The Italian Dolomites is the most spectacular alpine destination in the world. There’s no question. After three visits, we’re still not satiated. Visiting the Dolomites is like stepping into a high fantasy novel. The scenery is mesmerizing. The cuisine is heartwarming. And, the hiking trails are spectacular and highly accessible. There are many ways to experience the Dolomites, but a road trip is certainly the best introduction.
The route outlined below is our itinerary from our first trip to the Dolomites, with some modifications for improvement. It will take you to the Dolomites’ most celebrated places, including Val di Funes, Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), Puez-Geisler Nature Park, Val Gardena, Seceda, Lago di Sorapiss, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee). We’ve summarized each day of our Dolomites road trip, with links to more in-depth blog posts. We promise that you’ll fall head over heels in love with this mountainous region and plot your return immediately.
Our Dolomites road trip is a bit unconventional because we integrated this fantastic 3-day Tre Cime di Lavaredo trek into our itinerary. This trek is the perfect intro to hut-to-hut hiking in the Alps. If however, you don’t want to do that, you can easily modify our itinerary, so that you’re staying in the valleys instead. We’ll explain how.
Note: We revisited the Dolomites in September 2019. You can find all our new Dolomites content here.
Also Read: Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer
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Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1: Val di Funes
- Day 2: Alpe di Siusi, Val Gardena
- Day 3: Seceda, Val Gardena
- Day 4: Sella Pass, Pordoi Pass, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lago di Sorapiss, Sesto
- Day 5: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Trek (Day 1)
- Day 6: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Trek (Day 2)
- Day 7: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Trek (Day 3), Lago di Braies
Dolomites Road Trip Map
The driving route is highlighted in blue. Each destination in the Dolomites is marked in a different color. For example, red signifies places and trails in Val di Funes. Yellow markers signify places in Val Gardena.
What Languages are Spoken in the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are located in 5 different provinces (within 3 regions) in Northeastern Italy. One province, South Tyrol (in German: Südtirol; in Italian: Alto Adige), was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I. German continues to be the primary language spoken in this region. When traveling and hiking through South Tyrol, every street, advertisement, natural area, mountain hut, etc… is written in both German and Italian.
When to Road Trip in the Dolomites
We’ve explained the best time to visit the Dolomites in our Dolomites Travel Guide.
We recommend doing this specific road trip in July, or September. August is very busy and very expensive. Early October is still promising, but you wouldn’t be able to do this 3-Day Tre Cime Trek, because the rifugios close by the end of September.
Read Next: Hiking in the Dolomites in September
How to get to the Dolomites
If you’re flying internationally, look for flights to these international airports.
- Munich International Airport (Germany)
- Malpensa Airport (Milan, Italy)
- Marco Polo International Airport (Venice, Italy)
If you’re flying more regionally, also look for flights to these airports:
- Valerio Catullo Airport (Verona, Italy)
- Innsbruck Airport (Austria)
From the airport, rent a car and drive several hours to Val di Funes (Villnöß). Here are the approximate driving times it takes to get from each respective airport to the heart of the Dolomites (according to Google Maps). You’ll probably want to add some buffer time, because… mountains.
- Munich International Airport (Germany) to Villnöß (Val di Funes): 3 Hours
- Malpensa Airport (Milan, Italy) to Villnöß (Val di Funes): 4 Hours
- Marco Polo International Airport (Venice, Italy) to Villnöß (Val di Funes) – 3 Hours
- Valerio Catullo Airport (Verona, Italy) to Villnöß (Val di Funes) – 2 Hours
- Innsbruck Airport (Austria) to Villnöß (Val di Funes): 1 hour 15 minutes
Driving in the Dolomites
Driving in the Dolomites is riveting. Serpentine roads cut across mountain passes delivering nonstop memorable views. Generally, roads are in great condition and by no means perilous.
Though Italy has a reputation for aggressive driving, we didn’t get that impression in the Dolomites.
The only thing to be aware of is congestion. During peak summer months, some roads get really busy, especially the main road through Val Gardena. If you’re weary of traffic and backing up (to let buses pass), start your drive a bit earlier.
Autostrade (Toll Roads)
There are toll roads across Italy called Autostrade. When you enter a toll road, marked by a toll gate, a machine will dispense a paper ticket (like in a parking garage), which marks where you entered the Autostrade. When the toll road ends, or when you exit the toll road, you’ll drive through a second toll gate. Here, you’ll pay your toll, which is calculated by your Autostrada usage.
