Exploring The Dolomites In Winter

Exploring the Dolomites in winter needs to be on everyone's travel bucket list. This is one of Mother Nature's most impressive features, come see for yourself!

If you don’t have the Dolomites on the top of your travel bucket list, that needs to change. The steep and jagged peaks are impressive all the time, but if you’re in the Dolomites in winter, you’ll experience the intensity of these mountains.

Exploring the Dolomites is a life changing experience that will bring you amazement with the beauty of our natural world. Whether you’re an avid sports enthusiast, into photography, or simply a nature lover the Dolomites have something for you. These mountain peaks and narrow valleys are filled with excitement and awe, that will leave you with a sense of amazement that a place like this is real. 

 

Drone image of Seceda ridgeline in the Dolomites, Italy

Table of Contents

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Where Are The Dolomites

The Dolomites are a specific set of 18 mountain peaks in the Alps mountain range that rise over 3,000 meters. The Dolomites are distinguished by their jagged peaks and sheer rock faces. There are icy glaciers, alpine meadows and it’s all a playground for outdoor sports. They were inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2009, due to the unique landscape and geological features.

This area draws in thousands of people a year to take in their beauty and explore the peaks and valleys they create the dynamic landscape. Comprised of volcanic and dolomitic rock, the Dolomites span across the Italian provinces of Trento, Bolzano, Belluno, Verona, Vicenza, Udine, and Pordenone. This region is often called “Sudtyrol”, or South Tyrol.

The region is almost 142,000 hectares (350,000 acres), and has a relatively recent explorative history. Although the mountains formation began almost 250,000,000 years ago during the Triassic Period, when a coral reef covered the area in the ‘Tethys Ocean’. The mountains were first explored and documented by an Austrian geologist in 1860.

Since this time 160 years ago, many climbers, cyclists, photographers, skiers and geologists have explored the remnants of the ancient world.

 

Dolomites In Winter

The Dolomites are stunning any time of year, but there are some major advantages of visiting during the winter. During this time, there are less crowds so you can enjoy the best views all to yourself! It allows the natural beauty of the region to sink in, since you won’t have the influences and families impeding on nature in the summer.

The steep peaks don’t hold snow everywhere, so you’ll get the impression of how much vertical they have as snow covers the rest of the landscape.

The Dolomites can be accessed through public bus, train or bus tours, however this will be limiting. As much as I will forever be a proponent of public transport due to the carbon intensity of driving, you will miss out on a lot if you don’t drive and take control of your schedule. 

That’s why we rented a Plug-In Hybrid Electric vehicle so we could reduce our emissions, but maintain the reliability of getting where we needed to go. A fully-electric vehicle would have been possible as many of the destinations had charging stations available!

1. Ski

The Dolomites are a skier’s paradise! Most of the ski areas in the region are covered with the same ticket; Dolomiti Superski. This includes 15 major ski resorts, over 1,200 km of slopes, and over 450 lifts, all for only €74.

This includes the most famous ski route which crosses through 4 major ski resorts; the Sellaronda. Named the ‘Best Ski Circuit in 2020’, this isn’t just one resort, but a circular track of 40 km that circulates the ‘Sella Group’ of Dolomite mountains. The resorts include Alta Badia, Val Gardena, Val di Fassa, and Arabba.

You can ski this circuit in either direction. Clockwise is a bit more diverse with less time spent on the lift, which is dictated by the orange signs. Counter-clockwise is more laid back and easy, which is dictated by the green signs.

You can purchase single-day passes for just 1 resort, but the price still comes in around €65 on average. There are discounts if you purchase multiple days at a time!

Although snowfall has been dramatically low the past few years across the Alps, there is high-quality man-made snow that covers the groomed runs, so you can explore the mountains and take in all the views! This does, however, limit the ability for backcountry/off-piste skiing. Check the conditions before booking your ticket!

*Tickets are always cheaper online – purchase ahead and save.

Cost: €74 
Time: 8 hours

Map of Sellaronda ski circuit in the Dolomite mountains
Sellaronda Map | Val Gardena Website

2. Church of Saint John

One of the most iconic images of the Dolomites, is taken at St. John’s church. A small structure situated in the center of an open field, with massive peaks in the backdrop. It is one of those areas that has become famous, so is worth stopping for that reason, but there are a lot of beautiful spots to take in the mountains that have a more unique vantage point!

Visiting in winter has the advantage of exploring the area freely, without payment. In summer the amount of tourists is extreme, so to protect the land there is a fence that keeps visitors far back. Entry is €4 and is enforced with a 1-way turnstile. 

*Note: This is a no-drone area. Please respect this as it is in a very quiet community!

To get a better view up close, check out Treffpunkt Zans Restaurant only a 10-minute drive from the St. John church! Address: Treffpunkt Zans, Zanser Str., 39040 Funes BZ. 

Cost: €4 (parking) + €4 (entry)
Time: 30 minutes

Church of St. John in the Dolomites with the mountains in the background
Church of St. John
Seceda mountains in the Dolomites through a restaurant window
Treffpunk Zans Restaurant

3. Seceda Ridgeline

The mountains you see at St. John Church can be explored on foot (and skis as well)! This is up at Seceda Ridgeline, which is at the top of Seceda Ski Resort. It’s not a cheap ticket either way, so if you ski maybe it’s worth it to get a full day in while you’re there!

You can ski here for the day and stop at the top to take in the views or take a cable car up just for the views (€38). If you take a cable car up to the top for the views, be aware you will have to walk uphill on the ski run for about 1/4 mile. It’s not too steep, but if you struggle with walking in snow some microspikes would be a good thing to have.

Cost: €64 (Ski Pass) OR €38 (View Only)
Time: 1.5 hours

Dolomite mountains from the perspective of the Seceda Ridgeline, at the Seceda Ski Area
Seceda Ridgeline

4. Cadini Di Misuina Viewpoint

The Cadini Group is the most dramatic part of the Dolomites (in my opinion). This range of jagged peaks is both beautiful and eerie as clouds roll over the snow-covered shards. You can see this group from a couple of places, but nothing compares to the iconic viewpoint.

It’s not too hard to get to the viewpoint in summer. There is a parking lot (Parcheggio Auronzo), which costs €30 to park at (if you can even find a spot), and then it’s about a 2-mile hike along the ridge.

However, in Winter, you need to be a bit more committed (it’s worth it)! The road is closed in the winter, so the furthest you can drive is to Chalet Lago Antorno. From there, you can either hike the 5.8 km to Rifugio Auronzo where the hike starts, or get a ride from the ‘Tre Cime Service’.

Snowmobile rides go up the base of Tre Cime, where the hike to Cadini di Misurina starts. The cost is €15 one-way or €30 round trip. At the top, you have the option for a ride back down on the snowcat, or you can use one of their toboggans to zip down the 5km track! The snowmobile rides run from 9:00 am to 3:45 pm, and you can check out their website for more info!

The hike itself should not be taken lightly. The viewpoint itself is inaccessible, but there are alternative spots nearby that get the same perspective. BE CAUTIOUS and don’t approach the end of a cliff when it is covered in snow!! There were not a lot of footprints when we went, for good reason. This is only advised for experienced hikers.

Cost: €30 for a snowmobile ride, OR free if you walk!
Time: 2-5 hours

 

Cadini Group in the Dolomites from the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint
Cadini Group

5. Tre Cime

When you get up to the Cadini di Misurina hiking trail, you’re also at the base of Tre Cime! This is an iconic peak in the Dolomites, which literally caused a war! 

If you’re really looking for an adventure, check out the Tre Cime Grotto, an intense hike that leads through a cave in the mountain with a unique perspective of the mountains.

However, there is an even better place to view them from, with a perfect viewpoint that highlights the 3 individual pillars. This is on route 51 that runs north from Cortina d’Ampezzo, where there is a free place to pull off and park to get a glimpse of the features.

Night-time photograph of Tre Cime in the Dolomites, Italy
Photo by Matt Hennessy

6. Cortina d'Ampezzo

You won’t be able to drive through the Dolomites without going through Cortina d’Ampezzo. This idyllic mountain town sits in the valley of incredible mountains, with views in every direction. It’s definitely on the higher end for cost, with a lot of luxury brands and expensive accommodation options for the ritzy tourists. But that should deter you from stopping!

There is a no-car area in the center of town, where you can walk around and get a bite to eat! This town held the Winter Olympics in 1956 and will be hosting the games again in the 2026 Olympics with Milan.

7. Passo Giau & Snake Road

You can’t miss driving over the Passo Giau mountain pass, in the southeastern region of the Dolomites region. This is a perfect spot to take in 360-degree views, or catch a sunset! 

Passo Giau is a mountain pass that connects some winding mountain roads with the heart of the Dolomites at Cortina d’Ampezzo. If you’re coming from the South, you will instantly feel awe as you see the valley open up with peaks in every direction. And if you’re coming from the North, you will see your horizons open up as you reach the top of the valley.

There is a restaurant at the top, with decent food to stop and enjoy the scenery. However, I recommend heading down into Cortina d’Ampezzo and exploring the scenic mountain town.

Cost: FREE
Time: 30 minutes

Passo Giau mountain pass at sunset
Passo Giau

Just North of Passo Giau heading into the valley of Cortina d’Ampezzo, you’ll hit another iconic photo spot. However, this one won’t jump out at you until you’re on top of it, because it’s a road. But this isn’t just any road, this spot perfectly zig-zags resembling a snake with symmetrical hair-pin turns.

You’ll go on a lot of sharp turns driving through these mountains, but if you have a drone, I highly suggest stopping to get a few shots of this satisfying spot as cars weave down the pass.

From here you can also pan up and fly close to Cinque Torre! Although it is not mentioned as a destination in this post, it is another iconic spot in the Dolomites. 

Aerial view of hair pins turns on a mountain road in the Dolomites
Snake Road from above

8. Seiser alm / Alpe di Suisi

Seiser Alm is the largest alpine plateau in Europe. This area is a meadow of rolling hills, where wildflowers bloom in spring, and ski runs line the gradual slopes. But it’s not just any meadow, this meadow has the most dramatic backdrop of the dolomite mountains, making it a picturesque landscape for any nature lover.

The Seiser Alm region is the furthest west towards Bolzano, so even if you’re only passing through the area briefly, you can still get to the beauty of the Dolomites with a short amount of time.

This is also a great location for beginner level skiers!

Not Mentioned

The Dolomites are world-class, and there are so many destinations here to check out. Although I didn’t name all of the iconic spots, I wanted to at least mention a few more that didn’t make it on my top list! Hopefully, this will help you plan your trip to the Dolomites, and make the decision of what to do/see.

Lago di Braies (also called Pragser Wildsee) is a huge hit. In summer the turquoise water reflects a dramatic peak that sits on its southern edge, however, in the winter it was pretty underwhelming. Parking was expensive, and without the turquoise water, it was just a shaded frozen lake (sorry).

Cinque Torri is also a well-known spot in the Dolomites, near Passo Giau and Snake Road, however, we didn’t want to take the time away from anything else to stop by. It is a unique structure standing on its own, but it’s pretty small compared to some other peaks.

A lot of World War I history lies within these mountains. There are remnants of hideouts, bunkers, and more from the Great War, as the region (previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) defended itself from the Italian Army.

 

Summary - Exploring the Dolomites In Winter

The Dolomites are a well-known region of the Alp mountains, that every outdoor adventurist and nature lover dreams of. The dramatic peaks loom over narrow valleys, where conifers and Austrian-style homes cover the land. Although the Dolomites can be explored throughout the year, there is no better time than in the peak of winter to take in the magnitude of their beauty.

This region is ideal for skiers, paragliders, cyclists, photographers, and literally everyone else. There is so much to do and see here, and I guarantee you will leave feeling a greater appreciation and connection to the world.

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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