Plan your Dolomites itinerary knowing there is a lot to see and do in the gorgeous Italian Alps. To make it easier for you, we’ve highlighted the top Dolomites attractions and other important trip-planning information you’ll need to consider. It’s all below.
CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn all about the best places in the Italian Alps, also known as the Dolomites. That way, you can plan your Dolomites itinerary accordingly, including:
- Dolomites: Dolce Vita at the Tops of the Alps
- What and Where Are the Dolomites in Italy
- Best Time to Visit the Dolomites
- How to Get to the Dolomites
- Getting Around the Italian Alps
- Packing for a Trip to the Dolomites
- How Long to Spend in the Dolomites
- Interesting Facts About the Italian Alps
- Top Things to Do in the Dolomites
- Final Thoughts on the Dolomites
Dolomites: Dolce Vita at the Tops of the Alps
A jewel of northeastern Italy, the Dolomites, a set of mountains southeast of the Alps, with trademark pointed and steep peaks and the rocks’ characteristic red color, is an architectural marvel of nature.
The area is mainly a winter resort and a real paradise, not only for the ubiquitous fans of mountaineering, hiking, and skiing but also for those who prefer the apres ski lifestyle, since – in addition to the well-known ski resorts, the countless bike lanes and hiking trails – you will find picturesque valleys with luxurious shelters and Michelin.
Also, you’ll discover multi-starred restaurants, wine cellar cellars, a spa with innovative treatments and traditional villages, embraced by the majestic white mountain scenery.
Prepare for the Dolomites and Italy’s natural splendors with this 2024 Italy Travel Guide, your adventure blueprint.
What and Where are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites (Dolomiti in Italian) is a mountain range with 18 peaks in the northern Italian Alps. They rise over xx feet (3,000 meters) and cover almost 142,000 ha (acres)?. You’ll find these breathtaking mountains in northeastern Italy, bordered by Austria to the north and the Venetian plain on the south.
Located in the most northern regions of Italy, the Dolomites feature incredible landscapes, cliff formations, and valleys.
Best Time to Visit Dolomites
The weather in the Dolomites is ideal from May to September. You’ll find it warm at that time of year, and nature will be bursting with color. This, of course, is the high tourist season.
Spring and late autumn in the Dolomites also present pleasant weather, and as the shoulder season, you’ll find fewer crowds on the trail. What a beautiful time of year to see crocuses, Alpine snowdrops, and scented Daphne emerging from the melting snow!
That said, you’ll have to check on the availability of hotels, restaurants, buses, and cable cars, as they may be limited at that time of year.
Compared to the rest of the Alps, the Dolomites see less rain each year. It averages 30 to 60 inches (800 mm-1100 mm) of precipitation annually. Snow starts to accumulate in November and prevails through March, sometimes April.
There are trade-offs when it comes to visiting the Dolomites in high tourism season or other times, and only you can decide which suits you best.
How to Get to the Dolomites
If you’re flying in, the nearest airport to the Dolonites include
If you’re already visiting Venice Italy, it’s easy to plan a Venice to Dolomites day trip. That’s because you’ll find plenty of public transportation from Venice to Dolomites.
One option is to take the train from Venice to Treviso, changing trains to Belluno. Then, you can reach the Alps in Italy by bus. You can expect this route to take between 3-4 hours.
Of course, you can always rent a car. Not only is that a great way to leisurely explore the area, but it’s the quickest way to get from other destinations, like from Milan to Dolomites (4.48 minutes).
The distance from Florence Italy to Dolomites is just under 5 hours by car, making it a good overnight trip.
From Rome, you can take an overnight train, which takes over 9 hours, or opt for the high-speed train and be in the Dolomites in just over 5 hours.
Getting Around in the Dolomites
If you’ve rented a car, this is the best way to get around the Dolomites. You’ll have access to all the best vistas at the best times of day. Let’s face it, the Dolomites is ideal for anyone who loves photography!
But if not, no worries. During the summer, you’ll find busses connecting the towns and hiking trails, as well as cable cars for some prime photo opps.
It can be a little trickier to get around in the Dolomites if you’re traveling in the low season. Some transportation services may drop so check them before you travel.
What Should You Wear to the Dolomites
When you visit the Dolomites, you’ll want to make sure you have the right clothing and gear. This may include:
- Comfortable pants for hiking, seasonally appropriate
- Shorts for warmer weather and lounging
- Layered tops, like a t-shirt, thermal long-sleeved top, and sweatshirt with a hood so you can adjust to the weather and altitude
- Outerwear, like a rain- and wind-resistant jacket
- Lightweight down jacket
- Hat and scarf
- Warm hat, gloves, and socks, depending on season
- Cozy pajamas, depending on the season
How Long to Stay in the Italian Alps
How long to stay in the Dolomites is a loaded question. The answer is, it depends.
If you’re an avid hiker and love the idea of trekking 75 miles in 10 days, you can see all that the Italian Alps offers. In fact, the rifugios or mountain cabins are conveniently spaced a day-hike intervals on the trail. In total, there are about 30 idyllic rifugios you can choose from.
However, if you prefer to take a day hike or shorten the itinerary to fit your schedule of touring Italy, you can easily do that, too.
So how many days do you need in the Dolomites? Whether you want to visit for the day, the weekend, or immerse yourself in the Dolomites, anything is possible. It’s really just a matter of personal preference.
Interesting Facts About the Italian Alps
Here are a few facts about the Dolomites you may find helpful. Some are even a bit contradictory!
- The Dolomites is part of the Alps in Italy’s northeastern corner. But when most locals say “Alps,” they are typically referencing the mountain range in the Valle d’Aosta.
- When comparing the Swiss Alps to the Dolomites, both are excellent mountain vacations, but the Dolomites are not as expensive.
Yes, it’s expensive for Italy, but the Dolomites offer free and easily accessible hiking trails as well as relatively inexpensive rooms and meals.
- The Dolomites border Italy and Austria. As a result, most towns and some mountains have two names. This is important to know because one name is in Italian and the other is in German. They may not even sound similar, which can be very confusing!
- According to National Geographic, about 13,000 types of plants, an assortment of minerals and crystals, and close to 30,000 species of wildlife make their home in the Dolomites. Photographers and naturalists will love it!
- Beautiful Lake Cuomo was made by glaciers and plunges 1,345 feet (410 meters) deep. It’s one of the deepest lakes in all of Europe.
Towns in the Dolomites
Today the three provinces of Trento, Bolzano, and Belluno share the charm of the Dolomite Alps with the old capital of Tyrol, Merano, and are an ideal base for your excursions.
But let’s get a lay of the land first with an overview of some of the picturesque towns and fairy tale villages in the Dolomites.
- Belluno/Bellunum – the “gateway” to the Dolomites between the Piave and Ardo rivers, you’ll find meadows, rolling hills, and a great home base for outdoorsmen.
- Bolzano/Bozen – the capital of South Tyrol, nestled in the landscape at an altitude of 859 feet. You’ll find open-air markets, restaurants, and high-end shops
- Bressanone/Brixen – the oldest town in Tyrol, with winding streets and picturesque cathedrals
- Brunico/Bruneck – the center of the Puster Valley which is convenient to the Plan de Corones ski resort, Brunico Castle, and the Messner Mountain Museums
- Chiusa/Klausen – a medieval town in the Eisack Valley, rich with art, culture, nature, and wineries
- Cortina d’Ampezzo – known as the “Pearl of the Dolomites,” overlooked by imposing mountains with an upscale and lively atmosphere, shopping, and more. Some say is the best town in the Dolomites
- San Candido/Innichen and Sesto/Sexten – in Valle de Puster; great winter skiing, museums, and a summer waterpark called Acquafun
- San Martino and San Vigilio di Marebbe – home to the Ladin people, whose ancient culture and language date back to the Roman Empire
What to See & Do in the Dolomites, Italy
Now, you’ll find cosmopolitan ski resorts everywhere, such as Brenta, Madonna di Campiglio in the northwest and, of course, the famous Cortina d’Ampezzo in the northeast.
Here, in elegant Cortina, the Queen of the Dolomites and the central city of Belluno, with its sparkling boutiques, antiques, and charming cafes, rich Milanese stroll through the picturesque streets.
Suppose all this awakens a strong desire in you to live this incredible experience up close. In that case, you can turn to the valuable services of the travel agency Erna Low, which will create for you a complete vacation program without you having to do anything other than enjoying your time there.
Germans and Austrians are mainly the patrons of the Alpe di Siusi spas and the Bolzano pubs, who have first walked on impassable paths and camped in the magical alpine lakes of the area in the past.
Both in Cortina and Bolzano, you will find fascinating paleontological museums.
The first archaeological finds in the area were discovered in the Campo di Monte Avena, at an altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level, and belong to the Neanderthals, while the oldest tomb in Europe has been found in the city of Mondeval de Sora.
Top Things To Do in The Dolomites
In the winter months, the Dolomites are perhaps best known for skiing. But during the rest of the year, outdoor enthusiasts can look forward to alpine climbing, hiking, cycling, hang gliding, and more.
Here are some of the things you might schedule into your Dolomites itinerary.
- Ski on the Sella Ronda, a track almost 50 km through four mountain passes around the Sella mountain range. High-tech elevators limit your overall travel time, and there are signposts everywhere.
- Visit the Marmolada Museum in Serauta, the tallest museum in Europe (2,950 meters), with exhibits, photographs, and documents from the First World War.
- Take an afternoon stroll to the glamorous Corso Italia, Cortina’s busiest shopping street, where you will find dozens of boutiques with clothes, jewelry and accessories from the most famous Italian houses.
- Dine with hearty, simmering entrails and a few glasses of Bavarian beer at the tiny Gostner Schwaige, one of the area’s finest mountain restaurants in the Alpe di Siusi.
- Climb the area’s only glacier, Marmolada, to ski next to the impressive icy gorge to the alpine village of Sotto Guda.
- Slide on the famous Lagazuoi track, also known as Armentarola, that stretches 7.2 km across Sass Diacia.
- Visit Pedrades, near San Leonardo, a town made of stone and pine wood, with streams, small waterfalls, and wood-carved dwarf statues in the gardens of the houses for good luck.
- If you’re ambitious and in tip-top shape, hike the Lago di Sorapis. This hike, though strenuous, takes just a few hours. The reward is what might possibly be the best view of the Dolomites? Or, opt for the largely flat alternative, Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The good news is, you’ll find hiking trails for all abilities in the Dolomites.
Final Thoughts on the Dolomites
Whether you decide to spend a solid two weeks exploring the Dolomites, or visiting for the day, you’ll want to include as many of these attractions and experiences as you can in your Dolomites itinerary. Because, one thing is for certain — your visit will be unforgettable.
About the Author: Jackie Gately
I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality. Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! Follow my social channels for more inspiration.
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