Dolomites Road Trip: Explore the Best of Northern Italy

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Ultimate One Week Dolomites Itinerary

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dolomites in Northern Italy are a wonder of impossibly jagged mountains, vertical rock walls and deep valleys that carve their way through the ancient landscape.

From snow sports in winter to hiking and cycling in summer, the Dolomites are an activity playground, intersected by dramatic mountain passes, vast wildflower meadows, and crystal-clear turquoise lakes.

We spent a month exploring the Dolomites and in this road trip planner, we share our seven day Dolomites itinerary, travel tips, things to do and see along the way, and hotel recommendations to help you plan your perfect Dolomites road trip.

Dolomites road trip

Where Are the Dolomites?

The Dolomites (Italian: Dolomiti; Ladin: Dolomites; German: Dolomiten) also known as the Dolomite MountainsDolomite Alps, or Dolomitic Alps, are a mountain range in northeastern Italy, straddling the regions of Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige or Südtirol and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

The Dolomites form part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley or Pieve di Cadore in the east. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley and the Sugana Valley or Valsugana.

The Dolomites are notable for their distinctive Italian-Austrian-German heritage and the valleys of Fassa in Trentino, and Livinallongo and Ampezzo in the Province of Belluno, are home to the Ladins, an ethnic group collectively known as Ladinia.

The native language of the region is Ladin, and you’ll see most road signs actually have three languages; Ladin, Italian, and German!

Is this your first time visiting Italy? Get all the information you need in our Italy Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there, and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

Getting to the Dolomites

Whether you’re taking a road trip to the Dolomites by car, motorcycle, or campervan, self-driving is absolutely the best way to explore this spectacular region of Italy.

Our seven day road trip itinerary shares all the highlights and top spots, but is flexible enough for you can stop whenever you want, try new activities, visit places you see along the route, and have the freedom to change plans at the last minute.

Fly into Venice Marco Polo Airport or Malpensa International Airport in Milan, a three or four hour drive away respectively from Bolzano, the gateway to the Dolomites. With direct flights from America, Europe, and the UK, we recommend booking through Skyscanner for live deals and the best prices.

Are you planning to rent a car in Italy? As one of the largest car hire aggregator companies in the world, we recommend Rentalcars.com because they have massive purchasing power which enables them to secure the best car rental prices, which benefits you when you’re planning a road trip. Be aware that you may need an International Driving Permit to hire a car in Italy.

For a real adventure, hire a motorhome or campervan in Italy. We recommend Motorhome Republic, an aggregate booking site who pull together all the best deals from a number of rental agencies, to offer you a wide choice of options alongside an excellent English speaking expert motorhome Concierge Team.

Driving in Italy

Lots of people will tell you that renting a car in Italy is madness, that driving through Italy is dangerous and the roads and other drivers are a nightmare – and some of it would be true!

But don’t let your fears about driving in Italy put you off taking a road trip through the Dolomites. Take your time as you drive and be prepared for the differences in driving styles from back home. Follow our tips about renting a car and driving in Italy to stay safe and stress-free!

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting Italy. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Best Time to Road Trip the Dolomites

The Dolomites can only really be road tripped in the summer months when all the mountain passes are fully open and there is no threat of snow to close the roads.

The whole of the Great Dolomites Road, one of the main routes through the mountains, is only fully open from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo between early June and mid-September.

Keep an eye on the weather if you’re planning to drive the route in early June or early September, as the skies can change rapidly and be unpredictable in the mountains during the shoulder seasons.

Even in the summer months, the mountain weather can be changeable. Expect gloriously sunny mornings and possible stormy showers in the late afternoon. Temperatures rarely top 25°C / 77°F, with the August average being 17°C / 63°F, perfect for being active.

Dolomites Road Trip Map & Route

We followed this route through the Dolomites, admiring the mirror lakes, alpine meadows and soaring peaks as we drove. Stopping usually involved delicious local foods and the odd glass of Italian wine or beer to wash it all down!

