The Italian Dolomites are not only one of the most beautiful places in Italy but they are one of the most stunning mountain destinations in the whole world. Jagged peaks, breathtaking viewpoints, emerald alpine lakes, fairy tale towns, amazing hikes and delicious food – you can have it all in the Dolomites! This 5 day long Dolomites road trip itinerary will be perfect for you if you want to discover all the beauty the Italian Dolomites have to offer in a short period of time.
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Useful info for visiting the Dolomites
How to get to the Dolomites
Although the Dolomites are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful dream destinations in the world, getting there is a little bit tricky as there is no dedicated airport in the area. Since this Dolomites road trip itinerary will require you to have your own car, if you’re planning to arrive from a nearby country it’s best to take your own car and drive to the Dolomites from your home. We personally arrived from Budapest and even if it was a 9 hour drive it was much better (and cheaper) to have our own car.
If this is not an option for you, there are many airports in the region to choose from. If you’re looking for a bigger international airport, the best option is to arrive to the Marco Polo Airport in Venice, from there you can reach Ortisei (the first base on this Dolomites road trip itinerary) within 3-3.5 hours. Another great option is the Orio Al Serio Airport in Bergamo or the Malpensa Airport in Milan, it takes 3 hours to get to Ortisei from Bergamo and 4 hours from Milan.
Munich Airport in Germany can be another great option, it takes around 3.5-4 hours to reach Ortisei from Munich. If you have more time you can include a few stops in Tyrol and Bavaria as well, like visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle! The disadvantage of arriving to Munich is that you need to cross the German-Austrian and the Austrian-Italian border in order to get to the Dolomites and with a rental car it’s not the easiest thing to do.
There are a couple more smaller airports in the area, like Treviso Airport, Valerio Catullo Airport in Verona or Bolzano Airtport so it’s worth to take a look at them as well. No matter which airport you arrive to, you will need to rent a car for your Dolomites road trip. I recommend RentalCars to check the best offers and availability!
Best time to visit the Dolomites
The best time to visit the Dolomites entirely depends on your personal preferences. Although each season has its own charm, for the sake of this Dolomites road trip itinerary I recommend visiting the Dolomites from the end of May until the end of September. Simple reason is that before or after this the mountains are usually covered with snow and many hiking trails are not accessible any more.
If you want to avoid the crowds, best is to visit either in early June or the middle of September. We personally visited in the middle of September and we had the best weather, but of course it can change from year to year. All the photos you can see in this article were taken in the middle of September so you can have an idea about how the area looks like around this time.
How much time to spend in the Dolomites
As much as you can! Seriously, the whole area is so gorgeous that you will not believe your own eyes. As a first timer, I recommend to spend at least 4-5 days in the Dolomites. This will give you enough time to visit the must see sights such as Alpe di Siusi, Lago di Braies or Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
There are countless amazing hikes in the Dolomites so if you’re an outdoor person and you love hikes, you can even spend weeks in the Dolomites without getting bored. I’d say the perfect amount of time would be between 1 or 2 weeks but I understand that not everyone has that much time for a mountain vacation, that’s why I created this 5 day Dolomites road trip itinerary so you could visit all the best places in the Dolomites in just a short period of time.
Overview of your Dolomites itinerary
Below you can see an overview of your Dolomites itinerary with the highlights that you should visit on each day. For the first two nights you will stay in Ortisei and you’re going to visit Lago di Carezza, Val di Funes, Alpe di Siusi and the Seceda ridgeline.
La Villa or Cortina d’Ampezzo will be your base for the second part of your Dolomites road trip, from where you can visit some amazing alpine lakes such as Lago di Braies and Lago di Limides and you can also visit Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Breakdown of your Dolomites itinerary
DAY 1 – Visiting Lago di Carezza and arriving to Ortisei
DAY 2 – Visiting the Santa Maddalena church and the church of Saint John in Val di Funes, seeing the sunset in Alpe di Siusi
DAY 3 – Hiking at the Seceda ridgeline, driving through Passo Gardena and arriving to La Villa or Cortina d’Ampezzo
DAY 4 – Renting a boat at Lago di Braies, hiking to Lago di Limides and visiting Lago di Valparola
DAY 5 – Hiking around Tre Cime di Lavaredo, hiking to Cadini di Misurina
Map for your Dolomites road trip
Below you can find a customized map which includes all the locations you will need for this Dolomites itinerary. Nearby airports, parking spots, interesting sights, viewpoints, literally everything! If you open up this post on your phone and you click on the bracket in the upper right corner of the map, it will open up in your Google Maps app so you can always have it with you.
