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LAKE ORTA BY KAYAK

Beaches, quaint villages, lush hills and the stunning and peaceful island of San Giulio
Travel itineraries, hiking, kayaking and sailing in Italy and around the world

Lake Orta is much less famous than the neighbour Lake Maggiore, but it's at least as amazing. For a kayaking trip it is a perfect destination: the water is calm and clean, the traffic of ferries and other boats is very light, the most interesting destinations are within easy reach of each other.
So you just have to go and enjoy it! Omegna, Orta San Giulio and the island of San Giulio, Pella, Ronco... really interesting destinations that become amazing when visit by kayak (thus solving also any parking problems!).
Under the map, we present a guide to the Lake Orta, starting from our last experience of circumnavigation by kayak.

Kayak in Lake Orta, Piedmont
Kayaking in Lake Orta: San Giulio Island, Pella, Ronco and Orta San Giulio, and also a short visit to Omegna; map
The kayaking itinerary
The Lake Orta is 13 km long and about 1 km wide: therefore, its coasts may be visited in only one day. However, we preferred a shorter itinerary (10 kms totally) to have a more touristic approach, visiting the villages we met without rushing too much. Before starting to paddle we also had a look at Omegna, a nice town in the northernmost point of the lake which is crossed by the emissary of Lake Orta (which is surprising, because in the other Italian alpine lakes the waters flow southwards).
Omegna, Lake Orta
The picturesque town of Omegna lies along the northernmost shore of Lake Orta
Omegna, Lake Orta
The historic center of Omegna is crossed by many alleys... and by a river
For the kayaking trip, we decided to start near Orta San Giulio (a little bit far from the town center to avoid paying a parking fee). As you see from the map, the starting point was a small beach to the north-east of the peninsula on which Orta San Giulio lies peacefully. After a refreshing dip (that day was very hot and the water had a perfect temperature), aboard our inflatable kayak we reached the first houses on the lake. Orta San Giulio appeared slowly, behind reeds and poplars, with old houses, stone garages for boats and rafts, magnificent colorful villas and historical monuments.
Orta San Giulio
Orta San Giulio by kayak: villas on the lake, wooden piers...
Orta San Giulio by kayak
...garages for small boats and historical buildings
We moored the kayak in the main square of Orta San Giulio, whose historic buildings look out over the lake. We walked aroun town, admiring the narrow alleys and the painted houses. Since we had never heard of that city until a few days before, we were stunned by its beauty: we liked it more than the famous towns on Lake Maggiore such as Stresa. There were some groups of tourists but the beauty of the town was still intact.

It is also a very good idea to spend more days in the area of Lake Orta, so you could look for the most convenient places where to sleep here.
Orta San Giulio Orta San Giulio
Kayak parked in the main square of Orta San Giulio... and a beetle parked on the kayak!
Orta San Giulio Orta San Giulio
The historic center of Orta San Giulio and the view from the stairs that lead to the church
After we had an ice cream we were almost reluctant when we left by kayak, as we could have spent more time in Orta San Giulio. Luckily, we were heading towards the Island of San Giulio (300 metres offshore), with its monastery and its villas that rise from the lake. Similar in concept to the Borromeo islands on Lake Maggiore, San Giulio Island is incredibly peaceful. No visitors (at least when we reached it by kayak, which obviously has many advantages over a sightseeing tour) many flower gardens and millennial buildings. We walked around the island, then, further offshore, we swam admiring Lake Orta... a great moment.
San Giulio island by kayak, Lake Orta San Giulio island by kayak, Lake Orta
San Giulio Island offers picturesque views of historic buildings hanging over Lake Orta
San Giulio island by kayak, Lake Orta San Giulio island by kayak, Lake Orta
Kayaking is the best way to explore the island and - why not? - to take a dip

Our idea was to paddle to the other side of Lake Orta, so from the island we reached Pella, which turned out to be a peaceful jewel with a lakeside promenade, trees, old houses, quiet streets and a few sailboats moored. Near the village there was a small beach, behind it steep hills with thick woods. We had some food and we resumed paddling.
Pella, Lake Orta
Pella is a small, quiet town that offers idyllic views over lake Orta
Pella, Lake Orta
The clean waters of Lake Orta allow swimming and enjoying the beaches
We went north, towards Omegna, following the western coast of Lake Orta. Here the landscape is idyllic, absolute peace and nature, the shadow of the trees over the lake and the still water that gently touches the rocks. It was so peaceful that you could fall asleep on the paddle. Luckily we reached Ronco, another hidden gem: a tiny hamlet of old houses that rise from the lake to the nearest hills.
Ronco by kayak, Orta lake
Ronco by kayak, Orta lake... Full, amazing relax before paddling
Ronco by kayak, Orta lake
The ancient hamlet of Ronco is made for peace and contemplation
At this point we were in doubt whether to continue along the coast to Omegna - this stretch of coast looked lush and green but it didn't seem to offer any special attractions - or to cut to the other side of the lake and paddle back to the car. We decided for the latter, also because when in Omegna we would have had either to catch a bus or to continue paddling in order to reach the car.

So we quickly crossed the calm waters and then, coasting Pettenasco and the eastern side of Lake Orta (this part is less interesting than what we had previously seen), we arrived at the beach where our kayaking trip had started. We had another pleasant and refreshing dip, only partly disturbed by the sight of a water snake that moved sinuously on the surface of the lake.
Lake Orta is a place that remains in the heart thanks to its peace, its landscapes, its amazing architectures... we were proud of our endeavour. It had been a great idea to leave the chaotic Lake Maggiore and to visit an idyllic lake where for a beer in a panoramic position you spent 3 Euros instead of 6.
Obviously, kayaking is the best way to visit Lake Orta, especially because it allows exploring San Giulio island at its best.
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You can find more photos (with higher resolution) of the kayaking trip on Lake Orta in this photogallery:
Photos of lake Orta by kayak
All photos from Lake Orta visited by kayak

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