Our route hits all the highlights of this stunning mountain range, and a few lesser known places too. From the small mountain towns typical of the region, to activites like hiking and biking and the fantastic network of cable cars, we fell in love with the Dolomites, and hope you will too!

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Bolzano – Canazei – Cortina d’AmpezzoCarbonin Schluderbach

  • Distance 88m / 142km
  • Duration 7 days
  • Drive Time 5-6 hours
Dolomites map

Thanks to Google Maps

7 Day Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Bolzano

Considered a bridge between northern and southern Europe and known as the gateway to the Dolomites, Bolzano or Bozen in German, is a city in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy that has a rich history and a unique blend of Italian and German-Austrian culture.

Bolzano has been an essential location for trade and movement across the Alps for centuries, and its strategic position is evident in its architecture. One of the city’s most impressive landmarks is Runkelstein Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and is a testament to Bolzano’s strategic importance.

Visitors to Bolzano can explore the city’s 12th century architecture by walking along the Via dei Portici, a beautiful street lined with arches and colorful buildings. The Piazza delle Erbe is another must-see destination, with its vibrant market and historic buildings.

Bolzano is also home to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which houses the famous mummy of Ötzi, the iceman who lived over 5,000 years ago between 3350 and 3105 BCE. Ötzi was discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps at the border between Austria and Italy and is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy, offering an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic or Copper Age Europeans.

In addition to its history and architecture, Bolzano is surrounded by vineyards and fruit and vegetable farms, and visitors can sample the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants and cafés. Think creamy alpine cheeses, local buckwheat pasta called mezzelune, and Speck Alto Adige, the region’s delicious smoked ham.

  • Where to Stay in Bolzano

Upmarket: Castel Hörtenberg – Booking.com | Agoda

Mid-Range: Hotel Magdalener Hof – Booking.com | Agoda

Budget: B&B Hotel Bolzano – Booking.com | Agoda

Walther Square in Bolzano, and the statue of Walther von der Vogelweide, considered the most important German-speaking poet of the Middle Ages

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Day 2: Bolzano to Canazei

Pick up the SS 241 heading southeast from Bolzano and be prepared to be blown away!

After a series of tunnels and balconies, you’ll emerge into the Dolomites proper. The first of the pale mountains to come into sight is the Latemar massif and the distinctive Torre di Pisa, both of which make it hard to believe that the Dolomites were once a calm and shallow sea!

As you twist and turn on the road, the mighty Catinaccio rises to take your breath away. Also known as the Rosengarten group in German, this massif is a particular shade of pink owing to the presence of the mineral dolomite, which absorbs the sunset and glows pink in the evening light.

The name, which means ‘rose garden’ in German, refers to the legend of King Laurin and his rose garden, a traditional story that explains the colorful appearance of the mountain range.

Ronsegarten glowing in the sun

After a series of tight turns along the Val d’Ega, you’ll pass Lago di Carezza, a small but beautiful lake that is impossibly emerald in color. The crystal clear waters which reflect the sunlight give rise to the name ‘Lake of the Rainbow’, but there is also a legend of mermaids, magicians, and wizards attached to the pool.

Carezza Lake has no tributaries but is fed by an underground spring bringing water from the peaks of Latemar. A circular path encloses the small lake, taking around 20 minutes to walk from the large parking lot on the opposite side of the road.

Lake Carezza and Mount Latemer

Soon after, you’ll pick up the SS 48 in Vigo di Fassa. The road follows the Val di Fassa through Possi di Fassa to Canezei, sandwiched between Catinaccio to the west and Marmolada to the east. The Dolomite’s highest peak at 10,965ft / 3,342m above sea level, Marmolada is unsurprisingly known as the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’.

You’re now surrounded by dramatic sheer peaks topped by sharp and craggy rock formations, which sit amongst verdant green meadows sloping down to the bubbling River Avisio, which is followed by the Great Dolomites Road.

