Winter Wonderland: A Travel Guide To The Dolomites

A local ski instructor shares the best experiences, restaurants and après-ski hangouts on the slopes.
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Spanning the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, the Dolomites are among the most unique geological formations in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mountain range is considering one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. They feature 18 peaks that rise above 3,000 meters, fertile valleys, and dramatic cliffs that turn pale pink at sunset.

The Dolomites are also one of the most beloved winter destinations in Italy–and for good reason! Whether you’re a food lover, a sports enthusiast, or a spa junkie, South Tyrol is the perfect place to experience the magic of Italy’s celebrated settimana bianca (or white week). Discover our insider tips to make the most of your time in the mountains.

The cozy, fashionable interior of a wooden cabin with a view of the Dolomites through a wall-size window; two glasses of wine sit atop a table, with an overhead hanging lamp.
© Jimmy Hütte

What to do in the Dolomites

First things first, don’t skip local breakfast. After waking up to admire the beauty of Italy’s snowcapped mountains, enjoy a taste of Tyrolean specialties for breakfast. South Tyrol (or Alto Adige) was originally part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was annexed to Italy only at the end of World War I in 1919. Therefore, it shares many cultural similarities with its northern neighbor. The region is famous for its local Laugen bread, which resembles soft pretzels, sweet Krapfen donuts filled with cream or jam, handmade marmalades, and of course Italian brioche.

Once you’ve eaten your fill, it’s time for some winter sports. The Dolomiti Superski network boasts 1,200km of slopes with a network of twelve ski resorts. Suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. You can opt for a single-day pass, multi-day, or season tickets starting at €64 for adults. Beginners will enjoy the long, wide runs in Civetta and Alpe di Siusi while intermediate skiers will enjoy skiing the famous Sellaonda circuit. This circuit covers a distance of 40km and runs over four passes in Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba, and Fassa.

Since you’re in Italy, you must honor its ski traditions and stop for an aperitif at one of the many local rifugi, or “huts.” What will it be? An Italian Aperol Spritz, a warm cup of Vin Brulè? Or perhaps a Tyrolean Jägertee–a spiced alcoholic punch made with rum, herbs, and black tea? At Rifugio Emilio Comici you’ll find fantastic seafood appetizers. The scallops au gratin and tuna carpaccio pair wonderfully with a glass of Prosecco or Franciacorta. Wine lovers will especially appreciate the curated wine list at Vinoteca Ursus Ladinicus. And at the cozy Jimmi Hütte, the view speaks for itself.

A small wooden cabin in the snow, with the Dolomites in the background on a sunny day

Now let’s reach Secedaat (2,500 meters) for the most panoramic and Instagrammable shots. We can then ski down the 11.5 km slope of La Longia in Val Gardenia. Or are you ready to master the iconic World Cup black slope Gran Risa in Alta Badia? At Plan de Corones, you can find super long slopes, while at Alpe di Siusi, the plentiful sunshine will enhance your tan!

If you’re not an alpine skier, the Dolomites offer plenty of alternatives. Get in touch with nature while snowshoeing in the forest, or challenge yourself with cross-country skiing. Have fun whooshing down on a sled or take a ride on a dog sledge pulled by huskies at Passo delle Erbe! You can also go shopping in the cities of Brunico, Bressanone, and Bolzano. These lesser-known cities are especially magical during the Christmas markets.

A glass of red wine in the snow next to a wooden board full of food, with a view of the snowy landscape in the distance

Where to Eat in the Dolomites

By now you’ll have worked up quite an appetite so let’s find the best restaurant for lunch. If you’re in the mood to refuel with carbs, head over to Baita Sofie. Their homemade tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms is accompanied by an incredible view. Rifugio Edelweiss is famous for its iconic pasta with fermented garlic. For traditional dishes, Scotoni Hütte has the best mixed grilled platter with polenta and melted cheese. Punta Trieste makes succulent spareribs and Daniel Hütte serves local comfort food including excellent Canederlibread dumplings, also known as Knödel.

You’ll also find excellent homemade cheese served atop flowery plates at Gostner Schwaige. For a truly unique experience, book a visit, and tasting, at Genussbunker. This WWI bunker was discovered by Hubert Stockner. He transformed it into a cheese refinery where you can enjoy local formaggi paired with artisanal beers. If you’re looking for a truly gourmet experience, don’t miss the contemporary AlpiNN opened by Norbert Niederkofler. A local three-star Michelin chef, Niederkofler is famous for his Cook the Mountain philosophy, which focuses on local, seasonal products. I also love heading to Moritzino when I’m in the mood for fancy seafood in the snow.

Insider tip: for an extraordinary gastronomic experience book a table at Cocun at Hotel Ciasa Salares in San Cassiano, Alta Badia. You’ll dine in a cozy, underground cellar/restaurant surrounded by 26,000 bottles of wine. Here you’ll enjoy cured speck, prosciutto, and cheeses from Cocun’s own seasoning and aging room. The restaurant also has a chocolate room that offers 140 different types of chocolates from all over the world! The oste (host) Clemens is a passionate sommelier who will guide you through the dinner, pairing each dish with the finest wines.

After a day out on the slopes, you have a few options. The Après ski lovers usually opt to soak in the last rays of sunshine while dancing to DJ beats at Moritzino before heading to the iconic L’Murin Biraria–a beer tavern at the Hotel La Perla in Alta Badia. Enjoy live music in Val Gardena at La Stua and Luiskeller, or dance the night away at K1 in Plan de Corones.

A view of the heated outdoor infinity pool at Forestis Dolomites, a wellness destination. Snow covered pine trees fill up the background.
© Forestis Dolomites

Wellness Experiences

If you’re ready to relax, you’re in the right place! South Tyrol is one of Italy’s leading wellness destinations with the highest number of spa hotels in the Alps. From heated outdoor infinity pools and forest saunas to a slew of rejuvenating treatments. A trip to the Dolomites doesn’t just offer you fresh mountain air and invigorating exercise but a chance to reset and restore your mental well-being, too.

One of the more traditional, and unique, rituals offered in the Dolomites is the 100-year-old “hay bath.” It’s exactly what it sounds like, a full immersion into a pile of fermented hay. This treatment is purported to have a detoxifying, relaxing, and stimulating effect. You’ll also find restorative rituals like a honey massage, mugo pine oil massage, and therapeutic wine or milk bath offered at other properties.

The Best Hotels in the Dolomites

A few favorite properties include the Winkler Hotel and Granbaita (5 stars), the Kolfuschgerhof (4 stars), and the Miraval Naturhotel (3 stars).

Booking.com
A romantic aperitif in the forest, a couple sites on a sled with a spread of wine, cheese, and other food in front of them on a table.

If you’re looking for a unique experience: Four years ago I founded Dream Beyond with the idea of offering insider experiences to discover the beauty and uniqueness of my homeland, South Tyrol. Being a ski instructor myself, I love guiding guests around the Dolomites and showing them my favorite secret spots. And because I love making visitors feel extra special, my team and I developed one-of-a-kind experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

This includes a romantic aperitif in the forest in our brand-new sledge (that we built ourselves), and an igloo-building experience! A panoramic helicopter flight, coupled with an aperitif around the bonfire during a special husky sledge tour, we guarantee you’ll experience an unforgettable side of the Dolomites. We love a challenge so if you have a specific request, just send us a message!

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