Exploring the Dolomites: A Summer Travel Guide for Italy’s Stunning Alpine Range


Make Your Home Base in Cortina d’Ampezzo & Enjoy Glorious Hiking & Luxury Spas Close to Venice for Your Italian Summer Holiday

You don’t have to be a mountaineer and eat dried food to experience out of this world hiking with breathtaking views in the Dolomites in summer, even with your kids or mobility impaired friends and family.

The Dolomites in summer are a true natural wonder. Known for their jagged peaks, lush greenery, and crystal-clear alpine lakes, these mountains are a hiker’s paradise. And among the many towns that dot the Dolomites, none is quite as charming as Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Fortunately, it’s only a 2-hour drive from the international airport in Venice to the stunning mountain village of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Italian Dolomites.

Don’t worry, mountains in Italy don’t mean a sacrifice in the food or luxury department.

Cortina is a must-see for people who love Nature with a dose of good food and wine on summer holiday. Read until the end on how to plan your own incredible hut to hut mountain experience near Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Hiking Gear
GIrls hiking with Uncle Colin

Best thing to do: Hut to Hut Hiking

Best Place to Stay: Cristallo Resort & Spa

Best Adventure Tour: Via Ferrata Experience

Best Town to Stay in: Cortina d’Ampezzo

Quick Verdict: What to do in Cortina d’Ampezzo in Summer

Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites

Self Guided Dolomites Hut to Hut Backpacking

Want to experience the magic of the Alta Via 1 without all the stress?

Alpenventures Unguided does the heavy logistical lifting for you to plan a self-guided adventure in the Italian Dolomites so you can hike your own hike.  If you are limited on time, don't enjoy the endless back and forth emails, or don't want to get lost - this is a great affordable option for you.

What do they do:

  • Plan the route
  • Book all the accommodations for you on the trail
  • Deals with the non-English speaking hut owners for you
  • Provide GPS enabled app to never get lost
  • Provides custom eGuidebooks
  • Downloadable GPS Tracks for the entire Alta Via 1 to your phone
  • Distance, elevation gain and loss, profiiles and turn by turn directions.

    The Classic full AV1 is 10 days, but Alpenventures can help you plan shorter hikes if you've only got a long weekend too!  

The owner is from US so understands how to help those of us not used to the Alpine and Dolomites hut system of hiking and backpacking.

Wild camping is illegal in most of Europe.

Best Town to Stay in Dolomites : Cortina d’Ampezzo

The motto of this family-friendly outdoor paradise is “Cortina Delicious” and it delivers on luxury, wellness and dramatic mountain scenery.

My favorite part is that you’re just as likely to see a Gucci lady all done up in heels with her designer doodle dog drinking coffee next to a sweat-drenched hiker with mud-spattered boots and hiking poles on her backpack.

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a great place to rest, relax and refuel before and after your hike. The town has a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as plenty of shops and boutiques. You can also take a leisurely stroll through the historic center of town, admiring the colorful buildings and beautiful churches.

hiking in the dolomites in summer
Even the 11 year olds love the Dolomites!

Where to Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo

What You Will Learn in This Article

Best Eco-Friendly Luxury Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo Summer

Cristallo : a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa. 5-star luxury hotel in the Dolomites, get treated like a movie star with unparalleled wellness amenities, views, nightly live piano and tasty food. We stayed here AFTER the hike to really soak in the luxury wellness as a treat.

This hotel leaves no detail ignored and the spa facility includes a path of various essential oil scented waters through which you pass on foot like you’re a car in an automated carwash of lux wellness.

The sauna, pool, and cold plunges will refresh and rejuvenate. You could find somewhere cheaper but you deserve a world-class spa on the side of a mountain after climbing them!

Photo courtesy of booking.com

Mid-Range Dolomites Italy Summer Stay

Hotel Alaska. We liked staying here because it’s right in the heart of the town, it’s comfortable and has gorgeous views in Cortina d’Ampezzo in summer.

Photo courtesy of booking.com

Best Budget Stay for Summer in Dolomites

Hotel De La Poste. The night before the hike is just all about sleep, not the amenities and this hotel has great breakfast included. These rooms book out quickly so plan 6-9 months ahead with your bookings.

