Things to Do in the Dolomites

  • What are the Dolomites?

The dolomites are a part of the Alps mountain range, located in the northeast corner of Italy. Beginning at the Italian/Austrian border and spanning for 80km (50 miles) to the town of Bolzano, the dolomites are sometimes called the “pale mountains” due to their unique color. They are composed primarily of limestone, creating very unique and beautiful rock formations. The dolomites consume an area of 141,640ha (350,000 acres) and have 18 primary peaks. Dolomitic lime is mined from these mountains and is used in agriculture to raise the pH of the soil. In WWI, the military created many trails, tunnels, and bunkers in the dolomitic portion of the Alps, which are now used as hiking trails. The dolomites are arguably the most beautiful mountain formations in the world and attract millions of visitors because of their beauty and abundance of recreational opportunities. With the snow in the winter and the turquoise lakes scattered throughout the area in the summer, this is prime adventure habitat! These strange rock formations and rolling green hills in the alps make this location quite possibly the most picturesque place on the planet.

  • Hiking

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Hiking in the dolomites provides some of the most humbling and breathtaking views in the world. I have never been to a place that made me feel so small and insignificant as the dolomites did. The dolomites provide several different hiking opportunities, so below I have outlined some of the most popular hiking trails. These hiking trails vary in difficulty, but the views and scenery are incredible on all of them. Go on a clear day for the best views (sometimes the fog inhibits the views).

8 3rd hiking

Place/Hiking Trail Distance/Time Difficulty
Falzarego Pass/ Kaiserjaeger hike 3km (1.9mi) / 2hr difficult
Tre Cime/ Lavaredo Loop 9.7km (6mi) / 3.5hr easy
Alpe di Siusi/ Sciliar (schlern) Peak trail- 13.1km (8.1mi) / 5hr moderate to difficult
Gschnagenhardt Alm/ Adolf Munkel Trail 18.9km (11.7mi) / 6.5hr moderate to difficult
Pragser Wildsee Loop 3.5km (2.2 mi) / 50 mins easy
Cima del Monte Balzo 10.2km  (6.3mi) / 4hr moderate
Sasso Piatto 8.1km (5mi) / 3hr moderate
  • Skiing/Snowboarding

8 4th skiing-snowboarding

The skiing opportunities in the Dolomites are comprised of twelve primary ski resorts. The skiing is phenomenal in this region, with steep difficult slopes or flat cross country skiing. Ranging in difficulty, there is opportunity here for people with all different levels of experience. The high elevation and dry climate provide fine/powdery consistent snow during the winter that is excellent for skiing or snowboarding. Although this is a relatively expensive activity, we highly recommend giving it a try. You can’t find ski slopes with these views just anywhere!

The twelve primary ski resorts are: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Kronplatz, Civetta, Alpe Lusia – San Pellegrino, Valle Isarco (Eisacktal), Alta Badia, Val di Fassa, Tre Cime (3 peaks), Val Gardena, Valle di Fiemme, San Martino di Castrozza, and Arabba Marmolada (the highest peak in the dolomites).

  • Mountain Biking

8 5th mountain biking

There are literally thousands of miles of mountain biking trails in the dolomites. The landscape makes for a very scenic ride with pristine biking trails. Mountain biking is extremely popular in this area. Redbull says “No other mountain range in the Alps is as spectacular for riding as the dolomites” in one of their articles. They also call the dolomites a “mountain bike paradise.” These are strong words, to which we agree 100%! Since there are an inconceivable amount of biking trails and it would take like 100 pages to tell you about all of them, I will just highlight the most popular ones:

Val Gardena-Alpe di Siusi

Val Gardena has an extensive network of biking trails that encompass all ranges of difficulty and length. This area is in the heart of the dolomites, and offers spectacular views and perfect mountain biking terrain. The wonderful thing about this location is that it has lifts that can take you to the top of the peaks so that you do not have to bike to the top, you can just enjoy the thrill of going downhill for the majority of the trail (although some people may enjoy the uphill portions). These trails are becoming popular worldwide among the mountain biking community, and for good reason!

Rauchhutte-Tolles Panarama loop

Located between Bolzano and Cortina, this trail is a loop, that is 28.5km (17.7 miles) in length and has an elevation change of 907m (2975 ft). Since it is a loop, what goes down must go up, so prepare for some uphill pedaling! This trail will most likely take you around 3 hours to complete depending on your skill level.

