The Italian Dolomites are located near Austria in the country’s northeast corner. This jaw-dropping mountain range is chock full of monumental peaks, turquoise blue lakes, and alpine meadows. it is an outdoor mecca THAT exudes an abundance of culture and charm. In this blog post, I am going to share all of our top stops and why you need to add them to your itinerary, asap!
Famous for hiking, cycling, climbing, skiing, and paragliding, there was no question in our minds that we wanted to visit this unique part of Italy during our honeymoon. The Dolomites, full of incredible things to do, quickly became one of our favourite places in the country.
From the grand landscapes and endless hiking trails to the sometimes nauseating switchbacks, every inch of this area was authentic and scenic. It felt more like we were travelling through small villages in the Swiss Alps than through Italy.
How to get to the Dolomites:
The easiest way to get to the Dolomites is to fly into Venice and rent a car. From the airport, it will be around 2.5 hour’s drive. We booked our car well in advance and it was very reasonably priced, around 500 Euros for 11 days.
It is possible to take public transit to the Dolomites, however, we would not recommend it. Trust us on this one, having a car will make your life so much easier. It will save you time and allow you to get everywhere you want to go easier and more efficiently.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Here are all of the best things to do in the Dolomites this summer or fall!
Gardena Pass is a wonderfully picturesque mountain pass in the Italian Dolomites. Connecting two valleys, Val Gardena and Val Badia, you are likely to drive through it at least once as you explore the area.
David and I parked at a free lot called Parcheggio Rifugio Frara an hour before sunset. Gardena Pass offers mind-blowing views around every corner. Plus, it boasts several opportunities for short hikes and photo ops. You do not need to walk far to observe views like this!
When we arrived in late September it was FREEZING as the sun went down. If you visit in the spring or fall, we highly recommend bringing a down jacket and gloves depending on the weather forecast.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
10 kilometres & 500 m elevation gain
Known for its one-of-a-kind geography, fantastic mountain huts, and jaw-dropping scenery, Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the most famous areas in northern Italy. The 10-kilometre trail does a complete 360-degree loop around three striking mountains. This allows hikers to admire Tre Cime from a variety of different angles.
We hiked the trail counterclockwise which seemed to be the typical flow of traffic. The first few kilometres were the busiest. While the views here were nice, they got much better around the backside.
The second half of the hike was our favourite part, offering quieter trails and better views of Tre Cime. Near the end of the loop, there are a few small lakes that make for great reflection photos on a calm day. They are known as the Sorgenti Fiume Rienza AKA the springs of the Rienza River.
If you are lucky enough to be here at sunset, the entire south side of Tre Cime di Lavaredo lights up in mesmerizing shades of orange and crimson red.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo & Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint: Epic Hike in The Italian Dolomites!
Cadini di Misurina
3.2 kilometres & 235 m elevation gain
While Tre Cime is stunning, there is another viewpoint in the area that is, in our opinion, even more impressive. Many people arrive here and don’t even realize that Cadini di Misurina is accessible from the same parking lot.
Because of the toll road and the long drive, we highly recommend doing both hikes on the same day to save time and money.
The unique thing about Cadini di Misurina is the trail that leads out onto a narrow strip of rocks. Once you arrive, you are rewarded with one of the most exquisite mountain views of all time. Seriously.
If you are lucky enough to be the first ones here, as we were, take advantage of it! I promise it will not last long. We had about 15 minutes of pure bliss before a line began forming behind us.
Tip for photographers: bring a zoom lens and your drone if you’ve got one!
Hotel Col Alto in Corvera
Situated at the base of the striking Sassongher Peak, Corvara is a picturesque place to stay in the Dolomites. Surrounded by infinite hiking trails, ski lifts, outdoor activities, and viewpoints, this place is an adventure lover’s paradise!
The impressive property at Hotel Col Alto is comprised of two beautiful buildings connected by an underground tunnel. Amenities include a large pool, a fantastic spa area, and a delectable dining experience.
While booking your stay, you will have a few different food options to choose from. One is to select only breakfast, and the other is called half board. We would highly recommend the half-board option! It includes a massive breakfast buffet as well as a fantastic 4- course dinner you are not going to want to miss.
As we walked into the Suite Wellness Deluxe, we were completely blown away. It is one of the nicest rooms we have stayed in not only in Italy but anywhere in the world!
It included a spacious living room, a sizeable bedroom with a plush king-sized bed, a two-person soaker tub and our very own private sauna! The suite also had two balconies that gave us mesmerizing sunset views over Corvara and Gardena Pass.
