Imagine waking up and looking out your panoramic windows to see the sun rising from behind the mountain peaks, and a fluffy white alpaca looking in your window. It’s truly one of the most breathtaking experiences, and this year was the first time we traveled there with snow on the ground. We fell in love with it all over again. The Dolomites are the Italian Alps that stretch across the northern provinces of Belluno, Bolzano, Trendo, Udine, and Pordenone. Because the area is so large, encompassing three separate regions, there is a lot to consider when planning your trip.
The Dolomites are notorious for beautiful hotels with stunning views of mountain peaks, dense forests, and tranquil lakes. Where you stay will depend on your itinerary – if you want to explore a lot (which we recommend!), you’ll have to move around, and you’ll most likely change base towns.
When based in Valdaora, we stayed at the wellness hotel Alpin Panorama Hotel Hubertus. This hotel features incredible mountain views! In the summer, the mountains are covered in dense green forest, with rough mountain peaks towering above. The pool is amazing! Logs support the large concrete pool as it hangs over the hillside, three floors above the lawn below. There is also a glass-bottom, which makes for an incredible photo-op (check our IG story highlights, and you’ll see what we mean!).
In Alta Badia, we stayed at Mi Chalet, a luxury chalet perfect for a romantic getaway! We will never forget waking up and walking outside to our private garden, surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains. Large panoramic windows show off the stunning view, and the Swiss-Italian décor and fireplace add to the ambiance. One of our favorite parts may have been our neighbors – a four of friendly, fluffy alpaca’s.
We ended our trip with a stay at Hotel der Waldhof, a superior hotel featuring indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa. Every room at this hotel has a furnished balcony so you can sit outside with a glass of wine and enjoy the view! During peak season, rooms are rented by the week, but you can inquire with the hotel for daily rates and availability here.
Just keep in mind that hotels in this area tend to book up quickly. If you can, it is best to reserve your hotel in advance so you can get the dreamiest place you could ever imagine, and at a good price!
There are many things to see in both the summer and winter months. We’ve included below some of the most stunning landscapes and natural wonders the area is known for.
Visit Lago di Braies
One of South Tyrol’s most iconic sites, Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) is famous all over the world. It really is one of the most beautiful natural settings on our planet. Emerald waters, ubiquitous boat house, beautiful spruce pines forests and towering limestone peaks. Worthy of a sunrise to avoid visitors and most photogenic in spring/autumn. If you’re coming for photography, make sure to avoid temperatures below 0 degrees – that’s when the lake’s water freezes and there is no reflection. That being said, Lago di Braies is still beautiful whenever you choose to visit – see the photos from winter time below.
There’s plenty of things you can do at the lake – hiking, renting a row boat, visiting the chapel, simply walking around the lake, or if you’re brave enough, taking a swim.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Not far away from Lago di Braies is the Italian hiking paradise called Tre cime or Drei Zinnen.
It’s a breathtaking sight. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike, all 10kms of it, is an easy/moderate hike which should take around 3-4 hours to complete. The paths are well marked and clear, however we do recommend a little preparation, such as downloading the map.
This place gets extremely busy during July and August both with Italian and German holidaymakers as well as foreign tourists. We’d avoid visiting during this period (if you can). In our opinion, best time to hike Tre Cime is during September and October. Not only there are far fewer tourists, also the sunrise and sunset times are far closer to the entry/exit times for the tollgate. That means better opportunity for better light (unless you stay overnight in a Refugio).
Note: Coming in with a car you’ll be required to pay the toll/entrance fee of €30 (opening hours | 7am-7pm – check official page for updated info).
Watch the Sunrise at Cadini Peaks
The “Cadini di Misurina” also known as the Candini peaks, is right next to the infamous Tre Cime. You can take a toll road to a parking location where you will pay an entry fee of 30 euro per car. From there, you can walk towards the mountains for about 15 minutes – you can’t miss them! Watch the sunrise from behind the Candini peaks for an experience you’ll never forget.
Visit Lago di Carezza
Lago di carezza’s emerald water that reflects the magnificent forest and mountains surrounding it is one of the more picturesque sights we have seen. This lake attracts many tourists in the busy summer months, so get there early when it’s quiet. Another way to avoid crowds is to go when it’s foggy or rainy. It might not be the picture you were planning on, but it’s still stunning in a different way.