In front of you as you drive is a real feast for the eyes; the huge Sella massif, topped by Piz Boè at 10,338ft / 3,151m and slightly to the left is Sassalungo, or ‘long rock’ the highest peak of the Langkofel group.

You’ll arrive in Canazei with enough time to explore the lively town before checking into your hotel and planning the next few days.

  • Where to Stay in Canazei

Upmarket: Locanda degli Artisti Art Hotel – Booking.com | Agoda

Mid-Range: Hotel Dolomiti Schloss – Booking.com | Agoda

Budget: Chalet Margoni – Booking.com | Agoda

Gruppo Sella from Col Rodella

Day 3: Canazei Hiking and Biking

Canazei is the central hub of the Val di Fassa and the perfect place to stop and explore for a few days. Surrounded by so many mountains it can be hard to make a choice about where to go and what to do!

There are lots of cable cars, gondolas, and chairlifts, many of which run in the summer to take hikers and mountain bikers high into the mountains. The network, run by Val di Fassa Lift is extensive and you can take one lift up, hike, or bike to another lift and head down. This means many of the Dolomites hikes have minimal elevation gain, so you can take a hike whatever your level of fitness.

The gondola from Campitello di Fassa to Col Rodella is a great option if you want a taste. With a traditional refugio bar and restaurant at the top and magnificent views of Sassalungo and the Sella group, you can take a gentle walk, a demanding hike, or pick up another cable car across the valley.

There are also bike and electric bike hire outlets, meaning you can cycle the riverside path, the 30 mile / 49km Pista Ciclopedonale, between Canazei and Molina di Fiemme. From Canazei, it’s downhill and there is an 800m elevation gain on the return. Take e-bikes and you’ll be able to do the return ride in a day and not even notice the hills!

After all that exercise we highly recommend visiting Dolaondes, ideal for swimming, pampering, and relaxing.

From there, head into town to one of the many bars and restaurants where you can grab a pizza, or try local dishes. We recommend Osteria La Montanara, a Tripadvisor Travelers Choice serving local food, wine, and beer.

  • Where to Stay in Canazei

Upmarket: Locanda degli Artisti Art Hotel – Booking.com | Agoda

Mid-Range: Hotel Dolomiti Schloss – Booking.com | Agoda

Budget: Chalet Margoni – Booking.com | Agoda

Up close to Gruppo del Sassalongo

Day 4: Canazei & Sella Ring

The famous ski loop around the Sella Group in winter known as the Sellaronda becomes the Sella Ring in summer, an incredible loop of four paved mountain passes, which you can easily drive in a day.

The Passo Pordoi, Passo Campolongo, Passo Gardena, and Passo Sella are each different but no less spectacular. Along the route there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy a bite to eat, lots of cable cars for a quick trip higher into the mountains, and plenty to see.

Passo Pordoi

The impressive Pordoi Pass tops out at 7,346ft / 2,239m and is one of two passes on the Great Dolomites Road, the other being the Passo Falzarego, which you’ll be driving in a few days.

As you leave Canazei, you’ll start climbing quickly to a fork in the road. The left fork takes you to the Sella Pass, which you’ll also be driving later today. For now, you’ll be taking the right fork to the Passo Pordoi.

A feat of engineering with 33 tornante, or hairpin bends, the road snakes its way through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers and the ever-present towering Dolomite peaks.

Beloved by cyclists and bikers, the Pordoi Pass is usually busy in summer, and the actual pass itself, between the Sella massif and Sass Becé, is lined with shops, car parks, and cafés, and the Sass Pordoi cable car station.

We highly recommend stopping here and taking the Pordoi cableway to the Terrace of the Dolomites on Sass Pordoi, at 9,642ft / 2,939m. The cable car is a technical masterpiece balanced on the edge of a large lump of rock and the five minute journey there is breathtaking in itself, but when you arrive at the top prepare to be even more impressed!

