5 Things to do at Lake Garda

Lake Garda has been the most beautiful, relaxing and magical place I’ve ever been to so far on my journey’s.  Lake Garda is a spectacular lake located in Northern Italy, created during the Quaternary Ice Ages (1.5 million years ago).

When visiting Italy (in September), I stayed at Riva Del Garda located at the top of Lake Garda. It is surrounded by imposing mountains and sparkling blue water, and is known for its medieval towers, Renaissance churches, and narrow cobblestone streets.

What I loved most about Lake Garda was its picturesque villages, medieval castles and lakeside promenades that created a unique magical experience for me. So here are 5 things that I recommend you should try on your trip to Lake Garda:

Lake 1

1.     Visit the Santa Barbara Church

The Santa Barbara Church is located up in the high mountains beside Riva Del Garda (the top of Lake Garda). The small Chapel to Saint Barbara was built in 1935 by the miners who worked on the conduits of the Ponale power plant. Its panoramic views are breath taking. It took me around 3 hours or so to go up and down to visit the church. Unfortunately we picked a day were the rain poured from the skies while we trekked up, but it made the adventure all the more memorable and exciting.

However, one think to note, when you first see it, it is so tiny from the town (almost like a dot) that you would think it is impossible to get to, and when you are walking it can be a little dangerous at times. But when you reach the top it really is a gift to the eyes and a feeling you’ll never forget!

Lake 2

2.     Visit the picturesque villages

On my stay I visited two beautiful villages beside Riva Del Garda by boat called; Malcesine and Limone.

The picturesque Malcesine, framed for its medieval Scaligero Castle is magnificent. The charming village is surrounded by breath taking landscapes and embellished by architectural treasures. It has cobbled lanes and a breathtaking castle, crammed between the blue lake waters and the massive mountain ridge behind (Monte Baldo). If I were to get married abroad I think I would choose this castle in Malcesine because of its fairytale beauty.

There are pretty little squares, cafes and restaurants, and shops selling ice-cream, handbags, shoes, limoncello (a local drink) and clothes. The main harbour is typical of Lake Garda: small, attractive, filled with boats and lined with cafes. A short distance away is the old port, the Porto Vecchio, a quieter spot with good lake views, curious sculptures and more restaurants. There is also a cable-car running up to Monte Baldo which is highly popular and gets very busy as the day goes on. The trip in the cable car will take you 1,800 metres above sea level, with spectacular views. It is perfect for capturing an incredible view and for cyclists, walkers and paragliders.

Lake 3

Limone, is another small village backed by lemon groves, with waterside cafes and cobbled streets lined with shops.

The heart of the old town is the little harbour, the Porto Vecchio (‘Old Port’). It is a very small town and when I went (in September) it was packed with tourists. However it is a peaceful and relaxing place to stop by and have a coffee or an ice-cream, to admire the lake views. Its narrow streets are lined with tourist shops along the shore and up the slopes behind. While you’re here you can also tour an old lemon grove, the Limonaia del Castèl or visit the small Chiesa di San Rocco church close to the old port.

One thing I might add is to avoid buying touristy items here, as you can get them much cheaper in the city. I made the mistake of buying a Venetian mask here and found them cheaper in Verona. Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the Carnival (Carnival of Venice), to hide the wearer’s identity and social status.

3.     Go cycling – hire a bike

There are so many bikes shops and so many people on bikes! Take advantage of your health and the weather and hire a bike out for the morning to enjoy a scenic cycle. We went mountain biking on Sentiero della Ponale beside Riva del Garda, and the views were amazing.

Although, there are so many routes to choose from ranging from beginners to advanced, you can go up into the mountains or around the lakes. Seeing Lake Garda by bike couldn’t be easier!

Lake 5

4.     Paddle on Lake Garda

While my trip was on a budget, we took out a little paddling boat with a slide called a Pedalos to enjoy the lakes natural beauty. The clear and calm waters of the lake make it easy to unwind. Plus there were a lot of people also out kayaking , canoeing and on stand up paddle boards. Or you could always hire out a boat for the day and adventure down to the South side of the lake.

Lake 6

5. Visit a Wine Vinery

On my trip I visited a beautiful vinery in the mountains called Villa Calicantus. We had dinner there as part of a tour group, and of course I was eating their delicious pasta. After dinner, went out to the vineyard for a wine (which was more like a few rounds of shots – because I tried them all), and listened to music amd talked. A very beautiful place!

Lake 7

To sum up, Lake Garda is one of the most romantic locations of natural beauty, and is a MUST to go on to your bucket list for travelling (preferably with your partner).

