3-Day Lake Garda Itinerary (With Different Options)

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When it comes to beautiful places in Northern Italy, nothing quite compares to Lake Garda. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the quaint village of Malcesine on its shores, I knew I had stumbled upon something truly special. The medieval buildings set against a backdrop of majestic mountains captured my heart instantly.

But Lake Garda has so much more to offer than just pretty scenery. With ancient castles, archaeological sites, and a plethora of other activities, you’ll need at least three days to experience all the highlights scattered around the lake.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to spend your time in Lake Garda, this post has got you covered with sample itineraries and insider tips on all the top tourist attractions.

While Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, planning a three-day trip here to experience all it has to offer — a well rounded trip — is quite simple.

Spend one day exploring the southern part of the lake, specifically the charming town of Sirmione. On another day, venture to the middle part of the lake and visit either Malcesine or Limone. Finally, wrap up your trip by exploring the northern part of Lake Garda in Riva.

This approach ensures you capture the essence of Lake Garda as a destination: exploring its cultural heritage, taking in the stunning scenery, and most importantly, enjoying a truly memorable time in northern Italy.

Lake Garda Itinerary: Limone

Whether you’re interested in a specific attraction or simply want to mix things up, the order in which you visit these towns is up to you.

Nonetheless, let me give you a brief overview.

The towns south of Lake Garda, which are closer to some of Italy’s major cities, are home to the lake’s most significant historical sites and rich heritage. This is where you’ll find the towns of Desenzano del Garda, Sirmione, and Peschiera del Garda.

On the other hand, the towns in the northern part of Lake Garda are renowned for their scenic beauty, owing to their location in the pre-alps. In towns like Riva del Garda and Torbole, you can simply hangout along the Lake Garda’s coastline to soak in the awe-inspiring views of the mountains and lake.

However, I find the towns in the heart of Lake Garda to be the most enchanting, charming, and serene. The town of Garda stands out in particular — it’s a fusion of heritage and breathtaking beauty, akin to a town plucked right out of a fantasy novel.

To give you a little background, Lake Garda is split among three provinces: Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The towns surrounding the lake are within easy reach of major cities such as Milan, Verona, Venice, Bolzano, and Trento. If you’re planning a journey across Northern Italy from Bergamo to Cortina d’Ampezzo, incorporating Lake Garda into your itinerary is a highly recommended convenient option.

Before we delve into the specifics of this itinerary, I highly recommend you take a look at my article on why you should visit Lake Garda. In it, I explore the numerous attractions and tourist activities that make Lake Garda a must-visit destination. Discover the lake’s photogenic spots, culinary delights, and much more. You might also want to check out Lake Como which is a beautiful alternative to Lake Garda.

Lake Garda Itinerary For 3 Days

I’ve crafted this 3-day itinerary with flexibility in mind, allowing you to swap ‘day 1’ with ‘day 2’ or ‘day 3’, based on your liking or booking availability. Don’t forget to check the practical information at the end of this post!

But don’t feel confined to these suggestions – there are endless possibilities for how you can spend your days in Lake Garda.

IMPORTANT: You can learn more about the attractions in this itinerary by reading the things to do section in this blog post. It offers valuable information and advice to help you have a great trip.

Day 1 in Lake Garda – Sirmione

Did you know that even with just a day in Lake Garda, you can immerse yourself in a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and relaxation?

Start your day in the enchanting town of Sirmione, a gem nestled on the southern shore of Lake Garda. As the early morning sun rises, step back in time at the Castello di Sirmione, a 13th-century fortress that offers breathtaking views of the lake.

Later on, embark on a Sirmione Boat Tour. This scenic tour will take you along the most beautiful parts of Lake Garda, offering a unique perspective of the area.

After the boat tour, take a break for lunch. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Il Girasole: A beloved spot among locals and tourists alike, Il Girasole serves up traditional Italian cuisine and pizzas that are to die for. And let’s not forget their extensive wine list – the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
  2. Ristorante L’Incontro: If you’re looking for a fine dining experience in Sirmione, look no further than Ristorante L’Incontro. This place is a hit with both locals and visitors, offering a menu that’s sure to delight.
  3. Antica Contrada Trattoria: For those who love to pair their meals with a good wine, Antica Contrada Trattoria is the place to be. Known for its local wines, this restaurant is a great spot to sample some regional flavors.

In the early afternoon, take a leisurely Sirmione Town Tour. You’ll get to explore the medieval town center and immerse yourself in its rich culture and history. Mid-afternoon, visit the Grotte di Catullo. These are the ruins of a Roman villa that offer a glimpse into the past. As the day winds down towards early evening, head to Jamaica Beach to unwind and soak up the sun. 

