DOLOMITES ITINERARY – BEST PLACES TO VISIT
Are you headed to the Dolomites in Italy? Even though I envy you, I share some tips with you on the best things to do in the Dolomites.
While Northern Italy has many beautiful places to visit, the Dolomites are one of the most breathtaking! The Dolomite mountain range in Italy is one of the most beautiful outdoor destinations in Europe. When I finally visited the Dolomites – mainly because I wanted #ChasingLakes – I was in love. But the Dolomites are not only about the lakes. I mean, look at those mountains… And let’s not forget the pretty towns and cities in the region. So in a few words: The Dolomites are breathtaking.
The Dolomites are located in the northeastern part of Italy, within the provinces Belluno, South Tyrol, and the region of Trentino. Known as the “Pale Mountains,” they are famous for skiing in the winter, and mountain climbing, hiking, BASE jumping, and cycling in the warmer seasons. In 2009, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE YOUR DOLOMITES ITINERARY
In this post, you will find out about the best things to do in the Dolomites, the best places to visit, and travel tips. You can also use this post as a Dolomites itinerary for up to 7 days.
Where to Stay in the Dolomites
I visited this region twice, once for 5 nights (then going to Lake Garda, Venice, and Verona), and came back afterward and spent another 4 nights there. My advice is to plan very carefully where you stay. It takes a long time to get from one place to another, whether you drive or use public transportation. Driving 50km can take even 2 hours because the roads are narrow and winding. In high season (July and August) and on weekends, there can even be traffic jams slowing you down.
It can be really time-consuming to travel in this area, so my tip would be to stay at two different locations if you visit for 3 or more nights.
Considering the places in the Dolomites that I visited, I suggest staying first in Cortina d’Ampezzo. It is quite close to places like Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Braies, and Lake Sorapis. For the second part of this trip, I suggest staying in/near Ortisei.
- Cristallo Hotel is the best luxury hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo. It is part of the Luxury Collections Resort and is located close to the town center of Cortina. Click here to find out about rates for the luxury hotel.
- Hotel Montana – I changed hotels spontaneously and booked a night in Cortina d’Ampezzo at this hotel. My arrival was a bit disappointing, but I really liked it once the receptionist and I solved the issues. The breakfast was quite good, and I liked the location (and it is great value for money). Click here to find out the rates for Hotel Montana.
- Hotel Angelo Engel is a beautiful luxury resort in the town center of Ortisei that comes with great wellness options and 2 swimming pools.
- For a more budget-friendly hotel in Ortisei, check out Hotel Garni Vanadis, close to the town center.
- Just in case you want to stay somewhere else, here are two more tips for your trip to the Dolomites.
- Hotel Sorapiss is a well-rated medium-priced hotel near Lake Sorapis (which could be a good base if you stay less than 7 days in the Dolomites and you want to chase a few lakes only). Find out more about prices and availability here.
- If you want to stay near Lago Braies (also a good choice), then Hotel Lago di Braies is perfect if you like staying next to the lake (with all the perks that come with it, like enjoying the lake early in the morning when no one else is around). Click here to find the best rates for your stay at Hotel Lago di Braies.
How to Get Around
- During the high seasons, public transportation is the best way to get around the Dolomites. You can usually get a hotel card/guest card that you can use to get around on public transportation, and it doesn’t cost extra. Of course, it depends on where you stay exactly and where you want to go. The buses frequently run in the busy months and bring you to most attractions.
- However, for the Drei Zinnen, you will need a ticket for a shuttle bus that is a bit more expensive. In the shoulder season, buses run less frequently and you will have to plan accordingly.
- I used public transportation two or three times, and it worked well. I would have used it more often but driving as a passenger in the mountain caused motion sickness, so I rather drive myself.
- Keep in mind that in Northern Italy, the streets are better than in many other places in the country, but the mountain roads are very narrow.
- Drivers go fast and often cut you off. Driving is challenging, though not as much as in southern Italy. I didn’t particularly appreciate driving here as much as in Switzerland, even though it is also very mountainous and the window views are stunning. However, sometimes it just didn’t feel as safe. However, as I get motion sick on buses, I rather drive myself (yes, if I drive myself, I do not get sick).
- Also, driving in Italy is expensive. Most streets are free, but you will have to pay a toll at times on the highways. It’s about 9€ per 100 km. You can calculate tolls in advance here.
- Unfortunately, gas in Italy is some of the most expensive in Europe.
So should you road trip the Dolomites or use public transportation? Honestly, none is something I 100% recommend because both have some major disadvantages. However, for me, road-tripping in the Dolomites worked better.
Best Time to Visit the Dolomites
The Dolomites can be visited all year round. And while the Dolomites are also a perfect winter destination for ski lovers, this post focuses more on non-winter sports activities.
- I think the summer months are NOT the best time to visit because it can get “scorching.” I am not someone who enjoys the heat – especially not if I plan outdoor activities like hiking. In July and August, temperatures rise to 30°C (86°F). Also, it is the peak season, and more people visit, which leads to crowded trails and more expensive hotel prices.
- My tips would be to visit in May, June, September, and early October. I visited in September and totally loved it. It was not crowded, the weather was warm (23/25°C), and the hotel prices dropped. Restaurants/activities are open during these months, and you can do all the top things you might not be able to do in the colder months.
- I wouldn’t advise visiting any later than mid-October because shops and roads may be closed as it gets closer to winter.
More Travel Tips For the 7-Day Dolomites Trip
- In the Dolomites, there are actually three different languages spoken: German, Italian, and Ladin (the local dialect). Many places have two or even three names. Most of the staff at hotels, restaurants, and in the tourism industry speaks some (basic) English, too.
- Personally, I think the Dolomites offer good value for the money compared to other European countries, like Switzerland and Austria. You get to see a lot for your money, the food isn’t as expensive, and the accommodations are not as pricey as in other parts of central Europe.
THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES IN 7 DAYS
Okay, let´s get started with the most beautiful places and the best things to do in the Dolomites. You can easily exchange the days and activities and aren’t stuck to a certain route. However, if you change hotels and stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo for a few nights first and then change to Ortisei, it is important to plan accordingly.
Day 1 in the Dolomites
For the first day in the Dolomites, you can plan to visit this incredible lake and do some “town sightseeing.”
Lago di Braies
Seeing South Tyrol in one week wouldn’t be complete without spending some time at Lago di Braies – a must-see on Dolomites itinerary.Lago di Braies (also known as Pragser Wildsee or Lake Braies) is one of the most famous spots in the Dolomites and is considered the most beautiful lake. Situated at 1.496 meters (4908 feet) above sea level, it is the largest natural lake in the Dolomites.
- Hiking around the lake (the shoreline is approximately 3.5 km) only takes about two hours, so you can plan some more time for a picnic meal or rent a boat and spend time on and in the water.
- The maximum surface water temperature is 14°C. So while you are allowed to swim in Lago di Braies, you might want to pass.
Buses are going, and if you drive yourself, you will find a big parking space (with a fee of about 8€, you can park there for a day). However, I think 3-4 hours at Lago di Braies might be enough if you do not want to spend a lot of time chilling at the lake´s shores.
- This stunning lake will definitely be a highlight of your trip. Here is my detailed Lago di Braies guide.
- It takes about 45 minutes to get to Lago Braies by car (45 km) from Cortina d’Ampezzo. There you can explore the town center of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a great base for your Dolomites trip. It is known as one of Italy’s most famous and fashionable ski resorts, but it is also a good place to visit in the other seasons. After your trip to Lago di Braies, it is time to stroll this town.
When I visited, I stayed overnight in the city center but did not have time to do much sightseeing. But if I had some time, I would spend it wandering the streets and taking in the pretty buildings and the town’s unique personality.
If you’re interested in some history, you can take a guided tour up to a rebuilt encampment that the Italians held during the First World War. They attempted to overtake Cortina but met with local resistance that held them back for three years.
End day 1 slowly because some hiking is waiting for your second day.
Day 2 in the Dolomites
For the second day in the Dolomites, you can plan to visit this stunning lake – Lago di Sorapis.
Lago di Sorapis
Lake Sorapis is one of the most unique lakes in all of Europe. It reminded me of Canada’s gorgeous lakes.For Lago di Sorapis, I would suggest planning to spend the whole day. The lake is located in a remote area of the mountains and requires a hike. But it is worth the trouble as it is one of the most beautiful places in the Dolomites.
- There are two hiking paths that you can choose from: one easy to moderate and one moderate to difficult. I chose the latter one by accident, and it was very strenuous. So, I would suggest taking the easier one and saving your energy for enjoying the lake. Even if you choose the easier one, it takes a couple of hours to hike to the lake, so it is not as easy as some of you hope.
- You should bring your own drinks and food, as there are not many places there to buy some. Also, the refuges/restrooms might not be open if you do not visit during peak season in summer.
- Find out more about my hike to Lago Sorapis here.
To get to Lago di Sorapis, plan a 20-minute car drive from Cortina d’Ampezzo (12 km), but you can also get there by bus.
Day 3 in the Dolomites
The Drei Zinnen hike is a highlight for many Dolomites visitors. Whether you enjoy hiking or not, visiting this national park is a must.
Drei Zinnen/ Tre Cime di Lavaredo
The Drei Zinnen should be a priority on your Dolomites itinerary – because here, you will see the Dolomites mountains at their best. Drei Zinnen, a.k.a. Tre Cime di Lavaredo will require a full day as it is time-consuming to reach.Tre Cime di Lavaredo is made up of three mountains that reach almost 3000 meters (9852 feet) high. When the Dolomites were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, these three peaks became THE symbol. The most popular and scenic hike is a 9.5 km loop hike around the peaks and rated “easy/moderate” and is mostly flat.
- The hike around the mountains will take around 4 hours (without long breaks) but given the time to get there, I also suggest planning a full day for Drei Zinnen. The panorama is amazing and even though I did not do the full hike (due to bad planning on my side), it was worth my time and money.
- I didn’t notice any water fountains (unlike many other places in Italy), so make sure you bring your own food and water.
Downside: Why was it worth my money? Well, if you get here in your own car, you have to pay a 30€ entry fee/toll for driving the mountain road, but it is also your parking fee. So, when you travel solo, as I did, it is quite a lot of money for a hike. But well, it was worth it.
- It is just 20 km from Cortina d’Ampezzo, but it takes almost an hour to get there.
Day 4 in the Dolomites
Ortisei, southeast of Lago di Braies, was one of the best surprises. I actually suggest moving hotels and staying in/near Ortisei for the last few days because it is closer to the other attractions following now.
Ortisei / Urtijëi/ Sankt Ulrich
Make sure you stop in Ortisei. Located within Val Gardena, this small village is extremely beautiful and colorful, and I must say, it is one of the most beautiful places in the Dolomites.I loved Ortisei. It is known for its craftsmanship and wooden sculptures, but also because it is a great holiday destination. I adored the colorful houses and the peaceful atmosphere. Awww, maybe I was just lucky with the perfect weather, but I seriously enjoyed it!
- Wherever you are in Ortisei, you have a view of the mountains, and despite being a small town, I advise spending a full day here.
- Take a hike to St. Jacob’s Church (which probably dates back to the 12th century) and enjoy the great views. You can start your hike from the Parish Church in Ortisei. It will take about 1-2 hours to get to St. Jacob’s Church (3km). You can also take a bus almost all the way up and do a minimum of hiking.
Though not the most famous place, I think it is a must for any Dolomites itinerary.
Day 5 in the Dolomites
If you have more than 5 days in the Dolomites, one of your days could be wonderfully spent in the capital of South Tyrol.
Bolzano is one of the best places to visit in the Dolomites. With tons of cultural, historical, and natural sights, you don’t want to skip this city.There are so many interesting things to see here that you will definitely need a full day.
- You will find the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in the city center, an exhibit for the oldest skeleton ever found, a Neolithic mummy called Ötzi the Iceman.
- The Mareccio Castle is not very imposing but really beautiful. You should definitely make a stop there.
- Or you could stroll around the Duomo di Bolzano, a cathedral done in Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
- If you prefer shopping, there is a daily market at the Piazza Delle Erbe. There were many spices, vegetables, and fruits being sold, and it was a lively scene.
- You can also visit the old town, take a stroll by the river, or take the funiculars up to the mountain peaks for some hiking.
- You could also book a wine-tasting tour and enjoy the Italian way of life!
From Ortisei to Bolzano, it takes about 45 minutes by car (36km).
Day 6 in the Dolomites
Even though I stayed for more than 7 days in the Dolomites, I did not manage to visit Seiser Alm. However, I think it is a good place to visit.
Seiser Alm / Alpe di Siusi
From what I’ve seen in the pictures, it is surely one of the Dolomites’ best day trips. You’ll want to plan one full day for this destination.This high-altitude alpine pasture is popular year-round.
- Skiers love it in the winter, but summer and even spring and autumn are ideal for hiking.
- Located in the Castelrotto municipality, this picturesque plain is full of history, and you can explore castles, ruins, and churches while here.
Day 7 in the Dolomites
For the last day in the Dolomites, I suggest taking it easy – but easy does not mean breathtaking. Actually, for the last day, I recommend visiting an amazing place in the Dolomites: Lago di Carezza.
Lago di Carezza
End your Dolomites trip with a visit to the tiny yet stunning Val d’Ega Valley – especially visiting colorful Lake Carezza is one of my top tips for things to do in the Dolomites.I have to admit: While I adore Lake Carezza for its unique beauty, it can be time-consuming to reach. It is a mountain lake, so it takes a while, and there are multiple speed cams, so watch out for them if you drive yourself. You can also get there by bus (check out my detailed guide for more info).
- Once you get out of your car/bus, you are directly at the lake, and there is not much walking required.
- The lake looks absolutely beautiful and was my favorite lake in the region.
- There are many benches and fast food shops if you want to picnic and relax – if you want to hike around the lake, it just takes a few minutes.
- You can also hike in the Rose Garden. There are numerous hikes available for you to choose from – from moderate hikes to challenging hikes, including Via Ferrate.
Depending on whether you hike in the Rose Garden, this trip to Lake Carezza will probably take about 1-8 hours in total.
P.S.: One of my readers told me she was a bit disappointed because it seemed trees around the lake were cut back, and it does not look as it does in my pictures. My pictures are not photoshopped, so this is how I experienced this beautiful lake area. However, I did some research, and apparently, there was a wild storm that had a negative impact on the trees and surroundings, so keep that in mind.
The lake is surely no hidden gem (unlike Lake Pianozes), but it is just so pretty and a perfect place to end a trip to this unique place.
From Ortisei to Lago di Carezza it takes about 1 hour by car (55 km).
- Read more: The most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites
Day Trips From the Dolomites
If you have a day left or decide to skip one of my awesome suggestions, you could do a day trip to one of these gorgeous places (though more driving is required).
- Lake Garda – here are the best towns to visit at Lake Garda (and it is not far from the Dolomites).
- Visit Trento – a beautiful hidden gem.
- Here are more general travel tips for Italy.
CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
The Dolomites Mountains are a unique and stunning destination in northern Italy, and I hope this post has given you a good idea about the best things to do in the Dolomites.
Driving in the Dolomites wasn’t always fun (these narrow mountain roads are just not my favorite streets), but I enjoyed my Dolomites itinerary and all the beautiful places. I would visit each of the places mentioned here again – and if I could, I would probably stay longer than 7 days in the Dolomites.
You won’t be disappointed when you see the beautiful scenery, interesting culture, and surprising history that make this Italian jewel unique.
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