Photo courtesy of booking.com

What to do in Dolomites in Summer : Top 5 Things to Do in Dolomites in Summer Holidays

mountain hut in dolomites
This is a hotel. Can you believe it? We stayed here in 2021.

Cortina d’Ampezzo is also rich with WWI history as it was on the infamous Italian Front.

This area switched between Austrian and Italian control after WW1, and it’s suggested that Italy only joined the war and went against its natural ally of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to annex this part of South Tyrol.

And you can tell why, it’s so beautiful with Nature and Culture. Here’s a list of my favorite activities that I hope you’ll enjoy.

tl;dr: Epic Food and Delicious Hikes in the Dolomites
Go to the Town of Cortina for a quick break from the tourist overwhelm of Venice or as a unique wellness and Nature destination of itself.

1. Easy Day Hikes Your Kids Will Love

From Cortina, it’s easy to reach some of the best and most popular day hikes in the Dolomites.

Take your pick of Cinqui Torri (our favorite), Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Val Gardena, Seiser Alm, Alto Adige, Rosa Alpina, Alpe di Siusi, Lago di Sorapiss, Lago di Braies, Rifugio Croda di Lago, and more.

For maximum scenery with flat and stroller-friendly trails plan the Lago di Braies Italy walk.
Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies – go early to get pics like this.

Parking can be challenging and there are many limitations. Book a Lago di Braies parking ticket here.

If you can’t get a ticket, it’s a good and less stressful option to take the bus to the Lago di Braies park.

Buses go from Cortina to Dobbiaco on SAD bus 445. Get off at the “Dobbiaco autostazione”.

Then switch to the 442 bus from Dobbiaco autostazione directly to the Lago di Braies national park, also called Prager Wildsee.

Parking is free in Dobbiaco, so if you’ve got a car it’s easier to drive from Cortina to Dobbiaco, park, and then take the 442 bus to Prager Wildsee (Lago di Braies).

2. Ride Bikes Around Gorgeous Lakes and Rocky Spires

If riding a bike is more your thing than hiking there are safe bike routes throughout the Dolomites. Rental bikes are sturdy and affordable to maximize your natural sightseeing on the route from Cortina d’Ampezzo to Dobbiaco.

3. Do a Via Ferrata with Your Kids

Have a thrilling adventure doing a Via Ferrata. It means “iron way” and they are some of the absolute most exciting, yet safe mountain activities in the Alps.

Cables, handholds, and various bars embedded into the rocky paths, allow you to pass behind waterfalls and walk along the tops of peaks.

Hiking near Cortina d'Ampezzo
Hiking near Cortina d’Ampezzo

Take a guided tour with a mountaineer that will show you the safe way to experience a family-friendly via ferrata. They will provide all of the gear you need (helmets, harnesses, etc) so you can just show up and get the thrill of a lifetime, even with your kids.

4. Ride a Chair Lift to Cinque Torri Outdoor Museum

This is probably the most dramatic rock formation in the entire region and is worth spending a day exploring. This area is 25 minutes outside Cortina d’Ampezzo and was on the infamous Italian Front of WW1. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died on both the Italian and Austro-Hungarian sides, mostly from avalanches.

Cinque Torri means 5 towers and you’ll immediately see why it has this name in this surreal landscape.

Book a Cinque Torri Tour for a more in-depth experience.

It’s a 1-2 hour hike on foot but if you want to get to the outdoor history museum quickly, it’s a simple trip up the 5 Torri chair lift.

5 Torri from my friend's drone - it's really this impressive
5 Torri on our last trip in 2022

While you are there, definitely make a reservation and have lunch at the delicious Rifugio Averau. It’s about a 30 minute slight uphill walk from 5 Torri. You can’t miss it.

How to Get to 5 Torri

Take a taxi or bus from Cortina bus station. Chair lift tickets are 11 euros round trip and you can find 5 Torri chair lift information here.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do some serious bucket list hiking, cycling, and climbing adventures near Cortina d’Ampezzo. Book a top daytrip here.

5. Go Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites

One of the best ways to experience the Dolomites in summer is by embarking on a hut-to-hut hike. These multi-day trekking routes take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Dolomites, while also allowing you to experience the traditional alpine culture of the region.

