There are few places on the planet that compare to the scenery of the Dolomites. A wonderland of craggy limestone mountains and pine forests – and that’s before we get started on those emerald lakes! If you’re planning a road trip to Northern Italy then you don’t want to miss the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites. I’ve rounded up the best ones that you simply can’t miss!
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Most Beautiful Lakes in the Dolomites
Even if you’re only planning to spend a weekend in this alpine fairyland you’re going to want to see as many of the lakes as possible. Here is my guide to the best lakes in the Dolomites with tips on when to visit and what makes each lake so special.
On the below map you can find all the lakes mentioned in this article with their retrospective number. The numbers don’t reflect any ranking order, they are just simply there to make it easier for you to find all most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites on the map! You can also save this map to your Google Maps app on your phone if you click on the bracket in the upper right corner.
1. Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee
Lago di Braies is perhaps the most popular of the lakes to visit in the Dolomites. It’s also the largest and one of the bluest bodies of water you’ll ever see! Located at an altitude of 1,496 meters (4,908 feet), this lake sits within the Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies in the South Tyrol province.
The azure water is framed by dramatic limestone mountains and a forest of spruce pine trees. You can follow a flat, easy 4 km (2.5 miles) trail around the lake in around 1-2 hours. If you are brave you can take a dip in the lake but bear in mind that the water is cold even during summer. That sentiment applies to most of the lakes in the Dolomites in fact!
If you visit Lago di Braies during summer (mid-June to October) you can hire a rowing boat and paddle yourself around the lake. You can rent these from the boathouse, there’s no need to book them in advance. There is also a tiny lakeside chapel which was constructed in 1904.
As one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites, Lago di Braies draws in the crowds so I recommend you arrive as early as possible to appreciate it in solitude (and nab a parking spot). Sunrise is actually the best time to get there, it’s magical.
Whatever time of year your visit, the scenery will not let you down. Visit in spring for a quieter experience or summer if you want to hire a boat. Come autumn, the trees turn golden before the lake transforms into a snowy winter wonderland!
The best way to visit any of the lakes in the Dolomites is by car. However, most of the lakes are served by public buses during summer (mid-June – mid-September).
There is a car park only a few minutes’ walk from Lago di Braies. You get 15 minutes of free parking before the fees kick in. Otherwise the rates are 6 EUR (7 USD) 7am – 5pm or 2 EUR (2.50 USD) after 5pm. Alternatively, you can take the 442 bus from Dobbiaco.
2. Lago di Dobbiaco/Toblacher See
Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts in particular will adore the flora and fauna rich surroundings of this gorgeous lake. There is an easy 4.5 km (2.8 miles) hiking trail that takes you around the perimeter of the crystal clear lake.
The best time to visit Lago di Dobbiaco is either spring or autumn when you might spot rare, migrating birdlife. Like I say, this is definitely one of the best lakes in the Dolomites for wildlife! I recommend visiting the lake in time for sunset. You can complete the hiking trail and then settle in to watch the sun dip behind the mountains that frame the lake.
Lago di Dobbiaco is also located in the South Tyrol province, right between the Tre Cime and Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Parks. You can self-drive to Lago di Dobbiaco and park next to the lake. Note that it isn’t the largest car park so you should allow plenty of time if you want to catch the sunset here! The car parking charges are 1 EUR (1.20 USD) per hour. Alternatively, you can catch the public bus 445 from Dobbiaco.
3. Lago di Carezza/Karersee
Lago di Carezza/Karersee is known as the ‘rainbow lake’ due to the kaleidoscope of colors that you’ll see shimmering in the water. These range from blues and greens to yellows, oranges and pinks. It’s no wonder most visitors consider Lago di Carezza one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites!
A local fable says that a sorcerer fell in love with a mermaid who called this lake home and attempted to woo her. He teamed up with a local witch who designed a disguise for him and stretched a rainbow from the mountains to the lake. However, the sorcerer forgot to wear his disguise and the mermaid fled into the lake. In a rage, the sorcerer destroyed the rainbow and threw the pieces into the lake – and that’s why you can see the rainbow!
Due to its fragile ecosystem, Lago di Carezza is one of the few lakes in the Dolomites that you cannot swim in. However, you can enjoy a refreshing hike around the water which takes around 20 minutes, making it the perfect place to stretch your legs if you’re on a road trip in the Dolomites. Although there is a barrier in place to prevent any visitors from touching the water, you can still enjoy wonderful views all around. Glance up from the colorful water and you can see the jagged spires of the Latemar mountain range.
The scenery is delightful year-round. As with Lago di Braies, visit during shoulder season to avoid the crowds or during winter to see the lake frozen over. It’s best to visit as early as possible to beat the crowds. But, if you visit at sunrise, you should linger until the sun gets stronger. The more powerful the sun, the more colors you will see reflected in the water.
Lago di Carezza is also located in the South Tyrol province. There is a car park right by the lake – it’s free for the first 15 minutes, then 1 EUR (1.20 USD) per hour. Alternatively, you can take the 180 bus from the nearby city of Bolzano.
4. Lago di Landro/Dürrensee
This high-altitude lake sits at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) within the Tre Cime Natural Park and is one of the largest lakes in the Dolomites. From the shore, you can take in views of both the Cristallo Group and the Ampezzo Dolomites.
At Lago di Landro you have a choice of two hikes. One is 5 km (3.1 miles) and takes approximately one hour to complete, while the 6.2 km (3.9 miles) takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. If you pack your swimmers you can take a dip in the beautiful turquoise water but again, don’t expect it to be warm! There is a lovely restaurant with a view of the lake if you want to grab lunch.
The best time to visit Lago di Landro is during an autumn afternoon when the trees are russet red and burnt orange. It also looks gorgeous under its sheet of winter snow. As one of the best lakes to visit in the Dolomites for mountain views, the lake gets very crowded over summer. If you want to visit then, plan to arrive early in the day.
You can park right next to the lake or catch the 445 bus from Dobbiaco town. It’s free to park if you just want to jump out for a quick look at the lake and take some photos.
5. Lago di Limides
Lago di Limides is one of the lakes that requires you to do a small hike in order to reach it. That makes it one of the best lakes in the Dolomites that is off the beaten track and usually free from crowds.
Short and sweet, the 2 km (1.3 miles) hike to reach the lake only takes around 30 minutes. It’s a gentle uphill hike that weaves along a beautiful forest before delivering you in front of this pristine little lake which captures the reflections of the surrounding mountains.
Yet again, there isn’t a wrong time to visit Lago di Limides. During summer the scenery is speckled with blooming wildflowers whilst autumn will welcome you with honey-colored trees. In winter you can expect to find this shallow lake totally frozen and surrounded by snow-dusted peaks.
Lago di Limides is part of the Passo di Falzarego. There is a car park located right next to Ristorante Grill da Strobel Paolo Michielli on SR48. Alternatively, you can take the 030 bus from Cortina d’Ampezzo which stops opposite the same restaurant.
6. Lago di Misurina
Situated in the Belluno province, Lago di Misurina is the largest lake in the Cadore region. From the bank of the lake, you will get 360° views of the surrounding peaks.
Fun fact: the air is said to be so clear here that it might alleviate the symptoms of respiratory disorders! There is actually an asthma institution for children nearby which really says something. The lake is the gateway to a number of nearby ski slopes which you can enjoy if you visit during the winter.
I recommend that you visit early in the morning to see how the soft light kisses the contours of the Soropis mountains. As the water is calmer in the morning, you are also more likely to see the reflections of the mountains in the water.
There are a number of hotels dotted around Lago di Misurina which provide incredible views of one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites. There are several parking lots around the lake which generally charge 2 EUR (2.50 USD) per hour. The 445 public bus runs from both Cortina d’Ampezzo and Dobbiaco.
7. Lago d’Antorno
Lago d’Antorno is a short drive north of Lago di Misurina so you can combine your visit with this small picturesque lake. Bordered by a larch forest, you can take in an unforgettable view of the Tre Cime and Cadini di Misurina from the side of the lake. In fact Lago d’Antorno is the stepping stone to the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike and the not so well-known, but fantastic Cadini di Misurina hike.
This secret gem has slipped off the tourist radar so you can visit at any time of day. There is a short walk around the lake which takes 20 minutes. This little lake freezes over during winter and the area around it is popular for shoesnowing.
There is a free car park at the south end of the lake. As the space is unattended, take extra precautions and don’t leave your valuables in your car. As with Lake Misurina, the lake is served by the 445 public bus from Cortina d’Ampezzo or Dobbiaco.
