If you are looking for dazzling natural scenery then Lake Garda is the place for you. Deep blue waters, green forests, towering mountains, and picturesque towns--Lake Garda offers it all. Italy's largest lake is located between Milan and Venice, and is nestled between the Dolomites of Brenta to the North and rolling hills to the South. The shoreline of the lake and the lake itself are divided between the provinces of Trento, Brescia and Verona. Lake Garda offers much to see and do, including many luxury hotels and resorts that cater to both Italians and foreign tourists; Lake Garda has always been a choice place among wealthy Europeans.
Visitors will find that the northern part of the lake is surrounded by mountains and is narrower that the water to the south. Most of the mountains in this area belong to the Gruppo del Baldo and this alpine area was formed by glaciers around the end of the last ice age. The eastern shores are protected by Mount Baldo and are rich in Mediterranean flora. Here thrive citrus and olive trees, and the wine made on this land is one of Italy's best known vintages.
The lake holds several small islands and five main ones, the largest of which is the Isola del Garda. The other four include Isola San Biagio (also known as the Island of Rabbits), Isola di Trimelone, Isola di Sogno and Isola dell'Olivo. The Mincio River is the lake's only emissary while the Sarca River is its main tributary.
FORMATION OF LAKE GARDA
Lake Garda was created around 1.5 million years ago during the Quaternary Ice Age. A large piedmont glacier, which is a valley glacier that spilled onto flat land adjacent to a valley, flowed down from the Brenta Dolomites and gouged and cut through the valley. Once the glacier melted the freshwater lake seen today was formed.
POPULAR PLACES ON LAKE GARDA
Sirmione is one of the places adjacent to the lake that draws the most visitors. The location of the town is second to none and the entrance alone is enough to take your breath away. Visitors enter Sirmione over a bridge and through beautiful castle walls and are met with a quaint town full of narrow streets and lanes, perfect for walking and exploring. Sirmione boasts a wide variety of good hotels, restaurants and shops as it is an important tourist center.
The main street of Sirmione does tend to get quite crowded in the summer months since it is the only one travelling from one end of the town to the other. The shore of the lake also tends to be very busy since it is extremely popular with tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds it is probably best to visit Sirmione in the off season. Also, keep in mind that parking in the small city is quite expensive. One fun thing to do while visiting Sirmione is take a ride on a local boat--a perfect way to beat the crowds.
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is one of the largest towns along Lake Garda and is an important draw for tourists. The center of town has a lot of character and its lake front is beautiful. There are tons of spots in town that boast dazzling views of the lake and the dramatic mountains that surround the city.
The biggest advantage to visiting Riva del Garda is that it has a major port. It is quite easy to get a boat or a ferry to visit different parts of the lake or to visit the neighboring towns. Sailing is quite popular in Riva del Garda and plenty of sailors make the town the starting point of their journeys. Those looking for some privacy will want to head to the beaches to the east of the main harbor, which remain relatively secluded even during peak season. Riva del Garda also has many great stores and is one of the best shopping destinations on Lake Garda.
Torbole is a small town located at the tip of Lake Garda, famous for hosting windsurfing competitions. In fact, windsurfing is one of the main draws of the town. Torbole also offers visitors many good hotels and restaurants to choose from.
Torbole's main road, the town center and the lakeside are the busiest and most crowded areas in the town. Parking can be a problem especially during peak tourist season. There are many ferries that come into Torbole, which makes visiting other locations on the lake easy and quite comfortable.
At the foot of Monte Baldo, the highest mountain in the area, visitors will find the large town of Malcesine. The height and scale of the mountain that surrounds the town is impressive and alone is worth the trip. The Castle of Malcesine is also a must-see, hanging on the edge of the lake it is an important landmark in the area. The port and surrounding streets also offer much to see and do, and visitors can also enjoy the many good restaurants, cafes and beautiful shops that dot Malcesine.