The Dolomites are one of the most breathtaking mountain regions in Europe. Nowhere else do you get those same incredible rock formations, with the backdrop of lush valleys, beautiful lakes and incredible roads which display new jaw-dropping scenes around each corner.
It’s a place you can just pass through for one or two days- but you’d be missing out on so much. A better option is to take 5-7 days and really explore the area. You definitely won’t regret it.
To help you figure out what to see and what to miss, here your perfect 5-day Dolomites itinerary.
Where are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are in Northern Italy, about an hour north of Lake Garda.
Venice to Bolzano (the start of the Great Dolomites Road) will take you about 2 and a half hours (the distance is 267km)
Milan to Bolzano is about 3 and a half hours (the distance is 278km)
What is there to see?
So much. If you like hiking, mountains, beautiful scenery, photography, natuer, bird watching, pristine lakes, big skies, dog walking, star gazing and generally being outdoors, you’ll LOVE this entire area.
As well as the nature, there’s also a lot of history to see, spas to visit and pretty towns to wander around.
When is the best time to visit?
For a road trip, we highly recommend visiting between May and October, ideally avoiding August. That’s when the weather and scenery will be at their best- and you can enjoy everything the region has to offer.
The weather plays a huge part, not just in what you can do when you visit but also how much of the views you can see. If you’re unlucky enough to get low clouds, you’ll miss a lot of the stunning scenery.
If you want to ski, winter is the time- but you won’t be able to explore so freely as many roads are closed during winter and it’s less easy to get around.
What’s the best way to explore?
The best way to explore the Dolomites is by having your own vehicle.
The region is easily travelled by car and can be reached from all over Europe.
If you want to use public transport it makes things a bit trickier- some of the places we suggest are fairly remote, so we highly recommend hiring a car if you don’t have your own.
Even better- rent a motorhome or campervan– you’ll love the freedom of being able to park up wherever you like and watch the stars overhead.
As an added bonus, you can stay at the very top of Tre Cime; one of the most incredible places we’ve ever slept (more on that soon!)
What Languages are Spoken in the Dolomites?
Weirdly, considering it’s in Italy, German is the predominant language- it used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire before WWI World War I.
You’ll find most signs and information in Italian and English too.
Dolomites Itinerary: What to see in 5 days
So, to help you get the most from your trip, here’s our suggested itinerary.
Day 1- Val di Funes
Day 2- Drive the Great Dolomites Road and visit Lake Carezza
Day 3- Alpe di Suisi
Day 4- Seceda
Day 5- Lake Braies & Tre Cime
Dolomites itinerary: Day 1- Val di Funes
Start your time in the Dolomites with one of the most famous locations- the little chapel of Santa Maddalena in the valley at Val di Funes.
We highly recommend getting here early to avoid the HUGE crowds which arrive by tour bus- we actually turned up in the middle of the night to get some star shots.
Sadly, the high barrier and the rickety fence meant that, although we could see the spectacular view, we just couldn’t get the camera steady for a long exposure shot. But it was great to be the only ones there- when we returned during daylight it was impossible to get a shot without other people in it.
If you stay in the area, you can also enjoy hiking the Adolf Munkel trail. This hike is about 9km long and takes you right to the foot of those impressive Geisler peaks.
Ideally, you want to arrive here the night before the itinerary starts, so you can really make the most of your day in the area. There are plenty of places to stay in Val di Funes- ideally book somewhere with a view of the peaks- you’ll be mesmerised.
Dolomites Itinerary: Day 2- Drive the Great Dolomites Road and visit Lake Carezza
This was our second favourite road in the entire Dolomites. Again, an early start is advisable, to beat the crowds at Lake Carezza.
It takes about an hour to drive from Val di Funes to Lake Carezza. Make sure you go down the A22 and then come off onto the SS241- that gives you great views and is also the quickest way to get there, so you can take your time during the afternoon.
We managed to get to Lake Carezza near opening time, sat and enjoyed bacon sandwiches in the motorhome and then walked the lake with very few people around- although it got noticeably more crowded after about 30 minutes when tour buses started to arrive.
Lake Carezza really is that incredible teal colour. Sadly, it’s been blocked off with a fence, so many of the beautiful Instagram photos of people right by the lake are no longer possible. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit.
It’s free to go to the lake, but you need to pay for parking.
After your visit, head east towards Canazei, then continue round to Ortisei on the SS48. This is the Sella Pass and this was our absolutely favourite road! The peaks and the scenery are just incredible- it’s the perfect place for a picnic and a walk (especially if you have an over-enthusiastic spaniel puppy like we do!)
Ortisei will be your base for the next couple of days, and there are plenty of hotels and B & Bs to choose from. There are also a LOT of shops selling religious statues- we never did find out why!
