If you can only visit one place in the Dolomites, make it Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Of all the places we saw on our Dolomites 3 day road trip, this is the one which completely took our breath away (which is impressive, given the Dolomites are AMAZING at pretty much every location.)
Visiting Tre Cime di Lavaredo is easy enough, but in order to make the most of your visit, there are a few things you need to know before you go.
What is Tre Cime?
‘Tre Cime' means 3 peaks- so ‘3 Cime di Lavaredo' means the 3 peaks of Lavaredo. But don't be confused- the 3 peaks are all at one place- not 3 separate mountain peaks.
Tre Cime has 3 distinct ‘finger' of rock overlooking several beautiful valleys. People visit for the views, to hike the Tre Cime loop and to stay overnight in one of the most breathtaking parts of the world.
The three peaks (also known as the Drei Zinnen) are called:
- Cima Grande (2999m above sea level)- middle peak
- Cima Occidentale (2973m)
- Cima Piccola (2857m)
In 2009, they were declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the rest of the Dolomites. The 3 peaks are often used as a cover photo for the Dolomites and thousands of people visit here each year to hike, climb, photograph and admire.
Where is Tre Cime di Lavaredo?
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is in North-east Italy- north of the Italian lakes. Or it's in the South-East Alps, just over the border from Austria (literally, about 30 minutes from the border.)
There's only one road in and out! That road is the Strada Panoramica delle Tre Cime- we'll get to that shortly.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo Map
How do you pronounce ‘Tre Cime'?
If you watch the video below, you can see me trying hard to pronounce this… and failing. A kind Italian man at Rifugio Auronzo (the hostel and restaurant at the top) told me it was pronounced ‘Tray Cheeemie'. Or something close. Saying it with an exaggerated Italian accent helps…
Watch the Video of us visiting Tre Cime di Lavaredo
See us drive up the Strada Panoramica delle Tre Cime in CLOUD, and then watch as the clouds clear away…
How to reach Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Head to Lake Misurina, go north on the SP49, then head right onto the road where signposted. This is the Strada Panoramica delle Tre Cime. It's well signposted, so you can't miss it.
There are other roads to other rifugios (huts) near Tre Cime- but none which will allow you to drive all the way up to Tre Cime peaks- you'd have to park and then walk 2-3 hours to peak the 3 peaks. However, those other roads aren't paid, so it's a cheaper way to hike the Tre Cime loop if you wish.
If you're driving the Great Dolomites Road, Tre Cime is about 30 minutes north of Cortina, or about 40 minutes from Lake di Braies.
If you are staying around Lake Misurina, you can catch a bus up to the top of Tre Cime. Obviously, timetables and availability will change, so please do check before you travel.
This is one of the closest hotels to Tre Cime– the views are SPECTACULAR!
How much does it cost to drive up Tre Cime di Lavaredo?
Car- 30€ for 24 hours
Campervan/ Motorhome- 45€/ for first 24 hours, then 25€ for each subsequent 24 hours.
Yes, it's expensive- especially for parking without any facilities at all. But those views and hikes are worth it- especially if you're going to stay overnight.
How long does it take to drive up Strada Panoramica Delle Tre Cime?
The Strada Panoramica delle Tre Cime is 7km long and climbs about 600 metres- the car park at the top is at 2333m, compared to Lake Misurina at 1760m.
The final 4km of the road climbs 477m- which is INCREDIBLY steep. There's a reason this road is commonly featured on the Giro d'Italia!
The whole road, from Lake Misurina to Rifugio Auronzo, including the short stop at the toll booth, took us about 45 minutes to drive- according to the times on my camera.
Drive slowly- we struggled to get out of first gear. When you're descending, be aware of your brakes overheating and give priority to anyone coming up the mountain- they'll struggle more if they have to stop!
Is there parking at the top of Tre Cime?
Yep. Plenty of parking at the top for cars, campers, motorhomes and buses. Please don't park in a bus area. If you're planning to visit in high season (July & August), I'd suggest arriving early to ensure you get a spot- apparently it gets VERY crowded.
There are also LOADS of laybys and parking areas on the way up (or down) which you could use if the top is full.
If you are planning to visit around June time, check the dates and route of the Giro d'Italia. They sometimes cycle(!) up Tre Cime and you might find the route closed then.
Can you stay overnight at Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Absolutely! That's one of the best bits. Whether you're in a car, campervan or motorhome, make sure you plan to stay overnight at the top of Tre Cime di Lavaredo- you won't regret it! (If you're staying in October, you'll need heating- it was COLD up there.)