You can pay in cash, or by credit card. To be safe, always have extra cash for tolls.
In the Dolomites, we didn’t pay any tolls other than the road to Rifugio Auronzo.
However, if you’re starting your Dolomites road trip in Verona, Venice, or Milan, you will likely drive on an Autostrade.
International Driver’s License
An International Driving Permit (also called an International Driver’s License) is required for non-EU drivers. When driving in Italy, you need to carry both your International Driving Permit and your overseas driver’s license. More info here for US-Americans.
Day 1: Val Di Funes and the Adolf Munkel Trail
Hike the Adolf Munkel Trail
Start your first day in the Dolomites in Villnöß (Val di Funes). For an easy, but wholly gratifying experience, hike the Adolf Munkel Trail. Starting at Zanser Alm (Malga Zannes), this 8.8 km circuit trail takes you to the foot of the famous Geisler Peaks.
One of the highlights of the Adolf Munkel Trail is arriving at Gschnagenhardt Alm (Malga Casnago). Surrounded by cows, horses, and donkeys, we enjoyed a delicious South Tyrolean meal here. This hike is all about savoring the journey. So, go slowly, eat tons of food, drink beer (or your favorite drink), and enjoy the view.
Learn More: Hiking the Adolf Munkel Trail
Stay in Val di Funes
Budget | Fallerhof is a great-value apartment-style accommodation with stunning views in Val di Funes. It’s walking distance to the Instagram-famous Chiesetta di San Giovanni in Ranui (church) and an 11-minute drive (or 1.5-hour walk) to the Adolf Munkel trail.
Mid-Range | Gasthof Stern is a cozy hotel in Val di Funes with an on-site restaurant and swimming pool. It’s a 23-minute drive from Gasthof Stern to the Adolf Munkel trailhead and a 12-minute drive to St. Maddalena.
Luxury | Forestis Dolomites (aka Hotel Rosalpina Dolomites) is located in Plancios, a 40-minute drive to Zanser Alm (Malga Zannes). Though not directly in Val di Funes, we couldn’t resist adding this excellent hotel to this list. Forestis Dolomites spoils guests with its wonderful mountain views, bio herbal sauna and steam room, and overall alpine modern design.
Day 2: Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) and Val Gardena
Drive to Ortisei in Val Gardena
Your Dolomites road trip continues to Ortisei. The drive takes about 40 minutes. Head directly to the Ortisei – Alpe di Siusi cable car and park at the garage at the valley station.
Walk across Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
Today, you’re going to explore Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), the largest alpine plateau in Europe. This expansive plateau is a great place for casual walking and spectacular views. Because driving up to Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) is restricted, you will have to take the Ortisei – Alpe di Siusi cable car up to the plateau.
After enjoying your day on Seiser Alm, descend back to Ortisei via the same cableway.
Eat Dinner in Ortisei
We had dinner at Vinoteque La Cercia, a charming wine bar with live music. Address: Via Rezia 30, 39046 Ortisei, Italy.
Stay in Ortisei, Val Gardena
Budget | Appartmenthotel Residence Elvis is a fully-equipped apartment 1 km from Ortisei, which you can book for one night.
Mid-Range | Chalet Hotel Hartmann (Adults Only) is an excellent hotel featuring cozy alpine interiors, a delicious breakfast buffet (included in rate), and a spa area (bio-sauna, a Turkish bath, and a solarium).
Luxury | Charmehotel Uhrerhof – Deur (2-Nights Minimum) occupies a peaceful location high above the valley. It’s a 10-minute drive from the hotel to the town center of Ortisei, but the pay off is respite and incredible mountain views. Breakfast and dinner included.
Day 3: Seceda and Val Gardena
Hike in Puez – Geisler Nature Park
Today is all about experiencing the striking Geisler Peaks from the Seceda ridgeline – that view you’ve been dreaming about (ever since you saw it on Instagram).
There are two main approaches to the Seceda Ridgeline. Both require an initial ascent with a cable car from Ortisei.
Option #1: The Ortisei – Furnes – Seceda cableways
This is the easiest and fastest way to see Seceda. You’ll take the Ortisei-Furnes-Seceda cable car (Open: May 29 – October 18, 2020) directly up to the Seceda mountain station. From the ridgeline, you can do a lovely circuit hike to Regensburger Hütte.
