The Italian Dolomites are one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. Located in the northeastern corner of Italy, an unforgettable Dolomites road trip itinerary should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Jagged peaks towering over fairytale villages, rolling meadows and turquoise alpine lakes. We’ll be visiting the highlights and some secret spots along the way, so pack your camera and hiking boots to spend the ultimate 3, 4 or 5 days in the Dolomites.
How Many Days in the Dolomites?
There is no easy answer when it comes to how many days to spend in the Dolomites. There are thousands of hiking trails, mountain passes, alpine towns and lakes to explore.
You could easily spend weeks or even months in this varied region and still have more to discover. For the purpose of this Dolomites itinerary, we recommend you spend between 3 and 5 days in the Dolomites.
Just passing through, you won’t have time to see all of the highlights, but with 3 days in the Dolomites, you’ll have just enough time to visit Alpe Di Siusi, Val Di Funes, Lago Di Braise and Tre Cime. These are the top 4 destinations when visiting this region, but you will miss out on a few of the hidden gems.
Spending 4 days in the Dolomites gives you extra time to experience one of the day hikes the region is so famous for. You’ll have the opportunity to take a break from the crowds at the most popular destinations and head into the mountains to experience nature at its very best.
If you are not into hiking, you could opt to spend the fourth day shopping in Cortina D’Ampezzo, a small town full of designer stores, outdoor equipment shops and a large department store.
If you have time, 5 days in the Dolomites is the best way to experience this Dolomites road trip. With the extra time, you can slow this jam-packed itinerary down and take your time soaking in the incredible mountain vistas.
Spend the additional day discovering some of the hidden gems around Cortina, including the painstakingly preserved trenches of Cinque Torri.
Getting To & Around the Dolomites
It’s easy to get to the Dolomites, with several travel options available whether you are coming from further afield or a nearby European destination.
The Dolomites don’t have a dedicated airport, but there are several nearby cities with international airports to choose from. Three of the closest are Venice Marco Polo Airport, Innsbruck Airport (Austria), and Verona Airport.
The Dolomites are also well-connected by train. You can take a train from major cities across Europe, such as Verona, Venice, Milan and Paris, to cities like Bolzano, Brixen, or Belluno, which are all gateways to the Dolomites. You can view train schedules here.
Many of the smaller towns and alpine villages are not connected by train, so if you are planning on using public transport to get around, you will have to rely primarily on local buses.
If you are travelling with your own vehicle or are planning to rent a car (browse Rentalcars.com for rental car options), reaching the Dolomites is easy. In Italy, you don’t need a vignette to use the motorways like in Switzerland or Austria. If you want to use the toll roads, you simply pay at a booth on entry and exit.
The Dolomites region is connected by winding mountain passes and alpine valleys. Some of the top destinations can’t be reached using public transport, so if you want to truly make the most of this region, it’s best to travel by car. If you don’t want to drive but want the flexibility of a car, there are multi-day private tours that will take you some places in the Dolomites.
The region is also perfectly set up for campervans, with plenty of beautiful campsites in the heart of the mountains. You can hire a camper to live the ultimate van life Dolomites road trip if you don’t have your own.
Motorhomes can be tricky to manoeuvre on the narrow mountain passes, so make sure you are confident with the size when hiring a camper and driving in the Dolomites.
Best Time to Visit the Dolomites
The Dolomites are an adventure playground all year round and there really is no bad time to plan a trip to the Dolomites. When you chose to visit depends on what you want to see and do during your stay, but there are a few key things to note.
The summer is the peak season for tourist hotspots, hiking trails and refugios. The roads and trails can be busy, but the hours of beautiful sunshine and blankets of wildflowers are worth the queues.
The best time to visit is in the shoulder seasons, from May to June and from September to October. Out of these 4 months, the most magical time to visit is autumn. The forests of the Dolomites are largely made up of Larch trees that turn a vibrant orange colour in October, this makes the landscape feel like something directly out of a fairytale.
The roads and paths are much quieter, but some Refugios will be closed for the season, and the temperatures can drop, so make sure you pack a warm, waterproof coat just in case.