Related Post: Hotel Col Alto: Elegant Luxury in the Heart of the Dolomites!
This dramatic ridge is easily accessible with a ton of space to spread out once you reach the top. The sunset here is especially delightful, but you will have great views at any time of the day.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Seceda Ridge is to take the Ortisei-Furnes-Seceda Gondola from Ortisei in Val Gardena. A ticket for this gondola will cost €27.50 one-way or €38 roundtrip per person (2023). From the top station, it’s only about a 10-minute walk to the ridgeline.
From here you can follow different trails as you admire the jagged rock formations in front of you. There is even a restaurant and a playground at the top.
If you choose to forgo the cable car, it will be 8.4 kilometres each way with a whopping 1,275 meters of elevation gain. Because the cable car is only open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, some photographers buy a one-way ticket to the top, stay for sunset, and then hike down. Make sure to bring a headlamp and hiking poles if you choose this option!
Lago di Sorapis
11.6 kilometres & 460 m elevation
Hiking to Lago di Sorapis was one of our favourite things to do in the Dolomites because of the gorgeous bright blue lake at the top. There are a few different trails you can take, but we would recommend trail 215.
We did not take this trail and ended up gaining about 650 meters of elevation over 1.5 kilometres. Note to self… avoid trail 216! According to friends, trail 215 is steep in parts but overall much more manageable.
The trailhead is located HERE, just down the street from B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina. There is parking available on the side of the road, at the B&B, or in a gravel lot just west of the trailhead.
Once you reach the top, there is plenty of space to spread out, find a place to sit and eat your lunch. You can also choose to hike around the lake which will add just over a kilometre to your journey.
Col de la Puina
7.1 kilometres & 565 m of elevation
Col de la Puina is a lesser-known hike in the Dolomites but we have no idea why! It gave us mad Cadini di Misurina vibes and we didn’t pass a single person on the trail. It starts off gradually along a dirt road from the parking lot, Parcheggio Rifugio Città di Fiume.
The last half of the hike is a bit gruelling with a steady incline to the top. Once you reach the ridge, however, all of your efforts are rewarded with panoramic views and peaceful seclusion.
We began this hike around 3 PM and stayed at the top for sunset which we would highly recommend. We could have stayed here for hours, it’s just that gorgeous.
This was one of our all-time favourite things to do in the Dolomites so don’t miss it! Make sure you walk to both sides of the ridge as they offer different views and photo ops.
Val di Funes
Val di Funes (AKA Villnöß) is a magical place to explore if you want to experience a quintessential town in the Dolomites. Most famous for the Chiesetta di San Giovanni in Ranui (AKA church of St. Johann or St. Johns church), the rolling green hills and prominent rock faces make this entire valley postcard-worthy.
It is impossible to find a bad view in Val di Funes!
We would recommend you park HERE to visit the Church of St. Johann. You can even go inside for a small fee. From there, either drive or walk to the Chiesa di Santa Maddalena. This is another beautiful church in the area.
From this street, you can visit several wineries, shops, and restaurants. We would recommend taking some time to walk around and enjoy the scenery. If you’re craving pizza, we ate dinner at a place called Waldschenke and it was fantastic.
7.5 kilometres & 400 m of elevation
Located in Val di Funes, Giesler Alm (AKA Rifugio Odle) is one of the most beautiful places we visited in Italy. This mountain hut is located in an alpine meadow, serving food and drinks from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Make sure to explore the meadows around the Rifugio as they offer some of the most iconic views in the Dolomites. There is also a large outdoor area with lounge chairs and a patio where you can order a drink and enjoy the scenery.
To get here, we parked at the Zanser Alm parking lot (AKA Parkplatz Zanser Alm or Parcheggio Malga Zannes) for a small fee. You can find restaurants, maps, and washrooms near the trailhead but cell service is very limited.
There are a few different options for this hike. We chose the most direct out-and-back route (trail 36) as we were short on time. If you would like a bit more exercise, you can turn it into a loop on the Adolf Munkel Trail. This increases your distance to 9.2 kilometres with 440 metres of elevation gain.
Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies (AKA Pragser Wildsee) is the most photographed spot in the Dolomites and there is no question why. This turquoise-blue lake is surrounded by a lush forest and a stunning mountain backdrop.
