Lake Garda, Italy's biggest lake

Things to Do at Lake Garda

The list of things to do on a Lake Garda holiday runs on and on. From windsurfing off the northern shores to cycling along the flat landscape of the southern lakeside. From exploring the vineyards and olive groves on the eastern shore to the villas and gardens on the western side of the lake.

To make it easier to choose a particular activity, we have split the things to do into geographical and sporting sections...

Lake Garda Town Activities


The Sirmione peninsula not only plays host to the old town with its ferry port and fortress but also offers walks to Roman ruins and a fabulous panoramic view from the end of the trail. Or take a boat tour around the peninsula or even out to Isola del Garda, a private island in the south-western part of the lake which can be visited only as part of an organised day trip. The beaches at Sirmione are located to the west towards Desenzano or east in the direction of Peschiera.
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Sirmione, Lake Garda
The fortress at the entrance to the Sirmione peninsula

Limone sul Garda

One of the most interesting things to do Lake Garda offers is a visit to the traditional lemon-growing buildings - known as limonaie - which still exist amongst the tightly-clustered houses in Limone sul Garda. Traditionally the town has been difficult to get to without some form of motorised transport, but a spectacular route built suspended from the rock faces allows cyclists and pedestrians to experience a self-powered trip above the waters of the lake from Limone through to the border with Trentino.
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Limone sul Garda, Lake Garda
View of the lemon houses at Limone sul Garda

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda is one of the main lakeside towns and is a bustling administrative centre for the communities on the northern end of the lake. A walk around the old centre with its squares and traditional hotels near the lakefront is an attractive way to spend a couple of hours, while the hike up to the historic 'Bastione' is an option for the more athletically-inclined. (There is now a lift up for those who do not fancy the steep half-hour hike to the viewpoint.) Windsurfers and rock climbers will be in their element at neighbouring Torbole and Arco.
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Riva del Garda, Lake Garda
View of Riva del Garda


Malcesine is a popular town for visitors on the eastern shore, with the Monte Baldo cable car and its own medieval castle. Paragliders, walkers and mountain bikers can all take advantage of the lift - although as one of the top destinations for a day trip on Garda lake, it is advisable to get to the cable car early or late in the day in busy periods. The Scaliger castle with its lovely lake view and museum is another top attraction in the town.
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Malcesine, Lake Garda
The Monte Baldo cable car above Malcesine

Garda Town

The town which gives its name to the lake is towards the southern end and offers a landscape of vineyards and olive groves. A lovely lakeside promenade suitable for cyclists and walkers runs between Garda and Bardolino and is the location for a regular Lake Garda market. To the north is the beautiful promontory of Punta San Vigilio, which can be reached by a walk along the lake shore when the waters are low (public transport is advisable when not).

Garda is probably the best location for those who plan to take a day trip away from the lake. Public buses and excursion coaches leave from the town centre for those looking to explore the nearby city of Verona, or to take a longer day out at a destination such as Venice, Brescia or Milan. A favourite evening trip to Verona is to take in the opera performances at the Roman amphitheatre.
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View over Garda Town
View from above the town of Garda

Sporting Activities at Lake Garda

Lake Garda is one of the favourite sporting destinations in northern Italy - to a large degree, because of the range of activities on offer. Four of them are picked out below, but there are also paragliding, horseriding, sailing and plenty of other options on offer - equipment and instruction is available from centres, outfitters and rental shops on the lake.

Windsurfing at Lake Garda

The north of Lake Garda is a windsurfing mecca, with the resorts of Riva especially the neighbouring village of Torbole being extremely popular holiday destinations for windsurfers from all over Europe.

Windsurfing at Lake Garda
Windsurfing at Lake Garda on the northern end of the lake

The north of Lake Garda is a windsurfing mecca, with the resorts of Riva - and especially the neighbouring village of Torbole - extremely popular holiday destinations for windsurfers from all over Europe.

The day is marked by two distinct wind patterns - a colder wind coming out of the mountains to the north (the "peler") in the early morning and a warmer wind which blows from the south in the afternoon (the "ora"). These are created by the rising hot air and sinking cold air in the mountains at various points of the day and night. The "peler" can be quite a strong wind, producing waves suitable for skilled riders.

Kitesurfing is also growing in popularity and tends to be centred a little bit further south in the resorts of Malcesine and Brenzone on the eastern side of Lake Garda. Kitesurfing is restricted in some areas of the southern lake.

Climbing at Lake Garda

The best-known Lake Garda climbing is that at Arco. The village lies just to the north of Riva del Garda and is the location for the well-known RockMasters sport climbing competition.

Although Arco has a reputation as a centre for sport climbing, it can also boast some big walls with natural protection in the area. There are various areas around the valley heading up to the north and also to the south near the village of Torbole closer to the lake. This whole Arco climbing region has its own guidebook ("Arco Rock") which is in English and available in the area. It should be noted that south-facing climbs get extremely hot in high season

climbing at Lake Garda
On the rocks at Arco at Lake Garda

The village of Marciaga near Garda on the south-eastern shore of the lake also has quite a number of good cliff climbs.

Walking around Lake Garda

As a classic "lakes and mountains" destination, Lake Garda has a fabulous range of walking available - whether it's a stroll from village to village amongst the vineyards or a strenuous hike up over one of the peaks which tower above the northern part of the lake.

Hiking at Lake Garda
Hiking the Smugglers' Trail, a tough route on an exposed ledge above Lake Garda

As well as the stunning views down onto the lake from peaks like the ever popular Monte Baldo (with cable car access from Malcesine for those who don't fancy the climb), there are also interesting routes to interesting locations (such as WW1 tunnels and fortifications or historic monasteries and churches).

Mountain Biking at Lake Garda

Lake Garda has been called one of the best mountain biking locations in Europe. There are good networks of mountain biking trails all around the lake, with maybe only the southern coast not being as suited to the sport.

However, even there the small hills and farming areas will be enjoyable for those looking for an easier day. To either the east or west, or up at the north, there is more than enough choice at all grades of difficulty.

Mountain biking at Lake Garda
Mountain biking above Lake Garda

In the summer there is a special Bike & Bus service for bikes to certain locations, such as Monte Baldo, allowing a good downhill run without the climbing.

Possibly the only negatives are the heat and the fact that the area is so good you are unlikely to have the trails to yourself.