Nestled in the spectacular Italian Alps, the Dolomites are a year-round paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a vacation that will take your breath away, then visiting the Dolomites should be at the top of your list.
With snow-capped peaks, stunning lakes, and rolling hills covered in forests and meadows, there’s no shortage of things to do in this picturesque corner of the world. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for a relaxing getaway, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Dolomites.
Best Things to Do in the Dolomites
In this article, you will find all the best things to do in the Dolomites you absolutely can’t miss!
1. Learn the legend of Lago di Carrezza
Lago di Carezza, or the Karersee, is a stunningly beautiful mountain lake that will leave you speechless. Often referred to as the Rainbow Lake, the water at Lago di Carezza shimmers in a myriad of different colors ranging from emerald greens to blues and yellows.
The lake is especially magical in the winter when it freezes over but it’s equally beautiful any time of the year.
According to a local legend, a sorcerer fell in love with a mermaid who resided on this lake and tried to win her affections. The mermaid was impossible to win over so the sorcerer teamed up with a local witch. The plan was to disguise the sorcerer as a jewelry salesman while stretching a rainbow from the mountains to the lake.
The sorcerer completed the rainbow but forgot to wear his disguise so the mermaid recognized him immediately, fled into the deep waters, and never came back. In fury, the sorcerer destroyed the rainbow and hurled its pieces into the water – hence you can see all colors of the rainbow in the lake!
2. Complete the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop hike
One of the best things to do in the Dolomites is to go on a hike and there’s no better place to do it than at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This popular loop trail takes you through some of the most stunning scenery in the Dolomites and past three of the most iconic peaks in the range – the Tre Cime.
The trail is relatively easy and can be completed in a day but you can also stay overnight at one of the many mountain huts along the way. The whole trail is around 10km long and it takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
You can either take a public bus or drive up on a private road to Rifugio Auronzo where the hike starts and finishes. Along the way, you will come across three more mountain huts where you can stop for a bite or a drink.
3. Stay the night in a rifugio
If you want to really experience the Dolomites, then you should spend a night or two in one of the many mountain huts. Scattered throughout the range, these huts provide basic but comfortable accommodation and are a great way to experience the true wilderness of the area.
Most of the rifugios can be reached by car but some are only accessible by foot, making them the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a secluded getaway. Many of the huts also have restaurants so you can enjoy a traditional meal after a long day of hiking.
4. Drive through Passo Gardena
If you’re looking for an epic road trip in the Dolomites, driving through Passo Gardena is one of the best things to do in the area. This winding mountain pass connects the towns of Selva in the Val Gardena and Corvara in the Val Badia and it’s one of the most scenic drives in the entire range.
The road is extremely windy with a number of sharp turns, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’re up for the challenge, the views are more than worth it.
Stop at one of the many viewpoints along the way to snap some pictures and take in the incredible scenery. And when you reach Corvara, be sure to sample some of the local dishes at one of the restaurants in town.
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5. Rent a boat at Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular among tourists. With its crystal-clear water and pretty mountain setting, it truly feels like stepping into a real-life painting.
One of the best things to do at Lago di Braies is to rent a boat and explore the lake at your own pace. You can also go for a swim if you’re brave enough – the water is icy cold but it’s refreshing on a hot summer day.
If you don’t fancy renting a boat, you can also take a stroll around the edge of the lake or go for a hike in the surrounding mountains.
In case you’re visiting in the summer months, make sure to arrive early because the parking lots tend to fill up very quickly.
6. Take a walk in the meadows at Alpe di Siusi
Alpe di Siusi is the largest high-altitude meadow in Europe and it’s a must-visit when you’re in the Dolomites. With its wildflowers, gentle rolling hills, and stunning mountain views, Alpe di Siusi is a nature lover’s paradise.
You can either take a cable car or drive up to the meadow and once you’re there, you have plenty of options for things to do. You can go for a hike, mountain bike ride, or simply stroll around and enjoy the views.
There are also several restaurants and cafes where you can stop for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink. If you want to stay overnight, you can also find some great hotels in the area.
It’s important to note that between 9 am and 5 pm you can’t drive up to Alpe di Siusi and even outside of these hours you can only drive up to Compatsch and not any further. So unless you want to see the sunrise or the sunset, you’re better off taking the cable car.
7. Visit the climbers’ paradise of Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the best places to stay in the Dolomites thanks to its central location but even if you decide to stay elsewhere, it’s worth stopping by for a few hours.
With its world-class ski resorts, picturesque mountain setting, and vibrant après-ski scene, Cortina d’Ampezzo has something for everyone.
In the winter, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders from all over the world but it’s also a great place to visit in the summer. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails in the area and you can also go rafting, canyoning, and rock climbing.
8. Hike along the Seceda Ridgeline
Located in Puez Odle Nature Park, the Seceda Ridgeline is one of the most unique mountain formations in the Dolomites. This hike takes you along the ridgeline and past some of the most incredible views in the entire range.
Hiking along the Seceda is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites for families as the hiking trails range from super easy to moderate. The easiest option is to hop on the cable car in Ortisei and take it all the way to the top.
