Part of me wanted to keep this place to myself, but I took too many photos of this obscenely beautiful spot not to share them. Seriously – way too many. To set the scene, have a read of my Driving In The Dolomites post which acts as a bookend to our otherwordly stay by Lago di Braies. Also known as Pragser Wildsee (it’s a complicated region), this alpine lake at 1500m is tucked away in a remote corner of the Dolomites, surrounded by the Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies. It was created by a landslide millions of years ago, although there are a few legends about hidden treasure and underwater kingdoms that might tell you otherwise.
After a day of driving through torrential rain, the threatening clouds gave way to blue skies as we approached Lago di Braies from the north (there’s only one road in). It seems to have its own micro climate, or perhaps it’s just heaven on earth. Keen to explore, we first had to check in to the Hotel Pragser Wildsee which looks straight out on to the lake. Unless you fancy camping, this is where you want to be. The historic house, built in 1899, has a slight Grand Budapest Hotel vibe to it, with its vast hallways, quirky staff, and unique location. Once you factor in the outstanding three course dinner, a buffet breakfast, and the absurd views, the prices are very reasonable.
Whilst Lago di Braies isn’t as well known as the similarly spectacular Lake Moraine or Lake Louise (both in Canada), it still gets a lot of tourists – around 600,000 a year in fact. But they only really stick around in the day time, which is why you want to stay as close to the lake as possible. When we arrived at 5pm, the crowds had departed and we had the lake to ourselves, save for a wedding party of course. With sunset and supper a couple of hours away, we set off on a very leisurely lap of the lake, taking photos at every turn. The family friendly hike has everything – secluded beaches, forest groves, picnic spots, rocks to climb, dolomites; you know, the usual.
In the evening, we ate well, we drank local wine and we made some new friends. We considered getting on the wedding dance floor, but thought better of it and went out to stare at the stars. The following morning, hangovers were brushed aside with coffee, pastries and a dip in the freezing cold lake. I must confess, I wussed out at around ankle height, but the others fully committed. Someone had to take photos though, right? They dried themselves off by the picturesque little church near the hotel that has links to Franz Ferdinand and the Nazis.
We checked out technically, packing up the car, but had no intention of leaving. Instead, we hung out by the water, waiting for the stilt boat house to open so that we could row around the lake. There’s no guarentee of when or if it will open – you feel like it depends if the bloke in charge can be bothered to get out of bed. Luckily for us, he rocked up at 11am and we were first in line for boat rental. And off we went, in two separate vessels, out on to the water, to get a totally different perspective. In our sixty minute timeslot, we made it all the way down to the southern tip, under the watchful eye of Seekofel (2810m), with plenty of time for boomerangs, selfies and fake proposals. But all too soon it was time to say a teary goodbye and hit the road again, to drive back through those hideous Dolomites to stay in some god-awful alpine chalet. It was a tough week.
Thanks to road trip team mate Alistair Wood for taking some of the photos in this post – hover over the images for photo credit. You can follow his adventures on Instagram here.