WHAT TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
So, you want to find out about the best things to do in the Dolomites?
First of all, I am jealous. The Dolomites are amazing. And second, you’ll find your answers in this post.
While Northern Italy has a lot of beautiful places to visit, the Dolomites are one of the most interesting.
When I finally visited the Dolomites- mainly because I wanted to see a few lakes #ChasingLakes – I was in love. But there are also the mountains….
The Dolomite mountain range in Italy is one of the most beautiful outdoor destinations in Europe. In 2009, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Dolomites are located in the northeastern part of Italy, within the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol, and 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 this post, you will find out about the best things to do in the Dolomites, the best places to see – you´ll find out what to do, when to go, where to stay, and how to get around. There will also be travel tips, whether you arrive by car or public transportation.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE YOUR DOLOMITES ITINERARY
Here are some main travel tips for your trip to the Dolomites – incl. tips on how to get around in the Dolomites, where to stay and more!
Where to Stay
My advice is to plan very carefully where you stay. It doesn’t matter if you drive or use public transportation, it takes a long time to get from one place to another – driving 40km takes about 2 hours because the roads are narrow and winding.
It can be really time-consuming to travel in this area, so stay at two different locations if you are visiting for 3 or more nights.
I suggest staying in Cortina d’Ampezzo and Toblach (both are close together and you could stay in just one, but it helps to have two separate places to stay on a longer trip) or Misurina.
Hotels in Cortina d’Ampezzo/ Toblach / Misurina
Cristallo Hotel is the best luxury hotel in the town – it is part of the Luxury Collections Resort and 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 at this hotel. My arrival was a bit disappointing but once the receptionist and I solved the issues, I really liked it. The breakfast was quite good and I liked the location (and it is great value for money). Click here to find out rates for Hotel Montana.
Hotel Sorapiss is a well-rated medium-priced hotel near Lake Sorapis (and so a good base). Find out more about prices and availability here.
Hotel Lago di Braies – 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 for the Best Things to do in the Dolomites
During the high seasons, public transportation is best.
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. I actually get motion sickness when riding on a bus in the mountains, so I drove myself from Germany to Italy with my little dog.
Keep in mind that in Northern Italy, the streets are better than 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 did not like driving here as much as in Switzerland, even though it is also very mountainous. It just didn’t feel as safe.
There are also tolls. Most streets are free, but at times on the highways, you will have to pay a toll. It’s about 9€ per 100 km.
Unfortunately, gas in Italy is some of the most expensive in Europe. You’ll see prices that are at least 1.50-1.60 euros per liter. I even saw 1.85€ per liter! Not even Switzerland is that expensive.
So, whether you decide on road tripping the Dolomites or using public transportation – in this case, none is something I 100% recommend but I think, after all, it is better to road trip the Dolomites.
Best Time to Visit
To be able to do the “best things to do in the Dolomites” I think, the best not to visit in the summer months because it is hot and also the peak season, particularly in July and August. I visited in September and totally loved it. It was not crowded, the weather was warm, and the hotel prices were not too high. May, June, September, and October are the best months to visit. Restaurants/activities run during that time and you can do all the top things which you might not be able to do in the colder months.
I wouldn’t advise visiting any later than October because shops and roads may be closed as it gets closer to winter.
More Travel Tips for the Dolomites
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. But you should be able to get by on 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.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT AND FUN THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
Okay, let´s get started, here are some of the most beautiful places and the best things to do in the Dolomites. As you can see, you can easily exchange the days and activities and aren’t stuck to a certain route.
Day 1 in the Dolomites
Okay, if you arrive in the Dolomites you can head to your first place – depending on your base, it might take a while to get there but it will be worth it.
Lago di Carezza
To start out your 7-day itinerary in the Dolomites, visit the tiny, yet stunning, Val d’Ega Valley. Full of charming villages and colorful Lake Carezza, this is the perfect place to begin and one of my top tips for things to do in the Dolomites.
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.
But once you are there, it will not take long to walk around, about 10-15 minutes. There are a lot of benches and fast food shops if you want to picnic and relax.
You can also hike in the Rose Garden. Legend has it that the Dwarf king kidnapped a princess, and when her rescuer arrived and trampled the rose garden, the king cursed it, turning it to stone. There are numerous hikes available for you to choose from.
This will probably take about 2-8 hours in total (without the hiking in the Rose Garden but getting there if you stay in the Dolomites).
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. I have not been there in the last few months but just as an info from one of my readers. 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.
Find my detailed guide for Lake Carezzo here.
Day 2 in the Dolomites
For the second day, 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. Depending on how much time you have on day 1, I suggest visiting this stunning lake on the same day as Lake Carezza if you arrive early that day.
Lago di Braies is one of the most famous spots in the Dolomites, and is considered the most beautiful lake in the region – so, obviously, visiting is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
You can get here by bus or car. There is a parking area right in front. Hiking around the lake only takes about two hours, which is why you can easily fit it in on the same day as Lake Carezza. If you like, you can plan in some more time for a picnic meal. This stunning lake will definitely be a highlight of your trip.
Here is my detailed Lago di Braies guide.
If you are looking to take one of the best tours of the Dolomites, staying in Cortina d’Amprezza will give you plenty to see and also serve as a base when visiting other locations. It is known as one of Italy’s most famous and fashionable ski resorts. It’s also quite expensive.
When I visited, I stayed overnight in the city center, but did not have time to do much sightseeing. But if I had a full day, 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.
This is a great base for visiting Lago di Sorapis and Drei Zinnen/Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Day 3 in the Dolomites
For the third day, you can plan to visit this incredible lake.
Lago di Sorapis
This lake is one of the most unique in all of Europe. It reminded me of the gorgeous lakes in Canada (though I have not seen those lakes in real life).
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 one of the most beautiful places in the Dolomites.
There are two hiking paths that you can choose from, one easy and one difficult. I chose the difficult one on accident and it was very strenuous. So, I would suggest taking the easier one and saving your energy for enjoying the lake.
You should bring your own drinks and food, as there are not many places there for you to buy some. Also, the refuges/restrooms might not be open. even with my own negative experiences (I was not prepared for such a difficult hike with a little dog), I consider hiking here as one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
Find out more about my hike to Lago Sorapis here.
Day 4 in the Dolomites
One of the most beautiful surprises was this place – so, I also suggest it for your Dolomites itinerary.
Ortisei / Sankt Ulrich
If this is part of a Dolomites road trip, 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 it! It is known for its craftsmanship and wooden sculptures, but also as a great holiday destination. However, I loved the colorful houses and a peaceful atmosphere. Awww, maybe I was just lucky with the perfect weather but I seriously liked it for a day!
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 and enjoy the great views (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
This hike is a highlight for many Dolomites visitors – and whether you enjoy hiking or not, visiting this national park is a must – if you have only 5 days in the Dolomites you are then probably well set with all the tips.
Drei Zinnen/ Tre Cime di Lavaredo
One of the best things to do in the Dolomites is visiting the Drei Zinnen. I suggest Drei Zinnen, a.k.a.Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This will also require a full day as it is time-consuming to reach.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is made up of three mountains that reach almost 300 meter high. When the Dolomites were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, these three peaks became its symbol.
I didn’t do the entire hike because I was with my dog, who was too tired.
Tip: I didn’t notice any water fountains, so make sure you bring your own food and water. Also, the refugios and restrooms were not that clean, despite having to pay for them.
Downside: If you get here by your own car, you have to pay a 30€ entry fee/toll. So, when you travel solo to the Dolomites, as I did, I was a bit annoyed (also, because all posts actually said it “only” costs 25€) – but the mountains, views, and scenery were gorgeous and well worth it.
Day 6 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, so add Bolzana to your Dolomites itinerary.
As the capital of South Tyrol, Bolzano is one of the best places to visit in the Dolomites. With tons of cultural, historic, and natural sights, you won’t want to pass this city up.
There are so many interesting things to see here that you will definitely need a full day. In the city center, you will find the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which has an exhibit for the oldest skeleton ever found, a Neolithic mummy called Ötzi the Iceman. I didn’t have a chance to visit this, but it would have been interesting.
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, which is a cathedral that was done in Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
If you prefer shopping, there is a daily market at the Piazza della Erbe. There were lots of spices, vegetables, and fruits being sold and it was a lively scene. You can also visit the old town, take a stroll by the rover, or take the funiculars up to the mountain peaks for some hiking.
Read more: The most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites
Day 7 in the Dolomites
I have to say, that even though I stayed in the Dolomites for more than 7 days, I did not manage to visit the last tip – however, I think, it is a good place to visit and I wish I had done so because I do think, that visiting is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
Alp Seis/Alpe di Siusi
I did not actually have a chance to visit Alp Seis when I was in the Dolomites, but from what I’ve seen in pictures, it is surely one of the best day trips in the Dolomites and one of the top things to do in the Dolomites.
You’ll want to plan in 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.
If you have a day left or decide to skip of my awesome suggestions 🙂 then you could do a day trip to one of these gorgeous places (though more driving included).
CONCLUSION: A FUN ITINERARY WITH TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
The Dolomite 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 do in the Dolomites. Driving in the Dolomites wasn’t always fun (these narrow mountain streets just not my favorite streets) but I enjoyed my Dolomites itinerary and all the beautiful places. You won’t be disappointed when you see the beautiful scenery, culture, and history that make up this Italian jewel.
Hopefully, you have created your Dolomites itinerary now and you will have a safe trip!