The network of roads created around Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, the two glacial lakes located part in Italy and part in Switzerland, provides the perfect setting for road cycling adventures amongst Pre-alpine foothills and lush valleys. There are are plenty of cycling options and variations.
The best cycling routes for roadies
Lake Maggiore is very well-known as a destination for tourists looking for a package holiday. Built-up holiday resorts like Stresa and Pallanza and the famous Borromeo islands (Bella, Madre and Superiore) are the major tourist hot spots but you don’t have to look hard to find some peace and quiet. The Lake Maggiore North is totally different and offers some unexpected areas of beauty and roads that are great for cycling as they have little traffic and good climbs.
So we suggest to cycle a little bit towards North around Cannobio, Ascona, Locarno and Luino. Find out the routes around Locarno and Ascona.
You can ride through terrain so rarely visited by the cycling masses. The roads following the lakes can get a little busy in the height of summer but there are many easy to access climbs that take you away from the shoreline and offer nice views.
There are also little known routes around Lake Lugano: Find out the routes around Lake Lugano and between Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano.
Thanks to the vastness and diversity of our territory, you will easily ride along the banks of the lakes, or you will toil to climb the valleys of our region. There are a few loops you can ride, allowing you to go back to hotel in the afternoon for the post ride lunch. This is a flexible area offering you the opportunity to ride through back roads, to extend or shorten the rides depending on your fitness level.
The area around Italian and Swiss Lakes is well known to European-based Aussie riders. The AIS European Training Centre is located at Gavirate on the the shore of Lake Varese.
We have local guides on hand who know the area intimately, so much of the rides are on roads through quiet woodland. 90% of the traffic is on the main roads, once you turn off you can go hours without encountering another vehicle. At times you can ride through tiny and secluded villages, some with cobblestones paths, others with roads wide enough for one car only.
If you hadn’t yet visited Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, they are a fantastic base for exploring the surrounding mountains and forests as getting off the beaten track and into the wilderness doesn’t take long at all. You can ride the loop around Lake Lugano, enjoying views of the surrounding mountains before stopping for an Espresso (in Italy of course) and a quick snack.
You can explore the Northern part of Lake Maggiore, climbing up and away from the lake before heading back to lankside. If you ever have the chance to do these rides, or any rides around either of these lakes, you really should jump at the chance. It’s such an attractive area that you will find it hard to keep your eyes on the road rather than the view.
Don't ride side to side with other cyclists
The Italian and Swiss drivers are used to see many cyclists here and generally they are patient.
You can bump into many different groups out for a ride: some looking like pros, some who seemed to be pros and people of all ages. However we suggest that you don't ride side by side with other cyclists, but in a row.
The drivers can become angry.
The toughest road cycling climbs close to Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano
The Alps are a place of legend for road-racers and enthusiasts alike. They offer some of Europe’s most gruelling yet glorious cycling climbs, however they are a little bit crowded.
The Swiss-Italian Lake District is a good place to be based, if you want to try your hand at some challenging climbs without the crowds you’d find in nearby iconic alpine climbs. Don’t just take our word for it though.
The region features a number of challenging ascents that will really test the legs. You’ve probably never heard of them, but there’s some massive and excellent climbs in the area, sometime can be very steep, so come prepared!
Have a look at the 10 toughest climbs around.
Cycling around Italian and Swiss Lakes: how to get here
The area is located on the southern most end of the Alps area, among Lombardy (Italy), Piedmont (Italy) and Canton of Ticino (Italian speaking part of Switzerland).
You can get here by car and by train, the Swiss-Italian Lake District is accessed from the North via the Gotthard Pass or via Simplon Pass througt the Swiss Alps. From the South via Milan or Bergamo. It's also well-integrated into the Swiss rail network and into the Italian rail network. There’s Milan Malpensa Airport, Milano Linate Airport, Milan Bergamo Airport and a small airport in Lugano with flights from Geneva and Zurich.
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Learn more: How to get here