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Lake Garda Itinerary Suggestions for 1 to 3 Days

Lake Garda Itinerary Suggestions for 1 to 3 Days

Thinking of a trip to Lake Garda in Italy and wondering how to best plan your time? This Lake Garda travel guide and itinerary should help you make the most of your trip. Take a look!

In our previous post, we talked about the most beautiful places of Lake Garda. In this article, we are sharing some ideas for a Lake Garda itinerary, from 1 to 3 days to a week and more. That way you can get the best of your visit, no matter how much time you have in this beautiful area.

How much time do you need in Lake Garda? You can drive around Lake Garda and get a quick impression in just a day or you can spend a week in the area and you’ll find plenty to see and do… Ideally, I suggest at least 2-3 days at Lake Garda.

Good news for families traveling with children and for people who don’t like packing suitcases every day is that you can easily explore Lake Garda from one single location. You will spend a bit more time in a car or on a boat, but it’s perfectly doable.

Northern part of Lake Garda
Garda Lake coast at Limone sul Garda

Below, you can find Lake Garda itinerary suggestions. The proposed itineraries are made assuming that you are staying at the Southern part of the lake, but can be adjusted as needed.

This Lake Garda travel guide should give you a good idea of what places are most worthwhile to visit and how much time you need to see them.

Use this as a guide, but don’t forget that no two trips are ever the same. You might end up having more time for sightseeing on some days or you may not be able to see and do all that is suggested. It might depend on the weather, the traffic, but also on how much time you spend at each landmark, how many gift shops you visit, or how much time you take to enjoy Italian food and gelatos along the way…

All these itineraries and suggestions are based on what we actually did when we visited Lake Garda with our kids. We took our time and had long lunches and even longer dinners, stopped at the playgrounds, climbed every single tower we could, etc. And we still had plenty of time left to do quite some sightseeing and visit the most beautiful places along the lake.

See the best of Lake Garda in Italy with our suggested itinerary for one, two, or three days

One Day in Lake Garda

Below are three suggestions for Lake Garda itinerary for one day.

Here’s how you can spend one day at Lake Garda:

OPTION 1. If you only have a day in the area and you have a car, I suggest you drive around Lake Garda and visit at least two towns along the way.

Lake Garda road trip is not that long (approx. 150km – 95 miles). However, the roads are narrow and, depending on the traffic you may not have much time left to do a lot of sightseeing.

Try to visit Malcesine and count at least an hour for the visit. You will need 1,5-2 hours if you are there for lunch and even longer if you want to take a cable car to the top of Monte Baldo.

If you have the time for just one more town, pick either Limone sul Garda or Sirmione. While you don’t need much time to visit Limone, in Sirmione you can easily spend a few hours or more. If you only have an hour to spare, pick Limone as Sirmione is much busier and you will probably lose a lot of time driving and looking for a parking spot.

OPTION 2. If you don’t have a car or don’t feel like driving, you should visit Sirmione. You can easily spend a day exploring this picturesque old town and/or you can combine a visit with a boat ride on the lake.

OPTION 3. Take a full-day guided tour of Lake Garda. This popular tour has different itineraries depending on the day and covers most of the highlights along Lake Garda in one day. See more suggestions for Lake Garda tours here below.


Lake Garda 2 Days Itinerary

Day 1: Sirmione

If you have two days at Lake Garda, visit Sirmione on day one. Stroll the picturesque streets of the old town, visit the castle, go all the way to the end of the peninsula and visit Grotte di Catulo. Have lunch at one of the many local restaurants, take a short boat ride around the old town and the peninsula.

If you feel like exploring a bit more, you can go for dinner in Desenzano del Garda. It’s just a short drive from Sirmione and the old town is very picturesque, especially the area around Via Porto Vecchio.

Desenzano del Garda
Via Ponte Vecchio in Desenzano del Garda

Day 2: Drive Around Lake Garda

Visit a local market in the morning. There are many markets that take place in different Lake Garda towns on different days. Here you can find more information regarding Lake Garda market days.

Continue your journey along the Eastern side of the lake all the way up to Malcesine. In Malcesine, you should visit the old town and the castle and/or take a cable car to the top of Monte Baldo.

Continue your trip around Lake Garda making a few stops to absorb the scenery. You can stop at Torbole, Riva del Garda, or Limone sul Garda. I recommend Limone. Explore the town and go for dinner at one of the many waterfront restaurants.

If it’s too early for dinner and you feel like you are still fit to do some more sightseeing, continue to one of the other beautiful towns along the lake. The nicest ones are probably Gardone Riviera, Salò, or Desenzano.

READ ALSO: Best Towns of Lake Garda

Malcesine café and old town
One of Malcesine old town squares with charming old buildings and many restaurants

Lake Garda 3 Days Itinerary

Day 1: Sirmione

Visit Sirmione (see above).

