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Located in Northeastern Italy, the Dolomites is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that exceeds all expectations of an alpine getaway. Marvel at the incredible scenery, wander delightful small towns or go hiking in Summer and Fall and skiing in winter; you won’t run out of things to do in the Dolomites.
Stretching over 56 miles (90 km) from north to south and about 62 miles (100 km) east to west, the Italian Dolomites straddle the border between Italy and Austria. These snow-capped peaks were once a frenzied battlefield during the First World War, but today, they are one of the best places to visit in Italy for an idyllic holiday with stunning scenery.
There is more to the Dolomites region than meets the eye, though. While the green rolling hills and abundant hiking trails are often at the forefront, these iconic peaks also offer glistening lakes, ski resorts, and alpine meadows dotted with mountain huts.
Planning a trip to Italy? Make sure you add a Dolomites road trip to your itinerary, and don’t miss out on exploring one of the most beautiful places in the world.
With the sheer abundance of things to see in the Dolomites, you may be overwhelmed and unsure about where to start, what to do, and what to leave out. This guide covers all the stand-out attractions in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mountain range boasts about 18 jagged peaks, more than 12 ski resorts, and numerous towns and villages for you to enjoy. Have a look at some of these and what they offer below.
Marmolada – A trip to the Dolomites is incomplete without appreciating the beautiful scenery at its highest peak. Rising above a lush alpine meadow, Marmolada boasts an impressive glacier that entices many mountaineers, skiers, and hikers alike. Hop in the cable car that will whisk you up to the summit.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo – Known for its striking rock formations and challenging hiking routes, Tre Cime di Lavaredo – or the “Three Peaks of Lavaredo” in English – present an irresistible call to hikers and climbers. The hiking trails wind around the peaks, letting you soak in the grandeur of Tre Cime di Lavaredo and surrounding mountains.
Cinque Torri – Another striking rock formation not to be missed in the Dolomites is Cinque Torri, meaning “Five Towers”. These jagged peaks are an incredible sight to behold, but they also carry the tales of World War 1, as they were once a battleground.
Monte Antelao – Nicknamed the “King of the Dolomites”, Monte Antelao is the highest summit in the Eastern Dolomites of Northern Italy. Monte Antelao is most beautiful in winter when it is fully blanketed by snow.
Seceda – Marveling at the oddly shaped peaks of Seceda is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the Dolomites. This natural gem in the Val Gardena Region boasts dramatic limestone cliffs surrounded by an alpine meadow speckled with charming mountain huts.
Lago di Braies – Widely famous for its clear, turquoise waters, Lago di Braies sits at the heart of the Dolomites. The sparkling lake mirrors the snow-capped peaks surrounding it as colorful rowboats gently glide on the lake’s surface. The hiking trails encircling Lago di Braies offer a peaceful and up-close look at the jewel of the Dolomites.
Lago di Carezza – Located in the Dolomites’ South Tyrol Region, Lago di Carezza is a small mountain lake surrounded by a densely packed forest and backdrops of towering snowy peaks. Dubbed the “Rainbow Lake”, it’s characterized by hues of emerald and turquoise along its lakeshore. The walking paths around the lake provide amazing views from every angle.
Lago Fedaia – Tucked away near the base of Marmolada Peak, Lago Fedaia is a reservoir lake formed by the Fedaia Dam. Its deep blue waters contrast the rocky peaks around it, beckoning those looking for a serene escape. The route to Lago Fedaia is one of the Dolomites’ scenic drives as it winds through picturesque valleys.
Lago di Sorapis – Discover the best of the Dolomites at this remote glacial lake that looks right out of a storybook. This secluded alpine lake is only accessible by hiking or via helicopter ride. The Lago di Sorapis hike is a challenging one, but the awe-inspiring views at the end make it worth it. This lake’s deep blue color contrasts the gray rock backdrops surrounding it.
Towns / Places
Mountain passes may be the highlight of your trip to the Dolomites, but there is more to this region than what meets the eye. On either side of the Dolomites, you’ll find a tapestry of picturesque small towns and villages full of activities.
You’ll find many of the hidden gems in the Dolomites encapsulated in the region’s inhabited places. From world-class ski slopes to gourmet restaurants, historic museums, breathtaking churches, and high-end shopping, these charming towns offer an array of things to do in the Dolomites.
This alpine town is where luxury and natural beauty intertwine. Sitting in a valley circled by Dolomites mountain passes, Cortina d’Ampezzo is home to a range of chic boutiques, luxury hotels, and gourmet restaurants where you can indulge in local cuisine.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a haven for skiers, hikers, and culture enthusiasts. In summer, the town’s Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo and Ciàsa de i Pùpe – a pastel house covered by frescoes, are great spots for a photo-op. Winter, on the other hand, ushers in a season of skiing and snowboarding.
If you’re looking to do some souvenir shopping, Corso Italia, the heart of Cortina d’Ampezzo, is your best bet.
Ortisei – Val Gardena
Ortisei is the gateway to the Val Gardena region, as well as other popular municipalities like Selva di Val Gardena and Val di Fassa. The town boasts an array of quaint cobblestone streets dotted with wooden chalets, shops, and local markets.
