Welcome to the ultimate Dolomites bucket list by @backpackersintheworld.
Located in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites cover almost 16.000 square kilometres – or 6,155.2 mi² – and offer countless opportunities to trek and relax surrounded by nature.
After a month-long road trip through these incredible mountains, we have put together the ultimate bucket list to help you plan your next trip to what is arguably Italy’s most beautiful mountain range.
How to get around the Dolomites
The easiest way to explore the Dolomites is definitely by car, or even better, by van. Even though campervans are not welcome in many of the valleys here (hi there budget travellers!), having the freedom to sleep on one of the passes – or even better, on top of some mountains (see the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, for example) – is priceless.
Dolomites Bucket List – Part 1
To help you better understand our itinerary we started our route from Bolzano, South Tyrol main city.
This bucket list will be focused on the best natural sights of this region, most of which will blow your mind!
However, we’d recommend also exploring some of the towns, wineries and ski resorts that South Tyrol has to offer if you have enough time to explore this area.
Tip: tap on “More options” to open this itinerary on google maps
Planning a road trip in Italy?
– Saturnia Hot Springs: a backpacker guide
– The Battle of the Oranges: inside Italy’s craziest festival | Ivrea’s Historical Carnival
PART 1 – SKIP AHEAD:
- Earth Pyramids of Platten
- Braies Lake
- Prato Piazza
- Toblacher See
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo
- Cadini di Misurina
- Misurina Lake
- Sorapis Lake
- Cinque Torri
- Falzarego Pass.
1) Earth Pyramids of Platten / Piramidi di terra a Perca
Have you ever seen anything like that?
Situated at a height of 1550 to 1750 meters above sea level, the Earth Pyramids of Platten are the result of a quirk of nature from many years ago.
In fact, back in 1882, a strong storm hit this area and a trench formed. Later, rain and floods excavated the soil leaving these incredible sand pillars.
These structures continuously evolve and new pillars are formed, especially in wintertime.
To reach these pyramids you have to reach Percha, and then head to the small town of Plata (Platten). Percha is about an hour drive from Bolzano or 77km. If you are coming from Bolzano, the town of Plata will be on the left.
Visiting the Earth Pyramids is only a 7km detour from the main road. The road is steep, and there are 3 small parking areas in Plata. If you are going there early in the morning when there are no people, we recommend you to drive until Parking P2, which is the last parking before the start of the trek.
The trek from Plata to the Earth Pyramids is about 1.5km long and with an elevation gain of about 150m. It is quite steep at the beginning but overall it’s a pretty easy one.
Fun fact: you have to walk across a fence with goats to reach the Pyramids. Say hi to these little guys when you pass by.
2) Lake Braies / Pragser Wildsee
Welcome to Lake Braies, aka the Instagram lake.
If the previous place was relatively unknown, tell us: how many times have you seen Lake Braies on social media already?
The answer doesn’t matter, you still have to see this lake in person!
First, a quick reminder, as this is often a source of disappointment: the lake is frozen and covered in ice and snow in winter.
It’s hard to say exactly which months it freezes, as it varies every year, but chances are you will find it frozen from December to March/April.
When it’s not frozen, however, its colours are impressive!
The typical wooden boats attached to the pier float on the crystal clear blue/green water of Lake Braies. Many couples choose this lake for their wedding photoshoots, and it’s not rare to see them.
Do not expect to be by yourself at this place: no matter what time of the year or of the day it is, there will always be a ton of people taking photos of Lake Braies.
Dolomites Bucket List: How to reach Lake Braies:
Reaching Lake Braies is very simple, which is also one of the reasons why it’s so popular. The lake is located in the Fanes-Sennes-Prags Nature Park and it’s a 10 km detour from the main road of Val Pusteria. The lake is about 23km or just 25 minutes from Percha.
There is a very big parking area right in front of the lake, which is known for being pretty expensive. We recommend you heading there at sunrise: not only is the lake more beautiful at this time of the day and there are fewer people, but also you will end up spending less, as the parking is free until 7 AM.
Please note: to limit pollution during high-season (July 10 – September 10), the road to the lake it is closed from 10 AM to 3 PM. A public transport service will be activated during that time.
