Glorious Hiking, Outdoor Activities & 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, even with your kids or mobility impaired friends and family.
Everyone should travel to Italy to experience the magnificent cities but it’s a hustle and touristic bustle that can leave you or your family well-fed but drained.
tl:dr: Epic Food and Delicious Hikes in the Dolomites in Summer Italy Travel
Continue reading to discover:
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. This mountain range extends North-South.
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 Italy: Where to Stay in Dolomites in Summer
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.
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.
Hotel Alaska. We liked staying here because it's right in the heart of the town, it's comfortable and has gorgeous views.
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.
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 Dolomites Full Day tour 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.
Dolomites Holiday & Self Guided Adventure
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.
Explore the emblematic trails and history of the Dolomites from Cortina on this self guided Dolomites adventure 6 day itinerary.
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.
Top 5 Things to Do in Dolomites in Summer Holidays
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 walk.
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. Dolomites Summer Adventure: 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.
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.
If history is your jam, this guided World War 1 tunnel and via ferrata experience will scratch your history itch. Everything is included but you’ll buy your lunch at the fantastic Rifugio Lagazuoi sitting on the top of a rocky mountain.
4. Take 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.
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.
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
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do some serious bucket list hiking and can hit up four different hikes on this tour.
5. Go Hut to Hut Hiking in Northern Italy
What is hut to hut hiking?
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?
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?
Alta Via 1 Trail
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a natural starting place for people wanting to do the long-distance Alta Via 1 Hike.
Guided tours are available 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.
If you like to plan your own adventures, our family-friendly route is only 4-5 days starting and ending in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
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, these walking poles make the steep downhills so much better.
Booking and planning a hut to hut hike can be challenging logistically. I’ve always done it myself, but I’ve made some mistakes that fortunately weren’t too expensive.
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.”
For you DIY planners download my free route and guide in google maps above. If you like Komoot: here you go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Best Place to Stay in Dolomites in Summer
To Experience Pure Luxury stay at Cristallo Hotel & Spa after a rigorous hike or fun bike ride. This splurge will never be forgotten.
The Cristallo 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!
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
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 European Cornhole Commissioner. She is living near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and 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. She is actively involved in the community and advocating for connection and sustainability with her community projects at Cornhole Europa and Sustainable Investors Group.