There are NO facilities apart from toilets at the top (and a restaurant which is open during daytime hours)- so don't expect electric hookup or freshwater. You need to be self-sufficient. It's essentially wild camping... which you've paid for.
Parking for motorhomes and campervans near Tre Cime Dolomites
If you don't want to stay at the top of Tre Cime (remember, your ticket is for 24 hours so you get a night's stay included), there is an aire at the bottom where you can stay overnight (or pay just to use its facilities). There are also several campsites nearby if you wish, although none in walking distance.
What is there to do in Tre Cime Dolomites National Park?
Hike. Take photos. Look around in wonder.
Tre Cime is all about outdoor adventures. The famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop will take you about 3.5 hours, depending on how often you stop for photos or refreshments. There are lots of different walks and routes at Tre Cime- we recommend this book to show you the best ones.
If you don't want to (or are unable to) hike, you can just drive up to look at the view and then return. Or drive up in a motorhome and stay overnight! You pay the same price no matter what- how you spend your time up there is entirely up to you.
Rifugio Auronzo (the hut)
At the top of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, next to the car park, is a large white hut. This is Rifugio Auronzo. There are several rifugio's along the Tre Cime hiking route, all offering drinks and snacks to hikers. Auronzo is one of the most famous, and also acts as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hotel- there are several rooms available to book overnight.
Rifugio Auronzo booking
For more information about Rifugio Auronzo, or to book an overnight stay, contact them here.
Rifugio Auronzo parking
The parking for Rifugio Auronzo is the same as the Tre Cime car park. Parking is included in the entrance fee.
Our experience of visiting Tre Cime di Lavaredo in October
We arrived at the bottom of Tre Cime on a cloudy day… and thought nothing of it. Pretty much as soon as you turn onto the road just north of Lake Misurina, you start climbing.
Yes- this is all before you reach the toll booth. What we hadn't considered was that the cloud was actually all around the mountain, completely obscuring Tre Cime. As we climbed higher, we ended up driving up into the cloud.
It was eerie and kinda fun- but we didn't see ANY of those incredible views. If it's cloudy on the day you plan to visit Tre Cime, either change your plans or don't bother- it was pointless in the cloud. Luckily, the forecast was set to improve, so we stayed up there in our motorhome.
If you are planning to hike or climb on Tre Cime, please be aware of the weather- it can change quickly and the cloud comes in VERY fast without warning. It happened twice while we were up there and visibility gets reduced to practically zero. Be cautious and considerate to the weather as it's changing.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo winter
Tre Cime is closed from the end of October until the end of May. If there has been snowfall (which could happen anytime from mid-October), the road will be closed early.
Tre Cime Altitude Sickness
While we were up Tre Cime, I suffered from an altitude headache- which was unpleasant. Given how often we've visited the Alps in our Motorhome, it's the first time this has ever happened. It didn't even happen when we went up Mont Blanc's cable car!!
Altitude headaches normally start at over 3000m above sea level- Tre Cime paking area is only at 2333m. The headaches are caused when you ascend more than 300m in a day- we did 600m in less than an hour!
It didn't start straight away- first symptoms happened about 8 hours after we arrived at the top car park. I woke up during the first night with my sinuses on fire. Apparently, according to Google, this is caused by climbing too high, too fast and our bodies not having enough time to adjust.
The symptoms were relieved a little by sitting more upright and taking a couple of ibuprofen. Also, drinking water seemed to help.
Another symptom is both of us felt very breathless while walking. Neither of us are uber-fit, but we're not couch potatoes either and we felt we were much more out-of-breath than normal. Interesting how altitude affects us all in different ways.
So, my (non-medical) advice is this: Go up Tre Cime and if the weather is clear, do the Tre Cime Loop that day, before your body has a chance to realise what's happened!
Then, be prepared during the evening. Drink LOTS of water (we didn't) and possibly take a couple of Nurofen.
Tre Cime- final thoughts
Despite the headache, Tre Cime was one of our favourite places in the Dolomites. I think arriving in the cloud made it even more impressive when the views finally showed themselves, but it's one of the most amazing places we've ever visited with our motorhome.
If you get the chance, add Tre Cime to your Dolomites itinerary. We're very glad we did!
Other Dolomites post you might find useful:
- Got a long weekend free? Here's a perfect 3-day itinerary for the Dolomites
- Driving the Great Dolomites Road– essential tips & tricks
- Val di Funes– is it REALLY worth your time?
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