Last Updated on May 22, 2022 by Michela
One of Italy’s most beautiful regions actually doesn’t look much like how you picture Italy to be at all. Trentino-Alto Adige is Italy’s northernmost region. Cozied on Austria’s border, the landscape here is dominated by the characteristic jagged stone peaks of Le Dolomiti, a mountain chain apart of the Alps. The Dolomites are a geographical wonder and it’s hard to not gawk at every mountain and valley you’ll pass on the sparse, narrow roads. Fortunately, to help you navigate these winding streets and ensure you don’t miss a thing, I am dishing my perfect 3-Day Dolomites Itinerary.
The jagged Dolomites stretch out over two regions of Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto.
There’s really no better way to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site than by car!
You could always pay for a tour company, but having no say in what you get to see and less flexibility takes the fun out of discovering places on your own!
I’m going to make this road trip guide as thorough as I can by suggesting where to go, to the best towns to stay in!
Consider also fitting this itinerary into a broader northern Italy itinerary to make sure you hit all the bucket list stops.
For more help planning, check out my driving in Italy guide and how to save money on a road trip and create an effective budget.
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3- Day Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
Some notes about this itinerary:
I personally traveled from Lombardy to the Trentino-Alto Adige region. A more popular route may be to travel from the Veneto region if you’re coming to the Dolomites from Venice. In this case, I would recommend doing the itinerary backward.
In any sense, you don’t have to follow this itinerary to a tee.
I tried to create it by factoring in the things I experienced – the perfect locations to stay, the time it took to drive between places (it takes longer than you think since you’re surrounded by mountains,) so that I could use that insight to help you plan your own!
This itinerary is basically one big suggestion for you to take into account when planning yours.
I’ve included all the places, popular and hidden gems alike, that I wouldn’t want you to miss!
Good to Know: You’ll need an International Driving Permit to drive in Italy!
On day 1, coming from the Lombardy area, you’ll be making your way into the heart of the Dolomites.
Lago di Carezza
The earlier you can arrive at Lago di Carezza, the better. That’s because sunrise is the evenest lighting for photography purposes. Oh, and one other reason – the angle of the sun at sunrise makes the lake a literal mirror.
At midday, when I arrived, the lake was still gorgeous, just less of a crisp reflection.
At Lago di Carezza, parking is super close by and you will have to pay a small parking fee.
The walk around the lake could be done in less than an hour! It’s a great quick and stunning stop on your road trip.
If you do arrive at Lago di Carezza around midday, there is an amazing, authentic alpine grill nearby for lunch. Mini BB Pitt is a rugged mountainside lunch in which meat, veggies, fresh cold cuts, and more are cooked right in front of you. Enjoy some South Tyrolean cuisine while you can – if the landscapes don’t make your visit, the food will!
While in the Dolomites, I suggest visiting a town or two in between all the nature you’ll be visiting.
That’s because the region of Trentino-Alto Adige is unlike any other in Italy. From the architecture to the terrain to the people, it’s a cool-toned, woody mix of German and Italian culture.
On the border with Austria means the whole region is basically bilingual – almost every spot also has a German name for its Italian name.
I loved visiting Bressanone for its small alpine town charm and feel. Discover the 10 best things to do in Bressanone to spice up your road trip!
The rough stone, the red-spired churches, the ice blue river cutting through the town are juxtaposed by the warm green mountains surrounding the valley in which it nests completely contrasting the Mediterranean picture that comes to mind when you think of what Italy is.
Bressanone is a town famous for its Christmas markets in the winter. So if you’ve ever desired to frolic in an idyllic European Christmas market, Bressanone may be your chance.
It’s perfectly located between Lago di Carezza and the rest of the stops on day 1 for an afternoon stroll.
Alpe di Siusi
If you have the time, drive or hike up to Alpe di Siusi, or Seiser Alm, its German name.
I didn’t because I spent too much time at the next destination (scroll to see my favorite day 1 spot!), but I do wish I did. Fun fact: it’s the largest alpine meadow in Italy.
This alpine meadow is an even, hilly land dominated by huge Dolomite peaks that soar above it.
Val di Funes
My favorite stop of this day – the dreamy Val di Funes!
I’m not exaggerating when I say dreamy – in fact, I’ve dreamed of seeing Val di Funes for years!
It’s my must-do on Day 1 of this 3-day Dolomites itinerary.
You’ll drive down a dead-end road passing fields of bright green and tiny cabins spaced out across the acreage. But the dreamy part?
These bright green fields are the foreground for those cool-toned, sharp peaks.
There are two famous photo spots here, the church of Santa Maddalena and Chiesetta di San Giovanni.
Enjoy what will feel like a living painting by driving to San Giovanni Church and taking a few steps up the hill across the church. For reference, you can look at my specific guide on how to visit Val di Funes.
I set up a perfect picnic for the last stop of the day and I couldn’t have dreamed up something more beautiful.
In Val di Funes, you’re also close to the famous Adolf Munkel Trail for those who like to hike.
Day 2 is full of majestic mirrored lakes to blow your mind. Expect to set your alarms early & have a bit of a long day in order to fit in all the magical places of your second day.
Lago di Braies
Speaking of setting your alarms early, there’s no better time to see what is likely the most famous site of the Dolomites than as the sun rises.
Even upon arrival at dawn, you will still find a decent amount of people setting up their cameras like you. That’s because Lago di Braies is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and the lighting at sunrise is the best in which to capture its beauty.
It’s a living mirror of the mountains that tower over it – add that to the aesthetic wooden rowboats floating on the still surface of the water.
If there’s any spot you should visit on day 2 of this 3-day Dolomites itinerary, it’s Lago di Braies.
I highly recommend hiking around the lake. The whole path takes about an hour and you’ll discover unique views aside from the classic Instagram photos you see of Lake Braies.
The one downside to arriving early in the morning means the boathouse won’t be open yet.
If you’d like to ride on the lake in a wooden boat, the boathouse usually opens around 9 am and it costs 18 euros per half hour for a boat.
You will have to pay a parking fee. And don’t forget your camera gear for this spot! I highly recommend my travel gear essentials if you’re wondering what to bring!
Good to Know: The German name for Lago di Braies is Pragser Wildsee. Don’t let the navigation or road signs confuse you, as all of them in this region list both Italian and German translations!
Lago di Dobbiaco
As you leave Valdaora, the main road then leads you to the towns of Dobbiaco and San Candido.
These are also towns known for their Christmas markets.
Lago di Dobbiaco is an expansive lake, again with beautiful reflections. A walking trail around the lake makes it easy to hike (no worries, it’s all flat around.)
If you like to bike, Lago di Dobbiaco has a bike trail that runs through it and I saw many people biking! It’s a lovely setting for a ride.
You will have to pay for parking, but it’s inexpensive and this is also a stop where you don’t have to spend too much time unless you plan to walk all around.
Lago di Misurina
Lago di Misurina is another beautiful lake in the Dolomites. It’s a very romantic setting and a bit more lively atmosphere than the other mentioned previously. With a few shops as well as a picturesque hotel at the end of the lake, taking a stroll along Lago di Misurina is a perfect afternoon break.
I personally adored the area around Lago di Misurina. The peaks of the surrounding area, including Tre Cime, look so stunning and crisp in this wide-open valley. The clear view of the mountaintop meeting the sky takes your breath away.
Driving up to Lago di Misurina, you’ll pass many mountain bikers and encounter many hikers also visiting the lake (parking could get crazy!)
Along the road where cars park is fields of horses and cows. I about died when I saw them! After I strolled lakeside, I backtracked the road entering the area to snap photos of the beautiful animal inhabitants of the Dolomites.
The Tre Cime di Laveredo is one of the most famous peaks of the Dolomites.
If you have the time, I highly recommend the hike! I didn’t have the time, but I so wish I had gotten closer to this natural wonder.
An extra tip if you’re an avid hiker, the Dolomites are full of “rifugio” which are small accommodations at the mountaintops for those planning to hike most of their trip.
The magical Dolomite peaks will be your neighbor in these alpine, wood cabin refuges!
Rifugio Auronzo is near Lago di Misurina and Tre Cime if you desire a breathtaking mountain stay during your hike.
On day three of your 3-day Dolomites itinerary, there are sort of two directions you could go.
I would suggest staying the overnight of day 2 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the luxury ski town of the Dolomites. This is also the best route to go if you are heading next or back to the Venice area.
If you’re traveling back to the Lombardy region, you’ll basically have to backtrack the road you’ve been taking this whole journey, but it won’t be a complete waste of the day if you stop at Lago di Tovel and the Val di non.
And if you have the energy, you can see both! Stay at Cortina d’Ampezzo for the night and morning and make your way to Lago di Tovel in the afternoon.
After ending your day at Lago di Misurina and Tre Cime, Cortina d’Ampezzo is nearby. With lots of options for accommodation, it’s a perfect town to stay in on your second night, as I mentioned before.
Cortina is famous in Italy as a ski resort town. It’s especially a must-do if you are traveling in the winter and desire to ski in the Alps.
I actually didn’t visit Cortina d’Ampezzo because I was traveling the other way! But before my trip, I had researched the resort town anyways in case I stopped there.
Val di Non & Lago di Tovel
Lago di Tovel is quite the journey to get to. You have to go off the main highway and drive another 45 minutes to an hour to reach the Adamello Brenta National Park in which it’s housed.
The drive may sound like a lot, but I promise it’s worth it.
Especially because the drive is extremely scenic; you’ll be winding through mountainside roads atop steep cliffs lined with endless apple orchards to the barely visible valleys below.
And if you manage to drive through without stopping for a bite (good luck!), you’ll soon reach Lago di Tovel.
Lago di Tovel is a huge lake with a beautiful walking trail all around. There are countless spots to climb down to the shore where you can enjoy the vast landscape and the fresh alpine air.
It’s a perfect half-day activity. There is a small museum as well as a restaurant midway through the hike. You will also need to pay for parking!
Honorable Mentions for a 3-Day Dolomites Itinerary
My dreams of seeing the Dolomites had much to do with its beautiful lakes and picturesque valleys. But there’s so much more to see!
You can really customize your road trip to your interests. There are endless activities in the Dolomites including camping, hiking, mountain biking, and photography.
Here are some honorable mentions that you may want to consider working into your 3-Day Dolomites itinerary (and that are still on my bucket list!):
- Lago di Sorapis
- Cinque Torri Hike
- Lago di Landro
- Seceda Hike
- Lago di Resia
- Monte Piana First World War Museum (near Lago di Misurina)
- Puez Odle Nature Park
Dolomites Weekend Itinerary Map
Here’s a map of the locations I talked about which can help you better visualize your itinerary. If you want to take inspiration from this post to create your own map, follow the easy instructions on my guide to Google Maps Trip Planner!
Where to Stay
I have an entire guide on the best places to stay in the Dolomites.
Regarding this itinerary, I narrowed my options down to the area of Valdaora. It was the most central location between all of my bucket list stops on the itinerary.
I stayed at the Hotel Scherer and highly recommend this hotel for its room size and offering of both breakfast and dinner included (of which both meals were actually delicious!)
It had a lovely outdoor area in the back, as well as a sauna included.
If you’re looking for luxury accommodation in the same area, I highly recommend Hotel Hubertus, known for its incredible infinity pool.
Other towns known for their central locations and options for accommodation include the Val Gardena area like Ortisei, Cortina d’Ampezzo, and Bolzano.
Final Thoughts on a 3-Day Dolomites Itinerary
A 3-day Dolomites itinerary will be a whirlwind adventure. You will see so many beautiful places in such little time that you’ll be pinching yourself very often!
Leave room for spontaneity on your itinerary – you’ll be wanting to pull over frequently to take in the views!
Don’t forget to save these beautiful places to your Pinterest board!
I hope a Dolomites road trip is in your near future! Suggest your favorite Dolomites sites or a place you dream of going in the comments – I’d love to know!