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Looking for the best things to do in the Dolomites, Italy? You’ve come to the right place!
The Italian Dolomites are easily one of my favorite places in the world. I visited for the first time in 2019 and have already been back again since. There are an endless amount of incredible hikes, crystal blue alpine lakes, and magical rifugios perched in the middle of mountain peaks.
Although the Dolomites are popular among European tourists, they are still a bit of a hidden gem for American tourists. I was pleasantly surprised that even visiting during the peak tourist season, the hikes were expansive and not overrun with tourists.
You can check out my comprehensive guide on how to road trip in the Dolomites here.
Top-4 popular tours in Dolomites
- ⛰️ Enjoy free time in Cortina d’Ampezzo, stroll along the banks of Lake Misurina, and snap photos from the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on this tour
- 🌄 Discover the Dolomites on this hiking tour and enjoy breathtaking views with an environmental hiking guide, who, with many years of experience, knows all the most beautiful places
- 🌊 Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the lakes of the Dolomites starting and ending in Venice
- 🚁 Enjoy an unforgettable helicopter tour to discover the most beautiful mountains in Europe, the Italian Dolomites
How to get to the Dolomites
The closest airports to the Dolomites region are Venice Marco Polo Airport and Venice Treviso Airport.
There are daily nonstop flights to Venice from the United States and Europe from main carriers such as Delta and United, as well as local airlines such as Alitalia and EasyJet.
Nonstop flights from NYC to Venice take 8.5 hours.
To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use this search form below:
Getting around the Dolomites
By far the best way to get around the Dolomites is by car. Having your own car or a rental car will give you so much more flexibility to reach trailheads and arrive places at the time you want.
There are also buses that operate within the Dolomites, but visiting by bus will require more planning on your part.
Best time to visit the Dolomites
The Dolomites experiences two peak tourist seasons. The region is popular in the summer for hiking, climbing, and mountain biking, and for skiing in the winter. I was warned by many to avoid the area July, as it is the busiest time of the year, but I still felt that we had room to breathe on the trails.
If you want to avoid the crowds completely then I recommend visiting in the shoulder season, although expect cooler temperatures and some trail closures. If you’re visiting the Dolomites during the shoulder season then you’ll want to double check that your desired trails and rifugios are still open.
What to know before visiting the Dolomites
Before visiting there are a few key things that every traveler should know! Here is a list of some of the top things to know before visiting the Dolomites:
- Both German and Italian are spoken throughout the region. Depending on what part of the region you travel to, one language will be more prominent than the other.
- Everywhere has two names. Every town, lake, mountain, etc will have two names: a German name and an Italian name. These names are usually completely different from one another!
- The region is expansive so you will want to choose one or two towns to base yourself in.
Where to stay
Best Hotels in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Cortina D’Ampezzo is an awesome area to stay in if you’re looking for easy access to a number of hikes, while still having a vibrant town center with shops, restaurants and bars. Some of the best nearby day hikes include Lago di Sorapis, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and a walk around the famous Lago di Braies. Here are the best hotels in Cortina D’Ampezzo broken down by budget:
Budget: Hotel Olimpia
Mid-Range: Hotel Cristallino d’Ampezzo
Best Hotels in Ortisei (Val Gardena)
From Ortisei you can easily reach the hikes on Seceda, Val di Funes, and Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm). Ortisei is probably the busiest town in Val Gardena, but it is still cute and quaint, while offering a number of restaurants (check out Albergo Pontives for dinner) and an easily walkable town center. There are a number of free or cheap parking options. Lago di Carezza can also be reached within an hour.
The town is has direct access to chair lifts going up to both Seceda and Alpe di Siusi, making it a prime base for anyone traveling to the Dolomites without a car. Additionally, when you stay at any hotel or guesthouse in the Val Gardena region, you’ll be given a free public pass to use on the local buses. Ortisei’s chair lift accessibility makes it a top destination for anyone looking to hike in the Dolomites. Here are the best hotels in Ortisei broken down by budget:
Budget: Appartmenthotel Residence Elvis
Mid-Range: Albergo Pontives
Luxury: Hotel Platz
Best Rifugios in the Dolomites
- Rifugio Firenze – If you want to enjoy sunrise on Seceda, you will need to overnight at a rifugio, as the lift doesn’t start running until 8:30 am. Otherwise, you can stay in Ortisei for easy access, stopping at Rifugio Firenze for lunch.
- Rifugio Lavaredo – This is a great option if you want to experience sunrise at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Otherwise, you can start your hike pre-sunrise from Cortina D’Ampezzo.
Best things to do in the Dolomites
Lago di Braies
Photographs of this famous lake have recently found their way all over the internet, and for a very good reason! This famous lake is just as beautiful in person as it is in photos. Blue waters with a striking mountain backdrop, it’s hard not to fall in love with this spot. Lago di Braies is definitely one of the spots that you can’t miss in the Dolomites.
Lago di Braies is easily accessible by car, with a number of parking lots just down the road. It is also possible to reach by public transportation, taking a train to Niederdorf and then taking a bus to the lake entrance.
It is possible to rent a boat for either 30 minutes (18 euros) or 1 hour (28 euros). There are a number of hikes that originate from the lake as well, or you can opt for a quick walk around the lake.
Due to the lake’s popularity and accessibility, it can get very crowded during the day. I recommend visiting in the early morning or late afternoon for a calmer experience.
Lago di Sorapis
Lago di Sorapis was easily one of my favorite hikes, although I could probably say that about every hike on this list. Needless to say, it is definitely one of the spots that you can’t miss in the Dolomites.
The roundtrip hike to Lago di Sorapiss takes 4-5 hours, originating at Passo Tre Croci. From here you follow the signs for PATH 215. This is a moderate hike with some incline and a few very narrow ledges (not great for those with a fear of heights).
The lake itself is well worth the hike though, some of the bluest waters that I’ve ever seen! You’ll come to a refugio just before the lake. You can stop here for the restroom or to order some lunch. Or if you’re my mom and I, an Aperol Spritz.. although I don’t recommend drinking before hiking back down haha.
The closest town to Lago di Sorapiss is Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is just 15 minutes down the road from the trailhead. There are buses that run a few times a day between Cortina and the trailhead during the high season, but be sure to consult a timetable for your dates.
When you step off the chairlift on to Seceda, I swear you won’t believe your eyes. The rolling green hills and stunning mountain face are almost too beautiful to be real.
Seceda is easily accessible from Ortisei, with a gondola and chairlift taking you to the top of the mountain in under 15 minutes (30 Euro roundtrip). The chairlift starts running at 8:30am so if you want to be on the mountain for sunrise you will need to head up the day before and stay at one of the refugios.
Once you arrive on Seceda you’ll have a number of paths that you can follow. You can reach the main view point in under 15 minutes. From there you can set off exploring for countless hours. I recommend stopping by Refugio Firenze for lunch. From here it is just another 1.5 hours back to the Seceda chairlift.
Whether you have a half day or only an hour to spare, hiking Seceda is one of the absolute best things to do in the Dolomites!
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
This is one of the most popular hikes in the Dolomites so I was a bit worried about the crowds. Fortunately when we made our way up the mountain at 5:30am there were just a handful of other hikers around. Watching the sun rise over the peaks was a truly incredible experience. I would definitely recommend getting an early start or staying at Dreizinnen Hut to wake up to the panoramic peak views. If you want to stay at the refugio overnight then definitely call and book ahead.
Note, there is a 30 euro parking fee to enter the area. There is an automated machine so you will need to pay even if you arrive for sunrise. Also it is a good idea to bring enough cash as the credit card machine is often out of service.
Lago di Carezza
This lake is a little far away from the rest of the spots on the list, but it is well worth the drive to experience the lake in all of its beauty. In my opinion, experiencing sunrise at Lago di Carezza is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites, a trend for this post for sure.
I recommend staying nearby so that you can arrive at the lake early enough to experience sunrise. We stayed at Mounthotel Niggl in Nova Levante, approximately 10 minutes down the road, and absolutely loved it!
Please note, there is a wooden fence around the lake that you are not allowed to cross. I saw countless photos of individuals sitting on the rock below but that is actually not allowed. Please read the signs and be respectful.
Val di Funes
After driving along the thinest, windiest road from Cortina D’Ampezzo, we finally found ourselves in Val di Funes. The town looks like something straight out of a movie. Unfortunately bad weather was coming in, and we were ridiculously sore from a previous hike, however I would definitely recommend carving at least a half day out to wander the hills of the town.
I regret not having more time to explore Val di Funes on foot, as it is definitely one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
Alpe di Siusi
Admittedly I was quite perplexed by how exactly to visit the famous Alpe di Suisi. The road to Alpe di Suisi is actually closed between 9am and 5pm for cars, unless you are staying at one of the hotels in the area. I would have loved to spend a night in the area, however everything was booked out. If I were to visit again (which I will), I will definitely book at least one night in this beautiful area.
Since we were able to drive in before 9am, as we had already planned an early morning on Seceda, we opted to take the gondola. For 17 Euro roundtrip you can reach the elevated area in just a few minutes. This is a great option for anyone staying in Ortisei, especially if you do not have a car.
Once you reach the top you could wander for hours in different directions, exploring the magical rolling hills.
🏘️ Book your accommodation
Booking.com will help you to book accommodation in advance and check availability
✈️ Book your flight in advance
To find the cheapest flight options, you can use WayAway and find the most suitable option for you
Here are some other articles that you should check out if you’re traveling in the Dolomites:
- Road Trip in the Dolomites
- Hiking to Lago di Sorapis
- A Guide to Hiking Seceda, Dolomites
- How to Get to the Dolomites, Italy
- A Guide to Lago di Braies