It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful and perfect setting than Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake where the mountains of the Northern Alps tumble to the water’s edge, olive and lemon trees weave across the hillsides and vineyards dot the landscape.
This magnificent scenery has inspired poets and artists from around the world. James Joyce, Maria Callas and Tennyson all spent time in Sirmione. Medieval forts and castles lay tribute to Venetian and Veronese rulers. Even Mussolini entertained his mistress in a villa that is now a restaurant in Gardone Riviera.
The rich history, perfect Mediterranean climate and character of harbour towns and hillside villages provide a feast for the senses. Lake Garda with its crystal clear waters, coves and beaches is perfect for swimming, sailing or windsurfing, you can hire a boat or let someone else do the hard work and take a boat trip, while a network of ferries provide the best transportation for exploring nearby towns and points of interest.
The mountainous scenery of the north of Lake Garda is quite different from the undulating landscapes of the south. Malcesine in the north is the site of a 13th century castle built on Roman foundations, and is the base of a cable car that goes to the summit of Monte Baldo at 2,200 metres. Limone, named from the surrounding lemon trees, lies romantically beneath the mountainous northern cliffs with a lively lakeside promenade. The town of Garda on the eastern shore is where you will find spectacular views of the lake. Wander around the cobbled streets or walk to the pretty harbour village of Bardolino where wine and food play a prominent part. The small towns of Riva and Peschiera with its medieval walls and river cafes are quiet and relaxed.
On the southern shores sits Torri del Benaco, once the maritime capital of Lake Garda is a charming harbour town. At the furthest southern tip Sirmione with its striking Castle Rocca Scaligera bordered by the lake against a background of olive and cypress trees. Here you will find the Grotto of Catullus, named after the Latin poet who died in 54 BC. It has been a favourite with poets and artists for many centuries.
With so many microclimates, Lake Garda weather can vary greatly between the North and South, inland and on the water. Generally you can expect a Mediterranean climate but the Garda area for example is a sub-Mediterranean climate, which is extremely mild. Expect temperatures of between 24º – 30º C. in July and August. Lake Garda can be subject to several winds such as the Peler, which blows from north to south in the morning, or the Ora, which comes from the south in the afternoon.
Bardolino lies at the foot of rolling hills covered with orchards, olive groves and of course, the vineyards for which the village is so famous. Your holiday in Bardolino offers excellent accommodation, while the attractive and lively traffic-free centre is home to numerous bars, restaurants and smart shops.More information
Holidays in Desenzano combine a picturesque lakeside resort setting with the vibrant atmosphere of a thriving Italian community. Social life is focused on the many bars, cafés, pizzerias and restaurants in the historic centre and on the pedestrianised shopping area.More information
Gardone Riviera is one of the main bays on the west coast of Lake Garda and consists of two elegant resorts; Salò and Gardone. Sheltered by the lakeside hills, its mild climate has long attracted visitors who want to relax and regenerate.More information
Lake Garda restaurants and food
Lingering over lunch or watching the lights dance over the lake at night in the many bars, cafes and restaurants is part of a Lake Garda experience. There are more than 1,600 places to eat including pizzerias and gelaterias where you will be amazed by how much ice cream can be heaped onto a cone!
This area covers three regions, Veneto, Trentino and Lombardy. Local specalities are varied from extra virgin olive oil, to fish from the lake such as pike, perch, whitefish and a trout native to these waters. Citrus fruits are included in many recipes and chickpea polenta, homemade pastas and sauces, risotto and venison are all regional favourites. Markets selling fresh fruit and vegetables abound and there are local cheeses such as Tombea from the mountains and Formaggella di Tremosine- a soft, medium cheese.
There are many good value cafes and cantinas in the area. For those who are passionate about their food, you can drive from vineyard to vineyard or even try cookery lessons at the Ristorante Gemme di Artemesia, a hill top restaurant at Torri del Benaco.
Lake Garda wine and bars
Lake Garda vineyards produce Nosiola, Cabernet and Merlot in the north. You can visit the vineyards of Bardolino where wine tastings include Bardolino Classico and Chiaretto- a pleasant light rose wine.
Bardolino hosts two annual wine festivals, one in June, and the other in October which attracts a huge audience of wine enthusiasts from across the continent. It is a celebration of the harvest of the grapes from around Lake Garda from which the Bardolino classic, Chiaretto, is produced.
Lake Garda shopping
The beautiful towns and villages around Lake Garda come with a wealth of shops to explore. From souvenirs, food delis, high end Italian fashion, leather work, toys, shoes and more there is plenty of shopping to be had where ever you are.
For those with a love of vintage and antique items, there are plenty of antique and flea markets happening around Lake Garda selling a delightful variety of nick-nacks from trinkets to furniture.
If you fancy visiting one of the bigger cities like Verona or Venice, there are plenty more high-end label and boutique shops to be found there, all embracing that instantly recognisable Italian style.
