Can you smell that fresh air? The lofty heights of the Dolomites wedged in the top corner of Italy is a little different to the bustling streets of Rome, the busyness of Venice and the artistry of Florence. In some ways it doesn’t feel like Italy at all. dolomites road trip
We spent a week road tripping around the Dolomites taking in the best it had to offer. And all without a multi-day hike in sight. Read on to find out how you can enjoy the Dolomites at your leisure
The Dolomites had long been on our list of must visit destinations in Italy. The iconic images of the jagged mountain peaks surrounded by lush greenery filled our Instagram feed. We were yearning to explore this beautiful region. So during this past European summer, we made sure a Dolomites road trip was turned into a reality.
DOLOMITES ROAD TRIP
We love exploring the great outdoors, and multiple visits to the Alps has fuelled this further. Yet, our experience in the Alps had been concentrated in Switzerland. We’ve seen the mighty Matterhorn in Zermatt, hiked amongst the cows in Grindelwald and discovered the hidden gem of Adelboden. With Italy being our favourite country in the world, we knew it was time to finally make our long awaited trip to the Italian Dolomites.
Now, whilst we love the outdoors, I wouldn’t exactly call us the most experienced hikers. In fact, half day hikes are more our jam. We definitely push ourselves when we want to. I experienced jelly legs after hiking up to Pulpit Rock in Norway and hiked along the coast in the Cinque Terre. However, as we were planning our Dolomites road trip, I also found myself with a bung knee. This reluctant hiker was even more hesitant around my ability to do the hikes we wanted!
Dolomites for non-hikers?
I started to do more research on the Dolomites and wondered whether it was worth visiting if we couldn’t partake in hiking. A google search for “Dolomites for non-hikers” would serve up results for the best hikes in the dolomites. Not exactly helpful!
When we found ourselves in the stunning town of Trento for a travel conference, we knew this was our opportunity to finally visit the Dolomites. Trento is located in the foothills of the Dolomites in the Trentino region. We decided to hire a car and just “wing it”, hoping we’d be able to enjoy the beauty of the Dolomites without those strenuous hikes.
I am so glad we did it. Whilst I am sure you would experience more of the beauty of the region on some of the famous hiking routes, it is still possible to experience the Dolomites without those hikes.
So, if you’re looking for a travel guide detailing the best hikes in the Dolomites, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking to undertake a Dolomites road trip at an easy pace, without the need for serious hiking gear, you’re in the right place!
Our Dolomites road trip itinerary will show you the highlights of this region in 6 amazing days.
Day 1: Start your Dolomites road trip
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should ask the question: what are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site, they are one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.
The Dolomites stretch across three provinces of Italy; Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino. They are so high north that they border onto Austria. In fact, before World War 2, a large part of this region was part of Austria. This fact won’t go unnoticed on your trip. A significant part of the population speak German. We were surprised to find that we were more likely to find a German restaurant here than a pizza restaurant. Also, most places will have a German name and an Italian name. It can be confusing at first, but it’s important to get your head around this fact. This BBC article will help you to understand the history and political elements of the region.
Due to its location, it’s possible you’ll be arriving from many different directions. Innsbruck is to the north, whilst south of the Dolomites you’ll find Verona and Venice.
Start your journey in Verona
We were adding the Dolomites road trip onto our travels through northern Italy, so it made the most sense for us to start our journey in Verona. It was also the most economical option for car hire. It’s possible to catch a super scenic train from Verona up to Bolzano, but the car hire in Bolzano was about double the cost. During your planning stages, check all options via rentalcars.com.
For your first few nights, we recommend staying in the Val Gardena area. There are 3 main towns that you can choose from here: Ortisei, Santa Cristina Valgardena or Selva di Val Gardena.
We chose to stay in Ortisei and were really happy with this decision for our Dolomites road trip. Firstly, it appeared to be the largest town so had a good array of restaurants. Importantly, this town also has the cable cars up to some of the most scenic spots in the Dolomites area.
The drive from Verona to Ortisei will take about 2.5 hours. The majority of this can be done on the Autostrade. However, if time permits, I recommend making a pitstop in the lovely town of Trento.
Discover the hidden gem of Trento
Trento is a hidden gem of a town that is unlikely to stay hidden for much longer. Aside from it being a beautiful town in its own right, we were there for a travel bloggers conference, Traverse19. So there are a good 400 bloggers and their followers that now know about it!
Having stayed in Trento, we can recommend this as a great place to spend a night if you’re taking your trip very slowly. At the very least spend some time here taking in all of Trento’s beautiful streets and history.
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