Gargano National Park (Italy): Top 10 things to do + Tips


The 10 Best Things to Do in Gargano, Italy (Puglia)

You’re planning to visit Gargano National Park, the largest national park in Italy, during your next trip? You want to know more about the best places to visit?

You’re at the right place!

Whether you’re into hiking in nature, relaxing by the beach, or visiting typical villages, Gargano, with its combination of sea, mountains, and forests, has something for everyone!

In order to help you plan your stay, i have prepared this guide of the 10 best things to do in Gargano National Park, with all must-see attractions and points of interests.

And at the end of the article, you will also find itineraries to visit the Gargano in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days as well as my suggestions of the best accommodations depending on your budget.

So, what are the best places to visit in Gargano National Park? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

Visiting Gargano in Puglia: All Must-See Attractions

1. Manfredonia

Whether you’re coming from Bari, Trani or Matera, you will undoubtedly begin your journey by passing through Manfredonia.

Marking the gateway to the national park, it’s the largest cities in Gargano.

Here are the best places to visit in Manfredonia:

  • The Swabian-Angevin Castle: it now houses the national archaeological museum, renowned for its collection of Daunian steles, funerary monuments dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries BC. While the museum has an admission fee, you can walk around the castle and on the ramparts for free. The walk offers a beautiful view of the beach and the sea.
  • The Cathedral of Manfredonia, where you can admire beautiful medieval artifacts
  • The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto, built in the pure Romanesque style of Puglia
  • Piazza del Popolo, the central square of Manfredonia
  • The Church of San Domenico, located on Piazza del Popolo

Voyage Tips - Advice

 From Manfredonia to Vieste, the coastal road is particularly scenic with numerous viewpoints overlooking the sea and coves for swimming. Take your time to enjoy the drive!

Manfredonia Italy
Manfredonia Italy

2. Vieste

The beautiful town of Vieste is one of the best places to see on a tour in Puglia and a visit to Gargano.

Located on the eastern edge of the Gargano promontory, Vieste is often chosen as the starting point for exploring the park.

Many of the attractions mentioned in this article are indeed easily accessible by car from the city, making it the ideal place to stay in the Gargano National Park.

Vieste is known for its historical center and charming narrow streets that are a delight to stroll through. Here, you’ll find small artisanal shops as well as cafes and restaurants.

Overlooking the sea, the old town offers beautiful panoramic views of the coast!

During your visit, do not miss the 2 historic buildings: the castle built by Frederick II and the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Mary of the Assumption.

If you’re visiting Vieste with family, you can also bring your kids to Malagologic Museum. Small but fascinating, it boasts a collection of more than 10,000 shells, corals, and fossils. It would be a shame to miss out, especially since entry is free!

But the emblem of Vieste remains the famous Pizzomunno. This towering 25-meter rock is located at the entrance of the city, on the main beach. Very photogenic with the old town as a backdrop, it’s featured on every postcard of Gargano!

According to legend, Pizzomunno was a handsome young man deeply in love with his beloved Cristalda.

Envious of the couple’s happiness and unable to seduce Pizzomunno, the sirens kidnapped Cristalda and held her captive at the bottom of the sea. Unable to find her and consumed by grief, Pizzomunno turned into a petrified rock!

However, there’s a small spark of hope in the heart of this tragedy, as every 100 years, the lovers are granted one night together.

Vieste Gargano
Vieste Gargano

3. Umbra Forest

If you’re wondering what to do in the Gargano and you love hiking, The Umbra Forest is the perfect place for you.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots to see in the park!

The Umbra Forest is a protected natural reserve located in the heart of the Gargano National Park. It’s considered the largest deciduous forest in all of Italy.

The name “Umbra” is derived from its thick and dense vegetation, which blocks sunlight from penetrating the forest floor. It’s renowned for housing a very rich flora and fauna.

If you visit between April and late May, you can admire the wild orchids of Gargano. The forest is home to over 85 different species, making it the area with the highest variety in Europe. Botanists from all over the world come here to see them!

