Planning a trip to the Dolomites in Northern Italy? Here’s a guide to an amazing 7 day road trip exploring this region, covering all the top stops and hikes.
There are a few cities you can fly into to explore the Dolomites. This itinerary is based upon flying in and out of Innsbruck, Austria. It’s a small city in Western Austria surrounded by mountains and only about 2 hours away from prime Dolomites hiking.
Day 1: Arrival and Exploring Innsbruck
Unless you are flying from within Europe, you will most likely have a layover before reaching Innsbruck. Don’t be surprised if the customs agents question your decision to fly all the way to Europe to go to Innsbruck, especially in the summer.
The German customs agents laughed when they saw we were headed to Innsbruck which made me a little worried about what we’d find there.
The airport may be tiny, the city may be on the smaller side, but it’s still full of history and amazing natural scenery.
Pick up your rental car (they should provide the vignette for you) and head into town.
Try to arrive in the morning so you can spend the day exploring Innsbruck before leaving for the Dolomites tomorrow.
Activities in Innsbruck
Your first stop should be the Innsbruck Information Center on Berggraben Road to purchase your Innsbruck Card.
For this itinerary I’d recommend the 24 hr card which should be around 40 euros per person. Many activities are included on this card and if you plan your day a certain way, you should save money.
The two best things to in Innsbruck are going up the Nordkette Cable Car and exploring the Old Town.
In the Old Town, make sure to go up the City Tower to get a great view of the area!
The Nordkette Cable Car has a couple stops on the way up, and one is at the Alpine Zoo, one of the highest altitude zoos in Europe. At the top you can continue on to climb to the summit or just enjoy the view!
Other activities that you should do either today or later in the itinerary are listed here.
- Tour the Imperial Palace
- Visit the Museum of Tyrolean Folk art and the Court Church
- Go to the top of the Bergisel Ski Jump (hopefully you’ll see people practicing!)
- Tour Ambras Castle
Above is the Court Church, with Emperor Maximilian I’s cenotaph in the middle. Austria has a long history with the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburgs, which made me wish I remembered more from AP Euro.
We stayed at Hotel Mondschein, which was right on the Inn River. It’s the pink building in this photo.
Day 2: Lago di Braies and Cortina d’Ampezzo
Welcome to the Dolomites!
Start your day off early and cross the Italian Border. Since both Austria and Italy are a part of the European Union, you won’t have to stop for customs.
Lago di Braies: tourist trap or must see?
Arrive as early as you can at Lago di Braies. The parking lot next to the hotel fills up fast. If you don’t make it in time, there is a parking lot in a small village nearby and you have to buy a bus ticket to get to the lake. We did see some people walking, but it looks like it’ll take a while.
We unfortunately, had to park far away and take the bus. There were some helpful people that will guide you to where to park.
We spotted a wedding photoshoot on the trail!
Once you reach the lake, take the time to walk around the entire lake. It takes about 2 hours and is definitely worth it! The lake has so many different blue and green shades that I’ve never seen before.
If you want, there is the option to rent wooden row boats but you have to keep careful track of your time out on the water! A half hour costs 12 euros while a whole hour costs 18. I wasn’t in the mood to give myself blisters on my hands so we passed on the boats.
Eat lunch at one of the food options at the hotel. We chose the more casual food stand instead of the nicer restaurant, although the restaurant does have a nice view of the lake.
If you have the time and energy, you could try hiking to Lago di Sorapis. Alternatively, you could skip the crowded Lago di Braies and do this hike instead.
Head back to your car and continue on to Cortina d’Ampezzo, your base for the next two nights.
Settle into your hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo and wander around the pedestrian street of Corso Italia. There are many shops and restaurants, although the shops tend to skew towards higher end.
If you want to go grocery shopping, stop in La Cooperativa di Cortina. We spent a solid hour or more in this huge coop which had everything from stationary, to groceries, to multiple floors of clothing and toys.
We stayed two nights at Hotel Panda. The staff was really helpful with directions and ideas for what to do in town. They also have a breakfast buffet included and a dog named Leo!
One minor complaint is that the beds we got were very noticeably small (like child size) which may have been our fault when booking. If you are a tall person make sure your bed will be long enough!
Day 3: Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Wake up as early as you can to get your (hopefully included) breakfast and then head out to hike Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Unless you arrive crazy early, you will have to pay a toll (around 30 euros) if you want to drive up to Rifugio Auronzo, where you will start the hike.
An alternative option is to park near Lago di Misurina and take a bus up to the hike. However, we wanted to get an early start to all the bus groups and arrived around 9:30 at Rifugio Auronzo.
This hike will take you about 4 hours, depending on how often you stop. We took about 5 hours to complete the entire hike. We stopped at Rifugio Locatelli/Dreizinnenhutte to eat our packed lunch and again at Malga Langalm to rest.
Random tip: Don’t freak out if you look on the weather app before you leave home and it shows thunderstorms the whole week! We were in the Dolomites towards the end of July and every day had a thunderstorm icon on my weather app. Thankfully, we only experienced one thunderstorm. The hotel staff says in the mountains it’s common to predict thunderstorms in the summer but miss them.
After your hike, stop at Lago di Misurina. There are some restaurants and gift shops nearby. If you are still feeling energized you can rent a little paddle boat and go out on the lake.
Spend the rest of your day in Cortina d’Ampezzo. If you ever come back in the winter this town is co-hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics with Milan so there are some amazing ski slopes nearby.
Day 4: Ortisei and Seceda
As you leave Cortina d’Ampezzo, stop at Passo Falzarego and take the Funivia Cable Car Lagazuoi up the mountain. There are some hikes up there and Rifugio Lagazuoi, as well as the Lagazuoi Tunnels. They were used by Italian soldiers in World War I.
