Holidays in Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore places palazzo-topped islands and villas within a stone’s throw of wild mountain peaks and nature reserves

Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy, snaking a path from the Alps to the Mediterranean plains on the southern shore. It’s so big, in fact, that it pops its head over the Swiss border. These shifting landscapes are ideal for walkers, as footpaths range from the sculpted palazzo gardens of the Borromean Islands to rugged wilderness areas. The varying micro-climates also produce delicious ingredients – lemons, olives and alpine cheeses. Baveno and Stresa on the north-westerly shore make great bases for a summer holiday; with excellent ferry and train links to the rest of Lake Maggiore and Switzerland.

Walking holidays in Lake Maggiore: A range of rambles

Walking in Lake Maggiore ranges from strolling along flower-lined promenades in the summer to heading off on adventurous mountain routes. The walk from Stresa to Passera is a superb introduction, weaving wanderers through forests and the villages of Brisino, Falchetto and Belgirate. Fondotoce Nature Reserve, meanwhile, offers 5km of hiking and cycling paths through lakeside marshes with mountain views.

Got a head for heights? Set your sights on Mottarone (1,491m). The Chestnut Route (Sentiero dei Castagni) also starts from Stresa, where cobbled footpaths climb to a viewpoint from which you can see seven Italian and Swiss lakes on a clear day. Or there’s always the trails of Val Grande National Park – Italy’s biggest wilderness area.

Stay west: Stresa and Baveno

Most summer holidays to Lake Maggiore are based in the towns of Stresa and Baveno, on the westerly Gulf of Borromeo. As the locale suggests, they’re brilliantly poised for trips to the Borromean Islands opposite them. And although the towns are neighbours, they offer two very different ways of life. Baveno is the quiet one, ideal for a leisurely passeggiata along the promenade peppered with cafés, villas and gardens. Stresa is the popular one – and has been for centuries, with writers and royalty staying in its grand hotels and villas.

Exploring the Borromean Islands

The Borromean Islands are a cluster of tiny isles at the centre of Lake Maggiore and a popular sight to see in the summer. Boats glide to the gardens and summer palaces of Isola Bella and Isola Madre. Isola dei Pescatori is the only permanently inhabited island, with a population of barely 25 villagers. Some still make their living from fishing, sharing their catch with the clutch of waterside restaurants frequented by day-trippers. To get to the Borromean Islands, hop on a ferry from Stresa or Baveno.

From Lake Maggiore to Milan and the mountains

Getting around Lake Maggiore is half the pleasure. Ferries, trains and buses usher hikers between lakefront towns and villages all summer long. Day trips include wine tasting in the vineyards of Piedmont and exploring peaceful Lake Orta, which is tucked away amongst the forested foothills just west. And Milan is an hour’s drive south. The marble quarries north of Lake Maggiore provided the building blocks for the architectural extravaganza that is Milan Cathedral. For more in the way of natural wonders, hop north over the border to Switzerland to marvel at some of the highest mountains in the Alps.

Why book a summer holiday in Lake Maggiore with Inghams?

At Inghams, we do walking holidays differently. With no fixed itinerary, you have more time in your destination and the freedom to walk as much or as little as you like.

Plus, we've included two optional guided walks every week in Baveno and Stresa. Join a professional mountain guide and really get to know the area.

With over 85 years of outdoor travel experience, our holiday packages to Lake Maggiore include flights, transfers, and accommodation, so you can relax and leave the small details to us. Our experts can help you choose the best holiday for you, and our team in resort can give you the inside scoop on how to spend your time away with us.

  • from£669pp
Church of San Gervasio & Protasio

Baveno's been a well-known tourist resort since the early 19th century. It has fantastic views of the Borromean Islands, a small harbour, and a lakeside promenade. This is the perfect base for getting to know Lake Maggiore and its towns and islands.

Great for: all walking abilities; friends & couples; nature; sightseeing

  • from£679pp
Stresa's Public Park

Stylish Stresa is Lake Maggiore’s leading resort. You can easily head out sightseeing using the local ferry links. The Borromean Islands and the gardens of Villa Pallavicino and Villa Taranto are well worth a visit.

Great for: all walking abilities; friends & couples; nature; sightseeing

 

Things to do in Lake Maggiore

Fill your days on Lake Maggiore exploring the lakeside towns and villages or venture into the hills on a walk. Ferries connect Stresa and Baveno to the beautiful Borromean Islands and its fantastic botanical gardens. You'll find lot's to see and do around the lake. When you're not out seeing the sights, find a lakeside restaurant or café where you can sit back and admire the scenery with an Aperol Spritz in hand. 