8. Lago di Caldaro/ Kalterer See
If you’re a water baby then this is the lake for you! As the warmest lake in the region, Lago di Caldaro is one of the best lakes to visit in the Dolomites if you want to do a spot of wild swimming. The water temperature can reach 28°C (82°F) at the height of summer while even in spring, it’s a bearable 19°C (66°F). Dry off at one of the beaches that flank the toasty water.
You can take your pick from rowing, stand up paddleboarding and windsurfing at Lago di Caldaro. If you fancy a hike then you can walk up to the ruins of the Castelchiaro fort and take in a panoramic view of the area. The uphill hike takes around 40 minutes each way.
There are a number of vineyards dotted around Lago di Caldaro. The perfect excuse to sit back and enjoy a wine tasting with a view of the emerald lake! The local speciality is a semi-dry red wine which pairs perfectly with regional dishes you’ll find available
Lago di Caldaro is located in the South Tyrol province. You can take bus 130 from Caldaro to the lake. Parking next to the lake costs 1.20 EUR (1.50 USD) per hour between 9am – 6pm. You will find a number of hotels skirting the edge of Lago di Caldaro if you fancy spending a night overlooking the water.
9. Lago di Sorapis
Located in the Veneto province, you’ll need to tackle a 13.5 km (8.4 miles) round-trip hike in order to clap your eyes on Lago di Sorapis. This is definitely one of the best hikes in the Dolomites as your reward is an ethereal turquoise pool and a view of the towering Mount Sorapis.
The hike takes around 2 hours each way. It’s well-marked and not too strenuous but you’ll need to traverse some narrow footpaths in some places. This is definitely one of the best lakes to visit in the Dolomites if you fancy getting adventurous! Once you reach the lake itself, you can stroll around it in around 30 minutes. The color of this lake is particularly vivid and is caused by glacial dust. On a clear day, the hues really pop.
As Lago di Sorapis tends to dry up towards the end of summer, I recommend that you schedule your visit in later spring or early summer. Besides, once the winter snow arrives, the trail is often inaccessible.
The trailhead for Lago di Sorapis is located in the Belluno province, less than one hour drive south of Lago di Braies and 15 minutes from Lago di Misurina. It’s marked as ‘Passo Tre Croci’ on Google Maps. You can park your car here for free. Alternatively, you can take the 030 or 031 bus from Cortina d’Ampezzo.
10. Lago di Valparola
This moody lake presents an entirely different picture than the other lakes in the Dolomites. It’s located on the Valparola Pass, a high-altitude and exceptionally scenic mountain pass in the Belluno province.
Swathes of green valleys and rugged landscape make this turquoise lake ping whether you see it under clouds or strong sunlight. As one of the less touristic lakes, Lago di Valparola is one of the best lakes to visit in the Dolomites to escape the crowds. You can walk around the perimeter of the lake in 20 minutes and enjoy a picnic.
There is a ruined fort, Forte Tre Sassi, just to the south of the lake which has since been transformed into a small museum. Its collections tell the story that the local area played during World War One.
There are two car parks, one to the north and the other to the south of the lake. You could also park at the hotel, Rifugio Passo Valparola if you fancy eating there. The bus 072 operates from Arabba and Calfosch.
11. Lago di Federa
This lesser-known lake requires a 11.3 km (7 miles) hike to reach it which means it’s one of the best lakes in the Dolomites if you want to get remote. It’s relatively challenging with a couple of uphill sections but as long as you wear good hiking boots and are reasonably fit, you should manage it. Expect it to take 6 hours.
Hiking to Lago di Federa is sensational whatever time of year you go. However, October is the best time as you’ll get to see the golden trees flanking the water and benefit from the nicest weather. Bear in mind that you might get some snow, so pack carefully if that’s the case.
The trailhead is located at the Ponte de Ru Curto on road 638. There is limited parking at the trailhead during high season so get there early to secure your place. Otherwise you can hop on the bus 30/4 from Cortina d’Ampezzo or Pescul, however this route is only in service July – late September.
Well, what do you say – are the Dolomites at the top of your travel bucket list already? I hope that my list of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites has inspired you to visit this unique mountain range.
If you have any more questions about the Dolomites, drop a comment below or send me a message and I’ll do my best to help. Already traveled to the Dolomites? I’d love to know what your favourite lakes were! Let me know in the comments.
The Perfect Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
How to Do the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Hike
Step-by-step Guide to the Cadini di Misurina Hike
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