Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the best places to base yourself to see the Dolomites. This guide covers all the great things to see and do in the area, as well as accommodation recommendations and practical tips for visiting.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 17 May 2024 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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The Eastern Dolomites is dramatic and rugged terrain. Spiky red and grey mountains are surrounded by high alpine meadows with beautiful turquoise lakes tucked into the folds of the landscape.

Lying in the centre of this excellent scenery is Cortina d’Ampezzo, a lovely town with a mix of traditional restaurants, high-end dining and luxury shopping.

Cortina is a great base to hike some of the best trails in Italy, ride cable cars to exceptional viewpoints and visit the most stunning lakes in the Dolomites.

We’ve been to Cortina several times and we have put this guide together to capture all our favourite experiences along with all the practical information you need.

cortina italian dolomites

IN THIS GUIDE

CORTINA, DOLOMITES ITALY


WHY GO?

MAP

GETTING THERE

WHAT TO DO

WHERE TO STAY

MORE GUIDES

WHY GO TO CORTINA D’AMPEZZO & THE EASTERN DOLOMITES?

We love the Dolomites, but (along with Val Gardena) the area around Cortina d’Ampezzo is probably the best. The town is surrounded by the most famous Dolomite peaks and it has some of the region’s top attractions.

It has the most beautiful turquoise lakes (including Lago di Braies), what is generally considered to be the best short-ish hike (a loop of Tre Cime di Lavaredo), and the remarkable peaks of Cadini di Misurina.

Cortina is a great base to explore the Eastern Dolomites. The town has a very good mix of hotels, good shopping and great eating options. It’s also one of the premier ski resorts in Italy.

eastern dolomites scenery
MONTE SPECE HIKE

MAP | CORTINA & THE EASTERN DOLOMITES

Most of the main attractions around Cortina are within a 30-40-minute drive from the town centre. The exception is Lago di Braies which is around 55 minutes drive away.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


HOW TO GET TO CORTINA

BY AIR

The nearest and most practical international airport to Cortina is Venice Marco Polo Airport. From Venice, the Cortina Express bus service runs to Cortina. If you hire a car it is about a 2-hour drive from the airport.

You could also fly into Austria’s Innsbruck Airport, which is a 2-hour 30-minute drive from Cortina.

BY TRAIN

The nearest train station to Cortina is Calalzo di Cadore which is 22 miles to the south. There is a bus from the station which takes around 1 hour. You can find the timetable on the Dolomiti Bus website.

GETTING AROUND CORTINA

You can visit some of the highlights of the Cortina region by public transport – which we explain how to do below. However, public transport doesn’t get you everywhere and it’s easier and quicker to explore the area by car.

From Cortina, you can get to the following places by public bus:

  • Rifugio Auronzo to start the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Cadini di Misurina hikes.
  • Passo Tre Croci to start the Lago di Sorapis hike.
  • Falzarego Pass and the Lagazuoi Cable Car.

The Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo Cable Car is a 15-minute walk from the centre of town. All other places listed in this guide really require a car.

cortina dolomites

WHAT TO DO AROUND CORTINA

1. HIKE TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO

Possibly the finest hike in the entire Italian Dolomites, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop offers stunning views of the three distinctive rocky peaks rising above a sea of barren rock.

Numerous rifugios on the route provide wonderful breaks with stunning views and hearty Italian cooking. The trail is easy to follow with several scenic rest stops along the way.

All the details including how to get there are on our guide to hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

2. TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF CADINI DI MISURINA

The Cadini di Misurina viewpoint offers some of the best views of the spiky mountain peaks that made the Dolomites so distinctive.

There is a short hike to the viewpoint from the Rifugio Auronzo car park, which is where the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike mentioned above starts.

From the car park, take trail 117 towards Rifugio Col de Varda and walk about 1.5 kilometres to reach the viewpoint. There is a narrow trail on a grassy outcrop with dramatic views of the surrounding mountains.

views of cadini di misurina dolomites
CADINI DI MISURINA

3. TAKE THE GONDOLA TO CIMA TOFANA

The Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo Cable Car rises from just outside Cortina to Cima Tofana (3,244m) from where it is a short hike to Tofana di Mezzo, the third-highest peak in the Italian Dolomites.

The views from here over the Sorapis, Sexten, and Cristallo groups are said to be exceptional.

Unfortunately, we had very bad weather the day we planned to go and visibility was very poor. But, the cable car station is only a 15-minute walk from the centre of Cortina d’Ampezzo, so you can check the summit webcam before setting off.

4. WITNESS LAGO DI BRAIES

Lago di Braies is a picture-perfect lake and one of the most recognisable images of the Italian Dolomites. The vibrant turquoise lake is surrounded by blonde-shingle beaches and backed by sheer rocky cliffs.

There are great photo opportunities from the shore but the best way to see it is by hiring a romantic wooden row boat.

It’s an unmissable attraction around Cortina and you can read more, including how to get there, in our guide to Lago di Braies.

