How to visit the Dolomites, Italy and its Top 20 unmissable destinations

A complete itinerary about how to visit the Dolomites, Italy, in summer time: top 20 destinations, how to drive there, interactive map and travel tips.

Why should you visit the Dolomites?

Well, imagine long, deep mountain valleys, dense forests, bubbling rivers. Add still, cold lakes spread across the landscape, guarded everywhere by the dramatic pink-grey walls of stunning mountains.

Dolomites views are simply magic, and seem nicked straight off the pages of a fairy tale.

The Dolomites are simply one of the most beautiful and amazing destinations in Italy. That’s why you should have them in your bucket list.

Visit the Dolomites - Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Dolomites landscape – photo credits www.rei_.com

Even though they are mostly known for their amazing sky slopes, visiting the Dolomites in summer time is an experience you shouldn’t miss.

In this post I will share the answers to the most common questions about how to visit the Dolomites:

  •  When is the best time to visit Dolomites?
  • How to get to the Dolomites? Which airport is closest to the Dolomites?
  • What is the great Dolomites road? What is the great Dolomites road driving time?
  • What are the top Dolomite destinations, and how to get there by car?

When is the best time to visit the Dolomites?

Excluding the sky season (December to April), the best moment to visit the Dolomites goes from May to October. Summer is obviously a good moment to visit the Dolomites. July and August are the warmest months, but unfortunately also the most crowded since most. It’s not uncommon to have storms at the end of August.

In my view, June and September are probably the best combination of mild and sunny weather and scarce touristic presence. In October you may assist to gorgeous Indian summer landscapes.

How to get to the Dolomites? Which airport is closest to the Dolomites?

Getting to the Dolomites is actually very easy. The two main gateways, Bolzano and Cortina, are a couple of hours driving from Venice and Verona, which are the closest airports.

Public transportation is good, but renting a car would be a much better solution, to give you more flexibility in your visit and to give you the opportunity to drive the gorgeous Great Dolomites Road.

If you are on the classical Italy tour, you can rent a car in Venice and drive the Great Dolomites Road to Verona and Garda lake, or vice versa.

What is the great Dolomites road?

The Great Dolomite Road,  or Strada delle Dolomiti,  runs from the eastern edge of the town of Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

It’s a breathtaking scenic drive that crosses three alpine passes (Falzarego, Pordoi and Karerpass, at the renowned Rosengarten) and one of the most gorgeous scenic roads in all of Europe!

The Great Dolomites Road project started at the end of the 19th century and completed in 1909. The 110-kilometres long road run from Bolzano over the Eggental Valley to the Fassa Valley in Trentino and further on to Veneto and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The Great Dolomites Road is an amazingly beautiful scenic route and has strongly contributed to the touristic development of the region.

Even though it has many turns and steep slopes, as you would expect from a mountain road, I don’t find it a difficult, hair raising road. It’s well maintained, sufficiently large and has many view points were to safely stop to enjoy the landscape and taking tons of pictures.

In my Dolomites driving map I’m suggesting some additional visiting opportunities to complete the sites that you can access just by following the Great Dolomites Road.

Dolomites driving map

In my Dolomite driving map I show the classical Cortina – Bolzano 110 Km itinerary, plus the additional roads (and trails) you may wish to add to see all the sites quoted in this post.

Plan no less than 5-7 days to see them all.

Visit the Dolomites map
Dolomites driving map – click on the imagine to open the Google map

What is the great Dolomites road driving time?

You can drive the 110 Km of the Great Dolomites road in a few hours (count three or four at the most), but this is sincerely not advisable.

You need time to enjoy, stop to make pictures, relax at nice restaurants and cafés strategically places in front of the most stunning landscapes.

Best option would be to dedicate at least two days to your stay in the Dolomites. This is enough to visit the main sights (but not all) by car. If you wish to take some trails, then you should add at least 2 or 3 days.