Day 2: Explore the Eastern Side of Lake Garda

Same as above, except that you can spend more time exploring the Eastern side of Lake Garda and leave the other side of the lake for the next day.

Take more time at the market, stop at the Punta di San Vigilio viewpoint just outside Garda village, explore the beautiful old town of Malcesine to the fullest.

You can drive around the whole lake but focus on visiting the towns on the Eastern – North-Eastern side only since you can see the rest on day 3.

TIP: A nice thing to do is to take this half-day boat tour to Isola del Garda & Salò from Garda or Bardolino. It’s a unique place you wouldn’t be able to visit on your own.

Day 3: Explore the Western Side of Lake Garda

If you haven’t done it yet, visit Desenzano. Afterwards, drive along the Western side of Lake Garda all the way to Limone sul Garda. Leave your car at the parking in Limone. Explore the town and have lunch at one of the many restaurants.

After that, hop on the boat towards Riva sul Garda. This is a really spectacular boat trip and it’s worth doing even if you don’t have the time to visit any of the towns along the way.

If you do have an hour or two to spare, make sure to visit the old town of Riva. If you have even more time, you can hop off at Torbole before heading to Riva and visit them both. Just make sure you don’t miss the (last) boat to Limone where you left your car.

TIP: Another option is to take a half-day wine tasting tour in the region. This popular and highly rated tour offers pick-ups from various locations around the lake.

Torbole Lake Garda

Where to Stay for Exploring Lake Garda

The charming town of Sirmione is a great place to stay for exploring Lake Garda. Its location is ideal for day trips around the lake, but also for exploring other towns in the area; Verona is just 45 minutes and Venice – 1h45min driving time from Sirmione. Here you can find the best accommodation deals in Sirmione

Other popular options are the towns of Garda or Bardolino at the southeastern side of the lake. Also Riva del Garda is a nice place to stay if you prefer the beautiful mountainous northern side of Lake Garda.

If you don’t have a car, make sure that you stay in town that has good boat connections to the other places on the lake. If you also need a train station nearby, then Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda are the best towns to be.

What to See and Do in Lake Garda Area If You Have More Time

If you have more than three days in the area, you can visit other villages and towns at Lake Garda.

The nicer places are Garda, Torbole, Salò, Desenzano del Garda, Gardone Riviera, and Bardolino famous for its wines.

Lake Garda is also a good place for water sports enthusiasts. You can also play golf, visit Gardaland theme park or Caneva Aquapark. Or simply spend a couple of dolce far niente days by the pool.

If you are looking for day trips from Lake Garda, you can opt to visit other beautiful towns in the area. It’s just a short ride to Verona or Trento or even Venice, which is less than 2 hours drive from Lake Garda. Whatever you choose, Lake Garda has plenty to offer for everyone. Here you can find an organized day tour to Verona and also a day tour from Lake Garda to Venice.

If you like nature and outdoors and want to experience Italy in a more authentic way, you could consider visiting the Trentino region, just north of Lake Garda. It is especially great for families with kids and teens as there are so many great activities for families in Trentino. Val di Fumo hike is wonderful as well and just a short drive from Riva.

READ ALSO: Best Places to Visit in the Italian Dolomites (just a few hours drive from Lake Garda!)

More tips for your trip to Italy:

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Best Lake Garda itinerary suggestions for one to three days

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Sunday 26th of September 2021

Hi Jurga, great information about Lake Garda, thanks. I'm planning a trip next January, and I was wondering if the restaurants, hotels and shops will be open during this period.

We will be arriving there by car and I hope to drive around the lake over three days. I don't expect everything to be open but do you think its worth visiting in January. We're hoping to avoid the crowds and just take it easy. Thanks


Monday 27th of September 2021

Hi Edward, I really don't know, but my guess is that it will be very quiet everywhere. On the other hand, there are plenty of people living there, so yes, of course, some things will be open. I once visited Lake Como in November and it was already very quiet with many places closed. So January will be even more deserted, also at Lake Garda where the high season is between +-April and October... I think I'd still go, but maybe not for 3 days. Definitely visit Verona for a day once you are there and Venice is just a 2hrs drive. If you want to know more, I think I'd contact a hotel where you are planning to stay or a local tourism board... Talk to the locals, see what they suggest. Another idea - January will be amazing for skiing and winter activities in the mountains north of Lake Garda. Madonna di Campiglio is a popular ski resort and also Val Gardena in the Dolomites. Just an idea ;).


Monday 30th of August 2021

Great information, thanks so much.