During the winter months, the landscape transforms into a winter sports paradise. The Dolomiti Superski area, comprising of 12 resorts, is the largest ski area in the world. The Alta Badia area has some of the most magnificent pistes weaving through gullies and harsh rock formations.
Winter is not a good time to visit if you are hoping to hike or climb. Several of the main destinations are closed or are only open to skiers until late April or sometimes into May, depending on snowfall.
3, 4 or 5 Days in the Dolomites Itinerary
Now you know more about the region itself, it’s time to put together your ultimate Dolomites itinerary. Whether you have 3 days in the Dolomites or 5, this itinerary is jam-packed full of the top destinations and off-the-beaten-path gems. Use this comprehensive guide to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
Day 1 – Bolzano, Val di Funes, Alpe Di Suisi & Vale Gardena
Our itinerary starts and ends in Bolzano, the capital city of South Tyrol in northern Italy. A vibrant and culturally rich destination nestled in the heart of the Dolomites with a unique blend of Italian and Austrian influences.
This city is easy to reach, making it the perfect place to set off on your adventure. We have allocated an entire afternoon to explore this diverse destination at the end of this itinerary but for now, grab a quick bite to eat and a smooth Italian coffee before heading out into the mountains to start exploring.
Bolzano also makes for an excellent base for the first night of this itinerary.
Val Di Funes
Val di Funes, also known as Villnöss Valley, is a picturesque valley surrounded by towering mountains. The valley offers breathtaking landscapes and a tranquil atmosphere. It is famous for its two iconic churches, set against the backdrop of the stunning Geisler/Odle mountain range.
San Giovanni Church in the village of Ranui is the most famous, with photos of the rolling meadow, white stone church, and towering mountains to be found on every social media platform. There are two main viewing platforms, one is a raised platform at the edge of the field, and the other is a short walk up the road towards the church.
Santa Maddalena Church in the village of the same name is the second church. The grey stone church and Obermesnerhof Farmstead make the perfect foreground to the inhospitable jagged peaks that dominate the horizon.
However, there is more to do in this picturesque valley than snap photos. If you have time, consider taking one of the many hiking trails from Santa Maddalena. The churches are a hotspot for tourists but take a step out onto the trail, and you’ll see this area is relatively untouched by tourism.
The perfect short hike is the Panoramaweg or the ‘Panorama Trail’, an hour-long route that, as the name suggests, provides breathtaking views across the valley. If you want to hike in the Dolomites, this is an excellent first trail to head out on!
Ortisei & Alpe Di Siusi
Ortisei is a picturesque town in Val Gardena, Italy, serving as an excellent starting point for a visit to Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), Europe’s largest high-altitude Alpine meadow. Alpe di Siusi is one of the most iconic photography destinations in the region, and it’s not hard to see why.
From Ortisei, you can easily reach Alpe di Siusi via a 10-minute cable car ride that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Dolomite peaks. Once you arrive at Alpe di Siusi, you’ll be greeted by a stunning natural landscape dotted with charming alpine huts and trails for hiking, biking, and skiing, depending on the season.
With over 440km of trails to explore and countless rustic mountain cabins, Alpe di Siusi is a haven for any outdoor enthusiast. If you want a short hike and a perfect picnic spot, take trail 9 heading towards Saltria. This path will lead you through the rolling meadows to the most famous photo spot, Belvedere dell’Alpe di Siusi.
The entire hike is 14km, but this short section to reach the viewpoint is just 3km. When you have finished exploring the plateau, head to the cable car station to get back down to Ortisei to explore a bit of Val Gardena.
Val Gardena is a breathtaking alpine valley renowned for its natural beauty, charming villages, and world-class outdoor activities. The valley comprises three main villages: Ortisei (St. Ulrich), Selva (Wolkenstein), and Santa Cristina (St. Christina).
The valley exudes a rich cultural heritage, with traditional Ladin architecture, woodcarving, and folk traditions still alive.
