We consider the Dolomites to be the most beautiful mountains in Europe. Their towering peaks and turquoise lakes have amazed many a traveller. Together with relatively reasonable prices, good food, great coffee and access to the mountain peaks, they are ideal destinations for young couples, families with children and seniors. The Dolomites are a paradise for all summer hikers, skiers and snowboarders. In this article, we will look at what to do in the Dolomites in summer (spring and autumn).
The Dolomites are one of the mountain massifs of the Italian Alps, located in the northern part of Italy. It is 716 km from Prague and the best way to get here is by car, although of course you can take an electric bike or a train or bus like we used to do.
When to go hiking in the Dolomites
The high season is from July to the end of September, when the weather is at its best in the Dolomites and the days are long and ideal for exploring the mountains. During the summer, the Italian Alps will be full of tourists and accommodation, including campsites, will need to be booked in advance, especially if you are travelling by caravan.
Summer in the Dolomites
July and August are also ideal for camping, if you plan to camp in September or October, equip yourself with a sufficiently warm sleeping bag and ideally pack an extra blanket. When we were camping in early September, the temperatures dropped to minus four at night and with our summer sleeping bags it was not ideal.
Autumn in the Italian Alps
September in the Dolomites is glorious and there are far fewer tourists, most of the chalets and restaurants are still open and prices are lower in some places. We, however, want to go even later next year, in October, as the larches turn golden at that time. However, October also has its pitfalls, you can forget about having lunch or espresso in all the mountain huts. Some campsites are also closed in October and the sun sets early, especially in the Dolomites where it goes behind the mountains.
Are the Dolomites suitable for families with children?
The Dolomites are ideal for families with children. A large part of the peaks can be reached by cable car and you can only take easy walks with minimal elevation gain. Go camping and create an experience of a lifetime for your children. However, we recommend the Ortisei area, where you can go to the Seiser Alm and Seceda. More information can be found below.
Are the Italian Alps suitable for travelling with a dog?
Of course, on all the treks we went on, you can take your dog. Dogs were also allowed on all the cable cars, so Kája walked with us absolutely everywhere, except on Lago di Sorapis, where we didn’t take him because he is a bit of a klutz and it’s not an ideal hike for smaller dogs.
Where to stay in the Dolomites?
If you want to visit the places we recommend, the best place to start is Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you will spend 4-5 days, and then move on to Ortisei for 2-3 days.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a famous ski resort in the Italian Alps, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It is also an excellent starting point for hiking. From Cortina, it’s not far to the popular Tre Cime di Levadero, and you can also go on a stunning trek to the turquoise blue Lago di Sorapis or Lago Federa. From Cortina it is not far to most of our popular treks, such as the Cinque Torri in Passo Giao.
Our accommodation tips for Cortina:
- If you are looking for more affordable accommodation with a dog, we really liked the B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina where the breakfast is excellent, it’s right on the trek to Lago di Sorapis and the dog was only a small charge.
- One of the best-rated apartments is the Dolomiti Sweet Lodge, and Hotel Villa Gaia is also worth mentioning.
- Those of you looking for more luxurious romantic accommodation should not miss HOTEL de LEN.
If you’re heading to the Dolomites with children or are not an experienced mountain climber, you’ll find far more comfortable walks near Ortisei, from where it’s close to the famous Seceda or Seiser Alm.
Our accommodation tips for Ortisei:
- In Ortisei you can stay in B&B Villa Angelino ,
- or the stylish Apt Lara Siela apartments,
- The best price/performance ratio is probably Hotel Scherlin, where you get breakfast and dinner included.
What to watch out for when camping in the Dolomites
We love camping in the Dolomites, even though we are there with our summer sleeping bag almost froze to death in early September. Back then, we rode our e-bikes from the Czech Republic to Greece and back via Italy, and we were not prepared for the cold that might await us in the Alps in the summer.
The temperature dropped to zero at night, and it rained all day, so we didn’t have much dry clothing to layer. So be sure to equip yourself with at least a three-season sleeping bag . In the mountains, even in summer it can be cold at night.
The most beautiful treks and places in the Italian Alps
Let’s take a look at what you should definitely see in the Italian Alps.
1) Trek around Tre Cime di Lavadero
- 3.5-4 hours, 400 m elevation gain, 9.5 km
The most iconic trek in the Italian Alps is certainly Tre Cime di Lavadero or Drei Zinnen (Three Teeth), whose impressive three-person group of rock peaks you will know from the photos. The whole tour takes 3,5 – 4 hours including lunch in one of the huts along the way. In total, you will walk 9.5 km and climb less than 400 m.
This is a very easyhike that you can either take as a circular route or turn around and head backat the Rifugio Antonio Locatelli / Dreizinnenhutte hut, where the views are the best. The trek starts at the Auronzo mountain hut, which can be reached by car, but parking costs 30 euros per car and 45 euros per campervan. If you are staying in Cortina, you can also take a bus, which costs a few euros. For current prices and timetables, we recommend visiting the information centre in the centre of Cortina.
