Great Dolomites Road: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know!

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Is this Northern Italy’s Most Spectacular Road?

The Great Dolomites Road is a truly spectacular driving road through some of Europe’s most beautiful mountains, blessed with lush green meadows, dramatic rocky peaks, and lively alpine towns.

A route much loved by motorbikers, drivers, and cyclists, the Great Dolomite Road crests two epic passes between Bolzano and Cortina d’Ampezzo as it winds its way through the UNESCO-listed Dolomites, known as the pale mountains.

We spent a month exploring the Dolomites and traveled the Great Dolomites Road many times! In our Great Dolomites Road guide we share all the information you need to know about this incredible route and what to see and do along the way.

What is the Great Dolomites Road?

The Great Dolomites Road, also known as Grande Strada delle Dolomiti in Italian and Die Große Dolomitenstraße in German, is a historical and scenic mountain road in northeastern Italy. The road, constructed between 1901 and 1909, played a significant role in the tourist development of the magnificent mountain area of the Dolomites.

The Great Dolomites Road, officially the State Road of the Dolomites, stretches 68 miles / 110km over the Pordoi Pass and the Falzarego Pass to connect the city of Bolzano in Alto Adige or South Tyrol to Cortina d’Ampezzo in Veneto.

The Dolomites driving route is made up of three roads, with the first two being major routes through the mountains, before becoming a smaller regional road for the last stretch.

  • Bolzano to Vigo di Fassa: Strade Statali or State Road SS 241
  • Vigo di Fassa to Passo Pordoi: Strade Statali or State Road SS 48
  • Passo Pordoi to Cortina d’Ampezzo: Strada Regionale or Regional Road SR 48

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 Great Dolomites Road

Flying

The Great Dolomites Road is a west-to-east or east-to-west road trip route. It doesn’t matter which way you travel – the views of the alpine valleys and mountains are always spectacular, but we think starting in Bolzano affords the best views and easiest access.

To begin in Bolzano, fly into Venice Marco Polo Airport, a three hour drive from Bolzano, or Malpensa International Airport in Milan, a four hour drive away.

Starting in either city means you can take a day or two before picking up your hire car to explore. Beautiful Venice would always be our choice, and our one day Venice itinerary is all set to help you see the best of the City of Bridges.

If you prefer to start your road trip in Cortina d’Ampezzo, then Venice Marco Polo Airport is best because it’s just a two hour drive north.

Both Venice and Milan airports enjoy direct flights from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and the UK. We recommend booking through Skyscanner for live deals and the best prices.

Driving

In northern Italy, close to Austria, Slovenia, and Germany, the Dolomites are within easy reach of Europe. If you’re driving to Italy from the UK, head for Innsbruck and take the Brenner Pass south before picking up the A22 for Bolzano.

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.

How to Travel the Great Dolomites Road

Self-Drive

Whether you’re in a car, motorcycle, campervan, or motorhome, driving is absolutely the best way to explore the Great Dolomites Road, meaning 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.

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 rental prices, which benefits you when you’re planning a road trip.

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.

Use the Park4Night app to find overnight spots and campsites, and sleep on a high mountain pass, next to a beautiful lake, or in a wildflower meadow.

Great Dolomites Road Tours

If you want to travel the road and visit some of the highlights without a car, you can take guided tours from Bolzano, Venice, and Lake Garda. This is a great way to see all the best bits and also see more of Italy in less time! These are our pick of the best Dolomites guided tours.

Great Dolomites Road FAQs

Is the Great Dolomites Road a dangerous road?

The Great Dolomites Road is made up of state and regional roads, and as such, is maintained in excellent condition. Where drop-offs are steep barriers are maintained and signage alerts you to hazards, helping you to anticipate the road.

The two passes have numerous switchbacks and hairpin bends on both ascents and descents and should be driven with caution. As with all Alps mountain driving, use the gears to help reduce speed on the descent and pump the brakes instead of riding them. Use a low gear when climbing and negotiating tight turns.

Driving in the Dolomites may be challenging for an inexperienced driver where the road is narrow and has no central markings and tight bends, and especially at the weekends when the route can be busy.

RELATED POST: Driving in Italy – Everything You Need to Know

When is the Great Dolomites Road open?

There really is only one window to road trip the Great Dolomites Road!

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

Outside of these months, much of the route from Canazei to Cortina d’Ampezzo, including the two passes will be covered in snow. Other smaller roads throughout the Dolomites will also be closed.