From there, you can hike along the ridgeline for as long or short as you like before taking the cable car back down. You can also extend your hike by descending into one of the valleys if you’re feeling more adventurous.
9. Enjoy the picturesque views at Santa Maddalena
If you want to escape the crowds and enjoy some of the most incredible views in the Dolomites, head to Santa Maddalena. This small village is located in Val di Funes and it’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire range.
There are a few things to do in Santa Maddalena but one of the best is simply to walk around and take in the views. You can also go for a hike or mountain bike ride if you’re feeling active.
In the winter, Santa Maddalena is also a great place to go cross-country skiing and there are several ski trails in the area.
10. Snap a picture at St. John in Ranui
If you’re looking for the perfect place to take a picture in the Dolomites, head to St. John in Ranui. This small church is located in Val di Funes, close to Santa Maddalena.
The church is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Dolomites and provides an incredibly beautiful scenery. No wonder it’s the most photographed church in the whole of the Dolomites!
You can park nearby and either take in the panorama from the wooden viewing platform or you can enter the church itself for a small fee. If you’re feeling extra, the church can also be booked for weddings and private events!
11. Explore the Sassolungo and Sasso Piatto
The Sassolungo and Sasso Piatto are two massive rock formations that dominate the landscape of the Dolomites. These impressive mountains are made up of limestone and dolomite and were formed over millions of years ago.
Today, they stand as a testament to the power of nature, which is why the Dolomites are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many different hiking trails that wind their way up and around the Sassolungo and Sasso Piatto so you can explore them at your own pace.
12. Sample the local Italian cuisine
One of the best things to do in the Dolomites is to sample the local Italian cuisine. The area is known for its hearty dishes that make use of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Some of the most popular dishes in the Dolomites include canederli (dumplings), and polenta taragna (cornmeal porridge). You can also find a variety of pizzas and pastas, as well as some unique sweets like apple strudel and Nutella crepes.
Of course, no visit to the Dolomites would be complete without trying some of the local wine. The area is home to a number of vineyards and wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings.
Whether you’re a foodie or not, sampling the local cuisine is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
13. Visit the Dolomites in the winter
One of the best times to visit the Dolomites is in the winter. Like America’s New England region, the area is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, with a number of ski resorts and cross-country skiing trails.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, you’ll find a trail that’s perfect for you. And if you’re not into skiing, you can always go for a snowshoe hike or a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
No matter what you do, visiting the Dolomites in the winter is an experience you won’t soon forget.
14. Try via ferrata
Via ferrata is a type of mountaineering that involves using a fixed cable to climb up steep rock faces. It’s an adrenaline-pumping activity that’s perfect for thrill-seekers.
There are a number of via ferrata routes in the Dolomites, ranging from easy to challenging. Some of the best via ferrata trails include Gran Cir and Catinnacio D’Antermoia which are both perfect for beginners.
If you’re looking for an adventure, trying via ferrata is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
15. Hike to Lago di Sorapis
If you’re looking for an amazing hiking experience, look no further than Lago di Sorapis. This stunning lake is located in the heart of the Dolomites and it can only be reached by foot.
The hike to the lake is fairly challenging, but it’s more than worth it when you finally reach the crystal clear water. The views are simply incredible and you’ll feel like you’re in another world.
Once you reach the lake, take a dip in the refreshing water or just enjoy the scenery. Either way, hiking to Lago di Sorapis is one of the best things to do in the Dolomites.
16. Relax in a wellness hotel
The Dolomites are the perfect place to relax and recharge. And what better way to do that than by staying in a wellness hotel?
Wellness hotels are scattered throughout the Dolomites and they offer a variety of different services, from massages to saunas. You can also find a number of pools, both indoor and outdoor.
Some of the best hotels in the area include:
No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at a wellness hotel in the Dolomites. So if you need a break from all the hiking and sightseeing, be sure to add this to your list of things to do.
17. Explore Bolzano
The town of Bolzano is the capital of the province of South Tyrol and it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Dolomites. The city is filled with a number of historical landmarks, museums, and art galleries.
Some of the most popular attractions include the local market at Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza Walther, the beautiful main square of the town, and Santa Maria Maddalena Church, a tiny church surrounded by vineyards.
If you’re looking to do some shopping, Bolzano is also home to a number of high-end stores. And if you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants serving up delicious Italian cuisine.
Whether you’re looking to sightseeing or just do some shopping, Bolzano is definitely worth a visit.
Final thoughts about visiting the Dolomites
The Dolomites is an incredibly beautiful and diverse area and there’s no shortage of things to do, whether you’re looking for adventure or just want to relax.
So if you’re planning a trip to the Dolomites, be sure to add these amazing activities to your list. You won’t be disappointed!
Krisztina Harsányi is a Budapest-based travel blogger with a never-ending wanderlust who is passionate about content creation, travel photography, and discovering new destinations, one place at a time.
Kriszti’s goal is to help her readers turn their travel dreams into reality by sharing her practical travel tips and detailed travel guides on her blog, She Wanders Abroad.
You can follow her adventures in real-time on Instagram here.