So, you want to visit the Dolomites but only have a few days. You need a short Dolomites itinerary for a day trip, weekend or visit up to 5 days which gives you ALL the best places 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 road 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.
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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, the Alps, or Slovenia- all of which are beautiful and totally worth a visit- but we REALLY wish we’d stopped at the Dolomites 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, hiking trails and some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen- the whole package is captivating.
Dare we say it, but after 4 short days, we had completely fallen in love with this region- 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 short break? 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, especially hiking, photography, dog walks, star-gazing, road trips, picnics and just feeling awe-struck at the beauty of nature. Seriously, it’s one of those places where you just want to be outdoors ALL. THE. TIME. Even when the weather isn’t at its best.
In winter, many of the towns become ski resorts, which would be a wonderful way to enjoy the views.
We didn’t have much time to spend in the area, so we didn’t add any of the big or best 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.
Also, make sure you know what to wear while hiking and dress for whatever the weather may have in store- these are big mountains and it’s easy to get sucked in by their beauty and forget the dangers of hiking if unprepared.
Instead, we focused on some of the most beautiful lakes which were just a short walk or short hike away, so we could see as much as possible in the short time we had.
Of course, you can do an all day hike if you wish, but that might not be the best option if you’re short on time.
Dolomites Itinerary for 1-5 days. A Road trip is a PERFECT way to visit the Dolomites
Must-Know Tips for your Dolomites Itinerary
Where are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are in northeastern Italy and one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I’ve ever experienced. As well as mountains, there are plenty of quaint towns and fantastic driving roads- making it one of the best road trips in Italy.
The area is protected as a Unesco World Heritage site due to the ‘series of highly distinctive mountain landscapes that are of exceptional natural beauty. Their dramatic vertical and pale coloured peaks in a variety of distinctive sculptural forms are extraordinary in a global context.’ (taken from the UNESCO website)
Why Is It Called ‘the Dolomites’?
The 250-million-year-old formation also known as the “Pale Mountains” took its name from the French geologist Dieudonné Dolomieu, who studied the region’s geology and dolomitic limestone formations in the 18th century.
When is the best time to visit the Dolomites?
I visited the Dolomites in early October and in my opinion that’s a great time to visit- much better than in high season (which is July and August).
What is the best way to explore the Dolomites?
Ideally, you want to explore the Dolomites in your own car or vehicle. We visited as part of our motorhome tour in Italy. Foolishly, because we were heading to Croatia, we didn’t take our motorcycles with us, but it’s a fantastic place to go motorcycle touring in Italy.
If you have a rental car, make sure you take time to add the Dolomites to your itinerary. If you’re only using public transportation, you can still explore the Dolomites, but services might not be as regular as you are used to, so you may wish to spend more than one day in the area.
The town of Ortisei or Cortina D’Ampezzo are the main towns to aim for, especially from Venice – it’s a beautiful drive at any time of year although the route has many hairpin turns and is not advised for those prone to motion sickness.
You can take the train to Bolzano and Val Gardena from Venice, Milan, or Verona.
Where is the closest airport to the Dolomites?
The closest airports to the Dolomites region are in Venice – Marco Polo and Treviso. You can reach Venice from most major hubs across Europe and the US.
Are the Dolomites Italian or German?
The Dolomites are a bit of both. The language is bilingual – and even trilingual in some places – so expect to find towns and villages sharing Austrian and Italian names, and sometimes even Ladin, the ancient Roman language passed down by the first valley inhabitants.
Almost everyone speaks Italian, German, Italian and English, but don’t be surprised if you find most Dolomites speaking the native Ladin.
What is the Currency in the Dolomites?
The currency in the Dolomites is the Euro, just like in most parts of Italy. All major debit and credit cards are widely accepted, but be prepared for those $5 withdrawal fees if you need to use an ATM for cash and plan for these expenses in advance.
What are the opening hours in the Dolomites?
Opening hours for the lifts, cable cars, and hotels in the Dolomites vary, but you can expect a standard 8:00 am to 7:00 pm timetable for most services. Restaurants hours extend until 10:00 pm or later.
A word of caution: make sure to check your hotel’s check in time carefully as some do not offer reception service after 5 p.m. in selected areas.
How Good is the Internet in the Dolomites?
The four major mobile networks in Italy are Vodafone, Windtre, TIM, and Iliad.
Some town provide free WiFi in the main squares and lift facilities, but if your smartphone supports it, you can have internet on the road with a regional Eurolink e-sim (prices start from $5).
Hiking in the Dolomites
The Dolomites and South Tyrol are a great place for those who love to hike in mountainous areas. The most popular hikes can get busy in summer, so you might wish to start in the early morning for longer day hikes in order to get the route to yourself as much as possible.
For even longer hikes, there are mountain huts (rifugio) all over the place which can be booked in advance and are a great option for multi-day hikes. One of the most popular of these is Rifugio Auronzo on Tre Cime, one of the favorite hikes for many visitors.
Dolomites 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 lots of the best lakes in the Dolomites 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.
Driving in the Dolomites
In the Dolomites, you can enjoy a few of the most scenic routes Europe has to offer. Driving across the mountains might seem like an intimidating option, especially if it’s your first time in Italy, but driving in the Dolomites is actually way easier than you think!
Is it Safe to Drive in the Dolomites?
The roads are well maintained with road signs in both German, Italian and sometimes English. All passages through the mountains are fairly easy to cross, except for instances of heavy snowfall when you will find them usually closed.
