The six most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites
There are few places in the world that capture my heart as completely as the majestic Dolomites in Italy. Snow-capped mountains, winding hiking paths leading you to jaw dropping views and a wealth of outdoor activities ripe for the picking. One could fill a whole library worth of books describing this majestic part of Europe, but for now let us focus on the the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites.
1. Getting around the Dolomites
The Dolomites span across no less than three of the Italian regions. To put it mildly, that is a lot of ground to cover! This blogpost focusses on two of the three regions e.g. of Trentino – South Tyrol. The easiest way to get around is by renting a car. If however that is not an option, fret not you can get around to see all those fabulous lakes in the Dolomites without a car too. The region of Trentino-South Tyrol has done a very good job of making the main sights and hikes available to reach via public transport.
Let me give you some practical general information about transport before we dive headfirst into those picture perfect lakes.
If you are planning on taking a lot of public transport, it might be a cheaper option to invest in the mobilcard which offers a fixed rate for one day, two days or even a week. Check it out here.
Be careful though as a few of the busses that take you to the lakes included in this guide are not included in the Mobilcard.
For the buses in South Tyrol you can check the timetable here or alternatively download the app to have the latest up to date times.
Now then, let’s get down to business. It is time to provide you all the information you need about my favourite lakes in the Dolomites.
2. Let’s list those beautiful lakes in the Dolomites
2.1 Lakes in the South Tyrol province
Lago di Braies – Wildersee
Welcome 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 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 critic.
Best time to go:
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.
By 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 in 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
By Bus: – Public bus nr 442, (route: Braies di Dentro/Innerprags – S. Vito/St. Veit to the Lago Di Braies)
Things to do 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. Find out more here.
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 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 off the food though it is overpriced and not fresh (stale bagels and soggy apple cake)
Lago di Dobbiaco – Toblachersee
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. It is located between the Three Peaks and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Parks but could very well confused with the Fjords in Norway or NZ (or the set of Lord of the Rings for that matter).
Best time to go:
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.
By 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.
By Bus: Take the public bus 445 (route Dobbiaco – Cortina D’Ampezzo) from Dobbiaco and get off at Lago di Dobbiaco stop.
Things to do at Lago di Dobbiaco:
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 paddle boat 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!
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 the wary hikers. The northern side of the lake has a little beach made out of shingles.
Best time to go:
Aim for sunset to catch the warm golden hour glow reflecting off the water.
By Car: Park right at the edge of the lake
By Bus: Take the bus 445 (route Dobbiaco – Cortina D’Ampezzo) from Dobbiaco and stop at the Lago di Landro busstation.
Things to do at 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
Lago di Carrezza – Karersee
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 situation. The Latemar mountains and the pine forest dotted alongside its shores come to life in the still surface of the lake.
What sets this lake apart from others is the kaleidoscope of colors that can be witness in these reflections: deep shades of green and blue, lush pinks and heart warming 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 go:
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 the this color show.
By 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).
By Bus: From Bolzano take the bus 180.1 (Route Pera Di Fasse via Nova Levante/ Carezza).
Things to do at Lago di Carrezza:
1. Hike around the lake. The lake has a loop path which 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.
Lago di Caldaro – Kalterersee
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 stunning lake in the Dolomites took me by complete surprise and I wish I had more time to explore it properly.
Best time to go:
During the summer you can enjoy the warm waters but during autumn is when the lake really comes alive as it is harvest season.
By 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.
By Bus: From Caldaro: Take the 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 at 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 sunchair) 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. he restaurant only works with local producers and has vegetarian options upon request.
2.1 Lakes in the Veneto province
Lago di Sorapis
This lake had been on my bucket list for ever. 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 caped mountain backdrop and the relatively easy hike have contributed in the serious increase of tourism over the last few years.
Best time to go:
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 during a weekday if you are there in summer.
By 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.
By Bus: From Cortina take the nr. 30 bus to Passo Tre Croci. Service runs 4 time a day, timings can vary so be sure to check before you go.
Things to do at 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 which 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.
Learn everything you need about hiking around Sorapis here.
Where to stay in the Dolomites
There are plenty of beautiful places to stay in South Tyrol – Simple mountain chalets to 5-star wellness hotels, there is something for everyone. Let the below hotels serve as a little inspiration for you:
Naturhotel Leitlhof: This beautiful 4-star hotel is a 15 minute drive from Lago di Braies. The hotel has a strong sustainability program which can be seen through their efforts to reduce water waste and to work with local produce for their restaurant. In addition the property has a beautiful spa with a sauna that offers views over the nearby mountain range from the comfort of your warm sauna seat. Location: San Candido
Goldstern Townhouse: The beautifully renovated townhouse was converted into a stylish B&B in the heart of Bolzano. Rooms are tastefully decorated with very comfortable matrasses and a luxurious bathroom. Breakfast is Italian and/or continental and the location is an unbeatable 5 minute walk from the city centre.
Hotel Weinegg: If you are into wine, this 5-star hotel might just be the perfect fit as it is surrounded by vineyards and located 2 kilometres from the wine route. It offers a luxury wellness centre and an outdoor hot tub open all year as well as a 25 m pool with white sandy beach. Location: Appiano sulla Strada del Vino
Forestis: Possibly the most epic 5-star hotel in the Dolomites providing unbeatable views over the Dolomites, a beautiful design and rooms filled with plush bathrobes and matrasses. Treat yourself with a bio herbal sauna, or any of the other wellness packages that are on offer. Location: Bressanone
There you have it, my top six lakes in the Dolomites to visit. If you take the car and drive around the region you are bound to bump into lesser known lakes which are equally beautiful and you might just have them all to yourself!
Are the Dolomites part of a larger roadtrip through North East Italy? Than perhaps this blogpost can serve as inspiration to you.
Looking for some help finding the best vegetarian food during your travel through Italy? Have a read here.
Stay tuned for my blogpost on where to stay in the Dolomites, coming soon!
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