Dolomites Itinerary: 3-Day Road Trips in the Dolomites, Italy

May 9, 2024

Wondering how to make the most of your trip to the Dolomites? Curious about the best sights, activities, and routes for a memorable Dolomites road trip? Explore our two different 3-day Dolomites itineraries tailored to maximize your experience in this stunning place.

The Dolomites are a mountain range located in the northern part of Italy, famous for its unique rock formations and beautiful lakes. It’s becoming increasingly popular among outdoor enthusiasts as it offers a wide variety of places and activities for those looking to spend time in nature.

Imagine a getaway in the mountains, with the most beautiful peaks of the Alps, stunning blue and green lakes that look like beautiful paintings, wonderful hiking trails, easily accessible locations, flower-filled meadows among the mountains, and fresh alpine air. The Dolomites are an irresistible destination that you’ll likely want to explore.

We’ve visited the Dolomites several times, so through multiple articles, we want to share our experiences, travel tips, and the best places we’ve discovered. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Dolomites, making it easy for us to determine what the ideal Dolomites itinerary looks like.

Therefore, in our next article, we’ll discuss just that: the Dolomites itinerary, presenting two at once. Two 3-day itineraries that you can easily do either separately on two different occasions or combined into a 6-7 day trip.

First, we’ll outline the two types of itineraries, then we’ll address some common questions that may arise when planning a trip to the Dolomites, and finally, we’ll list the two 3-day itineraries day by day.

We took into account that even if someone isn’t an experienced hiker, they can still have a good time, so besides comfortable shoes and a backpack, you won’t need anything else if you don’t want to. And if you’re an experienced hiker, you can indulge your passion at the places we recommend. Therefore, we tried to consider everyone’s needs and make the itinerary accordingly.

So let’s first look at the outline of the two 3-day Dolomites itineraries, then address travel planning questions, and finally delve into the day-by-day itineraries.

Outline for two 3-day Dolomites itineraries

Dolomites itinerary 1: Eastern part of the Dolomites

Day 1: Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Cadini di Misurina

Day 2: Lago di Landro, Lago di Dobbiaco, Lago di Braies

Day 3: Lago di Sorapis OR Passo Giau and Cinque Torri

Dolomites itinerary 2: Southern part of the Dolomites

Day 1: Val Gardena, Seceda, Lago di Carezza

Day 2: Alpe di Siusi

Day 3: Val di Funes, Geisler Alm

Map of the two 3-day Dolomites itineraries

FAQ: Planning the perfect Dolomites itinerary

Is it worth visiting the Dolomites?

Absolutely yes, no doubt about it. Although it’s been getting more expensive and crowded lately, we still highly recommend visiting. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the Alps, and it’s full of breathtaking places.

Best things to do in the Dolomites

In the Dolomites, you can do lots of outdoor activities like hiking and boating. But if you just want to relax, there are options for you too. Here are the best things to do in the Dolomites:

  • Hiking: In the Dolomites, there are numerous hiking trails, including short hikes and even multi-day hikes. Most paths are easy or moderate, so they’re suitable for many people. And whether you hike to Cadini di Misurina, Lago di Sorapis, Seceda, or Geisler Alm, you’ll be amazed by the views.
  • Boating on Lago di Braies: The brown rowboats at Lago di Braies are popular on social media. But it’s not just for photos, going out on the lake is a unique experience.
  • Rock climbing, e.g. at Tre Cime: You can climb rocks in many places, but one of the most interesting is the Tre Cime.
  • Relaxing at wellness hotels: Most hotels offer spa and wellness areas where you can relax with amazing views.
  • Driving on winding mountain passes like Passo Giau: The Dolomites are famous for their winding mountain roads like Passo Giau, Passo Falzarego, Passo Gardena, or Passo Pordoi. If it’s your first trip, we recommend Passo Giau for its epic views.

Best time to visit the Dolomites

The Dolomites are home to popular ski resorts, but we would focus on summer travel instead, when you can explore more places.

Therefore, we think the best time to visit the Dolomites is during the summer months, especially July and August. This is when the weather is warmest and suitable for outdoor activities. The downside is that the summer peak season is expensive and crowded.

If you want lower prices and smaller crowds, you might consider traveling in September or early October.

How many days to plan for the Dolomites

Our itinerary includes 3 days, during which you can explore only a part of the Dolomites. Three days is indeed a short time, but if you make good use of it, it can be a fulfilling getaway.