One of the best part of this hike is the overnight stays in mountain huts, where you can enjoy a warm meal and a cozy bed after a long day on the trail. The huts are also a great place to meet other hikers and swap stories about your adventures in the Dolomites.

Feel like a Mountaineer without Having to Rough it

It’s hard to understand the taste of homemade venison ragu or vegetarian lasagna after a stunning 5-hour walk, but you can imagine it tastes so very good. Imagine not hearing cars for days on end and only the tinkling of bells around alpine mountain cows necks?

Hut to Hut Hiking
View from the balcony in the 5 Torri Rifugio from our last hut to hut trip.

You’ll start each day with a hearty breakfast of fresh breads, granola, meats, cheeses and cappuccinos from a hut like the photo of 5 Torri Rifugio above. Then you’ll explore the mountains by foot and walk 4-6 hours each day. You’ll finish at a mountain hut directly on the high elevation path each afternoon before sitting down to a pilgrim-style 3-course Italian dinner with local wines.

Due to the huts providing the beds, linens, food and water it’s not necessary to carry very much when you do choose to do a hut to hut hike. You’ll carry a small pack will containing just a change of clothes and enough water for the day.

Can you feel the satisfaction of sleeping in a warm soft bed after exploring the natural wonder of the Dolomites, a UNESCO world heritage site?

How to Get to Cortina d’Ampezzo

Here’s a google map link to the center of Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The closest airport is Venice Marco Polo international airport. If you want to rent a car make sure you have an international driver’s license. This can be picked up at your local AAA office in the US.

The Cortina Express goes from the airport to the Cortina d’Ampezzo central bus station and takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes and costs 20 euros. This website has prices, timetables and you can book your tickets ahead of time.

Stress Free Tours into the Dolomites from Venice or Bolzano

If you want to take away all the stress, book an English-speaking van to take you to the heart of Cortina directly from the airport.

If you aren’t interested in booking hotels in the Dolomites but want a full day tour from Bolzano, this will provide a guide, transport and history of the highlights of the Dolomites.

From Venice, this full day Dolomites tour offers a chance to see the highlights of the Dolomites in one day with a return to Venice in the evening.

Best Time to Visit the Dolomites in the Summer

Mid-June through Late October

Cortina is pretty amazing in the winter with its skiing being world-class. It’s hosted multiple Olympics and world cup skiing events.

However, the unique experience of the Dolomites isn’t skiing.

The incredible thing about Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Italian Dolomites is the chance to walk easily at high elevations with minimal effort and no special training.

Explore the famous Alta Via 1 Trail

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a natural starting place for people wanting to do the long-distance Alta Via 1 Hike.

Book a guided Alta Via 1 tour where they take care of everything and you simply show up and follow the guide to ease the stress of planning or getting lost in the mountains.

The Alta Via 1 hiking trail is a perfect beginning exposure to hut to hut hiking. It is relatively easy and well marked.

You’ll start at astonishing Lago di Braies and walk back to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

This makes it great for families or new hikers.

It’s not for everyone, but the delicious food and wine and hot cocoa will convert even the most hiking-opposed people in your family to join.

If you’ve got any knee issues like me, you might want to try trekking poles. Check out my budget trekking pole review to see if they might be right for you.

Self Guided Hut to Hut Hiking Adventure

Booking and planning a hut to hut hike can be challenging logistically. It requires a lot of spreadsheets, phone calls, emails and texts in multiple languages.

If you don’t want the hassle, the excellent American founded Alpenventures Unguided will help you book your trip for a service fee. The normal route is 10 days to complete the entire trail. They also have shorter options if you’d like a shorter trip in the Dolomites.

Alta Via 1 Trail: Hut to Hut Hiking in 5 Days with Kids Dolomites Italy Map

How to use this map: Use your computer mouse or fingers to zoom in and out. Click on the icons to get more information. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the written index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your google maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open google maps, click the menu button, and go to “your places”/ “maps.”

DIY Planning for AV1 Hut to Hut Trip

For you DIY planners download my free route and guide in google maps above. If you like Komoot: here you go.

