Undoubtedly the most captivating mountain range of Italy, the Dolomites stretch for 6155 mi² along the Italian provinces of South Tyrol, Trento, and Belluno. This UNESCO World Heritage site brings in millions of visitors every year due to its breathtaking landscapes, which boast scenic alpine lakes and hiking trails.
To help you plan your trip and organize your itinerary, I have listed here the 10 best places you absolutely must visit in the Dolomites, Italy. Check out the overview map below and all our suggestions, and start packing your best hiking shoes!
Dolomites, Italy, Map
The Dolomites are located in the extreme northeast of Italy, close to the country’s border with Austria. The following map shows the location of all the top 10 places to visit (mainly hiking trails and lakes) mentioned in the article.
1. Cortina d’Ampezzo
2. Lake Sorapis
3. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
4. Lake Braies
5. Funes Valley
7. Alpe di Siusi
8. Gardena Pass
9. Sella Pass
10. Carezza Lake
10 Places You Must Visit in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
Places are listed by proximity to the closest international airport (Venice) and arranged to form an itinerary, which means you can follow this exact order on your trip to the Dolomites. I’d recommend a minimum of 2 weeks to complete the full route at a moderate pace.
1) Cortina d’Ampezzo
Perched at 1200 meters of altitude, the town of Cortina is the beating heart of the Dolomites. The incredible charm of the streets, buildings, and fancy shops attracts personalities from the world of politics, sport and fashion every year. Take a stroll through Corso Italia, visit the Olympic Ice Stadium and soak up the atmosphere, perhaps with a delicious gelato in your hand.
The cherry on top? Cortina can be very conveniently used as a base to visit the next sites on this list, like Lake Sorapis, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and lake Braies.
2) Lake Sorapis
Lake Sorapis is a spectacular alpine lake that sits at almost 2000m of altitude. Located on a remote plateau at the foot of the imposing 3,200m Mount Sorapis, the only way to get to this beauty is to hike.
The roundtrip hike to lake Sorapis is 13 km (8 miles) long, and with approximately 500 m (1640 ft) of elevation gain, it’s considered to be medium difficulty. It takes about 5 hours of walking time to complete the full circuit.
This hike begins from the car park at Passo Tre Croci which is 10 kilometers from Cortina d’Ampezzo. From the parking, the route to the lake is via path 215, which is clearly marked and easy to follow.
3) Tre Cime di Lavaredo
With its three massive sandstone monoliths rising above the lush green valley, Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the most recognizable mountain group of the Dolomites. It’s certainly the most crowded too, as according to locals and tourists alike, this is THE hike to do in South Tyrol.
The roundtrip hike to Tre Cime di Lavaredo is 10 km (6.2 miles) long, and with approximately 400 m (1300 ft) of elevation gain, it’s considered to be easy/medium difficulty. It takes about 3.5 hours of walking time to complete the full circuit.
The hike begins from the car park at Rifugio Auronzo, which is a 40-minute drive from Cortina. From the parking, the route to the peak is via path 101, then 102 and 105.
4) Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee)
Breathtakingly scenic – and surprisingly easy to access – Lake Braies is the undisputed Queen of the Dolomites in Italy.
I’m sure you’ve seen by now those perfect Instagram pictures of the freakishly blue waters and the little wooden boats floating around. I can assure you, however fairytale-esque those pics may look, this place looks even better in real life.
Lake Braies is about 50 km away from Cortina, so it’s a 1-hour drive. There are several parking lots near the entrance (to be booked online in advance), so no hiking is needed, although there is a very nice trail around the lake. A dedicated guide to visiting lake Braies can be found at this link.
5) Villnöß / Val di Funes and the Adolf Munkel Trail
At this point of the itinerary, I’d recommend checking out from your hotel in Cortina and moving to Chiusa, or Ortisei, or anywhere in that area.
Villnöß, or Val di Funes, is a beautiful Dolomite valley located in the heart of the Puez Odle Nature Park. This area is famous for the scenic Adolf Munkel Trail, which leads to majestic views of the Funes Alpine Mountain and the picturesque huts of Gschnagenhardt and Geisleralm/Rifugio delle Odle.
The most popular hike inside the Puez Odle Nature Park is 10 km (6.2 miles) long, and with approximately 400 m (1300 ft) of elevation gain, it’s considered to be medium difficulty. It takes about 3.5 hours of walking time to complete the full circuit.
The hike begins from the car park “Zannes/Zans”. From the parking the route to the peak (Gschnagenhardt and Geisleralm huts) is via path 6, then 35, and then 36 to get bet to the parking lot.
