The beauty of the lakes in the Dolomites has captivated young and old. Spread across three regions, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and traversed by hundreds of hiking paths, the sheer amount of choice might seem a little overwhelming. Explore the famous and lesser-known must-see Dolomites lakes!
There are few places in the world that I go back to over and over. The majestic Dolomites in Northern Italy are one of those rare spots where my heart does a little summersault when my eye catches the first glimpse of little wooden houses perched on the slopes of the Italian alps.
Where there are mountains, there are usually pools of mountain water gathered together to form crystalline lakes. From the starlet Lago di Braies to the much lesser known Lago di Resia, the Dolomites hold some of the best lakes in Italy or to be even bolder some of the best natural attractions in Italy full stop.
This guide takes you through 9 of the prettiest lakes in the Dolomites, covering how to get to the lakes, what to do when you finally make it, and other practical information that will serve you well on your trip to the Dolomites.
Visiting the region as part of a road trip? Find the perfect one to two-week Northern Italy itinerary.
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Lakes in the Dolomites: Quick Guide
Trying to plan a trip to see those famous Dolomites lakes but have no time to comb through endless guides? Here are a few things you need to know right off the bat.
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: It will get you everywhere but it will take a bit more time than via car. For South Tyrol check out Mobil Card and for Trentino look into the Guest Pass. These cards, to be purchased once, allow you access to the vast majority of public transport in the region.
- DRIVING IN THE DOLOMITES: Roads are well maintained and clearly indicated. Driving is relatively easy, although expect a lot of curves as roads tend to be windy up and down the mountain. Compare prices to rent a car via Auto Europe and get the cheapest deal.
- DOLOMITES TOURS: I would honestly opt for a self-drive tour through the region and save your pennies. If however you are in a nearby region and short on time then a day tour might be your best bet. Day tours from Venice are affordable and showcase the highlights of the region
WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOLOMITES
Chase beautiful lakes and hikes close to your hotel. An overview of the various areas to stay and the best sustainable accommodations to choose from.
Exploring the Dolomites lakes: FAQ
Best time to visit the Dolomites?
The short answer is, you can visit every season. The long answer depends on what activities you are looking to get into.
My favorite time to visit the lakes in the Dolomites is either summer or winter. In summer the vegetarian is lush and flowers grow abundantly, additionally, the days are long and warm providing ample opportunity to explore. In Winter days are shorter and much colder, yet there are few places in the world as romantic in winter as the Dolomites. The lakes are covered in ice, oftentimes allowing for ice skating!
Winter: Temperatures get down to -12°C so pack warm clothes! This time of the year is great for skiing (freeride, cross country, telemark), snowboarding, trekking, and snowshoeing.
Spring: The rainiest season in the Dolomites and the most fickle. Some years the snow is still present at the beginning of April, while other seasons finish at the beginning of March. May is the best month to go hiking in the Dolomites without tourists.
Summer: Maximum temperatures of 25°C, perfect for hiking, climbing, via ferrata and boat rides on the lakes in the Dolomites, and even swimming (although the water is pretty cold year-round).
Autumn: The autumn season brings about a dramatic change in foliage, with deep oranges hues covering much of the forested mountains. The best month to visit in autumn is October, although there is a strong chance of snow starting end of October.
How many days do I need to explore the Italian Dolomites?
Five days will give you enough time to partake in one or two hikes and to get a taste of the beautiful lakes in the Dolomites. In order to make the best out of a very short trip, rent a car and base yourself centrally (Cortina or Alpi di Suisi).
My recommendation however would be to stay for at least one week. As the weather in the region will be fickle, adding in a few extra days will ensure you have the flexibility to move around your schedule. It will also mean you can stay in two different regions, cutting down on the amount of driving or even relying on public transportation to get around.
Read More: A sustainable guide to visiting South Tyrol and the Dolomites.
What languages are spoken in the Italian Dolomites region?
Much like in neighboring Switzerland, three languages are spoken in the Italian Alps: Ladin, German and Italian. Names of places will always be marked in Italian and German, the famous Dolomites Lake Lago di Braies (Italian name) is also known as Pragser Wildsee (German name). Keep this in mind when plotting your destination in Google Maps.