Well above the tree line, the vast lunar-like landscape stretches for over 2.5 miles / 4km to the north and 1.9 miles / 3km to the west. It really does feel like you’re on the moon, with rocky craters and long gorges deep into the massif.

From the cable car station, it’s a fairly challenging hike to Piz Boè with some via Ferrata elements such as steps and rungs to assist you. If you don’t have the four hours or so you’ll need, it’s interesting to wander around the area in the vicinity of Sass Pordoi and enjoy the glorious views.

On the return, you should pop into the Dolomiti Museum 1915-1918 which chronicles the Great War in the Dolomites and the battles on Col di Lana and Marmolada. A little further along the road is the Germanic Memorial of Passo Pordoi built in 1959 to commemorate German-Austrian war dead from both WWI and WWII.

Once you start on the descent from the Pordoi Pass, the landscape softens a little and the road seems blissfully quieter.

Sass Pordoi – the little blue dot is Phil, to give you an idea of the scale

Passo Campolongo

The gentlest of today’s mountain passes, the Campolongo Pass is reached by taking the SP 244 from Arabba. Reaching and elevation of 6,151ft / 1,875m, the pass is more of a steady rise than a switchback road.

An area of idyllic gentle slopes and moderate gradients, you can hike or take a cable car higher into the mountains and Cherz’s Plateau for panoramic views of Monte Pelmo and Marmolada and Piz dles Cunturines, or the strange coral-like structures of Bec de Roces.

The views as you come down from Passo Campolongo to Corvara in Badia Kurfar are some of the best along the loop, with Sassongher in the Puez Group to the north and the Sella Group to the west.

Passo Gardena

Our favourite of these four passes, the Gardena Pass (the SS 243 as you leave Corvara) dips and swoops its way between the Sella massif and Pizes de Cir, with sheer rock walls, grassy meadows, and epic views as your companion along the way.

Connecting Sëlva in the Val Gardena on the west side with Corvara in the Val Badia on the east, the landscape changes as you pass through gently rolling topography to unforgiving cliffs and stony riverbeds.

Rising to 7,008ft / 2,136m above sea level and encompassing 17 hairpin bends, this pass is a truly breathtaking drive.

There are lots of stopping places for photos and many hiking opportunities – either on foot from the road or by utilizing the seven different cable car stations along the route.

One of our favorite hikes is to the Seceda Ridgeline, a Dolomites icon, which you can access from the Ortisei-Furnes cable car in Ortisei. You can make the Seceda hike anything from 6 miles / 9km to less than a mile, depending on which cable car you take.

Stop for lunch at Hotel Chalet Gerard, where you can enjoy local mountain dishes on the terrace with the most incredible view!

Val di Funes Side Trip

One of the most photographed valleys in the Dolomites, Val di Funes sits in the shadow of the mighty Puez-Odle massif and offers a surprisingly slower pace and maybe a more authentic experience than busier parts of the wider Dolomites.

This side trip is easy from the Passo Gardena section of the Sella Ring, with the drive to Val di Funes taking around an hour. If you have an extra day, why not stay in one of the valley’s pretty villages and complete the Sella Ring the next day?

Must-sees include the Insta-worthy Baroque Santa Maddalena Church, also known as the Church of St. Magdalena and the onion-domed Church of St Johann in Ranui, also known as San Giovanni Church. Both of these iconic churches are gloriously positioned, with towering peaks and lush meadows just adding to the gorgeousness!

From a hiking perspective, check out the Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg trails which overlook the valley as they meander through the rural landscape. The easy and well signed 7km circular route from Santa Maddalena village will take you a couple of hours, with lots of interest along the way.

Passo Sella

The daddy of this quartet of passes, the Sella Pass, located on a grassy saddle that separates Sassolungo from the Sella Group, hits an impressive 7,369ft / 2,246m of altitude. The pass connects Plan De Gralba with Canazei as it skirts along the edge of Alpe di Siusi, the largest alpine meadow in Europe.

