Spectacular, soaring limestone cliffs and peaks; gleaming glaciers and lakes; lush forests; thrilling hiking routes and year-round adventure sports – you’ll find these and more in the southern subset of the Alps (and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) known as Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, around a two-hour drive from Venice and about four from Milan.
Where to start? Well, how about with the dozens of lakes up here? One of our favourites is the Lago di Sorapis, near the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo (which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics) and reachable only by hiking from the Tre Croci Pass. Its waters are a brilliant turquoise like something out of the Caribbean, but instead of being surrounded by palm trees, what you see here are white cliffs and Alpine pastures. Bellissimo!
Another huge attraction in the Dolomites is located at their northeastern corner: the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Nature Park in Bolzano. Worthwhile spots to visit here include a number of caves and the two Laghi dei Piani (Lakes of the Plains).
Another landscape worth a visit up here is the Alpi di Siusi, about a half hour northeast of Bolzano, Europe’s largest Alpine pasture and dotted with traditional Tyrolean wooden houses and huts. Besides hiking and climbing in the nearby hills, warm-weather activities include mountain biking and golf, and in winter of course plenty of snowy sports fun.
Another Dolomite must is the famous Giau Pass near Cortina d’Ampezzo up between the peaks Nuverau and Averau. The views from up here are stunning – for example, on a clear day you can see as far as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and there are places here for both warm- and cold-weather sports.