As the region does see a lot of tourists, many locals will speak enough English to be able to answer any of your questions, especially the youngsters or those working in tourism.
Things to know before renting a car to drive around the Dolomites
Getting around the Dolomites via public transportation is perfectly possible, but it does require a bit of time and flexibility. If you are on a tight schedule consider renting a car to get around the region.
Renting a car in the Dolomites
Renting a car in the Dolomites will cost between €30 and €80 ($33-$90) euro a day depending on the type of car & insurance you end up booking.
Save your pennies: Compare rentals via Auto Europe and be sure to book in advance!
Documents needed to rent a car in the Dolomites
- Drivers need to be at least 19 years old. Be warned that drivers between the age of 19 and 25 will be required to pay an additional charge (young driver surcharge).
- Drivers Licence that is valid. Should you be renting from outside of Europe an International Drivers Permit is required.
- Insurance: According to Italian Law, Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection insurance for your car is required. These usually come in the standard rental package, though best to check in advance.
What type of car should I rent?
There are actually a fairly large number of electrical charging points for cars, both private (hotels) and public, making renting a fully electric car to drive around the Dolomites a great option.
The main thing to keep in mind is you will be covering a lot of ground in a mountainous region. The roads are very well maintained so a 4×4 is not necessary, but a very small car might not have the horsepower to get you up and down the steep includes. We drove around in an Audi A1 which surprisingly did do the trick.
Renting a car in the Dolomites during winter
Looking to see those wonderful lakes in the Dolomites frozen over and surrounded by snow-capped peaks? It truly is a spectacular time to visit the Dolomites but keep in mind that from November 15th to April 15h you are required to have the appropriate winter tires (or snow chains) on your car.
Read the latest requirements on the official website of the region.
Check the various options on Auto Europe and compare prices.
CHECK PRICES FOR RENTING A CAR
9 of the must-see lakes in the Dolomites
Enough practical information, time to plan which of those famous Dolomites lakes you are going to visit. The below list contains both well-known lakes and lesser-known lakes; explores what to do in and around the lakes and how to get there.
Scroll down to the end of this section to find a map of the various lakes in the Dolomites region that are covered in this article.
Lakes in the South Tyrol province
1. Lago di Braies – Pragser Wildersee: The busiest of the Dolomites Lakes
Welcome to the largest and most popular lake in the Dolomites. You might very well have seen pictures of this lake pop up on your social media once, twice, or a few dozen times. This has contributed to the mass tourism that the lake is currently experiencing. While I usually strive to avoid these overly busy places, Lago di Braies is a true exception to the rule.
The crystal clear reflections of the mountains, the idyllic boathouse, and pristine waters make this lake even more beautiful than the pictures. The many hues of green have been known to capture the heart of the most ardent of critics.
Best time to visit Lago di Braies
Early mornings are the best as the sun will rise and reflect a beautiful orange tint on the limestone mountains opposite the entrance to the lake. It will also provide you with the best reflections on the water. An additional benefit is, you will have the lake practically to yourself to enjoy it to the fullest. So aim to get there at sunrise. The crowds start coming in at around 08.30 when the boathouse opens.
How to get to Lago di Braies
CAR: There are four sets of parking lots. The first two are right by the lake, while practical they will set you back 25€ a day. The parking is open 24/7 and is known to fill up quickly. Please note that in the summer months the road to get to these parking lots is closed once the parking is full. This is an effort to curb over-tourism. The only way to get in when this happens is by taking the public bus. So going early is key
BUS: Public bus nr 442, (route: Braies di Dentro/Innerprags – S. Vito/St. Veit to the Lago Di Braies)
Things to do in and around Lago di Braies
1. Hiking: The hike around the lake is an easy 4 km starting from the parking lot and looping all around the lake.
2. Go for a swim: Like most lakes in the Dolomites, the water will be cold!
3. Go fishing
4. Take a boat ride (from June to the end of October) or have a private photoshoot. More information and pricing to be found here.
