Yes, we’ve all seen that beautiful glassy lake with the wooden boats and towering mountains in the Dolomites of Italy. But the real question is, how do you get yourself there ASAP??
The Dolomites have been popping up a lot lately online as it’s been a growing and popular tourist location for mountain lovers in Italy.
However, coming from the PNW, it’s a daunting task to figure out how to get yourself up in the Dolomites of Italy, let alone all the logistics that come with a European adventure like this.
In this post, we’re here to give you clarity on how you can plan your own Dolomites road trip and everything to see along the way.
You’ve probably seen on our Instagram posts and stories that Berty and I went to the Dolomites in Northern Italy at the end of December. It was the last stop on our Euro trip, after spending Christmas time in London and Prague.
We learned a lot from our time in Italy, and we’re here to share our Dolomites travel guide to make planning your trip a lot easier!
This is an all-inclusive, meaty blog post with lots of information. Make sure to save this post to read later, or subscribe to our email list so you can be reminded to come back and read it when you’re ready to plan your trip to the Dolomites!
Pin these for more inspiration for the Dolomites in Italy!
How To Plan A Trip To The Dolomites
Thank you Alta Badia Tourism and Visit South Tyrol for hosting us during our stay. We are SO grateful for your generous hospitality! As always, all opinions are our own and we talk about our own real experiences in Italy!
1. Get To Know The Dolomites In Italy
You know you want to plan a Northern Italy trip, but where exactly is this place and why is it so special?
The Dolomites were established as a world heritage site as of 2009. What makes a place qualify for this status? Here are just some of the UNESCO qualifications:
- “containing superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty / aesthetic importance” (vii)
- “to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes” (ix)
- “to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history” (viii)
The Dolomite mountain area consists of 9 mountain ranges (see picture below) that cover 142,000 hectares, and have 4 official languages spoken among the area (Italian, German, Ladin, and Friulan).
The Dolomites are often referred to as the most beautiful mountain landscapes on earth which include features like towers, spires, pinnacles, and contrasting landscapes.
Convinced yet? Read on to learn how to plan a trip to Northern Italy!
2. Book Tickets To Northern Italy
There are many ways to get to the Dolomites in Italy.
The easiest way would be to fly into nearby cities in Europe (like Venice, Zurich, or Munich) and then driving into the Dolomites by car.
There are lots of airports to choose from, it all depends on the route you want to take. Here are some drive times to the Dolomites to give you a good idea of where you can fly into:
- Munich (Germany) International Airport: 3 Hours 45 minutes
- Malpensa Airport (Milan, Italy) 5 hours
- Marco Polo (Venice, Italy) International Airport: 3 hours
- Bolzano Airport: 1 hour 40 minutes
You can also choose to fly into a cheaper (but farther) airport and spend a few days on an Italian road trip! Just make sure to obtain an International Driver’s Permit to cross borders and keep yourself safe. If you find yourself traveling through multiple European countries, it’s best to find out how to get an international driver’s permit, so you can be safe and legal on the roads.
Really, permits are only $25 for a whole year for driving anywhere in the world, so it should be an essential purchase!
When Should You Visit The Dolomites in Italy?
Depending on what activities you prefer, there are ideal seasons to visit the Dolomites. Here are some suggestions to narrow down your search…
- Winter – Come to the Dolomites in Italy during this time for epic snow sports. Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating – they have it all.
- Spring – We were told by many locals that spring didn’t exist for some reason. Check out this weather chart to see what the temperature may be like for the month you want to visit. Be prepared for winter conditions!
- Summer – Perfect weather for outdoor activities like horseback riding, golfing, hiking and biking. This is also a great time to see wildflowers in the valleys.
- Fall – The ideal time for a road trip in the Dolomites. Mild weather and shorter days make it easier to capture sunrises and sunsets on the amazing peaks.
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3. Find The Best Place To Stay In The Dolomites
The Dolomites are a popular area for tourists, snow sports enthusiasts, and outdoor lovers.
That being said, there is no shortage of beautiful places to stay in the Dolomites. Typical houses in this area of the Italian Alps are double farmhouses (one side for living one side for farming), ski chalets, and stone houses with large wooden frames.
Here are some places to stay in the Dolomites from a range of price points:
- Budget ($100 and under/night): San Cassiano Apartment, Colfocsco Apartment, 3 Person Colfosco Apt (Get $40 off Airbnb with our code here!)