In the Dolomites, people drive on the right side of the road just like in most other places in Europe. The speed limit is 50 km/h in towns and 90 km/h on country roads. As long as you keep an eye out for fuel signs and toll roads, you are sure to have a safe journey in the Dolomites.
NOTE: Be sure to watch out for cattle! They tend to cross the roads frequently in many farmed areas, often without warning signs.
Driver’s License & Autostrade (Toll Roads)
Toll Roads, or Autostrade are the common Italian highways, motorways, and freeways marked by easy-to-spot green signs. You’ll need a full driving license or international driving permit to travel on those by car, campervan, or trailer.
If you are traveling on a budget, you can avoid those by taking alternative, longer routes–just be sure your map is up to date.
How Many Days Do You Need in the Dolomites?
As many as you can- and it still won’t be long enough! In this guide, you will discover various options for experiencing the beauty of the Dolomites, whether it’s for a duration of a one day visit, a weekend/ two days or 3-5 days. Aim to spend at least five days if you enjoy hiking and plan to go on Alpine hikes or try a cycling trip.
The Dolomites are BREATHTAKING! This road trip itinerary shows you the best of them in just a few days.
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. Heck, you couldn’t see it all in an entire week! 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, but there are options for bus, train, and shuttle service.
- 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 and campervanning in Italy is awesome anyway.
- 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.
Our 3-4 day Dolomites road trip itinerary & highlights
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 didn’t really have a Dolomites itinerary planned and instead just crammed as much as we could into 3 days (technically, we were there for 4 days but we spent one full day camped at the top of Tre Cime- we’ll get to that shortly!)
One of the most iconic shots in the Dolomites- but is it REALLY worth your time?
Italian Dolomites Itinerary Road map
Map of our Dolomites road trip itinerary
Here’s the route planner for our Dolomites 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.
Dolomites 3 and 4-day road trip itinerary map and route planner.
Our starting point was 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
One day in the Dolomites itinerary- what to see, what to avoid and how to plan your route!
Day One (or One Day in the Dolomites Itinerary!)
If you only have one day in the Dolomites, this is the route we would take- unless you go to Tre Cime!
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. As a first day introduction to the area, it was incredible.
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 (Lago di 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 Santa Maddalena church (accurately called St Johanns Church)- the little chapel in the field and one of the most photographed churches in the world. Only a short drive at 40 mins and arrived late afternoon • 32 km (D to E)
- Stayed overnight near Santa Maddalena (see exactly where here)
Day Two- Dolomites Travel blog
Map and route planner for Dolomites roadtrip planning for two days
Weekend/ Two Day Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
If you’re visiting the Dolomites for a weekend or two days, I would do Day 1 and Day 2 to showcase some of the best spots in the region. It’s best to have an early start and get as much done as possible- it also means you can take advantage of spaces in the free parking lots.
Val di Funes (A) to Lago di Braies (Lake Braies) (D) on the 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 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–visit the top of Seceda if you can, but motorhome parking at the cable car station is a NIGHTMARE, so Col Raiser is easier for vans to visit.
- An alternative option is to visit Alpe di Suisi (called Seiser Alm in German) on the opposite side- it’s the largest high-alpine pasture in Europe.
- 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
Tre Cime in the Dolomites- our absolute FAVOURITE place! Dolomites Itinerary and road trip route planner- Day 3
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
- Next morning, get up EARLY to see Lago di Braies at sunrise for the best experience of this beautiful lake. The good news is you’ll see the sunrise and avoid the hundreds of 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 (an extra cost, but worth it), this is one of the closest hotels to Tre Cime– the views are SPECTACULAR!!
Some common questions about the Dolomites:
Dolomites Itinerary- one of the best road trips I have ever been on!
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?
In our opinion, Autumn is perfect. It’s actually one of our favourite places to experience Autumn in Europe. 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 beautiful. 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. (Here are some more incredible places to enjoy in Europe in October)
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 many 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 3 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€ (15€ as of 2022)
- 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. That way, you can stay in campsites or use aires (called Sostas in Italy.)
You can either bring your own van, 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!
Travel Essentials for your Dolomites Itinerary
Whether it’s a surprise hailstorm in the middle of summer or a spontaneous hike, it doesn’t hurt to be ready to face the unexpected in the Dolomites. Read on and make a list of the essentials that will allow you to relish in the Alpine experience, rain or shine!
What to Wear in the Dolomites
A rain jacket – ideally lightweight and insulated to accompany you in every exploration.
Sun hat & Sunscreen – depending on when you visit. Dolomite summers are mild with average maximum temperatures in July and August rarely spiking over 25°C – but, let’s face it, an unexpected sunburn can really ruin a holiday so it’s best to be prepared.
What to Pack for the Dolomites
A power bank, travel adaptor, hiking shoes, and your trusty reusable water bottle go a long way in any vacation and will prove essential in your outdoors adventures in the Dolomites. Visiting in May or during the summer months? You might want to pack your swimsuit, but only if you’re brave enough to try the cold waters in Lake Braies.
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:
- Shorter walks in the Dolomites
- The best photo locations in the Dolomites
- Dolomites UNESCO tourist map
We hope you found those itinerary ideas for the Dolomites useful. You might find these posts helpful too:
- Motorhoming & Campervanning in Italy- The Ultimate Guide
- Ultimate Italy Road Trip (North & South)
- France route planner- best route to Italy (with maps)
- 5 best motorhome campsites in Northern italy
- 17 essential tips to visit the Cinque Terre towns in one day!
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.
Last update on 2024-02-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API