2) Hike to Lago di Sorapis
- 4-6 hours, 725 m elevation gain, 13.5 km.
One of the most beautiful places is definitely the incredible turquoise lake Sorapis, but you’ll have to hike to earn it. In total, the hike is 13.5km and you’ll climb 725m in elevation.
It is not a difficult trek, but it is the only trek, which we would strongly advise against for families with small children and we didn’t even take our dog on it because he is a klutz. Part of the trek is relatively close to the cliff, the hike has parts with stairs and ropes, if there is a lot of water, you have to cross the river. If you’re dizzy from heights, it might not be the ideal choice either. But I hope I didn’t scare you, Lukas and I have done the trek several times and there is really nothing to be afraid of.
The best time to go to Sorapis Lake is in early summer, when the water is at its highest. At the end of September, the experience may not be the same as the lake gradually dries up. Just before the lake there is a turnoff to the lodge where you can go for lunch, toilet or espresso during the season. Jwas still open at the beginning of October.
3) Trek to Lago Federa
- 3-4 hours, 400 m elevation gain, 8.4 km
You can go to Lago Federa directly from the campsite in Cortina, but we don’t recommend it. It’s a very difficult hike, which may excite some mountain people, but you still go through the forest and you won’t see much. The shortest and most popular is the route from Ponte di Rocurto. It takes 1.5-2 hours to reach the lake from here. It is quite uphill, but there is a hut by the lake where you can have a good lunch.
4) Passo Giau
Passo Giau can be reached from Cortina by car or bus, and if you’re not in the mood for a trek, you don’t have to lift a finger for breathtaking views. Just park in the parking lot and look around. From Cortina it’s also a great route for bikes, which winds steadily uphill and after 2 hours of pedalling uphill you deserve a good portion of Tyrolean dumplings. Or just hop on an e-bike and get here in 45 minutes.
5) Trek to Cinque Torri
- 3-4 hours, 583 m elevation gain, 10 km
This route is one of our favourites. We always start in Passo Giau and walk at a very relaxed pace along the rocky route to Cinque Torri. You have incredible views the whole time, I think we’ve been here three or maybe even four times and we never get tired of it.
It’s beautiful in any season, and even if you climb almost 600 metres, the ascent is gradual and can be done by almost anyone. There are two huts along the way where you can have lunch/snacks.
6) The most beautiful lake in Italy: the Lago di Brais
What would a visit to the Dolomites be without a stop at its most famous lake? Be careful and go early, because even in low season you may be surprised by the number of tourists and sometimes you may not even get to the parking lot. That happened to us last year at the end of October. Yes, at the end of October, when everywhere else was completely empty. They’ve probably all been to Lago di Brais. At Lago di Brais you can rent a boat or take a short walk around the lake.
7) Walk to Lago Limides
Lago Limides can be easily reached from the car park in Passo Falzarego, which is also the starting point for the climb up Mount Lagazuoi. This lake is especially beautiful in spring when there is plenty of water.
It is very calm and reflects the beautiful Alpine peaks. In summer it is more like a bigger puddle, which is not worth going beyond. Unfortunately, it is similar in autumn.
8) By cable car to the top of Lagazuoi
You can take a cable car up to this peak and I highly recommend it. We did the hike, which is practically scrambling up a fairly steep hill.
Maybe it was because we were hungry, but it seemed endless and there really aren’t any interesting views along the way. If you still want to climb, there is a restaurant at the top where you can reward yourself.
9) The most beautiful meadow in South Tyrol: the Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi)
Who doesn’t know the photos from the most popular meadow in Appl. Seiser Alm. Take the cable car up here, and then you can just walk along the gentle slopes and enjoy the soothing nature and listen to the sounds of grazing cattle. Or just grab an espresso at a local restaurant. Even so, you will have an incredible experience.
10) Breathtaking views of Seceda
Seceda can be reached by cable car from Ortisei-Furnes-Seceda, then it’s only 10 minutes to the top. If you want to walk around a bit, you can choose a different route, taking the cable car to Col Raiser and doing a 3-4 hour circuit. The hike is relatively easy and the views are amazing.
When and where to see the golden larches in the Dolomites?
We have been hunting golden larches for several years in the Dolomites. They are only golden for a very short time before they fall off. And every year, unfortunately, it’s a little different. They may start to turn gold as early as the end of September. The best time to visit the Dolomites is therefore early October. If you want to see them in their full glory, head to Lago Federa.
What to do in the Dolomites with children?
The Dolomites are great for families with children, as you can take a stroller and cable car to many wonderful places. You can therefore go hiking with your children, but you can also go horse riding or to amusement parks such as the Adventure Park Colfosco.