Italian Dolomites are a spectacular place on Earth and discovering those majestic mountains, pristine alpine lakes, rivers and villages with a campervan is an unforgettable adventure on its own. Here you'll find our favorite and most often suggested road trip plan for this region of Italy, covering some of the must-see places and gathering info about camping.
The suggested campervan road trip itinerary makes almost a loop, apart of a few worthy diversions.
The Dolomites - fascinating place you'll never want to leave.
... IT ALL STARTS WITH A TALE
Once upon a time, a Prince in the North East of Italy married the Princess of the Moon. Sadly, destiny was against them. In fact, he couldn't live on the moon because the light was too intense so he was losing sight. On the other hand, she wasn't able to live on Earth because those mountains were dark and their forests obscure.
Luckily enough, the king of the gnomes, who was looking for a land for his people, heard the story and offered to help the lovers to stay together, in exchange of a place to settle. They agreed.
One night, the gnomes weaved the light of the moon around the rocks of these mountains, donating them an enchanting atmosphere and making possible for the Princess of the Moon to come back to Earth and live, happily, with the love of her life.
For this reason, those mountains were named Monti Pallidi (Pale Mountains) and are better known worldwide as The Dolomites, witnessing nowadays to more and more legendary stories, written by intrepid travellers who come to pay visit to one of the most spectacular mountain ranges of the entire world.
Road tripping through the Dolomites feels like being caught in a fairytale.
ONE OF EUROPE'S MOST BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAIN RANGES
Part of the greater Alpine Range, the Dolomites stretch in the North East of Italy, covering 3 regions (Veneto, Trentino-Sudtirol and Friuli). The name comes from the predominant rock of this mountain, Dolomia, so called thanks to the French naturalist De Dolomieu who was the first person studying this particular mineral, peculiar to this part of Italy.
The Dolomites have also been the stage of many battles during the Great War and a museum Grande Guerra (at 3000 masl, on the Marmolada, Dolomites' highest peak) is remembering us how hard those times were.
These days, Dolomites are on the bucket list of millions of visitors, coming all year round from all over the world, attracted by their world class slopes during the winter season and the endless opportunities for sport activities en plein air such as climbing, mountain biking and trekking, to name just a few, during summer.
Summer fun in the Dolomites.
The Dolomites have been chosen several times as movie set over the years. The 1993 “Cliffhanger” movie, starring Sylvester Stallone as main character with a plot supposedly set in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, was eventually recorded on the Dolomites, the Italian Rockies. Also Cortina D'Ampezzo and its surrounding have been included in quite a few number of italian and international movies.
Cortina D'Ampezzo especially, for its charming and inspiring atmosphere, has been for years a very mondane holiday destination for the European aristocrats and jet set, and today still many VIPs go there to enjoy its elegance and beauty. Last but not least, Cortina hosted the 1956 Winter Olympic games and it has a current pending application (together with Milan) for the 2026 ones.
No wonder why, after reading this introduction, the Dolomites are so popular and highlighted on the maps of so many travellers.
The wonderful thing about this popularity is that, in addition to a 5 star landscape, tourists can find a 5 star quality and variety of service too, including campings or camper stops for those driving and exploring the Dolomites with a campervan at their own pace, mountain after mountain, lake after lake and village after village.
ROAD TRIP ITINERARY SUGGESTION
In order to help you with the planning of your next trip to the Dolomites, we have prepared a suggested itinerary covering some of the must-see places and gathering info about where to park and camp safely with your campervan (check also our useful article about rules and laws in Italy regarding this matter).
The itinerary makes almost a loop, apart of a few worthy diversions, the distances are not so big and, depending on the time you've got, could take anything between 2 days and 2 weeks.
There's so much to do and see that you'll never want to leave!
Must-see spots included to our Dolomites road trip suggestion.
As starting point, we recommend Auronzo Di Cadore on the eastern side of the Dolomites and the first village arriving from Slovenia. The lake (Lago di Auronzo), the small river and the mountains on the background makes of this village an excellent first approach to what will be an extraordinary scenic journey with your campervan. Visit the village and get in touch with the local community.
Auronzo di Cadore - definitely a place to stop if you're in the area.
From Auronzo, take the road SR48 west towards Cortina D'Ampezzo. Nearly halfway, follow directions to Misurina, nestled between the Tre Cime (Three Peaks) and Monte Cristallo (Crystal Mountain). A stunning lake awaits you and there is also a camper area next to the lake in case you want to spend the night here, relaxing and enjoying the views before your next stop: the majestic Tre Cime!
If you're visiting lake Misurina, take a stroll around the lake - the views are worth it.
The Tre Cime of Lavaredo rise above the clouds caressing the sky with their wild and rough peaks. A circuit can be walked around them and, needless to say, the panoramas and landscapes are well worth the effort.
Early bird catches the views.
photo by: Aleš Krivec
With your campervan, you can reach, from Misurina, the Rifugio Auronzo (Auronzo Hut) where the track starts. At the Rifugio there is a parking lot for vans and campervan. Bear in mind though, the road that ascend to the Rifugio is a toll one and, driving and sleeping up there can become quite pricey.
Another option is to sleep in the valley (Misurina, Dobbiaco, etc.) and reach the Rifugio Auronzo with conveniently cheaper public buses. Either way, a must see experience when visiting the Dolomites!
The road to Tre Cime di Lavaredo starting point is a toll road, but well worth the money.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the most popular hikes in the Dolomites of Italy. It's an easy hike with fantastic views, perfect for hiking with kids.
After the hike, park your campervan at the camperstop beautifully situated north of Lago di Misurina, overlooking Tre Cime in the distance.
Left behind Misurina, keep driving on SR48 towards Passo Tre Croci (3 Crosses Pass), where a couple of different tracks will lead you to another stunning lake, Lake Sorapis. According to another local legend, it has been created by the tears of King Sorapis when he lost his daughter named Misurina.
The light-blue water is absolutely mindblowing and the scenery is spectacular, with the mountain Il Dito Di Dio (God's Finger Mount) dominating the lake on the background. The walk to the lake takes about 2 hours and a half and, once returned to Passo Tre Croci, a 15-20 minutes drive will lead you to the above mentioned Cortina D'Ampezzo.
Starting point for Lago di Sorapis is Passo Tre Croci.
Breathtaking colors of lake Sorapis.
Cortina is the representation of the perfect mountain village. Stunning landscapes, mondane yet beautiful vibes and an comprehensive offer of services for all sort of tourists. Trekking, mountain-biking, climbing and more activities are available in and around Cortina.
Wether it's winter or summer, Cortina has always something ready to catch your attention and make you stay longer. Freedom camping could be not so tolerated in this area but campings are available only a short distance to town.
Cortina d' Ampezzo.
From Cortina D'Ampezzo, take SS51 all the way to Dobbiaco or San Candido. Stop en route at the small yet beautiful Dobbiaco Lake (camping and restaurants available too if hooked by the beauty of the place). Both villages are beautiful to get in touch with local art, culture crafts and food.
They both offer a fair amount of activities and facilities for campervans such as camper stops and campings. From Dobbiaco, drive west for a few kilometers on SS49, following directions to Lake Braies, probably the most photographed off all the alpine lakes.
Breathaking views, crystal-clear water and the surrounding mountains give to Lake Braies the fame of one of the most beautiful lakes of Italy and beyond. This enchanting place comes with a convenient camper area (not free) located close by. During winter the lake gets icy while during summer tourists flock to the lake to get that perfect postcard-like picture or enjoy some boating on its water. We recommend, especially during July and August, to park your campervan at the villages of Dobbiaco or San Candido and use public transport if you want to avoid the crowded windy road that leads to the lake and be disappointed when finding the parking full.
The most instagrammable lake in Italy - lake Braies.
With Lake Braies ends our small yet full of sightseeing itinerary along the Dolomites. At San Candido, drive on SS52 to Auronzo Di Cadore to “close” the loop. The good thing about this roadtrip is that can be done both clockwise or counter-clockwise, at a fast or slow pace, giving you the freedom that only a journey on a van, campervan or motorhome can offer.
WANT TO EXPLORE FURTHER?
If time is not a matter for you, from Cortina you can drive further west towards Val Badia and Val Gardena, a paradise for skiers and snowboarders with their 1200km of slopes. Worth a visit are also the above mentioned Great War Museum on the Marmolada and, if mountaneering and climbing is your thing, the Messner Mountain Museum, on the peaks of Corones, founded by Reinhold Messner (the first man climbing all the 8000mt peaks and holder of many other records).
On the way back to Slovenia, instead, an interesting yet dramatic sight for the Italian history is the Vajont Dam, one of the tallest dams in the world. Its fame unfortunately is related to a tsunami, caused by a landslide on the reservoir created by the dam, that took place in 1963 and killed about 3000 people living in the nearby villages down the valley. Today it is possible to visit the dam, to understand what caused this disaster and pay a tribute to all who lost their lives in this sad page of the Italian history.
On October 9, 1963, at 10:39pm 260 million cubic metres of rock broke off from the top of Monte Toc, on the border between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Masive landslide fell into the reservoir of the Vajont Dam, producing an enormous wave of at least 50 million cubic metres of water. The dam, however, did not suffer any serious damage.
WHEN TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE DOLOMITES?
Months between May and September are certainly the best time of the year to come to the Dolomites, when the snow has gone, the forests blossom in all its brilliancy and the lake are not just a carpet of ice.
During winter most of the lakes (ie Braies, Sorapis) are a carpet of ice and, even though equally splendid, the conditions are really rough and you must not attempt to reach them unless very, very experienced with unpredictable and extremely cold alpine weather. Better turn your attention to the beautiful slopes where endless tracks will make your ski-holiday unforgettable. Furthermore, some of the high mountain passes (Passo Tre Croci is one of them) are closed during winter based on the amount of snowfall.
Summer is definitely the best time to visit this part of Italy and breathe some fresh, clean air, far from big cities and overcrowded seaside holiday destinations.
Now that your itinerary to the Dolomites is sorted, just pack your things and get ready for your next adventure with Nest Campers.
Book from our fleet of campervans based on your own requirements and needs.
Whatever you choose, we've got you covered!