However, the Dolomites cover quite a large area, and ideally, you would need at least a week, or preferably 10–14 days, to fully explore its best spots.

How to get to the Dolomites

You can almost exclusively access the Dolomites by car. So whether you’re traveling with your own car or renting a car, for example, in Milan, Venice, or Innsbruck, we suggest traveling by car. Public transportation in the Dolomites is very limited, and you’ll have to miss out on many places if you don’t have a car.

Driving in the Dolomites

Honestly, driving in the Dolomites isn’t easy, but there aren’t too many other options. The roads are winding with lots of inclines and declines, narrow curves, and in summer, there are many cyclists and motorcyclists. Additionally, although it’s part of South Tyrol, so it’s not only Italians living there, you can still feel the Italian driving style, which doesn’t make it easier for foreign tourists.

So if you’re afraid of driving on mountain roads, it’s better to let someone else drive or look for private transfers locally. However, as an experienced driver, we believe you can do it.

Where to stay in the Dolomites

If you want to check out the best accommodations in the Dolomites, we recommend our dedicated article on this topic.

It’s worth finding lodging close to your destinations because transportation in the Dolomites is very slow, and travel times are long. So, stay as close as possible to the sights you’ve planned to visit.

To mention a few of the best hotels in the Dolomites:

After answering the basic questions, let’s look at the two types of Dolomites road trip itineraries, each showcasing a different beautiful part of the Dolomites in 3 days.

Itinerary 1: Eastern part of the Dolomites

In the first itinerary version, let’s explore the eastern part of the Dolomites, which includes the following attractions:

  • Tre Cime di Lavaredo
  • Cadini di Misurina
  • Lago di Misurina
  • Lago Antorno
  • Lago di Landro
  • Lago di Dobbiaco
  • Lago di Braies
  • Lago di Sorapis
  • Passo Giau (alternatively)
  • Cinque Torri (alternatively)

While all of this may seem like a lot at first, we’ll show you how it all fits into 3 days:

Day 1: Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Cadini di Misurina

The first day’s schedule might be a bit packed, but don’t worry, most sights are close to each other.

Start your day with a trip to Tre Cime, which you can reach by car or bus. The mountain road leading to Tre Cime starts from Misurina, near Lake Misurina. It’s not an easy route, it’s narrow, steep, and winding, and buses are allowed on it, which makes driving even more difficult. The road is toll, so if you go by car, it’s about 30 euros per car (which can change anytime). This includes the parking ticket up in the park area.

Also, keep in mind that during peak season, there are times when they don’t allow more cars up to Tre Cime (we experienced this around 10-11 am), and in these cases, the police are stationed in Misurina to turn cars back. In this case, it’s worth trying a few hours later when the road is clear.

Along the way, Lake Misurina is not the only good stop, though we would prefer it for going downhill and catching the sunset, but Lake Antorno is also on the way to Tre Cime, where it’s also worth stopping for a short while.

Lago di Misurina and Lago Antorno

Once you reach Tre Cime, we suggest two hiking trails. Both start from Rifugio Auronzo near the upper parking lot. One is hiking around Tre Cime, which is a moderate difficulty, about 10 km circular trail.

Our other suggestion is hiking to the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint, which is much shorter, about 4 km round trip, with smaller elevation differences than the other trail. Cadini di Misurina has become particularly popular on Instagram in recent years.

If you’re a beginner hiker, both hikes would be too much for one day. In that case, we suggest choosing only one hike, or an option could be to circle around Tre Cime from the south, maybe to Monte Paterno (which is about 2.5 km one way), we think you get the best views of the area from there, then turn back to the parking lot, and so you’ve seen a lot in under 5 km.

If you’re an experienced hiker and in perfect physical condition, you can fit both into your day.

Meanwhile, it’s worth taking a break at one of the huts, and whether you bring your own food (which is a good idea) or eat on-site, make sure to include enough rest.

In the evening, if you still have time, you can spend it pleasantly by Lake Antorno or Lake Misurina, or perhaps have dinner at a restaurant in Misurina.

Day 2: Lago di Landro, Lago di Dobbiaco, Lago di Braies

Since the first day involves quite a bit of hiking and can be tiring, we planned the second day of the 3-day Dolomites itinerary to be a bit more relaxed. So, let’s focus on the beautiful lakes in the area!

