The scenic shores of Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) and its Mediterranean-style micro-climate make it the perfect Italian outdoors break. The warm weather here is a big reason it’s so popular with tourists, and is part of what makes Lake Garda a great area for camping and hiking.
At the northern tip of Lake Garda is the gateway to the Alps, and here, you’ll find sleepy villages built into the crevices of mountains. Making Lake Garda a real hiking paradise.
However, the landscape changes the further south you travel with rolling hills and tranquil holiday resorts. This area of Lake Garda is perfect for walking, and has some fantastic camping options.
Lake Garda – Fun Facts!
- The lake is 52km long and 17km wide and is Italy‘s largest lake
- It covers three regions – Brescia in Lombardy, Verona, and Trentino
- Nearby is Gardaland – Italy‘s most famous theme park!
It is possible to drive around Laka Garda; there are also car ferries that transport passengers between the eastern and western shores. These run between Toscolano Maderno and Torri del Benaco and between Limone and Malcesine.
There is a network of public buses too if you depend on public transport. Another option is road cycling, of which there are numerous routes you can take.
Camping in Lake Garda
The sheer size of this lake means there are several options for camping in the various regions.
In the south is Desenzano, situated in the province of Brescia. Here there is easy access to Sirmione, which is famous for its thermal spa, and Scaligero Castle. Campsite options are also available in Toscolano Maderno, Limone, and Gargnano.
In the Veneto area of Lake Garda, there are resorts in the south in Torri del Benaco, Malcesine, San Zeno di Montagna, and Peschiera del Garda.
The terrain gets wilder as it reaches Mount Baldo in the north and the border with Trentino Alto Adige. This part of the lake will best serve those looking for an active holiday from hiking to mountain biking. Look out for camping spots in Riva del Garda, Nago, Torbole and Arco.
There are also many spots to pitch campervans and RVs in Lake Garda, but please note that wild camping is illegal in Italy. Camping villages have all the facilities you will need from eateries, pools, spas, kids clubs and some are also pet friendly.
Hiking around Lake Garda
Lake Garda is the perfect place for experienced and casual hikers. In our opinion, the best hiking route in Lake Garda with something for all fitness levels is GardaTrek!
GardaTrek – Low Loop, Medium Loop, and Top Loop
The Low Loop is a 30km hike that follows the lakefront between Riva and Nago/Tarbole, which heads inland over to Arco. This route is accessible to beginners!
For a bit more of a challenge, try out the Medium Loop, which is 70km in length, and divided up into four stages. This Lake Garda hiking route is suitable to do all year round, starts and finishes in Riva del Garda, and is signposted the whole way.
Finally, the High Loop is a seven-day Lake Garda hike that goes from Riva del Garda to Malcesine. You don’t need specialist equipment, but you do need stamina and a bit of experience before attempting this loop.
Walking in Lake Garda: Some of the best trails
There are many walking options available for all abilities around Lake Garda, with some of the country’s most beautiful scenery on offer. As such, Lake Garda is a perfect outdoors holiday destination!
Marocche Nature Reserve
The only trail where you can walk with dinosaurs! There are real-life dinosaur tracks on this route (great for kids!), and the landscape can be best described as ‘moon-like.’
Entry to the area is on the Dro to Drena road, which you can access by bus on the Garda Trentino to Drena line. If coming by car, there are two free car parks in the Marocche area.
Busatte – Tempesta Trail
This Lake Garda walking trail is a fantastic option for panoramic lake views.
Begin your walk from Busatte Adventure Park in Torbole. The first part of the walk is suitable for families, but any further, it becomes more difficult.
You will come across metal staircases that act as terraces along the shoreline. After an hour and a half, you will reach the small town of Tempesta, and here you can take the bus back or walk back along the same route.
A suitable walking route at Lake Garda all-year-round, this path leads you around the shoreline with stunning views across the water.
Start at Riva del Garda and head south. The walk leads you to a bridge, here you can decide to go up towards Lake Ledro or down to Pregasina. It takes an hour and a half to complete.
Cycling in Lake Garda
There are hundreds of cycling routes around Lake Garda with options for mountain biking, bike riding, and long-distance journeys. Here’s our top choices:
Easy: Pieve to Pregasina
A leisurely bike ride through the lower Valle di Ledro and to Pregasina, a village that sits atop Lake Garda.
Look out for Regina Mundi Madonna for a breathtaking viewpoint. Go from Pieve di Ledro (there is a bus route from Riva del Garda).
Medium: Ballino to Stenico
A ride of moderate difficulty, start from Riva del Garda and travel up towards Pranzo, passing through the village of Deva until you reach Lake Tenno.
Take the Ballino Pass to Durone Pass then in the direction of Zuclo continue to Stenico.
This Lake Garda cycling route offers brilliant views of the Brenta Massif, Lake Toblino and its fairytale castle, and lush vineyards.
Hard: Mount Velo – S.Barbara Pass to Bordala Pass
This route is hard-going, so only suitable for experienced mountain bikers. Start with a 12km climb uphill (Mount Velo) through woodland and take in the gorgeous Trentinian Garda.
Bringing you to the Santa Barbara Pass (1130m), from there is a fast downhill road to the town of Ronzo Chienis. This road takes you to the Bordala Pass, which overlooks the Adige Valley.
You will pass through many villages before arriving at Arco and the Sarca Bridge.
What to eat in Lake Garda
With three regions that overlook Lake Garda, there is a melting pot of different Italian cuisines on offer! Here are a selection of foods and drink that you shouldn’t miss:
Valeggio Tortellini is only available from specialist pasta shops situated in Valeggio and Borghetto. These little parcels are filled with meat, and they serve them with melted butter and sage. Trying it out is a must-do when visiting Lake Garda.
A fantastic main course option is this bean stew, which is made traditionally with garlic, potatoes, ham, and smoked ribs.
Zuppa di Valpelline
Another stew, this time made with cabbage and often served with croutons or dry bread.
Thin slices of cheese coated with flour and deep-fried. Made with Parmesan, Mozzarella, or Montasio cheese and generally served as a snacky dish.
Pike with Garda Sauce
Local pike fish are boiled for fifteen minutes before being strained and plated. The fish is dressed with onions stewed with extra-virgin Garda DOP olive oil, garlic, anchovies, capers, and parsley. It’s then placed in the fridge to absorb the sauce and served later.
Pan-Roasted Perch Fillets
The fillets are pan-roasted or baked with zucchini, tomatoes, olives, and mint in the summer of fried with breadcrumbs in the colder months.
We all know this gorgeous sweet round bread made with oranges, lemon, raisins, and cacao. It’s popular at Christmas in Italy!
Great winemaking regions surround Lake Garda.
Start with the famous Bardolino light red wine or a refreshing and light Chiaretto Rosato.
For white wine, try the quaffable Custoza, a blend of nine grapes and Valtenesi, made from Groppello grapes.
For sparkling, try Trento DOC, which is specific to the area and packed full of flavor and depth.
Getting to Lake Garda
Lake Garda is easy to reach from Milan via the A4 motorway, which runs between Milan and Venice. From the southern tip, Brescia and Verona are both just a 30 minute drive. By public transport catch the train from Milan, Brescia, Verona, or Venice to Desenzano or Peschiera.