5. Have a coffee in the small bar opposite the entrance. They open at 08.30 and serve a decent (if pricy) coffee. Steer clear of the food though it is overpriced and not fresh (stale bagels and soggy apple cake)
2. Lago di Dobbiacco – Toblacher See
The much lesser known Lago di Dobbiaco is a mere 24-minute drive from Lago Di Braies. I had never heard of this specific lake before and was absolutely blown away by it. As with many of the lakes in the Dolomites, it offers breathtaking views and a beautiful array of turquoise and green colors glittering off the surface.
The lake is located between the Three Peaks and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Parks but could very well be confused with the Fjords in Norway or NZ (or the set of Lord of the Rings for that matter).
Best time to visit Lago di Dobbiocco
The sunset at this lake was absolutely spectacular as it sets right behind the mountain range engulfing the whole lake in a warm orange glow.
How to get to Lago di Dobbiocco
CAR: There is parking for your car right next to the lake. However, the parking is small and fills up quickly. We ended up paying 1€ per hour for our stay there.
BUS: Take the public bus 445 (route Dobbiaco – Cortina D’Ampezzo) from Dobbiaco and get off at Lago di Dobbiaco stop.
Things to do in and around Lago di Dobbiocco
1. Hiking: The natural trail around the lake is 4,5 km. The trail is well marked and easily accessible. There are 11 information boards dotted across the trail which provide insightful information about the local fauna and flora.
2. Go for a swim (the maximum temperature does not rise above 16 C though)
3. Rent a paddleboat from the boathouse that sits snuggle on the shore.
4. Keep an eye out for birds that can be found here. This lake in the Dolomites is known to be frequented by many rare species of birds!
3. Lago di Carezza – Karersee: My favorite lake in the Dolomites
Aside from the Lago di Braies this has to be one of the most famous lakes in the Dolomites, and it is not hard to see why.
The lake offers crystal clear reflections of the Latemar mountain range as well as the pine forest dotted around its shores. Like many of the lakes in the Dolomites Lago di Carrezza entices its visitors with the crystal clear reflections of the mountain range in which it is situated. The Latemar mountains and the pine forest dotted alongside its shores come to life on the still surface of the lake.
What sets this lake apart from others is the kaleidoscope of colors that can be witnessed in these reflections: deep shades of green and blue, blush pinks, and heartwarming tones of yellow that will capture the attention of even the most ardent city dweller.
Lago di Carrezza is called the “Fairytale lake of the Dolomites”, partially due to the rainbow of colors on offer but also – more surprisingly- after one of the inhabitants of the lake. Legend has it, there was a mermaid living in the lake. Who knows, if you look close enough you might be able to find her.
Best time to visit Lago di Carezza
If you come in the morning, the chances are high that you will have the lake to yourself. It does get a lot busier as the day goes by. The best reflection and multitude of colors do require a bit of help from the sun. So make sure to stay for at least an hour after sunrise to have a front-row seat at this color show.
How to get to Lago di Carezza
Car: The lake has plenty of parking, conveniently located right opposite it. The parking is free for the first 15 minutes; after which you pay €1 per hour. On an important note, you pay for the parking in a machine which is located in between the restaurant section and the store (there is no way to pay at the exit).
Bus: From Bolzano take the bus 180.1 (Route Pera Di Fasse via Nova Levante/ Carezza).
Things to do in and around Lago di Carezza
1. Hike around the lake: The lake has a loop path that will take you around in 20 minutes. The hike is very easy and does not require any special footwear.
Please note: Lago di Carrezza is one of the few lakes in the Dolomites that does not allow you to swim in the water. There is a clearly indicated path and wooden panels to keep people from getting close to the water. They are put in place to preserve nature and should be respected at all times.
4. Lago di Caldaro – Kalterer See
Lago di Caldaro is another spectacular lake, this time on the Southern side of the Alps. What sets this lake aside is the fact it is surrounded by vineyards, which given it is right next to the wine route of South Tyrol should come as no surprise. This is a stunning lake in the Dolomites that took me by complete surprise and I wish I had more time to explore it properly.