5. EXPLORE PRATO PIAZZA

One of our favourite things around the Cortina area was Prato Piazza. A wild alpine pasture set in the hills above Lago di Braies it is a beautiful location that is often under-visited.

There are lots of great hikes in the area, but we recommend the one to Monte Specie. It takes around 3 hours to complete and provides some of the best views of Tre Cime. You can read more in our Lago di Braies guide.

MONTE SPECE HIKE DETAILS (CLICK TO OPEN)

Start from the parking lot at Rifugio Prato Piazza and follow the number path 37 through the forest to Rifugio Vallandro (2,040m). North of the rifugio, continue on path 34, which leads up to Monte Specie (2,308m).

At the top there’s a viewing platform indicating the mountain ranges you can see from the summit. The closest and most impressive are the towering peaks of Tre Cime (see our guide to hiking Tre Cime). Return the way you came.

Getting There — You can only drive to the top of Prato Piazza early in the morning (before they close the road) or if you are staying in the hotel at the top, Hotel Gaisl. Otherwise, you can park at the large car park at the bottom and get the shuttle bus. More information is on our guide to Lago di Braies.

We stayed the night at the hotel and were treated to a magical sunrise over the mountains and meadows dotted with wooden huts. If you have the time, we highly recommend it.

6. DINE AT EL BRITE DE LARIETO

El Brite de Larieto was one of our favourite dining experiences in the Dolomites. It’s farm-style Alpine dining with top-quality local produce and an interesting menu. They use many of their own products in their cooking including cured meats, butter, ice cream plus herbs, berries and vegetables from the farm.

In 2023 they were awarded a green Michelin star for their outstanding sustainability, and environmentally friendly practices.

When we went you could turn up mid-way through a hike, these days you really need to book in advance and you’ll need a car or taxi to get there.

7. HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS

Lago di Sorapis is a stunning high alpine lake on a secluded ledge surrounded by the rugged slopes of Mount Sorapis (3,200 m).

The lake is reached via a moderately challenging hike which includes forested trails, narrow ledges, and breathtaking views overlooking Tre Cime.

During the summer months, there’s a wonderful return route that heads over a dramatic high pass. All the details, including how to get there, are in our guide to hiking to Lago di Sorapis.  

8. DRIVE THE FALZAREGO & GIAU PASSES

The Falzarego Pass is a high road between the mountains of Lagazuoi and Col Gallina which connects Cortina with Bolzano. The pass reaches a height of 2,109m and is part of the Great Dolomite Road.

At the top there is a cute white chapel and a cable car that climbs up to Rifugio Lagazuoi (see below).

The Giau Pass connects Cortina with Selva di Cadore with views of the most impressive peaks in the Dolomites. It’s a spectacular 10-kilometre drive with a 9.1% incline, and it’s one of the most famous stages of the Giro d’Italia.

Dolomiti Bus runs a few services daily (route 30/31) between Cortina and the Falzarego Pass, but there is only one per day to Passo Giau. The top of both passes are a sensational 30-minute drive from Cortina.

9. TAKE THE LAGAZUOI CABLE CAR

The Lagazuoi Cable Car climbs to Rifugio Lagazoui (2,753m) at the top of Falzarego Pass. Set on the side of the mountain, this “castle of rock” is peppered with spires and turrets, and offers a very dramatic view of the Dolomites.

Lagazoui was the front line between the Italian and Austrian forces during World War I and you can still see some of the remnants of war today. There are fortified trenches, gun turrets and bunkers.

Numerous excellent hikes start from the Rifugio. Check the latest cable car opening times and prices on the official Lagazuoi website.

10. SOAK UP THE ATMOSPHERE IN CORTINA D’AMPEZZO

Cortina d’Ampezzo serves as the central hub of the Eastern Dolomites. It’s a lovely town framed by mountains with high-end accommodation, up-market shopping, and top quality restaurants.

There’s not much to do in the town as such, but it’s a great destination for eating, shopping and nightlife.

In winter, Cortina transforms into one of the premier ski resorts in Italy, with 140 ski runs and over 50 miles of cross-country pistes.

WHERE TO STAY IN CORTINA

Cortina is considered one of the most glamorous destinations in the Dolomites, so it’s easy to find quality accommodation. However, as a popular centre for hiking, there are also a few great value guesthouses.

RESORT

HOTEL COLUMBIA RESORT & SPA

Decorated in traditional Tyrolean style, Hotel Columbia feels like a real mountain lodge. The rooms are spacious with excellent views.


GOOD VALUE

HOTEL ANCORA

There are spectacular views from this sophisticated hotel that offers surprisingly good value accommodation in Cortina. The spa, hot tub and garden are added bonuses.


OUR PICK

ECO STAY

HOTEL DE LEN

This rural contemporary hotel has a minimalist design with strong sustainability credentials. There’s a smart wellness centre and excellent restaurants.


MORE DOLOMITES GUIDES

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