Here’s a handy table to guide you through your day in Sirmione. It’ll help ensure you don’t spend too much time at any one destination or activity.

Hour Destination
8:00 am Arrive at Sirmione
8:30 am Castello di Sirmione
10:00 am Sirmione Boat Tour
11:00 am Lunch
1:00 pm Sirmione Town Tour
2:30 pm Grotte di Catullo
5:00 pm Jamaica Beach
Lake Garda Itinerary: Sirmione (Day 1)

You can find Sirmione boat tour tickets here and other things to do in Lake Garda.

Day 2 in Lake Garda – Malcesine

Today’s journey takes us to the heart of Lake Garda, with Malcesine as our main destination. You’ll find that a half-day is ample time to explore the charm of Malcesine. In the afternoon, you have the freedom to choose your next adventure – either ascend to Monte Baldo or embark on a boat tour to Limone.

In summary, Malcesine is a charming town on the shores of Lake Garda that feels like a fairy tale with its cobbled streets, historical castle, and delightful food and drink.

In contrast, Monte Baldo is a mountain in the Italian Alps that offers breathtaking views of Lake Garda. Once you reach the top, you can choose to explore numerous hiking and walking trails or simply relax at one of the cafes or restaurants.

Lastly, we have Limone – a quaint town nestled on the hillside of Lake Garda where you can visit the historic Chiesa San Rocco for an incredible view over the town and the lake.

Option 1: Malcesine and Limone

Looking for a way to soak up the beauty and history of Lake Garda’s mid-section? Look no further than Malcesine and Limone. These two destinations offer the perfect combination of history and relaxation, making them a must-visit for any traveler looking to unwind and learn a thing or two.

Here’s how you can spend a day in Lake Garda focused on Malcesine and Limone.

Your adventure at Lake Garda begins very early in the morning in the picturesque town of Malcesine. Have a stroll, relax by the lakeside promenade, and see local shops. As the morning sun rises, you’ll find yourself exploring the historic Malcesine Castle, taking in its rich history and breathtaking views.

When the clock strikes noon, you’ll indulge in a delightful lunch to recharge. The early afternoon sees you setting sail on a scenic boat ride to Limone. Once there, you’ll step into the world of lemons at the Limonaia del Castèl museum.

And as the afternoon progresses, you’ll find yourself wandering through the charming streets of Limone town, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the lake during sunset.

Here’s a handy schedule to help you make the most of your day in the heart of Lake Garda.

Hour Destination
7:00 am Arrive and explore Malcesine
9:30 am Malcesine Castle
11:30 am Lunch
1:00 pm Boat ride to Limone
2:00 pm Limonaia del Castèl
3:00 pm Limone Town Tour
Lake Garda Itinerary: Malcesine and Limone (Day 2)

Option 2: Malcesine and Monte Baldo

If you’re a traveler looking for picturesque scenes and awe-inspiring views on your Malcesine trip, you’ll be pleased to know that Monte Baldo is just a stone’s throw away from the village.

Here’s a summary:

Your day begins early in the morning as you arrive and start exploring the charming town of Malcesine. Later in the morning, you’ll make your way to the historic Malcesine Castle where you can immerse yourself in the rich history and stunning views.

By midday, it’s time to take a break and enjoy a delicious lunch. In the early afternoon, you’ll embark on a scenic cable car ride to Monte Baldo. Upon arrival, you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in Monte Baldo, taking in the breathtaking views and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Check out this rough schedule below to guide you.

Hour Destination
7:00 am Arrive and explore Malcesine
9:30 am Malcesine Castle
11:30 am Lunch
1:00 pm Cable car to Monte Baldo
1:30 pm Spend the whole afternoon in Monte Baldo
Lake Garda Itinerary: Malcesine and Monte Baldo (Day 2)

Discover more alternatives to the activities indicated above from this list of things to do in Lake Garda.

Day 3 in Lake Garda – Riva

View of Arco from Arco Castle
View of Arco from Arco Castle

On this day, our goal is to explore and appreciate the natural beauty of Lake Garda’s northern region. We’ll start with a serene nature trip around Riva del Garda before heading back to town to take in its iconic landmarks and beautiful beaches, perfectly timed to catch the sunset.

To make the most of your day, I suggest doing any of the three activities before delving into the historic town: hiking Monte Brione, trekking the Ponale trail, or visiting Arco Castle. I recommend setting off on these hikes in the morning when it’s cooler.

Option 1: Riva and Monte Brione

Embarking on a journey to Monte Brione in Lake Garda is like stepping into a natural wonderland.