The best way to discover Foresta Umbra is on foot.

There are many trails (about 15), of varying difficulty levels, that allow for leisurely strolls. You should stop by the visitor center to get a map of the trails, which costs about 2.50€.

You should bring your picnic, as you will find several places with picnic tables for a relax lunch break.

The visitor center also rents out mountain bikes if you want to have some 2-wheel fun!

Voyage Tips - Advice

Even with the map provided by the visitor center, it’s quite easy to get lost or take the wrong path in Foresta Umbra. Signs and directions are not always clear or well-marked. Plan for more time than expected to avoid being stuck in the forest overnight!

foresta umbra gargano
Foresta Umbra Gargano

4. Peschici

After Vieste, you should head to Peschici, another typical village.

Peschici has a lovely historic center with narrow streets and whitewashed houses. There are a few churches to see but not really any iconic monuments to visit. You can stroll up to the castle for a panoramic view of the beach and the coast of Peschici.

Peschici and its surroundings are mostly known for having several beaches and coves among the most beautiful in Gargano. Notable mentions include Zaiana beach, Cala beach, and Procinisco Bay.

With your swimsuit and sunscreen, you’re all set for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming!

It’s also near Peschici that you can see a quite unique construction: a trabucco. Positioned on the rocks by the sea, the trabucchi are an ingenious system of ropes and pulleys connected by wooden posts and a platform supporting a net, used for fishing.

Typical of the region, they are now considered one of the symbols of Gargano. Due to tourism, some of them have been converted into rustic restaurants where you can enjoy delicious fresh fish.

Peschici Gargano
Peschici Gargano

5. Vico del Gargano

Among the most beautiful places to visit in Gargano, make sure to stop by the village of Vico del Gargano.

This charming medieval village located in the heart of the park is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Narrow streets and stone houses define the village’s authenticity and tranquility.

What to see in Vico del Gargano, in Puglia:

  • Palazzo della Bella: strongly inspired by Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio
  • The castle
  • Trappeta Maratea Museum to learn more about the olive oil production process, a highly developed activity in Gargano
  • The kissing alley (Vicolo del Bacio), so-called because the passage is so narrow that you’ll have to stick close to your loved one!
  • The numerous churches: Chiesa de Santa Maria Pura, del Purgatorio Church, San Giuseppe Church, San Domenico Church, and the Misericordia Church.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Vico del Gargano is nicknamed the “City of Love” as the patron saint of the town is San Valentino, otherwise known as Saint Valentine!

But since he is also the saint protector of citrus plantations (the main source of wealth in the region for centuries), every year in February, Vico is adorned with its finest citrus decorations.

vico del gargano
Vico del Gargano, a village situated in Gargano

6. The Tremiti Islands

If you’ve already explored the mainland part of the park and are wondering where to go in the Gargano National Park, I highly recommend spending a few days discovering the Tremiti Islands.

The Tremiti Islands are part of the protected marine reserve of the Gargano National Park.

To get there, you can take a boat from Rodi Garganico, a town located to the north of the park, between Peschici and Lake Varano.

Expect to pay around 40€ for 2 people and a journey of about 1h30. Departures are also available from Termoli, located beyond Lake Varano, taking about 1h25 for a minimum of 45€.

And if you feel like treating yourself, you can even reach the Tremiti Islands by helicopter!

Departures are from Foggia, but, of course, the rates are higher than for a ferry crossing.

Known as the “Pearls of the Adriatic,” the Tremiti Islands consist of 5 islands renowned for their splendid natural landscapes and turquoise, crystal-clear waters.

Here are the 5 Tremiti Islands:

  • San Domino: the largest and most touristy. It has a single sandy beach that gets crowded quickly. The main activity here is to take a boat tour to discover the sea caves.
  • San Nicolas: the only Tremiti island inhabited year-round. With its castle and the abbey of Santa Maria, it has a less touristy and more historical vibe.
  • Capraia: my favorite for its coves and clear waters! It is also known for its beautiful scuba diving sites.
  • Cretaccio: a very small island that’s more like a large rock
  • Pianosa: which you can’t land on, as boats are not allowed to approach within 500 meters.

To visit the Tremiti Islands, you can opt for a day-long boat trip that takes you around them. During the tour, you will of course be able to enjoy some swimming stops during hight season!

To move around the islands, you can also rent a bike, scooter, or quad. Cars are strictly prohibited except for residents.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If possible, avoid the months of July and August to visit the Tremiti Islands, as the beaches and coves are crowded and accommodation prices skyrocket.

Tremiti Islands
Tremiti Islands

7. Lake Varano

Lake Varano is one of the highlights of a stay in Gargano.

Yes, in addition to the forest and the sea, there are also lakes in the national park!

Lake Varano is one of the largest lakes in Southern Italy. Birdwatching enthusiasts will be pleased as they can observe a variety of birds such as flamingos, herons, or cormorants. You will also see eel fishers at work on their sandali, traditional boats of the Gargano region.

And if you want to get the most beautiful view of Lake Varano, you should opt for a boat tour. 

Voyage Tips - Advice
Lake Varano is the most beautiful at sunset, adorned with its loveliest colors.
Lake Varano Gargano
Lake Varano Gargano

8. The Beaches of Gargano

If you’re visiting Gargano, it’s also to go to the beach and take some time to relax and swim.

Some of the beaches and coves are stunning, with calm, crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming. However, several are private and only accessible if you are staying at the nearby resort village or campground.

Others are also reachable only on foot, by descending along paths beneath the road.

We were also a bit surprised because most of the time, they are not well signposted, and there are no designated parking areas, leaving very few parking spots.

During our off-season visit, we had no problems, but in July and August, it can be a bit more challenging. That’s why if you’re only interested in vacationing in Gargano for its beaches, I recommend booking a hotel or resort village with private access.

It’s also more convenient as you won’t need to drive and look for parking. You can find my suggestions of the best hotels and resort at the end of this article.

Despite this, there are a few very nice beaches in Gargano you shouldn’t miss:

  • Baia della Zingare, only accessible on foot, about 15 minutes walk. A large pebble beach enclosed by cliffs.
  • Vignanoteca Beach, a beautiful sandy beach also accessible on foot.
  • Cala della Pergola, a small cove surrounded by cliffs
  • Pugnochiuso Bay
  • Porto Greco Bay
  • Cala della Sanguinara
  • Dei Campi Bay
  • San Felice Bay and its rocky arch
  • Mannacora Beach
Gargano Beach
Gargano Beach

9. Boat Trip in Gargano

If you don’t get seasick, one of the must-do activities in the Gargano National Park is a boat trip to explore the sea caves.

The most popular one departs from Vieste every day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon between April and October. The tour lasts about 3 hours  and costs 25€ per adult and 10€ per child.

You’ll tour the most famous sea caves of Gargano Park, such as Tomato Cave, the Smugglers’ Cave, the Two Eyes Cave and the Broken Cave.

If you find the names a bit quirky, just ask the fishermen; they’re the ones who named them! Carved by the sea and the wind, each cave is unique and definitely worth the detour.

If you wish, you can also rent a boat for the day to make your own schedule and enjoy some coves that are only accessible by sea.

In high season, this might be a good solution to find quiet spots for swimming. No boat license is needed for small boats and Zodiacs.

You can find all the information about boat trips and boat rentals in Gargano on this website.

And if you’re looking for a more fancy boat, you should avec a look at Samboat offering.

Motorboats, sailboats, yachts, small boats without a license, with or without a skipper: they simply have the most complete offer for boat rental!

So, what are you waiting for to book your boat trip in Gargano? 😊

Boat trip in Gargano Park
Boat trip in Gargano Park

10. Monte Sant Angelo

This guide Gargano Park’s must-see attractions wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Monte Sant’Angelo.