From May to October the boathouse is open for canoe rentals. We were the first people in line giving us a wonderful opportunity to have the lake to ourselves for a few short minutes. Double-check online HERE for opening hours.
Lago di Braies is such a common photo spot that it is commonly nicknamed “Lago di Instagram”. Because of this, we would recommend arriving first thing in the morning for the best chance of beating the crowds. Another great tip is to hike the 4-kilometre trail around the lake as most people stay near the boathouse.
Alpe di Siusi
Alpe di Siusi (AKA Seisler Alm) is the largest high-altitude alpine meadow in Europe and an incredible stop for your Dolomites road trip. The rolling hills, vibrant wildflowers, and winding roads are picturesque and charming.
Getting here can be a challenge, but I promise it’s worth the extra effort. The first method is to stay at one of the hotels in the area. If you are a hotel guest, you will be allowed to drive all the way to Alpe di Siusi at any time of day and explore at your leisure.
*If we were to do this again, this is the option we would choose. Make sure to book your hotel in advance as they fill up fast!*
If you are not staying here, it becomes a bit more difficult. As a day visitor, you are not actually allowed to drive the road that takes you to Alpe di Siusi. We would recommend driving to a town called Compaccio (AKA Compatsch) and parking HERE. It costs €19 which is steep, but options are limited.
From there you can hike along the restricted road toward Alpe di Siusi. It is only about an hour and the views are spectacular the entire way! The road to Compaccio is closed to incoming traffic from 9-5 daily, so if you plan to drive you NEED to get there before 9 AM. You can drive out at any time.
Upon arrival, there are several restaurants where you can grab a well-deserved coffee and breakfast. If you would like to visit after the road closes at 9 AM, you will need to take public transit or a gondola.
During our honeymoon, David and I had the pleasure of visiting Naturhotel Leitlhof in San Candido, Italy. This beautiful hotel, restaurant, and spa is elegant, welcoming, and one of a kind.
Included with your stay, each guest receives complimentary access to the 3-level spa spanning over 2000 m². Relaxing, romantic, and rejuvenating, it was a true highlight of our trip.
Spas are something we don’t see all the time in Canada but we were delighted by their popularity in the Dolomites. Although many hotels offer spa facilities in this wonderful area, Leitlhof offers the most impressive and expansive spa facilities we have ever seen!
When booking your stay, we would recommend choosing the half-board option. It includes an exquisite breakfast buffet as well as a delectable 4-course dinner.
Related Post: Naturhotel Leitlhof: Luxurious Green Hotel in The Dolomites!
8.4 kilometres & 500 m of elevation
This was our first hike in the Dolomites and it remains one of our all-time favourites! Lago Federa is a vibrant alpine lake surrounded by jagged peaks and lush forests. The lake is part of a popular hiking circuit called The Croda da Lago Circuit.
We hiked this as an out and back because we were short on time, but if you would like to complete the entire circuit it will be 12.9 kilometres and 900 metres of elevation gain. Either way, park HERE and follow trail 434.
The majority of this hike is through a pine forest. You will cross several bridges and endure a few sets of steep switchbacks. About 3 kilometres in there is a short detour to the left which brings you to a beautiful viewpoint over Cortina d’Ampezzo.
This is followed by one last grind of steep switchbacks and a short downhill walk to the lake. There is a trail around the perimeter of Lago Federa which offers a plethora of fantastic viewpoints. On the shore, you can grab something to eat, drink, or even stay the night at Rifugio Croda da Lago.
To be honest with you, I really went back and for about including Lago Carezza (AKA Karasee) on this list. We read countless blog posts that went on and on about how wonderful it was. This lead us to believe it would be worth the 2-hour detour it entails.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were seriously underwhelmed. This small, drive-up lake was jam-packed with tourists and completely fenced off to the public. The water colour was pretty, but there are several turquoise lakes in the Dolomites that offer, in our opinion, a much nicer experience.
Perhaps it was because we prefer a hike, or because we hate crowds, or because we were having an off day, but this was our least favourite stop in the Dolomites.
THE VERDICT: If it’s on the way to a different attraction or hike you are interested in, it might be worth a 10-minute pit stop to snap a few photos. If you are making a trip solely for this lake, however, we would not personally deem it worth the trip.
*The caveat to this is if you have mobility issues or if you don’t want to visit any hike-in lakes. In that case, the accessibility of Lago Carezza may appeal to you.*
We hope you enjoy your time in Italy! Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comment below with your favourite things to do in the Dolomites. We would love to hear from you.
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