This upland area in the lower Val di Sarca serves as a natural viewing platform over the stunning Lake Garda. It’s an ideal destination for a springtime adventure, with trails winding through lush olive groves leading up to breathtaking viewpoints. Along the way, you’ll encounter remnants of fortifications built by the Austro-Hungarian army between 1862 and 1911, a testament to the area’s rich history.

If you’re planning to hike Monte Brione and visit Riva in the northern part of Lake Garda, here’s your go-to schedule.

Hour Destination
7:00 am Arrival at Riva del Garda
7:30 am Start hiking Monte Brione
10:00 am Back to Riva, explore the town, buy little souvenirs
11:00 am Lunch
1:00 pm Torre Apponale
2:00 pm Museo Alta Garda
4:00 pm Snacks and meals
5:30 pm Wait for sunset on the beach
Lake Garda Itinerary: Riva and Monte Brione (Day 3)

Option 2: Riva and Ponale Trail

Ponale Trail, hailed as one of Europe’s finest, begins in Riva del Garda and winds its way to the Ledro Valley. As you ascend the gentle incline, you’re treated to panoramic views of Lake Garda and the surrounding mountains.

Your journey starts with a climb to the first viewpoint, known as the Belvedere of lovers. Here, you can capture the perfect photo with Riva del Garda serving as a picturesque backdrop. As you continue along the trail, you’ll navigate through towering cliffs and overhangs with the shimmering lake beneath you.

One of the trail’s highlights is the Tagliata del Ponale, a bombproof fort carved entirely out of rock and built between 1904 and 1918. Climb up and soak in a breathtaking 180° view.

Below is a sample schedule for a day in the northern part of Lake Garda: a morning hike on the Ponale Trail followed by an afternoon visit to the town of Riva.

Hour Destination
7:00 am Arrival at Riva del Garda
7:30 am Start hiking Ponale Trail
12:00 pm Back to Riva, Lunch
2:00 pm Explore Riva, buy souvenirs
3:00 pm Torre Apponale
4:00 pm Museo Alta Garda
5:30 pm Wait for sunset on the beach
Lake Garda Itinerary: Riva and Ponale Trail (Day 3)

Option 3: Riva and Arco Castle

Visiting the Arco Castle in Lake Garda, located on a prominent spur high above Arco and the Sarca Valley in Trentino, northern Italy, is a unique experience in Lake Garda.

The journey to the castle itself is quite scenic, with three paths winding through olive groves in the hills. Once you reach the castle, you’ll find yourself in Prato della Lizza, a green balcony overlooking the Garda Trentino territory. Although it’s already in ruins, you can still see some of its frescoes depicting scenes of games of draughts and battles — they call it Sala degli Affreschi.

At the top of the castle stands the Torre Renghera. Its bell, known as the “renga”, used to call farmfolk to prayer.

The highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the breathtaking view from the top of the castle. It’s one of the most beautiful views in Trentino, offering amazing vistas over Riva and Lake Garda.

If you’re planning a trip to Lake Garda and have Arco Castle and Riva on your itinerary, here’s a suggested schedule for you.

Hour Destination
9:00 am Arrival at Arco, explore the town
10:00 am Arco Castle
12:00 pm Lunch
2:00 pm Arrival at Riva, explore the town
3:00 pm Torre Apponale
4:00 pm Museo Alta Garda
5:30 pm Wait for sunset on the beach
Lake Garda Itinerary: Riva and Arco Castle (Day 3)

You can replace some of the items above from the list of activities in Lake Garda (click the link to see).

Things to Do in Lake Garda

Indeed, Lake Garda, with its numerous towns and breathtaking scenery, offers a plethora of activities for a three-day visit.

From museums and archaeological sites to tranquil beaches and stunning mountains, from picturesque towns to castles that transport you back in time, Lake Garda has it all. In the following section, I’ll elaborate on the itineraries I’ve previously suggested.

Each item includes tips and practical information to ensure you have an incredible three-day experience in Lake Garda. So, without further ado, let’s start with the most visited castle on the lake, Castello di Sirmione!

1. Castello di Sirmione

Sirmione Castle - Lake Garda Itinerary

Have you ever laid eyes on a castle with a fortified harbor?

If not, then you must visit Castello di Sirmione situated at Lake Garda, which is one of the most picturesque places around.

So, what exactly is this place? Castello di Sirmione is a medieval fortification situated at the entrance of the village. Despite its small size compared to other castles in Europe, it has a long history dating back to the 14th century and is divided into 13 parts with a keep, bailey, barrack, tower, 3 ravelins, 2 wards, a fortified corridor, drawbridge, bridge ramp, dock, and dock ward.

Walking around Castello di Sirmione would make you feel like you’ve been transported hundreds of years back in time.

