Lake Iseo, Lombardy, Italy

Lake Locations:

Italy - Lombardy -

Also known as:  Lago d'Iseo

A ferry glides across 15,271-acre Lake Iseo to arrive at the dock on Monte Isola. Passengers with packages and bicycles climb off the ferry; curiously absent, however, are cars. No vehicles are allowed on the 1,062-acre island in the middle of Lake Iseo, so there is nothing to mar the charm and quiet of the beautiful island. Surrounded by picturesque fishing villages, Monte Isola is the perfect place to explore by bike or on foot and be immersed in the culture of the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Visitors can climb to the island’s highest point, 1,358 feet above the water, and enjoy the view across Lake Iseo from the religious sanctuary at Cure. Relatively unknown outside of Italy, Lake Iseo is a favorite with Italians and a fantastic destination nestled in the foothills of the Alps.

A fleet of motorized ferries connects most of the lakeside towns around the 38-mile shoreline. Tours with food and bar service leave from Sarnico on the southern shore and from Sulzano and Sale Marasino on the eastern shore. Most tours stop at picturesque Monte Isola.

Monte Isola is the largest island in any lake in Europe- 12.8 square kilometers or 3,163 acres-and one of three in Lake Iseo. The other small islands, Loreto and San Paolo, are private. Lake Iseo itself is the fourth largest lake in the Lombardy region behind Garda, Maggiore and Como. Known in Italian as Lago d’Iseo and also as Lago Sebino, Lake Iseo is 15.5 miles long and a little over three miles wide. It was formed by the Valcomonica Glacier, and the Oglio River makes up both the lake’s primary inflow and outflow.

The western shore of Lago d’Iseo is rugged with very little vegetation. Little gorges created by small mountain streams entering the lake are interspersed with charming fishing villages. The eastern shore is also dotted with fishing villages, but its terrain is much gentler giving way to abundant vegetation and agricultural fields. The southern end of the lake includes a peat bog and nature reserve. The lake is very deep with a maximum depth of 824 feet. Originally, Lake Iseo was much deeper, but sedimentation build-up over time created the bog and provided valuable habitat for waterfowl. The northern end of Lake Iseo has thermal spas and petroglyph sites. In fact, the National Park of Rock Engravers is Italy’s first UNESCO site, preserving several prehistoric rock carvings and archeological sites.

The Nature Reserve of the Pyramids of Zone, established in 1984, is in Marone on the eastern shore of Lake Iseo. Created by the same glacial activity that carved the lake’s basin, the pyramids are pinnacles, some over 30 feet tall, capped with boulder “hats.” Every so often a hat will fall off, and the pinnacle will erode until it reaches the next boulder. Marone is one of several fishing villages around Lake Iseo, including Riva di Solto, Sarnico and the village of Iseo. Lovere, once a fortified town, is known for its arts and nightlife, and it is a popular tourist destination. All the villages have a variety of accommodations including holiday homes, villas, hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

Some of the lakeside villages have boat rentals available, and the winds on Lake Iseo make it a great place to sail or windsurf. Canoeing, diving and fishing are also popular lake pastimes. Fishermen pull tench, pike and trout from the waters. In the winter, visitors can use Lake Iseo as a home base from which to enjoy one of the area’s nearby ski slopes.

In June of 2016 the conceptual artist Christo opened a 16-day exhibit on Lago d’Iseo titled The Floating Piers. Floating walkways connected the lakeside town of Sulzano to the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo, totaling 1.9 miles in length. 220,000 interconnected cubes wrapped in a shimmering yellow fabric were designed to change to shades of gold and red according to the time of the day and the weather. Christo described the experience as “like walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale.”

Tucked away in the foothills of the Alps, Lake Iseo is an almost undiscovered gem. With its rich past, sparkling water, and quaint villages all set against the reminders of its glacial creation, it is a treasure waiting to be enjoyed.

Things to do at Lake Iseo

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Biking
  • National Park

Fish species found at Lake Iseo

  • Pike
  • Tench
  • Trout

Lake Iseo Photo Gallery

Lake Iseo Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 15,271 acres

Shoreline Length: 37 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 607 feet

Average Depth: 404 feet

Maximum Depth: 824 feet

Water Volume: 6,161,420 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 4.1 years

Drainage Area: 686 sq. miles

Trophic State: Meso-oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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