How to plan a trip to the Dolomites: itinerary, attractions, budget

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September 2022 – Dolomites, Italy

Every start of September makes my heart skip a beat. And then, as if waking up after an unpleasant dream, with a joyous sound of relief, i remember: oh wait, i’m not in school anymore! 🙂

This year we decided to celebrate autumn in the Dolomites region, Italy. We came back absolutely fascinated by the so called “pale mountains” and decided to share here our travel tips for the road.

Not sure how much time you need for making a travel plan for the Dolomites? Well, hopefully less, after this guide.

Itinerary, attractions, budget and practical advice coming up.

DOLOMITES LESS KNOWN FACTS

The Dolomites are one of the largest exposures of dolomite rock on Earth, from which the name is obtained. Because of their light colour (similar to limestone) they are often called the Pale Mountains.

Since they stand at the border between Italy and Austria, the Dolomites were the location of numerous World War I battles. Even now, the mountains are gouged with tunnels and remnants of the war. The terrain itself made the battle particularly intense for soldiers, having to endure freezing temperatures and high altitudes.

The prehistoric remains of the Cave Bear were discovered in the eastern Dolomites. The males could reach 3 meters when standing upright and could weight 1000 kg. This is comparable to the Kodiak bears of Alaska and the polar bears of the Arctic, largest bear species known today.

The Dolomites are home to the ancient Ladin culture. They’ve managed to preserve many traditional elements, including their own language. About 30000 people in the Dolomites still speak Ladin today, in the 5 Ladin valleys: Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Fodom and Val di Fassa.

This amazing mountain range was once underwater. There is evidence proving that the fossils and formations found in the Dolomites originated under sea. It is assumed that volcanic activity caused them to emerge.

ITINERARY TO DOLOMITES

1. How to reach the Dolomites?

            1.1. Airport + car rental

Closest airports are: Venice (Treviso/Marco Polo), Milano (Malpensa/Bergamo), Munchen or Innsbruck

            1.2. Roadtrip

Yeah, of course we went for the roadtrip. 🙂

Netherlands/Utrecht to Italy/San Cassiano would require ~11 hours of continuous driving. We split the route in smaller chunks as follows:

  • 2 overnight stops on the way to Italy: Germany/Darmstadt and Austria/Reutte
  • 1 overnight stop in Germany/Stuttgart on the way back

2. Accomodation

We chose San Cassiano as our travel base for the whole week and couldn’t be happier with the choice. It’s a village surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks, so beautiful that every morning felt like a dream.

Cannot recommend enough Ciasa Roby for their delicious food, friendly atmosphere and cozy vibe. It instantly became out home away from home during our stay.

3. Public transportation or car?

Even though it’s possible to reach almost any attraction by public transportation, having to rely on buses requires a lot more time and less flexibility. As we found out, in order to reach a touristic place we had to change 2-3 buses only one way, each with its own schedule and max capacity. Moreover, in full season some bus routes need a reservation in advance.

The only downside of driving your car is finding a parking space. This means getting up really early. Also the parking cost might be an inconvenience for your budget. For example reserving a parking spot at Lago di Braies cost us 20 EUR.

Our preference? Definitely the car.

DOLOMITES MAIN ATTRACTIONS

Listing here the most touristic places in the Dolomites. Needless to say we didn’t reach all, more of a reason to keep some for next time.

  • Lago di Braies
  • Lago di Sorapis
  • Tre Cime di Lavaredo
  • Cinema delle Odle
  • Seiser Alm
  • Lago di Carezza

SAN CASSIANO ATTRACTIONS      

It’s useful to know what’s worth visiting near San Cassiano as well. During the rainy days we had to do a bit of research for what we can do locally, without driving the car.

  • Museum Ladin Ursus ladinicus (city center)
  • Museum Of The Great War (bus 465)
  • Castalta viewpoint (hike 1.5 h one way)
  • Rifugio Piz Sorega (cable car Umlaufbahn Piz Sorega + easy hikes in different directions) -> Rifugio Ütia de Bioch, Rifugio Alpino Pralongià or Piz La Ila

DOLOMITES BUDGET

  • Accomodation, breakfast included: 1200 EUR
  • Food: 600 EUR
  • Gas overall roadtrip (2300 km): 200 EUR
  • Museums, cable car, bus: 100 EUR
  • Parking, tolls: 50 EUR

*for 10 nights/2 pers.

BEST SEASON TO VISIT THE DOLOMITES

  • Peak month summer season: August
  • Peak month winter season: December

As usual, I wouldn’t recommend visiting in full season. We were there in September and still had to book spots in advance at popular attractions. It was manageable though, we would choose September again for a second visit.

Temperature wise we had a range from 14 to 20 degrees Celsius, still ok for hiking. Funny thing, the weather forecast remains just a forecast in the mountains. It never rained when the weather app predicted so. 🙂

Pay attention that October-November and April-May are the lowest months in terms of tourism. Most of the accommodations and restaurants completely close their gates to prepare for next season.

Whatever you choose, brace yourself for an awesome experience in the Dolomites mountains. It will be magical, tiring, spectacular.

Buon viaggio!

THOUGHTS FOR SEPTEMBER

Even though September brings back bittersweet memories from childhood, it all started to change lately. Deliberately choosing to go on holiday at the start of autumn does the trick.

I remember all those years when summer holiday was over. I had to drag myself back to the city, start school, while my mind remained in the mountain village where i grew up. Then going back and forth every weekend, torn between two places, not really belonging anywhere. Weeks went by uneventful just until next summer. But this is not the case anymore. 🙂

In the last decade September has become my favorite part of the year. It’s the season when crowds are gone, the sun is gentle, nights are chilly, hoodies are out of the closet (yay) and i can finally breathe. Escape to my beloved mountains.

It was the Dolomites this year, who knows what’s next. But I know for sure that every story can be rewritten.

Note to self? Everything changes in time, and new things enter your life not when you want to, but exactly when you need them to. It will get better. Trust the journey.

Safe travels!

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