Lake Garda spas and relaxation
The Sirmione Spas on the peninsula of Sirmione are amongst the top natural spa complexes in Europe. There are the two spa centres Virgilio and Catullo, and also Aquaria, a unique Thermal Wellness Centre set in a large park with thermal pools overlooking the lake. All spas have thermal pools filled with the sulfurous water containing natural minerals that flows from the depths of Lake Garda. Aquaria offer beauty and relaxation treatments and courses. Another natural thermal bath complex is the Garda Thermal Park in a spectacular setting near Cola di Lazise.
Inghams offer four top hotels with their own spas in different locations. They include Hotel Villa Nicolli in Riva, and the Hotel Olivi Thermae & Natural Spa in Sirmione, and the Aqualux Hotel Spa & Suite in Bardolino.
Lake Garda arts, culture, history and events
Archaeological sites, museums, and spectacular medieval castles and forts dating from the 12th century form the rich tapestry of Lake Garda’s history.
It seems like there is no end to the summer festivities on Lake Garda!
Fireworks and festivals, sailing regattas, a chess festival, music and film festivals, and even a medieval festival with Renaissance pageantry, jousting and knights in armour.
The Garda Jazz festival takes place in June and the Musica Riva festival, a competition for young musicians, is in July/August.
FREE EXCURSION | Pre-book 3 excursions per person and receive a FREE full day excursion to Verona* (saving up to £37).
Not many people come back from holiday and proudly exclaim that they spent a night at the opera! A truly classic and luxurious experience, the Verona Opera is internationally famous and the new programme for 2017 sees not only the return of one versionof Aida by Verdi but two, famed for its gorgeous scenery and costumes, all enhanced by the truly unique setting of the Verona Opera house inside the roman ruins.
Visiting the Verona Opera for an evening with Inghams is a must, and you can view our full programme of upcoming excursions on our Verona Opera page. Transport to and from Verona is included in the price of your opera ticket.
Venice (full day)
Nothing quite like a day trip to the famous ‘City of Masks’ to see the amazing feat of engineering that is Renaissance Venice, see the stunning waterways and dip and duck through the tiny cobbled streets and alleyways. This excursions provides 6 hours in the city which gives you enough time to explore the Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Rialto independently. Take optional tours like a magical gondola ride or a cruise around the lagoon to see other famous islands. Leave Venice once again by private boat back to Tronchetto to join the coach journey home.
Venice by night (full day and evening)
An extension for the Venice daytime excursion, leave your resort after breakfast by coach, making your way to the unique and famous city of Venice but you will leave in the evening as the sun sets and the lights come on (roughly 9:30pm).
Wine tour (half day)
Vineyards are plentiful in the regions of Lake Garda with a wide range of choice from the difference varieties of grapes grown here. The Trentino wines, benefitting from the micro climate, include white wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. From Bardolino the Classico is one of the best known wines but there is a rose ‘Chiaretto’ made from the first pressing of the Barbera grape. Our half day wine tour provides a thoroughly pleasant afternoon spent visiting one of the regions many renowned wine producers. The tour goes through their vineyard and the cellars to learn the techniques of wine making and to finish, enough tasting the selection of wines. This excursion is an absolute must if you love Italian wines.
Majestic Dolomites (full day)
An exciting and adventurous day trip to see the rose coloured Dolomite Mountains. Many say that the Dolomites are the most spectacular part of the Alps! Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as we drive north of the lake towards these famous mountains making oue way up to 2,000m at Passo Pordoi where you will have time for lunch. An optional cable-car ride will give you the most of the incredible views of the area. A visit to the picturesque Tyrolean town of Ortisei and photo stops along the way will also be included.
This excursion is available from all of our Lake Garda resorts as a fun day trip.
Tour of Lake Garda (full day)
Discover the breathtaking natural beauty of Lake Garda, the contrasts of the lake, the picturesque surrounding towns, villages and their villas, as well as the spectacular mountain scenery of the north to the sunny plains of the south. Travelling by both coach and ferry, the tour itinerary for this excursion varies depending on where you start.
Verona (full day)
Verona is one of Italy’s most charming Città d’Arte. This day trip dips into the romance of this medieval city, reliving the scenes from Romeo and Juliet while wandering around through the cobbled streets and past ancient buildings. The impressive 2,000 year old Roman arena is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world and is currently home to the Verona Opera, and the marble paved shopping street of Via Mazzini leads you to the stunning Piazza Delle Erbe. The handsome city mixes its rich past and modern present with great style.
Each and every resort has its own variety of hidden local activities that are bookable on location, from castles to leisure centres, lake side beaches to olive oil tasting. For more information, browse through the resorts to see what there is to enjoy locally during your down time in resort.
Keep an eye out for Popular walks when in resort. These walks are suitable for all - you don’t have to be a keen hiker or rambler, but if you want to explore the beauty of Lake Garda by foot and experience the stunning surrounding villages then these walks will showcase the best of what this slice of northern Italy has to offer.