Where to Stay in Bolzano
Feichter Hotel & Bistro – This hotel in the centre of Bolzano makes for an excellent place to stay in the Dolomites. They have a number of rooms on offer, friendly hosts and a great buffet breakfast available daily. Click here to check availability
Hotel Greif – If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket during your Dolomites trip, then this hotel is an excellent option. They have a number of elegant rooms to choose from, a great location and plenty of amenities for guests to enjoy. Click here to check availability
Bogen Bistro & Apartments – Those after their own space in Bolzano will love these apartments in the centre of Bolzano. They have a range of fully-furnished flats to choose from along with all the amenities associated with a traditional hotel. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bozano hotels!
Day 2 – Gardena Pass, Lago di Braies, Prato Piazza & Cortina d’Ambrezzo
We start day 2 with a thrilling drive over the Gardena Pass. Also known as Passo Gardena or Grödnerjoch, the Gardena Pass is a winding mountain pass connecting the Val Gardena and Alta Badia valleys.
This region is so beautiful that the road trip is part of the adventure. Some of the mountain passes, including the Gardena Pass, are the most spectacular roads in the world.
Take your time, stopping along the route at the many viewpoints before ending up in the Alta Badia Valley on the other side. From here, take the short drive up to the Fanes-Senes-Braies natural park.
Lago Di Braies
One of the most famous locations in the Dolomites is the sparkling emerald mountain lake, Lago Di Braies. You’ll want to start your day early for this as during the high season, the road up to the lake closes at 10 am or even earlier if the car parks are full.
There are several car parks on the way up to Braies, the best option is the P2. This car park is the last to fill up but is actually cheaper than the main car park P1. It is a short walk to the lake (around 10 minutes), and there is a food truck at the entrance that is well worth visiting for a bite to eat after your hike.
Although this is one of the busiest spots in the entire region, it is worth seeing, especially if you are an early riser and can beat the crowds.
If you want to take one of the traditional wooden rowing boats out onto the lake, you’ll find the hire hut at the main entrance to the lake area. One-hour rental is 30 euros, and if you get there early enough in the shoulder season, you may be lucky enough to have the lake to yourself.
The hike around the lake is just over 3km and takes between one hour and two hours, depending on how many photo breaks you want to take along the way. Don’t miss the hidden alpine church hidden in the trees on the western shore before heading back to your car.
The next stop as we drive from Lago Di Braies to our final destination for today, Cortina d’Ampezzo, is the Prato Piazza.
This plateau is a hidden gem known for its natural beauty and tranquillity. Situated at an altitude of 2,000 meters, Prato Piazza is a vast plateau surrounded by majestic peaks, including the famous three peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
It offers breathtaking panoramic views, making it a paradise for hikers, nature lovers, and photographers. The area is dotted with alpine huts and offers numerous hiking trails showcasing the pristine alpine landscapes.
Prato Piazza is also renowned for its vibrant alpine flora during the summer months, creating a colourful tapestry against the backdrop of the towering mountains. You can drive your car right up to the base of the plateau before heading out on foot to explore.
For a short hike with some of the best views, take trail number 37. Along the route, you will find several war memorials, two Refugios (alpine huts offering food and board) and incredible views across Croda Rossa D’Ampezzo and the surrounding peaks of the Braies national park.
Although similar to Alpe Di Siusi, this area is considerably quieter, so if you want to avoid the crowds, this is the perfect place to relax and take in your surroundings.
Our last stop on day 2 is Cortina d’Ampezzo. Often known as the heart of the Dolomites, this town is the gateway to the world-renowned alpine resort, Dolomiti Superski. Known for its stunning natural beauty and glamorous atmosphere, we will be spending the next two days getting to know Cortina and its surrounding mountain ranges.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is not only famed for its natural beauty but also for its elegant and vibrant town centre.
The Corso Italia, the main street, is lined with high-end shops, designer boutiques, and exquisite restaurants serving delectable local cuisine. The town exudes a unique charm with its blend of Italian and Tyrolean influences, reflected in its architecture and cultural heritage.
No trip to Italy would be complete without treating yourself to a pizza. Head to Ai Due Forni Di Aldo E Alverà Brothers down a small side off the main high street to find the most authentic, delicious pizza in Cortina.
