Discover the best Italian lakes to visit, as we explore the 5 best lakes in Italy for the perfect vacation, including fun things to do. Have the best escape to the stunning lakes with this complete travel guide to make planning your trip to the lakes a breeze.
Best Italian Lakes Guide
If Italian Lakes are not already on your bucket list, you will want to add them. You will have the opportunity to discover some of the most breathtaking scenery and charming towns. The Italian lakes are some of the most beautiful areas in Italy to visit. Discover the beauty of the Italian Lakes with a visit to the tranquil Garda, romantic Como, or the majestic Maggiore.
So, you’re asking yourself, what is the best Italian lake to visit? There are five stunning lakes to choose from, so you are not short of options. Lake Garda is a popular choice and is one of the largest lakes to visit. Lake Maggiore is the northern lake with a laid-back feel and is the perfect base for exploring. Lake Como has a romantic feel, but the biggest pull is that you will participate in recreational activities, both on and off the lake. Lake Orta is the least well-known of the lakes, but it is a gem in the Italian lake’s crown; if you desire a more relaxed break, surrounded by lush woodlands and overlooked by the Alpes, you won’t be disappointed. Lake Iseo, located to the north of Italy, is the least well-known of the lakes, but it is an excellent destination for exploring off the beaten track.
We have researched the most amazing Italian lakes to visit, including the most popular and virtually unknown. The list will inspire you to plan your trip and discover the lake that is the right fit for you.
- The Italian lakes in Italy are some of the most stunning locations to visit any time of the year.
- Choosing the ideal lake to visit comes down to personal choice, but we have included the top 5 lakes to narrow your search.
- Lake Garda is a popular spot to visit and the largest lake in Italy, attracting water sports enthusiasts or people who want to relax and unwind.
- Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake and is ideal for visitors seeking a more laid-back way of life. It is a real gem waiting to be discovered.
- Lake Como is one of the most popular and romantic places to visit. It is ideal for those seeking the high life, surrounded by stunning scenery.
- Lake Orta is one of the least well-known destinations, perfect for those who want to be surrounded by stunning scenery to experience a relaxing break.
- Lake Iseo is one of the least well-known destinations on our list. The lake is ideal for people who want to get off the beaten track and experience a less crowded location.
- Each lake has its character and charm, and you will not be at a loss for things to do, with each area boasting its unique attractions, perfect for a day trip or exploring.
5 Best Lakes In Italy
1. Lake Garda
The stunning lake has captivated visitors for centuries. Lake Garda attracts swimmers, hikers, and travelers who want to relax and unwind while surrounded by the clean air, clear blue waters, and charming villages. It is the largest of the lakes and a popular choice for many. The lake covers over 143 square miles, boasting a coastline stretching for over 100 miles.
You will find that the northern and southern coast each boast their charm. The dramatic north is more mountainous, mainly attracting walkers, hikers, and cyclers. Its narrow lake attracts windsurfers and adrenalin junkies. The south is much flatter, backed by the cypress hills, vineyards, and olive groves. You will find the south extremely laid back, with a natural seaside feel, with the pebbled beaches providing easy access to the beach.
The area is blessed with a great microclimate and is ideal for outdoor activities, so you will find that it is cool in summer and mild during spring and autumn.
Things to do;
Sirmione and Castello Scaligeri – The town is situated on the southern shores, reaching out from the lake. It is a charming small town, boasting a picturesque castle with a moat and drawbridge. This water-surrounded fortress will transport you back through time and allow you to explore its restored interior or climb the tower to take in the panoramic views of the lake and town.
Visit Gardaland and Nearby Theme Parks – You will find several theme parks on the southeastern corner of Lake Garda. Gardaland is one of the most famous multi-park complexes, including Gardaland sea life and the Gardaland hotel. A visit to this park is ideal for all age groups and makes a great family day out with all the expected rides you would expect, from children’s storybook rides to adrenalin thrills rides. You can take the children to experience Peppa Pig Land, or if you seek adventure, try out the Blue Tornado ride, a roller coaster guaranteed to please the thrill-seekers. You will also discover Caneva World, a movie-themed park, Aqua Paradise Park, with sandy beaches, pools, and water slides, Or the Parco Naturo Viva, complete with African wildlife, from lions to hippos up close.
2. Lake Maggiore
A visit to Lake Maggiore and Italy’s second-largest lake will transport you to a more laid-back way of life. This stunning lake is cupped by mountains, stretching out from the Swiss border and leveling out at the tranquil bike trails and lakeside paths. The lake is famous for its elegant tree-lined promenade and surrounding picturesque villages.
It is truly one of the most graceful and peaceful lakes you are likely to find, a real gem. The unique feature of the lake is that it runs through Italy and Switzerland, making it ideal for exploring more than one country in one day.
Things to do;
Tour Isola Bella – Plan a trip to the amazing Isola Bella island that you will not forget. With its Italian-style gardens, with ten terraces stretching to a height of 32 meters, covered with vegetation, with rows of lemon and orange trees, framing the terrific views of the lake and mountains.
You will find that boats regularly leave to visit the island, making it a perfect day out for the entire family while discovering the surrounding villages, not to be missed.
Take a Boat Trip on Lake Maggiore – While visiting the beautiful lake, you will want to take a boat trip, offering some of the best views of many attractions along the shore.
Along with the regular services connecting towns, you will find several excursions from March to October, like the Laveno to Verbania and the Barromean islands. A boat trip is ideal for visiting the surrounding villages and towns and seeing some of the spectacular scenery along Lake Maggiore.
3. Lake Como
Lake Como is one of the most popular and romantic destinations in Italy. If you have ever dreamed of the perfect Italian lakes holiday, then lake Como will spring to mind. It is situated 50 miles north of Milan, but you will feel that you have been transported back in time when you arrive on the lake. You can relax and take in the stunning scenery, admiring the lakeside setting. Lake Como is loved by those looking to live a high life, but it is good news that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy this incredible destination. The big pull for visitors can enjoy the recreational pursuit both on and off the lake; it is a water sports paradise. The calm waters and gentle breeze also make it ideal for windsurfers and sailors.
If you prefer to relax, then that’s fine too. You can be lured by the café lined promenade at Bellagio of the quayside coffee bars of Verenna. Como is a picturesque location dating back to early Roman times and includes some of the top historical sites to discover.
Things to do;
Duomo of Como – The entrance to the Duomo is free and worth a visit, with its 15-century neogothic architecture. Enjoy a meal in the tranquil restaurant, or have your favorite cocktail or coffee in the bar. The architecture boasts stunning sculptures, and its interior is remarkable too.
Taxi Boat Varenna – The taxi boat offers long and short trips from Verenna to various attractions around the lake. The shortest tour is Varenna, taking 30 minutes, and the longest tour is the George’s Tour, which takes 2 hours 30 minutes, taking you past George Clooney’s villa. The captain also gives suggestions on where to have lunch or dinner around the lake. A sightseeing trip that is not to be missed.
4. Lake Orta
Lake Orta is not as well known as some of the other lakes we have discussed, but you shouldn’t overlook it. Even though it’s only seven square miles, the small lake is charming and an inspirational destination to visit. It is probably one of the most undiscovered jewels of the Italian lakes. It is surrounded by lush woodland, backed by the Alpes.
Things to do;
Isola San Giulio – This magnificent island is dominated by the Basilica di San Giulio, dating back to the 12th-century, with vibrant paintings representing saints and holding regular masses to attend.
There is also an excellent footpath surrounding the island, making it ideal for a short stroll. Why not walk around the Via Della Meditazione, with multilingual signs inspiring you throughout your tranquil walk. You will find regular ferries running from the waterfront if you want to explore more islands.
Sacro Monte di San Francesco – You should discover the 20 small chapels dotted around the hillside on the Sacro Monte, on the parallel town of Orta. You will see some of the most spectacular views of the lake, and exploring the small chapels is a great way to spend the day. In the chapels, you will discover some wonderful frescoes all dedicated to the life of St Francis. Visiting the chapels is relaxing a peaceful, and the ideal way to spend a few hours.
5. Lake Iseo
You will be forgiven if you have never heard of Lake Iseo, it is probably the least well-known of the list, but it will suit those who want to get off the beaten track. It is located in Lombardy in northern Italy. The lake is long and narrow, backed by mountains. It will ideally suit travelers who have experienced several Italian lakes already or prefer a more remote location that is less touristy. Regular ferries are operating all year round, although the main routes are cut during the winter season. This makes a trip to lake Iseo the perfect destination for off-season travel.
Vineyards surround the lake, and olive groves dotted around the slopes. Although this is a less crowded location, you will find a good deal of restaurants, bars, and cafes, but they may be less busy than you expect; if you are looking for a busier spot to visit, head to the southern end of the lake, boasting lots of restaurants and bars. The north provides the perfect base for exploring the surrounding islands and is called Sulzano. On the plus side, a visit to Lake Iseo will be less crowded, with fewer hotels, but the friendly greetings from the locals will make it worthwhile. The location does provide a more tranquil and relaxing atmosphere.
Things to do;
Visit Monte Isola – A visit to this island in the middle of Lake Iseo is worth a trip, with 1,800 locals spread out across eleven different villages. You will discover churches dating back to the 15th century, containing stunning frescoes, art, statues, and sculptures. You will also discover a medieval castle and the Rocca Martinengo, also worth a visit.
Visit Castello di Grumello – Visiting this castle is not to be missed, overlooking the village of Grumello del Monte. The castle dates back to the middle ages and is open for exploration. The fortress is not the only pull here; there is also a great winery producing over 100,000 bottles each year.
Whatever one of the Italian lakes you decide to visit will be a personal choice depending on your taste for adventure or preferring to get off the beaten track. Italian lakes offer the perfect escape with stunning surroundings and opportunities to explore the surrounding towns or villages with ease.
We have looked over the top 5 Italian lake destinations to inspire you when planning your getaway, from romantic escapes, thrill-seeking adventures, or a relaxing quiet retreat. Italian lakes all have their unique character and charm, making them fantastic vacations for travelers worldwide.