You are advised to wear a helmet and headlamp if you go into the tunnels. We didn’t have any of that so we didn’t go very far and had to use our phones as flashlights.
Continue on to the town of Ortisei, also called Urtijëi or Sankt Ulrich. A lot of locations in this area have both Italian and German names which can be confusing.
Drive directly to the Furnes-Seceda Aerial Cableway. You can purchase either a one way or return (two way) ticket. You can actually purchase tickets in advance here. We purchased ours when we arrived and were fine.
Cable car expenses add up fast! Make sure to include room in your budget.
Check the hours of the cable car to make sure you don’t miss the last one down. When we visited it was running from 8:30 to 5:30.
Before we left home, I planned to hike down from Seceda. However, we didn’t end up doing that and just spent a couple hours exploring the area and then taking the cable car back down right before it closed.
Here are the two options I was considering.
- Option 1: Take cable car up to Seceda, hike down to Wolkenstein-Nivesplatz (aka Selva di Val Gardena) where our hotel is, suggested to stay on the higher trail towards Rifugio Firenze/Regensburger Hutte (3-4 hrs, 12 km)
- Option 2: Furnes-Seceda Aerial Cableway from St. Ulrich (Ortisei) round trip ticket to Seceda, cable car stops at Furnes and you have to walk over to other cable car, start with Trail no.1 towards Fermeda peaks (30 min), take trail no. 2B towards Rifugio Firenze/Regensburger Hutte (50 min), take trail no. 1 back to Seceda (1.5 hrs)
We stayed in the small town of Selva di Val Gardena at Hotel Garni Morene because we couldn’t find any affordable places in Orteisei for our stay. I’m so glad we chose Selva di Val Gardena instead!
Selva di Val Gardena is pretty small but a very picturesque and quiet town. The mountain views were amazing and there was a small grocery store called Valgardena Center DESPAR.
Day 5: Alpe di Siusi
The Alpe di Siusi, also called Sieser Alm, is the largest high-altitude Alpine Meadow in Europe. There are lots of walking trails criss-crossing the meadow and in the winter it’s a popular ski destination.
If possible, stay in one of the hotels actually located in Sieser Alm. Since the cable car doesn’t start until later in the morning, you’ll have sunrise all to yourself.
Start at Seilbahnen St. Ulrich – Seiser Alm, the cable car that will take you up to the meadow. When looking at the website, look at the Ortisei Alpe di Siusi option, not the chairlift.
We walked down from the cable car stop on some steep switchbacks to reach the main trail area of Alpe di Siusi. We went to the right and eventually made a loop and just hoped we didn’t get lost. It was mainly just walking on small paths in the grassy meadow so we could always see where we began.
After your hike, grab lunch at Malga Schgaguler Schwaige. I had a Nutella pancake which was essentially a thick crepe wrapped up with Nutella inside. They also offer many traditional foods but I just couldn’t help myself.
We stayed a second night at Hotel Garni Morene. We had amazing views of the area from our balcony. I was able to capture this photo by just zooming in while on the balcony!
Day 6: Return to Innsbruck
Time to say goodbye to the majestic beauty of the Dolomites!
Before you return to Innsbruck, take the chance to stop and see one more place in the Dolomites.
I wanted to take a detour to see Lago di Carezza/Karersee and the South Tyrol Musuem of Archaeology to see Otzi, a really old well preserved mummy from the Copper Age.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it out to the lake or Bolzano to see Otzi, because my mom really wanted to see more of Innsbruck.
If you have time in Innsbruck, see whatever you missed on the first day. We toured Ambras Castle. I’m not really a museum person so this honestly wasn’t that interesting. I will admit, the suits of armor collection was fun to look at.
There’s a shuttle that takes you to Swarovski Crystal World, and both the shuttle and entrance fees are included in the Innsbruck Card. After some research, we decided going out there wasn’t worth it since we didn’t have the Innsbruck Card for that day.
We stayed one night at Hotel Sailer because Hotel Mondschein was booked. Hotel Sailer was an amazing deal for what we paid and has a really nice restaurant attached.
Day 7: Departure
Before your flight home, take the time to make one last stop or just wander around the city. We stopped at the Bergisel Ski Jump where sometimes actual ski jumpers practice. See if you can spot the one in the photo below! There’s also a restaurant at the top and some great views of the city.
The airport is tiny, so don’t worry about crazy long lines.
Have a safe flight home!
The famous Neuschwanstein Castle is actually not that far from Innsbruck (less than 2 hours!) so we decided to add on a couple days to see it.
We stayed 1 night in Fussen, Germany at Altstadt-Hotel Zum Hechten which is in the old town (altstadt).
Another bonus is that on the way there and back there are some fun attractions. We went to the top of Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. We also walked across Highline 179, which I would definitely not recommend to anyone with a fear of heights or swaying bridges.
I will admit, my decision to travel to the Dolomites was heavily influenced by travel photographers I follow on Instagram.
- Giulia Gartner (actually from the Dolomites- she was at Tre Cime the night after we were!)
- Frauki (from Germany, has a lot of mountains in her feed)
- Carmen Hunter (now is based in Innsbruck, has hosted Dolomites workshops that involve photography and hiking)
After the initial inspiration, I found a lot of helpful articles from The Sandy Feet on Pinterest, which solidified my interest into a solid plan.
One interesting thing to note was that most of the tourists were not English speakers, rather they were mostly Italian and German speakers. For now, the Dolomites appear to be free of hordes of American tourists, unlike Iceland.
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