So, you want to visit the Dolomites but only have a few days. You need a short Dolomites itinerary for 1, 2, 3 or maybe 4 days which gives you ALL the best bits in the most sensible order.
You need to know what's worth your time, what you can forget and where you should stay.
And here it is- the perfect Dolomites Itinerary for short trips.
Our Dolomites travel blog posts cover most of our favourite places in more detail, but this is an overview of the routes and itinerary we took, along with driving distances and stops.
Grab a coffee and let's get started.
Why visit the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are unlike anywhere else we have been. We've road-tripped around Europe for years- and this place took our breath away.
We'd always hurried past Northern Italy before, wanting to explore the Italian lakes, or the Alps, or Slovenia- all of which are beautiful and totally worth a visit- but we REALLY wish we'd stopped here earlier.
It's hard to explain the beauty of these mountains, or how they differ from the Alps or other European mountains we've seen. The combination of HUGE green meadows, jagged peaks, beautiful skies and incredible stars- the whole package is captivating.
Dare we say it, but after 4 short days, we had completely fallen in love- every corner is another ‘wow' moment. And after Norway, our ‘wow' meter is set pretty high.
The Dolomites are now firmly in our top 3 favourite places to road trip in Europe- they really are THAT impressive.
Convinced it's somewhere you want to visit? Even if you only have a day or two? Good- let's plan your perfect Dolomites itinerary.
What is there to do in the Dolomites?
There are SO MANY THINGS to do in the Dolomites.
It's a place for outdoor explorations- think hiking, photography, dog walks, star-gazing, road trips, picnics and just feeling awe-struck at the beauty of nature.
In winter, many of the towns become ski resorts, which would be a wonderful way to enjoy the views.
Dolomites Itinerary for non-hikers
What we really liked was that you don't HAVE to go for long hikes if you don't want to– many of the most popular locations and sights are quite close to the road and easily accessible. So you can pick and choose exactly what you do or don't want to see.
We didn't have much time to spend in the area, so we didn't add any of the big hikes into our Dolomites itinerary. If you'd like to know more about hiking to a glacial lake or which mountains are easiest/ most fun to hike, this book will tell you everything you need to know.
How to plan YOUR perfect Dolomites Itinerary
Below, I'll share our 3-day Dolomites itinerary, but before I do, I want to share a couple of quick tips to help you plan your own trip.
- Decide on what is important to you. With only 3 or 4 days in the Dolomites, you will not be able to see it all. There are just too many things to do. So pick a few things which you REALLY want to see, and enjoy those.
- HIRE/ TAKE a vehicle. The Dolomites are MADE for road trips. They are perfect for picnics up mountains with incredible views, hiking, late-night photography and getting up early to see the sunrise. This itinerary is designed for road trips- taking public transport will take you much longer.
- If you can, travel the Dolomites in a motorhome or campervan. That way, you can stay in some INCREDIBLE locations for much less money than the price of a Dolomites hotel. It's definitely a more cost-effective option.
- Go out of season. Either May/ June or September/ October. We went at the beginning of October and it was the PERFECT time- clear days, cool nights with bright stars and incredible foliage. The Dolomites in Autumn are breathtaking.
- Use Google Maps. We plotted all the things we wanted to do and see on Google Maps, and then drove between them. It's definitely the best way to plan a trip. Learn how to use Google Maps to create an epic itinerary.
Perfect 3-day Dolomites road trip itinerary
Ok, this is the Itinerary we did.
We didn't mean to go to the Dolomites at all- we detoured on the way to Slovenia without any plan at all. Therefore, we crammed as much as we could into just 3 days (technically, we were there for 4 days as we spent one full day camped at the top of Tre Cime- but we'll get to that.)
Road map of Italian Dolomites
Map of Northern Italy Dolomites
Here's the route planner for our 3-day itinerary. You can see the roads we took. Below, I'll break it down into day-by-day and mileage/ stop points/ things to see in the Dolomites on the way.
Our trip started in Bolzano (A) and finished in Tre Cime (J). Of course, you can add and amend this itinerary or do it in reverse order if you wish.
NOTE- Not every point we stopped at is listed on the map above- Google Maps only allows you to plot up to 10 points at one time for a route map. But it shows all the roads we drove over the three days so you can use it as a Dolomites route planner for your own road trip.
Dolomites Route Planner
Day One (or One Day in the Dolomites Itinerary!)
Dolomites One Day Itinerary Route Planner
Bolzano (A) to Val di Funes (F) • 170km • 5h 40 mins ( including stops)
If you only have one day in the Dolomites, this is the itinerary I would pick. It showcases some of the best views, roads, lakes, mountains and more!
It's a loop which is easily driveable in daylight hours (both in summer or winter) and is a fantastic introduction to these beautiful mountains.
Day One Route & Highlights
- Driving the Great Dolomite Road (SS241) from Bolzano to Canazei- 2 hours • 76km (Point A- Point C) READ: 9 essential tips to drive the Great Dolomites road
- Stop at Lake Carezza en-route (Point B)- this is where we had a late breakfast (TOP TIP: get there early- even in October there were a lot of tour buses arriving )
- Sella Pass towards Ortisei (SS48, becoming SS242) – 3 hours • 76km (Point D)- stopped for lunch near the top where you can see Alpe di Siusi- the largest alpine meadow in Europe
- Ortisei to Val di Funes, to see St Johanns Church, the little chapel in the field. 40 mins • 32 km (D to E)
- Stayed overnight near St Johann's church (see exactly where here)
Day Two- Dolomites Travel blog
Day Two Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
Val di Funes (A) to Lake Braies (D) on map above • 130km • 2h 30 mins ( NOT including stops)
- Val di Funes to Ortisel (Col Rainer or Seceda Cable Car) – 31 mins • 39km
- Gardena Pass (B/C) – 49 mins • 32km
- Lago di Braies for evening – 1h10 mins • 59km
This hotel at Lago di Braies is RIGHT ON THE SHORE of the lake and would would be perfect to stay in if you don't have a campervan.