St. Jacob-Ortisei/ St. Ulrich loop

Located between Cortina and Bolzano, this trail is a 46 km (28.6 miles) loop that has a 2240m (7,350 ft) change in elevation. This is a moderate to difficult trail, and should take you around 6 hours to complete it depending on skill level.

Rifugio Fanes- Rifugio Sennes Hutte loop

Located slightly northwest of Cortina, this trail is a loop that is 56.3km (35 miles) in length and has an elevation change of 1804m (5920 ft). This trail is pretty lengthy as well as difficult, so some level of experience is a prerequisite. This trail should take around 6 hours to complete, depending on skill level.

Karerpass- Reiterjoch loop

Located near Bolzano, this trail is a 48.6km (30.2 mile) loop that has an elevation change of 1929m (6330 ft). This trail is also pretty difficult and should take about 5.5 hrs to complete, depending on skill level.

  • Rock Climbing

The dolomites offer world class climbing opportunities with thousands of climbing routes that have been used for hundreds of years. Many of the routes still used today were bolted or discovered during WW1 for military purposes. The dolomites have routes containing various qualities of limestone, from poor quality to excellent quality. There are countless long routes that have every level of difficulty. A lot of the bolted areas are very old, so be cautious when using them. It may be wise to use trad equipment (as a supplement, not a substitute) on some of the bolted routes just to be safe. Typically, the months June to October provide the best weather for climbing, however the weather is variable and changing each year. The dolomites in the winter months are usually scattered with snow and ice, so the climbing conditions during this time are less than ideal. The dolomites are famous for providing some of the most lengthy multi pitch and trad climbing routes in the world. The dolomites offer just about every type of climbing style imaginable. Alpine climbing is very common and popular in this region. Alpine climbing (for those of you that do not know) is a style of mountaineering that requires being self sufficient in terms of bringing all of your own food, equipment, shelter, etc. The primary objective of an alpinist is usually to reach the summit of a mountain,  therefore, usually multi-pitch climbing is involved. There are countless routes offered in the dolomites, so below we have listed some of the more popular ones:

Route name Difficulty Climbing types Length Pitches
Roberta83 5.12a sport 244m (800 ft) 9
NW Arete 5.8 Trad, alpine 253m (830 ft) 9
Schubert 5.10a trad 250m (820 ft) 7
Messner 5.10a Trad, alpine 251m (825 ft) 11
South Face Buttress 5.7+ Trad, alpine 335m (1100 ft) 14
SouthWest Arete 5.7 Trad, alpine 122m (400 ft) 4
South Pillar 5.7+ trad 253m (830 ft) 9
Cima Ovest-North Face- Cassin 5.11 Trad, alpine 457m (1500 ft)
Cima Piccola – South Arete 5.9+ Trad, alpine 335m (1100 ft) 11
East Face “via finlandia” 5.10c trad 137m (450 ft) 6
South Face “via miriam” 5.8 trad 162m (530 ft) 5
Spigolo Jori, SE Arete 5.7+ trad 411m (1350 ft) 15
North Face “Comici” 5.10+ Trad, alpine 450m (1475 ft) 15

Five of the most popular “areas” to climb are Tre Cime, Cinque Torri, Marmolada South Face, Vajolet Towers, and Tofana di Rozes South Face. In addition to these routes, the dolomites also offer the “Via Ferrata” option. Via ferrata roughly translates into “iron path”. It has this nickname because of an extensive network of iron cables that are there to assist climbers. There are a lot of easy routes here, and the cables are used to guide people up the routes, making them feel safer. The dolomites have around 170 of these routes and they are growing in popularity. Sometimes there will be thousands of people climbing these routes on a single day if the weather is nice, so get there early!

  • BASE Jumping/Paragliding/Hang Gliding

8 7th hang gliding

The dolomites are world renowned among the sky exploring community due to the high peaks (over 3000m (9843 ft)) and beautiful views from above. There are several ways to explore the sky in the dolomites, including hang gliding, paragliding, hot air ballooning, BASE jumping, and gliding in a sailplane. The dolomites provide pristine conditions for hang gliding and paragliding, including perfect thermals, unique landscapes, and well organized companies that offer tandem flight packages. There are several popular areas for these sports including: Cortina, Alpe di Siusi, and Seiser Alm. If going to the launch site near Rifugio Duca d’Aosta, there is the Tofana cable car that will take you to the destination, making it much easier to access.

