Let me just put it out there: you need a car if you want to explore the Dolomites in full. Before our weeklong road trip through Switzerland, we decided to venture into Italy’s famed Dolomites region. A big advantage of having a car is not being tied to a schedule. And trust me, when you are driving through the Dolomites you do not want to be tied to a schedule. We found that every twist and turn brought with it another spectacular vista. I cannot tell you how many times David – my awesome brother and photographer – and I pulled over to take pictures and admire the view. But, despite having a car, some of the most incredible views were accessed by foot. With that said, here are some of the five best hikes in the Dolomites (Dolomiti).
En route to Val di Funes – Best hikes in the Dolomites
This page contains affiliate links, meaning that The Five Foot Traveler may receive a small commission when you purchase any flights or accommodations using the links in this article at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your continued support!
How to get to the Dolomites
The Dolomites are more easily accessible than you might think. If you’re wondering how to get to the Dolomites, know that you will need to fly and then rent a car.
If you’re planning to base yourself in Cortina d’Ampezzo (arguably one of the best places to stay in the Dolomites), the closest airports would be:
- Bolzano Airport – 2 hours
- Venice Marco Polo Airport – 2 hours
- Innsbruck Airport – 2 hours 25 minutes
- Munich International Airport – 4 hours 15 minutes
- Milan Malpensa Airport – 5 hours
- Zurich Airport – 5 hours 20 minutes
If you go via Milan, I highly recommend stopping for one day in Lake Como and one day in Lake Garda. It’s a great way to combine the mountain regions with the lake regions to get a good feel for Northern Italy. We flew into Zurich and then drove from Innsbruck to the Dolomites, explored these incredible hikes in the Dolomites, before continuing onward to stop in Lake Garda and Lake Como — definitely recommended!
Wondering how to get to the Dolomites?
Dolomites Road Trip
The absolute easiest and most efficient way to get around the Dolomites is via car. Needless to say, your Dolomites road trip won’t be underway if you don’t have a rental car! Each airport listed above will have car rental companies on site, but you should secure your rental prior to your arrival. You can find the most affordable rates for your Dolomites road trip here. Without a rental, you’d be stuck to incredibly long and roundabout bus routes or expensive taxes. Trust me, it’s worth it! Before you know it, you’ll be off exploring the beauty of the Dolomites!
Expect views like this everywhere on your Dolomites road trip!
A few of the most beautiful hikes in the Dolomites are as follows…
1. Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is absolutely stunning — a rich emerald green in color encircled by beautiful mountains. We hiked around the entire lake; the left side of the lake is a much harder hike than the right side of the lake. If you're short on time, definitely walk the right side of the lake rather than going all the way around. While this is a bit on the outskirts (closer to Austria), I still believe it's one of the most scenic hikes in the Dolomites.
Lago di Braies – Best hikes in the Dolomites
2. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the premier attraction and one of the best hikes in the Dolomites. Despite a lousy forecast we prayed for good weather and were rewarded. It cost 25 euros per car to drive up, pretty cheap when you divide it up per person. From the parking lot, take the trail to your left for beyond beautiful views. The circular loop around Tre Cime will take you about 3-4 hours depending on how many photo-stops you make (and you'll make a lot!). Start from the back of the “three tops” and as you round the corner, you see them beautifully. You could spend days up there hiking around.
Tre Cime – Best hikes in the Dolomites
3. St. Johann in Val di Funes
We drove on the craziest mountain roads (I defy you to count the number of switchback hairpin turns — not for the faint of heart) to St. Johann in Val di Funes for that iconic Dolomites church. Finding the church was a challenge but well worth the effort. In the middle of nowhere, it is a tiny Church in the middle of a big field surrounded by forest and majestic peaks. While it ended up being a hike (2.5 hours out of the way), the drive was an activity in and of itself because the views were out of this world.
Val di Funes – Best hikes in the Dolomites
4. Tofana di Mezzo
If you want to feel like you are standing on the top of the world (without having to climb Everest), take the gondola up Tofana di Mezzo and hike around. It's 30 euros per person and worth every single cent and then some. The views left me absolutely speechless. .. and it takes a lot to make me speechless! There are three stops on the gondola, but I'd take it straight up to the top for the best 360 views of the Dolomite region. At the top of the last gondola stop, you have the opportunity to scramble up to the top of the mountain (3,244 meters/10,643 feet); so we did just exactly that. Personally I think this is, hands down, one of the best hikes in the Dolomites. Have a look at this!
Tofana di Mezzo – Best hikes in the Dolomites
5. Cortina D'Ampezzo
You certainly won’t regret a walk around Cortina D’Ampezzo — an adorable alpine Italian village that hit the map by hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics. Cortina is located in the heart of the mountains and serves as a great base from which to explore the Dolomites. Maybe this isn’t a hike per se, but it’s certainly at elevation and the serves as the start to many of the most incredible viewpoints and hikes in the Dolomites! Be sure to base yourself here for the majority of your time in the Dolomites. Grab the best hotel deals for Cortina d'Ampezzo here!
Cortina D'Ampezzo – Base yourself here for access to the best hikes in the Dolomites
As you may be able to see, the Dolomites are unlike any other mountain range I have ever seen. The rock they are made from is much lighter and softer than most. Due to freezing and thawing that break apart rock, there are constant landslides that continue to reshape the mountains. They have a craggy look to them that is quite unique yet absolutely beautiful.
Lago di Braies – Best hikes in the Dolomites
Factor in, at an absolute minimum, about 4 full days to tackle the best hikes in the Dolomites and take in the surroundings. I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite regions in the world, and I’m certain you will enjoy it too!
While the Dolomites may seem like a small area of Italy, it takes longer to get around than you might think! Imagine all of those windy mountain roads and epic photo stops?! Have a look at this Dolomites Map to see my favorite hikes in the Dolomites and routes that I recommend. Of course, these are just some of the highlights of the region, so feel free to let me know what hikes in the Dolomites you recommend in the comment section below!
Lago di Braies
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
St. Johann in Val di Funes
Tofana di Mezzo
Purchase Adventure Travel Insurance
I hope you don’t embark without adventure travel insurance! If you do, you better think again. Adventure travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas) for a trip like this. I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you travelers. You can get a free quote here.
Pack for your Dolomites Hiking Adventure
What you pack will depend on what time of year you visit the Dolomites. Remember that you’ll be in a mountain region though so, no matter what, pack layers! While your clothing may vary, there are 137 travel essentials that I recommend bringing on your trip. From packing essentials to outdoors essentials, hiking essentials, camping essentials, and more… I’ve got you covered! Click here to discover the 137 travel essentials you need to check out before your Dolomites hiking adventure!