Visiting the Italian Dolomites: Region Map and Tips Guide

Experience the breathtaking natural beauty of the Italian Dolomites, where you can indulge in world-class skiing, embark on exhilarating hikes, and immerse yourself in the unique culture of this picturesque northern Italian region.

Nestled in the northeastern region of Italy, the Italian Dolomites stand as a majestic mountain range, renowned for their rugged summits, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and unspoiled natural splendor. With luxuriant valleys, vibrant ecosystems, and a breathtaking panorama of mountains, the Dolomites offer an ideal haven for outdoor enthusiasts, gourmets, and admirers of nature.

Embark on exhilarating hikes, test your mettle with thrilling via ferrata experiences, luxuriate in the tranquility of serene retreats, or immerse yourself in the captivating blend of mountain cultures. Following multiple visits to the Italian Dolomites, we’ve meticulously crafted this comprehensive guide to help you explore the region. It includes insights into the layout, top-notch accommodations, must-see attractions, and vital visitor information.

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The Italian Dolomites encompass the eastern part of the northern Italian Alps, characterized by a landscape comprising glaciers, lakes, woodlands, and towering mountains. These mountains are renowned for their unique and dramatic rock formations, which feature spires, pinnacles, and steep vertical cliffs.

Situated in the Italian regions of Veneto, Trentino-Alto/Südtirol, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Dolomites earned their UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2009, thanks to their breathtaking natural beauty and geological significance.

This region offers an ideal terrain for hiking and cycling enthusiasts, while its deep valleys and towering cliffs create a thrilling playground for via ferrata adventures and rock climbing. Moreover, boasting an impressive network of over 1,200 kilometers of ski slopes and 450 lifts, the Dolomites rank among the world’s largest and most sought-after ski destinations.

Spanning approximately 140,000 hectares, the Dolomites stretch about 250 kilometers in length and 100 kilometers in width, featuring a remarkable collection of 18 peaks soaring above 3,000 meters in altitude.

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This expanse can be divided into three distinct regions, each characterized by its own distinct and captivating landscape.

Table of Contents

ITALIAN DOLOMITES GUIDE – EASTERN DOLOMITES


The Eastern Dolomites present a striking landscape defined by rugged terrain featuring unique red and grey rock formations. Amongst this dramatic backdrop, you’ll discover exquisite turquoise lakes nestled within the landscape, making this region a haven for some of the most picturesque hikes in the Dolomites.

As your central hub in the Eastern Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo shines with its charming blend of traditional eateries and upscale dining options, accompanied by an array of high-end shopping experiences.

So, what draws you to the Eastern Dolomites?

  • Breathtaking alpine landscapes featuring the Dolomites’ most captivating turquoise lakes.
  • Outstanding hiking opportunities, including the renowned Tre Cime di Lavaredo trek.
  • Access to some of the Dolomites’ finest cable car rides.
  • A diverse range of accommodations and dining choices to suit every palate.
  • A top-tier ski destination, making it one of Italy’s premier ski resorts.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE EASTERN DOLOMITES


1 – EMBARK ON THE TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO HIKE


Arguably the most exceptional hike within the Italian Dolomites, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop treats you to breathtaking vistas of three distinct rocky summits towering above a vast expanse of rugged terrain.


Multiple rifugios dotting the path offer delightful respites, serving up panoramic views and hearty Italian cuisine. The trail is well-marked, with several picturesque stopping points for you to enjoy along your journey.

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2 – CRUISE ACROSS LAGO DI BRAIES


Lago di Braies, a postcard-worthy lake, stands as one of the most iconic symbols of the Italian Dolomites. This vivid turquoise gem is fringed by golden-shingled shores and embraced by towering, sheer rock formations.


While there are splendid photo moments from the lake’s edge, the most enchanting way to experience it is aboard one of the wooden-paneled boats, exuding an unparalleled sense of romance.

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3 – ASCEND VIA GONDOLA TO LAGAZUOI & TOFANA


Ascending into the lofty realms of the Eastern Dolomites, you’ll encounter two extraordinary cable cars (Gondolas).

The Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo cable car ascends from just beyond Cortina to Cima Tofana (3,244m), offering a brief hike to Tofana di Mezzo, the third-highest peak in the Italian Dolomites. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to unparalleled vistas of the Sorapiss, Sexten, and Cristallo mountain ranges.

The Lagazuoi Cable Car carries you to Rifugio Lagazoui (2,753m) atop the Falzarego Pass, a high pass connecting Bolzano and Cortina d’Ampezzo. Nestled on the slopes of Mount Lagazuoi, this “rock castle” boasts spires, turrets, and remnants of military installations from World War I.

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4 – PHOTO: LAGO DI SORAPIS


While Lago di Braies may draw the crowds, Lago di Sorapis boasts equal splendor. Nestled on a remote perch, encircled by the formidable slopes of Mount Sorapis (3,200 m), this high alpine gem promises a mesmerizing Dolomites adventure.

Accessed through a moderately challenging hike, the journey meanders through wooded paths, precarious ledges, and awe-inspiring panoramic views of Tre Cime, all leading to the tranquil turquoise waters of the lake.

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5 – EMBARK ON YOUR INAUGURAL VIA FERRATA ADVENTURE


Via ferratas, or “Iron Roads,” provide protected climbing routes that let you conquer steep and exposed terrains using steel cables, steps, and ladders. While the Dolomites offer numerous options, if you’re new to this thrilling activity, the Eastern Dolomites are a fantastic place to begin.

Via Ferrata degli Alpini: Perfect for beginners and families, this shorter 3-to-5-hour course includes a 400-meter ascent and alternative routes around more challenging sections. The starting point is conveniently located 4 kilometers from Cortina.
Via Ferrata Marino Bianchi: For those seeking an intermediate challenge, this course leads to the summit of Monte Cristallo di Mezzo. Throughout the 6 to 7-hour journey, which involves an elevation gain of 920 meters, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views from start to the breathtaking 3,000-meter summit.

6 – IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE AMBIANCE OF CORTINA D’AMPEZZO


Cortina d’Ampezzo stands as the central hub of the Eastern Dolomites. Renowned for its picturesque mountain vistas, luxurious accommodations, upscale shopping, and vibrant nightlife, it offers the perfect contrast to the rugged natural beauty that surrounds it.

In the summer months, the abundance of dining options in Cortina d’Ampezzo provides an excellent way to unwind after a day of mountain adventures. During winter, it transforms into one of Italy’s premier ski resorts, boasting 140 ski runs and over 50 miles of cross-country pistes for winter sports enthusiasts.

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WHERE TO LODGE IN THE EASTERN DOLOMITES


For optimal accommodation in the Eastern Dolomites, Cortina takes the lead. Positioned at the heart of the region, it boasts convenient bus services that facilitate access to key attractions, though renting a car can be a time-saving alternative. Additionally, Dobbiaco stands as a noteworthy choice, especially if you plan to visit Lago di Braies, thanks to its solid transportation connections.

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GUIDE TO THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES – CENTRAL REGION


The central expanse of the Dolomites is characterized by vast chains of majestic peaks and uniquely shaped mountains. Towering pinnacles punctuate the lush meadows, while dramatic rock formations emerge from the rugged, almost otherworldly landscapes.

Nowhere else in the Dolomites can you encounter such otherworldly rocky terrains.
During the winter season, passionate skiers congregate to relish the exhilarating slopes of Val Gardena and Alta Badia.

Why Choose the Central Dolomites?

  • Experience unparalleled landscapes unique to the Dolomites.
  • Discover a variety of day hikes suitable for all skill levels.
  • Access an abundance of cable cars leading to extraordinary locations.
  • Embark on exhilarating journeys along the Great Dolomite Road, ideal for road trips or cycling adventures.
  • Benefit from a reliable network of buses and cable cars for convenient transportation.
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7 – EXPLORE THE BREATHTAKING VAL DI FUNES


Val di Funes, with its picturesque churches nestled amid lush green meadows and dramatic rock formations, has become an Instagram-famous Dolomites destination. Beyond its Instagram appeal, this enchanting valley offers excellent hiking opportunities, charming villages, and a vast nature park.