  • Camping

If you’re looking to find the perfect place to camp, then look no further! The dolomites provide some of the most beautiful campsites and scenery in the world. With the rugged mountains, turquoise lakes, and crazy rock formations, the dolomites are a dream camping destination. You can either wild camp off of the beaten path (our favorite), or you can go to designated and established camping sites. For your convenience, we have provided you with a list with most of the established camping sites in the dolomites:

Camping Seiser Alm, Camping Obstgarten, Camping Residence Corones, Camping Antholz, Camping Al Plan, Camping Olympia, Camping Park Sexten, Camping Kiefernhain, Camping Arquin, Grancomfortcamping Schlosshof, Hermitage Camping Caravan, Naturcaravanpark Tesimo, Alpin Fitness Waldcamping Vollan, and Camping Passiria.

  • Travel

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  • Popular Dolomitic Lakes

Pragser Wildsee

8 8th lakes

Photo Credits: camikunoichi (instagram)

Lake Pragser Wildsee, also called “Lake Prags” or “Lake Braies,” is located in the Prags Valley 23km (14.3 miles) north of Cortina. This lake has a surface area of 31ha (76.6 acres) and a maximum depth of 36m (118 ft). It is known as a “pearl among dolomite lakes” mainly due to its historical significance in ancient folklore and its emerald green waters. This lake has many hiking trails around it and is a very beautiful lake worth visiting!

Lago di Carezza

Photo Credit: ita_travelgram (instagram        Photo Credit: soul_structure (instagram)

Located 25 km (15.5 miles) southeast of Bolzano, this crystal clear lake has a surface area of 3.5 ha (8.6 acres). What it lacks in size, it makes up in beauty! This small lake is fed by an underground spring, supplying it with emerald green water. This lake usually has calm waters that reflect the surrounding mountains. The excess water that the spring produces flows from the lake on the western side in the form of a stream. There is a dense forest of fir trees located at the slopes of Massif that surround this lake. There are a few hiking trails that surround the lake and access it from all sides. This lake is also popular among divers that dive in the beautiful water throughout all months of the year. During the winter the water usually reaches its deepest point, measuring a depth of 17m (55.8 ft).

Lago di Garda

8 10th lago di garda

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, spanning for 37,000ha (91,429 acres). It is located between Venice and Milan on the southwestern edge of the dolomites. Some of the most popular towns on Lake Garda include Riva del Garda, Sirmione, Desenzano, Limone sul Garda, Garda, & San Felice del Benaco. At its deepest point, this lake reaches 346m (1,135ft) in depth. This lake has many beaches for swimming and sunbathing. The cool and refreshing water is enjoyed by many people during the summer months. The northern part of the lake, near Riva del Garda, is one of the most famous windsurfing destinations in the world. If you need to travel to/around this lake, there are several busses, trains, and ferries that access it.

Dürrensee (Lago di Landro)

8 11th lakes

Photo Credits: Samuel Rich

This lake is located in south Tyrol just north of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The water is warmer than most lakes at this altitude, so taking a swim is a popular and refreshing activity. On calm days, the turquoise water will reflect the surrounding dolomitic mountains. This is truly a beautiful small mountain lake worth visiting!

Lago di Sorapis

Photo Credits: rirareisende (instagram)            Photo Credit: filmatt88 (instagram)

Lake Sorapis is located in the Province of Belluno and is considered the one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Italy. This lake has light blue water and is surrounded by dolomitic rock formations. The water color in this lake is very unique and attracts many people each year. If you wanted to visit a small lake in the dolomites, chose this one!

Lago di Misurina

8 13 lago di misurina

Photo Credit: eminlela (instagram)

Lake Misurina was used in the 1956 winter olympics for speed skating, the last year that speed skating was done on natural ice in the olympics. This lake is rather large, at 15ha (36 acres). There are hiking trails around this beautiful dolomitic lake, and it is a popular destination for vacationers with several hotels surrounding it.

