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Before I dive too deep into this post on where to stay in the Dolomites, some of you may be wondering where the Dolomites even are! You may have ended up on this post by clicking through a dreamy mountain photo on Pinterest or Google, or if you’re lucky you may already be planning your trip to the Italian Dolomites. This post will cover where to stay in the Dolomites in summer for all of the best Dolomites hikes, the top areas to stay in in the Dolomites, and the best hotels in the Dolomites.
But first, if you’re still in the planning stages of your trip, make sure to check out more of these Dolomites posts that will help you choose where to stay and what to do during your time there:
READ MORE DOLOMITES POSTS
What and Where are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are a picturesque mountain region located in Northern Italy, bordering Austria and Switzerland. The Dolomites span approximately 125 miles across Italy, with 18 different mountain peaks. The highest peak in the Dolomites is 10,968 feet. The Dolomites were recognized in 2009 as a UNESCO Heritage Site. I think it’s safe to say that this region should definitely be added to your travel bucket list, if it isn’t already top of your list!
How to get to the Dolomites?
If you’re wondering how to get to the Dolomites then 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 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 significantly more. It is also important to rent automatic cars as far in advance as possible, especially for the high season.To book an automatic car, please go to Rental Cars and tick off “Automatic Transmission” in the “Car Specification” section.
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.
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 Omio.
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.
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. Check it out here.
If you’re trying to reach the Dolomites from outside of European, 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. I recommend booking a flight through CheapOAir, or directly through the airlines. 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, you may book a car in advance and pick it up upon arrival at the airport through rental cars.
When to go to the Dolomites
The Dolomites experience two peak tourist seasons, Summer for hiking, climbing, and mountain biking, and Winter for skiing. If you want to avoid the crowds completely then I recommend visiting in the shoulder season, although expect cooler temperatures. I found that even visiting during the region’s peak season, the trails weren’t too crowded.
Where to Stay in the Dolomites?
The Dolomites span over 125 miles from east to west across Italy, so you are probably wondering where to stay to see the Dolomites. If you have a car, or are traveling by bus, I recommend choosing 2-3 areas to base yourself in, depending on the hikes and lakes that you want to visit. I will break down the best areas to stay in the Dolomites and why, as well as provide some great hotel recommendations for each area.
For me, by far the most difficult part of planning my trip to the Dolomites was deciding which areas to stay in. Luckily, no matter where you choose to stay, I can guarantee you that it will be beautiful. Truly every inch of the Dolomites that we explored held its own beauty.
Best Places to Stay in the Dolomites
When I first started planning my trip, here was my list of seven must visit spots in the Dolomites:
Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee)
One of the region’s most striking lakes. Come visit for a paddle, or a leisurely walk around the lake.
Lago di Sorapis
This stunning bright blue lake is only accessible by hiking approximately 2 hours. The trailhead is located just 10 mins outside of Cortina D’Ampezzo, making it a great day hike.
Easily my favorite mountain area in the region. Located just above Val Gardena, this peak is filled with trains, and striking views in every direction.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen)
One of the region’s most popular hikes, easily accessible from Cortina D’Ampezzo. I recommend hiking at sunrise for unbeatable views.
Lago di Carezza (Karersee)
Watching the shimmering reflection on this lake on a silent, early morning is an experience that every traveler to the Dolomites should have.
Val di Funes (Villnoss)
Come for a drive through, or spend a full day hiking to the famous churches. This hilly green region is a must-visit.
Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
Located in the mountains above Val Gardena, Alpe di Siusi feels like a scene straight out of the Sound of Music. The trails extend as far as you can see, so allow yourself a fun day to explore the area.
If these same spots are on your list, then the two main towns that I would recommend staying in are: Cortina D’Ampezzo and Ortisei, or one of the other nearby towns in Val Gardena.
You can either choose to stay at a Dolomite hotel in the towns or opt to stay at a refugio in the mountains, or of course a mix of both. Refugios are mountain lodges spread across the Dolomites region. They are often quite affordable, however many only offer dorm rooms. The accommodations tend to err on the side of basic, however you should find everything that you need.
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 Refugios 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 8:30am. 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.
Additionally, I’ve been told by many that the towns of Alta Badia are an excellent summer base for those looking for easy trail access. Driving through I can attest to the region’s charm, but I’ll have to return to provide further recommendations on where to stay and where to hike.
Here are some other articles that you should check out if you’re planning your trip:
- Road Trip in the Dolomites
- 7 Spots you Can’t Miss in the Dolomites
- A Guide to Hiking Seceda, Dolomites
- How to Get to the Dolomites, Italy
- Hiking to Lago di Sorapis
- Visiting Lago di Braies
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