How To Get To The Dolomites: A Complete Guide

How to get to the Dolomites | The Common Wanderer

Our guide on how to get to the Dolomites includes all the essential information you need to plan and enjoy a hassle-free holiday in one of Europe’s most breathtaking regions.


Wedged between the mountains of Austria and the plains of Italy, the Dolomites are home to some of the most unique landscapes in all of Europe. Think imposing and dramatic mountain peaks rolling down into Mediterranean-style vineyards and verdant valleys. The area known as the Dolomites is actually a mountain region in northern Italy, which spans across the provinces of Südtirol (South Tyrol), Trentino, and Belluno.

And while the Dolomites are heaven on earth (they really are, trust us!), their position in the heart of the Alps means that it can be a little harder than most European destinations to get to. But don't let that dissuade you from visiting this wonderful part of the world, because, as our guide on how to get to the Dolomites shows, it's actually fairly easy to make your way here.

The Dolomites are extremely well connected to major transport hubs, including airports in Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, where its possible (and recommended) to hire a car and explore the region. What's more, despite their position, the region is also very well serviced by train and has a wonderful internal public transport system.

Our guide on how to get to the Dolomites includes all the essential information you need to plan and enjoy a hassle-free holiday in the region.


EASY WAYS TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES, ITALY



WHERE ARE THE DOLOMITES?

The Dolomites are a mountain region in northern Italy, which spans across the provinces of Südtirol (South Tyrol), Trentino, and Belluno.

The capital of the area is the beautiful city of Bolzano (Bozen), however main cities and towns include Trento, Bressanone (Brixen), Cortina d'Ampezzo and Brunico (Bruneck).



WHERE TO BASE YOURSELF IN THE DOLOMITES

Before organising how to get to the Dolomites, we recommend choosing where to base yourselves and what attractions and activities you wish to enjoy.

Why? Because due to the vast alpine region, many of the main attractions, hikes and towns spread throughout the region; knowing what attractions you wish to visit will inform which part of the Dolomites you should to travel to.

If you plan on seeing the Tre Cime (Drei Zinnen), Lago di Braies and Cortina, we recommend flying to Venice and basing yourselves in Cortina. Alternatively, if you plan on basing yourselves in Bolzano, Merano or Ortisei, perhaps flying to Milan, Verona or Innsbruck might be the better option.

While distances between major Dolomites attractions don't look so far on a map, add in a few winding single-lane roads, a couple of narrow passes and many pull-over-I-need-to-take-a-photo moments and you’ve easily added an hour or two to your journey in no time.

To avoid spending more of your time driving/catching public transport between your intended destinations than exploring them, choose 2-3 base towns close to what you want to see and book multiple nights there to make the most of your stay.

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Below is an overview of which towns are best for each attraction:

Cortina d'Ampezzo | Best for Cortina town, Lago di Sorapis, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Misurina, Cinque Torri, Croda da Lago

Bolzano | Best for Bolzano town, Strada del Vino (wine region), Merano

Alta Pusteria/Three Peaks | Best for Lago di Braies, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Dobbiaco, Kronplatz

Val Gardena | Best for Ortisei town, Alpe di Suisi, Seceda peaks, Sella Massif, Gran Cir, Passo Gardena

Alta Badia | Best for Gran Cir, Passo Gardena, Piz Sorega

Once you've worked out what you wish to see and where to stay, you can organise exactly which way you wish to get to the Dolomites.


Related | We've written a complete guide on where to stay in the Dolomites based on attractions and accommodation options, which will help you plan your transport


 
How to get to the Dolomites, Italy
 

HOW TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES, ITALY

FLY

If you're planning to fly directly to the Dolomites, you're in for a shock - there is no 'Dolomites' airport as such, understandably so given their position in the alpine region of northern Italy.

Instead, you'll need to fly to one of the many major and minor airports that exist within a three - five-hour radius of the area, and hire a car or jump aboard public transport to then make your way to the region. We've personally flown into both Venice and Munich, and both are easy options to get to the Dolomites.

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In our opinion, flying to Venice is the best way to get to the Dolomites. The airport is serviced by all major airlines and destinations around Europe, making it easier and cheaper to find flights than to smaller airports such as Verona or Bologna. Alternatively, Innsbruck is a great option, although cross-border car hire charges may apply.

Fortunately, the range of airport within the area allows for flexibility when purchasing flights, so chose whichever works best for you and your departure city.