Day 1 of your Dolomites road trip
The first day of your Dolomites road trip itinerary is all about arriving to the Dolomites and settling in your chosen accommodation in Ortisei/St. Ulrich, which is going to be your base for the next few days.
Fun fact: Did you know that there are three official languages spoken in the Dolomites? That’s the reason why you see multiple names for one place! Usually every place has a name in Italian and in German (even on the road signs and maps), and sometimes in Ladin. That’s why you will see names like Ortisei/St. Ulrich, Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm, Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee and so on. But back to the main topic!
If you’re planning to arrive to Italy by plane, it can take you anywhere from from 1.5 hours to 4 hours to get to the Dolomites, depending on which airport you arrive to. However, if you’re driving from another European country, such as Germany or Austria, it might take you even longer to arrive to the Dolomites. For more details about how to get to the Dolomites, please refer back to the beginning of the article!
Since you can arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon, for the sake of this Dolomites itinerary we’re gonna take the first day easy and you will only have one stop before arriving to your hotel. Of course if you have more time, feel free to add some additional stops to the first day of your Dolomites road trip itinerary!
Lago di Carezza
Instead of heading straight to your hotel in Ortisei/St. Ulrich, first make a stop at Lago di Carezza/Karersee! If you’re coming from either Venice or Bergamo, it’s only an extra 30 minutes (23 km) to get to the lake but if you’re coming from Innsbruck or Munich, you will need to drive an extra hour (45 km) to arrive to Lago di Carezza.
Nestled in the Val d’Ega valley, Lago di Carezza is often referred as the ‘Rainbow Lake’ thanks to its impressive colors. Legend has it that once upon a time, there was a beautiful mermaid living the lake with whom a wizard deeply fall in love with but the mermaid was impossible to win over.
In order to seduce her, with the help of a local witch, the wizard came up with a plan to throw a rainbow from the mountains to the lake and disguise himself as a jewelry salesman. The wizard indeed stretched a rainbow but he forgot to dress up so the mermaid immediately recognized him and disappeared into the water forever. The wizard got so angry that he ended up smashing the rainbow into million pieces and throwing it into the lake, where they still continue to shine to this day. Interesting story, right?
Rainbow colors or not, the emerald green alpine lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites and since it’s easily accessible, it’s a must stop on everyone’s Dolomites itinerary. There is a parking lot close to the lake where you can leave the car and then walk a few minutes to get to the lake. Parking is free for the first 15 minutes, then it’s 1 EUR (1.2 USD) for 1 hour, 2 EUR (2.4 USD) for 2 hours and 4 EUR (4.7. USD) for 6 hours.
There is a wooden viewing platform at the entrance of the lake where you can also learn more about the history of the lake, such as the destructive storm that struck in 2018, destroying more than 5,000 hectares of forest just in the South Tyrol region alone. After that you can walk along the loop trail that goes around the lake, it takes around 20-25 minutes to complete it.
Although it’s undoubtedly one of the best photography spots in the Dolomites, it’s important to know that the whole lake is fenced off and it’s not possible to get close to the water. That being said, I still keep seeing many photos on Instagram where people are standing or sitting on a rock, right by the lake. Please be respectful and don’t break the rules just for the sake of a photo, you can take amazing photos by staying out of the fenced area as well!
Arriving to Ortisei
After visiting Lago di Carezza and taking a million photos of the beautiful scenery, it’s time to head to Ortisei/St. Ulrich which is going to be your base for the following days. From Lago di Carezza, it takes around 1 hour (55 km) to reach Ortisei in a normal pace.