Best time to visit Lago di Caldaro
During the summer you can enjoy the warm waters but during autumn is when the lake really comes alive as it is harvest season.
How to get to Lago di Caldaro
CAR: Make your way through the wine route of South Tyrol and into the valley. Be sure to calculate a little extra time so you can pop into one of the many wineries for a tasting.
BUS: From Caldaro: Take bus 130 ( leaving at Caldaro – Piazza Rottenburg) and get off at the stop San Giusseppe al Lago. From Bolzano: Take the bus 131 to Caldaro and then the bus 130 as mentioned above.
Things to do in and around Lago di Caldaro
1. Swim in the lake: The Lago di Caldaro is the warmest lake in the Alps with temperatures reaching 19 C in spring and a warm 28 C in summer. The lake has four free beaches and a variety of lidos (beaches where you can rent a sun chair) that are open from mid-May to mid-September. All the information about the beaches can be found here.
2. Hike around the lake: The easy trail is about 8km and requires no special footwear. Find out everything you need to know about the hike here.
3. Go on a wine-tasting: Interested in learning more about the variety of local wines produces. Have a look here.
4. Have dinner with a view: If you are in the market for a place with the best sunset views my suggestion would be to try the Seehotel Ambach.
5. Lago di Landro – Dürrensee
Lago di Landro is one of the three largest lakes in the Dolomites. Sadly, due to time restrictions, I was not able to visit, but that just gives me another reason to come back to this beautiful region.
The lake is situated in the Three Peaks Natural Park. It offers spectacular views of the Ampezzo Dolomites as well as the Cristallo mountain range and the famous “Three Peaks View”. The lake is situated at 1400 meters and has pristine turquoise waters which will offer a wonderful respite to weary hikers. The northern side of the lake has a little beach made out of shingles.
Best time to visit Lago di Landro
Aim for sunset to catch the warm golden hour glow reflecting off the water.
How to get to Lago di Landro
CAR: Park right at the edge of the lake
BUS: Take the bus 445 (route Dobbiaco – Cortina D’Ampezzo) from Dobbiaco and stop at the Lago di Landro busstation.
Things to do in and around Lago di Landro
1. Hiking: You can easily walk around the lake without any special footwear required. There are two loops on offer one which is 5km and will take a little over an hour and the other 6,2km which will take anywhere between 1,5 and 2 hours. Find all the info here.
2. Go for a swim
6. Lago di Resia – Reschensee
Lago di Resia is a much lesser-known lake in the Dolomites, yet equally beautiful as the other starlets of the region. What sets this particular lake apart is the steeple of a 14th-century church which has been all but submerged. In winter, when the lake freezes visitors can reach the steeple on foot (or on ice skates).
The lake is entirely man-made, dating back to 1950 when a water reservoir was built to produce electricity. The reservoir put the villages of Curon and Resia underwater, the Curon Venosta village was rebuilt in the same valley, though at a higher altitude.
How to get to Lago di Resia
CAR: 100 kilometers from Bolzano (1h41 min drive). Park your car on the parkingplace named Parkplatz Rechensee am Kirchturm (tends to get very busy during the day)
BUS: The regional bus number 273 stops right by the lake (stop Graun Curon)
Things to do in and around Lago di Resia
1. Kitesurfing: The wind on the lake offers the perfect conditions for both beginners and advanced kitesurfers, as is evident by the wealth of kitesurfing schools around the lake.
2. Walk around the lake: A pleasant 15-kilometer loop hike around the lake
3. Skiing: In winter one can skate on the lake or partake in a bout of skiing on the slopes of Belpiano (5 kilometers from the lake)
Dolomites lakes in Trentino province
7. Lago di Garda – Garda Lake
Few visitors are aware that one of the most famous lakes in Italy – Garda – is actually partially located in the Trentino province. The most well-known city around Lake Garda within the province of Trentino is Riva del Garda. A great base to use for the various outdoor activities this part of Lake Garde offers.