Out of the 13 parts, make sure to visit the dock ward and tower, which offer breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Climbing the tower gives you an elevated vantage point of the lake and the medieval village.

If you want a better perspective of the castle, then you can take a boat tour around Sirmione.

Practical information for Castello di Sirmione:

  • Google Maps Location: Castello Scaligero di Sirmione
  • Length of Visit: 1 to 2 hours
  • Entrance Fee: 6 EUR
  • Opening Hours: See table below (come 30 minutes before closing time).
Day Opening Hour Closing Hour
Tuesday to Saturday 8:30 am 7:30 pm
Sunday 9:15 am 5:45 pm
Castello di Sirmione Opening Hours during SUMMER – April to September
Day Opening Hour Closing Hour
Tuesday to Saturday 8:30 am 7:30 pm
Sunday 9:15 am 1:30 pm
Castello di Sirmione Opening Hours during WINTER – October to March

2. The Archaeological Site of Grotte di Catullo

Lake Garda Itinerary Grotte di Catullo

Sirmione is not just home to a castle, as there is another tourist attraction that one must see while in the area – the Archaeological Site of Grotte di Catullo.

This particular site is situated on the northernmost tip of the Sirmione peninsula. Though it may seem like just walls, arches, and olive trees now, it was once a luxurious Roman villa where early Romans indulged in pampering. The architecture of the ruins and the view of the surrounding area can transport you to a paradise-like world.

Whether you are a fan of ancient architecture or just exploring the area, you will undoubtedly be captivated by this archeological site.

The crumbling yet grandiose arcades and walls of the Roman Villa, paired with the refreshing olive trees and breathtaking views of Lake Garda, provide a unique experience that is not to be missed. You can also find signage and descriptions that offer insight into the Roman villa’s history.

Additionally, the site houses an indoor museum that contains artifacts from the region.

Practical information for the Archaeological Site of Grotte di Catullo:

Day Opening Hour Closing Hour
Weekdays 8:30 am 7:30 pm
Holidays 9:30 am 6:30 pm
Grotte di Catullo Opening Hours during SUMMER – April to September
Day Opening Hour Closing Hour
Weekdays 8:30 am (Archaeological Area & Museum) 5:00 pm (Archaeological Area)
7:30 pm (Museum)
Holidays 8:30 am 2:00 pm
Grotte di Catullo Opening Hours during WINTER – October to March

3. Jamaica Beach and Sirmione Town Tour

Lake Garda Itinerary Sirmione

Sirsiome offers more than just its castle and archaeological site for time-transporting experiences.

The town also has a beautifully preserved medieval village that completes the wanderlust-satisfying package it offers.

In just an hour, you can explore all corners and parts of the village, but it’s likely that you’ll be stunned and slowed down by the charming stone houses covered in flowering vines, pastel-colored buildings, and cobblestone streets that you’ll encounter at every turn.

Satisfy both your eyes and your taste buds at Sirmione’s lakeside restaurants and cozy cafes, some of which offer a stunning view of Jamaica Beach that’s perfect for capturing Instagrammable moments during sunset.

4. Sirmione Boat Tour

A trip to Sirmione would be incomplete without taking a boat tour that sails around the peninsula where the medieval village is located. This is a great opportunity to see Sirmione Castle and the Grotte di Catullo Archaeological site from a unique perspective on the lake.

During the 25-minute boat tour, you will also have the chance to learn about other notable landmarks, such as Maria Callas Villa, the Aquaria beauty center, and Sirmione’s sulfur spring. You’ll even get to cruise through and under the castle’s bridge.

The educational boat ride is made even better by the friendly captain, who shares some fascinating history about Sirmione and its landmarks as you take in the breathtaking views of Lake Garda.

You can find boat tours in Sirmione and Lake Garda here.

5. Malcesine Town Tour

Lake Garda Itinerary Malcesine

Lake Garda has a number of delightful towns that are sure to fill up any visitor’s camera’s digital storage in no time. One such town that you simply must visit, aside from the popular Sirmione, is Malcesine.

Situated on Lake Garda’s eastern coast and nestled between the slopes of Mount Baldo and the lake, Malcesine is easily the most picturesque town in the area. Its preserved medieval village, hilltop castle, and geographical location make it a must-see destination.

A good way to start exploring Malcesine is by taking a stroll through the historic town center. Along the way, you’ll encounter vine-covered houses, charming shops, and lovely restaurants. If you’re wondering which town has the best lakefront views, Sirmione or Malcesine, I would definitely recommend the latter.

You simply must visit the lakefront Garden of the Palazzo dei Capitani or Posterna beach, or Piana Beach for the stunning scenery. The glittering lake and towering mountains in the distance are absolutely breathtaking.

