Hiking the Dolomites in Italy
The breathtaking region around the Dolomites of Italy is honestly one of the most beautiful places on earth. This picturesque countryside is full of rugged mountains, scenic hikes, beautiful lakes with brilliant turquoise waters, and charming, tiny villages straight out of a fairytale.
If you’re planning a trip to northern Italy and are interested in visiting this unique region, here are our suggestions for the most beautiful, must-see spots, the best hikes with the most spectacular views, and where to stay.
Our 6-night itinerary includes 2 nights at Italy’s famous Lake Como — a must-see in northern Italy! Scroll down to see just how beautiful this region is…
You could spend an entire week just visiting all the charming towns around Lake Como! But we only had 2 nights, so I tried to pick the most beautiful, picturesque town on Lake Como: Varenna.
Day 1: Arrive in Varenna. If you’re arriving by plane, the closest airport is Milan. For this itinerary you need a car, so you can rent one here. Milan isn’t that big of a city, so don’t be too worried about driving there. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring Varenna.
Where to Stay in Varenna: Albergo Milano — This charming hotel has lakefront rooms with balconies overlooking Lake Como.
Day 2: Full day at Lake Como. Hike to Castello di Vezio for a panoramic overlook of the lake and walk along the lake through the terraced gardens of the Villa Monastero. You can also visit one of the other villages nearby if you have extra time. Overnight in Varenna.
Day 4: Morning at Lake Karersee. This is a beautiful lake with brilliant turquoise green water and the dramatic Dolomites in the background. There is a big parking lot across the street and an overlook for the lake. There is also a walking trail around the lake which takes around 20-30 minutes.
We passed this cute little church on the way to Lake Karersee from Bolzano! The whole drive is just charming countryside like this.
Oh my gosh you guys. Santa Maddalena is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life. I was so giddy the entire time I was here, I felt like I could start twirling around and singing. I could not believe this is a real place!!
Santa Maddalena is a teeny, tiny quiet little village. You will pass several beautiful little villages like it as you drive through the Italian countryside on the way here. One thing I loved about Santa Maddalena was it felt like we had the whole village to ourselves.
It was so quiet and peaceful here. All we heard were the faint jingling of bells from the cows grazing in the distance. We hardly saw anyone else here! It was so incredible to have such a magical place all to ourselves.
There are two small hotels in Santa Maddalena where you can have lunch outside on a terrace. Or wouldn’t this be the PERFECT place to bring a picnic lunch?? Honestly, can you imagine a more spectacular lunch view?
After lunch and an afternoon in Santa Maddalena, stop by Chiusa Klausen on the way back to Bolzano. You can drive up to the Kloster Säben for beautiful, panoramic overlooks of the area. Spend the late afternoon and early evening exploring Chiusa Klausen.
Where to Eat: We had dinner at Parkhotel Post, and this was one of my favorite meals of the trip. I just had a simple spinach ravioli with butter and parmesan, but it was perfect.
Day 5: The next morning you’ll leave Bolzano and make your way to Pragser Wildsee.
Pragser Wildsee is a beautiful glacier lake with vibrant turquoise blue water.
There is an easy hiking trail all the way around the lake that takes about 1 hour.
There are beautiful views of the lake all along the trail. The color of this water is not photoshopped!
You can also rent a wooden boat by the hour and paddle around the lake.
There are a few places to buy food near the lake, so grab something and have lunch with a view of the lake.
Where to Stay:
We spent the last two nights in a tiny village north of Bolzano at the Ansitz Heufler. It’s an actual castle, and the views of the mountains and tiny village around the castle are incredible. The rooms are super nice, and the service is even better. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, I highly recommend upgrading to the tower suite. It’s very affordable and totally worth it. The restaurant is also very good, so definitely have dinner here one night.
We stayed here because it is a bit closer to Pragser Wildsee and the next hike, Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Although from here, you are still about a 1-hour drive to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. If you want to be even closer to the next hike, another nice place to stay would be Cortina d’Ampezzo, a beautiful ski resort town.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Day 6: Today is a full day hike at Tre Cime di Lavaredo!
This was the biggest hike of the trip, and honestly one of my favorite hikes I have ever done.
There are just unbelievably magnificent views the entire hike.
How To Get There: Get there early and park at Rigufio Auronzo. There is a very large parking lot here.
Distance: The full trail loop is about 6 miles.
Time: Plan 3-4 hours for just hiking, but give yourself plenty of extra time for taking photos!
You’ll definitely also want to stop and have lunch somewhere along the trail.
You can bring a picnic lunch with you, or about halfway through the hike you will reach Rifugio Lavaredo where you can buy lunch and drinks.
In the late afternoon after your hike, you will have time to explore one of the villages nearby. I recommend Cortina d’Ampezzo. Have dinner here and overnight at Ansitz Heufler.
Here is a great article with more information on this hike: Hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop.
Optional Day 7: If we had one more day, I really, really wanted to do the Lago di Sorapis hike. Look up Lago di Sorapis on Pinterest and read this article for some very helpful information on this hike: Hiking to Lago di Sorapiss.
After an incredible week at Lake Como and the Dolomites, if you want to extend your trip you have several great options. Click on the links below for more pictures and information:
- 3 nights in Venice — Be sure to do the day trip to Burano!
- 1-2 nights in Verona — The third largest colosseum in the world is in Verona and is still used for concerts and operas today. It’s also famous for being the town where Romeo and Juliet takes place.
- 2-3 nights Cinque Terre — 5 beautiful villages on the Italian coast. There are hiking trails between each village with fabulous views of the Mediterranean Sea!
- 2-3 nights Florence — Be sure to do a day trip to Pisa!
- 2-3 nights Siena — Use Siena as a base to take a road trip through Tuscany.
When to Go
We were there in mid-August. This is a super, super, SUPER busy time of year in Italy. I would avoid July/August at all costs if possible — it will be much less crowded in May or September (and even June) and the weather will still be nice.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little road trip through the Dolomites.