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The Dolomites offer breathtaking scenery with spectacular mountain peaks, lakes with incredible water, green valleys and pretty villages. The Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why as you marvel at this awe-inspiring natural landscape.
To visit the Dolomites and South Tyrol, you can do a loop with the 1st part on the Bolzano side and the 2nd part on the Cortina d’Ampezzo side.
What to see and do on a road trip in the Dolomites?
- What’s the optimum journey time?
5 days or 1 week (or more if you want to hike)! We spent 5 days in the Dolomites, which enabled us to discover the must-sees. To take full advantage of the Dolomites’ many spots, a week is the ideal length of time. What’s more, the weather can be a bit temperamental in this part of Italy. If you’re not too limited in the number of days you can spend there, you’ll be able to adapt your discovery according to the weather.
- When is the best time to visit the Dolomites?
Spring or early autumn. Like many tourist destinations, it’s best to explore the Dolomites outside July and August, bearing in mind that winter is also a time when some places may not be accessible. Nevertheless, the Dolomites are also home to a gigantic ski area, and can be explored from a completely different angle in winter… if you have the means.
1 | Discover the sublime Lago di Braies: the “Instagrammable” landscape par excellence!
The sublime Lago di Braies! We’d just had a long day’s drive from Austria, and were keen to find our lodgings, but my friend suggested we stop off at Lago di Braies because it’s on our route. Well, why not! So it’s 5.30pm when we arrive, and we find that there are a lot of people leaving the lake and the parking lot.
In just a few steps, we find ourselves on the edge of the lake, and what can I say, we’re in for a real treat. The view is simply breathtaking: the reflections, the mountains, the hut on stilts, the boats, it’s all there. It’s absolutely magnificent, and we can’t believe how beautiful it is. We didn’t expect to come across such a beautiful lake when we decided to visit!
We continued our discovery by walking around the lake (1h on foot). The color of the water changes depending on where you are, from blue to green. At the end of the lake, you’ll find an undeveloped beach. The further we go around the lake, the more we realize how lucky we are: the weather is glorious, the crowds have left and we’re virtually alone in this spectacular setting! Let’s savor the moment and shoot some photos!
At the end of our tour, we continue our admiration of the sunset, which makes the rock and its reflections on the lake shine.
It’s possible to hire a boat: €15 for 30 minutes and €25 for 1 hour.
Parking information: parking is not free: €6 per hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.; after 5 p.m., it’s €4 per hour. In high season, the parking lot is often overcrowded, and you may have to park far from the site and come on foot or take a shuttle bus. We therefore advise you to go to Lago di Braies early in the morning or at the end of the day to enjoy the site to the full. And these are also the best times for magical photos!
2 | Strolling along the Lago di Dobbiaco
Yes, another lake! South Tyrol has no shortage of them! Here, everything seems so peaceful. Ducks go about their business, families stroll around the banks. It’s less spectacular than Lago di Braies, but perfect for a stroll or lunch. The walk around the lake is great for soaking up the sun. Swimming is much more difficult, as the water is icy.
Parking information: parking is charged at €2/hour.
3 | Stopping “by chance” at Lago di Landro
We happened to pass Lago di Landro, which is without doubt one of the most accessible lakes in the Dolomites, although far less famous than Lago di Braies. We quickly slammed on the brakes to get a closer look! The lake is visible from the roadside, and parking is free. It was the color that caught our eye.
Another breathtaking place. We arrived with the sun setting, the illuminated mountains reflected on milky water. It was magical!
4 | Picnic next to Lago di Misurina
This most photogenic lake is named after King Sorapis’ daughter. A little girl he loved with all his heart, and to whom he indulged his every whim… The more he granted her wishes, the more demanding and arrogant Misurina became.
One day, she asked her father to bring her the magic mirror of the Regina del Monte Cristallo: he knew that this wish would be difficult to fulfill, but he didn’t hesitate to go to the queen to tell her of his daughter’s desire. The queen was well aware of Sorapis’s love for Misurina, and proposed a pact: she would give him the magic mirror, but only on condition that the king turned into a mountain. If Misurina gave up the mirror, she would save her father – but you can see it coming, as big as a house, the little girl chose the mirror and her father immediately began his transformation!