6. Castle of Malcesine

Lake Garda Itinerary Malcesone Castle

Lakefront promenades and beaches may have breathtaking views, but wait until you climb to the top of the 31-meter high tower of Malcesine’s castle. From this vantage point, you can take in stunning panoramic views of both the medieval village and Lake Garda.

Malcesine’s castle is a must-see destination when visiting the area. This ancient fortress dates back to the first millennium B.C. and offers visitors not only stunning views but also fascinating insights into the history and nature of Lake Garda. In addition to the crenellations and merlons that provide a glimpse into medieval life on the lake, visitors can also admire frescoes and explore Austrian gunpowder magazines.

The castle also houses an interactive natural history museum, where guests can engage with exhibits that focus on local wildlife, history, and fishing. There are opportunities to watch, touch, smell, and listen to the exhibits, making it an incredibly immersive experience.

Practical information for the Castello Scaligero di Malcesine

  • Google Maps Location: Castello Scaligero di Malcesine
  • Length of Visit: 2 to 3 hours
  • Entrance Fee: 6 EUR
  • Opening hours: every day (March 11 to November 3) from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

7. Monte Baldo

Lake Garda Itinerary Monte Baldo Cable Car

If you are travelling from Verona, Venice, Milan, or any southern region, Malcesine is one of the most stunning and conveniently located destinations for outdoor sports enthusiasts. The preserved village of Malcesine is where all the excitement begins, particularly at the cable car station for Monte Baldo.

Riding the cable car from Malcesine to Monte Baldo is the start of the adventure and it’s sure to captivate you. The views are absolutely breathtaking and the cable car slowly rotates, providing you with an epic 360-degree view of the Italian Alps, even if you’re just sitting still.

Monte Baldo-Malcesine cable car ride that lasts for about 20 minutes and involves two steps. Starting from Malcesine, your first stop is the San Michele Cableway Station, located at an elevation of 580 meters above sea level. From there, take another cable car to Monte Baldo, which is situated near Passo Tratto Spino, and is the final station at an impressive altitude of 1780 meters above sea level.

As you reach the summit, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the Italian Alps’ stunning snowy peaks to the north, as well as a unique perspective of Lake Garda. On clear days, you’ll marvel at how the terrain of central-northern Italy rises from the south.

Monte Baldo offers a variety of outdoor activities such as nordic walking, trekking, and mountain cycling. However, for those seeking an adrenaline rush, paragliding down to Lake Garda from Monte Baldo is an absolute must-try!

The sensation of soaring through the air is truly exhilarating.

If you haven’t experienced paragliding before, don’t worry – you can hire an experienced pilot to be your tandem for a completely safe and enjoyable paragliding adventure.

Malcesine – Monte Baldo Cable Car Schedule

During my research, I found out that the cable car had changed schedules and timetables several times.

We must look directly on Malcesine – Monte Baldo’s Cable Car website for current announcements and ascend and descend schedule.

8. Limone Town Tour

Lake Garda Itinerary Limone

If you’re looking for another charming town to visit near Malcesine, head across Lake Garda to Limone Sul Garda. It’s just a 20-30 minute boat ride away!

Like Sirmione and Malcesine, Limone is filled with picturesque houses adorned with flowering vines, lovely lakefront promenades, and scenic beaches that are perfect for snapping Instagram-worthy photos. You’re sure to be charmed by everything that Limone has to offer.

Limone Sul Garda is situated between a majestic limestone mountain and the serene Lake Garda. Due to its location, Limone’s beauty is unparalleled, and at certain angles, it can even surpass that of Sirmione and Malcesine. However, unlike these two towns, Limone lacks a castle or a unique landmark.

Nevertheless, the natural features of Limone more than make up for this. In fact, they are the village’s biggest tourism draw, making it a must-visit destination.

When you visit Limone, be sure to check out San Giovanni stream or Sopino Waterfall for a peaceful hike. Personally, I recommend the San Giovanni stream.

There’s a charming path alongside the stream that offers a picturesque view of the lake and snowy mountains on the eastern bank of Lake Garda when you walk downhill. The hike is quite easy, and the sound of the rushing water beside you is incredibly soothing.

If you’re an avid walker or cyclist, you might want to give the 2-kilometer-long cycle path along the shoreline of Lake Garda a try. The view from the path is simply stunning, and it’s definitely worth the visit!

9. Limonaia del Castèl

Lake Garda Itinerary Lemon Castle

While it is true that there is no actual castle in Limone Sul Garda, there is a museum called Limonaia del Castèl that contains a “castle” in its name.

