Your guide to the best things to do in the Dolomites based on our family travel there the past 4 years in a row. We can’t get enough (and you probably will feel the same)!
TL;DR: The Dolomites are a UNESCO world heritage site filled with soaring peaks, crystal-clear lakes, lush meadows, and charming alpine villages create an awe-inspiring backdrop that inspires pure mountain magic. It’s best for hikers, Nature lovers, food lovers and photographers. It’s not great for people that don’t want to walk much. November and April are also kinda crappy.
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Nestled in the northeastern part of Italy, the Dolomites are a captivating mountain range brimming with breathtaking landscapes, thrilling outdoor adventures, and rich cultural heritage.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this majestic region offers an unparalleled array of activities and striking sights for travelers seeking an unforgettable experience.
Morgan’s Dolomites Video : Bolzano Area
Hiking enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise as the Dolomites boast numerous picturesque trails, suitable for a variety of skill levels, that wind through forests, meadows, and awe-inspiring mountain vistas.
Of course, there’s more to do than just hiking – the region offers plenty of opportunities to explore its vibrant lakes, engage in thrilling outdoor activities, and immerse oneself in the rich and diverse local culture. No matter how you choose to spend your time in the Dolomites, you’re sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.
- The Dolomites offer breathtaking landscapes and a variety of outdoor adventures
- Hiking is a top activity, with trails for all skill levels and stunning scenery
- Visitors can explore crystal-clear lakes, engage in outdoor activities, and immerse themselves in the region’s rich cultural heritage
11 Best Things to do in The Dolomites
The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer a plethora of breathtaking attractions for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Here are some of the must-visit places to make your Dolomites experience unforgettable:
1. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre Cime di Lavaredo: These iconic peaks are among the most famous in the Dolomites. A hike around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo will provide you with unforgettable views and magnificent photo opportunities.
2. Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies: This stunning emerald-green lake is one of the most picturesque spots in the region. Take a leisurely walk around the lake or rent a boat to explore the serene waters of Lago di Braies.
Read ➡️ Exactly How to Visit Lago di Braies
3. Cinque Torri
Cinque Torri: The Cinque Torri is a group of five rock formations that offer various hiking and climbing options. With a unique landscape, it is a must-visit site for those interested in adventurous activities.
4. Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina D’ampezzo: Known as the “Queen of the Dolomites”, Cortina D’ampezzo is a charming town teeming with history and surrounded by mesmerizing mountain landscapes. Wander through the town to experience the local culture or embark on one of the many hiking trails to explore the Dolomites in Summer.
5. Val Gardena
Val Gardena: This verdant valley boasts stunning panoramas and picture-perfect villages. In Val Gardena, you can enjoy various outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and skiing, with trails suitable for all ages and experience levels.
6. Alpe di Siuisi
Alpe di Siusi: Europe’s largest alpine plateau, Alpe di Siusi, offers lush meadows, mesmerizing views, and an extensive network of hiking trails. The area is also home to various traditional mountain huts, known as rifugios, which provide local hospitality and gastronomy.
7. Rosengarten Catinaccio Hike
8. Soak in Alpine Lakes
A visit to the Dolomites would not be complete without exploring some of the enchanting lakes, such as Lago di Carezza, Lago di Sorapis, and Lago di Misurina. These crystal-clear alpine lakes, surrounded by dramatic peaks, provide a relaxing respite amid nature’s beauty.
10. Visit Mountain Peaks
The best things to do in the Dolomites in my opinion is hiking. You can find some hidden places, or you should venture to the popular summits of Lagazuoi, Sassolungo, and Marmolada for breathtaking panoramas. The cable car ride to the top of Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites, is an experience to remember. From Punta Rocca, you can admire the incredible view across the Dolomite mountain range.
Another picture-perfect destination in the Dolomites is the Seceda mountain. The sharp ridge of this mountain creates a stunning contrast with the lush, green meadows below. To reach the top, you can take a cable car ride from Ortisei, that offers spectacular views along the way.
