If you haven’t visited Venice yet and you plan to add it to your upcoming Italy Trip, don’t miss out on exploring Venice unusual places as well as some of its beautiful surroundings. Being North Italy well connected, there are lovely towns to see near Venice to keep you busy on many days, and one tour worth adding is a day trip from Venice to the Dolomites.
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Not many people know that you can go from Venice to the mountains in less than 2 hours. And the connections are also good. By train, you can get from Venice to Cortina, or you can go on self-driving tours. Drive the highway from Venice to Belluno, and from there, you will drive through the small villages of the Cadore region.
A guided day trip to the Dolomites
Why visit the Dolomites on a day trip from Venice
There are many small towns and cities near Venice worth visiting. Some of them are popular destinations like Verona, Padova, Ravenna. But a trip to the Eastern Dolomites is unique because you will have the opportunity to dive into the heart of the Italian Alps, a UNESCO heritage site, and see some characteristic landmarks of Italy. The Dolomites are not only for keen walkers and these mountains.
The stunningly unique landscape and geology are extraordinary, and you will not see anything like that in Europe.
When is the best time to visit the Dolomites?
I have no doubt, the best time to visit the Dolomites is in the summer. From mid-June to mid-September, I’d go in July or August when the weather is more predictable to be on the safe side. I know it’s the busiest time in Italy for tourists and the nicest, as far as the weather and day-light are concerned. If you have to choose a day, don’t go over weekends, as all locals take their day out in the mountains, and traffic jams are a classic.
Bonus Tip: When visiting the Dolomites from Venice, plan your trip over midweek days which are less busy and with fewer tourists. Leave early in the morning and stay until late to avoid office hours traffic.
How to get to the Dolomites from Venice
Going from Venice to the Dolomites is easy. There are trains, buses that take you there. Cortina’s typical day trip from Venice is trains and shuttle buses from Venezia-Mestre (mainland of Venice). By public transport, it takes approx 3.5 hours. However, I recommend driving in the Dolomites, because it will simplify things if you want to see more places.
In the Eastern Dolomites, there is a local bus network, but it’s suitable for those who live there. To go on a day trip, you need to be flexible and move around fast to make the most of your time. If you are taking the train from Venice to the Dolomites, you will go through Treviso and change to the train to Belluno, and from there you can go by bus.
It will take 3-4 hours. Travelling by bus from Venice to Cortina is probably the fastest among all public transportation options.
From Venice to the Dolomites by car
If you choose to go on a self-drive tour of the Dolomites, you can drive on the motorway, A27 from Venice through Treviso and Vittorio Veneto, to exit the “autostrada” in Belluno. From there, one hour more drive, Cortina, on the SS51 road. You can hire a car in Venezia-Mestre or at Venezia Airport.
Here below is a map that shows the drive from Venice to the Dolomites. The distance is about 150 km, and you should plan two and a half hours of driving. If you live a van life and have time, you can travel around Italy on a motorhome.
Things to do in the Dolomites
Most people usually choose to go on a day trip to Cortina from Venice to see the most touristy places. Cortina itself is a beautiful small town in the Dolomites. However, the mountain scenery around Cortina is gorgeous, and it’s right in the heart of the Eastern Dolomites. So, I would use Cortina as a hub for a day trip or more day trips in the area.
There are also lovely small towns in North-East Italy to visit. Here is a shortlist of my favourite things:
- Walks of its beautiful green valleys
There are many hiking trails that you can choose from easy to advanced tracks, from short to long and overnight, which involves staying overnight in refuges.
- Climb or go mountain biking or try paragliding
If you are into extreme mountaineering and want to try some “Ferrata” (climbs), you can do some serious climbing, go on mountain biking trails. Or try out paragliding if you are brave enough.
- Relaxing in the mountain landscapes
If you are not a fit hiker, you can take short walks in the villages or nearby and spend time in a cosy rifugio (mountain hut). Most of them have gardens where you can sit outside and enjoy the spectacular panorama. Or you can take a relaxing walk around one of the many Dolomite lakes.
- Indulge in the Dolomite local produce
Do you think that the Dolomites are only for those keen hikers and walkers? That’s not true. The Dolomites are famous for great food too. From locally produced cheeses and rich culinary traditions, you can taste sweet and savoury specialities.
Why you should go hiking in the Dolomites
There are hundreds of hikes in the Eastern Dolomites. And it would take months, if not years, to do all of them. But if you stick to a day trip to Cortina from Venice, you must not miss on on the Croda da Lago Hike. It’s a 12 km easy hike that you can start from Passo Giau, about 20 minutes drive north of Cortina.
You will enjoy the spectacular view of Mount Nuvolau and hike through sweeping valleys and a very picturesque landscape from the beautiful refuge.
The hike’s first half is more on a rocky path to reach the fantastic Mondeval Alpine meadows’ highest point.
The walk meanders through lunar landscapes of Val Formin along tall spikey mountains walls of Croda Da Lago down to the Feral lake and Palmieri Refuge. It is an idyllic place and one of the most scenic landscapes of the Dolomites I know.
More things to do on a trip from Venice to the Dolomites
A day trip is way too short to do justice to the fantastic Dolomites in Italy. However, if you ideally want to plan 2-3 days to visit more cities outside Venice, there are endless combinations and day trips that you can do. You can visit the Prosecco Hills, halfway between Venice and the mountains.
You can tour some of the ancient small towns in North-East Italy. Vittorio Veneto, Belluno, Bassano del Grappa, Agordo are just a few Dolomites Towns that you can add to your trip itinerary.
If you love food & wine, this is the region that produces the Prosecco wines d.o.c.g. You can also spend times at the many lakes at the foothills of the Dolomites.
If you want to join a multi-day tour that encompasses all of the above and caters for small groups of travellers, check out my Dolomites Trip from Venice.
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First published in 2018, last updated in April 2022
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