One of the Dolomite’s most famous passes with a whopping 32 hairpin bends, some sections of the SS 242 road have a 12.1% gradient making this a fabulous drive, with fantastic views of the nearby Sassolungo Group and its distinctive towers of rock. Because of its close proximity to this mountain group, the Sella Pass makes the perfect jumping-off spot to explore the area.

Make a stop at Cittá Dei Sassi just before the pass, where there are countless boulders of all shapes and sizes which are great fun for climbing and bouldering. There are plenty of hikes from here, or you can pick up the cable car from the Sasso Pass to the Rifugio Toni Demetz hut at 8,858ft / 2,700m and start your hike from there.

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Day 5: Canazei to Cortina d’Ampezzo

From Canazei, you’ll be revisiting the Passo Pordoi as you head east.

From Arabba, the road traverses rather than climbs the mountains, and skirts around the Col di Lana before heading north to the Falzarego Pass. At the small hamlet of Cernadoi, the road takes a sharp lefthand hairpin to stay on the SR 48 or continues on for the SR 203 south.

As you drive past the hamlet, you’ll note the 10.4ft / 3.2m height restriction sign which refers to the rock-cut tunnel just before the pass. Most motorhomes will have no problem, but larger overland trucks might!

Much of the road is tree-lined and the views are not as impressive as from the Pordoi Pass, but once you’re out of the tree line there is plenty to see, including Sass de Stria, which in Ladin means ‘Rock of the Witch’, after the legend of the witch who lived at the summit.

After the first series of hairpins, make a stop at Castello di Andraz, a medieval castle strategically built on a large boulder in a dominant position over the valley, allowing control of all routes across the Falzarego saddle.

The castle has a chequered history of battles, ruin, and renovation and you can find out about this, and local cultural heritage linked to the Ladin area of ​​the Upper Agordino in the Castle museum.

Andraz Castle with the Tofane Group as a spectacular backdrop

Back on the road and several more switchbacks takes you to a long balcony and then the tunnel before you reach the pass. Like most passes of the Dolomites, there is a place to park, somewhere to eat, and a shop in which to buy Italian souvenirs.

There is also the Lagazuoi mountain cable car, which takes you to Rifugio Lagazuoi and La Sauna En, the highest Finnish sauna in the Dolomites at 9,062ft / 2,762m!

If you prefer something a bit more challenging, the Lagazuoi Tunnels hike also starts from the pass. Constructed by the Italians during WWI, the 0.6 miles / 1km Lagazuoi tunnel is a fully restored via Ferrata. The route from the pass to the cable car station is around 3 miles / 5km and will take around 4 hours, with 673m of elevation gain.

Looking south down the Falzarego Pass

From the Falzarego Pass continue east along the SR 48. You’ll have fantastic views of the very distinctive Cinque Torri, a small group of actually more than five towers that lies on the south slopes of Falzarego Pass and is part of the larger Averau-Nuvolau group.

There is an easy 1.25 mile / 2km hike up to Cinque Torri which will take you a couple of hours, or you can take the Seggiovia Cinque Torri cable car which will get you there in a few minutes!

Admiring Torre Grande, the largest of the many towers of Cinque Torri

From here, there are a few more tight turns and then the road evens out until the village of Pocal, where there are a few last twisting bends before you arrive in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

  • Where to Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo

Upmarket: Rosapetra Spa Resort – Booking.com | Agoda

Mid-Range: Franceschi Park Hotel – Booking.com | Agoda

Budget: Hotel Des Alpes – Booking.com | Agoda

Cortina d’Ampezzo under the peak of Tofana di Mezzo

Want to plan your own road trip? Get our step-by-step road trip planning guide to help you organize the perfect trip, or check out our Europe road trip ideas.