The region has a great network of public transportation. Look into the Garda Guest Card to get access to a variety of discounts + tickets for public transportation
How to get to Lago di Garda and around the lake
CAR: The easiest way to get to Lake Garda is via the A22 motorway (exit Rovereto Sud/Lago di Garda). Riva del Garda is about 20 kilometers from this exit.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Take to train to Roverete Train station, followed by a bus to Riva del Garda (note: Tickets cannot be purchased on the bus, purchase them at the bus station in advance).
Things to do in and around Lago di Garda
1. Hiking: Try the famous GardaTrek (three trails of varying lengths and difficulties) or alternatively a guided day hike.
2. Cycle: Cycling around the shores of the lakes or through the rugged mountain landscape surrounding the lake is absolutely spectacular. There are a lot of different well indicated cycling paths that are easy to navigate or alternatively take a panoramic e-bike tour
Beautiful lakes in the Dolomites province of Belluno
8. Lago di Sorapis – Sorapissee
This lake had been on my bucket list forever. For some reason, I just never made the climb up and this trip was nearly fated to end the same way. The day we chose to hike up, there was a large storm brewing and we were advised by the mountain ranger it was not safe to go.
The next morning, we got up bright and early and drove over to the start of the trailhead. Yep, that’s right, this lake requires a 14K hike before you can reach it. It explains why it is one of the lesser-visited lakes in the Dolomites. Though the picture-perfect turquoise water, the snow-capped mountain backdrop, and the relatively easy hike have contributed to the serious increase in tourism over the last few years.
Best time to visit Lago di Sorapis
This lake gets a lot less busy than some of its famous counterparts. That being said, less busy is subjective as the region itself is a very popular tourist destination. Try hiking early in the morning on a weekday if you are there in summer.
How to get to Lago di Sorapis
CAR: It is a 20-minute drive from Cortina. Make sure to put “Passo Tre Croci” in your GPS to get to the starting point of the hike. You can park your car by the side of the road.
BUS: From Cortina take the nr. 30 bus to Passo Tre Croci. Service runs 4 times a day, timings can vary so be sure to check before you go.
Things to do in and around Lago di Sorapis
The number one thing to do is to hike up to the lake. The hike is a good 14km long and you will need proper hiking shoes to complete it. Expect to be gone for anywhere between 4 to 5 hours. This hike is not suitable for those suffering from vertigo. Some of the winding paths that lead you up to the lake are a bit hairy and the final part requires you to climb stairs. I suffer from slight vertigo and they had my stomach in knots.
Tip: Right by the start of the hike there is a local restaurant that serves good coffee and where you can fill your water bottle before you head off. The mountain rangers also come here for coffee and are more than happy to inform you about the weather conditions to hike up.
9. Lago di Misurina – Misurina Lake
At a staggering 1700 meters above sea level, reflecting the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Misurina is one of the prettiest Dolomites lakes to visit. The altitude and surrounding mountains have ensured the quality of air around the Lago di Misurina is extremely clear, in the past when one suffered a respiratory illness, Misurina together with a few select locations in Switzerland is where one would go to heal.
How to get to Lago di Misurina
How to get to Lago di Misurina:
CAR: 15 minute drive from Cortina D’ampezzo (15 kilometer). There are numerous free open-air parking spots right off the lake.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Dolomitibus 3 or 4 from Cortina D’ampezzo (available in the summer months starting in June, not available in the winter). Check the schedule (only in Italian) online.
Things to do in and around Lago di Misurina
1. Practice wintersports: Hit the slopes of the nearby Col di Varda or partake in the many snowshoe hikes offered by the region
2. Hike the Tre Cime: A stone’s throw away lies the famous Tre Cime with its picturesque loop hike around the mountain peaks.
3. Enjoy a drink on the lakeside: Dotted around the lake lies a wealth of bars and restaurants offering the best views over the lake. Perfect to relax after a day of hiking or watersports
Note: If you would like to access the three peaks from Misurina lake by car (to the Auronzo hut parking) you will be required to pay a toll to the tune of €30 at the ticket booth. Payment is to be done in cash.
Map of the Dolomites Italy including the Dolomites Lakes
Find the lakes in the Dolomites region you are looking for on this interactive Google Map. Or alternatively, have a peek at the below map to see where all these beauties are located in one glance.
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