Set in the northern Italian alps, the Dolomites has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. In fact, it’s so picturesque that if you haven’t seen it on social media, you may recognise it from an old computer background.
There is so much to see and do in this part of Italy that it would be impossible to cover everything in one blog, so for now we’re just going to share the things you really can’t miss on your first visit.
What time of year to go to the Dolomites
Unless you’re planning on skiing or staying in one place, it might be best to avoid November – April when you’ll face cold weather and snow.
Outside of peak summer, spring (with its wild flowers) and Autumn are quieter times to visit and make walking a lot easier in the cooler weather.
What to see in the Dolomites
Wherever you go in this area you’ll be stopping to take photographs or admire the view, but here are a few places you should add to your list:
Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
Alpe di Siusi is another of those places lifted straight from a postcard. As the largest high alpine meadow in Europe, it’s incredible to see rolling green meadows so high in the mountains.
There are two ways to get to Alpe de Siusi. By far the easiest is the gondola from Orteisi (£20 return per person with £5 parking at the station). From the top it’s about a 20-minute walk straight to the heart of the meadow and some of the more popular scenic spots.
Another option is to drive to the car park at Compatsch (£18 for the day), which is about an hour’s walk from the same spots. To do this, you have to get there before 9am or after 5pm. Outside of these times, cars aren’t allowed on the road unless you’re a hotel guest in the area or are returning from the car park itself.
Once you are there the walking paths are endless and much easier on foot than some of the hikes listed below. If you are driving, you’ll also pass the town of San Valentino before the entrance to the Alpe de Siusi. Here, after a short but steep walk, you’ll find the stunning old church in the photo above.
Lago di Braies (The Pragser Wildsee)
From its old wooden boat house, to the incredible emerald and blue water and surrounding mountains, this is probably the most beautiful lake in all of Italy.
Being so beautiful though has made it a popular spot with tourists. If you are looking to enjoy it a bit more to yourself then our advice would be to get there early in the morning near sunrise (when you’ll most likely see the reflections in the water), or to take out one of the boats and explore the lake at your own pace (boats cost about £25 for an hour). If you are taking a day-trip here, there are two big car parks right next to the lake (£5 for the day).
Val di Funes
The Dolomites certainly make a claim for having some of the most beautiful and remote churches and chapels. Perhaps its most photographed is the tiny church of San Giovanni in Val di Funes. With the peaks of the Odle Dolomites in the background, it really is breath-taking. The valley also boasts some amazing walks and picture-perfect meadows.
Best places to hike in the Dolomites
The jagged crags of the Dolomites can be seen for miles around, but getting to see them up close is worth the added effort. Of the many you can explore, the Seceda mountain is one of the most famous and is part of the Odle group of mountains. Reaching this part of the mountain can be easy (a straight gondola from Orteisi is quick but expensive), but it pays to spend more time walking around the area to really make the most of it.
There are lots of signposted trails and whichever way you choose to take you won’t go wrong. We stayed in a Rifugio (Italian for refuge – see more about our stay below) which meant we could be up early for a sunrise hike and avoid the many visitors who travel up on the first gondola (9am).
Tre Cime Di Lavaredo
Another of the popular mountain groups in the area, a walk around these legendary three peaks should definitely be on your list. There’s a huge car park at Rifugio Auronzo (around £30 fixed price) and once there, the routes are all easily signposted. One of the great things about hiking in Italy is you are never too far from a Rifugio so food and drink is always easy to come by. The full walk around the peaks takes about four hours with plenty of other Rifugios along the way.
Where to stay when visiting the Dolomites
Most accommodation in this area is great but will book up quickly at popular times of year. If you are looking to stay somewhere as enchanting as the area itself though, we’ve listed a few of our favourites below:
Lefay Resort & Spa
This amazing luxury mountain hideaway is about as incredible a hotel as you’ll find anywhere in the world. If dining and sleeping amongst the trees is not enough, its one-of-a-kind spa facilities, with indoor and outdoor pools, offers a an unforgettable experience. Every detail of this hotel is beautiful, including its commitment to sustainability, and it’s worth stopping here even if just to treat yourself for one night. Prices for rooms start around £300, which includes one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever eaten. See more photos here.
A very different experience from a hotel, staying in a mountain Rifugio is one for the bucket list, especially if you are wanting to enjoy some proper hiking. There are many to choose from and some, like this one, will mean you can be one of the first to get to popular viewpoints like Seceda while everyone else is forced to wait for the first gondola at the foot of the mountain! Offering a comfy night’s sleep and a home-cooked meal, these places can be truly cut off from the outside world. A night’s stay at Rifugio Firenze, with meals, costs about £70.
Seehof Nature Retreat
If you are looking to appreciate the calm and stillness of this area and really escape from day to day life, Seehof is an oasis resort that has been designed to help you switch off. Surrounded by pines, a lake and apple trees, it definitely gives new meaning to the phrase a ‘breath of fresh air’. Is there a better spot to enjoy some yoga after a day exploring the area? Probably not. Prices for rooms start from around £100. See more photos here.
If you have any more questions about a trip to the Dolomites or would like to ask anything we haven’t covered, please let us know in the comments below or feel free to message us directly.