LAKE GARDA (Lago di Garda) is the largest lake in Italy (52km long by 17km wide): it’s so big that it alters the local climate, which is milder and – thanks to a complex pattern of lake breezes – sunnier than might be expected. It’s also the most popular of the lakes, attracting around seven percent of all tourists to Italy and acting as a bridge between the Alps and the rest of the country. The narrow north of the lake is tightly enclosed by mountains that drop sheer into the water with villages wedged into gaps in the cliffs. Further south, the lake spreads out comfortably, flanked by gentle hills and lined by placid holiday resorts.

In the south, Desenzano is a cheery spot with the advantage of good transport links, plus proximity to the very popular and scenically impressive Sirmione. On the western shore are the old Venetian town of Salò and Gargnano, the lake’s best destination, a small village that remains largely unspoilt. The mountainous scenery is spectacular on the approach to the genteel resort of Riva del Garda at the head of the lake. It’s a handsome town with a long history and is a focal point for sports and water activities.

Overlooked by the ridges of Monte Baldo, which tops 2100m, the main resorts of Lake Garda’s eastern shore struggle to match the charm of the villages opposite. Aim for Torbole if you’re an outdoors enthusiast. To the south, the very popular resort of Malcesine has direct access up to Monte Baldo, as does Brenzone, comprising a string of attractive little harbours and a good base for walks and mountain-bike rides into Monte Baldo behind. Torri del Benaco, a little to the south, is an attractive corner that has avoided the worst of the crowds.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Italy features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

13 striking pictures of Venice Carnival

13 striking pictures of Venice Carnival

With the 2018 carnival season about to kick off, Rough Guides author and photographer, Kiki Deere, revisits one of Europe's most colourful festivals: Venice…

25 Jan 2018 • Kiki Deere insert_drive_file Article
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Discovering Palermo: why you should give Sicily’s capital a chance

Discovering Palermo: why you should give Sicily’s capital a chance

A city of grit and forgotten grandeur, for too long Palermo has resigned itself to being a film set of crumbling palaces, sun-worn facades and pockmarked backst…

08 Dec 2017 • Olivia Rawes insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right