Your Ultimate Guide Around The Dolomites
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Instagram did its thing! After seeing all the mindblowing pictures of this area I decided that it is a time to pay a visit myself! I am not a big fan of crowded places and big groups of tourists make me anxious, so I was really worried about coming here. Luckily, after doing a little bit of research we decided to come in late October and I can give you many reasons why you should come here in fall:
There are no people around! Summer and winter are the busiest seasons here with tourists swarming around and prices skyrocketing. In fall it is a little colder, so fewer people come around. Even at the famous Lago Di Braies, we met only a few tourists.
Prices are cheaper. For hotels and car rentals, this season does bring a lot of money, so they try to lower their priced to attract those who decided to visit the area during this time.
Colours are insane! If you want to see a perfect combination of mountain snow and fall colours, this is where and when you need to come! The first time we were driving through the mountain road we all almost cried because it was so beautiful and we just couldn't believe our eyes.
This season is probably too cold for camping, it was also really really cold and windy during all of our hikes as well, so you need to be prepared.
Normally, parking in all the famous places can be pretty expensive. For example to drive to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo you need to pay 50 EUR or to park at Lago Di Braies you would pay 10 EUR per hour. During the off-season, there are sometimes no people, who charge for parking. Few times we got away without paying anything as we didn't have cash. People are just nicer when there are fewer tourists around.
We calculated that probably for 4 of us we saved over 300eur by coming during the off-season.
How to get around?
For this trip, you definitely need a car! 4 of us are really adventurous, so we decided to go for a camper van. We were slightly worried at the beginning, as we thought that we are too inexperienced to drive camper van in the mountains, but it worked just fine. One day it was really cold so the road was frozen, but we drove really really slowly so it was still good. The car that we got fits 4 people and has 2 double beds and has everything that you need to cook, clean and even a bathroom (that we decided not to use :)) I thought that biggest spending would be tolls, as I read online that they are pretty expensive, but in reality that was not a problem at all, after driving for 2000km we probably spent around 50eur on tolls, we also filled the gas twice, so the car is really economical as well. The trip lasted 12 days and we sent 4 nights in the camper and the rest in hotels and Airbnb. We cooked in the car pretty much every day, which allowed us to save a lot.
Day 1-3. We fly to Milan spent few days there exploring, picked up a car and started driving towards The Dolomites.
Day 3. The first day of exploring Dolomites was pretty much a waste, as we didn't plan anything properly, so we stopped around Limone Sul Garda- city around Garda Lake, had self-made lunch there and continued further North. We spent the night in the car at the free camper parking with electricity, running water, shop, and restaurant.
Day 4. Early in the morning, we arrived at Lake Karersee, that you must add to your list as well! The blue colour of this lake will blow your mind! There are several hiking trails around and we picked Latemar which takes you to the top of the mountain. On the way back to our hotel we drove through Sella Pass- 3 beautiful peaks on the top of the mountain where we watch the sunset. We spent 2 nights in beautiful and very traditional hotel. It was just unbelievably cosy, with delicious South Tyrolian food and local drinks.
Day 5. The next day we explored the area around our hotel which included Alpe Di Siusi and the mountain peak Sassognher (we didn't climb on the top of it, as it was snowing the whole night and we were not prepared for this hike, but we drove close to it and explored the area around). The mountain road leading to our hotel was probably the most beautiful out of the whole trip.
For sunset, we hiked one of the most challenging peaks of my life Refugio Lagazuoi or Lagazuoi Tunnels. I was reading that it is an easy hike after you take a cable car, but there was no option to take it as we were traveling offseason, so we decided to hike it! The slope was so steep, that we were almost rolling down. If you decide that you want to hike this make sure you have good shoes! We reached the top in just 2 hours, but the effort that we put in this hike was insane. I don't have to tell you, that the sunset was just crazy, right? Just see those pics!
Since we were there for the sunset, we started hiking back almost in the dark, which was not the best decision taking into consideration how hard and steep was the hike...but oh well, it all worked out. There is also an option to go through the tunnel, which is dark and slippery so make sure you have a flashlight, we didn't go through the tunnel, as I am not a fan of dark slippery places and also didn't want to miss the last sunset rays on the way back. We were looking for a camper parking to spend a night, but didn't find it and parked at the random parking to realize in the morning that we parked right by public school, so we had to brush our teeth in the morning in school toilet :)
Day 6. Early in the morning, we left to Misurina Lake, which was one of my favorite locations. We walked around the lake, had delicious lunch and continued to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo. The entrance to the park costs 25 for normal cars and 40 for campers. Rip off, right? From Rifugio Locatelli, you will have your best view of the Tre Cime and the valley, so make sure to go further when you reach 3 peaks. Again, we were there for the sunset and came down after dark, it was really cold and windy so be prepared. We spent few days in beautiful Spa Hotel Petrus, that has an unbelievable relaxing spa and delicious local food. We even had a private sauna in our room!
Day 7. Easy day enjoying the spa at Hotel Petrus.
Day 8. The next day we woke up at 6 am, it was the most important day of our trip, as we were going to visit Lago di Braies! We got there just before sunrise (7 30 am), we met few professional photographers who were setting up their tripods. I wouldn't say that sunrise is the most beautiful time at the lake, as the sun rises behind the mountains so you cant really see it, but it is definitely the least crowded time. We were lucky and didn't see anyone else the whole time we were there, but I know people who had to queue for the photo opp on the stairs. On the way back from we stopped at the Toblacher See- another lake with gorgeous blue color. This lake gets insanely beautiful on a clear day when swans arrive at it and glide thought that perfect mirror lake.
Day 9. Today we started to make our way towards Milan. Our Airbnb canceled on us, but luckily we met a kind local who was an owner of Rider Hotel, he offered us to stay with him, as well as arranged a plane ride for us. Watching sun going down behind the snowy mountains and feeling the brain coming out of our ears because our pilot was performing some crazy ass zero gravity tricks was the best experience ever and was a highlight of our trip.
Day 10. We moved further to Milan and on the way stopped at the famous Church. The place was crowded with photographers and it was the first time I felt that The Dolomites are getting over popular. I would recommend coming here only if it is on your way, if not trust me there are zillion churches like that round Dolomites and it is not worth it to queue for the picture here.
Avoid overpaying and crowds by coming off-season.
Do not try to visit all the places from someone’s photos. Remember that every corner here is beautiful and you will surely find your own gems, so focus on exploring, always hike and walk around the lakes, stop on the mountain roads, hike unknown paths that lead up, as the best views are always from above.
Some of the hikes can be pretty advanced, so remember to carry water and have good hiking shoes.
Come with a group. It was 4 of us, so it was easier to share all the costs for car/tolls/gas/food and accommodation between all of us. Big Italian pizzas can easily be shared between 2 or 3 and airbnb can be as cheap as 10eur per person when sharing.
Make local friends! They will always help you to get to the best places, give you advice where to get better deal, recommend you best restaurants.
Be flexible, do not over plan, I would recommend not to fit more than 2 places a day, as you will end up tired and not going to enjoy anything. If you don’t have 10 days like us to see everything, then just pick few of your favourite place and focus on those.
Itinerary 1-5 day
Itinerary 5-10 day
Obviously, we didn't manage to visit all the places we wanted. One of the places that I regret not visiting was Seceda- another beautiful hike, but we got to do a plane ride instead, not a bad trade! Feel free to use my map where I stared all the Instagram-worth destinations.