If you like to plan your own adventures, our family-friendly Alta Via 1 route is only 4-5 days starting and ending in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Get reservations at the huts BEFORE going.

You must have a reservation usually 3-6 months ahead of time and ensure you don’t book huts that are too far or too close together.

One year I got my spreadsheet confused and booked a hut that was only a 30-minute walk away from the previous night’s hut, yikes!

The owners kept my deposit and let me put it toward the following summer which was very generous. It’s not easy to “change” your reservations.

Alta Via 1 Map Routes

This Cicerone guidebook is an absolute must for the Alta Via 1. The first year my daughter and I did the Alta Via 1 it was the only thing we used.

We didn’t know about GPS on the phone or how to use google maps without a cellular signal. With this small guide, it’s possible to be tech-phobic and still feel safe and know where you’re going.

Huts and Trails in the Dolomites are open mid-June through mid-September

Directly on those accessible trails sit family-run mountain huts serving hot, delicious food and wine with comfortable soft beds which are open mid-June through mid-September.

A mountain hut is called a “rifugio” in Italian and “hütte” in German and they provide luxurious and delicious hiking experiences that are rare outside this region.

They seem impossible to this mom from the United States. If you can avoid August you’ll find easier table reservations and less expensive accommodations.

Magic of the Italian Dolomites – Rifugios and Hiking Trails in Nature Park

You’ll savor some of the most spectacular views in the world. Protect your eyes though. The high elevation trails are framed by bright white limestone mountains and the sun reflects as if it were snow.

I’m always down for good value and being cheap whenever it makes sense. Here’s my article about how to turn your SUV into the best place to sleep before a big hike.

You’ll want to avoid my mistake around sunglasses though. I’ve got several pre-cancers just in my eye area which should NOT have been the trigger for me to take sunglasses seriously.

***Recommended sunglasses: Mountain Shield Cat 4 Reactive Lens Julbo

It doesn’t seem “hot” but don’t forget a good hat and sunscreen too.

Lago di Braies

Weather in the Dolomites

The Dolomites are part of the Alps. Summer in the Dolomites is short and the temperatures run between the low 70s in day to low 50s at night.

Don’t expect warm fuzzy weather like in the American Rockies, but you’ll enjoy the emerald green meadows filled with wildflowers and lush forests under the limestone craggy peaks.

In Mid-June you can expect cooler temperatures. July is warmer and all huts are open. August is crowded. September is warm and glorious with less crowds. Most huts will close by mid-October and it’s chilly.

If there are thunderstorms, they usually occur in the late afternoon.

NOTE: if lighting is on the weather report, it’s important to plan to get going in the mornings and be finished hiking in the mid-afternoon. It’s possible to head down the mountain and find a taxi if you can’t proceed on your intended route.

Download some weather apps to be safe. Here’s a list to be prepared for quickly changing weather.

Bergfex Weather App (Apple / Android), Bergfex Website

Windy.com App (Apple / Android), Windy.com Website

YR.no App (Apple / Android), YR.no website

Packing List for Alta Via 1

Here’s a detailed packing list to help you experience the magic of hut to hut hiking in the Dolomites.

Things Not to Miss in the Dolomites in Summer

Hut to hut hiking
Eating at mountain rifugios/hütten
Walk around turquoise lakes
Mellow adventures of ferrata, tunnels and biking
Delve into the WW1 history
People watching in Cortina d’Ampezzo
The food!!

Are the Dolomites crowded in summer?

Yes and no. The month of August is almost always crowded, but you can find a lot of peace if you go on a hut to hut hike and get away from the crowds near gondolas.

I hope you enjoy your trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo as much as we always do. Have some adventures and delicious food exploring Europe’s great outdoors.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a passionate hiker and writer, physical therapist, and photographer. She has a doctorate in physical therapy and is featured giving science-based hiking tips and advice.

​When not out exploring the mountains or sea, she’s writing articles and gear reviews to empower Outdoor Journeys that include family and good food.

With 💞, Crave the Planet

Thanks for reading! Please share your stories of your awesome outdoor adventures or ask questions from the community over on our facebook group Untold Outdoor Europe Travel Planning.

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