Nature enthusiasts will love the beautiful botanical gardens on the shores of Lake Maggiore. See the 17th century ‘Italian garden’ of Isola Bella and the rare plants and flowers in the palace gardens of Isola Madre – its known for its flowering azaleas. Keen gardeners will enjoy exploring Verbania – known as ‘the garden on the lake’, home to the botanical gardens of Villa Taranto.

Food & drink

Lake Maggiore won't disappoint when it comes to food. Try the traditional antipasto: speciality cured meats, fresh breads, pickles and cheeses. The local cheeses are a delicacy - give the Ossolano d'Alpe and the Bettelmatt a try while you're here. This is the perfect starter or afternoon snack, best accompanied by a glass of local wine like Nebbiolo - a full bodied red from the Novara hills. There's lots of lovely restaurants to choose from in Stresa and Baveno, from authentic Italian Osteria to fine dining. Fish features on most menus with dishes like grilled seafood and cod stuffed ravioli. You'll notice lots of traditional pastry shops as you explore the region. Each bakery has its own specialities - we couldn't resist the sweet short crust Margheritine biscuits in Stresa.

Activities

If hiking up steep paths in pursuit of views is your thing, you can hike the Chestnut Route (Sentiero dei Castagni) up Mount Mottarone from Stresa, which takes about 2 hours 40 minutes one way. The views are amazing– you can see seven of the Italian and Swiss lakes on a clear day! On your evening strolls don't miss the flower lined, lakefront promenades. One of our favourite walks from Stresa is through the hamlet of Passera - the route weaves through the forest to the villages of Passera, Brisino, Falchetto and Belgirate.

Book your excursions in resort with your Inghams representative

Milan from €65 per person (full day)

One of the most stylish cities in the world, Milan is the Italian fashion capital. Make the most of your time in the company of our local guide with a visit to the elegant Vittorio Emanuele Galleries and the Sforza Castle. There's free time to visit La Scala Opera or some of the famous boutiques too. 

Departs on Fridays

Ascona and Cannobio from €44 per person (half day)

Visit the elegant Swiss town of Ascona, a photographer's dream and home to an attractive lakeside promenade and interesting boutiques. After, head to the sleepy Italian village of Cannobio - its picture postcard setting is a favourite with local artists. 

Departs on Thursdays

Macugnana from €47 per person (half day)

In just 90 minutes, you'll go from 260 metres above sea level in Stresa, through the Anzasca Valley where the ancient houses of the Walser people cling to the cliffs, to the foot of the second highest mountain in the Alps - Monte Rosa at over 4600 metres. Stroll through the picturesque alpine village of Macugnaga and enjoy the views across the mountain pastures. For some even more spectacular views take the cable car up to the glacier (payable locally).

Departs on Saturdays

Wine Tasting from €52 per person (half day)

Where would Italy be without food and wine? This excursion gives you the chance to try some of the regions finest local produce. You'll travel through the beautiful countryside to the wine cellars of Ricetto, where you’ll learn about the art of wine production in the area. You'll have the chance to enjoy some Piedmont wines and tasty local snacks.

Departs on Sundays

The Three Lakes Tour from €65 per person (full day)

Visit three lakes in one day: Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and Lake Como. Begin is Stresa and enjoy a scenic drive along the shores of Lake Maggiore before crossing the Swiss boarder to visit Lugano. Explore the chic city – Art lovers should look out for Bernardino Luini’s fresco ‘The Last Supper’ in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. On Lake Como, you’ll explore Tremezzo’s Villa Carlotta and its beautiful gardens and the city of Como.

Departs on Wednesdays

Lake Orta from €44 per person (half day)

Experience the stunning hidden gem, Lake Orta. You'll head along the lakeside to Arona and will stop at the enormous statue of St Charles Borromeo. Then you'll drive through some fantastic countryside all the way to Orta, an old picturesque village which is full of art and historic architecture. You'll have the option to visit the island of Saint Giulio and its 4th Century Basilica.

Departs on Mondays

Zermatt and the Matterhorn from €89 per person (full day)

Don't miss this opportunity to get a taster of Zermatt and the iconic Matterhorn mountain that dominates the landscape. You'll take a bus over the Simplon road and into the Ossola valley where you'll get some fantastic views of the Simplon pass. Once you reach Zermatt you'll be at about 5,300 feet above sea level. It's known as the “Queen of the Alps” because of it's many surrounding mountains, which are amongst the highest in the Alps. You'll get some time for lunch before heading back to Lake Maggiore (payable locally).

Departs on Thursdays

We act at all times as a selling agent for the suppliers. All excursions require minimum numbers to run and are subject to change. Some excursions may not be available to pre-book in low season but may be available to book locally subject to numbers. Prices will be confirmed at the time of booking. Please see our Terms & Conditions.

Currency: Euro

Fly into: Milan

Fly from: London Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Bristol or Edinburgh

Flight time: approx. 2 hours

Feefo badge