Where to Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo
B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina – This 3-star bed and breakfast is an excellent place to base yourself in Cortina d’Ampezzo. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from, a great location and a fantastic breakfast available daily. Click here to check availability
Franceschi Park Hotel – This opulent lodge in the mountains is the perfect place to stay while you explore the Dolomites. They have countless beautiful rooms on offer along with a number of plush amenities to ensure you want for nothing during your stay. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cortina d’Ampezzo hotels!
Day 3 – Tre Cime, Lago Misurnia & the Olympic Ice Stadium
Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also known as the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, is one of the most iconic and spectacular mountain formations you’ll see during your time in the Dolomites. These three distinctive peaks, Cima Grande, Cima Ovest, and Cima Piccola, stand tall and majestic, offering breathtaking views.
To reach the car park at Rifugio Auronzo, you’ll have to take the toll road up the mountain. If you are visiting in a self-contained campervan, you are permitted to go up the night before (after 7 pm) and stay the night – waking up to the sunrise reflecting onto the peaks. If you are driving from Cortina, the road gets very busy, so it’s best to visit as soon as it opens at 8 am to avoid the queues.
The Tre Cime circuit trail (clockwise) is the best way to explore the area. This hike is suitable for the whole family as it is fairly flat, but it does take 3-4 hours, so make sure you pack snacks and enough water.
If you want to do a shorter walk, one of the most iconic viewpoints is the Cadini di Misurina, but be aware this route is not suitable for children or dogs due to sheer drops beside the path.
If you are an experienced hiker and don’t want to pay to drive up the toll road, you can access Tre Cime from the valley below on a 17km circuit trail. Starting in the Antoniusstein Car Park, this path is challenging, with over 1200m of elevation and some scrambling using metal cables and rungs.
Via Ferrata equipment is not required, but it may be a good idea to take a helmet and climbing gloves if you have them.
A quick stop on your way back down into Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lago Misurina sits directly beside the main road, so gives you the perfect opportunity to pull over for a photo opportunity or to visit the large souvenir shop or alpine bar on its shores.
There is a short walk around the lake if you haven’t had enough hiking for today, but a quick stop-off is enough to take in the surrounding beauty.
Olympic Ice Stadium
Host to the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a must-visit destination for snow sports enthusiasts. However, if you are visiting during the summer months, you can still experience some of the winter magic in the Olympic Ice Stadium.
Here you can enjoy year-round ice skating and various competitions for curling, figure skating and ice hockey. If there are any events during your stay, it’s well worth getting tickets. The atmosphere of the competition is incredible.
Although the building was recently restored, they have preserved the original 1956 building within the more modern surrounds.
The Dolomites sit on the border between Italy and Austria, so the Tyrolean cuisine on offer is a wonderful blend of Medditerainian Italian and cosy Alpine Austrian cuisine.
There are several restaurants to choose between, including the fine-dining Ristorante Tivoli or the more casual wine bar offering small plates, Enoteca Baita Pie Tofana. If you only have 3 days in the Dolomites, this is the perfect way to round off your trip.
Day 4 – Lago di Sorapis or Croda di Lago Loop
Lago di Sorapis
The Dolomites are recognised worldwide for their jagged peaks, alpine lakes and endless hiking trails. For day 4, we are combining all of the above and are heading out into the Sorapis mountain range for a hike you will never forget.
This hiking trail is moderate in difficulty, at 14km long with 700m of elevation but is doable whether you are an experienced hiker or not – as long as you don’t have a fear of heights.
This scenic hike starts from the Sorapis car park at the top of the Passo Tre Croci, just a 12-minute drive from the centre of Cortina. The number 215 trail is easy to follow, winding its way through the forest, passing several WW1 bunkers and out onto the mountainside.
This part of the trail can be tricky as you have to rely on metal cables along the rock face for stability, but as long as you don’t look down, this section is over fairly quickly.
The Refugio before the lake offers board, food and drink and shelter from bad weather should you need it. Once you have arrived at the bright blue lake, you can choose to walk around it on a well-maintained path, but swimming is prohibited.
