When it comes to sheer striking natural beauty, the Dolomite Alps in Italy are among the top mountain ranges in Europe, if not the entire world.
Rising over the northeastern regions of Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia, the mountain range is home to spectacular natural parks and picturesque towns.
In 2009, the Dolomites were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and once you visit, you’ll surely see why.
Spots like the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, the Sella Group, Monte Cristallo, Cinque Torri, and the iconic Pragser Wildsee are just some of the spectacular natural sights you can admire in the Dolomites.
Having lived in Italy for over 15 years, during which time I had the chance to explore the whole country, I can safely say the Dolomites are a top destination for any visitor to Italy.
In this guide, you’ll find some of the best towns you should visit in the Dolomites and the must-see spots in their immediate surroundings.
Note: It’s a bit hard to get between these Dolomites towns without your own car, so this is a prime place to rent a car in Italy.
The 15 Most Beautiful Villages & Towns in The Dolomites
Belluno is one of the most important towns in the Dolomites, part of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.
This mountain town has a long and rich history dating back to ancient times. Belluno was probably founded in the 3rd century BCE before being made part of the Roman Republic a few decades later.
Belluno is famous for its picturesque historical center as well as several surrounding hiking trails. In particular, it is known for the Dolomite High Route 1, which offers some of the best views of the entire mountain range.
Among the landmarks you shouldn’t miss in Belluno, there’s the Minor Basilica of San Martino and the Civic Museum of Belluno.
While the town itself is not to be missed, the best thing to do in Belluno is to explore the hiking trails just outside of town. The full length of the Dolomite High Route 1 (Alta Via 1) connects Belluno to Pragser Wildsee, but you can just hike a short portion near Belluno.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the most popular ski resorts in the Dolomites, and part of the Dolomiti Superski area, the largest ski area in the world.
The town is perfectly located for visitors to explore some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Dolomites.
All within a short drive from Cortina d’Ampezzo, you can reach Monte Cristallo, Lake Misurina, Parco Naturale Tre Cime with its iconic triple peaks, the mountain peak Croda da Lago, and the awe-inspiring hiking area of Cinque Torri.
Nearby Passo Giau is a gorgeous mountain pass connecting Cortina d’Ampezzo to the towns of Selva di Cadore and Colle Santa Lucia.
The town itself also offers quite a few attractions. You can go ice skating year-round at the Olympic Ice Stadium, explore the charming old town, and enjoy absolutely stunning views from the pedestrian and bicycle trail Lunga Via delle Dolomiti.
Pieve di Cadore
Roughly halfway between Belluno and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Pieve di Cadore is a small town located uphill from Cadore Lake.
The town is celebrated as the home of the famous Renaissance painter Titian.
His former house is now a museum, which you can visit in combination with the Archaeological Museum of Cadore. The museums are open from April to October.
The town offers gorgeous panoramic views of the lake from the area surrounding Forte Monte Ricco.
The area is famous for a rather curious local specialty; namely, the production of eyeglasses.
In fact, there’s even a museum in town, the Museo dell’Occhiale, dedicated entirely to the history of eyewear!
Pieve di Cadore is conveniently located only a short drive from the beautiful nature preserves Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane and Parco Naturale Tre Cime.
As an added bonus, it’s a more affordable option compared to more popular towns such as Cortina d’Ampezzo and San Candido.
Auronzo di Cadore
Extending along the northern shore of Lago di Santa Caterina, also known as the Auronzo Lake, the town of Auronzo di Cadore is perhaps most famous for the nearby Tre Cime Natural Park.
If you want to visit the iconic nature preserve, Auronzo di Cadore is one of the best towns to base yourself in.
The town has a small but charming historical center and lovely lake views. For the best viewpoints, cross one of the bridges over Lake Auronzo, such as Ponte Transacqua or the Auronzo footbridge.
As you walk along the lake on the opposite shore, keep an eye out for beautiful views of the town with the mountains in the background.
The entry road to the Tre Cime Natural Park is a 45-minute drive from Auronzo di Cadore.
When planning your trip, be aware that the road is only open during the summer months, and has a toll that varies depending on your transportation type.
With a little planning ahead and adequate equipment, you can also explore the park in winter!