3) Prato Piazza
Another often overlooked place, Prato Piazza is located only a few kilometres away from Lake Braies.
Prato Piazza is a plateau that sits at an altitude of 2,000 meters, with overwhelming panoramic views of the nearby mountains. It’s the best place you can visit near Lake Braies in winter, and it’s absolutely stunning in summer too.
Prato Piazza can be reached by car or bus, and there is a small parking area at the top of the road.
Keep in mind that from the middle of May to mid-October and from late December to mid-April, the drive-up from Ponticello to Prato Piazza is closed to private traffic from 10 AM to 4 PM. The descent is possible at any time.
From the parking lot enjoy the level 2.5km walk to Rifugio Vallandro, or explore one of the mountain treks available for an incredible view over the plateau.
4) Dobbiaco Lake / Toblacher See
Dobbiaco Lake – or Toblacher See – is a beautiful alpine lake located near the town of Dobbiaco and it is the perfect quick stop on your way to Misurina Lake and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
The lake is very accessible as there is a parking area just next to it, and the lake is just on the side of the main road.
Have a walk around the lake, take some photos and relax before the adventure-filled days that are coming next.
5) Misurina Lake
Waking up to the view of Misurina Lake is just priceless. While campervans are not allowed to stay in the parking area in front of the lake, do not miss this opportunity if you’re exploring the Dolomites in a van.
Souvenir shops can be found all around the lake, as well as a supermarket, one of the few you can find around here.
Tip: consider buying everything you need for your treks here!
Misurina Lake is the perfect starting point for two treks: the Tre Cime di Lavaredo trek (with its starting point Rifugio Auronzo being only 8km away) and the Sorapis Lake trek (which starting point Passo Tre Croci is only 6km away).
6) Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Located exactly on the border between the regions of South Tyrol and Veneto, Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the most famous sights of the Dolomites.
Your destination will be “Rifugio Auronzo”, which is a mountain hut at the end of a private road.
We highly recommend you sleeping up there if you are exploring the Dolomites in a van: there is a huge parking area up top and the view is just insane!
The road to reach the Tre Cime is private: this means you will have to pay a salty toll in order to get up there. Here are the prices.
Private road fee:
- Motorbikes: € 15,00
- Cars: € 25,00
- Campervans: € 40,00 (vehicles higher than 2,10m)
- Fee for every additional day: Motorbikes: € 3,00 | Cars: € 7,00 | Campervans: € 15,00
The best seasons to visit the Tre Cime di Lavaredo are definitely summer and autumn, as it isn’t recommended to visit it during winter. Also, the private road to reach the Tre Cime is closed in winter. There aren’t exact dates for its closure, as it depends on the weather and on the snowfall, but consider it may close from December to April.
Dolomites Bucket List: The trek around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Once you get to Rifugio Auronzo, we highly recommend you to do the loop trek around the Tre Cime to appreciate them at their best.
The trek is 7.5 km long and it takes about 3 hours, and it’s best doing it anti-clockwise.
There are 5 stops along the loop trek: Cappella degli Alpini, Rifugio Lavaredo, Forcella Lavaredo, Malga Langalm and Forcella del Col de Mèdo. If you follow them you can’t get lost.
7) Cadini di Misurina (Tre Cime di Lavaredo)
A must in every Dolomites bucket list, the views over Cadini di Misurina can be found following another trek path from Rifugio Auronzo.
This place is also located on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, in fact, the Tre Cime are located just behind the camera in the shot you see here.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Instead of going around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo following the loop trek, head in the direction of the Cadini di Misurina.
These mountains can be seen from Rifugio Auronzo already and if you follow the path towards them you’ll end up in this insane viewpoint
Cadini di Misurina, October 2019 – Credits: @lorenzowanderlust
8) Lake Sorapis
Lake Sorapis became one of the most popular lakes in the Dolomites, attracting trekkers from all over the world.
Unlike the other lakes mentioned above, there is no easy access to this lake. The trek starts in Passo Tre Croci: it is about 5.3km long (one way) and it takes around 2 hours (one way).
We recommend using maps.me for this trek as its offline maps are extremely accurate.