 

Shannon Doyle is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @shannond_761 / Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-doyle-28b827109 

Ireland to Australia… by BIKE!

 

JM53

Yup that’s right, who would be mad enough to cycle from Ireland to Australia? Definitely not me!! My good friend David Stanbridge, AKA Stanner’s has always had a keen interest in traveling and adventures, what better adventure to go on than cycling around the world!

This blog really won’t do Stanners’ trip much justice, I think a book would be more appropriate. Maybe that could be his next project after he finishes cycling around the world?

Anyway… here it goes. In 2016 Stanner’s thought a lot about taking this trip and then decided to start planning it.  He spoke to the bosses at work and they were willing to grant him a career break so in December 2016 he put the wheels in motion and sold his car – this was 3 months prior to his departure date.

After numerous good-bye parties and lots of tears Stanners left his home town of Islandmagee in Co Antrim on Monday 3rd April 2017 at 4.45 am. His father cycled with him to the boat in Larne and continued to cycle with him all the way to Newcastle Upon Tyne which is 360 km (I’m not sure my legs would even take me that far…rather you than me Stanners!).

He then cycled to Dover where upon boarding the boat and waving to his family from the top deck he spotted two other heavily loaded bikes: this couple were also headed to Australia! Imagine that, there are other people in the world as crazy as Stanners. Within the first month of cycling Stanners hit Slovakia and covered a total of 2400 km! All in one month! From Ireland to England to Netherlands to German to Austria to Slovakia. He experienced temperatures below freezing whilst sleeping in a tent and cooking meals in pots and pans like I’m a celebrity, get me out of here (without the fish eyes and kangaroo balls etc).

By the early part of May Stanners had reached Turkey and this is where he would be for the next month, cycling from one side to the other to reach Iran.

He encountered many different things while in turkey, he learnt a lot about the Turkish history and had a Turkish bath at Cagaloglu Hamam – the last Turkish bath to be built in the Ottoman Empire, so Stanners says anyway! This was one of his camping spots during his travels through Turkey, who needs a tent anyway?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stanners spent his birthday in Turkey – on the morning of his birthday he received a video link form his dad with pre-recorded birthday messages from all friends and family. He watched this at 3 am after waking up for a pee during the night. He said he didn’t cry but I don’t believe him! On the day of his birthday he also reached the highest point of his trip at that time – 1500 m.

In June Stanners crossed over into Iran. After making it to Tehran, Stanners soon discovered the roads weren’t very safe; the traffic wasn’t overly heavy but there weren’t many rules on the road.  The lines weren’t very clear and at junctions they disappeared altogether, thus it became like the area after a toll booth where a super wide area of cars are all darting for one narrower section of road.  Meanwhile Stanners is trying to stay out of harms way. After a late night and early morning rise the sun soon got the better of him – he cycled to a car park where he came across a guy driving a truck and despite the language barriers he discovered that the fella was heading in the same direction that Stanners wanted to go. He clipped his bike securely onto the back of the truck and climbed into what should have been the passenger seat.  However, there was no seat just a flat area covered with a carpet, needless to say no seat-belt either. As the journey progressed the man got a little too comfortable, sitting completely side ways with cruise control on and no way to break if he needed.  At one point, whilst still driving, he proceeded to pull out a gas cooker, hooked it up to the engine and began to melt some sort of ‘substance’.  Stanners was concerned for his life at this point as he laughed nervously and asked him if he was still okay to be driving while smoking ‘that’. Anyhow Stanners made it out alive and the nice man bought him lunch before they headed their separate ways.

JM50

Skipping on and missing a ‘few’ countries not to mention a hell of a lot of stories, (like how Stanners managed to get himself invited to weddings and how he survived through an entire country without money – he arrived at the Iran border with no cash and not realising you weren’t allowed to lift cash in Iran.

Stanners is now in Aisia and will spend Christmas in Vietnam, his goal is to make it to Oz by February 2018.

Stanners keeps his own blogs which have a lot more detail for anyone who is interested and wants to keep track of his whereabouts and how hes getting on – it really is worth the read.

Website: www.solostan.com

Facebook: @Solostantravel

What a man and what an inspiration to anyone wanting to travel. I’m one for an adventure and enjoy travelling myself but I think I’ll clock up my air miles rather than cycle! See you in 2018 Stanners and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at home. We miss you!

JM52

 

Jenny Martin is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can follow her on Twitter @Jennymartin95 or on Facebook: /jenny.martin.12979431