The Dolomites are without doubt one of the most picturesque and exciting mountain ranges in Europe. They belong to the Italian Alps, and are set in north east corner of “the boot” just south of the border with Austria.
The entire area offers inspiring vistas and heaps of outdoor fun. Above all, there are rocky peaks to climb, endless trails to hike and beautiful lakes to relax by. The Dolomites also offer extraordinary switchback roads to ride on a motorbike with countless mountain passes to reach and enjoy.
This part of Italy, with its Sud Tirolese culture, also offers interesting cuisine, beer and wine. As a result, with all the above, it’s no wonder the Dolomites are a favorite destination holiday makers from all over Europe.
What are the most iconic sites of the Dolomites? Here are five that should be on everyone’s list:
1. The Three Peaks of Lavaredo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo)
Placed at the northern most part of the Sexten Dolomite complex, just south of Val Pusteria, the Peaks of Lavaredo consist three craggy pinnacles that tower, each at over three thousand meters in elevation. They offer some great climbing thrills and are also a haven for hikers as well.
The foot of the western most peak (Cima Ovest) can be reached from lake Misurina along the “strada panoramica” (toll road). Rifugio Auronzo next to the car park at the end of the road serves hot meals and provides lodging for overnight stays. The big rifugio is also the starting point for hikers that come to explore the trails around the peaks. It can get crowded here, especially during the warmer months of the year.
The views around the Lavaredo peaks are amazing and the photo opportunities are not to be missed.
2. Lake Braies
If you’ve browsed Instagram in search of mountain landscape scenery then Lake Braies is probably a familiar site. This idyllic little lake is one of the best known tarns of the Dolomites and hundreds of keen photographers go there to capture the lake’s magic. Braies’s green water creates a stunning contrast with the surrounding dolomite outcrops especially at dawn and dusk.
At dusk especially is when the crimson sunlight bounces soft colors of pink and yellow on the dolomite outcrops by the water’s edge.
There are old style wooden rowing boats available for hire on the lake and there’s also a lovely lake side walk, a loop by the water’s edge that takes the better part of two hours to finish. Lake Braies is a definite must.
3. The Gardena and Sella Passes
The Sella and Gardena passes are within a short ride of each other and are extremely popular with bikers and cyclists alike. Jaw dropping views, steep inclines and challenging twisty roads offer heaps of motorcycle entertainment. Of course there are great food stops at the rifugios on the way. Plenty of hiking on offer for those fit for the task, too.
At the peak of the tourist season, between July and August, there are traffic restrictions to Passo Sella. On some week days only a couple of hundred vehicles per hour are allowed beyond the road side check points. However, the curb on traffic isn’t enforced on weekends and the restrictions are unpopular with locals who thrive on tourism. It’s unclear for how long traffic limitations will hold. As of 2018, access to the pass involves buying a permit online here.
4. Passo Giau (Giau Pass)
Possibly the most inspiring of all Dolomite passes, Passo Giau has it all. At the top of there pass there are awesome views of mountain massifs and valleys near and far to admire. Time spent at the local rifugio is usually a memorable experience as well. The food is good and there are bikers from all over Europe to befriend.
Perched on the hills around the pass it’s not unusual to see photographers with cameras and tripods. Likewise these days, there are drones humming and hovering, as well.
5. Lake Levico
Lake Levico is on the southern most fringes of the Dolomites in Val Sugana, just a few kilometers from Trento. On a hot summer’s day the banks of the small lake offer highly sought after shade. Well manicured lawns provide perfect bedding for a beach towel and the mountain scenery around the water offers plenty to admire.
The lake’s water is fresh all the year round and ideal to cool off from the harsh Italian sun. Camping is available for an overnight stay and of course restaurants are abundant in the area with Levico Terme, the local village, at a twenty minute walk from the water’s edge.
More info on touring the Dolomites here.
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