The soaring spires of rock, alpine meadows and turquoise lakes of the Dolomites are simply stunning. Here’s how to capture the highlights of this remarkable landscape on a 1-week road trip itinerary.
There are few experiences more enjoyable than a Dolomites road trip itinerary.
Soaring spires of rock rise above swaying alpine meadows hiding picture-perfect turquoise lakes. Scenic churches nestle in idyllic fields and mountain top rifugios provide sweeping views of dramatic landscapes. World-class wineries serve up Italian classics with German influences where service is swift and the portions hearty.
But the true magnetism of this UNESCO world heritage site is the hiking and outdoor opportunities. Take a manageable meander around an idyllic lake or clamber a rocky outcrop to a mountain-top lagoon. Walk through forested paths or cycle on the highest alpine meadow in the world.
Our 1-week Dolomites road trip captures the highlights of the area. We spend 4 days hiking so you can rest in-between, visit a winery, take a scenic drive or simply put your feet up. You’ll need your own car, a pair of decent hiking boots, a sense of adventure and a willingness to explore one of the most beautiful places in the world.
We don’t cover all our favourite hikes in the Dolomites. However, this is an excellent week in the mountains that allows time for some relaxation, plenty of scenic beers and a host of other activities.
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DAY 1 – DRIVING THE GREAT DOLOMITE ROAD AND PASSO PORDOI
Stay – Cortina | Travel – 4 hours 15 minutes from the airport to Cortina dʼAmpezzo.
GREAT DOLOMITE ROAD & LAGO DI CAREZZA
Today, explore the stunning Great Dolomite Road. It runs between Bolzano and Cortina d’Ampezzo collecting dramatic mountain scenery. It’s one of the most impressive sections on this Dolomites road trip itinerary.
From Bolzano take the SS241 towards Nova Levante where you’ll see magnificent views of the Catinaccio. Soon afterwards, hop out of the car and visit the shimmering turquoise waters of Lago di Carezza, mirroring the spiky Latemar mountains. Continuing, the crosses the Costalungo pass and drops into Val di Fassa. Turn left onto the SS48 to Canazei.
Just through Canazei, the road winds to Passo Pordoi. It takes 22 hairpin bends to reach the top of the pass. Here, take the cable car to the 2,950m Sass Pordoi viewing terrace. To the west there are sensational views of the massive limestone blocks of the Sella and Sassolungo massifs. To the east lies the barren moonscape of Piz Boe. The rifugio at the top is a great spot for lunch.
Back in the car, take the 33 hairpins that descend down into the valley that sits beneath Marmolada and its glacier. The road follows the valley through Arabba and Andraz before heading north to Passo Falzarego. Take the cable car to the 2,835m high Rifugio Lagazuoi. The views are excellent, and you can also explore the trenches and tunnels from the First World War.
Returning to the car head east to finish your drive in Cortina dʼAmpezzo.
WHERE TO STAY IN CORTINA DʼAMPEZZO
For simple furnishes and great views of the mountains, Hotel Al Larin is a great budget choice. Just a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, Hotel Villa Gaia has a traditional alpine feel. At the top-end Cristallo Resort & Spa has all the luxury you’d expect from a 5-star resort.
READ NEXT / OUR HIGHLIGHTS IN THE ITALIAN ALPS
DAY 2 – CIRCUMNAVIGATING ICONIC TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO
Stay – Cortina | Travel – 1 hour 40 minutes from Cortina to Rifugio Auronzo and back
Tre Cime di Lavaredo are three soaring pinnacles of rock that have become one of the most iconic images of the Dolomites. The most famous view is just north of Drezinnenhütte: a magnificent rifugio tucked into the rock and scree. The only way to get the view is to walk, and it’s one of the best in the Dolomites.
To start the hike, drive from Cortina to the trailhead at Rifugio Auronzo (45 minutes). On the way, stop at Lago Misurina and Lago Antorno. Both are beautiful lakes with views up to Tre Cime & Cadini massifs.
The trail is just over 10 kilometres with 400 metres of ascent and descent and takes just under 3 hours and 30 minutes. You can find all the details and more information on our guide to hiking Tre Cime.
After the hike, return to Cortina via Lago di Landro for some late afternoon views back to Tre Cime from the Zinnenblick car park.
READ NEXT / HIKING TRE CIME
DAY 3 – RELAXING LAKES & SCENIC VISTAS
Stay – San Pietro in Val di Funes | Travel – 2 hours, 30 minutes Cortina to Val di Funes via Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies and Val di Funes are two of the most beautiful destinations to see on our Dolomite road trip itinerary. Tucked into the northern valleys they are only a short drive apart, making for an excellent, relaxing way to spend day 3 of our Dolomites road trip itinerary.
