The Dolomites are surely one of the most beautiful and exciting areas of the Alps. Set in north eastern Italy between the border with Austria (north), the Sugana valley (south), the river Adige (east) and the Piave valley (west), the Dolomites offer some of the most inspiring mountain vistas in Europe. There are jagged rocky peaks over three thousand metres high to admire, refreshing pine forests to explore, turquoise lakes to bathe in and some exhilarating switchback roads to ride that lead to stunning mountain passes. There’s a huge variety of outdoor activities available from rock climbing to parasailing to mushroom picking and the unique blend of germanic and latin culture produces some great cuisine as well. It’s no wonder the Dolomites have long been a favourite with bikers and holiday makers alike.
What are the hot spots not to be missed on a bike tour on the Dolomites? Here are five of the top attractions that should be on everyone’s list:
1. The Three Peaks of Lavaredo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo)
Placed at the northern most section of the Sexten Dolomite complex, just south of Val Pusteria, the Peaks of Lavaredo consist of a row of three stout craggy pinnacles, towering at three thousand meters each set in a stark, rocky landscape. The area is a haven for rock climbers and there are plenty of easy hiking trails in the area to explore as well.
The foot of western most Peak (Cima Ovest) can be reached by bus, car or motorbike from Lake Misurina along the “strada panoramica” (toll road). Rifugio Auronzo at the car park serves hot meals and there are rooms for overnight stays, too. There’s always a stream of hikers in the area especially during the warmer months of the year that come to admire the views around the Lavaredo Peaks and make the most of the photo opportunities they offer. Do not miss out.
2. Lake Braies
If you’ve browsed any length of time on Instagram looking at mountain landscape pictures then Lake Braies is probably an all too familiar sight. This idilic little lake is in fact one of the most popular tarns of the Alps and has been portrayed by hundreds of keen photography enthusiasts especially over the past few years. Its bright clear green coloured waters can create a stunning contrast with the surrounding grey/white dolomite cliffs and the blue skies of a clear mountain day.
Sunrise and sunset colour the cliffs yellow, pink and orange and the refleceted light creates a pleasant soft and warm atmosphere, perfect for romance. Old style wooden rowing boats are available for hire and there’s also beautiful lake side walk, which takes the better part of two hours to complete. Lake Braies is a definite must.
3. The Gardena and Sella Passes
Extremely popular with bikers, cyclists the Sella and Gardena passes are within a short ride of each and are guaranteed to impress. Jaw dropping views, steep inclines and challenging twisty roads offer heaps of riding entertainment. Of course there’s always great food at the pass rifugios and plenty of hiking on offer too for those equipped and fit for the task.
At the peak of the tourist season, between July and August, there are traffic restrictions to Passo Sella. Only a couple of hundred vehicles per hour are allowed to transit beyond the check points on the road that leads to the pass. However, the curb on traffic doesn’t apply on weekends and the restrictions are extremely unpopular with the locals who thrive on tourism all the year round. It remains to be seen for how long traffic limitations will hold. As of 2018, access to the pass involves an online booking here.
4. Passo Giau (Giau Pass)
Possibly the most inspiring of all Dolomite passes, Passo Giau has it all. There are awesome views of mountain massifs and valleys near and far to admire from this iconic and much loved beauty spot. A stop at the local rifugio is usually a memorable experience with good food and bikers and that flock to this place from all over Europe, especially on any Summer weekend. Photographers are often perched on the hills around the pass at sunset working hard to capture the scenery with cameras and tripods. It’s not unusual to see the occasional drone as well.
5. Lake Levico
Lake Levico is on the southern most fringes of the Dolomites in Val Sugana, just a few kilometres from Trento. On a hot summer’s day the banks of the small lake offer highly sought after shade. There are well manicured lawns that provide perfect bedding for a beach towel and cool mountain scenery to behold all around.
The lakes’s water is fresh and just what’s needed to cool off under the Italian sun. Camping is available for an overnight stay and of course eateries abound in the area with Levico Terme, the local village, at a twenty minute walk from the water’s edge.
Find more info about touring the Dolomites here
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