Lake Garda itinerary

Lake Garda Trip Itinerary Ideas

In Europe, Italy, Trip itineraries by Jurga15 CommentsTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

In my previous post I talked about the most beautiful places of Lake Garda. Today I’ll share some ideas for a Lake Garda trip itinerary, from 1 to 3 days to a week and more, so that you can get the best of your visit, no matter how much time you have in the area.

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…

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.

The proposed itineraries are made assuming that you are staying at the Southern part of the lake, but can be adjusted as needed. It should give you a good idea of what places are most worthwhile to visit and how much time you need to see them. Use it as a guide, but don’t forget that no two trips are ever the same and you might end up having more time for sightseeing 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 the Italian food.

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 still had plenty of time left to do quite some sightseeing.

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. Click on this link to find the best accommodation deals in Sirmione

Northern part of Lake Garda

Garda Lake coast at Limone sul Garda


Lake Garda itinerary for 1 day

Here are two suggestions on how you can spend one day at Lake Garda.

  • 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 round trip is not that long (approx. 150km – 95 miles), but 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.
  • 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.

Lake Garda 2 days itinerary

Day 1 :

Visit Sirmione. 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 Porto Vecchio in Desenzano del Garda


Day 2 :

Visit a local market in the morning. 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.

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 :

Visit Sirmione (see above).

Day 2 :

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

Day 3 :

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, have lunch at one of the many restaurants and 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 had left your car.

Torbole at Lake Garda



What to see and do in Lake Garda area if you have more time

If you have more than three days, 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, spend a couple of dolce far niente days by the pool, or 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 driving time from Lake Garda. Whatever you choose, Lake Garda has plenty to offer for everyone.

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Lake Garda trip itinerary for 1, 2 or 3 days

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  1. OK, Thanks, so I am now basing in Sirmione and have to choose from Degli Oleander Hotel and Hotel Catullo hotels. Anyway have a nice trip Monday……..where are you going?

    1. Author

      I will be attending a conference for travel industry professionals in Tyrol Austria. With some hiking and other nice activities on the agenda, so it’s a nice working trip ;). You can follow us on Facebook or Instagram for some pictures from there if interested.

      P.S. Both the hotels (Hotel Catullo and Hotel Degli Oleandri) you chose look really nice and the location is amazing too. Have a nice trip!

  2. Wow, thanks for the prompt reply, I’m impressed. I am now trying to decide to base in Sirmione or Desenzano on the bottom of the lake. I like old narrow streets and greenery and not too much
    commerce besides restaurants and shops. The ferries are really
    great as to all the ports they stop at. Thanks again.

    P.S. I’ll contact you again if I have a question.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, William. I am not always as prompt, just tonight I am going through all the recent comments and trying to answer as many as I can before I leave on a trip on Monday. 🙂
      I am of course not the one to tell you which place is better to stay. But as much as we loved Desenzano, Sirmione is much livelier and there is more to see and do there. It’s also greener, and you can escape the tourists quite easily. Also, I think it’s a bit better located for exploring the area. But I don’t have any experience with busses and such, for the boats it seems to be somewhat better (saves one stop). I found this ferry map for you, might be useful. In any case, try not to spend all your time in one town, there’s so much to see! Not sure if you saw my other post with my favourite places at Lake Garda – if not, check it out.
      In terms of accommodation, both Desenzano and Sirmione seem to have accommodation in all price ranges, so it’s really about your preference.
      Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Nice but I am staying at sermon and traveling the lake only by bus or ferry and no car, so can you provide itinerary for same?

    1. Author

      Hi William, unfortunately I have no time to work out an itinerary for you. I think that the best way for you to explore Lake Garda from Sirmione is by taking a boat. Try to figure out which places you want to see and then make your own itinerary based on the boat schedule, time of the year, etc. Take a look at this website for boat timetable, prices, and other practical information. Hope this helps!

  4. HI Jurga…thank you ! This is a very helpful site. We will be visiting Lake Garda the first week in October. My husband and I are looking forward to visiting the towns. We are not sure where we should stay for 3 nights. Any recommendations? Our previous stop will be in Verona where we will rent a car. We love being in a town in the midst of activity. Thanks….Angie

    1. Author

      Hi Angie, if you like to stay 3 nights at just one place and you like to be in the middle of the action, then I would suggest Sirmione. Riva del Garda on the Northern side of the lake is really nice too, but it’s a lot quieter and maybe a bit more difficult to make day trips from there. It’s more a vacation town for the summer (just as most of the other towns around the lake), whereas in Sirmione you will probably have plenty of action even in October. Also, there are more accommodation options in Sirmione. Have a nice trip!

  5. Hi Hannah, we took a car. There is a big car park at the railway station in Venice. It’s not cheap though. I think about 30eur/day, no matter if you stay an hour or 23,5 hrs :).

  6. This post is really helpful, thank you. I was just wondering about driving to Venice for the day. Is it possible to park in /near Venice? Would it be better to drive to a train station then get the train to Venice? We want to spend a full day there so the quicker the journey, the better!

  7. Beautiful photos and wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing your suggestions for itinerary. Unfortunately, we will NOT have a car and will rely upon bus and ferry. We are staying at Desenzano and I would love your opinion of which villages and sites to visit in two days there in early May. Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Patricia, I’d try to do Sirmione and Malcesine. I’m not sure, but I think you should be able to take a boat from Desenzano to both of these places. You’ll need a full day for Sirmione. On the day you go to Malcesine, consider taking the boat all the way to Riva (even if you don’t have the time to explore) – the views on that side of the lake are amazing. Hope this helps.

    1. Author

      Thanks for reading and for your comments, Vanessa. Always great to hear from readers. 😉 You’ll love Italy!

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