The trek is not particularly difficult but we recommend wearing hiking shoes and bring some food and water with you.
Also, the trek itself is incredibly panoramic!
At the end of the trek, you will also find a mountain hut, located just 5 min away from the lake. This mountain shelter is open from June 20th to September 20th, and it is even possible to sleep there.
Check out their website for more info: Rifugio Vandelli
The view on the hike to Lake Sorapis – Credits: @lorenzowanderlust
9) Cinque Torri
The mountainous complex of Cinque Torri offers an incredible amount of treks and astonishing views.
To hike Cinque Torri you have different options, all of them pretty similar when it comes to the difficulty of the trek, length and elevation gain. In this blog we will mention the 3 more popular ones:
The first – shortest – trek begins in Baita Bai de Dones
This is the route directly underneath the Cinque Torri chairlift, which starts in Baita Bai de Dones and ends in Rifugio Scoiattoli, a mountain hut just a few hundreds of meters away from le Cinque Torri.
Another trail is the one starting in Rifugio Col Gallina. It is longer than the previous one but offers incredible views.
The last trail would be the one that starts in the famous Passo Giau and ascend along the “via ferrata” Averau.
10) Falzarego Pass / Rifugio Lagazuoi
Passo Falzarego is one of those places that you must visit at least once. Either you choose to reach Rifugio Lagazuoi by gondola or by walk, the view it’s so worth it.
Falzarego Pass is a mountain pass situated at 2.105 meters above sea level, and it offers incredible views over the Dolomites.
Rifugio Lagazuoi is a mountain hut situated on top of Mount Lagazuoi, 2,835 meters above sea level, and it is well-known for its views.
In fact, Mount Lagazuoi offers a 360° view over the Dolomites.
Here is good news for those looking for some rest after the treks of the previous days: this mountain hut can be reached by a gondola most times of the year.
The gondola is open from late May to mid-October (summer season), and from late December to mid-April (winter season).
The one-way ticket costs €12,50, or €17,50 both ways (€13.50 and €18.50 in August).
Alternatively, you can hike all the way up from Passo Falzarego: the trek is about 3-km long (one-way) with an elevation gain of 600m.
Once at the top, the view speaks for itself!
In the morning everything was covered in snow as a result of an overnight light off-season snowfall. By the afternoon all the snow disappeared.
Rifugio Lagazuoi, 2,835 m.a.s.l.
Dolomites Bucket List – Part 2
In the second part of our Dolomites bucket list, we will explore a different part of the region.
The first stop will be Val di Funes, with its green landscapes and the famous church, just before heading to two of the most popular highlights of the Dolomites: Seceda and Seiser Alm.
Then, we will be stopping in Passo Pordoi and Pozza di Fassa to end the trip visiting the beautiful Carezza Lake and Rolle Pass.
Tip: tap on “More options” to open this itinerary on google maps
PART 2 -SKIP AHEAD:
- Val di Funes and GeislerAlm
- Church of Saint John in Ranui
- Seiser Alm
- Pordoi Pass
- Val di Fassa
- Val San Nicolò
- Carezza Lake
- Rolle Pass
- Val Venegia
- Parco Naturale Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino
11) Val di Funes and GeislerAlm
A place that we couldn’t help but mention in this Dolomites bucket list is Val di Funes, a scenic valley on the edge the Dolomites, dominated by the beautiful Mount Furchetta and Sass Rigais.
One of Val di Funes best spots is undoubtedly the small town of Santa Maddalena Alta, which can be observed by a popular viewpoint.
Check its location in the following map:
The hike to GeislerAlm
Another incredibly beautiful activity in Val di Funes is the trek to GeislerAlm.
The starting point would be Waldschenke, where you can also park your car, and the route to reach Gschnagenhardt-Alm is about 6km long.
Once again, we recommend using maps.me for any treks you do in the Dolomites.
The good thing about this trek is that it is not particularly challenging and it can be done at every time of the year.
We also recommend eating in GeislerAlm, the food was delicious and not very expensive.