Located right in the centre of Dolomites Val Gardena, the charming little town of Ortisei is mostly famous for its hand-made wooden sculptures. The local woodcarver families kept the tradition alive to this very day! Ortisei is very popular among travelers visiting the Dolomites, thanks to being super close to the Seceda ridgeline and Alpe di Suisi/Seiser Alm. More about them later!
If you have some more time on the first day of your Dolomites road trip, it’s worth taking a stroll in the town and see the traditional hotels and gorgeous residential buildings. A must visit place is the pedestrian area between the chapel of Saint Ulrich and the Antonius Church which is often described as the most beautiful shopping street in the Dolomites.
In order to follow this Dolomites road trip itinerary, I recommend to spend your first 2 nights in Ortisei. We personally stayed at Hotel Angelo Engel which is a 4-star family-run hotel with a large private garden, an indoor and outdoor pool and an excellent SPA & beauty farm (pictured below). We had an amazing time there and I can totally recommend this hotel for anyone! You can check the prices and availability here.
If you’re looking for something else or there is no availability at the hotel on your preferred dates, you can find some more recommendations below.
Day 2 of your Dolomites road trip
Santa Maddalena church
On the second day of your Dolomites road trip head over to Val di Funes in the morning where you can visit two of the most beautiful churches in the Dolomites. It takes around 45 minutes (35 km) to reach the town of Santa Maddalena from Ortisei and the first church of your day will be the Santa Maddalena church.
This picturesque little church with the Odle mountains in the background is the symbol of Val di Funes and it’s one of the most photographed places in the entire Dolomites. It’s important to know what you can’t drive up to the church so you need to park your car in the the centre of the town. There are multiple parking spots in the city, I marked them on the map I shared at the beginning of the article so please refer back for the exact locations!
In order to get to the famous viewpoint, you need to hike around 20 minutes but it’s a very easy hike, basically you just need to walk up to the hill across the church. Search for ‘Panchina Panoramica‘ on Google Maps and I’m sure you will find it easily! After that you can visit the church inside if you want, it’s open daily and it features a beautiful Baroque style altar and interesting wall paintings.
Church of St. John in Ranui
The second church of the day is the church of St. John in Ranui, which is another small little Baroque church with an insanely beautiful background. It takes around 30 minutes to reach it from Santa Maddalena by foot, but if you’re feeling lazy you can go back to your car first and park in a closer parking spot from where you only need to walk 5-10 minutes to get to the church.
There is a build wooden viewing platform close to the parking lot and it’s an amazing place to take photos of the church with the mountains in the background. The church itself can be also visited for 4 EUR (4.7 USD) per person and it can be booked for small events and weddings as well.
Sunset at Alpe di Siusi
After visiting the two churches in Val di Funes it’s time to head over to probably the most famous place in the Dolomites: Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm! It’s important to know that driving there is strictly prohibited and if you don’t want to get fined for hundreds or euros, you need to follow the rules.
Alpe di Siusi is the largest mountain plateau in Europe and it grants amazing views over the peaks of Sasso Lungo, Sasso Piatto and Sciliar. It’s a must visit on every Dolomites road trip itinerary!
You have basically three options for getting there. You can book a hotel for the night, in this case you are allowed to drive up with your car but only until you reach your hotel (no further) and you can only do it once on the day you arrive. There are only a handful of hotels at Alpe di Siusi, these two are the closest ones to the famous viewpoint (pictured below): Hotel Icaro***S and Sporthotel Sonne.
From Ortisei you can take a cable car to get up to Alpe di Siusi, a one-way ticket costs 13.9 EUR (16.4 USD) while a round-trip ticket costs 19.9 EUR (23.5 USD). The cable car runs from 8.30am to 6pm which is great if you want to visit during the day, but unfortunately it’s not good for sunrise or sunset visits.
If you want to visit for sunrise or sunset, the best thing you can do is to drive up to Compatsch and leave your car at the P2 parking lot (I marked it on the map that you can find in the beginning of the article). You can’t drive up on the road between 9am and 5pm without getting a big fat check but if you go earlier or later it’s going to be fine.
