The 4 boat trips on Lake Como that I recommend you take!
Lake Como boat tours: tips from a local
Visiting the lake without literally ‘sailing on it’ is like visiting it halfway. You have to sail on its waters to fully enjoy the beautiful sensations and atmospheres that the lake landscape can offer!
The Lake Como navigation service, especially from spring to autumn, makes it possible to reach all the main places of interest on the lake and to move from one shore to the other with ease.
Here you can find the 4 main and most popular routes:
- Como Basin
- Como – Bellagio/Bellagio – Como
- Central Lake
- Upper Lake
I’ll explain them in detail below, but first I’ll leave you a couple of very useful tips to help you organise your transfers.
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR LAKE COMO BOAT TOUR
- choose the area of the lake to visit
- decide the country from which to start
- consult the timetables of the Lake Como Navigation Service in order to calculate the time of the movements
- buy the ticket at one of the ticket office
Recently the online purchase service has also been activated, but ONLY for simple trips, NOT for the purchase of free circulation tickets. So if you want to visit one of the 4 areas I mentioned above, making several stops within an area, you have to buy the ticket physically at one of the ticket offices.
Finally, for easier consultation of the timetables (which is not as easy as it sounds!), bear in mind that there are three different types of “boat” on the lake:
- ferries (those on which you can also take your car)
- hydrofoils (fast service)
When deciphering timetables, whether in paper or PDF form, online, knowing this distinction can make things easier ;-).
But now let’s finally see which are, in my opinion, the 4 unmissable boat trips on Lake Como!
Discover Lake Como with the Lonely Planet guidebook
4 MUST-DO BOAT TOURS ON THE LAKE
1# COMO BASIN TOUR
This is the boat tour around Como.
It is possible to decide whether to do it with stages or without stages.
The places from which you can embark are Como, Tavernola, Cernobbio, Moltrasio and Torno.
You can stay on the boat until you have returned to the starting point or decide, if you have time, to get off at the various stops and visit the villages, then take the next boat and continue the tour.
Every town you land in is worth a visit, not to mention Como.
The best thing to do is to take one of the first boats of the day, so that you have plenty of time to visit and move from one village to another.
There is no shortage of boats in this part of the lake, and one leaves practically every half hour (or even less at certain times of the day).
2# COMO – BELLAGIO / BELLAGIO – COMO
The time needed to go by boat from Como to Bellagio (or vice versa) is almost 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Precisely for this reason, opting for this route means choosing to enjoy a sort of mini-cruise to admire one of the most beautiful branches of the lake in its entirety.
Of course in this case, for obvious reasons of time, it is not advisable to get off and visit the villages in between. But the journey itself will be a real pleasure and will offer wonderful views.
Often, when this route is chosen, the return journey is by hydrofoil (rapid service with supplement and compulsory booking) or by bus, thus halving the time.
Please note that it is possible to embark from any town along the Como – Bellagio / Bellagio – Como route, thus reducing the duration of the journey.
3# TOUR OF THE CENTRAL LAKE
Again, you can decide to do the tour without stops or buy a day ticket and then visit the villages.
In the first case the time needed to do the complete tour is about 2 hours and the places where you can embark are: Menaggio, Varenna, Bellagio, San Giovanni (hamlet of Bellagio), Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, Lenno.
Considering, however, that we are talking about one of the most famous areas of the lake, never as in this case the advice is to get off the boat and visit at least a couple of the places mentioned.
I say “at least a couple” because the choice is really embarrassing and each of the villages you come to would be worth a visit of AT LEAST an hour, if you’re really tight!
Villages, villas, lakeside promenades, castles and gardens… a real concentration of beauty to be enjoyed.
Keep in mind that if you opt for the excursion with stages, the best way to get the most out of your ticket, and to be able to see 2-3 places, is to take a boat in one of the places I have mentioned, between 9 and 10 o’clock at the latest.
With the day ticket you can board both boats and ferries.
4# BOAT TRIP ON THE UPPER LAKE WITH LUNCH ON BOARD
In this part of the lake the argument with stages/without stages does not stand up because the trips are much less frequent.
However, there is one excursion in this area that is definitely worth doing.
The destination is the Abbey of Piona, an enchanting place at the top of the lake, secluded and far from the crowds of other places.
In this case the advice is as follows: departure at 12:39 from Menaggio, on a daily boat (i.e. running every day), with restaurant on board, arrival in Piona at 14:25, visit to the Abbey and return either at 15:13 by boat or, if you wish to take more time, at 16:11 by hydrofoil (fast service, with supplement), reaching Menaggio in only 50 minutes.
THE TIMETABLES LISTED ARE ALWAYS TO BE CHECKED on the official website of Navigazione Lago di Como, as they are subject to change from one year to the next.
TOURS WITH A PRIVATE BOAT
The possibilities to admire villages, shores and mountains from the lake are different, depending on budget and time available.
In addition to the tours of the navigation service described above in fact, you can also decide to rent a private boat with driver, rent a motorboat to drive personally or rely on a private boat tour.
To avoid any kind of problem here are some examples of tours that you can book to enjoy a day at the lake in total relax: 1-day cruise from Milan, a full-day tour of Lake Como or, why not, a cruise and landscapes experience!
In short, now you just have to choose, with the certainty that in any case you will spend a fantastic day!