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Brissago Islands - relax in an amazing Swiss botanical garden

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Relax on the Brissago Islands

About Welcome to the enchanting Isole di Brissago, two stunning twin islands nestled near the shores of Brissago. These natural islands, once majestic mountain peaks, have been gracefully shaped by erosion over time, now standing approximately 7 meters above the tranquil waters of the lake (200 meters above sea level).

The larger of the two islands, known as San Pancrazio or Isola Grande, beckons you with its captivating beauty. Explore its lush landscape, adorned with a magnificent botanical garden boasting an impressive collection of over 1700 plant and tree species. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and scents as you wander through this remarkable garden, showcasing flora from the Mediterranean, subtropical Asia, South Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.

On the smaller island, Isola di Sant'Apollinare or Isola Picola, a charming building stands, serving as a camp for children, creating an atmosphere of joy and adventure. While this island is not open to the public for visits, its presence adds a touch of mystery and intrigue to the archipelago.

As you explore the Isole di Brissago, prepare to be captivated by the natural wonders and serene ambiance that surround you. Let the tranquility of these islands transport you to a world of beauty and tranquility, where nature's artistry flourishes and a sense of peace envelops you.

Embark on a remarkable journey to the Isole di Brissago and immerse yourself in the captivating allure of these twin islands. Experience the harmony between man and nature as you discover the botanical wonders of San Pancrazio and marvel at the secluded charm of Sant'Apollinare.

Time Required: 1/2 day or a full day tour in order to enjoy the place


The islands of Brissago are easy to reach by boat:

  • From Brissago public boat station (not the sailing/power boat port) or

  • From Porto Ronco's port (~1km away)

  • Also on a less windy day you can go by SUP/boat from Crodolo Beach at Porto Ronco. (20min paddling)

Tip: Take the public bus from Brissago towards Locarno (bus 316) and stop at Restaurant Posta in Porto Ronco, or you walk or take a bicycle to Porto Ronco from Brissago (3-4km) in order to avoid Parking stress .


The Islands were inhabited since Roman time and relics were found on San Pancrazio. On the small island, Isola di Sant'Apollinare (named also Isola Picola), are archaeological relics of a church from 12th century.

The islands were purchased in 1885 by the St Leger family. Miss Antoinette St Leger began to create a botanical garden on the island and the family did built a house. Artists like composer Leoncavallo and painter Segantini used to be hosted on the islands by Antoinette.

She run into big depths after World War I and she sold the property to Max Emden from Hamburg. He turned down the house and build the neoclassical villa with 30 rooms that we have today, villa Emden. He used to live on the islands until his death in 1940. His direct family decided to sell the property to the canton Ticino and the municipalities of Brissago, Ascona and Locarno plus other association in 1948 and it is keeping ownership until now.

Tip: Read more about how Emden lost the Island here (German) and the movie trailer Auch Leben ist eine Kunst - Der Fall Max Emden.


The islands have the mildest climate in Switzerland. They can be best seen and admired from the village Ronco sopra Ascona (Ronco s/Ascona) just up the hill across from the islands (1-2 km away from Brissago).

A beautiful mansion called villa Emden, turned today into a restaurant, events and hotel is also on the larger island. You can visit the villa Emden inside.


When you arrive on the island a sign-sticks with a great message - "Close your mobile phones and enjoy the nature!" was there to welcome you. If the message is not there anymore, keep in mind this message.

On the island are beautiful paths that brings you to great flower beds, exotic plans and great views with amazing smell. The whole area is children friendly.

The island has a great garden with many many types of plants. It is the only area in Switzerland that has never temperature under zero Celsius.

The restaurant/bar has indoor and outdoor tables in a beautiful setting and you can enjoy a drink or ice cream or an nice lunch.

You can access a small beach on the South part of the island via the stairs or a bamboo trees tunnel path.

Brissago Island Flowers
Brissago Island Flowers

The Botanical Garden on the Brissago Islands

Having fun on Brissago Islands


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