You can’t possibly miss two extremely photogenic spots in this area: 1) the church of St. John (San Giovanni) in Ranui, which is located down the road to the Zans parking lot and 2) the Insta-famous landscape view of the Funes Valley in St.Magdalena. This place is a bit more difficult to find, so here’s a link to the Google Map coordinates.
6) Seceda (Val Gardena)
Seceda is another beloved destination in the Dolomites, and for good reasons. With its 2518 meters, the summit of Seceda is the highest vantage point in all the Gardena Valley. The Odle peaks here look like sharp Swiss knives slashing the sky and form one of the most outstanding mountain views in the Italian Dolomites.
Visiting Seceda is also very convenient, as the hike to the summit can be as easy or as challenging as you like. The easiest way is to ascend by taking the Ortisei-Furnes Gondola located in the town of Ortisei, followed by the Furnes-Seceda cable-way (36€ roundtrip). From the cable-way station, it’s an easy 10-minute walk to the famous lookout point.
If you’re looking for a challenge, you can also opt for the 3-hour hike that starts from the Praplan Parking lot.
7) Alpe di Siusi (Val Gardena)
The Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) is a plateau located in the western Dolomites at an altitude of 1800 m. The magnificent backdrop of the SassoLungo group towering in the distance over the meadows is a sight to behold. There are multiple biking and hiking trails in this area, as well as tons of rifugios where you can stop for a delicious South Tyrolean lunch.
To reach this gorgeous plateau you can choose between two gondolas: one is located in the village of Ortisei (20€ roundtrip), while the other is in Siusi (19€ roundtrip). Whichever way you pick, you’ll end up in the same spot.
8) Gardena Pass
There are many scenic places in the Dolomites in Italy that you can visit without even straying too much from the comfort of your car. Case in point: Gardena Pass and Sella Pass.
The Gardena Pass (or Passo Gardena) is a scenic road that twists its way through the mountains, connecting Sëlva in the Val Gardena with Corvara in the Val Badia. This route is always busy with tourists during the warmer months (especially bikers and cyclists), as from the main vantage points you can see all the famous Dolomites groups: Sella, Puez-Odle, and Sassolungo.
My advice here is to simply enjoy the ride, and turn into the numerous parking bays to take in all the views.
9) Sella Pass
The Sella Pass is like the Gardena Pass, but this fewer crowds – another amazing breezy ride with sharp turns and mouth-dropping views. It is one of the most famous passes in the Italian Dolomites, and together with the Gardena Pass, Pordoi Pass, and Campolongo Pass, it forms a quadrangle known as the Sella group.
Sella Pass is best visited during sunset hours, when the mountains turn into that peculiar Dolomites shade of orange, right before the skies turn purple.
10) Lake Carezza (Karersee)
Lake Carezza, or Karersee in German, is a gorgeous alpine lake located at 1,500 m in the town of Nova Levante. This emerald green beauty sits right in front of a dense pine tree forest and under the Rosengarten mountain range, creating a breathtaking setting that has recently become one of the most famous in the Dolomites.
Lake Carezza can get very crowded in summer, so you should get there as early as possible!
Where to stay in the Dolomites?
If you follow the order shown in the article, you should stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo for the first half of the itinerary, and then move to Ortisei for the second half. Both areas have many accommodation options, including family hotels, luxury resorts, as well as affordable apartments and B&Bs.
When is the best time to visit the Dolomites in Italy?
The best time to visit the Dolomites in Italy is from May to early July or September to October, as the weather is perfect to enjoy all the outdoor activities and the holiday crowds are still manageable. Avoid August at all costs.
Do you need a car to get around the Dolomites?
Renting a car and road tripping in the Dolomites is certainly the best way to see the area. You’ll have the opportunity to get easily where you want and when you want, with the flexibility to stop to savor special moments along the way. The roads in South Tyrol are very well paved and marked, so driving shouldn’t be a problem.
Anyhow, although helpful, having a car is not mandatory in the Dolomites. If for some reason that option is out of your reach, you can still count on the public system. In the summer months there are several bus routes connecting major villages and key hiking spots – you’ll just need to foresee some extra hours to get around.
How much time do you need to see the Dolomites in Italy?
In order to see all the places listed in this article, I’d recommend a minimum of 12 days, but 2 weeks are ideal. If you only have 4 or 5 days in the Dolomites, I’d suggest visiting Lake Sorapis, Lake Braies, and Tre Cime di Lavaredo while staying in Cortina d’Ampezzo.