Lake Garda is one of Italy’s most stunning destinations, attracting visitors from all over the globe. The shores are lined with charming towns, while the backdrop changes from rolling hills and vineyards in the south to dramatic mountains in the north. With so much to see and do, here’s our guide to how you could spend a five-day holiday in Lake Garda.
Day one – Discover the lake by bike
You are all checked in and unpacked. You might have even popped to the spa and treated yourself to a quick post-flight massage. But now it’s time to get to know your surroundings, and there is no better way than by bike. Each town along the lake’s shores has a promenade and they’re the perfect place to explore and get your bearings. The great thing about it? You don’t have to be an extreme sportsman to enjoy it – the terrain is nice and flat and the locals’ laid-back way of life means you can travel at your own pace. If you do fancy a more challenging ride, the area around the north of the lake is a haven for mountain bikers. Many hotels can hire suitable bikes out for the day, some free of charge.
Day two – Wine tasting in Bardolino
A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a local winery. Bardolino (our wine destination of choice) is located on the southern shores of the lake, and produces one of the best wines in the area. The town’s namesake primary wine is a light and fruity red (it pairs perfectly with a creamy risotto). In the green hills behind the town you’ll find vineyards offering wine tasting opportunities. Zeni winery is fantastic – sample the wines, then learn about wine-making over the centuries in its attached museum. The panoramic views across the lake are pretty spectacular, too.
A great opportunity to try all of the wines from the local area is in the summer months, when Bardolino hosts its annual wine festival. Restaurants, bars and stalls are filled with locals and tourists sipping on local wine, accompanied by a range of snacks (olives, breadsticks – all the best bits). Why we love this festival so much is because locals get to mingling in the streets with local wine producers. Wine connoisseur or not, it’s worth a visit just for the fantastic atmosphere – and an al fresco aperitivo.
Day three – Visit Sirmione
Sirmione has won the jackpot when it comes to good looks. The town is arguably one of Lake Garda’s prettiest, with a pedestrianised historical centre full of winding cobbled streets and lovely little restaurants. It’ll be hard to miss ‘ice-cream alley’, a gorgeous cobblestone lane lined with gelato shop after gelato shop – the perfect place to enjoy cones of cioccolato and fragola in the summer months.
Sirmione is also home to an impressive 13th-century medieval castle, Rocca Scaligera. Looking like something straight out of a fairytale, it’s protected by a large moat and features imposing turrets and towers.
Finish off your day with a visit to the thermal spa. Sirmione is renowned for its hot springs and has been a spa destination since Roman times. The Terme di Sirmione is one of the most important spas in Italy, boasting large indoor and outdoor pools and hot baths. The waters are rich in minerals, too – great for your skin.
Day four – Further afield
If you can tear yourself away from the water’s edge just for the day, we have two choices for a day out. Families will love Lake Garda’s theme park, Gardaland. Adults can brave the loop-the-loop rollercoasters, while younger kids won’t be able to get enough of the Ice Age 4D Adventure and the rapids. Gardaland is a fantastic day out for the whole family and is located on the southern edge of Lake Garda, close to the town of Peschiera del Garda.
Alternatively, take a day trip to Verona. The city is easily accessible by bus – from resorts in the south and eastern parts of the lake, it can take as little as 45 minutes. Direct trains from Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda take between 20 and 30 minutes. Once in the city, explore famous sights such as the Arena di Verona (host of the annual summer opera festival), Piazza delle Erbe and Juliet’s Balcony.
Day five – And relax…
Lake Garda is lined with beaches and they come in all shapes and sizes – shingle, pebbles, and even sand. Some of our favourite beaches can be found in the towns of Lazise, Desenzano, Riva del Garda and Malcesine. During the summer months, you can enjoy a variety of watersports, too, from windsurfing and sailing, to canoeing and jet-skiing.
For more information on what there is to see and do in Lake Garda, visit our website.