You can opt for leisurely hikes such as the Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg, starting from the postcard-perfect village of Santa Maddalena, leading through idyllic hay meadows and rolling farmland.


For a more challenging adventure, tackle the Adolf Munkel Trail, which winds beneath the imposing spires of the Puez-Odle group and introduces you to some of the most charming rifugios in the region.

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8 – DISCOVER THE MAJESTIC MEADOWS OF ALPE DI SIUSI


Nestled in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, Alpe di Siusi is a breathtaking alpine meadow surrounded by towering peaks and majestic pinnacles. Its expansive panoramic vistas make it a sought-after destination for summer hikes. If you prefer a faster pace, you can explore the entire area with an e-bike in just a few hours.

Be sure to allocate time for a delightful lunch, as Alpe di Siusi boasts a selection of wonderful rifugios. Here are our top picks:

Here are some excellent dining options on Alpe di Siusi:

  • Gostner Schwaige offers traditional Dolomites dishes with a refined twist.
  • Rauchhütte serves alpine cuisine, including their famous venison ragu and locally sourced steak, accompanied by an extensive wine list.
  • Gostner Schwaige provides a gourmet dining experience at 3,000 feet, featuring locally sourced food from the alpine meadows. Don’t miss the Heublütensuppe, a unique soup made from hay, flowers, and herbs, served in bread.

During winter, this meadow transforms into a playground for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter sports.

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9 – CAPTURE THE BEAUTY OF SECEDA & THE PUEZ-ODLE GROUP


Few places in the world offer the awe-inspiring view from the summit of Seceda, where the jagged teeth of the Puez-Odle range display the incredible power and beauty of nature. These majestic peaks, bent and contorted, stretch into the vast horizon, appearing to vanish into eternity and occasionally shrouded in a mysterious cloak of clouds. It’s a photographer’s paradise.

The best part is, you don’t have to undertake a strenuous hike to enjoy this extraordinary vista. Just hop on the Furnes-Seceda cable car in Ortisei, and after a short walk, you’ll be just around 100 meters from the breathtaking viewpoint.

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10 – EXPLORE MAJESTIC PINNACLE HIKES


The central Dolomites boast a diverse and one-of-a-kind landscape. Some of the most mesmerizing scenery can be experienced through a variety of thrilling day hikes. While you can access a comprehensive list of our preferred trails in our Dolomites hiking guide, here are a few exceptional selections:

Adolf Munkel Trail: Set out on a half-day adventure amidst the rugged spires of the Puez-Odle group.

The Sassolungo Circuit: Embark on a full-day journey encircling the majestic peaks of Sassolungo-Langkofel, offering remarkable rifugios along the way. Find further information in our guide to hiking the Sassolungo circuit.

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Vajolet Towers: Explore this moderately challenging hike, leading you through a rocky wilderness for a thrilling experience.

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11 – CAPTURE MIRROR-LIKE REFLECTIONS AT LAGO DI CAREZZA

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Lago di Carezza, nestled in Val d’Ega, is a breathtaking alpine lake. Its emerald waters flawlessly mirror the spiky Latemar mountains, earning it the nickname “Lake of the Rainbow.”
The lake’s water level varies with the seasons due to underground springs. For the most enchanting visit, head there in early spring when the snow has melted, and the lake begins to rise.

12 – TOUR THE MAJESTIC CENTRAL DOLOMITE PASSES


The Central Dolomites feature numerous awe-inspiring mountain passes, each offering unparalleled vistas. These winding roads, perfect for cyclists or scenic drives, promise exhilarating journeys. Below are some of the finest routes to explore in the central Dolomites:


Passo Gardena: Perched at an elevation of 2,136 meters, Passo Gardena links Val Gardena with Val Badia, providing travelers with breathtaking panoramas of the majestic Puez-Odle peaks and Fanes Group.

