Switzerland is known for many things: dairy farming, the Swiss alps, and of course, Swiss chocolate. But one of the lesser-known yet beautiful parts of Switzerland is the Brissago Islands.
These two islands are located on Lake Maggiore near Brissago and Ronco sopra Ascona. They offer stunning scenery and a mild climate, making them perfect for outdoor activities. So if you’re visiting Switzerland, read on to learn more about all the fun things to do near the Brissago Islands.
Visit the Botanical Garden
The Brissago Islands were designated the Canton Ticino’s botanical park in 1949. Both the smaller and the larger islands host a wide variety of plants species that you can go see.
Open to the public, the small island, Isola Piccola, has preserved its natural state and has a plethora of spontaneous vegetation. The larger island, Isola Grande, is home to subtropical plants from the north and south hemispheres. You can see plants from South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, America, and more on this island, and it’s simply gorgeous.
The park closes for the winter, but it has a long season from April to November, during which you can explore to your heart’s delight.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Of all the things to do in the Brissago islands, the treasure hunt is an absolute must if you’re traveling with children. Once you enter the islands, all you have to do is request a treasure map from one of the friendly staff members.
The map will give you and your family fun clues, letting you explore pirate trails, search for your bounty, and find unusual plants. The treasure hunt is fun, safe, and educational and is a great way to get kids excited about the visit. Plus, they might just learn something. And don’t forget to take plenty of pictures along the way.
Take a Boat Trip
The small yet beautiful Brissago Islands are seated in the middle of Lake Maggiore, which is on the south side of the Alps. Consequently, it’s considered a part of both Switzerland and Italy, making the lake unique in and of itself.
If you’re going to visit the Brissago Islands, you should definitely take a boat trip. After all, it takes a boat to get to the islands anyway. It takes about a half-hour by boat from the town of Locarno to the islands, but if you leave from Ascona, you can get there in about 15 minutes. Of course, the longer ride lets you enjoy the scenery more, but both towns are well worth the visit.
There’s nothing quite like sailing through the calm waters, surrounded by the Alps and Swiss mountains. It’s a photo op you don’t want to miss out on.
Walk the Pizzo Leone Trail
If you love the outdoors and can’t resist a good hike, then you will want to check out the Pizzo Leone Trail. This trail is located right near Ronco Sopra Ascona in Ticino. It’s a 6.9-mile loop that takes you through some captivating areas.
The 4+ hour hike will take you through dense, wooded areas dotted with difficult, technical spots and lead to the Pizzo Leone summit for a breathtaking view of Lake Maggiore and the Brissago Islands. On the way back, you’ll get a glimpse of the villages of Corcapolo and Intragna, and you’ll wrap up along the Maggia river.
Be warned: this hike is not ideal for beginners. Be sure to come well-prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and appropriate hiking shoes.
Visit Ronco s/Ascona
Ronco sopra Ascona is a small town near Locarno. It’s a historic municipality that features several historic buildings, ancient attractions, and plenty of culture. Ronco sopra Ascona makes a perfect day trip when the weather is nice and sunny. It is worth noting that Ronco is close to the Brissago Islands. So, if you have plans to take a boat ride over there, you can do so after you’ve explored this town.
The historic buildings are captivating, but there are also bars, restaurants, parks, a beach, and more. In addition, there are plenty of hiking tours, bike rentals, and lake views to enjoy in Ronco sopra Ascona. The beach stays active from morning till night. Its green lawn is beautiful and relaxing, and the lounge bar-restaurant often features music and parties.
Visit the Old Town of Locarno
Locarno is a small, historic town located on the north shore of Lake Maggiore. It sits just south of the Swiss Alps, which gives it an iconic and picturesque Swiss village appeal. Aside from the breathtaking view and colorful town, there are plenty of things to do and see in Locarno. Cardada Mountain is a tourist favorite, as it gives you stunning views of Lake Maggiore, the Maggia River, and the Brissago Islands. You can also explore canyons, visit wildlife, go bungee jumping, and check out the local art scene.
There are plenty of gorgeous hotels to stay in, and the food there is simply to die for. Restaurants offer a wide range of Swiss, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine – not to mention plenty of wine.
Visit the Sacro Monte and Church of S. Maria Addolorata
Sacro Monte means the Sacred Mountain and is home to the Church of Santa Maria Addolorata. The Sacred Mountain is an almost untouched natural landmark covered in a beautiful forest. Amid these trees is the church built in the late 1700s.
The Sacred Mountain features a path that runs up and straight to the church. The building features a baroque style and includes a pilgrimage church and the former rectory. The church has been well-maintained, and it’s a gorgeous piece of history that’s worth a visit. It still has its original decor, painting frames, and window forms, along with multicolored marble and a high altar.
Enjoy the Views of the Alps
The Alpine region of Switzerland, more commonly referred to as the Swiss Alps, is the country’s most famous natural feature. The mountains extend across Switzerland and even reach other countries, including Italy, Austria, and France.
Near the Brissago Islands, you can see a section of the Alps. So whether you’re hiking a trail, biking through town, or taking a boat ride on Lake Maggiore, you can enjoy those breathtaking views and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.
Take a Train Tour
The Brissago Islands’ surrounding areas are beautiful and memorable in their own right. So why not take a train tour to see more of the countryside in a relaxing way?
Smaller train tours, such as the ones in Locarno and Ascona, last just about 30 minutes and take you through the respective town’s best attractions. They have excellent tour guides who walk you through the town’s history, making it a great learning experience as well.
You can also opt to go on a grand train tour of Switzerland, which takes you through the country’s highlights in eight stages. During this two-hour ride, you will experience Centovalli, which translates to “hundred valleys,” as there are many-branched side valleys along the area’s main valley of the Melezza.
Your virtual guide will lead you through forests, bridges, waterfalls, villages, and more. You can stop along the way to visit certain landmarks or simply enjoy the views from the window.
Visit the Camellia Park
Camellia Park is a gorgeous park located in Locarno. It’s very appropriately named, as it’s home to over 800 varieties of the Camellia flower.
The park was created and has been maintained by trained specialists from all over the world to deliver a mesmerizing, peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The park also houses a small stone amphitheater that serves as a welcome center for the guests. The already impressive piece of architecture offers a view of the lake and surrounds the largest flower bed in the park.
If you visit in the spring, be sure to look for their annual flower show. If not, it’s still worth visiting to see flowers, trees, and mountain scenery from paths and seating areas alike.
Visit the Verzasca Valley
The Verzasca Valley is located near the Brissago Islands in the district of Locarno and is home to the Verzasca dam. This dam is a popular location for adrenaline junkies. It sits on the Verzasca River, which contains the most beautiful jade-green water and smooth, polished rocks. While bungee jumping from the dam attracts many visitors, you can also opt for a swim in the peaceful river and the natural jacuzzis.
This place is simply the perfect spot for a warm summer day. Plus, there are 17 works of art along this valley, including the double arches of the Ponte dei Salti.
When we think of Switzerland, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of the snow-covered Alps and chocolate factories. But this country offers so much more in terms of art, nature, culture, and history. So, if you’re planning a trip near the Brissago Islands, be sure to check out a few of the attractions we’ve mentioned here.