If there is one single thing I knew I must do while living it Italy, it was visit the Dolomites. After posting a ton of photos on Instagram (check them out here), I realized that many others dream of visiting as well. The planning and researching stages of this trip were a bit tedious (as with our trip to Ireland), since I didn’t really know from the beginning which places were a “must see” in the Dolomites. Thus, I thought I’d write about exactly what to see and how to visit here!
From my Instagram stories, I’ve had many questions about the Dolomites. To clarify, the Dolomites are located in northern Italy and are a part of the Southern Limestone Alps. One thing you will realize very quickly is that everything there has two names – one in Italian (as they are in Italy) and one in German. While you’re there, you feel like you are in Germany. The towns have a very Bavarian feel and many people wear traditional Bavarian attire. Just think of it as a place where you can order both pasta AND apple strudel at dinner.
Summer is the most popular time for hiking, as the weather is warm. August is the busiest month, so I would aim for June or July. September to October are fall colors time and November begins the ski season. If you choose to visit in a shoulder season, you will find lack of accommodations and restaurant options. Thus, it is important to plan accordingly.
There is no airport in the Dolomites! Thus, I would recommend driving. We flew to Venice (Marco Polo, but you can also fly to Treviso as well), rented a car, and drove 2.5 hours north. You can also fly into Verona, Innsbruck, Milan or Munich. I’d recommend you Google Map it. Here is a great “how to get to the Dolomites” resource here with more information.
When flying in and renting a car, I’d highly suggest ensuring the rental car office will be open when your flight arrives 🙂
Great question! This was the most difficult one for us to answer for ourselves. Cortina d’ampezzo is a great base for Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Sorapis, Lago di Braies, and Cinque Torri. Ortesi is a great base for Alpe di Siusi, Seceda, and Lago di Carezza. Passeo Gardena and Passeo Sella are between the two towns, so you can stop in on your way though.
There are a ton of other towns to stay in, but these two are general “hubs.” You can also stay in the rufigos, but to do this, you need to pack SUPER LIGHT because you’ll have to carry all of your stuff up the trails with you. So, keep this in mind (and make a reservation in advance).
I’m listing Tre Cime di Lavaredo first because it is probably the most iconic place in the Dolomites and it was my personal favorite to hike.
To get to Tre Cime, use this pin here. You will park right at the peaks, but to see them properly, you need to walk away from them (because they are just so huge). On your way up to the parking lot, you will reach a booth with an attendant. The fee for parking is 30€ per car. I know, it’s outrageous, but totally worth it for the views.
We arrived at Tre Cime around three hours before sunset. This was just as everyone was hiking back to the car to head home for the day. However, we had sunset views in mind, so this worked perfectly for us.
From the parking lot, walk toward Rifugio Lavaredo on top of the hill. Once you reach it, you just follow the path after it. Then you are on your way! We walked for about two hours until we reached Rifugio Locatelli (the third one on the path). Then, we stopped for a while before heading back in the dark.
There are many other paths you can take and hikes you can do here besides this one. For example, instead of walking to the first rifugio, you can walk away from it for additional stunning views (like, Paternsattel). You can also keep walking past Rifugio Locatelli if that is your jam. Many options for exploration here.
For lodging on site, you can camp in the parking lot or stay in a rifugio. We opted not to do either (as I’m not really down with group sleeping hostel style). Also, these rifugios offer meals, so you can stop in and grab a beer or food. Note, they are cash only!!!!
There are some incredibly steep drops here, so if you are bringing kids, make sure they don’t walk too close to the edge! Paths are very wide, so this should be doable.
This was the most popular place I visited (according to my Instagram replies, at least). Everyone seems to be in love with the light blue waters here and I can’t blame them.
To reach Lago di Sorapis, park on the side of the road at the Passo Tre Croci (click for pin). There will be a big field (probably with horses or cows). The trail begins at the end of that field. To know you are going in the right direction, look for signs for trail 215. You will follow 215 all the way to the lake. This is most certainly a trail that I would want to do in either the early morning hours or late in the evening (and walk back in the dark, as we did). The path starts out wide, but narrows quickly to a one person at a time path. There are also some areas where you must hold on to a wire rope, as you are walking along the edge of the mountain with no fence (sheer drop-off).
For this hike, I would not bring small children (unless you plan to carry them). As I said, the path is narrow, and the drop offs are steep!
Another iconic Dolomites peak, Seceda, is breathtaking! To reach the top, you can simply take a cable car from Ortesi (this is what I would recommend). It is 17€ one way or 34€ to return. The hours for the cable car are limited (08:30 – 17:30 in summer) and a ride to the top takes approximately 30 minutes if you time it right. You will first take a gondola and then board a cable car that takes off every 15 minutes. Just be careful not to get stuck up there if you aren’t prepared for the 2+hour hike to the bottom.
If you choose to hike up, you can park at the Praplan Parking lot. The hike is relatively steep and takes around two hours.
Once at the top, you can walk (uphill) for approximately 10-15 minute to get the best view of the Geisler Peaks. There are also endless hike possibilities here as well.
Seceda is open for skiing in winter as well.
This Alpine meadow is absolutely worth visiting. As the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe, Alpe di Siusi is home to some worthwhile views.
To reach the top. You have two options: drive and hike or take a cable car. The cable car is located here . Like Seceda, the hours are limited, so it’s important to plan accordingly. If you choose to drive and walk (as we did), it is very important to note that there are many driving restrictions associated with Alpe di Siusi to preserve its natural beauty.
To drive, park at the Compatsch parking lot and then walk the remainder of the way. A good path is to follow the road to the ADLER Lodge Alpe. It is incredibly important that you don’t drive past the Compatsch parking lot AND that you don’t drive to or from the Compatsch parking lot between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00. This is because this road is restricted usage. Both driving past the parking lot and driving to and from the parking lot after 9 and before 17 will result in fines upward of 150€. We drove here at 04:30 and left by 06:30 (for sunrise) and did not have to pay a parking attendant. However, parking for the day at that lot is 18€.
During our drive from one hotel to another, we drove through both of these mountain passes. The roads wind back and forth up and down the mountains and the views are simply stunning. We pulled off the road quite a few times to soak in the views and take a few photos. There are a plethora of hikes and gondolas around the area, so you have plenty of options to choose from if you elect to do more than just pull over.