The village, perched at an altitude of 800 meters, can be reached via a long winding road offering stunning panoramas of the entire national park. It’s one of the oldest and most important religious centers in Gargano.

It’s the starting point of the Via dei Longobardi, a sacred route that spanned from Spain to Jerusalem connecting religious shrines. Many pilgrims have traveled this path over the centuries.

The absolute must-see in Monte Sant Angelo is the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave was consecrated at the request of the Saint himself, who wanted a place of worship to be built there. The cave then became a pilgrimage site for many Christians.

The sanctuary is located in Rione Junno quarter, the oldest part of Monte Sant Angelo. Stroll through the alleyways and observe the houses piled on top of each other and connected by staircases.

In addition to the cave, you can also visit the Norman-Swabian Castle to enjoy an extraordinary view of the entire Gargano up to the Gulf of Manfredonia. But I should warn you, given the village’s location, it’s sometimes very foggy up there!

Also worth seeing in Monte Sant Angelo:

  • Santa Maria Maggiore Church
  • the Gargano Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions
  • San Giovanni in Tumba Baptistry, also known as the “Rothari Tomb”.
Voyage Tips - Advice

For a quick bite, I highly recommend stopping at Antico Forno Frisoli, a small bakery selling delicious focaccias and various types of regional biscuits.

To help you choose from the vast selection, our favorites are the lemon biscuits and the aniseed rings! Be sure to make some room in your suitcase for a 500g pack or two! 🙂

Monte Sant Angelo
Monte Sant Angelo

How Many Days to Visit Gargano National Park?

You should plan at least 4 days to visit Gargano Park.

While distances may seem short, the roads are narrow and winding, which means it will inevitably take you longer than expected.

Plus, you will for sure wants to take lots of photo stops, to admire the stunning views, which will certainly extend your day. The same goes if you want to swim in a secluded cove accessible only by foot.

And if you also want to include some more hiking or a trip to the Tremiti Islands, you can of course spend 5 days, or even a week in Gargano.

One Day in Gargano National Park

If you only have one day in Gargano, I recommend the following itinerary:

  • Go through Manfredonia to join the scenic coastal route
  • You can follow it up to Vieste, about 1 hour and 10 minutes away by car. Along the route, there are numerous stops to enjoy the landscape.
  • Visit the historic center of Vieste
  • Lunch break
  • Walk in the Foresta Umbra, half an hour from Vieste
  • Visit Manfredonia, at the exit of Gargano National Park, if you have time left.

2 Days in Gargano

For 2 days in Gargano, I recommend the following route:

Day 1:

  • Take the coastal road from Manfredonia to Vieste and enjoy the scenery
  • Depending on the season, you might even swim at one of Gargano’s beaches
  • Lunch break
  • Visit the historic center of Vieste
  • Boat trip to discover the sea caves
  • Night in Vieste or nearby

Day 2:

  • Scenic drive from Vieste to Peschici
  • Visit the small town of Peschici
  • Lunch break
  • Explore Vico del Gargano
  • Stroll by Lake Varano
Vieste Beach Gargano Apulia
Vieste Beach Gargano Puglia

3 Days in Gargano

To visit Gargano National Park in 3 days, take the 2-day itinerary I mentioned above and add:

  • Hiking in the Umbra Forest
  • Lunch break
  • Visit to Monte Sant Angelo
  • If you have time, take a short walk in Manfredonia when exiting the national park

4 Days in Gargano

If you have 4 days in Gargano,  you can go for a day trip to the Tremiti Islands!

Where to Stay in Gargano

In order to help you find the best place to stay Gargano, I have grouped the various accommodations by type:

  • Apartments
  • Hotels
  • Holiday villages

Here is my selection of the best ones!

Staying in an Apartment in Gargano

For a family stay with your children or with friends during your vacation in Gargano, you can opt for an apartment. You’ll have a kitchen, be able to cook and there will more space for everyone. Plus, they are often located in residences with swimming pools, which is quite nice for a refreshing dip!