Hiking In The Dolomites : Long Distance and Day Hikes
The Dolomites in Italy offer magnificent landscapes, making them an ideal destination for hiking enthusiasts. With various trails catering to different skill levels, you’ll surely find one that suits your preferences.
Best Hiking Trails
In my experience, the Alta Via 1 hike is the absolute best in the Dolomites, but there are so many and it depends on your goals.
Some of the best hikes in the Dolomites include the trails that take you to the astounding Val di Funes and Seceda. The Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint offers breathtaking vistas of the picturesque alpine lakes and the surrounding mountains.
Another exceptional trail is the Croda da Lago Circuit, which allows you to explore the impressive Fanes-Sennes-Prags Nature Park and encounter the turquoise Lago Federa.
If you’re keen on capturing stunning panoramas of the Dolomite peaks, don’t miss the Adolf Munkel trail in the Puez-Odle Nature Park. Besides these, the Three Peaks Trek is a must-do for avid hikers, promising an unforgettable experience.
Moderate Hiking Trails
For those looking for moderate hikes, there are several trails worth considering. The Puez-Odle Altopiano features a pleasant and relatively easy hike that takes you through the serene alpine meadows, offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.
Another moderate hike to explore is the Fanes circuit, located in the heart of the Dolomites. This trail will lead you through captivating limestone landscapes and picturesque alpine lakes. Take a break at the Fanes Hut to enjoy its warm hospitality while gazing at the majestic mountains.
Morgan’s Alta Via 1 Hike Video
The Dolomites offer a wide range of biking trails for both mountain biking and road cycling enthusiasts. You can explore picturesque mountain passes such as Passo Giau, Sella Pass, Gardena Pass, and Falzarego Pass on your bike.
The 70-mile Pustertal cycle path and the 20-mile Toblach-Cortina path are particularly popular among cyclists. Some trails might be challenging, but the breathtaking views and picturesque landscapes make the effort worthwhile.
The Dolomites are known for their world-class climbing opportunities, and people who enjoy adventurous activities will love the thrill of scaling these majestic mountains. One popular climbing activity in this region is the Via Ferrata, which consists of protected climbing routes equipped with steel cables, ladders, and other fixtures.
The Dolomites boast numerous Via Ferrata routes that vary in difficulty levels, so no matter your experience, you can find something that suits your capacity and taste.
Skiing In Dolomites
Winter sports enthusiasts will find the Dolomites to be a paradise, offering numerous ski resorts to cater to skiers of all levels. The stunning scenery and well-maintained slopes make skiing in the Dolomites an unforgettable experience.
From beginner-friendly slopes to challenging black diamond runs, there’s something for everyone here. Additionally, you can find many cozy mountain huts and lodges to relax in after an exhilarating day in the snowy wonderland.
Scenic Views – Iconic (But…Crowded)
When visiting the Dolomites, be prepared to witness some of the most breathtaking and memorable scenery on Earth. The region is famous for its panoramic views, jagged peaks, and picturesque landscapes that stretch across the horizon.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Additionally, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to marvel at the dramatic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Also known as the Drei Zinnen, these famous mountain peaks are the symbol of the Dolomite UNESCO World Heritage site and provide some of the most iconic views in the area. Embark on a 10 km hike around these stunning peaks for an experience that will take your breath away.
Throughout your journey, you may also come across various viewpoints and overlooks that offer unparalleled perspectives of the Dolomites’ scenery. Some of the favorite mountain passes to explore include Passo Pordoi, the Sella Pass, Passo Giau, and the Sella Pass. Each of these offers unique vantage points for panoramic views and amazing photo opportunities.
Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) is the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe and provides an unforgettable experience to visitors. Offering a mix of gentle, rolling hills and rugged peaks, this area is perfect for all skill levels. In addition to hiking, you can also partake in mountain biking, horseback riding, and paragliding in this beautiful setting.
You can reach Alpe di Siusi by cable car or hiking, which will provide you with a pleasant ride and awe-inspiring views.
Val di Funes
In the Val di Funes, you’ll find charming villages surrounded by picturesque scenery and incredible viewpoints. Take a leisurely walk through these quaint villages and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere this region has to offer.
Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies: Known as the “Pearl of the Dolomite Lakes,” Lago di Braies is a mesmerizing turquoise lake surrounded by towering mountains. You can take a leisurely walk around the lake, rent a rowboat, or even embark on a more strenuous hike nearby.
Val Gardena: Nestled in the Western Dolomites, Val Gardena is famous for its world-class skiing and breathtaking scenery. In addition to winter sports, you can also explore Puez-Odle Nature Park and Alpe di Siusi, two of the region’s natural attractions.
Cinque Torri: An impressive rock formation consisting of five imposing towers, Cinque Torri is an ideal destination for hiking, rock climbing, and taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The area also features several mountain huts, where you can relax and grab a bite to eat.
In addition to these iconic views, the Dolomites offers countless opportunities for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, paragliding, and ice climbing in the winter. The region is also known for its charming villages, where you can savour delicious Italian cuisine and experience the local culture.
The Culture Of Dolomites
When visiting the Dolomites, you have the opportunity to taste local cuisine that combines the flavors of Austrian and Italian traditions. The region boasts dishes with various cheeses, cured meats, freshwater fish, and dumplings. Don’t forget to taste Canederli, a local specialty made from bread, meat, and cheese, served in a heartwarming broth.
Explore the various restaurants in the charming towns nested in the valleys, where you can relish local dishes while appreciating stunning views of the rock formations. Opt for a traditional alpine hut, known as “Rifugio,” for an authentic experience accompanied by striking mountain panoramas. Do stay hydrated with the abundant freshwater available from the Dolomites’ numerous streams.
The Dolomites is home to the unique Ladin culture, a distinct ethnic group found in Northeastern Italy. Their language, known as Ladin, is derived from Latin and influenced by neighboring German, Italian, and Romansh languages. To discover more about the Ladin heritage, immerse yourself in the picturesque towns and valleys of the region, where their customs and history are preserved.
Famed mountaineer Reinhold Messner, a Ladin, founded a series of mountain museums highlighting the area’s natural wonders, alpine cultures, and history. Be sure to visit one of the Messner Mountain Museums to learn about the symbiotic relationship between man and the mountains.
Delve into the history and values of Ladin culture by engaging with the friendly locals and visiting the cultural centers and museums dotted throughout the region’s various towns and cities. This experience will enrich your understanding of this beautiful and unique area.
When planning your trip to the Dolomites, it’s essential to choose the right accommodation, as this can greatly impact your overall experience. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect place to stay during your visit.
First off, consider your budget and travel preferences. If you’re looking for luxury hotels in the Dolomites, you’ll find several options to choose from. Some high-end accommodations include the Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in San Cassiano.
When selecting the area to stay in, take into account the activities you plan to participate in during your trip. Will you be primarily hiking, skiing, or exploring local towns? The Dolomites are roughly divided into eastern and western sections, and your choice of accommodation will depend on the activities you have planned. For example, staying in Cortina d’Ampezzo is ideal for exploring the eastern Dolomites, while Val Gardena is perfect for accessing the western areas.
Don’t forget to research transportation options during your stay. Depending on your chosen activities, you may need a rental car or access to public transportation to get around. Before booking your accommodation, ensure it has convenient access to the modes of transportation you’ll be using.
If you’re visiting for a short period, aim for a location that allows you to maximize your time and explore as much as possible. Base yourself in a central location with easy access to multiple points of interest, such as Ortisei in Val Gardena.
Getting Around The Dolomites
Navigating this region can be done through various modes of transportation to best suit your needs.
Rental Car: Exploring the Dolomites by rental car provides you with the freedom to visit quaint villages and spectacular viewpoints at your own pace. Driving allows you to reach hidden gems and enjoy the picturesque landscapes. However, be prepared for winding mountain roads and limited parking in some areas.
Car: When you book your car online, I personally recommend and always use Discover Cars. They search for both local and international companies, so you get the best deal!
Public Transportation: The Dolomites have an excellent public transport network that includes buses and trains. This cost-effective option is ideal for travelers who prefer not to drive. Public transportation allows you to easily reach popular locations and connects various towns within the region.
