, we will do our best to let you know which ones you should not miss!
The most loved panoramic paths are for sure the ones of Busatte Tempesta, Cima Valdritta or Cima Comer passing through Eremo di San Valentino.
Mount Pizzicolo, nicknamed Naso di Napoleone (Napoleone’s Nose) is another privileged vantage point of the lake. Another enjoyable hike in the one through Valle delle Cartiere, in Toscolano Maderno.
Regarding the panoramic points, the most appreciated ones are the Punta Larici, Punta San Vigilio, Rocca di Garda and the Manerba one. All these offer a wonderful bird’s-eye view of the lake.
Particularly popular among motorcyclists is Strada della Forra, defined by Churchill as “the eighth wonder of the world”. This 5-kilometres road, carved into the rock and overhanging on the lake, connects Pieve di Tremosine to Tremosine Alta. You will find Terrazza del Brivido nearby where, only if you are reckless enough, you will be able to look down!
TAKE NOTE: For all walks, we highly recommend having the right equipment such as hiking shoes and water in the warmer months.
What are the natural parks?
For the nature lovers, we recommend the Riserva Naturale Orientata della Rocca e del Sasso (nature reserve) in Manerba del Garda and the Parco Naturale Regionale della Lessinia (natural park). Another must see is Parco Giardino Sigurtà in Valeggio sul mincio, the second most beautiful botanic park in Europe.
If you are mostly interested in caves and waterfalls, we suggest you visit Parco Grotta Cascata del Varone, Parco delle Cascate di Molina and Cascate del Ponale. Moreover, keep in mind that Monte Baldo is also called Europe’s botanic garden!
There are so many places to visit on Lake Garda as a couple. But if you are looking for some tips on how to impress your partner or for some unique shots, you should read the next lines…
What are the most beautiful burgs?
Certainly, on your list of what to do and see on Lake Garda there is a visit to some beautiful characteristic villages.
Among the most beautiful in Italy by the lake there are Tremosine and Gardone Riviera. The latter also won the Bandiera arancione (touristic quality mark).
Recently Malcesine, which reached the seventh position in the RAI program “il borgo dei borghi”, was added to the list too.
What do I need to know if I want to fish on the lake?
The Lake Garda is inhabited by many kinds of fish that you can also eat in the local restaurants and trattorias. But hasn’t eating a fish caught with your own hands a completely different taste?
It may sound peculiar, but one of the most popular requests between things to do and see on Lake Garda is fishing.
This is why you should be careful to the rules and licenses needed for fishing.
For the state-owned waters, a fishing licence released from the province is required. You can request it at the municipality of every specific town.
In the province of Verona, an amateur-sports license can be purchased at a cost of 34 euros which is valid for one year. For foreigners, a 3-month tourist license is available and costs 13 euros.
In the province of Brescia, the amateur fishing license is the same for both Italians and foreigners. It is valid for one year and costs 23 euros.
Trentino decided to liberalize fishing since 2018, therefore a fishing license is not required anymore in the trentin area of the lake.
At this point of the story there is only one type of holiday left to organize: the one with our 4-legged friend! So here are some ideas on places to visit on Lake Garda with your dog.
Which options do I have if I set off with my dog?
There are many hikes to go on with our pet on the Lake Garda and even many pet-friendly beaches and structures.
Beaches for dogs
In Località Fornaci (Peschiera), there is the Braccobaldo Bau Beach. There you can find showers, a “toilet” dog area, sunbed rental (with the possibility to have an extra one for your dog) and a welcome kit with a bowl and a blanket.
In Salò, right after Mulino mokai beach, in Via Tavine, you will find a space of around 500m2. This is the perfect place for taking your dog swimming and there are also some dog training classes available!
Manerba is equipped for your four-legged friends as well as it has created a dog beach in the city’s bay, near the Ideal Pieve camping. It is a fenced area in which only 20 dogs at a time can enter.
In some cases, such as on public transport, both boats, trains and buses, a muzzle is required, especially for large size dogs. For every eventuality, always carry it with you.
If you would like to walk on Monte Baldo using the cable car that leaves from Malcesine, only one dog per car is allowed, with muzzle and leash.
Access to the parks
What about the parks? Just as the accommodation facilities, some of the parks welcome
your animals with open arms, but some of them, unluckily, cannot let them in.
For example, dogs are allowed in Gardaland and Movieland, but they at least have to be on a leash and they won’t access to the attractions.
At the Parco Sigurtà, on the contrary, access to dogs is not allowed to protect the botanical environment. Likewise, dogs are not allowed in Parco Natura Viva to protect the peace of the animals. However, they both offer dog-sitting options nearby or at the park. As for the water parks it is not allowed to bring pets for hygienic reasons.
Continue reading the last part of the list about “What to do and see on Lake Garda” Beaches, Theme Parks, Curiosities and Tour await you in the next few lines!
What are the most beautiful beaches of the lake Garda?
The lake garda is full of picturesque and unforgettable beaches. You will have plenty of choice, from sandy to rocky beaches.
Baia delle Sirene in Garda is a place surrounded by nature that offers a relaxing view on the gulf of Garda. Another must see is Jamaica beach, in Sirmione, that reminds, on the contrary, a tropical landscape and its atmosphere.