Winter in GeislerAlm – Credits: @clo_bcrt
Autumn in GeislerAlm – Credits: @elisamoscardi
12) Church of Saint John in Ranui / Chiesa di San Giovanni in Ranui
This little church is becoming very famous lately thanks to social media and is now an iconic place for photographers.
The church is well-known for standing alone in front of the majestic Odle mountains, surrounded by countless pine trees. It is located near the beginning of the trek to GeislerAlm.
Remember that those mountains can only be seen on a clear day, and foggy/cloudy days aren’t rare here.
NOTE: walking through the field in front of the church is prohibited in order to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the mountain from mass tourism.
13) Alpe di Siusi / Seiser Alm
The Dolomites’ most beautiful and biggest plateau, Seiser Alm – or Alpe di Siusi – is another must-visit place in this region. This is the largest high-altitude plateau in Europe, and has an altitude between 1,680 m.a.s.l. and 2,350 m.a.s.l.
There are several ways to reach Seiser Alm but our favourite is the one from Compatsch – or Compaccio.
Compatsch – or Compaccio – is a small town situated at the beginning of the plateau. It can be reached by car, bus or gondola.
The gondola leaves from the town of Siusi and it costs €11 one way or €16 both ways.
If you plan to reach Seiser Alm by car, keep in mind that the road leading towards Compatsch is closed to traffic from 9 am to 5 pm. This is to limit pollution and preserve the environment of the Dolomites.
NOTE: Those in possession of a reservation in one of the accommodations located on the plateau are not subjected to these limitations.
Once you reach Compatsch, follow the main road and explore the plateau on foot or rent an electric bicycle.
Another option to reach Seiser Alm is by gondola from Ortisei. The gondola costs €13.90 for a single ride and €19.90 for a round trip. The timetable varies during the year and the gondola is open only in winter and summer. Check out their website for more info.
TIP: if you are a photography enthusiast, sunset is better than sunrise in Seiser Alm.
We’re finally here, in Seceda, one of Dolomites’ most famous landmark. Seceda is a beautiful mountain that sits at 2,519 m.a.s.l., near the town of Ortisei first.
NOTE: There is a cablecar service that brings you from Ortisei to Furnes and from Furnes – Seceda. Do not expect to be by yourself up there if you decide to trek when the cablecar is open.
In the summertime, the gondola opens from May 29th to October 18th, and from 8:30 am to 5 pm. A round trip costs €34 while the one-way ticket costs €25.
Alternatively, for those interested in hiking Seceda, the trek will take about 5 hours. The hike is relatively easy, but it can become more challenging if you choose to hike down instead of taking the cablecar.
NOTE: Seceda offers you a lateral view on the same mountains you can see from Val di Funes.
15) Pordoi Pass
Pordoi Pass (2,239 m.s.l.m.) is another incredible place to visit in the Dolomites. Very similarly to Falzarego Pass, also Pordoi Pass is dominated by its mountain, Sass Pordoi, which stands at 2950 m.a.s.l.
Sass Pordoi is a plateau-like rock summit and it is accessible by cable car from the Passo Pordoi ridge, which is open from May 15th to November 1st.
The round trip on the cable car costs €20, while a one-way ticket costs €12 for the way up and €9 for the way down.
Alternatively, you can decide to hike all the way up to Sass Pordoi, starting from its Pass. The trek is about 3km long with a total ascent of 706m.
The trail doesn’t require any particular hiking gear and it is not technically difficult, but it’s very steep.
The road to reach Pordoi Pass is also impressive. This mountain road ascends past a series of hairpin turns surrounded by pristine views.
Visit the German military memorial and cemetery in Pordoi Pass
Opened on 19 September 1959, this military memorial and cemetery host the remains of soldiers fallen in both World Wars.
Shortly before WWII outbreak, 454 fallen Germans and 8,128 fallen Austro-Hungarians exhumed from various WWI cemeteries in the area were collected in the central crypt.
After WWII, 849 Germans killed in the Second World War were buried outside the crypt.
The memorial is in a unique environment as it is surrounded by the Tofane mountain group and the Col di Lana to the east, and Marmolada to the south.
16) Val di Fassa / Fassa Valley
With over 840 treks available, the Fassa Valley is that type of place where you don’t easily get bored.
