This ultimate Dolomites road trip guide should show you why visiting South Tyrol was our favorite trip to date. I’ve bookmarked images from the Dolomites for years now and I have to say, the photos do not do it justice. It’s hard to describe just how otherworldly this outdoor haven is in person.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

After deciding on a 9-day road trip through the Dolomites, we set out to gather as much information as possible before visiting. This is the first place where we found it quite challenging to get good advice on the overall details of the trip, so I wanted to share all of the knowledge we gathered and learned firsthand. This may be my most lengthy blog post to date and it covers almost every aspect of traveling to the Dolomites.

Road tripping in the Dolomites is certainly the best way to see the area as it is the most accessible by car. Having a car affords you the opportunity to explore limitlessly, so I highly recommend it. Take a peek at my ultimate Dolomites road trip guide.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


How to Get to the Dolomites

We opted to fly into Venice, Italy as we wanted to return our car to the same place (best option for pricing). Essentially we did one big loop around the Dolomites. You can fly into major airports like Milan, Verona, or even into Innsbruck, Austria pending on what part of the Dolomites you want to spend time in. Flying into Venice is the shortest amount of time for driving if you’re starting on the Cortina d’Ampezzo side of the Dolomites (Tre Cime di Lavaredo) like we were.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


Renting a car for the Dolomites

We partnered with Hertz Europe for this trip to rent our car for the road trip. Picking up our car in Venice when we landed was really easy as the rental car pick up is right in the terminal. We took the “Super Coverage” for our trip and am really thankful we did after driving for the nine days as it gave us a clear mind. I’d recommend booking your car directly with Hertz Europe to ensure your reservation. One thing to note in Italy, an international drivers permit is needed — AAA is where you can get one in the States. It is crucial if you get pulled over.


Driving in the Dolomites

We’ve driven before in Italy so we were not foreign to the often fast Italian drivers. Be comfortable with roundabouts, other cars passing you on single-lane roads, and always have a look at the signs. There are some tolls on the routes, which you can pay in either cash or card. Most signage is in Italian or German, so be prepared to have to translate some parking signs into English.

One note: Gas stations often will not take American credit cards. We had to use cash a few times, so be sure to always carry Euros.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


What to Know Before Visiting the Dolomites

Here are a few good things to note:

  • It’s an incredibly seasonal destination. Most towns shut down entirely from October-December and March-April, as do the gondolas (open for ski season). We were on the tail end of the season (second week of October), so we found most places to be empty which was to our benefit for hiking but challenging for restaurants and accommodations.
  • A few of the smaller roads will close down for winter seasons, so best not to visit in midst of winter if you don’t have to.
  • Based on research, I think mid-to-late September would be nice, or early summer before the crowds.
  • You could spend anywhere from 1-2 weeks here, pending on what you want to do and see.
  • Italian and German are the two languages predominantly spoken.
  • It feels more like an alpine region like the alps of Switzerland.
  • Always carry Euros.
  • GPS or good local cell service is necessary for navigating.
  • Pack layers — weather changes fast here. We went on a hike wherein one moment it was sunny, then thundering rain, to fog so thick we couldn’t see, and then clear again.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


Where to Stay in the Dolomites

When it comes to the Dolomites, there are a ton of options for where to stay — it completely depends on what you want to see and do. We did not want to change hotels frequently so we split our time into two sides with 3 nights in Cortina d’Ampezzo and 4 nights in Ortisei (and one final night in Verona). We were really happy with how we allocated our time and the only change would be to add a night in Alpe di Siusi so we could access the road for sunset/sunrise photography.

From Cortina d’Ampezzo and Ortisei, most sights/hikes were only 45 minutes away, so these two towns were the perfect base to come back to each night.


Where to Stay in Cortina d’ Ampezzo

We stayed in a very budget hotel on the Pocol side of the valley and would not recommend being that far over or this hotel. I’d recommend staying in actual Cortina d’ Ampezzo town or on the Cianderies side as that is the road that leads up to most of everything you’ll see. There are incredible Airbnbs (use this link for $40 off your first booking) and the hotel that caught my eye was the Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Hotel which had just closed down for the season a day prior to arriving. (reopens for winter).  

Other areas to consider staying in nearby: Misurina, a night in the Lago di Braies area.

Search more here:



Booking.com


Where to Stay in Ortisei

We booked an Airbnb for our four nights just on the side of the mountain and were really happy with having a kitchen and a big space to come back to — there are quite a few options on Airbnb, but they must be reserved in advance. For a night in Alpe di Siusi, the Adler Lodge Hotel is a dream and in Ortisei town, I’d recommend the other Adler Spa Resort.

Other areas to consider staying in nearby: Val Gardena area, Badia, Castelrotto, Chiusa, or a night in St. Maddalena.

Search more here:



Booking.com

 

Here’s a map to better see the distance between the two areas:

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


Where We Went in the Dolomites

I’m going to split this into two sections, where we went from Cortina d’Ampezzo and where we went from Ortisei. In each point of interest, I’ll also mention where we dined and any other notes of interest.