Passo Sella: Extending across a 12-kilometer winding road, Passo Sella connects Val di Fassa with Val Gardena. Along this route, you’ll be greeted by the towering peaks of Sassolungo and the awe-inspiring rocky monolith of the Sella group.

Passo Pordoi: Serving as one of the four passes on the Great Dolomites Road, Passo Pordoi offers an ascent with 28 thrilling hairpin bends, leading from the town of Canazei to its summit at 2,239 meters.

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13 – ASCEND VIA GONDOLA TO SASS PORDOI


Upon reaching the summit of Passo Pordoi, seize the opportunity to ride the cable car to Sass Pordoi, a rapid ascent of 700 meters in just a few minutes, placing you in a rugged wilderness at an elevation of 2,950 meters.


The vistas from this vantage point rival the best in the Dolomites. The Sella Massif resembles an immense sheer-sided monolith, and the trio of peaks of Sassolungo looms just across the valley.
For the intrepid, an exhilarating hike across the rocky expanse of Piz Boe commences from the summit of Sass Pordoi.

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14 – DISCOVER VIBRANT BOLZANO


Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol province, graces the Dolomites with its enchanting presence. What distinguishes Bolzano is its captivating blend of Italian and Austrian influences, crafting a distinctive and lively ambiance.


Bolzano proves to be an excellent destination, especially when rain clouds loom, offering a plethora of authentic cafes where you can savor the local specialty, speck – a cured ham with deep roots in the town.


Moreover, Bolzano conveniently serves as a starting point for embarking on the grandeur of the Great Dolomite Road.


At the heart of the town, the vibrant Piazza Walther delights with its charming pastel-colored townhouses, all set against a backdrop of verdant meadows.

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WHERE TO LODGE IN CENTRAL DOLOMITES


You’ll find numerous excellent lodging options in the heart of the Central Dolomites.

Located just a few miles apart and well-connected by regular bus services, the towns of Selva and Ortisei in Val Gardena offer prime access to some of the most splendid walks and vistas. Cable cars can transport you to Seceda, Alpe di Siusi, and Sassolungo, while Passo Gardena and Passo Sella are a short drive away. This area is ideal for those who prefer not to rent a car due to its proximity to numerous attractions.

Alternatively, Val di Funes, a tranquil and exceptionally scenic part of the central Dolomites, provides a delightful retreat for a couple of days.

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ITALIAN DOLOMITES GUIDE – WESTERN DOLOMITES


The Western Dolomites, situated in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, encompass the Brenta Dolomites and the Adamello-Presanella group. Here, you’ll encounter soaring limestone peaks adorned with dramatic vertical walls and ledges, showcasing the iconic pink-hued rock formations that have earned the Dolomites their UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

While the mountains in this region may have slightly different shapes compared to other areas, the Western Dolomites offer a diverse experience with easy access to vineyards and the historic city of Trento.

Why visit the Western Dolomites?


• Discover the most iconic Via Ferrata and rock climbing experiences in the Dolomites.
• Explore narrow valleys adorned with lush green forests and cascading waterfalls.
• Immerse yourself in the charming historic town of Trento.
• Savor exceptional wines in the Trentino Valley’s renowned wineries.
• Indulge in luxurious accommodations in Madonna di Campiglio.

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15 – EMBARK ON THE THRILLING LE BOCCHETTE VIA FERRATA


Explore one of the most renowned networks of cabled pathways in the Dolomites, the exhilarating Le Bocchette Via Ferrata, which traverses the vertical walls of the Western Dolomites.

Unlike traditional via ferratas that involve ascending from the base to the summit, Le Bocchette offers a unique horizontal route, tracing natural rock ledges. While not extremely challenging in terms of technique, it’s highly exposed, with a sheer rock face on one side and a 500-meter drop on the other. Completing it takes roughly 3 hours and requires nerves of steel.

16 – EXPLORE THE BREATHTAKING BRENTA DOLOMITES


The Western Dolomites, often less crowded than their counterparts, offer a more remote and serene hiking experience. Among the hidden gems is the Brenta Dolomites.


