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This post is all about how to get to the Dolomites in Northern Italy. Although popular among European tourists, the Dolomites 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. Luckily, the Dolomites are super accessible from major Italian cities such as Venice and Milan. Read on to find out exactly what you need to know about travel to the Dolomites in Italy.
How to Get to the Dolomites
Travel to the Dolomites
The Dolomites, or Dolomiti, is a mountain range located in northeastern Italy. In 2009, the region was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With picture perfect landscapes of rolling green hills, curvy mountain roads, and sharp peaks, the Dolomites should definitely be on your bucket list!
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.
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 Dolomites in approximately 2 hours by car. There are a number of car rental companies available at the airport to choose from.
Driving to the Dolomites
If you’re wondering how to get to the Dolomites that you first need to understand that the area is best explored by car. It can be reached by car from Venice in 2 hours, and from Milan in 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 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 significantly 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 $25 USD. Car renters insurance can be purchased directly through the rental company. Some United States credit cards offer primary coverage auto insurance (such as the Chase Sapphire cards), however it is important that you double check with your bank.
For a manual standard size car for 4 days we paid $223 USD, without insurance, booked through Expedia.
Taking a Bus to the Dolomites
Bus services are readily available for both getting to the Dolomites, 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 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.
Is There a Train from Venice to the Dolomites?
Unfortunately there are no direct trains to the Dolomites from Venice. However, you can take the train from Venice to Belluno and then transfer to a bus.
The Best Time to Travel to the Dolomites
The Dolomites experiences two peak tourist seasons, Summer for hiking, climbing, and mountain biking, and Winter for skiing. The peak hiking season is June to August. If you want to avoid the crowds completely then I recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons of May or September. However, even during the peak months you can visit the top spots in the Dolomites, without too much of a crowd.
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.
- 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.
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