Ortisei displays the region’s prominent Ladin culture through events and festivals, and a visit to the Ladin Museum “Ciastel de Tor” offers a more in-depth experience. There’s also a cable car to visit Alpe di Siusi – the largest and highest alpine meadow in all of Europe.
Val di Funes
Nestled in the heart of the Dolomites’ South Tyrol province, Val di Funes is a picturesque valley with rolling green meadows and the iconic Odle Peaks towering above. The town is a paradise for hikers and travel photographers, offering trails that lead to postcard-perfect vistas that only the Dolomites can provide.
The Church of St. John sits in solitude on a lush valley; it features a frescoed facade and a dome bell tower polished with striking views of the Odle Peaks in the background. Savor local delicacies at one of the local restaurants in town or at a charming pasture hut in the valley.
Lago di Misurina
Visiting the tranquil shores of Lago di Misurina is one of the most serene things to do in the Dolomites. The enchanting lake is surrounded by majestic peaks; its calm waters create a peaceful ambiance that draws visitors looking for both relaxation and natural wonders.
The towering Three Peaks are an unmissable backdrop to the town’s skyline. Walk around the lakeshore or rent a rowboat to take in Lago di Misurina’s amazing scenery. The adventure park nearby will fulfill any thrill-seeking urges, and Lago di Misurina is known for its clear night skies – perfect for stargazing.
The Best Dolomites Viewpoints
While hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing make up some of the best things to do in the Dolomites, other famous pastimes in this region involve just standing and looking out at the horizon. There are plenty of stunning viewpoints in the Dolomites; here are a few to keep in mind for your trip.
Accessibility: Accessible by hiking or via cable car from Ortisei.
Standing at a staggering elevation of 8,264 feet, Seceda offers panoramic 360-degree views of the surrounding Dolomite mountains. The summit can be reached in two ways; hiking or via cable car. To hike, start your trek at the Praplan Car Park in Val Gardena. From there, the walk is about 3.6 miles (one-way) to reach the summit. It takes two to three hours to complete.
To shave off some miles of the hike, the cable cars in Ortisei offer a quicker alternative to reaching the summit. Once at the top, there’s a stunning vista that captures the beauty of the entire region.
Accessibility: Accessible by car and then a short hike or by cable car.
For mesmerizing views of the iconic Cinque Torri rock formations, take one of the best hikes in the Dolomites to Rifugio Averau. The 8,500 feet elevation at Rifugio Averau also rewards you with 360-degree views of the Dolomites, but the star of the show here is the “Five Towers”.
Make your way up either by a short hike or a cable car ride. Whatever mode of travel you choose, the vantage point at the summit allows you to appreciate the unique shapes and textures of Rifugio Averau without interruption.
Accessibility: Accessible by cable car from Malga Ciapela.
Taking the ski lift to Punta Rocca is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites. It brings you within close range of the Marmolada – the Dolomites’ highest mountain peak. Upon arrival at the summit, step onto the viewing platform and gaze at the mighty glacier before you.
Accessibility: Accessible by cable car from Cortina d’Ampezzo.
As much as taking the cable cars to Cima Tofana is exhilarating and dotted with stunning viewpoints, nothing beats the vistas awaiting at the summit. The viewpoints here allow you to take in the beauty of Cortina d’Ampezzo and its surrounding peaks.
Taking a scenic drive around the Dolomites makes for an excellent Dolomites road trip, giving quick access to the most famous peaks, towns, and alpine lakes.
Here are some fantastic scenic drives you should take when visiting the Dolomites, Italy.
Great Dolomites Road (Grande Strada delle Dolomiti)
Stretching over 86 miles, the Great Dolomites Road is one of the most stunning scenic drives in Europe. Connecting the Dolomites towns of Bolzano and Cortina d’Ampezzo, this famous road winds through dramatic landscapes, with towering peaks and charming villages along the way.
Passo Gardena, or the “Gardena Pass” in English, is one of four mountain passes in the Dolomites, Italy. The 9.32-mile road weaves through nature, giving you awe-inspiring panoramas of the surrounding peaks.
Reaching an elevation of over 7,000 feet, this high mountain pass connects the ski area of Val Gardena and Val Badia, where you’ll find a predominantly Ladin-speaking population.
Located between the provinces of South Tyrol and Trentino, Sella Pass is another stunning mountain pass in the Dolomites that makes for a thrilling scenic drive. The 10.81-mile road takes you through breathtaking cliffs and emerald valleys dotted with idyllic mountain huts.
While taking scenic drives or cable cars to some of the best viewpoints in the Dolomites are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in the region’s nature, hiking is an even better alternative.
Here is a multi-day hike that you should include in your itinerary of things to do in the Dolomites.
Five-Day Dolomites Hiking Adventure
From breathtaking mountain summits to glacial lakes and lush alpine valleys, the best hikes in the Dolomites give you access to these and more. You can create your own hiking adventure around the Italian Alps, but this guide has done most of the work for you.