LAGO DI BRAIES
Begin the day by taking the 1-hour drive to Lago di Braies. The turquoise waters of this picture-perfect lake sit beneath the dramatic craggy buttresses of Croda del Becco. It’s a remarkable sight and worth savouring from the shoreline. There is a 1-hour walk around the lake, or you can hire a boat.
Back in the car, explore more of the Braies Valley. Only a few kilometres from the very popular lake, it is strangely quiet. In particular, the huts and flower-filled meadows that surround the ruined hotel in Bagni di Braies Vecchia is well worth the short detour. The full details are in our guide to Lago di Braies.
VAL DI FUNES
Next, drive to Val di Funes. The churches of San Giovanni and Santa Maddalena backed by the jagged peaks of the Puez-Odle massif are a photographer’s dream. Take some time to amble along the Panoramaweg and Sunnenseitenweg paths that meander through the meadows. It’s a beautiful spot to stroll in the fading light. We cover more great things to do in the area on our guide to Val di Funes.
Spend the night at San Pietro in Val di Funes.
WHERE TO STAY IN VAL DI FUNES
There are several towns dotted about Val di Funes, however San Pietro is the largest with the most facilities. It’s also a lovely spot with great views. Fallerhof is an unlikely budget option in such a popular destination, while the balconies at Haus Puez has the prime views. Proihof is another great choice set among the rolling fields of the valley.
READ NEXT / BEST THINGS TO DO IN VAL DI FUNES
DAY 4 – STUNNING SCENERY ON SECEDA AND ALPE DI SIUSI
Stay – Ortisei | Travel – 40 minutes from Val di Funes to Ortiseis
The Puez-Odle massif that forms the magnificent backdrop to Val di Funes doesn’t just look good from afar. Up close those spiky peaks appear like the teeth of a mangled saw. And there is no better place to see this dramatic mountain scenery than from the top of the Seceda cable car.
Drive to Ortisei from Val di Funes (40 minutes) and take the cable car to the Seceda ridgeline. After a short walk, the reward is a magnificent array of vertiginous alpine peaks. Explore the ridge, grab a coffee at one of the rifugios and then take the car back down.
ALPE DI SIUSI / SEISER ALM
Next, head up to Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) – the 2,000-metre high alpine meadow. Many head up here to hike, but the rolling meadows are vast so it’s better to hire a bike to see all the highlights. The Bamby Bike Rental at the bottom of the lift in Ortisei rents a range of bikes (including e-bikes) for a full or half-day.
Take the bike up on the cable car and enjoy the magnificent meadow views. Make sure to stop at Saltria; the views across the meadows and up to Sassolungo are remarkable. Take the path that twists through the valleys back to Ortisei. It takes just over an hour.
WHERE TO STAY IN ORTISEI
Residence Larciunei is a family run chalet smack in the centre of Ortisei with fully equipped kitchenettes. Hotel Luna Mondschein is an elegant establishment in the centre of town with all the facilities you could ask for. Ortisei is one of the most popular towns in the Dolomites, but 10 minutes away, Selva di Val Gardena is a quieter picturesque town. Mountain Chalet Pra Ronch is a good choice.
READ NEXT / VISIT LAKE COMO VIA BOAT
DAY 5 – HIKING THE MAGNIFICENT SASSOLUNGO-LANGKOFEL CIRCUIT
Stay – Ortisei | Travel – 1 hour from Ortisei to Passo Sella and backs
What makes the Dolomites so spectacular are the near-vertical peaks that suddenly protrude like a knife through swaying green meadows. And nowhere is this dramatic contrast more emphatic than at the Sassolungo / Langkofel massif. So today drive to the Passo Sella car park to start one of the top hikes in the Dolomites.
It’s a 6 hour, 17.6-kilometre walk with 1,000m of ascent and descent. But if you are up for the challenge it is a truly memorable day hike. Set off early, take your time and recharge at many of the rifugios along the route. All the details are on our Sassolungo / Langkofel hiking post.
DAY 6 – SAVOURING TRENTO AND ITS VINE COVERED VALLEY
Stay – Trento | Travel – 2 hours, 15 minutes from Ortisei to Trento using the SS12
Trento is a beautiful town in a beautiful valley and a great place to wind down for a day. Hop in the car and take the scenic SP64 and LS24 through Suisi and Presule towards Bolzano before entering the Trentino valley.
The old main road (SS12) winds around the valley and through picturesque villages. Potter round the beautiful pastel-coloured buildings, little gardens and churchyards. When it’s time for lunch head to Alois Lageder, a family vineyard run on biodynamic principles.
