The Dolomites in Italy are not exactly huge (neither small), however, it can take hours to get from point A to point B. Don’t get me wrong, roads are in excellent condition, but you will soon be tired of the never-ending serpentines – one hairpin after another. In the end, you will be happy to drive at an average speed of 40 km / h. In practice, this means that if you are only going to stay for a few days, you need to choose the right places. Speaking of the mountains and breathtaking views, I’ll keep that for the next article – now let’s focus on the lakes. There are really a lot of them, and they are magnificent. Especially in autumn. I created a list of 6 top lakes, which personally seem to me to be the most beautiful and photogenic. Including information on how to reach them and at what time it is best to visit them. The wow effect also corresponds to the order. So number 1 is definitely more interesting than 6. So … Welcome to the paradise guide, guys!
The 6 most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites – contents:
Lago di Carezza (Karersee)
You expected Lake Braies in the first place, didn’t you? To be honest, it’s very tight, but Lake Carezza fascinated me more. There are two reasons for that. First, the color tones of water are simply unreal, perhaps all the dark shades of blue-green you can imagine. It’s such an emerald among the lakes. It’s hard to describe and believe it if you don’t see it with your own eyes. The second reason is one of the most picturesque mountains (such as the Cimon del Latamar) you will find in the Dolomites, which are perfectly reflected in the water surface. These mountains are almost 3,000 meters high. Sunrise or sunset? Both variants are equally good. The lake is small, but it is a unique pearl of the Dolomites.
Lake Carezza is about half an hour away by car from Bolzano (about 30 km). And wonder or not, the access to Lake Carezza is really easy, since the lake is located right by a road! Like the bus stop. Really. Also, there is a parking lot with refreshments. On the other hand, Lake Carezza has one small con. A lot of tourists at any time of day. And sadly you’ll find them going directly to the water, which is not allowed. Therefore, I am not sure how long the beauty of this lake will last …
Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee)
Here it is! The lake which most (not only) locals consider the absolute number one in the whole Dolomites. Lago di Braies also known as Pragser Wildsee. Surely you have seen Lake Braies countless times in the photos – magical boats are its distinct trait (see photo below). For €29/hour you can rent this stunning handcrafted rowboat and take a small trip across the lake.
This lake is significantly larger than Carezza and also surrounded by majestic mountains. These mountains are as close as possible to the lake, which is beautiful, but the distance makes it harder to take pictures. You need to use a very wide-angle lens or create a panorama. Lago di Braies is indeed a very romantic place where I recommend going for a walk. It only takes an hour to walk around the lake, and you can enjoy the unique atmosphere.
The lake is less than a 2-hour drive from Bolzano, in the very north of the Dolomites. Parking and a bus stop are obviously here, but parking belongs to the hotel and is closed in the early morning. Fortunately, there is another parking lot, which is located less than 1 km down the road. Or you can even stay directly in the hotel by the lake, but it is VERY expensive. What time of day to take pictures? It doesn’t matter, the mountains cover the view of the sun anyway. The main important thing is the weather. Unfortunately, as with Lake Carezza, there will always be at least a dozen people with tripods in front of you.
Lago di Federa
This lake is a different story. Lake Federa is a wild alpine lake at an altitude of 2,038 m. To get to Lake Federa, you need to take a medium-hard hike with an elevation of about 700 meters, where you go practically non-stop uphill. When you walk in the mud and snow (like it happened to me), it’s not easy (it took me about 2 hours). But you know what? It paid off.
The water here might not shine with colors, yet it reflects the pompous mountain Becco di Mezzodì (height 2603 m) in the background. Especially in autumn when all the trees turn orange, it’s an unforgettable experience. In short, one of the top places to visit in October. Personally, I recommend taking pictures of the sunset (the top of the mountain Becco di Mezzodì will be beautifully illuminated by the sun).
How to get to this natural treasure? Just stop at SP638 when you leave Cortina d’Ampezzo as soon as you see the Lago di Federa sign. However, it is more than a 2-hour drive from Bolzano. And if you ever get around, don’t forget to visit the famous mountain pass Passo di Giau (just continue on the SP638 road up). Two top places with one shot.
Lago di Garda
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy with an area of 370 km². As you can barely see the opposite shore, you feel like you are by the sea. A very popular destination where Italians spend their holidays. It is located in the very south of the Dolomites, so it is actually an imaginary gateway to this fairytale world. And for these reasons, I thought this was not the place for me. I was wrong. Yes, I like mountains and more remote places without people. But there is a cultural atmosphere that I have not felt in years.
I had the most powerful experience when I was photographing the bay of Punta San Vigilio. There is a century-old villa with an olive grove and a harbor. For the first time, I felt Italy as I had imagined as a child watching movies like The Godfather. I arrived at this place at sunset, and it was an incredibly powerful and romantic experience. So much so that I arrived at sunrise again the next morning. And then I almost missed a flight because of it. If you would like to take a picture of this villa with a port as I did, you need to take a panoramic photo – and you have to come in the morning! Why? You will never be alone here at sunset.
As I said, Lake Garda is massive, so you will find plenty of similar places here. Not to mention the unique 13th-century Scaligero Castle, which is surrounded by water. I just want to say that this place has a lot to offer, even to people like me who love mountains and nature in particular! Plus, if you go to the Dolomites from Bergamo Airport (less than an hour by car from Bergamo), you have this place on the way!
Lago di Antorno
Lago di Antorno is a bit of a controversial place when it comes to the ranking of the top lakes in the Dolomites. Lake Antorno as such is quite an ordinary, small alpine lake. However, it offers stunning views of the most famous mountains of the Dolomites – Tre Cime di Lavaredo – in the background. And secondly, I managed one of my favorite photos from the Dolomites here. Another notable advantage is an amazing accommodation right by the lake – Chalet Lago Antorno (I spent 2 nights here). From here it is only a few minutes drive uphill to Rifugio Auronzo and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. So I’ll repeat – two great places with one blow.
When it comes to photography, the sunrise is a better choice.
What’s worse is that the journey from Bolzano here takes almost 3 hours by car. It is the very north of the Dolomites. But so is Lake Braies, which you have almost on the same way. And which you definitely do not intend to miss when visiting South Tyrol.
Lago di Limides
Lago di Limides is the smallest of all the mentioned lakes. In fact, it is a larger picturesque puddle. At the same time, it is located at the highest altitude – almost 2200 m. So why is it in the top selection? Because from here there are incredibly beautiful views of the high mountains around. For example, the Tofana di Rozes, which is more than 3200 meters high! Unfortunately, when I was here, I was unlucky that the weather was incredibly terrible. A storm was approaching, and everything around was gradually engulfed by fog. However, the atmosphere was worth it – as soon as I took the picture, I ran down at lightning speed! So don’t be surprised by the quality of the photo below. This place has great potential in terms of photography. Sunrises and sunsets must be perfect here!
It takes less than two hours by car from Bolzano to the mountain pass Passo di Falzarego. And from the mountain pass, you still have to go down a short distance to Rifugio Col Gallina. This is the best starting point. There is also a restaurant, parking, and bus stop. From here, it’s only about a half-hour hike to Lake Limides.
The lakes in South Tyrol are simply unforgettable. As well as the high alpine mountains that surround them. Thanks to the Dolomites, I fell in love with Italy. I’m already looking forward to telling you about the best peaks and views. I was lucky enough to visit these places in the colorful autumn, and most of the days the weather was perfect. And what about you? What is your experience? Are you planning a trip to Italy right now?