  • Residence Torre del Porto: Located in Mattinata, a 5-minute walk from the beach. The residence offers well-equipped and spacious studios and apartments with a terrace or balcony starting from 80€ per night, breakfast included. Strong points: peaceful location, warm welcome, lovely big swimming pool.
  • Villaggio Idra: Located 5 minutes away by car from Vieste, in the countryside. This establishment offers several small duplex houses. Fully equipped apartment with 2 bedrooms, living area, kitchen and large private terrace with garden furniture starting from 100€ per night. Strong points: sea view, pool and jacuzzi, barbecues available, free private parking. Ideal for a family stay in Gargano!
  • Residence Montelci: Located between Mattinata and Vieste. This residence offers one to three-bedroom apartments that can accommodate up to 6 people. Units come equipped with a kitchen and feature a patio. Prices start from 110€ per night, with breakfast available for 5€. Strong points: stunning view of the sea and mountains, the pool, friendly welcome.

Best Hotels to Stay in Gargano

If you’re traveling as a couple, here’s my selection of the best hotels for a romantic stay in Gargano. Most of them even offer free access to a private beach with sun loungers and umbrellas.

  • Hotel Puglia Garden: Located 1 km away from the beach. Comfortable and spacious double room starting at €90, breakfast included. Strong points: the pool, good breakfast, the setting, and the shuttle service to the beach.
  • Relais Viesti: 5 minutes’ walk from the beach and a 5-minute walk from Vieste Castle. Design and refined double room with a huge shower starting from €90 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the availability of the owners, the excellent breakfast, room décor, and setting.
  • Hotel Boutique Il Castellino Relais: Located a 1-minute walk from the beach and 15 minutes from Vieste city center. Spacious and bright double room from €100 per night, breakfast included. For this price, you’ll also get 2 sun loungers and a free umbrella every day on the private beach! Strong points: the pool, tennis court, and rich breakfast. It’s my favorite for its excellent value for money!
  • Shanti: Located 10 minutes by car from Vieste, surrounded by nature. Double room starting from €110, breakfast included. Strong points: the beautiful location, the tranquility, the excellent breakfast, and the warm welcome.

Best Holiday Villages in Gargano

For those who love holiday villages with a pool, playground, entertainment, and a restaurant, I’ve selected the best ones for you.

  • Village Baia Turchese: Located in Vieste, just opposite the beach. Bright and comfortable double room or apartment from €70 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: football and basketball fields, tennis court, swimming pool.
  • Club Vacanze Viestemare: Located in Vieste, a 10-minute walk from the beach. Studio with kitchenette from €90 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the beautiful pool, access to the private beach, free beach shuttle, SPA, ping pong table, free bikes.
  • Villaggio Club Degli Ulivi: Located between Vieste and Peschici, 300 m from the beach. All accommodations come with a kitchenette, terrace with garden furniture, and a barbecue. From €100 per night. Strong points: children’s play area, animation team, beach shuttle service.
  • Villaggio San Matteo Resort: Located 200 meters from the beach in Mattinata. Double room or apartment with private balcony or terrace starting from €100 per night, breakfast available for €12. Strong points: the pool, entertainment, two restaurants, attentive staff.

How to Get to Gargano Park

Here are the travel times to get to Gargano National Park from other famous locations in Puglia:

  • From Bari: It will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach Manfredonia (Gargano’s entry point) and 2 hours and 35 minutes to go to Vieste.
  • From Trani: A 1 hour and 15-minute journey to Manfredonia and 2 hours and 10 minutes to Vieste.
  • From Foggia: Just 40 minutes away from Manfredonia and 1 hour and 35 minutes from Vieste.

And you, what do you plan to visit in Gargano National Park during your trip to Italy?

If you need help to plan your stay, don’t hesitate to ask me your questions in the comments section below!

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Gagano Italia
Gagano Italia

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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