After you left the car in the parking lot, you need to hike for around 1 hour to get to the famous viewpoint (pictured above). I marked the coordinates on the map in the beginning of the article but if you search for ‘Belvedere dell’ Alpe di Siusi‘ on Google Maps you will also find it. The hike is super easy, it’s mostly flat and the views along the way are simply breathtaking.
If you have a little extra time before sunset, before reaching the viewpoint turn right and hike down to the ‘Malga Sanon‘ restaurant. You will find a tiny playground in front of the restaurant with a swing, it’s so much fun to take photos there, not to mention the insanely gorgeous background!
Day 3 of your Dolomites road trip
Since this is already the third day of your Dolomites road trip itinerary, you will need to check out from your hotel in Ortisei and move to another one either in La Villa or Cortina d’Ampezzo (more about this later). But before that, it’s time to go up to the Seceda ridgeline and do a little hiking there!
Since the cable cars run from Ortisei, it’s best to check out from your hotel in the morning, leave your luggage in the car and go up to Seceda. After you’re done with the hike, you will still have time to drive to your other hotel and check out Passo Gardena on the way.
Hiking at Seceda
As I mentioned, the cable cars goint up to Seceda run from Ortisei. In case you can’t leave your car at the parking of the hotel after you’ve checked out, there is a big parking lot at the cable car station as well. A round trip ticket for the cable car costs 34 EUR (40 USD) per person and it operates between 8.30am and 5.30pm.
Located in the Puez Odle Nature Park, Seceda has one of the most dramatic ridgelines in the Dolomites with jagged peaks and huge drop offs. Once you’re up there, there are countless hiking trails and it only depends on your preferences which one you take. If you have time, you can even hike all the way down to Ortisei as well!
Whichever you choose, walking along the ridgeline is a must when visiting Seceda. After you’ve arrived with the cable car, turn left and start walking uphill! There is even a sign on the road pointing to the viewpoint, you simply can’t miss it.
If you’re not much of a hiker, you can go back to the cable car station after you soaked in all the views, but if you’re up for a little exercise, you can hike down to the meadow to Baita Troier Hütte (they have amazing apple pies!). From there you can either continue your hike to Pieralongia (twin spires – they kinda look like the rocks from Lion King) and then Rifugio Firenze, or you can just go back to the cable car station. Totally up to you!
Passo Gardena (Gardena Pass) is a super scenic mountain pass connecting Val Gardena with Val Badia. Since you’re going to drive in the direction of La Villa/Cortina d’Ampezzo from Ortisei, you will drive through it anyway and since you’re already there, it’s worth stopping for a few minutes to soak in the views.
There is a small hütte called Rifugio Frara where you can park your car and from there you can walk up to the viewpoint (it only takes a few minutes to reach it). Actually this is a start of a 11.5km long like but since it’s a very difficult hike, I wouldn’t recommend it to first timers (we didn’t do it either). It’s worth to schedule your arrival to Passo Gardena half an hour before sunset, this way you will be able to see the scenery during golden hour, which is super beautiful!
Arriving to La Villa or Cortina d'Ampezzo
For the second half of you Dolomites road trip itinerary, I recommend to stay at another hotel either in La Villa, Cortina d’Ampezzo or one of the nearby towns. The simple reason is that the places you’re going to visit on the rest of your Dolomites trip are too far away from Ortisei and it doesn’t make sense to stay there and drive countless hours to reach these sigths.
Although Cortina d’Ampezzo is the most popular choice among travelers, we decided to stay at Hotel La Majun in La Villa/Stern and absolutely loved the hotel! It’s a 4-star family-operated hotel and what makes it even more special is that the owners actually live in the hotel and their mission is to make your feel at home too. The hospitality was exceptional and the panoramic view from the hotel is simply breathtaking (pictured below). You can check the prices and availability here.