As Lake Garda is renowned for its citrus fruits, there are various places around the lake where these fruits are carefully cultivated. One of these locations is Limonaia del Castèl in Limone, which is why the town is named Limone or “Lemons.” At the museum, visitors can learn about the history of lemons and how the locals cultivate them.

Additionally, there is an outdoor area where visitors can see lemon cultivation firsthand while enjoying a breathtaking view of the town.

Practical information for Limonaia del Castèl

  • Google Maps Location: Limonaia del Castèl
  • Length of visit: 1 to 2 hours
  • Entrance fee: 2 EUR
  • Opening hours: Limonaia del Castèl is open every day. However, opening hours differ per season. The last time I checked Limonaia del Castel website, the museum’s opening hours :
    • January 4 to May 22 – 10:00 am until 6:00 pm.
    • August 23 to September 18 – 10:00 am until 10:00 pm.
    • September 19 to October 31 – 10:00 am until 6:00 pm.

10. Town Tour Riva del Garda and Hiking (optional)

Lake Garda Itinerary Riva Del Garda

Riva del Garda is a beautiful town town located north of Lake Garda, nestled below the “wedge” shaped Monte Brione.

Similar to other towns and villages in the area, Riva boasts a historic center that is perfect for a picturesque stroll. However, what sets Riva apart from other towns in Lake Garda is its unique blend of Italian and Austrian culture.

You can see this influence in the architecture of some of the buildings, but more importantly, in the dishes served in local restaurants. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience during your trip to Italy, Riva is definitely worth a visit, especially if you don’t plan on traveling to other parts of South Tyrol.

When visiting Riva for the day, there are three must-do activities that come to mind. First and foremost, exploring the historic center is a must. The area is full of adorable shops, cozy cafes, and charming, pastel-colored houses that are sure to capture your heart.

Be sure not to miss the opportunity to snap a selfie in front of the Torre Apponale, a stunning 13th-century clock tower that dominates Riva’s skyline.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even climb the 34-meter tower to take in the idyllic surroundings from above.

Another things to do while in Riva is to visit the Museo Alto Garda, a museum housed in the Rocca di Riva, the town’s castle fortification. We’ll delve further into this attraction later. Additionally, taking in the gorgeous natural surroundings is a must-do activity.

Although the beaches in Riva are already breathtaking, there’s even more stunning scenery to be enjoyed further afield. A hike up Monte Brione or along the Ponale Trail, which is situated just on the outskirts of Riva, are both excellent options.

I described Ponale Trail and Monte Brione further in my other article (10 Reasons To Visit Lake Garda).

Practical information for Torre Apponale

  • Google Maps Location: Torre Apponale
  • Length of visit: 1 hour
  • Entrance fee: 2 EUR
  • Opening hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

11. Museo Alto Garda (MAG)

Lake Garda Itinerary MAG

If you’re planning a visit to Lake Garda, be sure to check out Riva del Garda’s Museo Alto Garda, also known as MAG.

While the exhibits may not be particularly flashy, MAG is an excellent resource for learning about the rich history and culture of Upper Garda. Spread across three floors, the museum houses an impressive collection of paintings, artworks, and historical items, some of which date back to prehistoric times. It’s fascinating to see artifacts from different time periods, including World War II.

What sets MAG apart is its unique location within the 12th-century fortress of Rocca di Riva, situated on an artificial island near the coast and Riva del Garda’s historic center.

If you stroll through the narrow streets of Riva del Garda’s historic center and arrive at Piazza Cesare Battisti, you might not suspect that the fortress is built on an island.

However, upon approaching it, one can’t help but be surprised by the boats parked beside it and the small bridge that serves as its only connection to the town.

Practical information for Museo Alto Garda

  • Google Maps Location: MAG Museo Alto Garda
  • Length of visit: 1 hour to 1.5 hours
  • Entrance fee: 5 EUR
  • Opening hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

12. Arco Castle

Lake Garda Itinerary Castle

If you think that the Malcesine castle or Sirmione castle is the most breathtaking castle in Lake Garda, then think again because Lake Garda has an 11th-century castle that will leave you in awe.

The Arco Castle may have partly fallen in disrepair, but its ruined tower and half-intact walls remain, with some frescoes still visible. What makes this castle extraordinary is its location – perched on a prominent spur that offers stunning views of the towns of Arco, Riva, and Lake Garda to the south and the Dolomites to the north.

Although it requires a little effort to get to the top (a 20-minute hike), the scenery you’ll see is undoubtedly unparalleled. In some seasons, you’ll even get to see a view of the vast vineyard plantation that looks like giant carpets of different shades of green.

The castle has two parts, the historic area, and the garden, and a boardwalk made of tempered glass where you can visit to see more exciting views of the towns below.