A small town on the shore of the lake with the same name, Misurina is another beautiful town conveniently located between the Monte Cristallo massif and the Tre Cime Natural Park.
The town is a 20-minute drive from Cortina d’Ampezzo, so it’s a great alternative for those looking to spend a few nights in the area.
While the town doesn’t offer much in the way of attractions, the prime location right on the lake offers beautiful views and many hiking options starting right on the shore of Lake Misurina.
To the east, you can hike up Monte Popena for spectacular panoramic views. To the southwest, you can explore the Sentiero Durissini.
Just north of Misurina, you can access the road leading to the Auronzo refuge and the trio of alpine peaks Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
In fact, Misurina is the closest town to the refuge and the parking lot where the most popular hiking routes begin.
San Candido is another popular holiday location in the Dolomites, close to the Austrian border.
The village is on the opposite side of the Tre Cime Natural Park from Auronzo, so it’s a great alternative when you’re picking your home base for exploring the gorgeous hiking area.
San Candido, also known as Innichen in German, is more expensive compared to Auronzo di Cadore, but it more than makes up for that cost with the local attractions.
You can wander around the picturesque town, visit the natural history museum DoloMythos, and try the fun bob if you visit in summer.
San Candido is also a popular ski resort, so it’s the perfect destination for winter sports fanatics.
The village is conveniently served by a train station with regular service to the Italian towns of Merano and Fortezza and the Austrian town of Lienz.
Less than 10 minutes west of San Candido, Dobbiaco is another charming town that can serve as your home base while you explore the Tre Cime Natural Park and the gorgeous Lake Braies or Pragser Wildsee.
The proximity of the iconic lake makes it a popular choice to spend the night, so you’ll find plenty of accommodation options.
Dobbiaco (Toblacher in German) has a picturesque historical center dominated by the beautiful green church of San Giovanni Battista.
You’ll also find many restaurant and bar options but not much else in the way of attractions.
Just south of the town, you can explore the forest trails at Villaggio Degli Alberi (Tree Village) and around the small but picturesque Toblacher See. Pragser Wildsee is only a 20-minute drive from Dobbiaco.
Tucked away in one of the most stunning valleys of the Dolomites, Val di Funes, Santa Maddalena is a small village of just a few hundred inhabitants.
Despite being such a small village, it’s one of the most popular spots for anyone visiting the Dolomites.
Walk around the Santa Maddalena church to admire one of the best views of the surrounding valley.
On the opposite side of the village, the small Church of St. John provides one of the most iconic scenes of the Dolomites.
From Santa Maddalena, you can easily drive or even walk to the nearby village of San Pietro for more spectacular views.
Here, you can also visit the beautiful Church of San Pietro in Funes.
Ortisei, or Sankt Ulrich in German, is a town in the Val Gardena, another popular ski area in the Dolomites, and also part of the Dolomiti Superski.
The center of Ortisei is known for its colorful houses, lovely squares, and beautiful walking trails.
If you want to learn about the history, culture, and art of the Gardena Valley, pay a visit to the Museum Gherdëina.
To enjoy the breathtaking natural landscape, walk to St. Jakobs Kirche, just out of town.
The Seceda Cable Car starts in the heart of Ortisei and takes you up to an altitude of 2500 meters on Seceda Mountain.
From the cable car station at the top, walk to the viewpoint of Panorama sulle Odle for an awe-inspiring panoramic view looking out over the surrounding valleys and mountain peaks.
Just a 15-minute drive west of Ortisei, Castelrotto (Kastelruth) is the main town in the Alpe di Siusi plateau (Seiser Alm), Europe’s largest Alpine meadow.
From Castelrotto, you can also drive to Siusi in just five minutes, where you can catch the cable car to the Alpe di Siusi ski area.
No matter if you’re visiting in winter to go skiing or in summer for hiking, this area will reward you with spectacular views.
The Alpe di Siusi plateau reaches a maximum altitude of 2350 meters above sea level, providing breathtaking views over many surrounding mountain groups.
You can see the Rosengarten group just south of the town all the way to the Sella Group and Marmolada further away to the southeast.