From Cortina d’Ampezzo

The town of Cortina d’Ampezzo
The ski village of Cortina d’Ampezzo is a great base as there is a ton of restaurants and it’s quite charming. One exceptional experience we had was our two lunches at SanBrite. It was a dining experience similar to what you would see on Chef’s Table and their passion for bringing local ingredients to the plate is beautiful. I’d recommend eating here at least once and also at their second restaurant called Agriturismo El Brite de Larieto. For casual food, we dined at La Tavernetta in town twice as we loved the pizza!

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Tre Cime di Lavaredo
This is really what we came for. We went into the park two times during our stay. It’s one road in and out (a fee of 17€ to enter) and takes you to the top where the Rifugio Auronzo is (we ate a few meals here between hikes). We did two main hikes in Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The best part is that with little effort, you can get to incredible views here.

  • Hike 1 to Cadini Group Peaks (pictured here): I had seen the photos of this shot on Instagram and was amazed by how high the peaks are, so we set out to find it. The first time we were unsuccessful as the fog covered the peaks so we walked the wrong direction. The peaks are just in front of where you park. Don’t follow signs for the rifugios, just go right out and follow the one-way trail there. If you can’t find it, just show the photo to someone there and they’ll point you in the direction. It takes about 40 minutes to hike there and sunrise is beautiful here.
  • Hike 2 to the three peaks: This is the main hike that everyone does and it’s in the direction of Rifugio Lavaredo. The first part is really flat (you’ll see everyone going there, all the tour bus groups) and you can stop at the church or keep ascending for incredible views. You could circle around Tre Cime and make your way all the way around. There are two other rifugios along the loop that you can visit for a rest or snack. We stopped at the viewpoint and made our way back as we had done the other half the day before.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Lago di Braies
It’s a beautiful place to catch the sunrise and I highly recommend coming here for a few hours. It can get crowded so be sure to arrive early and pay to park in the lot near the lake. You can rent boats from June until late September from 10 AM until 5 PM for 15.00€ for 30 minutes and 25.00€ for 1 hour.

Nearby, we stumbled by Latteria Tre Cime on the main road to Cortina d’Ampezzo where we stopped in for lunch and a drink. It’s a local creamery and they have cheese plates and a ton of local products — it was the perfect pitstop.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Lago di Sorapis
This was our most challenging and rewarding hike. We showed up incredibly unprepared and with not the right amount of time, resulting in an hour-long hike back in the dark forest (not recommended). So first off, allow yourself the proper amount of time — from the parking location at Son Zuogo, it is a good 4 hours round trip with no stops. The trail can be challenging to follow, so be sure to follow the markers. There are always a ton of hikers, so ask if you need help. The ascent goes along a very steep path on the side of the cliff with no railing, though there are cables to hang onto. It’s an effort, but this lake is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


From Ortisei

Gardena Pass
On the way to Ortisei, we stopped off here to snap a photo of one of the windiest roads in the Dolomites. It’s so beautiful and loved the views from here.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Ortisei Town
This is where we were based so we popped into town for a few meals and for grocery shopping. We ate at Cascade Pizzeria twice when we were in town. There’s not a ton going on during the off season, but I’d imagine it gets quite busy during peak months.

Val di Funes
We spent a full afternoon exploring Val di Funes by car and it was one of our favorites areas, especially for photography. It’s incredibly picturesque, and we stopped at iconic St Johann in Ranui church. Afterward, we caught the sunset over the valley and Santa Maddalena from the famous lookout here. We capped off the night with a yummy dinner at Waldschenke in the valley where we had some local dishes.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Seceda
Our favorite place we saw in the entire Dolomite region was Seceda. We spent the entire day on the mountain soaking in the views and hiking around. To get to the top, you take the gondola from Ortisei town (it’s 30€ per person roundtrip and runs from 8:3-5:30 from June 2 -October 14, dates may change). We had lunch at Baita Troier on the mountain, hiked to Malga Pieralongia Alm hut to see the free-roaming donkeys, and then returned back to the gondola.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Alpe di Siusi
If there is one place not to miss, it’s Alpe di Siusi. It’s the largest alpine meadow in Europe and breathtaking. It can be confusing on how to visit as the roads are closed for the public unless staying at a hotel or arriving before 9 am or after 5 pm to the parking lots in Compatsch. This blog post (coming soon) will share all of the exact details on how to visit this area and the other components of parking or taking the gondola up. The easiest access is the gondola ride from Ortisei.

+ A FULL GUIDE TO VISITING ALPE DI SIUSI HERE.

We spent most of the day hiking around the valley and out to Malga Sanon for an incredible breakfast with the best views. Afterwards, we hiked back to the parking lot and soaked in the scenes along the way. On our way back to Ortisei, we stopped and had lunch at a beautiful farm/hotel called Lafogl.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Sella Pass
Another great viewpoint in the area is the drive through the Sella Pass. There are hikes here, though we just stopped to soak in the views of the Sassolungo Peaks.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

Lago di Carezza
We had one more free afternoon, so we took the scenic route to see the incredible colors of Lago di Carezza. Along the way, we dined at Ristorante Hennenstall for a filling lunch in a beautiful space. Afterwards, we went to the lake and walked around to enjoy the views. It’s important to note that you can’t actually walk down to the water’s edge as you may see a ton of IG posts from there — there’s a fence which some have jumped over.