One of the most awe-inspiring hikes in this region brings you intimately close to the towering vertical walls and rugged peaks that characterize the area. Begin your adventure at the upper station of the Grostè Gondola and gradually descend through a mesmerizing rocky landscape until you reach the charming town of Madonna di Campiglio.

Another appealing choice is the 5 Lakes Walk, commencing at the upper station of the Cinque Laghi cable car and encompassing the picturesque Lago Ritorto and Lago Nambino along the way.

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17 – DISCOVER VAL GENOVA


Val Genova, often referred to as the “Valley of Waterfalls,” is a slender, wooded valley renowned for its numerous enchanting cascades.

Two of the most exquisite waterfalls in the area are Cascate Nardis and Cascate Di Laris. Accessible directly from the road, these falls are a brief stroll through a shaded woodland.

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The entire valley offers a tranquil and serene atmosphere, providing a stark contrast to the rugged mountain landscapes that envelop it. Consider packing a picnic or enjoying a meal at one of the rifugios in the valley for an alternative yet equally gratifying experience in the Dolomites.

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18 – EXPERIENCE WINTER SPORTS IN LUXURIOUS MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO


Madonna di Campiglio is a delightful year-round destination. In the summer, it lures outdoor enthusiasts with hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and paragliding opportunities. When winter arrives, the town evolves into a vibrant ski resort.
This region is famous for its expansive network of impeccably maintained slopes and modern ski lifts designed to accommodate skiers of all skill levels. It also boasts a lively après-ski scene, complete with vibrant nightlife, local eateries, and sophisticated dining establishments.

Nestled beneath the Brenta Dolomites, Madonna di Campiglio exudes a cozy atmosphere, characterized by chalet-style architecture and charming streets adorned with boutiques. It serves as an ideal base for your Dolomites adventure.

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19- DISCOVER HISTORIC TRENTO


Trento is a charming and picturesque city situated in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, featuring stunning streets graced with medieval and Renaissance-era architecture.


Trento is a delightful destination in the Italian Dolomites, offering a refreshing break from the rugged mountain landscapes. Here are some wonderful activities to enjoy in Trento:

  1. Piazza Duomo: The heart of the city, Piazza Duomo, is a lively square surrounded by historic buildings and cozy cafes. It’s home to the impressive Trento Cathedral, a masterpiece of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
  2. Castello del Buonconsiglio and Gardens: Explore this medieval castle consisting of various structures representing different historical periods. Inside, you’ll find beautifully decorated rooms, courtyards, and a museum displaying art and historical artifacts.
  3. Museo delle Scienze (MUSE): Known as the Museum of Sciences, MUSE is an interactive and innovative museum that delves into a wide range of scientific and natural topics.
  4. Palazzo delle Albere: This Renaissance-style palace is renowned for its striking architecture and hosts contemporary art exhibitions. It’s surrounded by a park, providing a tranquil setting for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.
  5. Sardagna Cable Car: Take a cable car ride to Sardagna and enjoy breathtaking views along the way to this charming hillside village.
  6. Castle Toblino: Explore this picturesque lake fortress adorned with beautiful frescoes and paintings, including depictions of medieval musical instruments.

Trento offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination in the Dolomites.

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20 – INDULGE IN WINE TASTING IN THE TRENTINO VALLEY


Nestled in the foothills of the Dolomites, the Trentino Valley is a picturesque wine-producing region dominated by small, family-owned wineries. The cool alpine climate provides ideal conditions for cultivating intricate cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir varieties.


Since most of the wine is primarily distributed locally with limited exports, exploring the local vineyards while in the Dolomites offers a delightful and authentic experience for wine enthusiasts.

Ferrari Trentino // Immerse yourself in the 100-year history of Ferrari Trento within the captivating cellars. Explore the opulent 16th-century villa that serves as a backdrop to this renowned winery. You can book lunch and wine tasting experiences ranging from €85 to €265.

Cantina Tramin // Discover Cantina Tramin, a place where art, design, architecture, and wine converge in a stunning setting. Book guided tours with wine tastings starting at €17.