Practical Information for Arco Castle:

  • Google Maps Location: Castello di Arco
  • Length of Visit: 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Entrance Fee: 3.5 EUR
  • Opening Hours: The opening hour varies per season, but they should be accessible all week. Come 1 hour before closing time. It is open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm or 7:00 pm, depending on the season. See the exact details here.

When to Visit Lake Garda

So when’s the best time to visit Lake Garda?

Well, that really depends on what you’re looking for! If you love warm weather and don’t mind the crowds, summer is your best bet. If you prefer outdoor activities and fewer crowds, consider visiting in spring or early autumn.

Consider The Season

Let’s delve deeper and discuss what you can expect in Lake Garda per season.

In the spring (March to May), the weather starts to warm up with average temperatures ranging from a cool 10.1°C (50.2°F) in March to a more comfortable 18.7°C (65.6°F) in May. It’s a great time for outdoor activities like trekking or cycling. However, the lake might still be a bit too chilly for swimming.

Come summer (June to August), Lake Garda truly comes alive. If your idea of a perfect holiday involves relaxing on the beach, sunbathing, swimming or enjoying water sports, this is the time to visit. The average temperature ranges from 22.4°C (72.4°F) in June to 24.6°C (76.3°F) in July and the water warms up to around 23.6°C (74.5°F). Do keep in mind that this is peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices for flights and hotels.

As summer fades into autumn (September to November), the crowds start to thin out but the weather remains pleasantly warm, especially in September with an average temperature of 19.8°C (67.6°F). By November, it cools down to around 9.4°C (49°F), so pack accordingly.

Winter (December to February) brings a different kind of beauty to Lake Garda. The average temperature ranges from 4.8°C (40.6°F) in January to 5.8°C (42.4°F) in February. While snow is rare at the lake itself, you can often see snow-capped mountains in the north of the lake all year round.

However, do note that many tourist attractions and restaurants may be closed during these months.

Consider The Public Transportation

If you’re planning to use public transportation during your visit to Lake Garda, it’s important to note that the frequency of services can vary depending on the time of year. During the summer months, most buses and boats run at a frequent interval, making it easy to get around.

However, in the winter, the public transportation schedule is less regular and has less frequent departures. So, if you’re heavily relying on public transport, you might find it a bit less convenient to visit Lake Garda during the winter months or outside of the April to October period.

But remember, schedules can change, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest information before your trip. We’ll talk more about the public transportation in Lake Garda in a while.

Budget wise…

If you’re looking to save some money on your trip to Lake Garda, you might want to consider going in late February or early March. This is typically the cheapest time to visit.

As for accommodation, you could expect to pay anywhere from $85 to $99 per night for a 2 or 3-star hotel room, or $67 to $82 per night for a 1-bed vacation rental. However, if you’re planning to visit during the peak season, which is from mid-June to mid-September, you should be prepared for higher prices due to the increased demand.

How to Get to Lake Garda

Lake Garda is easily accessible from several airports. The closest one is Verona Catullo (VRN), just a stone’s throw away from the city of Verona. Once you land, hop on a shuttle bus to Verona Porta Nuova railway station.

From there, buses and trains can whisk you away to the eastern and southern shores of Lake Garda. For example, Rovereto, Malcesine, Sirmione, and Peschiera del Garda.

Another option is Milan Bergamo (BGY). It’s a bit further away (about 80 km or 50 miles), but it’s a major hub with lots of flights. A shuttle bus can take you from the airport to Brescia in about an hour.

From Brescia, it’s a quick train or bus ride to the lower part of Lake Garda, or a slightly longer journey to the upper part. There are also other airports like Milan Linate (LIN), Venice (VCE), and Milan Malpensa (MXP) that are a bit further away but might be more convenient depending on your travel plans.

If you’re not planning on renting a car, these airports might be better options as they have good public transport connections. If you’re planning a trip to Lake Garda from different cities in Italy, here are some options:

  • Florence: You could hop on a train to Verona and then catch a regional train to Peschiera Del Garda. If you’re up for a drive, it’s about a 3-hour journey.
  • Venice: A train from Venezia S. Lucia to Peschiera Del Garda is an option. It takes roughly 3 hours. If you’d rather drive, it’s about an hour and a half.
  • Rome: You can take a train from Roma Termini to Verona Porta Nuova, then catch a bus to Garda. This journey takes around 5 hours. If you prefer driving, it’s just under 5 hours.
  • Milan: A regional train from Milan’s Central Station will get you to Peschiera del Garda in about two hours. If you’d rather drive, it’s about an hour and a half.
  • Trento: Trento is the closest to Lake Garda. A short drive of less than an hour will get you there.