Further south from Castelrotto and Siusi, you can explore the Sciliar Rosengarten Nature Park, the oldest nature park in South Tyrol.
Moena is a small town in the Dolomites’ Fassa Valley, part of the Trentino region.
The valley is surrounded by some of the most important mountain groups in the Dolomites, including the Marmolada Group, Sella Group, Rosengarten Group, and Langkofel Group.
While the valley is home to other towns, Moena is the largest, and provides many accommodation options for visitors exploring the area.
Just north of town, the park surrounding Soraga Lake is a lovely area for a pleasant walk.
If you’re looking to go skiing while you’re visiting, the closest ski resort is the Ski Area Alpe Lusia.
Aside from the gorgeous natural beauty of the surrounding valley, Moena is also known for the Museum of the Great War.
The Dolomites were among Italy’s most affected areas by the First World War, as they were the theater of many battles that left an indelible mark on the towns and population.
Bressanone (or Brixner) is a bigger town lying at the western end of the Dolomites.
If you’re looking for a big town to base yourself in and go on day trips, Bressanone is one of the best options!
The town offers a variety of accommodations and restaurants, as well as a lovely historical center with landmarks and museums you can explore between day trips.
While you’re visiting, you can admire the art collection in the Diocesan Museum, learn about the history of pharmacy at the Pharmacy Museum, visit the town cathedral, and check out the beautifully decorated Chiostro di Bressanone.
Bressanone’s central location in the region means that you can drive to the Puez-Odle Nature Park in just half an hour, to Ortisei in 40 minutes, and to Alpe di Siusi in roughly 35 minutes.
If you want to explore the western part of the Dolomites without changing your lodgings every night, this is one of your best options for where to stay in the Dolomites.
A small but delightful mountain town in the Dolomites, Canazei is a popular departure point for excursions to the nearby Marmolada, Sella, and Sassolungo Groups.
The town is in the Fassa Valley, surrounded by several ski areas and hiking trails.
The Val di Fassa lift departs from Canazei and takes you to the breathtaking Belvedere di Canazei, a wonderful vantage point to admire the gorgeous Fassa Valley.
From the nearby Passo Pordoi, you can take another cable car to Terrazza Delle Dolomiti, one of the most scenic spots in the Dolomites.
The nearby town Campitello di Fassa, only five minutes away from Canazei, is a lovely alternative. The charming little town is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and offers many places to stay for travelers.
San Martino di Castrozza
Nestled in the heart of the Primiero Valley, San Martino di Castrozza is a charming resort town in the Dolomites near the Pale di San Martino mountain range and the Paneveggio Pale di San Martino Natural Park.
The town was already a popular tourist location by the mid-19th century, when it attracted German and British mountain climbers looking for adventure on the nearby peaks.
In winter, the town is a perfect place to hit the slopes. In summer, you can explore beautiful hiking areas like Cima di Val di Roda or the Colbricon Lakes.
Not far from San Martino di Castrozza, you can discover the stunning Comelle Falls.
The nearby Passo Rolle connects San Martino di Castrozza to other valleys in the Dolomites, like Fassa Valley and Fiemme Valley.
San Giovanni di Fassa
Also known as Sèn Jan di Fassa, this commune was created in 2018 from the merger of two small hamlets known as Pozza di Fassa and Vigo di Fassa.
This small Dolomites town is a tranquil location to enjoy nature’s beauty, roughly halfway between Canazei and Moena.
The perfect way to relax and truly enjoy this peaceful location is with a stay at the spectacular spa QC Terme Dolomiti.
San Giovanni di Fassa lies at the foot of the Rosengarten mountain peak, known as Gruppo del Cantinaccio in Italian.
The massif is famous for its unique pink glow in the light of sunset and sunrise, due to the prevalence of rocks containing the mineral dolomite that gives the region its name.
Lastly, the town is the perfect location to explore the nearby Carezza Lake, a small alpine lake surrounded by astonishing landscapes.
The lake is a short drive from Sèn Jan di Fassa and a departure point for many beautiful hiking trails.
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies, and she studied at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. Besides her native Romania, Roxana has lived in Rome, Lisbon, and Berlin, and she has traveled through much of Europe in search of hidden gems, history, and culture.