Learn More: Seceda to Regensburger Hütte Hike
Option #2: Resciesa Funicular
In this option, you’ll approach Seceda via the Resciesa plateau. First, take the Resciesa Funicular (Open: May 16 – October 11, 2020) up to Resciesa plateau and then hike to Malga Brogles. From here, it’s a steep ascent to the ridge.
Learn More: Resciesca to Malga Brogles to Seceda Hike
Stay another night in Ortisei, Val Gardena
Day 4: Sella and Pordoi Passes, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lago di Sorapiss
Drive to Cortina d’Ampezzo
On day 4 of your Dolomites road trip, you’ll depart Val Gardena (Grödnertal) and drive to Cortina d’Ampezzo via the Sella and Pordoi mountain passes. Sella and Pordoi remind you of how incredibly vast the Dolomites are.
Stop in the posh Veneto town of Cortina d’Ampezzo for lunch. You’ll need some fuel before hiking to Lago di Sorapiss.
Hike to Lago di Sorapiss
After lunch, drive to Passo Tre Croci to begin the hike to Lago di Sorapiss. The lake takes its name from the mountain Sorapiss. Framed by trees, Lago di Sorapiss is one of the most arresting places you’ll see in the Dolomites. Apart from the mountain backdrop, the most spectacular feature of the lake is its unique milky-turquoise color. The water’s milky quality is due to the suspended powdered rock. You might think you’re looking at an enchantress’ pool filled with a magic potion.
The hike takes 1.5 – 2 hours, one-way. You’ll take Trail no. 215 towards Rifugio Vandelli, which is a mountain hut closely located to the lake. The first half of the trail is flat, but the second-half is steep. There are ropes and stairs that will aid you in your ascent. We saw people of all ages on this trail.
Stay in Sexten or in Cortina d’Ampezzo
If you’re planning on doing this Tre Cime di Lavaredo 3 Day Trek, continue driving to Sexten (Sesto).
If you’re not planning on doing that hut-to-hut hike, stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Sexten, Toblach or Innichen Accommodation
We recommend staying the night near Sexten (Sesto) before the trek. Hotel Dolomitenhof & Chalet Alte Post is located directly at the trailhead. Here are a few other options:
Budget | B&B Nonna Pina is a cozy bed and breakfast in Padola set in a traditional South Tyrolean house. With warm wooden interiors, this fantastic guesthouse offers traditional decor and comfort for a very good price.
Mid-Range | Hotel Kreuzberg Monte Croce is a fabulous hotel located only a quick drive (12 minutes) from the Parkplatz Fischleinbodenhütte trailhead. Here, you’ll be treated to delicious South Tyrolean food and rejuvenating spa facilities.
Luxury | Hotel Monika wows with its design, concept and extensive spa area. This 5-star hotel is the ultimate treat after hiking a few days in the Dolomites.
Cortina d’Ampezzo Accommodation
Mid-Range | Camina Suite and Spa is a newly renovated hotel with a lovely spa area, excellent breakfast, and comfortable alpine-modern rooms. Free parking included.
Luxury | Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is a five-star luxury hotel in Cortina that spoils guests with its mountain views, wellness center, 3 in-house restaurants, superb breakfast, and professional and attentive staff.
Day 5: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Trek Stage 1
Hike to Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Today, you’ll begin this 3-day hut to hut hike in Naturpark Drei Zinnen (Tre Cime Natural Park) starting in Val Fiscalina (Fischleintal) in Sesto (Sexten). You can park directly at the trailhead at Parkplatz Fischleinbodenhütte (5 EUR per day). You’ll pay for parking when you return to your car.
Stage 1 of this Tre Cime trek begins with a steady ascent to Dreizinnenhütte (Rifugio Locatelli). It takes about 3.5 hours to reach the hut via Trail 102. Directly facing the north side of the iconic Three Peaks, Dreizinnenhütte is arguably the most perfectly positioned mountain hut in the Dolomites. And luckily for all hungry visitors, the hut has a restaurant serving South Tyrolian cuisine.
Stay in Dreizinnenhütte (Rifugio Locatelli) or Rifugio Lavaredo
Tonight, you can stay in Dreizinnenhütte (Rifugio Locatelli). Or, you can continue on Trail 101 to Rifugio Lavaredo.
The location of the Rifugio Lavaredo is absolutely spectacular and definitely rivals that of Locatelli. Jagged purple mountains (the famous Cadini di Misurina) form the backdrop of the hut. We stayed in a 6-bed dormitory-style room, which was clean and comfortable. However in comparison to the other mountain huts, we stayed in, the food was subpar.