An alternative option for tonight is to book a hotel up at Alpe di Siusi, your destination for tomorrow. Having a hotel booked up here makes driving up easier and you can enjoy the meadow after all the crowds have gone home (the last cable car stops at 6 pm). Be warned though- those hotels are not the cheapest… but possibly worth it for the view!
Dolomites Itinerary: Day 3- Alpe di Siusi
The Alpe di Suisi (also called Seiser Alm) is Europe’s largest alpine meadow. It’s hard to put into words the sheer scale of the place- it just goes on and on and on in every direction. It’s also known as the sunniest place in the Dolomites.
In the spring and summer, the entire meadow explodes with colourful flowers- that’s definitely the time to visit if you can.
As we mentioned before, driving up to the meadow is restricted so, unless you’re staying at a hotel, it’s easier to head to Ortisei and catch the cable car up.
Dogs are able to travel up in the cable car too.
The cable car is open every day from about 8.30am-6pm. Once you’ve ascended, you can walk around the plateau as much as you like. At around 2000m, you’re definitely high enough for some incredible views. Pack a picnic- there aren’t as many places for food and drink as you might expect, although there are toilet facilities and the odd cafe.
Once you’ve walked your fill, return down on the cable car and enjoy the nightlife of Ortisei- for a small town there’s often something going on!
Dolomites Itinerary: Day 4- Seceda
There are a couple of other cable cars from Ortisei going up the other side of the valley- and Seceda is by far the most impressive.
You can take a cable car directly up to Seceda (unless you want to only go halfway and have a (very steep!) hike up. Dogs are again welcome on the cable car, and you can also book paragliding and bike rental from the top as a way to get back down.
Of course, you can always choose the easy option and go down by the cable car- which is the quickest way back to return to Ortisei.
Sadly, the weather was against us when we were up there, so we didn’t see anything of the famous peak, but we enjoyed our hike around the side of the mountain nonetheless.
Again, you have an option on where to stay tonight- either in Ortisei again or drive to Lake Braies (about a 2 hour drive)
The advantage of being at Lake Braies for the evening is that you can avoid the HUGE crowds and women in wedding dresses (not kidding) who arrive each day, looking for that perfect Instagram shot.
There is a hotel right on the lake, which is by far the best place to stay (or stay in your camper in the car park, as we did.)
Dolomites Itinerary: Day 5- Lake Braies & Tre Cime
So Lake Braies.
You know that REALLY famous lake you’ve seen one million times on Instagram, with the cute wooden boats and the ‘so perfect they must be fake’ mountains behind? Yeah- that’s Lake Braies.
I promise you, those mountains are not fake and it really is that cute. It’s busy, but 1000% worth the effort. You can even get some great shots- if you plan ahead and work for it.
I’ve mentioned getting up early to avoid the crowds before, but today, you really REALLY need to. By 8am, the lake is so busy it’s almost impossible to get a decent photo.
If you didn’t drive from Ortisei the night before, get up early and head off. You can take the main road (the A22), but if the weather is good we highly recommend taking the Gardena Pass via Corvara and Badia. There are plenty of incredible places to stop and take photos- I think it took us about 3 hours in the end as we kept stopping to admire the view!
Once you arrive at Lake Braies (and pay for parking), you’ll probably only be there an hour or two. In high season, you can hire a little wooden boat- but the queue for these is often crazy long.
There are also several lovely hikes to do in the area- perfect if you have a dog or haven’t had enough of exploring these stunning mountains.
Once you’ve enjoyed Lake Braies as much as you want to, it’s time to move onwards to one of the most incredible places we’ve ever visited- Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Tre Cime means ‘3 peaks’ and it’s easy to see why. These incredible fingers of rock poke up high into the air. Very high. The top is about 3000m above sea level.
It’s roughly a 2 hour drive from Lake Braies and a good goal is to arrive by lunchtime, although prepare to stop to take multiple photos again!
You have to pay to drive your car up here- and it’s not cheap. But if it’s a clear day, it’s worth every single penny.
Even better, stay the night up here in your camper- the sunrise the next morning over the tops of the surrounding mountains will take your breath away. We liked it so much we stayed up for 2 nights!
Up here, there is a famous ‘loop’ you can hike, which allows you to take incredible photos of Tre Cime and takes about 3.5 hours to complete, so you should be able to do it during daylight if you didn’t spend too long at Braies.
And that concludes our whistle stop tour of the Dolomites. I’m sure you can see why it need to be moved WAAAAYYY up your bucket list.
Of course, you can always add an extra night or two to this itinerary and explore more places- or just take a breather from all the hiking and relax in one of the many spas in the area.
Bio Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband and cocker spaniel puppy, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In two years they have visited 19 countries and driven nearly 50,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!
She is passionate about inspiring others to have their own adventures and experience the freedom of life on the road, whether it’s a long weekend or a month away. You can find more of their tips, advice, and free guides for travelling by motorhome or camper on their website or Youtube channel.