If you’re looking for something else or there is no availability at the hotel on your preferred dates, you can find some more recommendations below, both for La Villa and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN LA VILLA
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CORTINA D’AMPEZZO
Day 4 of your Dolomites road trip
Lago di Braies
Start the fourth day of your Dolomites road trip itinerary with visiting the most famous lake in the Dolomites: Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee. It’s a very picturesque alpine like with turquoise-green colored waters and a beautiful mountain panorama. It’s the perfect place for nature lovers and hikers but unfortunately due to its fame it usually gets insanely crowded during the day so try to plan an early morning visit to be able to enjoy the lake by yourself.
It takes around 1 hour 10 minutes (60 km) to get to Lago di Braies from La Villa, while it’s only 50 minutes (46 km) from Cortina d’Ampezzo. There are 3 different parking lots close to the lake and although they are big, they can fill up really quickly (especially the closest one) so I can’t stress enough how important it is to get to the lake early. There is a big chance that around 9-10am you will not be able to find a free parking spot at all!
Best things to do at Lago di Braies include renting a row boat from the boathouse and slowly paddle across the turquoise water, and then walking around the lake which takes around 1-2 hours (the distance is 4km). The boathouse is open between 8.30am-6.30pm in July and August, while it’s only open from 10am to 5pm in May, June, September and October. A boat rental costs 19 EUR (22.5 USD) for 30 minutes and 29 EUR (34 USD) for 60 minutes, reservation in advance is not possible.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY AT THE LAKE
I’m sure you’ve already seen many photos on Instagram, mostly where people are standing on a little pier, surrounded by wooden boats and a stunning reflection on the lake. What most people don’t disclose is that the pier belongs to a private boathouse and you can’t access it unless you rent the pier for a photoshoot or a rent a boat from the boathouse when they are open.
The boat rental only starts later in the day so even if you rent a boat, you will not be able to shoot a picture with reflections and a calm lake. Not to mention that people will be already lining up behind you and you will not have the time to take many photos.
That being said, I’ve heard stories that many people choose to trespass early in the morning when the boathouse is still closed. But in order to do that, you need to wade through the ice cold water and then climb onto one of the boats, and then jump from boat to boat until you reach the pier. Yes, I know, this sounds super crazy and it’s clearly not an example to be followed (please don’t do stupid and illegal stuffs like this for a photo).
If you don’t want to rent the pier, you can still get a photo on it if you rent a boat. It won’t be so perfect like the photos you see on Instagram but it’s still beautiful! And this way you can shoot some pictures in the boat as well (see my pictures below).
Lago di Limides
In the afternoon head over to Lago di Limides, which is one of the best hidden gems in the Dolomites. It’s a super picturesque little lake with insane panoramic views and reflections of the surrounding mountains (Mount Lagazuoi and Tofana di Rozes). I still don’t understand why is it so overlooked by visitors but it just adds to its charm and you can basically have the lake all to yourself in the middle of the day!
In order to reach Lago di Limides, you need to drive to Rifugio Col Gallina and leave your car in the parking lot across the street. It takes around 1 hour 15 minutes (62 km) to get there from Lago di Braies and the road goes through Cortina d’Ampezzo so if you’re not staying there and want to check out the town, you can include a short stop there.
After you parked your car, you need to hike around 25-30 minutes to reach the lake. Don’t worry, it’s a fairly easy hike (the distance is around 2 km) but the trails are not the best and you basically need to hike uphill almost all the way so wear proper shoes! It can get slippery and muddy after rain so it’s best to visit when the weather is dry and it hasn’t rained in the last couple of days.
Lago di Valparola
Last stop of the day will be Lago di Valparola, which is a tiny alpine lake located on the top of Passo Valparola (Valparola Pass), not so far away from Rifugio Col Gallina (where you parked the car before going to Lago di Limides). It’s like a 5 minute drive (3 km) in the direction of La Villa so if you’re staying there, you’re going to drive by it anyway.
There are parking lots on both ends of the lake where you can leave your car to check out the lake and the surrounding panorama. The lake is visible from the main road but it’s also easily accessible from the road, it takes around 5 minutes to reach it by taking path nr. 24 that goes down to the lake.