Visit the Dolomites - Dolomites view at sunset
Dolomites landscape – photo credits www.itock.com

Dolomites top 20 destinations and how to get there

Cortina d’Ampezzo

Visit the Dolomites - Cortina d'Ampezzo
Cortina city center – photo credits Taxi Cortina Sci

Posh Cortina Cortina d’Ampezzo is the perfect hub to wander and discover the Dolomites uniquely beautiful world of immense vertical walls, spires and pinnacles, green valleys, high mountain pastures and alpine lakes.

You should spend there at least one night if you wish to visit more than just the town and the mount Cristallo.

Misurina lake and Tre Cime di Lavaredo

This is one of the most classical day visit from Cortina and, unfortunately, could be rather crowded in high season. On the other hand, the sights you will discover are just breathtaking.

It does not belong to the Great Dolomites road.

Followin the road to the Tre Cime national park, after roughly 45 minutes driving you will get to the beautiful Misurina lake.

Even though it’s probably not the best Dolomites lake, the surroundings are gorgeous and you can take the easy trail that goes around the lake.

Once you are finished, you can continue to the tre Cime.

Visit the Dolomites - lago di Misurina
Lago di Misurina – Photo credits www.dolomini.net

After a short ride, you will get to the park entrance, where you will be charged the entrance + parking fee, 24 €, is outrageously high in my opinion. 

Visit the Dolomites - Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre cime di Lavaredo – photo credits Shutterstock

From the parking lot and the Auronzo refuge an easy trail will lead you to the Lavaredo refuge, where you can admire the first view of the Tre Cime. For the very best view you’ll need o continue to the Locatelli Refuge, which is just in front of the Tre Cime.

Note that you can get to the Locatelli refuge with a trail starting from Val Fiscalina. It’s a rather steep 3 hours walking, but the views are fantastic and you don’t pay the 24 € entrance fee!

San Candido and Lago di Braies

San Candido is a delightful hamlet very close to the Austrian border. Dobbiaco is also known for being the starting point of the amazing Dobbiaco – Lindz 49 Km bicycle trail (count one day to go to Lindz in Austria by bike and get back by train)

Going east you will find the beautiful Dobbiaco lake, worth a visit if you are around.

Visit the Dolomites - Lago di Dobbiaco
Lago di Dobbiaco

Dobbiaco lake – photo credits Luigi AlesiTwenty minutes driving down the road, you will get to the Lago di Braies, one of the most beautiful and famous in the Dolomites.

Visit the Dolomites - lago di Braies
Braies lake – photo credits www.labottegadeiviaggi.it

Braies lake is gorgeous, you can take the trail that goes all around it or hire a boat and explore the lake from the water.

Unfortunately it gets really crowded in high season, so better to come very early or at the end of the day in August and during Summer Week Ends.

 Passo Falzarego and rifugio Lagazuoi

Taking the Great Dolomites road from Cortina, you will start climbing up to Passo Falzarego. Just before you get to the pass, on your left you will find a sign to the Cinque Torri (five towers). These are five impressive pinnacles (hence the name), and one of the most famous mountain views of the Dolomites.

Visit the Dolomites - Cinque Torri
Cinque-torri_- photo credits www.gps-tour.info

The easiest way to get there is to take the Cinque Torri chairlift which will lead you to the Scoiattoli refuge. The view all around is great, and so is the food!You can go back by taking the chairs or just walking down hill.

Your next stop is the Falzarego pass where you can take the cable car to the Lagazuoi refuge.

Visit the Dolomites - rifugio Lagazuoi
Lagazuoi refuge – photo credits www.rifugiolagazuoi.it

At 2750 meters above seal level, the Lagazuoi refuge is among the highest in this area. The view from the balcony is astonishing. This is also a perfect place to visit the WW I remains, many guided tours in summer time.

From there, continue driving and after passing San Cassiano and La Villa you will get to Corvara.