We've outlined the options for flying to the Dolomites below, including driving time to both Bolzano and Cortina d'Ampezzo, the two main gateways to the region:

ITALY

Marco Polo International Airport, Venice | 3 hours to Bolzano, 2 hours to Cortina d'Ampezzo

Verona Villafranca International Airport | 2.5 hours to Bolzano, 3 hours to Cortina d'Ampezzo

Bologna Marconi Airport | 3 hours to Bolzano, 3.5 hours to Cortina d'Ampezzo

Malpensa Airport – Milan | 3.5 hours to Bolzano, 5 hours to Cortina d'Ampezzo

AUSTRIA

Innsbruck | 2 hours to Bolzano, 2.5 hours to Cortina d'Ampezzo

Other major international airports within a 4-6 hour radius include:

Munich International Airport – Germany | 3-4 hours

Zurich Airport – Switzerland | 5-6 hours

Once you've arrived at your airport of choice, you'll need to actually get to your Dolomites base. There are a few ways in which to do this, but we recommend hiring a car as it's the most practical and easy way to explore the Dolomites.

Rental cars can be organised here for pick up from major airports within the region. Bear in mind cross border fees may apply for those arriving in Munich, Innsbruck or Zurich airport. You can search and book rental cars here.

Alternatively, you can catch a train (more on that below), or shuttle bus to the region. Depending on your arrival airport will determine which drop off point - ie. the Venice airport shuttle bus will drop you in Cortina d'Ampezzo, the Milan shuttle in Bolzano.

Book | Check dates and prices for flights here

Tip | There are several daily Shuttle buses to South Tyrol from the airports of Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich, Treviso, Venice, Verona, Bergamo and Milan Malpensa. Learn more here.

 
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TRAIN

For those based on the European continent, train travel is the most convenient, stress-free and environmentally friendly way to get to the Dolomites. Additionally, the train ride through the South Tyrolean alps is one of the most incredible in Europe, winding through alpine passes and verdant valleys while overlooking the towering Dolomiti peaks above.

Due to their position right in the heart of Europe, the Dolomites are very well connected, with Italian (Trenitalia), Austrian (Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB)), German (Deutsche Bahn (DB)) and Swiss networks (Swiss Federal Railways (SBB)) making it easy to find a suitable train to the region, or from your arrival airport (if you're not hiring a car). Inter-city transport in the region is also exceptional (more on that below).

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Most trains coming from Northern Europe will follow through the Brenner pass, stopping at central hubs such as Bressanone/Brixen, Bolzano/Bozen, and Trentino/Trento. This includes daily trains from Munich and Innsbruck/Vienna.

From here, you can catch regional trains and buses to your required destination, including all the major towns, sites and attractions. See more here.

From the south, trains connect the rest of Italy with the region through hubs including Bologna (Rome, Florence) and Verona (Milan, Venice).

When booking train tickets to the Dolomites, we highly recommend planning in advance to find the most affordable prices and availability. Book your tickets here.

ITALY

  • Venice Mestre (change in Verona) | 3 hours to Bolzano

  • Verona Porta Nuova | 1.5 hours to Bolzano

  • Bologna Centrale | 3.5 hours to Bolzano

  • Milan Centrale (change in Verona) | 4 hours to Bolzano

AUSTRIA

Innsbruck/Kufstein | 2 hours to Bolzano

Other major international airports within 4-6 hour radius include:

Munich HBF – Germany | 4 hours to Bolzano

Zurich HBF – Switzerland (multiple changes) | 9 hours to Bolzano

BOOK | Search for train times and ticket prices on OMIO here

Tip | If arriving by train, you can organise the South Tyrol shuttle to pick you up and drop you at your accommodation.

This initiative, which encourages people to leave their car at home and travel by more environmentally friendly means, allows travellers to book transfers to accommodation online at www.suedtiroltransfer.com/en.

For more information on local public transport, click here.

 
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BUS

To be honest, getting to the Dolomites by bus is best avoided, like flying, train or car rental are better options.

That being said, shuttle buses from major airports or train stations are a cheap and efficient way of getting to your accommodation.

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From Venice Marco Polo Airport and Venice Mestre train station, the Cortina Express service takes you directly to Cortina d'Ampezzo for just over €10, a great starting point for many of the Dolomites' best attractions.

Alternatively, the Süd Tirol/Alto-Adige airport shuttle services all the main airports in the region, and can be arranged as private or collective transfers. The prices are quite high - around €100 + per person, but the service is efficient and can take you door to door.