Day 6: Cortina d’Ampezzo

The host town of the Winter Olympic Games Milano Cortina 2026, Cortina is a charming town known for its unique blend of Alpine and Italian cultures and a fantastic base to visit the mountains of the Ampezzo Dolomites.

Located in the center of the Ampezzo Valley, at the top of the Valle del Boite, Cortina straddles the River Boite. The town is ringed by soaring craggy mountains, including Tofane to the west, Pomagagnon to the north, Cristallo to the northeast, Faloria and Sorapiss to the east, and Becco di MezzodìCroda da Lago and Cinque Torri to the south. 

Monte Antelao, at 10,709ft / 3,264m, is the highest mountain in the Ampezzo Dolomites and the second highest in the Dolomites. 

Cortina has some of the best day hikes in the Dolomites, with different levels of difficulty to suit everyone. What they all have in common are fabulous views.

The 3 mile / 5km linear hike from Cortina to Lake Pianozes is a beauty. With minimal elevation, but stunning views and a mirror alpine lake at the end, this 2-3 hour easy hike packs a real punch!

If you like more of a challenge, there is a fantastic via Ferrata to Cascate di Fanes. Italian for ‘iron path’, via Ferrata are climbing routes that utilize steel cables, rungs, and ladders that are fixed to the rock. Climbers affix a harness that allows them to secure themselves to the metal fixture and limit any fall.

The via Ferrata to Fanes Waterfalls is suitable for everyone, including beginners and families, and equipment like harnesses and helmets can be rented from Snowservice or Rock and Ice in Cortina.

If hiking isn’t your thing but you still want to enjoy stunning views, take the Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo series of cable cars to Cima Tofana at 10,577ft / 3,244m and visit the Helmut Ullrich Astronomical Observatory at Col Drusciè on the way.

Day 7: Cortina d’Ampezzo to Carbonin Schluderbach

Just 25 miles northeast of Cortina on the SS 51, Carbonin Schluderbach is an idyllic village that was once a timber trading center and home to the Beim Schluderbacher Inn, an important base of Dolomite alpinism.

Local residents brought visitors to Tre Cime de Lavaredo, and Anna Ploner, the innkeeper’s daughter, was the first woman to reach the summit of Cima Grande in 1874.

Surrounded by natural highlights, it’s easy to enjoy the landscape. From the small hamlet, you can hike or take a ten minute drive along Valle Popena to beautiful Lake Misurina for a peaceful swim, or head in the opposite direction for the Prato Piazza, one of the most beautiful high mountain pasture landscapes in the Dolomites.

You can also drive up to Rifugio Auronzo under the shadow of Forcella Lavaredo and take the 15 minute walk to Cappella degli Alpini, a tiny but much photographed chapel. If that’s not far enough, head up to Rifugio Malga Langalm and Lake Rienzquelle on the 6.4 mile / 10.3km Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop.

The route up to Rifugio Auronzo and the parking lot lies in the Tre Cime di Lavaredo National Park, meaning you need to pay an entry fee of €30 (2023) for yourselves and your vehicle.

  • Where to Stay in Carbonin Schluderbach

Upmarket: Hotel Soropiss Misurina – Booking.com | Agoda

Mid-Range: Albergo Chalet Lago Antorno Misurina – Booking.com | Agoda

Budget: Villaggio Turistico Ploner – Booking.com | Agoda

Italy Road Trip Resources

Here are the websites and services we personally use and recommend for traveling in Italy.

  • Search for affordable flights to Italy with Skyscanner
  • Search for availability and book hotels and accommodation in Italy with Booking.com
  • Find and book the best campsites in Italy with Eurocampings
  • Book the cheapest and most reliable car rentals in Italy with Rentalcars.com
  • Find and hire your perfect motorhome or campervan with Motorhome Republic
  • Get highly rated, reliable, and trustworthy travel insurance with True Traveller
  • Check if you need a visa and arrange your documents with Visagov

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