Corvara in Badia

Visit the Dolomites - Corvara and the Sassongher mount
Corvara_- photo credits www.dolomiten.net

Sheltered by overhanging Sassongher mount, Corvara is the Alta Badia main destination, and a perfect hub to explore the area.

It could be a convenient place to spend the night in case you have only 2 days  to spend in the Dolomites.

Passo delle Erbe, Sass de Putia and Val di Funes

Visit the Dolomites - Sass de Putia
Sass de Putia at Passo delle Erbe – photo credits www.wallpaperup.com

A great day trip from Corvara (not included in the Great Dolomites road) will lead you to explore the Sass de Putia and beautiful Val di Funes.

The Sass de Putia is the most impressive peak in the Ortles natural park. You can admire it from the Passo delle Erbe, roughly one hour driving from Corvara.

From Passo delle Erbe you can take the trail which goes all around the Sass de Putia (4-5 hours walking). Otherwise, just take a short walk to one of the beautiful Malghe just in front of the Sass de Putia and have  adring before proceeding to Val di Funes.

Visit the Dolomites - Val di Funes
Val-di-funes_phot credits www.sentres.com

I’m sure you’ve already seen Val di Funes in some picture, this is one of teh most iconic views of the Dolomites.

Val di Funes is a magical valley, frozen in time and year lights away from modern civilization. You can drive until the San Maddalena hamlet, where you can admire the views and taste some delicious local dish before driving back to Corvara.

Colfosco, Passo Gardena and Vallunga

Visit the Dolomites - Colfosco
Colfosco – photo credits www.declara.it

Back to the Great Dolomites road, your first stop is in Colfosco. Here you can have amazing views over the Sella mount. When you are finished, drive up to Passo Gardena.

Visit the Dolomites - passo Gardena
Passo Gardena – photo credits www.dolomiti.it

I just couldn’t find a picture to show how beautiful this place can be, especially at sunset. Just park your car at the Chalet Gerard and have something to eat or to drink while admiring the view.

Your next stop is Selva di val Gardena, to take the easy Vallunga trail.

Visit the Dolomites - Vallunga
Vallunga – photo credits www.vivosuedtirol.com

Vallunga is a narrow valley squeezed among vertical grey-pink rock walls, going up in the sky. It’s really a fairy tail place, dotted with ridiculously small churches and peaceful cows.

The entire trail may take up to four hours back and forth, but you can go back whenever you feel satisfied.

Visit the Dolomites - Vallunga
Vallunga, the end of the valley

If your schedule is tight, from Selva di Val Gardena you can get to Bolzano in one hour and to Verona in roughly two, and from there continue your Italian trip.

If you still have some time, you can sleep in Val Gardena and then explore the Sass Pordoi and beautiful Val di Fassa the following day.

Sass Pordoi and Moena

Visit the Dolomites - Sass Pordoi
Sass Pordoi – photo credits www.blog-buschnick.net

Sass Pordoi (2.952 meters) is easily one of the most visited mountains of the Dolomites. A convenient cable-car leads up from the road Pordoi pass to the summit.

On top of the Sass Pordoi you will find a hutte to drink or to eat someting while admiring the views towards the Marmolada and Langkofel Groups.

Moena

Visit the Dolomites - Moena
Moena – photo credits www.visittrentino.it

Often called “the Dolomites pearl”, Moena is a good hub to explore this area of the Dolomites.

Among the many sites you could explore from there I would mention the Sorapis lake, very well know for his amazing turquoise color waters.

Visit the Dolomites - lago di Sorapis
Lago di sorapis_- photo credits www.dolomite.net

Also worth mentioning are the Cime del Violet, that you can visit with a rather tiring trail starting from the Re Alberto Primo Refuge. You will need  afull day, and you will enjoy any single moment of it!

Visit the Dolomites - Cime del Violet
Re Alberto refuge and Torri del Vajolet – photo credits Unicredit Circolo Trento

From Moena, you can get to the Brennero – Modena highway, which will get you to Verona.

Enjoy your tour in the Dolomites!


 

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