Perhaps one of the more underrated Italian destinations, the Dolomites in northeastern Italy is home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes I’ve seen anywhere in the world. From towering jagged mountains that look more like something off a green-screen, to picturesque churches set among rolling hills and wildflowers, to emerald lakes resembling perfect glass mirrors, the Dolomites are a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers.
I recommend renting a car and spending at least one week (ideally 10 days) touring these picturesque stops around the Dolomites. There are plenty of beautiful hotels, beds and breakfasts, or even camper vans that you can call home on your road trip.
You’ll find breathtaking views around every turn, and surely will stumble across some true hidden gems along the way. But as you plan your trip, be sure not to miss these top 5 must-see scenic views in the Italian Dolomites.
1) Seceda Peak
As one of the most iconic views in the Dolomites, Seceda Peak stands at 2,500 meters tall in the Val Gardena mountains. This mountain view is best seen at sunrise or sunset. To make that sunrise hike a bit easier, you can hike half-way the night before, or take the Col Raiser cable car up, and stay overnight at a Rifugio mountain lodge. Options near the cable car station are Fermeda Hut, Almhotel Col Raiser, or Rifugio Firenze.
From there, the hike up to Seceda Peak is about an hour and is quite steep and strenuous. Be sure to wear proper hiking boots and very warm layers. Even in June, there was still snow on the ground and it was freezing when hiking before sunrise, but then warmed up immediately once the sun appeared. Bring lots of water because you won’t find many (if any) stops along the way!
2) Lago di Carezza
The Carezza Lake is a must-see stop while in the Dolomites. This alpine lake has become famous for its perfect deep emerald colored water, with a mirror-like reflection of the surrounding green spruce trees and snowy silver Latemar mountain peaks in the distance. It really looks like something out of a painting.
It’s become a popular destination for tourists and photographers, so it can get quite busy during the day. To have a more peaceful experience, visit for sunrise (arrive just before sunrise for the full experience!) or sunset. Alternatively, the lake is still beautiful during midday, glittering under the sunshine. You’ll have to share the view with a handful of people, but I promise, it’s still a worthwhile stop!
Give yourself time to walk the circuit trail around the lake, which should only take 20-30 minutes but will give you some beautiful nature views of the spruce forest and the lake.
There is a big parking lot next to the lake, so it easy (and cheap) to park close by and have a leisurely hour or two exploring Lake Carezza.
The Sassopiatto mountain walking trail is best explored at sunrise or sunset, when the lighting is soft and hazy. Much of it is more of a leisurely walk than a strenuous hiking trail, so no need to gear up in hiking attire if you're hoping to just enjoy a blissful morning stroll in nature.
Instead, grab a thermos of coffee, your camera, and some comfy walking shoes and spend an hour or two exploring the winding path through rolling grassy fields, charming farms, tiny towns, and (of course) the iconic silver-grey mountains in the distance.
The views are spectacular and, especially in shoulder season, quite empty early in the morning. It is by far the most peaceful way to start your morning.
I recommend staying overnight at the stunning, eco-friendly Urthaler Seiser Alm Resort, which is located walking distance to this hike so you can easily arrive for sunrise or make it home after sunset.
4) Tre Cime di Lavaredo
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also called the Drei Zinnen, is an iconic group of three mountain peaks and one of the most famous mountain groups in the Alps. This hike will take you around three massive jagged mountains surrounded by the soft, green rolling hills. Expect snow in the colder months, and wildflowers in the warmer months, and if you’re lucky — both in shoulder season!
The entire hiking loop around the peaks is about 6 flat miles, with breathtaking views the entire way. Park your car at the Rifugio Auronzo (arrive early during busier months to get a spot!), and start your hike from there. This Rifugio is a nice place to stop afterward for a warm meal after your hike.
The weather here can, at times, be unpredictable. On very rainy and cold days, the loop can be impossible or very dangerous to navigate — strong winds, icy walkways, and poor visibility don’t mix well here. In these cases the loop will be closed, so it’s best to try to plan this stop for a sunny day.
5) Lago di Braies
Braies Lake is possibly the most famous and picturesque stop in the Dolomites, and for good reason. The giant lake is as still and pristine as glass in the mornings, and there is no experience quite like watching the sunrise over Lake Braies. Moody and misty at dawn, the lake is slowly unveiled in a sheet of orange light as the sun begins peeking up over the forest.
Even during shoulder season, you’ll probably share this sunrise with a group of photographers who have all come to capture this picture-perfect landscape. It’s gotten quite famous on Instagram, but despite the social buzz, it really is still one my favorite places in the Dolomites.
Once the sunrises and the lake officially opens to the public, you can rent a small rowboat to explore the lake, or take one of the trails leading through the forest for some quieter, different scenic views.
The car park at Lago di Braies can fill up in summer months, so be sure to reserve a spot in advance. In shoulder season, if you arrive before or at sunrise, you shouldn’t have a problem grabbing a spot to park.
When to Visit the Dolomites:
I recommend visiting the Dolomites in shoulder months, either between April-May or September-October. The weather is still pleasant, with chilly mornings and nights but warm days in the sunshine. Plus, you will find better rates on hotels and activities, and much fewer tourists. The downside is that if there is still too much snow on the mountains, certain trails or cable cars may be closed or inaccessible.
The summer months are still beautiful and lush, with green outdoors spaces and fields of wildflowers. And if you prefer skiing through those towering silver mountains, rather than hiking, then you’ll love the winter season in the Dolomites (the lakes are still beautiful as well, frozen over into ice).
The Dolomites is one of the most beautiful parts of the world I’ve ever seen, and an incredibly underrated travel destination. With delicious cuisine, endless breathtaking views, a warm and welcoming culture, and (generally) easy-to-navigate roads, it’s the perfect destination for road-trip and some of the best outdoor adventures you can find in Italy.