In the afternoon head to Trento and explore this attractive old town centre. The highlight is the Piazza Duomo backed by the Cattedrale di San Viglio. But the real joy is just strolling the laneways, staring at the architecture and stopping at the bars and cafes perched on pavements or hidden in backstreets.
MORE ITALY / OUR GUIDE TO BOLOGNA
DAY 7 – EXPLORING THE BRENTA DOLOMITES
Stay – Madonna di Campiglio | Travel – 1 hour, 30 minutes Trento to Madonna
The imposing massif of the Brenta Dolomites is an under-visited part of the area, but it’s well worth a visit on this Dolomites road trip itinerary. Today, explore this UNESCO world heritage site for a hike in an otherworldly, alpine wilderness.
GROSTÈ GONDOLA LIFT
Drive to Madonna di Campiglio (1 hour, 30 minutes from Trento) and take the Grostè gondola lift to start the hike. From the top cable car station, head southwest on path 316, weaving in and out of the towering peaks before arriving at Rifugio Tuckett (1 hour, 30 minutes). This is one of the best-located huts in the Dolomites, surrounded by towering rock.
RIFUGIO TUCKETT & BRENTEI
From Rifugio Tuckett, there are two options to make your way back down. Firstly, you could take path 317 to Rifugio Casinei then on to Rifugio Vallisnella and catch the bus to Madonna di Campiglio. This is a 3-hour walk.
The second option is to take path 328 and follow the contour around the massif, joining path 318 which travels deep into an amphitheatre of towering peaks. Right in the centre of this wonderland of rock sits Rifugio Brentei – an excellent place to stop. From here take the steep descent via Rifugio Casinei to Rifugio Vallisnella. This option is a 5-hour walk.
The bus from Rifugio Vallisnella to Madonna di Campiglio runs every 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re up for it, you can just keep walking into Madonna di Campiglio which is an additional 4.5 kilometres.
Spend the night at Madonna di Campiglio.
WHERE TO STAY IN MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO
For a well-equipped cost-effective choice, Hotel Alpina is in an excellent location close to the cable car station. In the mid-market space, Bio Hotel Hermitage has excellent facilities with spectacular views. The DV Chalet Boutique Hotel & Spa is an upmarket option with 20 rooms and very helpful staff.
READ MORE / OUR FAVOURITE HIKES IN THE DOLOMITES
HOW TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES
The Dolomites is a large mountain range in northeastern Italy. As a popular location for both skiing and summer hiking, there are plenty of good options for getting to the Dolomites.
The Dolomites is serviced by several international airports. For this road trip itinerary, Verona is the most convenient as it’s easy to get to Cortina and Madonna where we start and finish. Alternately, you could also arrive at Venice to the south and Innsbruck to the north. However, to save on accommodation costs, you may want to arrive early in the morning. So, it’s best to check the prices and arrival times from your home airport.
MAIN AIRPORTS SERVICING THE DOLOMITES
(DRIVING DISTANCES TO CORTINA)
CANOVA DI TREVISO
136 kilometres | 1 hour 45 minutes
VENICE MARCO POLO
148 kilometres | 1 hour 50 minutes
164 kilometres | 2 hours 10 minutes
265 kilometres | 2 hours 55 minutes
Unless you are already in Italy, getting to the Dolomites via train is unlikely to be a good option. The major train stations are no closer than the airports. Additionally, as this is a road trip itinerary, a car is required which is generally easier to organise from an airport.
However, if you are arriving from Italy the nearest train stations to Cortina are Calalzo di Cadore, 35 kilometres to the south, or Dobbiacco, 32 kilometres to the north.
DRIVING IN THE DOLOMITES
For our one-week Dolomites road trip itinerary, you will need to hire a car. This is a road trip to remember. Driving through the remarkable mountain scenery with breath-taking views surrounding you is a fantastic experience.
Here are some tips to help prepare for your Dolomites road trip.
HIRING A CAR IN THE DOLOMITES
Firstly, all roads in the Dolomites are paved. Therefore, regardless of what you might hear online, a 4×4 is in not required to drive in the Dolomites. You might enjoy being slightly higher off the ground, but that’s all you’ll need a 4×4 for.
All airports have a good selection of rental car offerings. Be aware that if you hire a car in Innsbruck you will need to cross the Austria – Italy border. Most car hire companies allow this with no extra fee. However, if you breakdown or have an accident, you will need to liaise between the Austrian office and the Italian roadside services.
INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT
For British licence holders with a plastic card and photo, an International Driving Permit is not required to drive in Italy, even with Brexit. However, if you have a paper licence only, then a 1968 International Driving Permit is required. Travellers from other countries should check with their local governments.