We will be coming from Belluno and have 2 days for this beautiful area. From here we will be heading to Turin, where would you recommend staying for 2 nights? Would you suggest driving the lake or just doing a couple of trips from the home base? Don't want to spend too much time in the car and would enjoy seeing places rather than rushing through :) I do appreciate you taking the time to answer. Nicky


Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Hi Nicky, it looks a bit strange to drive from Belluno to Lake Garda to then drive back up to Trento, but if that's in your planning, then I think I'd opt to stay at the northern side of Lake Garda. My personal favorite pick would be Malcesine. From there, you can take a boat to Torbole, Riva, and also Limone. And if you absolutely want to, you can also drive or take a boat to the southern side of the lake as well. If you don't want to spend too much time in the car, I'd definitely not drive around the entire lake. There's enough to see/ do in Malcesine to keep you busy for half a day to a day, plus exploring the northern side of the lake by boat is one of the nicest things you can do. And with just two nights, you'll likely only have one full day, plus maybe the afternoon when you arrive, which is about the right amount of time for all this. And if you prefer to do even less driving, then stay in Torbole, which is even closer to the main highways from where you'll be arriving/leaving, and you can easily visit Malcesine and other places from there by boat as well. Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!


Tuesday 18th of May 2021

Hi Jurga. I really appreciate the information you provided about Lake Garda. We've only got one night there so your advice for one day is incredibly helpful and we cannot wait to explore Sirmione. I was wondering if by chance you have advice for farms to stay at in Tuscany. Friends of ours went and said that there were amazing farms they passed by to get to their hotel that are not advertised online. They said they have no idea how to book them in advance or they would have stayed at one of them. Is this something you are familiar with?


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

@Jurga, Fantastic! Thank you!


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Hi Brandi, most of these 'farms' are called 'Agriturismo' and you can find quite a lot of them online. Just searching for accommodation near San Gimignano (a great area to stay in Tuscany and very central for day trips to Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, etc.!), I see quite a few really nice ones. So take a look here and I'm sure you'll find something very nice for your stay. Or check out accommodations in the Montepulciano area - also a very nice place in another part of Tuscany, and I see quite a few villas and agriturismos there too. I'm not sure what kind of a 'farm' you are looking for exactly, so it's hard to recommend something specifically. But there are definitely plenty of them to be found online. If you are looking for something even more different and can't find it here, maybe try some local tourism board websites, keeping in mind that they'll often only have info in Italian or prices higher than what you pay via sites like Also, I'd never book anything where I can't see pictures and read real customer reviews. Here are just some random picks I stumbled upon that look great: - Agriturismo Mormoraia in San Gimignano - Agriturismo Il Segreto di Pietrafitta in San Gimignano - Agriturismo Merigge Montepulciano in Montepulciano - Agriturismo Cognanello in Montepulciano And there are many, many more. Hope this helps. PS We have quite a few articles about Tuscany on our blog if you need some recommendations on where to go, etc. You should be able to see them here.

Craig O'Donnell

Tuesday 27th of April 2021

Jurga, I am planning on visiting Lake Garda this coming Oct 1-5, 2021. I am looking for a luxurious stay with my wife for a special occasion. What is the town/city and hotel that would be your best recommendation? Can you point me in the right direction for further dining, etc around Lake Garda. We will be arriving from Munich and then on to Verona after. Your help is greatly appreciated.


Thursday 29th of April 2021

Hi Craig, this is such a difficult thing to say as there are so many nice places around Lake Garda. Here are a few suggestions: - If you don't have a car, it's probably best to stay on the south side of the lake. Sirmione is a good place for that, lots to do, and it has good boat connections to other places. One of the nicest hotels here is Hotel Olivi Thermae & Natural Spa and the price for your travel dates seems very reasonable. Also with a car, from Sirmione, you can quite easily get anywhere you want to be. - If you prefer to stay on the north side of the lake, Riva del Garda is a nice town for that and you can easily visit Limone and Malcesine from there. Also Torbole is nearby. This part of the lake is surrounded by mountains. There are so many nice hotels here: Hotel Lido Palace, but also Grand Hotel Liberty which has much better rates for your travel dates. Du Lac Et Du Parc Grand Resort looks great too and is probably the best price-quality-location of the three. - One more really nice town to stay is Malcesine. It's also surrounded by mountains, boats stop here, and the scenery is amazing. Probably the most romantic place of the three with narrow cobbled streets, a castle with amazing views, and there's also a cable car to the top of the mountains (go when the weather is nice). Where to stay here, depends if you have a car and if hotels have parking. I recommend places that are close to the center, close to the lake, and have car parking possibilities. Hotel Castello Lake Front is a good option and has a parking. Hotel Vega also has a very nice location. In all these places, there are lots of restaurants. I'm just not sure how much will be open in October, but I think it should still be ok. Good luck choosing! :)


Saturday 14th of September 2019

I loved the suggestions and comments. I have my old parents and your comments about the hilly places are very useful. Well, loved everything. 10/10!


Saturday 14th of September 2019

Good to hear that, Stela. Enjoy the trip. PS If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to also check our guide to the best places to see in Lake Garda.

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