If you stay nearby and it's a clear night, getting up to photograph the stars over the lake is a great idea- it's seriously beautiful.
Day Two – Highlights for where to visit in the Dolomites
- Val di Funes- St Johann's Church/ Santa Maddalena- READ : Val di Funes perfect itinerary
- Col Raiser/ Seceda/ Alpe di Siusi Cable car- do Seceda if you can, but motorhome parking is a NIGHTMARE, so Col Raiser is easier for vans to visit.
- Gardena Pass – this was breathtaking- well worth going this way instead of the quicker autoroute to Lake Braies
- Lago di Braies – we arrived the night before and stayed overnight. If you're not staying on site, get here REALLY early or you will be overrun by Instagram photo hunters… many in wedding dresses… #notevenkidding
Day Three- Dolomites Travel blog
Day Three Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
Lake Braies (A) to Tre Cime (D) • 73km • 2 hours
A shorter road trip route today, with plenty of pretty lakes and stunning views. Don't miss Tre Cime di Lavaredo– despite the expense it was our favourite part of the Dolomites.
If you can, stay up there for the night, either in a camper or a tent or at a hostel. You won't regret it!
Day Three Dolomites – Things to do and things to miss
- Up EARLY to see Lago di Braies at sunrise- worth it to avoid the Instagrammers
- Lake Braies to Lake Misurina – 43 mins • 35km (you pass Lake Dobbiaco and Lake Landro on the way- both pretty and worth a stop)
- Lake Misurina to Cortina d'Ampezzo – 23 mins • 15km (missable- we only went for fuel and shopping)
- Cortina to Tre Cime – 42 mins • 23km
- Stay up Tre Cime for the evening so you can see sunset and sunrise. Both are stunning. We chose to spend two nights up here, but you don't need to if you're short on time.
If you can't stay up Tre Cime itself, this is one of the closest hotels to Tre Cime– the views are SPECTACULAR!!
Some common questions about the Dolomites:
Dolomites Itinerary for non-hikers- do I HAVE to walk or hike?
We didn't do many BIG hikes in our 3-day Dolomites itinerary. On the 4th day, we spent it hiking and exploring Tre Cime. But you can easily spend three or four days in the Dolomites and not hike at all if you don't want to.
When Should I visit the Dolomites?
Ah, the eternal question of WHEN is the best time to visit the Dolomites.
In our opinion, Autumn is perfect. The trees are a beautiful backdrop to the views, the weather is still warm enough to go outside and yet the visitor numbers are much fewer than in summer, which makes the whole experience much better.
September/ October is perfect. Don't come any later than mid-October as many of the cable cars/ mountain passes in the Dolomites will be closed and not re-opened until April-ish. Snow and ice can cause difficulties reaching many of the best things to do in the Dolomites during winter, so while it can be pretty, you may not see everything you want to.
If Autumn isn't an option, try and visit May or June- which is a perfect time to enjoy the spring flowers on the alpine meadows. The weather will just be warming up, snow will be mostly melted and you should get opportunities to enjoy the spectacular views!
Where can I visit the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are in Northern Italy, about an hour north of Lake Garda.
How do you get to the Dolomites from Venice/ from Milan?
If you're doing a Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary (which we highly recommend), you can easily get to the Dolomites from Venice or Milan.
Venice to Bolzano (the start of our Dolomites itinerary) will take you about 2 and a half hours (267km)
Milan to Bolzano is about 3 and a half hours (278km)
How much does it cost to visit the Dolomites?
One of the advantages to visiting an area with a lot of hiking and photography spots is that it can be visited quite cheaply, especially out of season.
Our 4 day Dolomites itinerary didn't cost us much at all:
- 4€ parking at Lake Carrezza, plus gifts and souvenir postcard (we collect them)= 25€
- Fuel = 70€
- Breakfast and bread for lunch from bakery- 6€
- Col Raiser Cable Car- 40€ for 2 adults and a dog (dog free)
- Cake and coffee at top of Col Raiser- 17€
- Overnight parking at Lake Braies- 8€
- Gift shop at Lake Misurina – 35€ (bought amazing woolly slipper socks – worth it!)
- Tre Cime for 2 nights with a motorhome – 70€
- Fuel and LPG – 80€
- Not a thing- we were up Tre Cime! Although there is a restaurant and a shop there, we didn't use it.
TOTAL costs for Dolomites road trip = 351€
This doesn't include travel to or from the Dolomites, or food which we already had in our motorhome, but should give you an idea on what you could expect to spend on your own road trip.
Where to stay when you visit the Dolomites?
I've mentioned it a couple of times already, but we highly recommend visiting the Dolomites with a motorhome or campervan. Either bring your own, or hire one nearby.
If that's not an option, hire a car and be prepared to move hotels each night, so you're not wasting time returning to a hotel back where you started.
The hotels we recommend are:
- Val di Funes- hotel with a hot tub and views of the Dolomites? Yes please!
- Lago di Braies- right on the shores of the lake!
- Near Tre Cime- you won't believe these views!
If you want to see more photos of the beautiful Dolomites, check out our Instagram.
There is so much to see in the area, it can be overwhelming trying to narrow it all down. Here are some of our favourite guides to help: