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Cortina d’Ampezzo is a quaint but bustling town in the province of Belluno, Italy, located within the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the town’s popularity comes from it’s claim to fame as the venue of the 1956 Olympic Winter Games, and the planned venue for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
Before we dive into the article, if you’re limited on time you can check out the best tours in the Dolomites here:
Top-5 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
- 🏔If you want to experience the wintry face of the mountains, ice falls world – this Ice Climbing Experience is the best choice
How to get to Cortina d’Ampezzo
The Dolomites are best explored by car, and therefore driving is the best way to get to Cortina in my opinion. You can reach Cortina d’Ampezzo by car from Venice in 2 hours, and from Milan in just over 4 hours. I recommend renting a car and planning a road trip through the Dolomites for the best experience.
The first thing to know about renting a car in Italy for a trip to the Dolomites is that the majority cars for rent in Italy are manual transmission. If you are going to need an automatic car then expect to pay a good chunk more. It is also important to rent automatic cars as far in advance as possible, especially for the high season.
Additionally, it is mandatory to purchase car renters insurance and to be in possession of an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) when driving in Italy. You can register for an IDP online for as little as $20 USD with AAA. If you’re short on time, you can obtain an IDP same-day at AAA, regardless of if you are a AAA member.
Car renters insurance can be purchased directly through the rental company. Some United States credit cards offer primary coverage auto insurance, however it is important that you double check with your bank.
Bus services are readily available for both getting to Cortinas, and getting around the region. The bus from Venice to Cortina is probably the fastest option if you are taking public transportation. You can find direct buses from both Venice Marco Polo Airport and the Venice Mestre station. From Venice Airport to Cortina D’Ampezzo the bus takes approximately two hours and ten minutes, and tickets are as cheap at 18 euros each way. You can book tickets through Cortina Express.
While I personally enjoyed the freedom of having my own car to get around with, the public bus network is extensive. If you are visiting during the peak season (either summer or winter) then you will find that the buses run quite frequently, both getting to and around the Dolomites. Cable cars will also allow you to get up into the mountains easily without a car.
Unfortunately there are no direct trains to Cortina from Venice. However, you can take the train from Venice to Belluno and then transfer to a bus for the remaining journey. This isn’t an ideal option though!
If you’re trying to reach Cortina from outside of Europe, you’re going to need to fly there. 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. From Venice, you can reach the Cortina in approximately 2 hours by car. There are a number of car rental companies available at the airport to choose from. To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use this search form below:
Best time of year to visit Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Summer
Cortina d’Ampezzo has so much to offer to visitors traveling in the summer months. It is a very popular destination for hiking, and many of the high-altitude hikes are only open during a short window from mid-June to early September.
Traveling during the summer means rolling green hills, bright blue lakes, and of course – lots of crowds!
Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Winter
All ski slopes lead to Cortina d’Ampezzo – Queen of the Dolomites! The small town in the Northern Italian province of Belluno in the Veneto region can look back on a thousand year history and a centuries-long tradition of tourism. Especially when it comes to skiing, this gem is hard to beat. So it is no wonder that the elite skiers come to Cortina every year. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a VIP or two at the ski races.
Skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo
Since the town hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 it has become a top destination for skiers of all levels.
Cortina Ski Pass
If you’re planning to ski during your visit to Cortina d’Ampezzo, then the first thing to decide is which ski pass to purchase. The Dolomite Superski pass will give you access to the entire Dolomites ski region.
If you’re only planning on staying in Cortina, then you can also buy just the Cortina Ski Pass instead. This gives you access to a number of mountains surrounding Cortina, with 120km of available runs to keep you plenty busy.
Here are just a few of the mountains that you can easily discover from Cortina:
Tofane – Easily one of the most famous ski slopes in the Dolomites, Tofane is a Cortina favorite. There are a number of super challenging run, making it popular with more advanced skiiers.
Faloria – the mountain is one of the easiest to access, as the gondola leaves right from the town. This makes it super easy to hit the slopes without renting a car. From the top you can ski it all the way down in the opposite direction to connect to another set of lifts. This offers incredible views of Tofane in the distance.
Lagazuoi – 5 Torri – This ski slope is named after the collection of 5 peaks, making up the cinque torri. This slope isn’t as big as some of the others, but the runs are super diverse. You can take a gondola all the way to the top for panoramic views.
Where to Stay 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 Restaurants in Cortina d’Ampezzo
Overall we found the food in Cortina to be relatively reasonably priced – although coming from NYC our perception of restaurant prices is always a bit skewed. You can find €9 pizzas at Al Passetto, but also many of the fancier spots have pastas starting around €18 for smaller portions.
While it is not always necessary, I do recommend making reservations ahead of time (even if it is for the day-of or the next day), especially if you’re dining in Cortina on the weekends.
Restaurant Pizzeria “Al Passetto”
If this is the one restaurant that you eat at in Cortina, make it Al Passetto. We stumbled in here on the first night of our trip, and managed to visit everyday after, even if it was just for dessert. Al Passetto is easily one of the best restaurants in Cortina d’Ampezzo. It has a warm, cozy ambiance, a large assortment of delicious pizzas (and surprisingly good salad), and super affordable prices. The staff is attentive and friendly! And despite it always being full of people, we always managed to snag a table without a wait. All of the pizzas are good but if you’re craving a dessert, finish off the meal with an aperitif and a nutella pizza pie.
Right next door to “Al Passetto” you’ll find Ristorante Ariston. Known for their freshly cooked pastas, and elegant plating, Ariston is a great choice for dinner in Cortina d’Ampezzo. While prices are on the slightly higher end, the food is fresh and delicious. They are known for their truffle pasta, but my personal favorite was the spaghetti with fresh tomatoes.
Ristorante Ra Stua
Located inside Hotel Regina you’ll find Ristorante Ra Stua. If you can, grab a table in the downstairs restaurant for a cozier atmosphere. However, if they are full, they have a few extra tables upstairs.
Head over the bridge on the outskirts of town and you’ll reach Il Ponte. This is a great option for a delicious meal, especially if you don’t have a reservation booked, as they are walk-in only. I recommend grabbing one of their delicious pizzas, paired with a traditional aperol spritz (of course)!
Lovat Bar Pasticceria
No matter what season you’re visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lovat Bar Pasticceria should be on your list of places to visit. In the summer you can expect some of the best gelato in town (don’t miss the hazelnut flavor, it’s my favorite). And in the colder months, Lovat serves up some of the richest, most delicious hot chocolate – topped with a thick, creamy whipped cream.
It’s a perfect spot after a long day – whether you’re skiing, hiking, or just checking out the nearby lakes.
Dining at the Rifugios
Although not technically in Cortina town center, I highly recommend dining at the local rifugios. If you’re visiting during the winter, these are great options for lunch, as many are located right along the ski runs. Some of my favorites – Rifugio Averau, Rifugio Lagazuoi, and Rifugio Son Forca – offer insanely beautiful mountain views.
To visit for dinner you will likely need to book a night at the rifugio. This is super common in the summer months if you are hiking hut to hut. You can check out my guide here on everything you need to know about rifugios in the Dolomites.
Best Bars in Cortina d’Ampezzo
Enoteca Baita Fraina
If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, the Enoteca Baita Fraina wine bar is a cozy spot with a delicious selection of wines. Glasses start around €6 to €7 a glass, and go up from there. The accompanying cheeseboard is delicious, but a bit small for the price point.
The local sports bar is a cheap, casual spot for nightly drinks. It gets extremely busy on weekend nights, with the crowd filtering into nearby nightclub Janbo when the bar closes. If you visit before dinner you can expect snacks to be served with your drinks. When we visited one night before dinner, they were serving small pieces of pizza with every drink.
Best Hikes near Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina D’Ampezzo is located in the Eastern part of the Dolomites and serves as the perfect base for some of my favorite hikes, such as Lago di Sorapis (15 minutes away by car) and Tre Cime di Lavaredo (45 minutes away by car). You can also reach Lago di Braies in under an hour.
It is possible to reach Tre Cime di Lavaredo in time for sunrise, as the park is open at all hours, however it will be a very early morning. If you have the time then consider staying at Rifugio Auronzo. This rifugio offers double and triple rooms, as well as 6 bed dorms. This requires arriving the evening before, which could limit you time visiting other areas.
Visiting Lago di Sorapis from Cortina d’Ampezzo
Just 15 minutes down the road from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lago di Sorapis is easily one of my favorite hikes in the Dolomites! It is the perfect moderate hike for adventure seekers in the Dolomites.
Originating at Passo Tre Croci, the round trip hike to Lago di Sorapiss takes 4-5 hours. From here you follow the PATH 215. This is a moderate hike with some incline and a few narrow ledges (not great for those with a few 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. Those with more time may want to consider overnighting here for perfect sunset and sunrise views.
The easiest way to get to the trailhead is by car, however here are buses that run a few times a day between Cortina and the trailhead during the high season. It is important to consult a timetable for your dates.
Lago di Braies
Quite possibly the most photographed lake in the Dolomites, Lago di Braies is a key stop on a road trip in the Dolomites. Many people choose to stay in the town next to the lake, or at the lodge at the lake itself, however you can reach Lago di Braies by car from Cortina D’Ampezzo in under an hour.
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.
This insta-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.
Once you arrive at the lake 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.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the most popular hikes in the Dolomites, and one of the most common reasons stay in the Cortina D’Ampezzo area. The trailhead can be reached in approximately 45 minutes from Cortina D’Ampezzo. Once you enter the parking area you will need to pay 30 euros for parking.
This hike gets incredibly crowded, so I recommend a sunrise hike to beat the crowds. 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.
🏘️Book your accommodation
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✈️Book your flight in advance
To find the cheapest flight options, you can use WayAway and find the most suitable option for you
Visiting the Dolomites? Here are some other articles to check out!
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo Hiking Guide
- Guide to Lago di Carezza
- 2 Week Italy Road Trip
- What to know about rifugios in the Dolomites
- Guide to Lago to Braies
- Guide to Lago di Sorapis
- Where to stay in the Dolomites