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13 nights in the Dolomites

Hello all:

I am planning a 13-night trip to South Tirol to see the Dolomites. Since I have quite a long stay, I would like to choose 2-3 home bases. I would appreciate your help in choosing them. I would like to see the Odle group, Tre Cime, some Alpine lakes with turquoise water, and some charming towns. I am not an avid hiker and will stick to easy paths and use cable cars for parts of ascent/descent.

I did a search in this forum, and the most mentioned are Cortina and Ortisei. However, since they are the most well-known, hotel prices there are high, and (more importantly) availability is drying up.

My budget is about $150 per night. I know this isn’t much (particularly for places that take credit cards and offer free cancellations), but I am rebuilding my house next year and need to be disciplined with my travel spending this year. I will have a rental car and so staying outside downtown isn’t a problem. In fact, I prefer not to stay downtown to avoid noise. Of course, I am open to B&Bs, farmstays, and vacation rentals. I love places with some Tyrolean charm.

For seeing Tre Cime, is San Vito di Cadore too far?
For seeing the Odle group, what about villages on the Val di Funes (Villnoss) side?
I know Rick suggests Bolzano and Castelrotto, but it seems like fellow members in this forum think otherwise.

What are the great cable car rides that I shouldn’t miss, beside the ones in Ortisei, Selva, or Cortina?

Since I have a rather long stay, any suggestions about where else to visit are welcome.

Edit: By the way, I will arrive by car from Austria from the northeast (direction from Lienz) and finally leave Italy by driving to Munich.

Posted by
780 posts

We stayed in Bolzano and loved it. It added a bit of driving over staying in some of the smaller towns but not too much and driving in the area was easy. I really enjoyed evenings in Bolzano.

Posted by
19505 posts

If your major interest is in the mountain scenery and mountain villages, it makes sense to focus most of your hotel nights in small towns. I haven't had a rental car in Europe so am not the best person to suggest how to approach a stay in the Dolomites with a car. I believe, though, that the scenery between Ortisei/Val Gardena and Cortina is especially lovely, so you might do some research on the most scenic route between the two (or perhaps there's only one viable route).

In addition to a day in Ortisei, I've been to Castelrotto. Both are attractive and (by my standards) "in the mountains". With populations under 5000 and 7000, respectively, they're what I call small towns.

Bolzano is a city of over 100,000, and it's down in the valley through which the rail line runs. It has a really pretty historic center and some worthwhile museums, most particularly the museum housing the Iceman. There are a number of attractive/historic/atmospheric towns down in that area, including Bressanone/Brixen, Chiusi/Klausen and Merano/Meran. It wouldn't be a bad idea to allot, say, 3 nights or so of your time to one of those places so you have a bit more variety in your trip. With close to 3 full days you'd probably be able to see three of those towns or others in the area. It's quite possible hotel rates would be lower and availability higher. One important point: You didn't mention what time of year you'll be traveling. During the summer it can be quite hot down in that valley, and many of the lower-priced hotels don't have air conditioning. At the upper elevations, excessive heat at night is highly unlikely to be an issue, though temperatures can get pretty high for a few hours in the very middle of the day.

Posted by
639 posts

Thank you for the messages thus far.

I am arriving in mid Sep and leave before Oct 1.

Posted by
46 posts

The Sella Ronde ring area has lots of good access to the peaks with gondolos connecting all the valleys to each other. The towns of Arabba, Corvara, and Canazei would make good bases with plenty of public transportation and trails.

Posted by
639 posts

Thank you.

How about staying on the Val di Funes (Villnoss) side, rather than the Val Gardena side, to enjoy the Odle group?

In addition, to enjoy the Tre Cime area, where should I stay?

Posted by
2565 posts

For the Tre Cime area, I would stay in San Candido, especially since you come from Austria. It gives you easy access to the Val Fiscalina trailhead, from where I understand the hikes are quite steep (I only know the area in winter, so I have never been), or you could drive to the higher-elevation trailhead on the other side, Rif. Auronzo. From San Candido, you could also visit Braies lake. And the village/town is quite attractive.

Posted by
1683 posts

Since you will have a car, you might look at Residence Astoria in Ortisei. They have their own parking garage with the apartments above.

Posted by
639 posts

Is Völs am Schlern too far as a base for Val Gardena? I found some farmstays that are ideal. I would like to stay at an agriturismo at least once during my trip.

Also, if I stay outside Val Gardena, where can I park (without costing an arm or a leg) in La Selva, Ortisei, or St Cristina?

Posted by
2565 posts

Völs am Schlern looks to be well-positioned for Alpe di Siusi, which is just above Val Gardena and very scenic. Highly recommended to go there. A bit farther from Val Gardena, but still probably OK.

Posted by
3042 posts

If you're spending a few days in Ortisei or Selva we found it worthwhile to buy a multiday Valgardena Card.

The Valgardena Card is a ticket for the unlimited use of cableways, lifts and bus services, including the Sellaronda Bus, in Val Gardena.
You can purchase the Valgardena Card:
in all tourist information offices
at the valley stations of the following cableways:
Alpe di Siusi in Ortisei,
Furnes-Seceda in Ortisei,
Ciampinoi in Selva,
Dantercëpies in Selva, Forcella Sassolungo at the Passo Sella,
in most hotels in Val Gardena.

Posted by
639 posts

Thank you very much again. My further questions:

  1. Suppose I don't find a suitable lodging option in Val Gardena proper, but I still would like to spend about at least 2-3 full days in the valley. I will avoid using the bus due to Covid. This means I need to drive all the time. While I am up in the slopes by gondolas or cable cars, my car is parked in the associated parking lots. Is there a charge for this? If so, is it outrageous?

  2. How easy or difficult is it to find free (or low cost) parking in these towns for times when I am eating in restaurants or when I am shopping? I know that ski towns try to limit car traffic, but this is not a normal year and I just don't feel comfortable riding public transit.

  3. In addition, what do you think of Lajen (Laion) as a base? I try to find smaller inns and farmstays in South Tirol, but the vast majority of these require a deposit via a direct bank transfer. i have no issues with the deposit, but making a bank transfer to Italy is painful and $$$.

  4. Which cable car or gondola rides did you enjoy most?

  5. Is the drive from Badia to Val Gardena difficult? On Google Maps, it looks like there are plenty of hairpin turns.

  6. After the Tre Cime area and Val Gardena, where should I spend 2-3 days before heading back to Munich? It can be in South Tirol or in Tirol, although I am guessing that food on the Italian side is more delicious.

Posted by
2565 posts

On question 6: does it have to be the Dolomites? If not and for a complete change of scenery, you could spend some time around Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany), to head to the Zugspitze and enjoy the mountain scenery in that very different area!
Or Zell am See (Austria) would also work very well.

Posted by
1683 posts

Look at Wise (used to be called TransferWise) to make a direct transfer to someone's bank account. Many on this forum have used it very successfully.

The Seceda lift had not opened for the season when we were in Ortisei in early June (it was going to open June 15), but that would be my number one choice for the view you get at the top.

Posted by
639 posts

Thank you.

For the Tre Cime area:
Cortina--has construction for the 2026 Winter Olympics begun? Is it very commercialized like downtown Zermatt?
Is Padola too far as a home base for Tre Cime National Park?

Posted by
14 posts

If you stay on Val Gardena, almost every place you stay at will have free parking. Since you don't want to ride the bus between towns, parking in a lot or garage is usually limited to 90 minutes and is typically free. I wouldn't get too worked up on parking costs.

Google maps can give you a pretty accurate estimate of driving times between towns and driving isn't difficult. Yes there are hairpin turns but it is not technically challenging. It is much more difficult driving in cities than in the mountains.

As mentioned, the Seceda lift to the top is a must. As is the Seceda Ridgeline hike once you get up there. The Alpe di Suisi lift is good too for a wonderful walk through the meadow. I recommend walking through the meadow until you reach trail 30 and take that across and down to S. Cristina. Gorgeous hike.

From the Val Gardena it is about a 50 minute drive to the Adolf Munkel trailhead which is part of the Odle Group in Val Funes. The Munkel trail is extraordinary and one of my favorites in the world. Tre Cime is fine but I don't think it compares to Munkel.

Have a great time.

Posted by
3042 posts

We were in this region in September a few years ago and it was a perfect time to be there. Here’s a rough itinerary to consider - allocate days depending on what you’re most interested in. With 13 days you can settle in and relax at each stop. Check Google Maps to fill in your itinerary with other places of interest along the way.

  1. Ortisei
  2. Stop in Bolzano to visit the South Tyrol Archeology Museum (Otzi the Ice Man) and drive to Malles/Mals (Italy) - accommodations might be more affordable there and it’s a beautiful smaller village.
  3. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  4. Back to Munich

Parking was never an issue and any cable car trip will be spectacular!

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi, we loved our stays at both the Ciasa Montanara in La Villa, Alta Badia and at the Garni Ariston in St. Christina, Val Gardena. With a rental car drive a few of the absolutely spectacular passes in the immediate area. Gardena Pass, Sella Pass, Giau Pass, Pordoi Pass and so on.

For something close but different, the Val Venosta/Vinschgau is loaded with castles. Churburg was our favorite, but look at Juval Castle, Castle Tirol and Kastelbell. There’s also the medieval walled town of Glurns/Gloreza. This valley runs from basically Meran/Merano to the Swiss border at Mustair. In Mustair, you’ll find an amazing place, the Convent of St. John’s. Worth the trip.

In this valley we stayed at the a hotel Panorama in Malles/Mals.


Posted by
639 posts

Thank you again for all your help.

  1. I couldn't find anything well rated and affordable around Tre Cime. So, I have chosen an apartment in Valdaora. It's slightly to the east of Brunico and west of Dobbiaco. What do you think? It's a very small town.

  2. Which drive is the scenic Dolomites "loop drive"? I looked at Rick's book, but can't figure it out because some maps don't have north pointing upwards and that they are all black and white. I have a problem matching those maps with Google Maps. Is it this one? Selva-Corvara-Arabba-Pordoi-Canazei-Selva?

  3. If I do the loop drive mentioned above, is there any reason to try driving from Cortina to Val Gardena? Part of it is the loop drive, correct?

  4. After Valdaora and Ortisei (actually, it's Bulla which is to the south of Ortisei), I still have 3 nights to spend somewhere before heading for Munich. I will fly out of Munich. Should I spend 3 nights on the Italian side or Austrian side? I considered Vipiteno, but one kind soul in this forum mentioned that it's only worth a few hours' time.

Posted by
8 posts

I have done this route and area many times by motorcycle and it is spectacular both in May [with snow still on the ground] and in October [with the fall colors].

If you want to see the most beautiful mountains, you can't beat the Canazei, Arabba, Corvara loop. It includes 4 passes; pordoi, campolongoo, gardena and last the most spectacular Sella pass. This is called the Sellaronda loop.

The most accommodations will be in the town of Canazei. Use booking .com for accommodations, and the lowest price with a rating of 8.5 or higher. You can't go wrong. Cortina d'ampezzo is too touristy and expensive. and lodgings are harder to find in the smaller towns.

You are not that far from Castelrotto and the Alpe de Siusi region.

Also on the return trip to Munich, some one suggested the Zell am see, an excellent choice, and you get to ride up the Grossglockner national park road [107], a toll road, but well worth the cost and with a great museum, restaurant, and tourist area at a overlook to a glacier.

Posted by
4 posts

On #6 - I'd STRONGLY suggest staying in the Austrian town of Lermoos and stay at Sporthotel Loisach!!! There you can rent bikes, ride a very safe trail into Garmisch, and easily take the train back to Lermoos, or go mountain biking, or hiking, or easily get to Oberammergau, King Ludwig's castles, etc. The food at the family-run hotel is fantastic! You won't regret staying there!!!

Posted by
83 posts

I have about 6/7 days in this area and I have been following this post, so thanks.

What do you guys think about these two places? :)

3 nights in Verona this is in airbnb
2 nights in San Candido this is in a B&B
A floating day can stay longer or move depending on weather
3 nights in...Val Gardena or Ortisei? Not sure on this-maybe airbnb

Main aim is to hike, maybe visit castles and relax

Then we will go onto Lake Garda, Turin and Alba.

Thanks everyone.