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide


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The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

The Ultimate Dolomites Road Trip Guide

17 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Amanda Ulmer Reply

    I have been searching for dolomites tips and this is the best blog I’ve found yet! I am planning a trip through Italy for my honeymoon and am so excited to explore the dolomites. Thank you for sharing this!! – Amanda

  2. Avatar

    I only have 3 days to go to the Dolomites and we like to walk but we are not really the hiker type of people, where do you recommend we go or stay for those 3 days?

    • Jessica Wright
      Jessica Wright Reply

      I would recommend the area of Alpe de Suisi or Lago di Braies.

  3. Avatar

    Hi Jessica,
    I wish I had found your blog a little bit earlier to plan my accomodations. But anyway we are going to explore Dolomites in a Campervan for 10 days next week and I’m having a hard time to find informations about caravan parks or where we can park to sleep. Would you know anything about that?
    Thank you so much for your precious informations in this amazing blog!

    • Jessica Wright
      Jessica Wright Reply

      Hello! Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the caravan parks so I can’t help much on that one.

  4. Avatar

    Were these day hikes or did you camp? love your detailed blog post of the dolomites! pictures look gorgeous!

  5. Avatar
    Elizabeth Williams Reply

    What a great post! I am in the early planning stages of a trip here (hopefully for next summer as I love lake swimming) and this is so far the best resource I have found

  6. Avatar

    Hello,

    Your pictures are mind blowing. Loved it.
    We are planning for short Dolomites trip this october end for 4 days. (I know not a good time)
    Though we are no where close to Hiking. 🙂
    So for us main thing is Scenic views and strolling around.

    Can you please help us ?

    Current Itinerary –

    Day 1 – Land in Verona Early morning
    Rent the Car Drive to Riva del Garda (2 hrs)
    From there move along towards Bolzano to catch Great Dolomites Road(Check Lake carrazza, sella pass, …)
    to reach Cortina dʼAmpezzo

    Day 2- Check Cortina dʼAmpezzo and Tre Cime di Lavaredo

    Day 3- Early Morning – Lake Braies and then head to Ortesie

    Day 4 – Val Garden , and Alpe de siuise and head back to Verona

    Does this sound good?

    • Jessica Wright
      Jessica Wright Reply

      Hey Kunal, this sounds great and should hit the major spots!

  7. Avatar

    High Jessica.Thank you for your wonderful blog and pics .We are flying from New York to Milano on September 23 and will be in the area for 5-6 days.Will follow all your recommendations .We are arriving very early on the 24th and will pick a car at the airport and we’re thinking of driving to Bolzano(2 1/2 hours drive) to rest from the long flight and then drive to Ortisei the following morning to start your route (In the opposite direction)
    We are thinking of staying two nights in Ortisei and three in Cortina de Ampezzo.Do you think that we should drive directly to Ortisei from Milano?(It is a 37 minutes drive from Bolzano) and rest there instead? That will give us and extra day in the region.
    I am 72 years old and my friend 56.We love to walk and can do 3-4 miles a day in the city without problems.Do you think we would we able to endure the walk on the trails that you describe? And
    If we have to omit one or two of the sites because of the shorter stay,which ones would you recommend?
    We like photography,and prefer to take landscapes of meadows,lakes ,mountains and small villages.
    Would appreciate very much your opinion.Thank you and have a good day.

  8. Avatar

    Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for your thorough blog. I’m exciting for my upcoming trip. I had one quick question: did you have any trouble driving through the routes with your car? Did you need to have 4W drive in any instances? I have rented a car but it’s a Ford Focus so I want to avoid any dangerous areas if I can’t make it through with it.

    Thank you!

    Gillian

  9. Avatar
    Teresa Ivory Reply

    Hello Jessica,
    This is a super guide – thank you so much for sharing! I am planning a trip next year to the Dolomites and we are bringing our car from Ireland and will travel through France/Switzerland first. We are not ‘hikers’ though do enjoy easy walking in the countryside. Your photograpjy is stunning, and we are really going to experience something like that. My question is this: Do you think it is worth doing the ‘loop’ as you have mentioned? We will probably travel to Ortisei from Innsbruck, and I am thinking that to base ourselves in Ortisie and Cortina each for a few nights will give us access to the most beautiful scenery?…or would you recommend we complete the loop? Are there any of your locations that you would advise ‘non-hikers’ to undertake?!! Any advice greatly appreciated! Teresa.

    • Jessica Wright
      Jessica Wright Reply

      Hey Teresa, most of these places are reachable by car or by a light walk so I think it is easy to do without a huge hike. I’d recommend basing out of Cortina and Ortisei to see all of this.

      The loop at mentioned for Tre Cime may be a bit more challenging as there is an upgrade in the hike. Hope this helps!

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