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

The Travel in Trentino website has a real-time interactive map of the whole region showing Dolomites road closures throughout the year and is worth checking before you set out, whatever the season.

From 15th November until 15th May, cars traveling on any part of the Dolomites road network must be fitted with winter tires or must carry anti-slip systems suitable for driving in snow and ice, such as snow chains, compatible with the vehicle’s tires.

How long do I need to drive the Great Dolomites Road?

The Great Dolomites Road is 68 miles / 110 kilometers long and takes, according to Google Maps, just 3 hours to drive. But this is a simple equation of miles divided by speed and doesn’t take into account the topography of the road and its varying elevation, switchbacks, and hairpin bends which all add to the driving time.

To truly enjoy the incredible scenery and the road itself, and have plenty of time to stop to explore and take photos, we recommend that you allow at least 5-6 hours of driving to fully enjoy the Great Dolomites Road drive and experience.

If you have longer, check out our seven day Dolomites road trip itinerary which takes in this road and so much more!

Can I drive the Great Dolomites Road in a motorhome?

It is possible to take a motorhome, campervan, RV, or overland truck along the Great Dolomites Road. There are several tunnels, underpasses, and balconies along the route which are all higher than 4 meters.

There is a length restriction of 13 meters along the route from Canazei to Cortina d’Ampezzo, and a rock-cut tunnel on the Falzarego Pass which has a height restriction of 3.2 meters. This may not be high enough for bus-like motorhomes or overland trucks.

Can I drive the Great Dolomites Road in one day?

Yes, but you might find it a long day! You may also find you don’t have enough time to explore and enjoy the incredible scenery, or perhaps take one of the numerous cable cars to an even higher point along the route.

Don’t forget your road trip essentials! Our free road trip checklists help you remember everything, including road trip snacks, podcasts, and road trip songs for the journey!

The Great Dolomites Road Map & Route

  • Get the Travel Guides
  • Great Dolomites Road Itinerary

Bolzano – Pozza di Fassa – Canazei – Passo Pordoi – Arabba – Passo Falzagero – Cortina d’Ampezzo

  • Distance 68m / 110km
  • Duration 2-3 days
  • Drive Time 5-6 hours

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Great Dolomites Road Itinerary

Day 1: Bolzano

Bolzano 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. Considered a bridge between northern and southern Europe, Bolzano, or Bozen in German, is surrounded on three sides by the stunning Dolomite mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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

Looking for the best SIM card deals in Europe for your trip? Check out our guide to the best data SIMs in Europe and get the best deal for your trip to Italy.

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 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.

Gruppo Sella from Col Rodella

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, Dolaondes is 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

Other Italian Road Trips

Day 3: Canazei to Cortina d’Ampezzo

Day three is all about the drive. You’ll be tackling the impressive Pordoi Pass, which tops out at 7,346ft / 2,239m, and the Falzarego Pass at 6,906ft / 2,105m.

Both passes offer numerous tornante, or hairpin bends, as they snake their way through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers and the towering Dolomites peaks. Start early as you’ll want a full day to stop and explore along the way.

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 we cover in our longer and more extensive Dolomites itinerary and road trip guide, but to continue on the Great Dolomites Road, you’ll be taking the right fork to the Passo Pordoi.

A feat of engineering and beloved by cyclists and bikers, the Pordoi Pass is usually busy in summer. You’ll start to see the tornante signs, letting you know how many of the 33 hairpins you’ve wound your way around before you arrive at the pass itself on a fairly unlovely stretch of road between the Sella massif and Sass Becé lined with shops, car parks and cafés, and the Sass Pordoi cable car station.

The Sass Pordoi cable car station balanced above the Passo Pordoi

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.

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

From the cable car station, it’s a fairly challenging hike to Piz Boè with some via Ferrata elements to assist. 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 quieter. You’ll pass through the pretty village of Arabba, at the heart of the Sella Ronda ski circuit and the Dolomiti Super Summer hiking circuit, which makes a great spot for lunch.

We recommend Miky’s Grill in Hotel Mesdi for authentic mountain flavors and traditional Ladin and Tyrolean dishes.

View from the SS 48 between the Pordoi Pass and Arabba

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 height restriction sign which refers to the rock-cut tunnel just before the pass.

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 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 / 2762m!

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 at the end of the Great Dolomites Road in 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 and Tre Cime de Lavaredo in the Auronzo 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. 

  • 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.

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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