Salt & Wind Travel

Why Cortina D’ampezzo Is The Jewel of the Italian Dolomites

Welcome to the crown jewel of the Nothern Italian Alps, the charming town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Nestled in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dolomite mountains, Cortina is one of the chicest ski towns in Europe. This Tyrolean town provides access to the best hiking and skiing in the region, all while allowing you to enjoy luxury chalets, upscale boutiques, and restaurants serving elevated, local cuisine.

Dolomites Italy
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Where Is Cortina?

Set in Northern Italy’s Ampezzo Valley, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a mountain town that’s home to year-round outdoor adventures from skiing to hiking. If you’re planning a Dolomites road trip, this town should be your base for at least part of your stay. 

After spending a few weeks in the area, I have a few ideas on what to do near Cortina. My biggest takeaway was where you base yourself matters. Staying in a central location (like Cortina) cuts down on drive time and allows you to beat the crowds so you can get after adventure and soak in the landscapes.

Empty street in Cortina D'Ampezzo Italy

What Is There To Do In Cortina

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a must-visit destination in my book. This delightful town has an unbeatable location that’s perfect for exploration and relaxation. In fact, Cortina is often referred to as the “Pearl of the Dolomites” thanks to its charm and splendor. 

There are also numerous activities and day trips easily accessible from the town. For example, you can tackle the storied hiking trails of Tre Cime di Lavaredo to take in the breathtaking vistas. The nearby lakes like Lago di Braies provide idyllic getaways while the Socrepes and Cinque Torri areas are home to superb restaurants.

History enthusiasts will want to plan a visit to the Cinque Torri Open Air Museum to learn of World War I battles that raged through the Dolomites. But visit now before the 2026 Winter Olympics are held there as the appeal of this destination will only grow!

Things To Do Near Cortina D’Ampezzo

Stroll the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo

The chic town of Cortina d’Ampezzo has a bustling pedestrian-friendly center that is a place to see and be seen. As you walk the cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter everything from cafes to high-end luxury retailers. And, if you’re there in the winter, the après-ski scene is legendary.

Visit The Messner Mountain Museum 

Only open in the summer, head to the Messner Mountain Museum for all things mountaineering. Created in 2006 by Italian mountaineer and legendary climber Reinhold Messner, here you’ll learn the role the area played in the advancement of extreme sports. Its location on Monte Rite also has some of the most incredible 360-degree views. 

Go Hiking In Tre Cime di Lavaredo

There are incredible places to hike in the Dolomites, but the Tre Cime di Lavaredo mountain range may be the best place. It’s a protected area in the Dolomites and being based in Cortina allowed for easy access. There is a rifugio (mountain huts) at the base with all the amenities like restaurants and bathrooms, so hikers often come to eat a meal before or after. 

Visit Lago di Misurina

Around a 20-minute drive from the heart of Cortina is this peaceful resort lake with incredible scenery. I’d recommend packing a lunch and enjoying one of the many picnic tables surrounding the lake. You can stroll the perimeter of the entire lake itself as well, a leisurely walk with beautiful views of Tre Cime mountains.

Hike To Sorapis Lake

For one of the most challenging hikes nearby to Cortina with rewarding views, hit the trail to Sorapis Lake (Lago di Sorapis). The hike is around 4 to 5 hours, but you’ll be rewarded with views of the incredible aquamarine lake. 

You will need good hiking shoes and all food/water supplies as it is quite a strenuous hike. Along the way be prepared to use ladders at certain parts. It is accessible in the summer months between June and September. While I visited there was fog, but it was still beautiful. 

Hit the slopes 

With around 80 miles of slopes accessible right from town, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a wonderful spot to get in some laps. The resort is part of the Dolomiti Superski Network, so one pass gives you access to a network of 16 ski resorts. The main ski slopes within a short drive of Cortina are in the areas of Lagazuoi-5 Torri, Faloria-Cristallo, and Tofana. Each mountain has ski runs with a range of difficulty from beginner to expert.

Cortina D'Ampezzo FAQs

Cortina D'Ampezzo is renowned as a ski resort town in the Italian province of Belluno in the Veneto region. It gained fame for hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics and is set to host again in 2026. Surrounded by the Tofane, Sorapiss, Cristallo, and Croda da Lago mountains, it's a prime location for exploring the Italian Dolomites during summer, early fall, or winter.

Some of the top attractions near Cortina include visiting Lago Federa, Lago di Sorapis, Cinque Torri, Rifugio Lagazuoi, Rifugio Nuvolau, and Mondeval Plateau. If you are there in the summer, you can go to the Messner Museum. If you are there in the winter, be sure to ski and enjoy the apres ski culture.

The closest airport to Cortina D'Ampezzo is the Marco Polo International Airport in Venice, which is approximately 2 hours away. It's recommended to rent a car from the airport for direct travel to Cortina D'Ampezzo. Alternatively, there's a direct coach service from the Venice Airport to Cortina D'Ampezzo.

Dolomites Day Trips 

Take a day trip to Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee)

Probably the most photographed place in the Dolomites, Lago di Braies is an easy day trip. Head there early to beat the crowds to enjoy the turquoise waters of the lake set in front of the mountains. You can also rent wooden rowboats here in the summer months to enjoy the views. In the peak of summer, arrive when it opens so you can snag a boat before they sell out.

Take a day trip to Val Gardena

Another scenic area to explore in South Tyrol is the Val Gardena. There are several hiking trails set in the lush meadows here for various levels of hiking. It’s best reached by car and adds a wonderful stop to your Dolomites itinerary. 

Where To Eat Near Cortina d’Ampezzo

Baita Fraina

Set inside the wood-paneled b&b of Baita Fraina is this cozy, local restaurant. Come summer, bask in the sun on their terrace with unparalleled views of the Dolomites. Highlights of the menu include diverse dishes of housemade pasta, like their spaghettini with braised onions. 

Baita Fraina, Località Fraina, 1, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

SanBrite

To me, the pinnacle of dining experiences in the Dolomites is SanBrite and to eat at SanBrite is to taste the Dolomites. 

I stumbled upon this restaurant during a sleepy, early drive to Tre Cime. I bookmarked it and we walked in on a quiet Thursday during the off-season for lunch. What unfolded was a life-changing experience that brought all that the Dolomites are known for into one meal. House-made pasta, butter made from the cows of their own agriturismo, and foraged ingredients, are all based in regenerative practices. 

It’s now a Michelin-starred restaurant, one that you must book in advance. And if I may make one suggestion, don’t book one meal, but two — both lunch and dinner are superb.

SanBrite, Località Alverà, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

San Brite Restaurant Dolomites Italy

El Brite de Larieto

Head to the agriturismo El Brite de Lareito for a more casual option that’s also owned by the family behind SanBrite. It’s good, homey, and rich food — the exact things you want to eat after a day of hiking.

El Brite de Larieto località Larieto, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

Ristorante Pizzeria 5 Torri

If you’re looking for pizza, go no further. I made a handful of visits here when I was in Cortina. It’s a homey, family-style restaurant that serves seriously good Italian pizza.

Ristorante Pizzeria 5 Torri, Largo delle Poste, 13, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

Rifugio Scoiattoli

You will come across a handful of rifugi (aka mountain cabins) in the Dolomites. And some, like Rifguio Scoiattoli, have great food. You can hike in as the locals do or access it other ways. Excellent local Italian wines are generously poured, the perfect complement to regional cuisine in a moonlit setting. 

Rifugio ScoiattoliLoc. 5 Torri, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

St. Hubertus Restaurant

Make time to venture to the town of Cassiano, about a 40-minute drive from Cortina. Here you’ll find the St. Hubertus Restaurant, which has garnered 3 Michelin stars and is one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Located within the luxe Rosa Alpina resort (see below), a meal here is one for the books. Their impeccable service and elevated mountain cuisine make it a favorite amongst our Salt & Wind travel clients.  

St. Hubertus RestaurantStrada Micurà de Rü, 20, 39036 San Cassiano BZ, Italy

Where to Stay Near Cortina d’Ampezzo

Keep in mind Cortina is a town more than a village so there are a lot of lodging options, from solid spots right in town like Hotel de La Poste to mountain inns and luxury resorts like the Rosapetra. We’re providing a few options, but If you need more travel planning help, don’t hesitate to reach out.  

Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa

When it comes to the best address in town, the Cristallo is the prime choice for luxury accommodations. Known for its lavish rooms and suites with incredible mountain views, this would be the spot to hang your hat for the week. It’s a fan favorite among celebrities for its wonderful spa and robust food and beverage program onsite. Note: The Cristallo is currently undergoing renovation and will reopen as a Mandarin Oriental.

Cristallo, Via Rinaldo Menardi, 42, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

Hotel de LEN

Described as a gingerbread house from the outside, this quaint chalet is much more inside. It’s modern yet very ski-chic. It’s a sister property to the famous Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, an icon for Italian resorts. With only 22 total rooms, this is a chic, boutique stay in the heart of the Dolomites.

Hotel de LEN, Via Cesare Battisti, 66, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy

Rosa Alpina

A bit further afield, but still within driving distance of Cortina is the mountain resort of Rosa Alpina. Set in Alda Badia, this is one of the best hotels in the Dolomites for luxury, service, and amenities. It’s home to the 3-Michelin-starred St. Hubertus Restaurant, a must-experience when staying. Note: The Rosa Alpina is currently undergoing renovation and is scheduled to reopen for the 2024/2025 season. 

Rosa Alpina, Strada Micurà de Rü, 20, 39036 San Cassiano BZ, Italy

Tre Cime Hike Dolomites

Know Before Visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo

Seasonality

One element to consider when visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy is the seasonality. In peak winter, it is prime for skiing and other snow adventures. Come summer, the area is a mecca for climbers and outdoor lovers who flock there for hiking and world-class mountaineering.

Most lodges and restaurants typically shut down during the late fall and late spring shoulder seasons. Consider this prior to booking your trip. I found the best months to visit are early September to early October, then early summer in June. 

How Long To Visit

I highly recommend a minimum of four nights in Cortina d’Ampezzo so you have plenty of time to visit this portion of the Northern Italian Alps. It will give you ample time to explore the town itself, take a few day trips, and embark on hiking or skiing pending on the time of year.

How do I access Cortina d’Ampezzo?

It’s not far from the charming city of Bolzano, so if you’re planning a Europe trip, you could head to Cortina d’Ampezzo from there, Venice, or even Milan.

Closest Airports

I recommend flying into a nearby airport and then driving.

Venice

The closest and most practical airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport (Italy) which is around a 2 to 3-hour drive.

Verona

If you’re coming from the south, you may find that flying into Verona Airport, Italy is your next best choice for accessing the Dolomites.

Innsbruck

From the north, Innsbruck, Austria has an airport available and can make for a wonderful road trip.

By Car

You will need a car to explore everything in this guide. If you are already driving around Italy or Austria, simply keep your rental car and head to the region.  If you are arriving from another country, fly into the most convenient of the airports listed above and plan to get your rental car there.

Have Us Plan Your Italy Trip

Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency that specializes in Italy travel planning? If you’re looking to plan one of the best trips to Italy, our Italy trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.


Photo Credit: All photos by Jessica Wright

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