Spiaggia di Pisenze in Manerba del Garda is filled with the finest sand, the perfect place for wonderful selfies! Meanwhile, the Lido di Fasano in Gardone Riviera, owns the only “bandiera blu” (blue flag) beach of the garda lake, thanks to its crystal-clear waters.
In the northern area, you can find the Fonte Torrente San Giovanni beach in Limone, small but spectacular. In Riva del Garda, you can visit Spiaggia dei Pini, composed of a pebble shore that alternates to the green areas that surround it. Another one is Spiaggia delle Lucertole in Torbole, where you can admire a breath-taking view thanks to its overhanging cliff, perfect for climbing lovers.
What are the theme parks?
There are many activities you can dive into on our wonderful lake, and as many theme parks that you can visit. For those who enjoy having fun, the south-east area offers many options, from amusement parks such as Gardaland or Movieland, to aquaparks such as Caneva and Cavour.
If you love animals, there is the Natura Viva zoo-safari or, if you prefer aquatic animals, you should spend one day at Gardaland Sealife.
Among the places to visit on Lake Garda we can certainly also suggest some locations of important events. Read on and see some…
Which are the historical events?
Lake Garda, home of breath-taking sceneries and full of art and activities, has also seen many interesting-to-know historic events during the years. For this reason we have to add to our list of “What to do and see on Lake Garda” also some curiousities!
First free Italian municipality
We are going to list some of them for you, starting from the Sacro Romano Impero. In 983, Lazise’s population asked to the emperor Ottone II to let Lazise benefit of considerable legal and fiscal autonomy.
The emperor, who wanted to remain on good terms with Lazise and to exploit the conformation of the territory for defence purposes, granted their request. For this reason, Lazise’s municipality is considered as the first independent municipality of Italy.
Solferino e San Martino Battle
Moving forward, we can remember the Solferino and San Martino’s battle on the 24 June 1859 in Lombardia. It was fought during the Second Italian Independence War, between the Austrian army on one side and the French and piedmontese armies on the other. Austria was the defeated one, therefore losing the war and the whole Lombardy. This event is seen in Italy as the first step to national unity and, in the world, as what inspired Henry Dunant to develop the idea of the Croce Rossa internazionale.
Repubblica Sociale di Salò
We then, during the second world war, move towards Salò. Salò becomes the centre of the world when Mussolini, in 1943 proclaimed it capital of the new Repubblica Sociale di Salò. He then also proceeded to settle in Villa Feltrinelli in Gargnano.
Peschiera, as a set for a movie
The last, less historic but still memorable event, dates back to the sixties, when the Lake garda was “transformed” in the Caribbean Sea. More precisely, we are talking about when Peschiera hosted, for almost 10 years, actual floating studios, tv and film productions. The protagonist of this adventure was Walter Bertolazzi that, starting from 1958, set up a fleet of vintage ships, which acted as a film set for pirate movies.
Of course there are much more curiosities worthy to know… Many of them are in our other articles!
Most requested tours
I almost finished the list of what to do and see on Lake Garda. Read the next lines about the choices you have to participate with a tour! You will notice the options are endless! Those who want to feel the wind in their hair and the warmth of the sun, boat tours are ideal.
For the ones that love the feeling of the wind in their hair and the warmth of the sun, the boat tours are perfect. The most popular one is the South Garda Lake Tour: a 3.5-hour excursion to discover the most beautiful landscapes of the lake, with stops to bathe.
Isola del Garda is another very popular destination. This excursion includes a guided tour for discovering the marvellous villa, its botanic gardens and the surrounding park.
If you are looking for a shorter tour, of around 30 minutes, you can choose between two options. One is the boat excursion around the Sirmione peninsula, the other is a tour on a small boat around the Fortezza Veneziana in Peschiera.
Garda Lake Tour
For those who wish to discover the whole of Lake Garda in 1 day, it is possible to participate in the Garda Lake Tour. A tour of the lake by bus with a guide who will accompany you to discover the geomorphology, history and culture of Lake Garda. There will be 4 stops plus 1 transfer by boat to admire the view from the water.
For those who would like to discover the whole Garda Lake in a day, the Garda Lake tour is available. This is a lake bus tour with a local guide, who will take you to discover the many treasures that these renowned cities offer you. Among these destinations you can find the romantic Verona, the immortal Venezia, the Modern Milan and, for nature lovers, the charming Dolomites.
What else to say?
We hope that these answers to what to do and see on Lake Garda have helped you to discover how varied and fascinating this lake is.
It is no coincidence that for years, millions of tourists have been staying and visiting its coasts falling in love with it. Between its shores it encloses small magnificent villages full of history, traditions and art, offering the opportunity to carry out countless activities. From sport to relaxation it satisfies every need, it has a mild and favorable climate in every season, suitable for both short visits and long stays.
Whether you are a first-time traveler or a regular visitor, we hope that in our guide you have found at least one good reason for an excursion on Lake Garda.
What else can we add then?
Surely there are more questions to add to this list of what to do and see on Lake Garda.
This lake never ceases to surprise.
If you have some suggestions or questions to add, write them in the comments, we are always happy to learn more about new topics and experiences on Lake Garda!