- Mid-Range: ($100-200/night): Hotel La Tambra, Club Hotel Regina e Fassa
- High End: ($200 and above/night): Hotel Miramonti, Hotel La Perla ($$$), Hotel Rosalpina Dolomites
Also, if it’s your first time booking with Airbnb, click here to get $40 off your first reservation!
4. Getting Around (Driving In The Dolomites Italy)
If you are interested in exploring the Dolomites in Italy, you will most definitely need transportation.
Many of the attractions of the Dolomites themselves are far away from one another, and relying on a bus or taxi to take you around could be expensive and time-consuming.
On our trip to the Italian Dolomites, we went with Sixt which was located in Venice Marco Polo Airport.
We would recommend researching the airport you are planning to fly into and see which rental companies are provided at your location. Reserve a car for driving in the Dolomites in advance (make sure it’s four-wheel-drive!) and you will be good to go.
5. Map Out The Places To See In The Dolomites
Attractions in the Dolomites in Italy are surprisingly far away from each other. From Bolzano to Valle di Anterselva, there is so much to see across this area of South Tyrol!
Note: When Google maps may say to expect a 1-hour drive, they don’t take into consideration road conditions, traffic, and the twists/turns in the mountain passes and valleys.
When planning out your days, give yourself a lot of extra time for those unexpected delays and extra time to pull over for photos too. This is especially true driving in the Dolomites in winter. Check road closures, alternative routes, and give yourself extra time.
Here’s a trick we use at all our destinations in the Dolomites (and you can find more tricks on our road trip planning post!): Use the “save” feature on Google Maps.
Whenever we discover a new place we want to see, I’ll quickly look it up on google and “star” the location on my map. This way, when we are planning out our driving route, we will know where locations are along the way.
Some popular spots to visit in the Dolomites:
- Lago di Braies
- Tre Cime de Lavaredo
- Sass Pordoi (the highest mountain pass in the Dolomites)
- The road from San Cassiano to Falzarego Pass
- Monte Cristallo
- Lago di Senaiga
- Lago di Carezza
- Val Gardena
- Falzarego Pass
- Alpe di Siusi
- Cinque Torri
- Seceda Ridgline
- Val di Funes
- Lago di Limides
- Lago di Antorni
We also suggest that you make your own Dolomites road trip route, and then consult a local for them to suggest a better one.
They know the roads better than you do! Our friends made tons of suggestions that actually saved us hours of driving!
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6. Get Local Food Recommendations
Many of the dishes on the Dolomites of Italy are from the Ladin culture – North Italians or communities who have lived in the Dolomites for centuries.
The food has roots in farm culture, where you used things available to you and got creative with minimal ingredients. Some staple dishes are:
- Turtres – spinach and ricotta stuffed tortellini
- Cajinci – ravioli filled with sharp Graukäse cheese
- Barley soup and venison fillet
- You can find more food examples from this Ladin cuisine PDF by Alta Badia Tourism.
In addition to the local cuisine, many restaurants serve Italian favorites like pasta, pizza, and of course, wine.
We also discovered the wonderful experience of taking an Aperitivo. In short, this pre-meal is designed to prepare your stomach for the next meal. You will usually be served with wine, cheeses, meats, and bread.
It’s a fun way to chat with friends, tide your stomach over until the next meal, and nibble on snacks in a cozy setting.
7. The Perfect Packing List For the Dolomites In Italy
Remember that no matter what time of year you visit, you are going to the mountains and it still gets very cold at night!
Pack on the warmer side.
Berty and I visited in the winter and we were really happy we brought these gloves – they let us handle our cameras in the freezing cold without an issue!
We definitely recommend checking the weather before you go! This will help you get an idea of what to expect, and to help you pack accordingly.
For more list and ideas for packing, here are some posts we’ve created that will help you out:
- 30 Essentials For Carry-On Only Travel
- 6 Winter Coats and Jackets To Wear This Season
- 20 Favorite Carry-On Bags For Travelers
- 40 Essentials For Every Winter Travel Packing List
That’s all we’ve got! We are sharing tips and tricks based off of our own short experience here in the Dolomites.
Thanks for reading along and we hope that you can find use out of it when you plan your own trip. Let us know if we should add anything to this list – our ears are open to hearing from North Italian lovers, locals, and fellow adventurers.
Have you ever been to the Dolomites in Italy? What advice might you have for someone who is traveling there for the first time? Let us know in the comments!
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