Book | The Cortina Express from Venice Airport or station

 
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HOW TO GET AROUND THE DOLOMITES

CAR

We highly recommend hiring a car for the duration of your stay in South Tyrol - it makes reaching all the wonderful natural attractions very easy, and gives you far more freedom than public transport.

We’d recommend hiring a car in Bolzano, which is pretty much the gateway to your Dolomites adventures, or at your arrival point in the surrounding regions and cities.

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Expect to pay anywhere between £80 - £200 for 7-days car hire, excluding insurance (depending on car type).

We use RentalCars.com to book rentals - check prices and availability for Italy here

BOOK | Check prices and dates for car rental here

Read | Our 7-day Dolomites road trip itinerary

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

If you’re not keen to hire a car, the public transport system in South Tyrol is exceptional - the region is very well connected via a system of buses, regional trains and cable cars.

A complete bus and train timetable for the region can be found here - it's super helpful so if you aren't planning to hire a car, this should be your bible.

Organise yourself a South Tyrol Mobilcard, for one, three or seven days, and gain access to all the other transport options throughout the region.

Tickets can be purchased at tourist information centres, hotels, and ticket machines.

THE DETAILS

What | South Tyrol Mobilcard

Cost | €15, €23, or €28 respectively for 1, 3 and 7 days

 
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DOLOMITES TRAVEL INFORMATION

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN THE DOLOMITES

You see, the Dolomites, an alpine pocket in Italy’s northern reaches, are something else; a land of jagged peaks, which thrust upwards from rolling alpine meadows, endless alpine lakes, incredible hiking, quaint medieval towns, luxurious wellness areas of equally luxurious accommodation, and some of the best cuisine anywhere in the world.

They’re a place where alpine and Mediterranean traditions collide, where influences from Italy and Austria blend together to create a wonderfully welcoming and enchanting destination for travellers (find out more about South Tyrol here).

We’ve now visited the Dolomites many times, and are keen to share with you our favourite things to do in the Dolomites, plus our personal recommendations on where to stay and eat, how to get around, and more.


Related | The best things to do in the Dolomites


 
Lago di Braies in the Dolomites
 


WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOLOMITES

Looking for where to stay in the Dolomites? We’ve written a huge guide on where to stay in the Dolomites (it’s seriously huge!).

From luxury hotels to Airbnbs, our guide has your Dolomites accommodation well and truly sorted.


HOTELS IN THE DOLOMITES

Hotels in the Dolomites range from extravagant 5* luxury (like Hotel Miramonti), through to traditional, simple alpine guesthouses (Albergo/Gasthof).

The quality of hotels and guesthouses in the Dolomites is some of the best anywhere in the world, and hospitality is highly valued here - so don’t expect a run down, uncomfortable room, even at 3*.

One thing to note is that accommodation in the region is not cheap - expect to pay upwards of €100 per night for 3* accommodation (including breakfast).

READ | Our guide to the best places to stay in the Dolomites

BOOK | Search for availability, the best rates or book your stay in the Dolomites using Booking.com

 


TRAVEL INSURANCE | STAY SAFE IN THE DOLOMITES

We're believe that if you can't afford travel insurance, you really can't afford to travel. As the current pandemic has taught many people, things can go wrong anywhere in the world and insurance is the only way of mitigating any issues with minimal expense or stress for you.

For all travellers | HeyMondo - COVID-19 coverage, comprehensive travel + medical insurance, an app with 24-hour medical support, and no out of pocket fees. *Get 5% off your policy by booking through our link here.

For digital nomads | SafetyWing - COVID-19 coverage, comprehensive travel & medical, and policies can be purchased while already abroad.

Car Insurance | Insurance4CarHire - a great annual car insurance policy

*In normal times, we recommend using World Nomads travel insurance, but unfortunately they're not currently covering COVID-19 related claims.


PLANNING A TRIP TO THE DOLOMITES SOON?

Check our these essential posts to help you have the best trip ever:

WHERE TO STAY | Our complete guide to accommodation in the Dolomites

HIKES TO REMEMBER | 7 of the best day hikes in the Dolomites, including the famous Tre Cime De Lavaredo loop, and the beautiful Vajolet Towers hike

SOUTH TYROL | 19 amazing things to do in South Tyrol during Summer, plus everything we love about the beautiful South Tyrol region

DOLOMITES | Our 7-day road trip itinerary for the Dolomites

THE LAKES OF THE DOLOMITES | How to visit Lago di Carezza, South Tyrol’s famous rainbow lake, and your ultimate guide to hiking to Lago di Sorapis

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider



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