Whether you’re starting from Misurina, Dobbiaco, or Brunico, the order is up to you. Here are the sights:

Lago di Landro

As you travel between Misurina and Dobbiaco, you’ll find Lago di Landro along the SS51 road. It’s worth stopping here for half an hour or an hour to stroll around the lake. You’ll get particularly good views from the northern side, which is somewhat marshy.

Lago di Dobbiaco

Another stop is at Lago di Dobbiaco, also known as Toblacher See in German. This is another stunning lake close to the road, where you can take a break. Take a leisurely stroll along the lake shore and enjoy the view. In the summer, you can also rent pedal boats at the lake.

Lago di Braies

The highlight of the day is the most famous lake in the Dolomites, Lago di Braies, or Pragser Wildsee in German. We saved this for last because, after multiple visits, we believe the afternoon offers the best lighting at the lake, so it’s worth timing your visit for the afternoon.

There are various activities you can do at Lago di Braies, so how you spend your time here depends on your interests. You can visit the lake in as little as an hour, but if you want to fully enjoy everything, you might need 3-4 hours.

You can rent a traditional wooden rowboat at the lake and paddle around its waters. You can take photos of the lake from numerous angles, as it’s an incredibly photogenic spot. You can hike around the lake, which is an easy hike and a little over 3 km in circumference. Moreover, cyclists also use the same trail, although we think the terrain isn’t the best for cycling. Additionally, you’ll find a few eateries at the lake where you can grab a bite to eat.

So, it’s worth spending your afternoon at Lago di Braies and relaxing by the lakeshore.

Day 3: Lago di Sorapis OR Passo Giau and Cinque Torri

For the last day of the 3-day itinerary, we can offer two options. One is a moderately challenging hike to the famous Lago di Sorapis, and the other is a more relaxed visit to the popular Passo Giau and Cinque Torri. Choose whichever appeals to you, as both options guarantee great views.

Lago di Sorapis

This hike is of moderate difficulty but rewards you with really breathtaking views. The trail takes you to the beautiful Lago di Sorapis, a turquoise lake nestled amidst the Dolomite peaks. The hike is about 14 kilometers round trip and takes approximately 5-7 hours to complete.

You’ll need to start early in the day to allow enough time for the hike and to fully enjoy the scenery. Plan for several stops along the way, and remember that there are no huts on the route, only near the lake.

Since the hike to Lake Sorapis takes up almost a full day and is extremely tiring, we didn’t plan for any additional sights for this option. However, if you have some energy left, we suggest visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo or perhaps Passo Giau.

If you want a more relaxing day, visit Cinque Torri and Passo Giau.

Cinque Torri

Start with Cinque Torri because a cable car takes you up, and it closes by late afternoon.

So, drive to Passo Falzarego to the cable car parking lot, called Seggiovia Cinque Torri on Google Maps. From there, a cable car takes you up the mountain, where you’ll find Cinque Torri, the five towers, nearby. It’s a unique rock formation in the Dolomites. You can also find World War I bunkers and trenches, which provide an interesting experience in today’s peaceful mountain environment.

Near Cinque Torri, you can find Lago di Limides, a small lake reachable by another cable car and hiking trail. If you have time, it’s worth a short visit.

Passo Giau

In the afternoon, visit Passo Giau. It’s a short activity, requiring about 1–2 hours.

Passo Giau is a mountain serpentine road in the Dolomites, offering breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding peaks and valleys. You can enjoy the scenery without much hiking. It’s a good idea to leave your car at Parcheggio Passo Giau and take photos of the stunning landscape from the surrounding hills. If you feel like it, you can also hike in the area.

Whichever option you choose, in the evening, stop by one of the restaurants in Cortina d’Ampezzo and savor South Tyrolean or Italian cuisine on your last night in the Italian Dolomites.

Itinerary 2: Western part of the Dolomites

In the second itinerary version, we’ll be exploring the western part of the Dolomites. Here, there are numerically fewer attractions, but the experience is no less captivating. The highlights include:

  • Ortisei
  • Seceda
  • Lago di Carezza (optional)
  • Alpe di Siusi
  • Santa Magdalena
  • Geisler Alm

This second itinerary serves as a perfect complement to the first itinerary. So, if you combine all the sights into one itinerary, you can get a perfect 6 or 7-day Dolomites road trip itinerary!