You can either walk back the way you came no trail 215 or opt to go the quieter way down and take the fork in the path to join trail number 216 to make the hike a circuit. This route may have fewer people to pass, but it comes at a price. There is a section of scrambling and a sharp ascent up a rubble-filled slope to tackle before you can enjoy the descent.
Croda Di Lago Loop
Starting from the Giau Pass, the Croda di Lago loop is another jaw-dropping hike just 15 minutes out of Cortina. Starting at the car park at Ponte di Rocurto, the trail leads to the picturesque Lago di Federa, nestled beneath the majestic Croda di Lago peak.
This hike is 13km in length with 800m of elevation, there are a few technical sections, but it is a relatively easy hike if you are used to walking uphill.
This particular loop follows the Alta Via 1, a long-distance hiking trail that traverses the Dolomites until you reach Rifugio Palmieri before looping back on trail number 437.
Day 5 – Cinque Torri, Falzarego Pass & Bolzano
If you have 5 days on this Dolomites road trip, Cinque Torri is the perfect place to spend your last day. This area is much quieter than the likes of Tre Cime or Lago di Braies, with plenty of space to find your own piece of mountain paradise.
You can opt to take the cable car up to Cinque Torri (Five Towers) or hike up beside the ski slope in the summer months. The hike is a short, steep climb up 360m, but as you reach the brow of the hill, the views over to Cinque Torri and beyond are some of the best in the Dolomites.
This area is not just known for its beautiful views. Once you have reached the Refugio, the WW1 trenches and bunkers around Cinque Torri are well worth visiting. During the conflict, the Dolomites served as a front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces.
The harsh terrain and challenging weather conditions made the Dolomites a formidable battleground. Painstakingly restored, the trenches and bunkers are now a WWI open-air museum (the Museum of the Great War) and are free to visit.
Before heading back down to the car park, grab a bite to eat at Refugio Cinque Torri. The food on offer here is delicious, from polenta and sirloin steak to truffle pasta. Although there is a large outdoor seating area, there is a small hidden terrace upstairs where you can enjoy a drink with the best views in the house.
Dolomiti Superski Area & Falzarego Pass
As our final day in the Dolomites comes to a close, it’s time to head back towards the bright city lights of Bolzano. The drive from Cinque Torri to Bolzano takes around 2hrs but it’s best to allow an additional hour or two for photo breaks along the way.
This drive takes in several mountain passes, including the Falzarego Pass and the Pordoi Pass. No matter which route you chose, you will pass through several Dolomiti Superski areas so if you are planning a winter sports holiday, this is the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the area.
Bolzano is the ultimate endpoint for our Dolomites road trip. After a busy few days of hiking and exploring the wilderness, we bring this itinerary to a close with an afternoon in the city.
First, wander through the charming streets of Bolzano’s historic centre, admiring the colourful buildings and medieval architecture. Don’t miss the Piazza Walther, a bustling square with a beautiful fountain and surrounded by cafes and shops.
Next, visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. Discover the famous Ötzi the Iceman, a well-preserved mummy of a man who lived sometime between 3350 and 3105 BC. Otzi was discovered in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria and was naturally mummified within the ice. Learn about the region’s archaeological history and the life of this ancient individual.
Before dinner, take a peaceful walk through the beautiful gardens of Renon/Ritten. Admire the colourful flowerbeds and sculptures, and enjoy panoramic views of Bolzano.
Another busy day and you are sure to have worked up an appetite for one last Tyrolean meal. Situated in a historic building, Batzenhäusl is a popular spot for traditional Tyrolean cuisine. The menu features hearty dishes such as dumplings, schnitzel, and local game, all served in a cosy and rustic ambience.
Alternatively, if you want to finish your trip in style, try Gourmetstube Einhorn. Located in the historic centre, this Michelin-starred restaurant offers a refined dining experience with a focus on regional ingredients and creative presentations.
A Dolomites road trip truly is an experience of a lifetime. This itinerary whisks you away into a dreamland, the towering white mountains, turquoise lakes and sheer valleys all have to be seen to be believed. Whether you have 3 or 5 days to spend in this majestic region, you’ll be in for a real treat.
Are you planning to visit the Dolomites? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!