Day 5 of your Dolomites road trip
Hiking around Tre Cime di Lavaredo
The Tre Cime de Lavaredo loop hike is one of the best hikes in the Dolomites and no Dolomites itinerary is really complete without seeing the iconic three peaks. The entire loop is around 10 km and since it’s a fairly easy hike, it’s accessible to almost everyone (we even saw families with strollers). Usually it takes around 4-5 hours to complete the loop, we personally did it in 3.5 hours with a few photo stops (half an hour break at Dreizinnenhütte is not included).
The hike starts and finishes at Rifugio Auronzo, where you can find multiple parking lots (you can even spend the night there in a camper). Unfortunately there is only one road leading up to Rifugio Auronzo and since it’s a private road, you need to pay 30 EUR (35 USD) to use it with a normal car.
Make sure to have cash with you as they don’t accept credit cards for the toll fee and try to go early in the morning because later on when the parking lot is full they can close the road and you have no other option to get up there. It takes around 1.5 hours (55 km) to get to Rifugio Auronzo from La Villa and 40 minutes (22 km) from Cortina d’Ampezzo.
It’s a very straight forward hike, you can’t really go in the wrong direction. Best is to do the hike counter clockwise and start by walking in the direction of Rifugio Lavaredo. This part is the easiest one as it’s mostly flat, after that you will need to walk uphill so it gets a little more difficult. The next checkpoint is the Dreizinnenhütte (Rifugio A. Locatelli) where you can find two lakes and a couple of caves as well.
The hardest part comes after this, as you need to descend to the valley, just to walk up on a hill again. It’s still not a hard trail but due to the elevation gain it’s a bit more difficult. The last checkpoint is Malga Langalm, after that the route heads uphill again and not long after you will already see Rifugio Auronzo, from where you started the hike.
All in all, completing the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike is a must on every Dolomites road trip itinerary! It’s a fairly popular hike due to the insane views so it usually gets busy during the day so try to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds. If you want to know more about the trails, check out my step-by-step guide about the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike!
Hiking to Cadini di Misurina
I assume you’re already tired after completing the 10 km loop hike around Tre Cime di Lavaredo but if you have a little bit of energy left, go for another short hike right after you finished the first one. There is an insanely beautiful viewpoint along the Cadini di Misurina hiking trail and it would be such a shame for leaving it out of this Dolomites road trip itinerary!
Hiking to Cadini di Misurina is one of the lesser known hikes in the Dolomites and not many people know about it, therefore it’s less crowded than the Tre Cime di Lavaredo trail. They have the same starting point from Rifugio Auronzo so it makes sense to do both in one day (you’ve already paid the 30 EUR toll fee after all) but if you want to do the Cadini di Misurina hike, you will have to hike in the opposite direction of Tre Cime.
It takes around 35-45 minutes to get to the viewpoint, depending on your fitness level. It’s only a 2 km hike from Rifugio Auronzo but it’s a bit steep (112m elevation gain) and it’s important to know that this hike is not suitable for people with fear of heights. If you want to know how to get to the viewpoint pictured above, read my step-by-step guide about the Cadini di Misurina hike!
Another important thing to know is that there are railings along the trail (you can see it on the above photo) and in order to climb up to the viewpoint, you need to slip under the railings. Please only climb to the viewpoint on your own risk and don’t even think about doing it if the trail is muddy or wet! It’s really no joke, if you slip and fall from there you can hurt yourself pretty badly and you can even die. So please please be super careful!
Oh and one last thing: you can see me wearing skirts on many of my hiking photos as well. I hope it goes without saying but wearing proper hiking boots and pants are must when hiking in the Dolomites. I was wearing the same but I always carry 1 or 2 instagrammable skirts in my backpack so whenever I see a good photo opportunity, I just throw them on my hiking outfit.
Spending 5 days in the Dolomites was a real dream come true for me. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the whole world and I can only encourage you to plan a Dolomites road trip as your next vacation! I hope you liked this Dolomites itinerary and you will have the chance to see all these amazing places with your own eyes as well.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email, I always love helping you out! Do you know some other great places to visit in the Dolomites that you would like to add to this Dolomites road trip itinerary? Let me know in the comments!