See St. Valentin Chapel
Considered the jewel of the Dolomites, this small chapel has a long history and is believed to originated in 269 AD and is believed to be the spot where St. Valentine was killed for marrying young couples, against the Roman Emperor’s orders. It is located in the largest Alpine prairie, where its distinct dome and structure have attracted visitors for centuries.
Photograph Val di Funes
Most picturesque village, a photographer’s paradise and a great base point for numerous hikes. Make sure to leave plenty of time to explore it as the weather can be unpredictable and the main attraction Geisler/Odle peaks can completely hide behind clouds and you could come for nothing.
Hike the Geisleralm
Dramatic, varied, and unforgettable. As mentioned, the Geisler/Odle peaks are just a spectacular sight! We recommend starting the hike in the late afternoon, when the peaks are illuminated by the sun. The trail takes approx. 1,5 hour, but you can easily spend the whole day up there. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the most delicious Kaiserschmarrn you’ll ever try. And bring a flashlight in case you stay so long it gets dark!
Ski in Kronplatz
The Italian Alps are known for skiing, and no trip would be completed without skiing in Kronplatz. The popular ski resort is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige area and offers guests 119km of powdery slopes.
Few places left on our to-see list from South Tyrol are Alpe di Siusi, Lago di Sorapis, Seceda, and more. Make sure to add those to your list, too.
The Dolomites are close to Switzerland and German borders, which has influenced the food in the area. We found some great spots to get traditional Italian pizza as well as German dishes.
When you are in Italy, you need to have traditional, wood-oven pizza. We love the pizza we had at Pizzeria Hans 2.0. One of our favorite restaurants, though, is a German spot called Geisleralm. It’s a bit of a hike to get here, but it’s worth the effort. The rustic décor and views are incredible, and this was the best Kaiserschmarrn we have ever tried! If you are in the mood for Kaiserschmarrn but looking for a more accessible option, Treffpunkt Zans – Zanser alm was also good!
If you prefer the convenience of an all-inclusive hotel, when we stayed at Alpin Panorama Hotel Hubertus, all our included meals were enjoyable, and we found it very convenient!
The area is quite spread out, and you will likely want to travel around a bit. The easiest and cheapest way is to get around is by car. We drove in our own car when we traveled here, as we only live a 4.5hr drive away. However, if you are flying in, you can easily rent a car from the airport. A great tip for planning your itinerary is to mark all the spots you want to see in Google Maps first. We always do this, making it so much easier to organise our day to day road trip.
HOW TO GET THERE
It depends on where you are headed and where you are coming from. The closest international airports are in Munich (Germany), Milan (Italy), and Venice (Italy). If flying in from the UK or Europe, you have the option to fly into Innsbruck (Austria) or Verona (Italy).
WHEN TO GO
We have been to the Dolomites three times and think the best time to visit is during the autumn months – it is most photogenic at that time. It is also considered shoulder season, so there are fewer tourists meaning you can have these picturesque locations to yourself and find hotels have better rates. There are festivals in the fall, and the air is fresh and crisp, but nice enough that you can still enjoy time spent outdoors.
HOW MANY DAYS
It depends on what you want to see and do! We find new areas to explore every time we visit and never tire of looking at these incredible mountains. You could easily spend weeks exploring the area. In fact, some hikes take days to complete! If you are coming from within Europe, we’d recommend at least 5-7 days. If you are coming from overseas, we’d recommend 10-14 days.
The cost of traveling in the Dolomites is average, and similar to any other European destination. Prices are higher in the summer and winter but dip in the shoulder seasons.
WHAT TO BRING
- multiple layers, good hiking shoes, backpack with rain cover, sun hat / warm hat (depending on the season), trekking poles and thermos bottle for hiking
- a swimsuit to enjoy the stunning pools and spas
- a camera to capture it all.
If you want to see more, check our VLOG here.
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The Dolomites are a popular travel destination in both the summer and winter; when would you prefer to visit?
Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article post. Janine Weston Helgeson