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!
We are explorers.
Thrill Seekers. Foodies.