Cable Cars and Chairlifts: Many of the best sights in the Dolomites can be accessed via cable cars and chairlifts. These modes of transportation provide a unique and thrilling way to experience the breathtaking panoramas of the area. One such example is the Cima Tofana cable car, which offers 360° views of the Dolomites.
Rifugi: These mountain huts, or rifugi, are scattered throughout the Dolomites, allowing you to take breaks during your hikes or even stay overnight. Some rifugi are reachable by cable cars or chairlifts, whereas others require a hike. One of the popular rifugi is Rifugio Fodara Vedla which offers a unique shepherd village atop a high plateau.
When planning your trip to the Dolomites, consider the best transportation options for your needs, keeping in mind that some modes may be more suitable for certain areas of the mountain range. Whether it’s driving, public transportation, or cable cars, each option offers different opportunities to appreciate and explore the beauty of the Dolomites. And don’t forget to venture across the border to Austria and discover even more of the picturesque Alpine landscapes.
Frequently Asked Questions best things to do in the Dolomites
What are the top hikes in the Dolomites?
The Dolomites offer a wide range of picturesque hikes for all skill levels. Some of the most popular include Tre Cime di Lavaredo, a relatively easy loop with stunning views; Seceda, which can be accessed by cable car and offers panoramic vistas; and Lago di Sorapis, a moderately difficult trek featuring a turquoise glacier-fed lake.
Which are the most picturesque towns to visit?
Cortina d’Ampezzo, known as the “Pearl of the Dolomites”, is a beautiful town with plenty of shops, restaurants, and access to nearby hikes. Other charming towns worth visiting include Val Gardena, surrounded by the Puez-Odle Nature Park, and Alpe di Siusi, situated within the Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park.
What is the optimal itinerary for a trip?
The ultimate Dolomites itinerary can be adjusted to suit your schedule, ranging from 1 to 10 days. A typical itinerary would start with exploring Cortina d’Ampezzo, then venturing to scenic hikes such as Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lago di Sorapis. Further exploration may include visiting picturesque towns like Val Gardena and Alpe di Siusi, and finishing with a stop at the Marmolada Glacier.
When is the best season to visit?
The best season to visit the Dolomites depends on your preferences. For hiking and enjoying the lush green landscapes, the summer months (June to September) are ideal. Fall (October and November) offers cooler temperatures and colorful foliage. Winter sports enthusiasts will find the months of December through March perfect for skiing and snowboarding.
What are the finest winter destinations?
Alpe di Siusi is the highest alpine meadow in Europe and offers excellent skiing and cross-country trails during winter. Other great winter destinations include Val Gardena, known for its extensive ski slopes and snow parks, and Cortina d’Ampezzo, a chic and popular ski resort town.
Which rifugios are highly recommended?
Rifugios are mountain huts nestled in the Dolomites, offering accommodation, meals, and a warm atmosphere. Some of the highly recommended rifugios include Rifugio Averau, famous for its delicious cuisine and panoramic views; Rifugio Lagazuoi, perched high above the mountains with breathtaking sights; and Rifugio Fanes, a cozy and welcoming hut in the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park.
More Hiking & Outdoor Gear Resources
Here’s more awesome gear to empower your journey. I have written in-depth comparisons of products that make hiking and exploring the Great Outdoors safer and more fun, especially if you’re a beginner (or like me, a little rusty in the knees).
Physical Therapist Curated Gear Guides for Hikers
- 🧎 Make your knees feel better while hiking and walking: Best Knee Braces for Hiking
- 🌳Make the downhills stop hurting and hike with more confidence Best Trekking Poles Review
- ⌚ Never get lost on the trail and navigate the wilderness safely with My Review of the Best GPS Watches for Hiking
- ❄️ Go hiking on uneven terrain safely: The Best Hiking Boots with Ankle Support
- 🥾 Don’t get lost in the backcountry during a big hike: My Review of the BEST PLB – Personal Locator Beacons
My Guides to Bucketlist Hikes in Europe
(That I’ve personally done and loved.)
We hope this guide filled with interesting information about the best things to do in the Dolomites has given you the proper information to plan your next adventure.
Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.