This itinerary is slightly looser than the other, allowing for a more flexible schedule and more time to relax. Let’s see how we think the 3 days should be planned:

Day 1: Val Gardena, Seceda, Lago di Carezza

Start your Dolomites itinerary with the most popular places in the western part of the Dolomites, the Seceda and the Val Gardena.

Val Gardena is a beautiful valley that is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, ski slopes, and hiking trails. It has relatively good infrastructure, so it’s worth looking for accommodation here and making day trips to the sights.

The most well-known town in Val Gardena is Ortisei, which not only has a charming downtown worth visiting but also serves as the starting point for some cable cars to Seceda and Alpe di Siusi.

Today’s highlight is Seceda, accessed via the cable car from Ortisei called Seceda Cable Car. There’s another cable car to Seceda, but we recommend the one from Ortisei for easier access.

We suggest going up to Seceda in the morning and leaving Ortisei or other places for the afternoon or evening.

Seceda is an extremely scenic ridgeline, one of the most beautiful sights in the Dolomites, truly a must-see. Spend a few hours going up, hiking around a bit, and enjoying the truly fantastic panorama from the top of a mountain range.

Spend the afternoon in Ortisei, or if you want more sights, visit Lago di Carezza, which is about an hour’s drive from Ortisei. Lago di Carezza is a perfect late afternoon activity when there are fewer tourists around, and the sunset casts a reddish glow on the Latemar rocks next to the lake.

Day 2: Alpe di Siusi

We planned the second day for a visit to Alpe di Siusi.

Alpe di Siusi is a breathtaking plateau surrounded by stunning scenery, but the best views are of the surrounding Sassolungo and Sassopiatto.

You can reach Alpe di Siusi by cable car from Ortisei, or by bus, or even by car. However, be cautious with the car, as cars are not allowed on the plateau. You either need to have booked accommodation to be allowed in or park your car in a parking lot and continue your journey on foot or by bike.

Whichever way you choose, Alpe di Siusi is an ideal place for walking or biking, relaxing in nature, and enjoying the magnificent alpine landscape. The best views can be found along the Panorama Alpe Siusi road, near the ADLER Lodge ALPE hotel.

This is a more relaxed day, so there’s plenty of free time and opportunities for leisurely activities.

Day 3: Val di Funes, Geisler Alm

On the third day of the Dolomites itinerary, we focus on the increasingly popular Val di Funes and Geisler Alm.

Val di Funes is a beautiful valley easily accessible by car from the destinations of the previous days. Our first stop is Geisler Alm, which is actually located near the valley, and the hiking trail starts from the valley.

Geisler Alm, or Rifugio delle Odle, is a hut, most famous for its Instagrammable appeal and unique wooden benches. It offers fantastic views of the peaks of the Puez-Odle Nature Park, similar to those you experienced when visiting Seceda on the first day.

The hike to Geisler Alm starts from Parcheggio Malga Zannes, where you can leave your car. It’s about a 5 km moderate hike from the parking lot, with some elevation gain to reach the hut. Allocate enough time for the hike and start in the morning.

We left the more leisurely part for the afternoon, visiting Santa Magdalena. This is a small village in Val di Funes, famous for its two spectacular churches: the Chiesetta di San Giovanni in Ranui (Church of St. John) and the Chiesa di Santa Maddalena. You can easily reach the first church by car, but it’s not allowed to drive to the second one, you’ll need to walk about 1.5 km in the village. For the best view, head to the spot marked “Best view of St Magdalena” on Google Maps.

In the evening, you have free time. We suggest exploring the nearby towns of Chiusa or Bressanone if you still have time.

And this is the end of the 3-day itinerary in the Dolomites. We hope we’ve given you enough inspiration to help you plan your next trip to the Dolomites.

In conclusion, taking a 3-day road trip in the Dolomites offers a fantastic adventure in some of Italy’s most beautiful places. Whether you prefer the eastern part with its unique peaks and colorful lakes or the western part with its charming valleys and beautiful views, there’s something for everyone.

Our itineraries provide the best sights and activities to make the most of your time in this mountain paradise. From exciting hikes to relaxing walks by the lakes, each day brings new opportunities to enjoy the best of the Dolomites.

We also highlighted the must-visit places in the Dolomites, the best photography spots in the Dolomites, the top viewpoints, and the best hikes in the Dolomites. Additionally, we provided travel tips on how to travel in the Dolomites and how to experience the Dolomites effectively.

With our guide, planning your Dolomites trip is simpler. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for an amazing journey through one of the most stunning regions of the Italian Alps.

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