IMPORTANT: Make reservations for mountain huts in advance. You should be making reservations several months (or weeks) ahead, depending on when you’re planning on staying.
Alternative Day 5 Dolomites Itinerary
For those who opted out of the 3-day trek, you can still experience the beauty of Tre Cime di Lavaredo by driving directly to Rifugio Auronzo via a toll road. If you want to learn more about that option, read: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop Trail (Day Hike).
After the hike, stop at Malga Rin Bianco for a delicious lunch, or dinner (Address: Address: Via Monte Piana, 35, 32041 Misurina BL, Italy). Open: Friday – Wednesday 12 – 3 pm / 7:30 – 9:30 pm.
After hiking the circuit trail around Tre Cime, stay another night in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Look for accommodation in Cortina.
Day 6: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Stage 2
Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit Trail
Continue the circuit trail around Tre Cime di Lavaredo to Rifugio Auronzo. From Rifugio Auronzo, Trail no. 105 begins at the end of the parking lot. The trail continues to the saddle Forcella del Col de Mezo and to the mountain hut Langalm. Langalm is a wonderful spot to grab a mid-morning snack (their cakes are always delicious).
From Langalm, continue to Dreizinnenhütte (Rifugio Locatelli). We recommend eating lunch here, before starting the ascent to Büllelejochhütte (Rifugio Pian di Cengia).
Stay in Büllelejochhütte (Rifugio Pian di Cengia)
Büllelejochhütte is a place where dreams come true. Remotely situated, surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery, and gracing the clouds, Büllelejochhütte is the most charming mountain hut we experienced. The staff was beyond kind and friendly. And, the food was divine in an earthy-hearty type of way.
Alternative Day 6 Dolomites Itinerary
From Cortina d’Ampezzo, you have tons of hiking options. If you’re interested in World War I history, head to Cinque Torri and Lagazuoi. For another epic hike, consider hiking around Croda da Lago.
After exploring another trail in the Cortina Dolomites, continue your Dolomites road trip to Braies. Check out these places to stay: Garni Bergblick (Budget), Silentium Dolomites Chalet (Mid-Range), Hotel Trenker (Luxury – 3 nights minimum).
Day 7: Tre Cime di Lavaredo Stage 3
Hike down to Fischleintal (Val Fiscalina)
After breakfast, start your descent to Fischleintal via Trail 101 and later Trail 103. After an hour, the trail winds around the Zsigmondy Hütte (Rifugio E. Comici), a lovely mountain hut surrounded by bell-wearing donkeys. From this mountain hut, it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Talschlusshütte. The trail eventually intersects 102 (the trail you took on the way up). From the fork, hike the familiar flat trail back to Talschlusshütte and Parkplatz Fischleinbodenhütte.
Visit Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee)
The beautiful lake Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) is called the Pearl of the Dolomites. You can end your day by walking the easy loop trail around the lake. You can also enjoy the lake by renting a rowboat.
From mid-July to mid-September, the road to Lago di Braies is restricted from 10 am to 3 pm. If you arrive during that restricted time, you’ll have to park your car in a designated parking lot (5 EUR) and hop on a shuttle bus to the lake (3 EUR per person one-way).
Otherwise, you can drive directly to the lake, where you’ll find another paid parking lot.
Stay in Braies (Prags)
Budget | Garni Bergblick is a wonderful guesthouse located a mere 5.6 km from Lago di Braies. Set in an idyllic meadow surrounded by trees, Garni Bergblick is the perfect place to end your trip to the Dolomites. Breakfast included.
Mid-Range | Silentium Dolomites Chalet is a top-rated place to stay in Monguelfo, a 16-minute drive to Lago di Braies. With its natural surroundings, spa, and newly renovated rooms, Silentium is easy to fall in love with. Breakfast included.
More Information for Your Trip to the Dolomites:
- Dolomites Travel Guide
- Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer
- Hiking in the Dolomites in September
- Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites
- Hiking in Val Gardena
Alta Badia Dolomites:
- Alta Badia Summer Guide
- Rifugio Puez Day Hike
- Lake Pisciadù Day Hike
- Rifugio Fanes Day Hike
- Armentara Meadows Day Hike
Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites:
- Alta Via 1 Trek (4 – 10 days)
- Rosengarten – Catinaccio 3 Day Trek
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo 3 Day Trek (Sexten Dolomites)
More Information for Your Trip to Italy: