The Dolomites mountain range stretches across northeastern Italy, just beneath the Austrian border. Although it covers a small region, narrow valleys and sheer cliff walls make it a truly stunning location. More than 18 peaks reach above 3000 meters and a seemingly endless network of mountain roads, hiking paths, and via ferratas make exploring them incredibly easy. Multi-day hiking trips are popular, too, especially if you go to the Dolomites in autumn. Mountain refuges provide shelter and food to visitors at incredible value.
7 beautiful views of the Dolomites in autumn
1. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
The three stunning peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo are a historical marker in the Dolomites. The mountain used to mark the Austria-Italy border until 1919. Today, it marks the Dolomite’s cultural divide. Italian is the main language to the south, while German still rules to the north. These mountains were also on the front lines during WWI. Man-made bunkers, fortifications, and historical plaques dot the landscape.
This area is a hiker’s paradise. Several hiking routes and mountain refuges lead in all directions. The most popular one is the 2-day hike from Monte Paterno to the Locatelli Rifugio, via Pattern Pass.
2. Lago Di Braies
Lago Di Braies or Prager Wildsee (in German) is a destination on its own. It has a large hotel, boat rentals, and day hikes that begin right along its shore. It’s also the beginning of the 150 kilometer Alta Via 1 trail, which takes in much of the Dolomite’s best scenery.
The area is pretty busy throughout the summer months, with an average of nearly 3000 visitors per day. The boat rentals might be closed for the season if you visit the Dolomites in autumn, but you’ll experience a far more natural – and quiet – experience.
3. Alpe di Siusi
While you can drive to the high meadows of Alpe di Siusi, the road is only open from 5pm until 9am. During the day, you can reach the area via a cable car that runs from Siusi to Compaccio. From there, hiking trails lead off in all directions. The most incredible views are, without a doubt, the dramatic cliff faces of the neighboring Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo mountains.
4. Wuhnleger Pond
Multi-day hikes like the Alta Via 1-8 routes are popular across the Dolomites, but you won’t need to hike long distances for amazing views. Wuhnleger Pond is just a short 40-minute hike from Tiers, in Bolzano Province. It gives a picture-perfect reflection of the Rosengarten Group in the Catenaccio Range.
5. Val Gardena
Val Gardena is a wide valley in Italy’s South Tyrol Province. It can be busy in both the winter and summer, as it’s best known as a skiing and rock climbing destination. But the local mountains are most beautiful in the autumn, after the Larch trees turn orange. Looking for another reason to visit this area of the Dolomites in autumn? The complete lack of crowds. The entire area is practically deserted between the two major tourism seasons.
Val Gardena is also a cultural anomaly, as it’s home to Laden People. This small ethnic group, which is native to five valleys throughout northern Italy, makes up approximately 4.5% of the current population. The culture is celebrated and preserved thanks to government-sponsored institutes like the Istitut Ladin Micura de Ru in the San Martin de Tor municipality.
6. Lago Dobbiaco
Lago Dobbiaco is a starting point to explore both Sesto and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Parks. It’s within walking distance of the Dobbiaco/Toblach train station, and a pleasant 2-hour hike traces the lake shore. The views are spectacular and interpretive signs give information about the region’s rich flora and fauna. There are also five nearby bunkers, which were built by Mussolini to protect access to Italy.
7. Santa Maddalena Alta Bozen
The Santa Maddalena Church and the Odle Mountain backdrop is one of the Dolomite’s premier photo opportunities, but there’s plenty more to do in the Val de Funes area. The Zannes Mountain Pasture is just a few minutes from the Santa Maddalena Church and it’s the starting point for several great hikes. The Adolf Munkel trail lies beneath the soaring Odle range, while the Puez-Odle nature park offers a wide selection of climbing routes for all mountaineering abilities.
In 2009, the Dolomites became a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve the natural beauty found within this mountain landscape. It’s all surprisingly accessible by trains that run between Lienz, Austria, and Bolzano, Italy. From the train stations in San Candido, Dobbiaco, Brunico, and other towns, it’s a matter of hopping on public transport or joining the closest hiking trail to explore the mountains. If you want to go on your own true Italian adventure, then a Eurail Italy Pass will help you get there.