As if anyone needs 5 reasons to visit Italy, right? Lago di Garda is one of the most magical regions in Northern Italy. A 45-minute scenic drive from Verona, we share why this area needs to be put at the top of your Italy bucket list this summer.
Its easier to get here than you think
Lago di Garda is a summer vacation fav for European sun seekers wanting to slow down the pace of life with a limoncello in hand. It almost feels like the rest of the world overlooks this lake for the more popular, and in my opinion less impressive, Lake Como. Anyone see John Legend's All of Me music video? Looks awesome, right? In my humble opinion, Como has nothing on Lake Garda.
It's a 5 hour drive from Munich, and has become a popular holiday spot for Germans and Austrians looking for the easier pace that comes with Italian lake life. We typically fly into Germany to visit family, so for us, it just makes sense to take the scenic road trip south. And since moving to Germany, we have made long weekends out of this area several times. You can also fly into Verona (45 minutes away) or even Venice (1.5 hours) and drive over. If you decide to make a road trip out of it, you'll experience the beauty of Southern Bavaria, and Austria, not to mention driving through the Dolomites to get here will blow your mind. Don't forget that you must have a toll pass to travel through Austria, and you can get this at any of the gas stations near the German/Austrian border.
You can explore dozens of Italian villages around the lake in one trip
Once you're at Lake Garda, there's a ferry that can take you to all the little villages on both sides of the lake, giving you lots of options while you're here. You can get ferry timetables and drop-off points here. We like to stay in and around Bardolino and take day trips from there. I would recommend you definitely get a car while you're here so you can also take a beautiful drive around the lake, and even head to Verona if you wish. You're also adjacent to some of the most famous wine regions in Northern Italy including on my favorites from Valpolicella. Even though Tuscany and Piedmont steal the headlines when it comes to Italian wines, you'll love the hilly countryside of Valpolicella, seated just above Verona.
Our best experiences in staying in Lake Garda have been finding a nice Airbnb or getting a hotel on the water with a pool. I also find that if you're going during peak summer months (July, August), and you're picky about where you want to stay, you must book early, because a lot of the European (German) travelers are obsessive schedulers and planners, and we all know they'll book their hotel a year in advanced-#truthbomb-Sorry! And I love you, hubby. :)
My favorite town to visit on Lake Garda includes Bardolino for its clean and massive boardwalk, and endless dining options right on the waterfront. They even have a private beach club called Lido Mirabello Beach that is a lot of fun.
My second favorite town to visit on Lago di Garda is Malcesine. Garda is pretty flat, and you can only see the mountains in the distance. As you approach Malcesine, the mountains grow, and get so large you feel like they're dwarfing you. Malcesine is on the end of lake garda and it takes about 45 minutes to drive there at a slow leisurely pace. But the drive alone is just breathtaking. You also have the option of taking the ferry here, too. Unlike Bardolino, Malcesine is built into the mountains, so you're not seeing the waterfront everywhere. It a circuit of small cobbled streets, windy roads, amazing wine bars, and some hilly areas, too. A piece of my heart remains in Malcesine because it was my first trip with my now husband, and we both fell in love with the town together.
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
The beaches around Lago di Garda range from larger and busier to the smaller coves. You will find people who pull over to the side of the road, to find a small beach and set up there for the day. There's dozens of these all around the lake, so if you are driving, you'll have lots of options. Most of the beaches are made of stone, and the lake is so refreshing to swim in. I literally feel like I'm swimming in my own private bowl of Avian bottled water, especially in that summer Italian heat. The bottom is rocky, especially near Bardolino, so I recommend you bring water shoes here.
If you are craving a bit more adventure, you can even camp on the beach and rent kayaks, and paddle boats. The gentle summer breeze of the lake and the high mountains, make this a perfect area for wind surfing, and you'll see a ton of people here in the summertime taking it up. As always, you're in Italy so negotiation is expected and welcomed ;).
It's a Hiking and Cycling Paradise
One of my favorite developments on Lago di Garda is the new €7 million "Bike Path" that stretches about 2km around Lake Garda. This is a perfect path to explore the lake at a leisurely pace. For people looking for more serious cylcing, there's tons of road biking and mountain biking paths and even groups around the lake.
The northern Lake Garda area is one of the best mountain biking locations in the world. You can hit up the steep and challenging Val del Diaol, and Seicentouno (602) down Monte Altissimo, but you can also find easier options, too. I saw a group of people riding up the hills once near our hotel, and I'm telling you, I'll never complain about my 60 minute cycling class at Lifetime Fitness again.
Perched high above Malcesine, and sitting at 1780 meters is Monte Baldo, There's a cable car that takes you to the top which is open 10 months of the year. It's such a beautiful area to just take in for pictures but the hiking options here are endless. You'll even see sheep herders walking around, and the sounds of cow bells ringing like Christmas. We even found a small hut that sold local farm cheese and bread so we enjoyed that for lunch during one of our hikes. It's totally worth spending the day up here exploring Lake Garda from above.