An International Driving Permit is validation that you have a licence to drive and does not replace your actual license so make sure you bring both. As they are relatively cheap, it could be viewed as cost-effective insurance.
Some of the major roads in the Dolomites operate on a toll system called the Autostrade. When you pull up to the toll gates, you’ll receive a paper ticket to keep with you until you arrive at the next toll gate. When you hand over your ticket, the attendant will calculate the charge for you.
Prices for the Autostrade are based on distance. For a journey from Innsbruck to Cortina (180 kilometres), the fee was €7.50.
The roads in the Dolomites are twisty, scenic and a joy to drive. It’s pretty straightforward driving, but it can be busy. There are sometimes queues on mountain roads with tourist coaches winding around the hairpins and you are often sharing the road with motorbikes.
The distances may appear short but driving in the Dolomites can take a long time given the twisty roads, so allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
Road signs are in both Italian and German.
MAP – DOLOMITES ITINERARY
Maps.me can be very useful when hiking. It has a more extensive set of maps than Google and works offline for when you are deep in the valleys. For all the main sights on our Dolomites road trip, download our map.
BEST TIME FOR A DOLOMITES ROAD TRIP
The hiking season in the Dolomites is relatively short. Snow can hang around on higher ground well into summer, making some of the paths impassable. The cold weather and snow can return as early as October.
The cable cars close at the end of the ski season and while some of the larger ones reopen in late May, many others don’t return to service until mid-June. Most rifugios also shut after winter, with some not reopening until mid to late June.
Therefore, the best time to do this Dolomites road trip itinerary is from mid-June to late September. The first few weeks of July is ideal when flowers carpet the upper meadows, and the snow should have cleared from the higher trails.
If possible, try to avoid August when the school holidays bring large crowds.
ALTERNATIVE DOLOMITES ITINERARIES
This itinerary moves around quickly in order to capture the best sights and the best hikes the Dolomites has to offer. If you have less time, or you would prefer to move less, here are some alternative itineraries to consider.
ALTERNATIVE 5-DAY DOLOMITES ITINERARY
To reduce this itinerary to 5 days, remove the Brenta Dolomites by following from Day 1 to Day 5, then spend the final day in Trento before flying out. This will still capture some of the best destinations in the dolomites but skips the more remote hiking.
ALTERNATIVE 1-WEEK DOLOMITES ITINERARY
If you have a week to spend in the Dolomites but would like to slow it down a little, skip the Brenta Dolomites and Trento, and add one more night at Val di Funes, and one more night in Ortisei. There are plenty of ways to spend time in Val di Funes and the extra time in Ortisei can be spent in the charming town or exploring Alpe di Siusi in more depth.
ALTERNATIVE DOLOMITES ITINERARY
Finally, if you want to move less, make this a two-centre visit by staying 4 nights in Ortisei and 3 nights in Cortina. These are two popular places in the Dolomites that will allow you to do some great hiking, explore the stunning scenery around Ortisei and Val Gardena, and relax in some of the nicest towns in the Dolomites.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT THE DOLOMITES?
Compared to many other destinations in the Alps, the Dolomites are relatively cost-effective. You could expect to pay somewhere between €90 – €110 per night for a decent budget hotel. A main course at an inexpensive restaurant is around €15 and a beer is usually €5. Prices will be slightly higher in the rifugios which are often quite remote.
A small/medium hire car will be around €40 per day including fuel.
CABLE CAR COSTS
A significant expense in the Dolomites is the cable cars. As you can see from the below table, none of them are very cheap.
In our opinion, however, they are a necessary expense. Many of the walks in the Dolomites start from the top of a cable car station. Some of them, Seceda for instance, are breath-taking experiences that shouldn’t be missed.
There are family and season tickets that are designed to save money, however, for this itinerary, didn’t find any discount passes they were worth purchasing.
DOLOMITES CABLE CAR DETAILS
9:00 – 17:00 Late May to mid-October | €19.50 return
9:00 – 17:00 Early June to mid-October | €16 return
8:30 – 17:30 mid-June to mid-October | €24 one way, €32 return
ALPE DI SUISI
8:00 – 18:00 late May to early-November | €11.50 one way, €18 return
8:30 – 12:30 & 14:00 – 17:00 mid-June to late September | €10.30 one way, €14.20 return
MORE READING FOR YOUR DOLOMITES TRIP
The Dolomites is an are we love going back to. With exception hiking, dramatic scenery and a blend of Austrian and Italian culture it’s one of our favourite destinations in the Alps. Here’s some more reading to help plan your Dolomites road trip itinerary.
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