Postcards | Driving in the Dolomites

Throughout our week in the Dolomites, we stayed by mountain lakes, hiked around alpine meadows, and watched spectacular sunsets on several occasions; but some of the best times were had on the road, often in thunderstorms. On the whole, we were very lucky with the weather (see our Seiser AlmLago Di Braies pics), but when the heavens opened, we put on the Lord of the Rings or Mad Max soundtrack and embraced it. Whenever there was a slight break in the onslaught, we jumped out of the car, and tried to capture the awesome scenery and mazy roads in all their moody glory.

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Whichever route you take, you’ll come across epic landscapes, but the most iconic roads and vistas are found on the Sella Ronda where four linked passes (Gardena, Sella, Pordoi, and Campolongo) encircle the imperious Sella mountain group. We drove all the way round the Sella Ring, some of it in both directions, but not all at once. On Day 4 of our trip, we departed from the village of Kastelruth (our base for Seiser Alm walks) on the SP64 to Ortisei (St.Ulrich), a lively town where you can take cable cars up to Seceda which should be on your walking to-do list – see our photos here. N.B. If this lift isn’t open, Col Raiser in the next town can get you to a similar area. From Ortisei, we continued on the SS242 through the Val Gardena, and then the SS243, following signs for the Passo Gardena. The pass connects Sëlva in the Val Gardena on the west side with Corvara in the Val Badia, and is a great starting point for hikes. As with the other passes, there’s a hotel and somewhere to eat at the top.

We continued on to Corvara on the SS243, and then turned south on the SS244 to drive over the Passo di Campolongo. The Campolongo Pass is the first of seven Dolomites mountain passes riders cross in the annual Maratona dles Dolomites single-day bicycle race. We saw several insane cyclists on our travels who were soldiering on heroically through the stormy weather. At the ski resort of Arabba we turned east on the SR48 (rather than west on the Sella Ring) and pushed on to the Passo di Falzarego – the walled roads here are pretty special, and there are World War I tunnels to explore if you have the time. The cycling race loops back round from Passo di Falzarego to Corvara on the SP24 via the Passo di Valparola. Instead, we drove on to Cortina D’Ampezzo and Lake Ghedina, and ultimately to Lago di Braies via the SS51 and Lago di Landro.

On Day 5, after a magical stay at Lago di Braies (see our photos here and book your trip immediately), we set off on another long drive, taking a very roundabout route to Santa Magdalena. We worked our way over to Corvara again on the SS49 and SS244. There’s a windier road over the Passo Furcia that we decided against. As the cyclists do in the aforementioned race, we went over the Passo di Campolongo for a second time, and then turned west on the SR48 towards Canazei over the Passo Pordoi – you can take a lift up to the summit of Sass Pordoi for great views and hikes. From Canazei, you might want to detour on the SS641 to Malga Ciapela and get a cable car up Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites.

To complete our Sella Ring, we drove over the Passo Sella under the gaze of the Sella Towers. The views here are pretty majestic, with the Langkofel (Sassolungo) group to the west and the Odle peaks in the distance to the north. Finally, we went back through the Val Gardena past Ortisei and co., and made our way to Santa Magdalena to relax in our Airbnb alpine chalet on the other side of the Odles. I can’t recommend these Dolomite drives highly enough – just give yourself plenty of time to take it all in!

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