Toblacher See

Photo Credit: elisadove (instagram)            Photo Credit: hi.immarika (instagram)

Toblacher See lake is a lake in the south Tyrol area. This lake has a surface area of 14.3ha (35 acres), so it is rather small. The mean depth of this lake is 3.5 meters (11.5 ft). This is a beautiful lake that is surrounded by the dolomitic mountains. It is a great area to just relax and enjoy the view.

Lago di Molveno

8 15 lago di molveno

Photo Credit: sunnatravel (instagram)

Lake Molveno is dubbed as one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. It is located in Trentino, Italy, and is one of the larger lakes with a surface area of 327ha (808 acres). It has a maximum depth of 120m (390 ft), so it is also fairly deep. The “bridge of Napoleon” is beautiful waterfall that flows directly into the lake. This lake is a must see!

Lago di Tovel

Photo Credit: ireneccloset (instagram)          Photo Credit: eugeniomiola (instagram)

Lake Tovel is located in the Trentino province of Italy. It is a rather small lake with a surface area of 38ha (94 acres). It was recognized as a wetland of national importance in 1980. It has also been called bears lake due to the occasional sightings of brown bears around the lakes perimeter, and red lake due to its past algal blooms that resulted in a reddish water tint.

  • Major Towns/Cities in the Dolomites

8 17 towns

Cortina d’Ampezzo

8 18 cortina

Cortina is a beautiful town located in the province of Belluno about 150 km north of Venice and 100 km east of Bolzano. According to the local italians, this is “where the rich people go,” so be aware that everything is quite expensive. Cortina is a major ski resort town that has pristine ski slopes and a wonderfully charming downtown area full of restaurants, bars, and pastry shops. There are plenty of things to do around this town, including pretty much everything that was listed above (hiking, skiing, hang gliding, mountain biking, etc). As far as italian towns are concerned, Cortina is pretty hard to beat in terms of beauty and charm.

Alleghe

8 19 alleghe

Alleghe is also a charming town in the province of Belluno. Located about 35 km to the southwest of Cortina, Alleghe borders Alleghe lake. There are plenty of things to do in this town as well, including all of the same activities listed above. This town is a little bit more affordable to stay in than Cortina, but a little bit less charming in our opinion; however, I stayed in Alleghe for a weekend and absolutely loved my stay!

Falcade

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Photo Credit: rampazzo_nicoletta (instagram)

Falcade is a charming german style town located 110 km northwest of Venice and 35 km northwest of Belluno. This is a major ski town that is full of german style mountain homes and hotels. This is a more affordable town to stay in aswell, and it has some truly breathtaking views.

Auronzo

8 21 auronzo

Photo Credit: ladychiarella (instagram)

Auronzo di Cadore is another beautiful italian mountain town that borders lake Santa Caterina that was formed by the damming of the Ansiei river. It is located 120 km north of Venice and 28 km east of Cortina. Nearby there is the famous dolomitic formation of Tre Cime and the famous lake Misurina. This is a more affordable town, and there is plenty to do in terms of outdoor activities!

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42 thoughts on “Things to Do in the Dolomites

  1. Thank you for sharing – your write up and photos really do the area justice. The Dolomites is one of my Spiritual Homes. I have been there both in winter skiing and in the summer, climbing on the Via Ferrata (probably the most terrifying experience of my life! I will share it sometime on my blog. Thank you for following, by the way!)

    My current Spiritual Home is in Monte Rosa, Italy. If you haven’t, you must! The Lys Valley is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been – tons of walking and the ski area is one of the top 5 IN THE WORLD for off piste / freeride.

    But you will have to wait until March to read about that! 🙂

    In the meantime, I shall enjoy reading about your travels.

    Like

  2. Thanks so much for following Travel Bugg! I love your site. Y’all have really helpful, detailed content. Looking forward to learning some new hiking routes!

    Best,
    Ashleigh

    Like

  3. What an amazing guide! Have been to Bolzano once before and had a quick trip up into the Dolomites it’s a very beautiful region! Thanks for following my blog Le Chic En Rose much appreciated and I will enjoy following yours! Very best wishes Rosemary 😃

    Like

  4. Moreover Dolomites have numerous adventurous trucking and games. Peoples who like to enjoy the edge of mysteries things then pack your bag to Dolomites and have fun with the large mountains.

    Like

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