As for renting a car, it really depends on your plans. It’s not absolutely necessary to rent a car unless you prefer the convenience and flexibility it offers.

How to Get Around Lake Garda

Getting around Lake Garda is easy with three main options: bus, boat, or your own car. While there’s no train service directly around the lake, you can use the train to arrive or depart from Lake Garda via its two stations in Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda.

Lake Garda Itinerary boat

Navigating around Lake Garda is a breeze, even if you don’t have your own car. Buses service both the eastern and western shores of the lake, providing easy access to many locations.

For a different perspective, why not take a ferry? They connect several towns across the lake, offering a scenic and enjoyable journey. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even rent a motorboat, although they’re restricted to the southern part of the lake.

Most of the time, online navigation apps like Google Maps or Rome2Rio can be your best friends for getting directions during your trip to Lake Garda. However, it’s always a smart move to cross-check the official websites of Lake Garda’s public transportation services.

These links below are useful for confirming that the transport schedules are up-to-date.

Below is the summary of the public transportation routes from the links given above based on the details I found last time I checked:

  • Bus Line 199: Verona Airport to Verona 
  • East Coast Bus Lines 162 and 163: Verona-Bussolengo-Lazise-Bardolino-Garda
  • East Coast Bus Line 164: Verona-Peschiera-Lazise-Bardolino-Garda
  • East Coast Bus Line 165: Verona-Bussolengo-Garda
  • East Coast Bus Line 484: Garda-Torri Del Benaco-Brenzone Sul Garda-Malcesine-Torbole Porto-Riva del Garda
  • South Coast Bus Line LN026: Brescia-Desenzano-Sirmione-Peschiera-Verona
  • West Coast Bus Line LN027: Desenzano-Manerba-Salo-Limone-Riva del Garda

It’s important to mention that I’ve only included the most frequented towns in Lake Garda in the above descriptions for each bus line. Take LN027 as an example, it actually services over 20 bus stops and locations, but not all are listed above. Be sure to check out the links I’ve provided for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

There are three main lines in which ferries are operating in Lake Garda. Here’s the summary:

  • Desenzano – Peschiera – Riva
    • Regular tickets: 5-hour trip (end to end)
    • Fast tickets: 2.5-hour trip (end to end)
  • Maderno – Torri: 25 minutes
  • Limone (Traghetto) – Malcesine (Centrale + Traghetto): 20 minutes

Because there’s public transportation linking all towns in Lake Garda, you may want to consider staying in a single accommodation for your entire vacation.

Where to Stay in Lake Garda

For accommodation near Lake Garda, I’ve discovered quite a few charming towns. However, I’ve narrowed it down to my top five picks.

  1. Garda: Nestled in the middle of the lake’s eastern shore, Garda is a charming village surrounded by stunning landscapes and rolling green hills. It’s a great central location with a variety of accommodations to suit different budgets. However, it can get a bit crowded during peak tourist season.
  2. Sirmione: This town is perched on a peninsula that stretches out into the lake. It’s rich in history and offers a variety of restaurants, plus it’s easy to hop on a ferry to other resorts. But keep in mind, it’s quite popular so it can get busy and might be a bit pricier.
  3. Desenzano del Garda: You’ll find this lively town at the southwestern end of the lake. It’s known for its vibrant nightlife and offers a wide range of places to stay. But if you’re looking for a quiet, laid-back vacation, this might not be your cup of tea.
  4. Riva del Garda: This town is located at the northernmost tip of the lake. It’s perfect for first-time visitors and those who love outdoor activities like windsurfing and mountain biking. However, its location might make it less convenient if you’re planning to visit other towns around the lake.
  5. Bardolino: Situated just south of Garda town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, Bardolino is famous for its wine, charming old town, and beautiful promenade along the lake (great place to relax and chill!). But if you’re looking for nightlife options, they might be limited here.

Practically, when it comes to choosing a place to stay in Lake Garda for a 3-day Lake Garda trip, you can’t go wrong with Garda town.

Nestled in the center of Lake Garda’s most popular destinations — Sirmione, Malcesine, Riva, and Limone — it offers convenient access to these must-visit spots.

From Garda, you’re just an hour away from both Sirmione and Riva, 45 minutes from Malcesine, and a short 20-minute boat journey from Limone.

Looking for a place to stay in Lake Garda? Discover the best hotel deals right here. This hotel finder comes with a handy map feature, making it easy for you to find hotels in the most convenient locations.

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Lake Garda Itinerary: How to Spend 1,2,3 Days in Lake Garda
Lake Garda Itinerary: How to Spend 1,2,3 Days in Lake Garda

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