The Dolomites are surely one of the most beautiful and exciting areas of the Southern 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 to 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 and 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 via the “strada panoramica” (toll road), that leads to Rifugio Auronzo from Lake Misurina. The rifugio serves meals and drinks and there are rooms for overnight stays too. There’s always a healthy stream of hikers in the area especially during the warmer months of the year that come to admire the breathtaking views around the Lavaredo Peaks and the photo opportunities they offer, truly an astounding location.
2. Lake Braies
If you’ve browsed any length of time on Instagram looking at nature 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 and focussed upon by hundreds of keen photography enthusiasts over the past few years. Its dreamy green coloured waters create a stunning contrast with the surrounding grey/white dolomite cliffs and the blue skies of a clear day.
Sunrise and sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow, pink and orange that producer a pleasant soft and warm atmosphere perfect for romance. Old style wooden rowing boats are available fo hire and the beautiful lake side walk, which takes the better part of two hours to complete, is a definite must.
3. The Gardena and Sella Passes
Extremely popular with bikers, cyclists and hikers the Sella and Gardena passes, each within a short ride of each are guaranteed to impress. Jaw dropping views and challenging twisty roads offer heaps of entertainment on the seat of a motorbike. Of course there’s always great food at the rifugios at the passes and plenty of hiking on offer 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 the passes of the Dolomites, Passo Giau has it all. Once again there are awe inspiring 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 as the parking area is generally packed with motorcycles from all over Europe (especially at the week ends). 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 under the glare of the Italian sun to ease off the drowsiness of a long day on the road. 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.
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