Ever since I saw photos of the Dolomites years ago, it’s been a dream of mine to visit. The turquoise coloured lakes that look as though they’re straight from Canada, the huge towering mountains, and the winding roads. Oh those winding roads. I’m not even joking when I say that I actually started to have nightmares about them on the trip!
The Dolomites are a mountain range in north-east Italy, just south of Austria and with Slovenia to the east. There’s a lot of German/Austrian influence in the area, with the majority of the population in the towns most northerly located within the Dolomites speaking German rather than Italian.
Lago di Braies
We started the trip from Lake Garda, driving the 3.5 hour journey to Lago di Braies, (also known as Pragser Wildsee in German). I was SO excited to see the famous lake with ‘that’ boathouse that everyone takes the famous shot of. But we arrived to thunder and lightening and a huge downpour of rain. So we sat it out in the van for a while until it stopped.
When we walked up to the lake, the boathouse was closed for filming! Everyone was walking around the barricades, so we followed until they caught up with us all and ushered everyone away so that they could start filming – though at least I got my famous shot of the lake haha!
We wanted to do the circular walk around the lake, but half of it was shut for filming and construction work! We got to the end of the lake near the huge landslide and couldn’t continue around so had to turn back again. We were a little annoyed by the whole thing, but what can you do? We still enjoyed the small walk and the views though. They were amazing! I couldn’t get over the colour of the water.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
The next day we headed to somewhere that has been on my bucket list for so so long. And we almost didn’t go! I’m such an overplanner usually, but for this trip, we had a basic route and schedule planned but nothing had really been looked into. It wasn’t until the morning that we were planning on going to Tre Cime di Lavaredo that we found out that the road to get to the car park at Rifugio Auronzo (where you set off hiking), was a toll road and cost €45 for a campervan for 24hrs (it’s a lot cheaper for cars, but I can’t remember specifically how much).
We were shocked! We debated not going because this was supposed to be a cheap holiday and we’d already spent waaaay over budget in Switzerland. But then I realised we were there. When were we ever going to be in the area again? Not anytime soon, that’s for sure. So we payed up and headed up the very steep and winding mountain road to the top (honestly, I don’t understand how busses make that trip everyday). It’s terrifying!
We followed hiking trail nº 101 which is a pretty simple route along the side of the mountain on a really flat track, going from Rifugio Auronzo, past Rifugio Lavaredo around the mountains to Rifugio Locatelli. The mountain is closed between September and the end of May, and luckily it had only just opened up (on the 25th May 2018), 5 days before we got there. Not so lucky for us is that the path wasn’t fully accessible yet with huge amounts of snow still on the track. The beginning section had been cleared, but the latter part was still in the process of being ploughed so we had a bit of a trek through snow on some parts.
The views were absolutely stunning! I just couldn’t believe the sheer size of the mountains towering above us and how perfectly vertical parts of them were. You can see Shane in a few of the photos if you look really carefully – that’s how big they were!
Hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop – Trails 101 and 105
You can do the hike all the way around the three peaks, which is roughly 6 miles long (9.5km) and is pretty easy (even I could do it and I am SO unfit). From Rifugio Auronzo, you walk the flat trail to Rifugio Lavaredo and then follow the sings for trail 101 to the top of the hill at the side of the end peak. The views from there are stunning into the valley below, and all the mountains surrounding the area. From there, you follow the trail 101 signs to Rifugio Locatelli, where you’ll find the best views of the Tre Cimi. Once you arrive at Rifugio Locatelli, you head back down the trail until you come to a split in the path and head right along route 105. Follow this back to Rifugio Auronzo. It should take roughly 3-4hrs with a total evevation gain of roughly 400m – so not too hilly!
Unfortunately, when we went there was still SO much snow that side of the mountain and on the trail path that we couldn’t actually get through the trail. The trail was only what people had made themselves by standing on the snow, and it was only a foot or so wide. We didn’t have any hiking poles to support us and I really didn’t fancy attempting it as it was, so we actually ended up giving the rest of the trail a miss and heading back to the van the way we came.
I was SO gutted that I didn’t get to do the loop and get to the best viewpoint at Rif. Locatelli, but I felt better knowing that I wouldn’t have been comfortable hiking through the slushy snowy trail. If it was later in the season or the trail had been cleared then it would have been no problem!
We arrived back at the van late in the afternoon and decided to spend the night there rather than paying all that money to park and then find a campsite on top of it. The views were amazing, and we spent most of the evening just staring out of the windows and taking in all the views. Then the fog suddenly started rolling in and the mountains were gone just as the sun went down. It’s amazing how fast the weather can change up in the mountains!
It was the perfect night, with the most amazing views and I’m so glad we had the van to be able to stay there (no tent camping is allowed). It was definitely the best day/night of our trip!
Have you been to the Dolomites? Is it on your bucket list?