It's a Foodie Paradise
Seriously, when you think it cannot get any better, you stop to eat, and even just grab a snack, and you're literally transported to a different time. We absolutely love the Italian hospitality. Anywhere you go, even for just a drink, they'll offer you a bowl of olives, chips and crackers. One of our favorite restaurants in Bardolino is Osteria due Nani. The food is designed from the local region, and doesn't feel so touristy as some other places.
And of course, our trip to Bardolino would not be complete without going to get gelato from Yacht Bar Pizzeria Gelateria. We grab a cone and go sit on the water to watch the sunset by the yachts and fishing boats.
Whatever you do while you're in Lago di Garda, you'll realize something amazing. Life is simple here. People are happy. They pause to enjoy life. It's what keeps us coming back year after year.
Are you visiting Lago di Garda for the first time? Tag Unbound_Travelers on Instagram to share your experience with us!
How do we explain Mykonos. Primal? Sensory Overload? A mix of Africa, Middle East, and Greece all in one place? Perhaps a combination of all these things, combined and focused on fulfilling your desires to let go and let loose, through epic sounds, beaches, food and fun. Mykonos has a lot to offer singles and families alike. Before you book your trip, read this blog to hear our take on if Mykonos is worth the hype or if you should opt to go somewhere else for your summer holiday.
What's the Highlights about Mykonos?
Mykonos is an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. It's popularly known for its summer party atmosphere. Beaches such as Paradise and Super Paradise have bars that blare thumping music all night long. Massive dance clubs attract world-renowned DJs and typically stay open well past dawn. Iconic landmarks include a row of 16th-century windmills, which sit on a hill above Mykonos town.
It. Is. Expensive.
I'm not sure what we expected coming to Mykonos. We traveled with our 1.5 year old son, and stayed at an amazing 4.5 star cliff-side hotel with a delicious half-board package at their fine dining restaurant on the property. So, we knew we were paying a little more for the luxuries we wanted out of our holiday (great views, an epic pool, and finer accommodations that made it more comfortable to travel with a baby).
We knew vacation would be expensive, but didn't realize just how expensive it would be. It's nearly impossible to get fresh grilled fish for less than $100 EUR/kg. The mark-up here is crazy, and they're largely targeting an international crowd, so they know that people will spend the money. We could have easily spent $1K on food in just one week(maybe we did?!?), and that's literally just eating at some of the normal beach front restaurants on the boardwalks (nothing crazy fancy).
Prices ease up once you actually get into Mykonos Town, and we found some great gems we'll share below under "what we loved." Regardless, if you decide to come to Mykonos, be prepared to spend a lot more than you expected on food, cabs, and entertainment.
It's not as "Greek" as you Might Think
We were surprised to find the entire island centered around tourists. I'm really not sure why we had this idea that by coming to Mykonos, we would have a 'locals' experience. While, yes, there's definitely places to go that feels more local, and we found those gems. But, all in all, the island is 99% tourists, and most of the people we met were America honeymooners, and friends coming to party for a long weekend.
We did meet families too, and again, that is all about where you stay. Our hotel had a good mix of honeymooners and young families, doing a lot of the same as what we were doing (spending the better parts of our day on the beach or lounging by the pool, eating, and in the evenings, going out for dinner)
What we Loved
The Views and Beaches on the Island are Breathtaking
The beaches here are just magnificent. Unlike Crete, where most of the beaches are actually stones, Mykonos has many small sandy beaches, on a dry desert-like rugged island. You can catch water taxis for about 30 eur from one beach to the next. We stayed on Platis Gialos beach. Beautiful views and lots of dining options in this area. It's also really close to the famed Scorpios beach club.
It's a Foodie Paradise
After our trip to Mykonos, I fell in love with the greek salad all over again. We literally made it for dinner every night the entire summer last year. There's a hundred ways to enjoy it, and it always came with a light dressing, amazing fresh feta, and delicious olives. I probably ate this 90% of the time during our trip. Besides great fresh salads, they of course, have great fish, wild caught every day. Like I said before, Mykonos is expensive, so if you want to enjoy a whole fish, you're paying a ton of money (close to 100 Eur). As you venture into Mykonos Town, you'll find more affordable places to eat. There's lots of easy burger and gyro joints all over old town.
Our absolute favorite foodie find in Old Town is To Maereio Mykonos. It's run by two twin brothers, and it's 100% local. Our hotel gave us this tip, and we came back here three times during our stay. It's cheap, I mean locals cheap, and some of the best food on the island for quality and value. We didnt have reservations anytime we came, so it was a bit of a wait. So we ordered a carafe of wine, and sat outside, while Lucas ran around playing in the alley. Don't come to Mykonos and not stop here at least once. You'll thank us later.
Mykonos Town and Luxury Shopping
Mykonos Town is the historic center of the island, and is this intricate connections of small roads, alleys, and beautiful white washed buildings with pops of bright blue everywhere you go. What surprised me most is the amount of luxury shopping you have in Mykonos Town. There's a bus that brings you into the center from any main point on the Island and round trips per day are less than 2 EUR. Cabs are expense here so we definitely recommend taking the bus, which is more like a private coach. We spent hours walking around and checking out larger retailers like Louis Vuitton, to smaller independent designers with flagship stores in Mykonos. It's literally the center of all the fun and partying on the Island.