Cantina Rotari // Cantina Rotari harnesses the unique mountain climate of Trentino to craft sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot grapes.

Alois Lageder Paradeis // This family-operated winery embraces classical grape varieties to create wines that harmonize with the natural essence of the region. Enjoy informative guided tours that unveil the wine production process and culminate in a lunch featuring local organic ingredients.

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WHERE TO RESIDE IN WESTERN DOLOMITE

The ideal base for exploring the Western Dolomites is Madonna di Campiglio, a vibrant town brimming with amenities. Numerous cable cars provide convenient access to the finest hikes, climbs, and rifugios in the area.

The optimal time to explore the Italian Dolomites generally falls between May and July when the majority of hiking trails are accessible, and the weather tends to be more favorable. However, due to the mountainous nature of the region, weather conditions can be variable, so it’s advisable to check the forecast before heading out.

SUMMER IN THE DOLOMITES (JUNE TO SEPTEMBER)


Summer marks the peak season in the Dolomites, offering mild temperatures and long daylight hours, making it ideal for hiking, cycling, and various outdoor pursuits. The alpine meadows come alive with vibrant wildflowers, creating a spectacular backdrop.

FALL IN THE DOLOMITES (OCTOBER TO NOVEMBER)


Autumn paints the Dolomites in vibrant colors, and it’s a beautiful time to visit as the leaves change, and crowds begin to thin. The weather is cooler, but many hiking trails remain open.

WINTER IN THE DOLOMITES (DECEMBER TO FEBRUARY)


For skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, winter is the prime season to explore the Dolomites. With some of Italy’s largest ski resorts, you’ll have access to over 1,200 kilometers of slopes.

SPRING IN THE DOLOMITES (MARCH TO MAY)


Spring in the Dolomites can be unpredictable, with lingering snow at higher elevations. While the weather improves, some high-altitude hiking trails may still be inaccessible. However, at lower altitudes, you can witness the start of wildflower blooms, making hiking and biking in these areas a stunning experience.

HOW TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES


By Air // The Dolomites are conveniently accessible via several international airports, with Venice, Innsbruck, and Verona being the most convenient options.

By Train // The primary railway route serving the Dolomites is the Verona to Munich line, which includes stops at Trento and Bolzano, providing a scenic journey through the region.

By Car // Driving is often the most convenient way to reach the Dolomites. The roads are well-maintained, and while there are winding hairpin turns, they are not excessively challenging, offering flexibility and access to various areas within the region.

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HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN THE DOLOMITES?


The Italian Dolomites encompass a vast and diverse region with numerous attractions. To thoroughly explore the area, it’s recommended to plan for at least a week or more to make the most of your visit.

DAY TRIP TO THE DOLOMITES


For those with limited time, it’s possible to experience some of the Dolomites’ highlights on a day trip from Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, or Bolzano. Consider booking one of the highly-rated tours available.


A WEEKEND IN THE DOLOMITES


If you have a long weekend to spare, you can choose between Val Gardena and the Central Dolomites or Cortina and the Eastern Dolomites. These destinations offer a central base with a variety of activities to enjoy over 2 to 3 days.

DAY TRIP TO THE DOLOMITES


If you’re short on time, you can still enjoy some of the Dolomites’ highlights with a day trip from Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, or Bolzano. Consider booking one of the highly-rated tours available.

A WEEKEND IN THE DOLOMITES


With a long weekend to spare, you can opt for either Val Gardena and the Central Dolomites or Cortina and the Eastern Dolomites. These destinations provide a central base for a variety of activities to enjoy over 2 to 3 days.

Here’s a revised version of your itinerary:

  • Day 1 – Explore Passo Pordoi & The Great Dolomite Road
  • Day 2 – Trek to Tre Cime di Lavaredo
  • Day 3 – Discover Lago di Braies & Val di Funes
  • Day 4 – Explore Alpe di Siusi
  • Day 5 – Experience the Beauty of Sassolungo
  • Day 6 – Visit Trentino’s Charming Locations
  • Day 7 – Venture into the Brenta Dolomites

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