As a result, Misurina and her precious object were hurled to the foot of Sorapis. The story goes that the king wept so much that his tears formed a lake, the Lago di Misurina.
5 | Randonner pour découvrir le Lago di Sorapis : un lac d’une beauté rare
We continued our quest for colorful lakes with the discovery of the lago di Sorapis. This one has to be earned – you have to walk for almost 2 hours to admire its beauty! After waking up very early, we made our way through the woods on the path leading to the lake. This hike is not very steep, nor does it present any major difficulties, except perhaps for a few dozen metres where the path is on a balcony with a good gully on the side, which may pose a problem for those sensitive to vertigo!
After braving a few metal stairs, we finally arrived at the famous lake!
For several long minutes, we were transfixed by the dazzling colors. The lake is an almost unreal milky blue. The mountains surrounding the lake add to the magic of this place in the middle of nowhere. They reflect perfectly on the lake, along with the sky, clouds and trees. It’s disconcertingly beautiful.
As you walk around the lake, you’ll notice that the colors change depending on your orientation. And you can even see the Tre Cimes in the distance.
- Start from the edge of the SR48 road, a few metres after the Tre Croci pass. An information panel on the lake is located at the start of the trail. Then follow the signs for the Vandelli hut.
- Get there early! This lake is a victim of its own success. We started the hike at 7am. By 9 a.m. we were practically alone on the lake. Around 11am, we headed back down, where we easily passed 200 people heading towards the lake…
6 | Drive to the Passo di Sella pass
Located on the road between Pozza di Fassa and Ortisei, the Passo di Sella is a pass at an altitude of over 2200 metres, offering magnificent views of the surrounding mountain peaks and valleys. A truly 360° panorama awaits you. On a clear day, you’re sure to get a real kick out of it. Be sure to stop by for a few photos, or even to start one of the many hikes in the region.
7 | Eye candy (again) at Lago di Carreza
I promise we’ll stop with the lakes after this one! This superb landscape perfectly illustrates the beauty of the Dolomites: a blue-green lake, forests of tall fir trees, and needle-like mountains in the background. It was simply magical to be faced with such a backdrop! Over the years, this place has become a must-see in the Dolomites.
In less than 30 minutes it’s possible to circumnavigate the lake without difficulty, with views of the mesmerizing blue of the water and the green of the forests. In spring 2019, a storm devastated the forest near the lake and many trees fell and were uprooted. But that doesn’t detract from the charm of the place.
Parking information: there’s a large parking lot right next door (€1/hour), but please note that you can only pay in cash.
8 | Take a detour to Santa Maddalena, a highly photogenic panorama!
The Church of Santa Maddalena is part of the small village of the same name. It’s well worth a visit for the breathtaking panorama it offers. To get there, park your car in the village and walk along the small asphalt road reserved for locals. After a 15-minute stroll, you come to a bench with a view that’s simply sublime. Situated in the Val di Funes, in front of the Odle, Furchetta and Sass Rigai mountains, in the middle of meadows, it seems to stand alone, facing the world!
9 | Other spots to discover that we didn’t have time to see
Among the things we weren’t able to visit, I’d like to suggest 4 places that are probably worth a detour. These places are not directly accessible by road, but they’re well worth a hike!
Where to sleep in the Dolomites?
If you’re visiting the Dolomites and don’t want to sleep in a campground or van, I’d recommend staying in Cortina d’Ampezzo, a small, fairly central town ideally situated between the Tre Cimes, Lago Sorapis and Lago di Braies.
Here are the 2 accommodations we booked:
- Garni Eden located in Canazei.
- Antelao Dolomiti Mountain Resort located south of Cortina d’Ampezzo. This hotel also runs a restaurant, and the pizzas are really excellent – we recommend it!
Thanks for reading!
My most beautiful photos are on Instagram
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