Whether you are looking for some adventure, you’re fancying some local food or you’re just dreaming of chilling in a jacuzzi in front of the mountains, Val di Fassa is the place for you.
Please refer to Val di Fassa official website for every information you need about treks and routes
Dolomites Bucket List: Things to do in Val di Fassa:
QC Terme Dolomiti
Spend a day in a Spa surrounded by the Dolomites. This place is beautiful all year round but it’s obviously more impressive in winter when everything else is covered in snow.
Masc Aloch & Malga Aloch
If you are a foodie, we’d highly recommend you this place.
Masc Aloch is a farm with a restaurant (Malga Aloch) and the quality of its products is incredible! They are located in Pozza di Fassa and it’s probably the best place to eat there. Enjoy!
17) Val San Nicolò / Saint Nicholas valley
Val San Nicolò is a narrow valley that stretches from Pozza di Fassa to the Marmolada Group, and it’s the perfect place for those looking for relaxation.
This green valley is home of many pastures and here you can also buy local cheese directly from the producers.
The road to Val San Nicolò is closed to traffic but a shuttle bus service is available during summer (June 15th to September 22nd), with the first one leaving from Pozza di Fassa main square at 8.50 am.
Check out the full timetable at this link: fassa.com
Lagusel Lake hike
A very beautiful hike in San Nicolò is the one to Lagusel Lake.
This small alpine lake can be reached from several locations, but the route we are showing here is the one from Sauch in Val Nicolò.
Alternatively, you can choose to hike Lagusel Lake from Val Monzoni. Find all the trek information at this link.
18) Carezza Lake / Karersee
No Dolomites bucket list would be complete without Carezza Lake.
Carezza Lake is located near the town of Carezza, in between Pozza di Fassa and Bolzano.
This lake became very popular on Instagram and it is well-known for its incredible reflection.
The best time of the year to visit Carezza Lake is at the beginning of the summer, as the lake is at its fullest.
Reaching the lake is very easy, you can either walk from the town of Carezza or park in the parking area next to it.
Carezza Lake is also easy to reach by bus.
Once at the lake, enjoy walking around it, take some photos and learn about the different types of pine trees of the Dolomites.
19) Rolle Pass
Passo Rolle – or Rolle Pass – adjoins the Primiero and Fiemme valleys, in the southern part of the Dolomites, near the town of San Martino di Castrozza.
Sitting at 1989 m.a.s.l., this is one of the Dolomites’ most spectacular mountain passes.
WINTER: Passo Rolle is considered to be one of the most popular ski destinations in the area. Providing access to over 120 individual pistes, consider visiting Passo Rolle if you love winter sports.
SUMMER: Located within the “Parco Naturale Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino”, Passo Rolle offers many hiking opportunities.
Val Venegia is also closeby: do not miss the chance to eat some local food at one of the malghe (Alpine huts), such as the ones of Venegia and Venegiota.
20) Val Venegia
More than 500 different plant species have been registered by researchers here, making this tiny valley in the Dolomites a veritable botanic garden.
Two spots not to be missed are Malga Venegia and Malga Venegiota.
21) Parco Naturale Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino
The majestic mountains of the Pala Group make up the largest mountain range in the Dolomites.
Rifugio Rosetta is also served by the “Ces – Col Verde – Rosetta” cablecar. The full roundtrip costs €25. Read more on sanmartino.com.
Paneveggio Nature Park is also famous for its deer reserve: these animals here are free to roam in the huge fields of the park.
No Dolomites Bucket List would be complete without including this place.
Altipiano delle Pale
A fifty square kilometres stone plateau of bare rock situated at 2700 m.a.s.l., the Altipiano delle Pale is the highlight of Panaveggio Nature Park and is one of the most incredible places in the Dolomites.
Dolomites Bucket List – Part 3
In this last part, we’ve included 6 more stunning places – out of our itinerary – you may want to visit:
22) Passo Gardena
Another day, another mountain pass!
Passo Gardena connects the Val Gardena valley with the Val Badia, a side valley of the Val Pusteria.
This pass sits at 2121 m.a.s.l. and since 1960 features many lift facilities and hiking paths.