Everyone who comes to Mykonos town checks out the historic windmills. They're definitely pretty at sunset, but it was too windy for us to spend more than 30 seconds there to take pictures. Be sure to check out Skandinavian bar which leads the nightlife of Mykonos since 1978 and is located right in the center of Mykonos town.
Our Hotel was Amazing
We stayed at Myconian Ambassador Relais & Chateaux–a beautiful cliff-side hotel perched above Platis Gialos beach. It was just a 3 minute walk to the beach, and had the most expansive pool we saw on the whole island. It was a hotel that targeted honeymooners and families, so don't expect a crazy party with a DJ next to the pool. It was perfect for what we were looking for and I highly recommend it to any families or couples looking for a quiet, luxurious place to stay on Mykonos.
If you stay here and want to visit some beach parties, you have to go to Scorpios. Literally, it was the highlight of our trip. It's a beautiful restaurant, that also has a beach party, and it's 25 minute walk along the cliffs to get there from the hotel. We had to carry the stroller up a couple boulders, but otherwise accessibly by foot with kids. The staff all look like they're straight out of a Game of Thrones scene, dressed like Khal Drogo and the Dathrakis. Miraculously, my son fell asleep at 7pm, and stayed asleep, through all the music, while we enjoyed some drinks, and dinner until about 11pm. They have a day party, too, and their panoramic views of the beach are breathtaking. This is mostly an adult place, but kids are fine until about 11pm or midnight, when the restaurant starts to get quiet, and it switches to a pure beach party.
Not far from our hotel on the beach was Branco Hotel Mykonos. We ate here a few times, and I think if we came back without kids, we would stay here. There's a DJ that plays every day on the beach. It's a smaller place, but the views are amazing, and their restaurant is delicious.
Would we come back?
There's so many places to see in Europe, and so many Greek islands to think about. Would I come back? Yes, if I were coming with my husband (no kids!) to enjoy letting go at the most incredible beach parties I've seen in the world.
Is it worth coming for a week with kids? I guess maybe, if you've got cash to burn, can rent a yacht, and explore all the natural adventures and beauty of the island with your kids, then it's totally worth it.
In the end, we are so glad we came to Mykonos. It was beautiful experience and our family really enjoyed all it had to offer. But if you're just a family looking for a warm weather beach escape, beautiful views, amazing hotels and pools, and simple good food, you might get the same experience visiting a different island like Crete, that's more centered around families, and local European travelers, at a fraction of the cost!
Are you visiting Mykonos for the first time? Tag Unbound_Travelers on Instagram to share your experience with us!
Shakespeare put Verona on the map, as one of Italy's most romantic destinations. In the Veneto region of Northeast Italy, Verona is a charming city that needs to be one of your Italy road trip stops. There's no shortage of places to eat and enjoy the sights. Some are better than others. We went on a mission to find the most authentic and unusual foodie finds in the city. We know you might not have a lot of time to try 30 different restaurants and cafes. So, instead of overwhelming you with a list of names, we focused on giving you three place you need to try for an authentic experience in Verona, with amazing food and drinks.
La Tradition: Wine Bar
Just steps from the Arena, this unassuming wine bar will delight you with over the top cheese and meat boards, small bites, local wines, desserts, and coffees. We stopped in for an afternoon feast, drinks and coffees. It's always packed, so be open to taking your wine and standing outside, too.
PROTIP: If you're looking for a quick and easy place to grab a coffee, stop in here. They have some of the best prices I have seen in Verona, with an espresso at only .90 cent EUR!
La Bottega della Gina: Street Food & Pasta-to-go
I'll never forget strolling along in Verona, and getting hit by the smell of truffle. My nose, literally led me to this gem of a pasta joint. If you want to experience Nonna's home cooking, you have to try this pasta shop. They have some seats, but it's also designed so you can take your pasta to go, and even order in bulk for home cooking, too. Their pasta is all hand made daily, and we had the pleasure of enjoying their truffle tortolini, ravioli, and gnocchi.
#PROTIP: Get it to go, and enjoy a lunchtime stroll through the city.
La Romana Verona: The Best Gelato Ever
You can't come to Italy without trying gelato at least once or twice. There's definitely no shortage of places to try in Verona, and it seems like every corner you turn, there's another shop. I have tried a few, and some seem so generic, overly sugary and just generically mass produced. Not Romana. Besides having an amazing ambiance, the gelato is probably the best I have ever tried in Italy. Locals flood this place, and it's always packed, so if you can't find a table, enjoy walking around the city, with your cone or cup of yummy sweet goodness. Staff speaks great English, and they even let you try a few to sample your favorites.
#PROTIP: Don't count calories, and indulge yourself here. It's worth every sweet bite.
We are explorers.
Thrill Seekers. Foodies.