Here’s a jam-packed five-day hiking adventure around the Dolomites, Italy:
Day One – Arrive in the charming town of Cortina d’Ampezzo and settle into your hotel. Take some time to explore the town’s restaurants, boutiques, and cafes before heading out for a hike. The Croda da Lago loop trail nearby provides ragged backdrops and a tiny lake to boot.
Day Two – Hit the ground running on the second day of your Dolomites trip with an epic hike to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The journey to the iconic Three Peaks is a challenging one, so brace yourself for rocky landscapes and bring lots of water. You’ll need to start this hike as early as possible, as it’s a 6.3-mile trek.
Day Three – When it comes to mighty jagged peaks, nothing beats the views at Cadini di Misurina. The trail to this stunning viewpoint takes you through unique limestone rock formations, lush alpine meadows, and the pristine Lago di Misurina is the cherry on top.
Day Four – Take a cable car ride to the Seceda plateau and hike amidst the lush meadows while being rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of the Dolomites. This 4.4-mile hike is moderately challenging and will take you anywhere from two to three hours to complete.
Day Five – Last but certainly not least, drive to Alpe di Siusi to explore Europe’s largest high-altitude meadow. With over 270 miles of hiking trails, your trek to Alpe di Siusi will be full of scenic overlooks and grazing wildlife from one alpine pasture hut to the next.
Local Food and Wine
Each region in Italy offers unique gastronomy thanks to the use of seasonal, local, and freshly picked ingredients, and the Dolomites are no different. Cuisine in the Dolomites region is distinguishable by its simplicity. Typical meals here often include potatoes, pumpkins, corn, and legumes.
Here are some food and drinks you should try when visiting the Dolomites, Italy.
Dishes To Try
Casunziei – This is a Ladin name for a half-moon-shaped ravioli stuffed with a delicious mix of ingredients like beetroot, ricotta, and poppy seeds. These vibrant pockets of flavor reflect the local Alpine culture and are a true taste of the Dolomites. You can find them anywhere in the region, but Cortina d’Ampezzo is said to have the best casunziei.
Canederli – These savory dumplings are made from bread rolls and enriched with speck (European cured pork) or cheese. Canederli is largely considered a hearty meal, often compared to comfort foods like Mac n Cheese in the United States.
Apfelstrudel – This is a popular dessert in many European nations, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and of course, Northern Italy. It’s made from a flaky pastry filled with sweet apple slices, raisins, and a hint of cinnamon.
Local Wines To Try From the Trentino-Alto Adige Wine Region
Pinot Grigio – This is a white wine made from green grapes that bloom in the Dolomites’ microclimates. Crisp, light, and aromatic, it pairs perfectly with the region’s white meat and seafood dishes, enhancing the Italian dining experience.
Vernatsch – For those red-meat dishes, Vernatsch boasts fruity notes and has an easy-drinking nature. It pairs well with hearty meals but also goes well with appetizers like hors d’oeuvres, cold meats, salami, and soups.
The Dolomites have a rich history and culture; this can be seen in the region’s gastronomy and way of life, but to fully immerse yourself in these mountains, here are a few good places to start.
An Italian rifugio is a high-altitude mountain hut directly situated along a hiking trail. This is a common structure in the Dolomites, with over 1,000 rifugios scattered around the region. Staying in a rifugio is a quintessential way of immersing yourself in the way of life in the Dolomites.
Torgellen, or “Toerggelen”, is a South Tyrol tradition where people come together to indulge in roasted chestnuts, wine, and delicious food. Influenced by Italian and Austrian traditions, torgellen is a fall festivity that brings people in the Dolomites together. The name comes from the Latin word torquere, which means to turn.
Witness the ancient practice of transhumance as cows and sheep are guided down from the mountain pastures in the fall. This ritual, laden with generations of wisdom, reflects the deep connection between the land, its people, and their animals. The ritual is a seasonal occasion where livestock is moved to the lowlands in the winter and the highlands in the summer months.
When winter arrives in the Dolomites, Christmas Markets come to life. These charming markets are a celebration of Alpine culture, with artisan crafts, local delicacies, and a festive atmosphere that warms the hearts of the locals even in the coldest months.
Visiting a Christmas Market is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites. The Dolomites Christmas San Candido, the Dobbiaco Christmas Market, and the Mountain Christmas Market at Lago di Braies all offer amazing stalls selling all sorts of goodies and trinkets.
Dolomites Winter Sports
Winter in the Dolomites offers a playground for snow enthusiasts. Ski down world-class slopes, snowboard through powdery terrain, or venture into the Dolomites’ numerous cross-country trails.
You can also experience exhilarating snowshoeing, ice climbing, and sledding. From Trentino to South Tyrol, Friuli, and Bellunese, the Dolomites’ snowy wonderland promises a thrilling canvas for every winter sports lover.
The Italian Dolomites offer a captivating range of natural wonders and thrilling activities. From hikes that lead to panoramic vistas to serene alpine lakes reflecting the surrounding peaks, this region is a haven for thrill seekers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Find yourself in the Dolomites’ breathtaking landscapes, hike iconic trails like Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and ski down world-class slopes. Get lost in local traditions by savoring local dishes in Cortina d’Ampezzo, and interact with the locals.