Passo Gardena is one of the four mountain passes of the Sellaronda (a roundtrip on skis in winter and a four-passes cycle tour in summer).
No matter which Dolomites bucket list you want to follow, you must include some of these passes.
The best summer hike in Gardena Pass, from Rifugio Jimmy follow the trail and head up to Forcella Cier (2.469 m.a.s.l.).
You’ll be surrounded by Dolomite rock and the view from up there is incredible!
TIP: Try to make it up there for sunrise, it’s worth it!
23) Sas dla Crusc / Sasso Santa Croce
The Sas dla Crusc/Sasso Santa Croce soars vertically up into the sky, making it a dream spot for climbers from all over the world. However, non-climbers have also their reason to visit this place.
The mountain hut of Rifugio Santa Croce is located just underneath the rock wall and it is possible to reach it by both walking or cable car. From mid-June to the end of September the cable car is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and it costs €20,40 both ways. More information about it at this link.
A very beautiful sight near Sas dla Crusc is Prati Dell’Armentara, or Armentara meadows.
Dominated by Sas dla Crusc, Prati dell’Armentara is the best spot for a relaxing walk near Badia surrounded by unspoilt nature.
Not exactly the typical place you would find on every Dolomites bucket list, but we promise it’s insanely beautiful.
The Snow Cave
Protected from the sun by the mountain, snow accumulates here during the winter and never melts, not even in the summer, creating a unique “snow cave”.
Please note: the snow cave only forms with a good amount of snowfall in the wintertime.
Getting here takes about 45 minutes from Rifugio Santa Croce
24) Lago Nero, Madonna di Campiglio
This incredibly beautiful lake is located only 20km away from the popular ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio. It’s a place we could not forget to include in this Dolomites bucket list.
Please note, there are two different lakes named “Lago Nero” in the same area. This one is the lake near Rifugio Cornisello, a beautiful and rudimental mountain hut that can be reached by car.
Lago Nero is about 1km away from Rifugio Cornisello, so it’s very easy to reach. If you’d like to explore more the area, we recommend following the loop trek that leads to Rifugio Segantini and comes back to Rifugio Cornisello.
This trek would be about 10km long with a total ascent of 560m and it takes about 5 hours.
Nearby Rifugio Cornisello there are other 2 lakes that can be reached by car, called “Laghi di Cornisello”.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Head here at sunset for this specific light condition and reflection.
25) Lake Tovel
Lake Tovel is undoubtedly one of those must-visit places in the Dolomites.
The Lake is situated at 1178 m.a.s.l. in the Brenta Dolomites and it can be easily reached by car. During high-season, the road might be closed and a bus shuttle service may be available instead.
FUN FACT: Lake Tovel is worldwide famous as the “Red Lake” of the Dolomites. In fact, until 1964 an incredible and very rare phenomenon used to happen here every summer.
Due to the presence of a specific type of algae, the lake used to turn vivid red, creating a mesmerizing and unique show.
26) Passo Giau
One of the best sunrises you can see in the Dolomites: Passo Giau.
Consider hiking to Rifugio Averau in summer time for an amazing view. The Rifugio can also be reached by taking the Giau chair lift, and the hosts organize dinners with ascent and descent by snowmobile, on foot or on skis.
If you’re just looking for a good photo opportunity, hike up the small hill in front of the mountain for the best view over the pass.
This viewpoint is incredibly beautiful early in the morning. Get ready for an early alarm!
Another popular photography spot in Passo Giau is the winding road that leads up the Pass: the bird-eye view is impressive if you have a drone!
27) The SellaRonda, or Giro dei Quattro Passi
The so-called “giro del 4 Passi” is a route around the Dolomite Sella Group with exceptional views.
It can be done by car, on foot, by bike and in winter with skis or snowboard.
Clockwise it is about 58 km long with an altitude gain of 450 metres while anti-clockwise it is 53 km with an altitude gain of 900 metres.
Planning a road trip in Italy?
– Saturnia Hot Springs: a backpacker guide
– The Battle of the Oranges: inside Italy’s craziest festival | Ivrea’s Historical Carnival