Guide to Cortina D’Ampezzo: Best Hikes, Via Ferratas & Photography Spots

If you’ve been researching your upcoming trip to the Italian Dolomites, I am sure Cortina D’Ampezzo appeared more than once in your search results. It’s no wonder. Cortina is a great hub to see many of the famous Dolomiti attractions. Some of the best hikes and via ferratas in the Dolomites are around Cortina & in this article, I will show you just how great this town is for outdoor and photography lovers.

About Cortina D’Ampezzo

Via Ferrata Michieli Strobel 13

Thanks to its central location Cortina is considered to be the heart of the Italian Dolomites. The town rose to fame during the 1956 Winter Olympics. Today it is considered an upscale mountain resort, but don’t let that put you off. Cortina has maintained its charm with a lovely cobblestone main street dotted with restaurants, cafes, and of course, ice cream parlours.

The best way to get to Cortina D’Ampezzo

By bus

If you happen to be visiting Venice first you can easily plan an escape into the mountains and reach Cortina with a shuttle bus. You can book a shuttle on a daily bus which runs from Venice. It’s certainly a more environment-friendly way to travel.

If you happen to travel to Milan Bergamo airport, from there you can catch FlixBus to Cortina.

By car

If you are traveling to Cortina D’Ampezzo by car, here are approximate travel distances and times from the nearest airports:

  • Venice Marco Polo: 148 km / 92 mi / 1h 45 min
  • Venice Treviso: 137 km / 85 mi / 1h 40 min
  • Innsbruck: 164 km / 102 mi / 2h 30 min
  • Munich airport: 358 km / 222 mi / 4h
  • Milan Bergamo: 370 km / 230 mi / 4 h
  • Milan Malpensa: 453 km / 281 mi / 4h 30 min

TIP: If you need to rent a car for your trip to the Dolomites consider using Discover Cars. It’s an award-winning comparison site that I have been using for years.

Best Hikes Around Cortina D’Ampezzo

1. Croda Da Lago Circuit

  • Distance: 12.5 km /7.8 mi
  • Elevation gain: 854 m / 2801 ft
  • Time required: 5-6 h
Croda Da Lago Circuit is one of the best hikes around Cortina D'Ampezzo

Circling the jagged peaks of Croda Da Lago, this is a great full-day hike for anyone who is up for a challenge. The first half of the hike that leads to Lake Federa is rather easy. It’s the second half which involves descending a large boulder field that makes it a lot harder.

This is one of my favorite autumn day hikes in the Dolomites. The area truly comes to life during Fall, particularly in the second half of October. That’s when the larch trees in the surrounding valleys turn bright orange. A perfect time for photography enthusiasts.

Read more: Guide to Croda Da Lago Circuit

2. Lake Sorapiss

  • Distance: 12.1 km / 7.5 mi
  • Elevation gain: 520 m / 1706 ft
  • Time required: 4-5 hours

Not exactly a hidden gem, but a gem nevertheless. The turquoise waters of Lake Sorapiss are the reason why this is one of the best hikes around Cortina. It attracts hundreds of day hikers on any given summer day. If you want a little bit more peace try to get there a bit earlier in the season.

I’ve done this hike a few times, including in early May when the lake was still covered underneath a sheet of ice and a blanket of snow. I only met a handful of other people on the trail and had the lake all to myself.

Read more: Guide to Lake Sorapiss hike

3. Lake Limedes & Cinque Torri Circuit

  • Distance: 9.7 km / 6 mi
  • Elevation gain: 600 m / 1950 ft
  • Time required: 4-5 h
Lago Limedes Cinque Torri Circuit Hike 11

This is a gentle hike that runs mostly above the treeline. It starts near Passo Falzarego and first heads to Lake Limedes, a seasonal lake with great reflections of the surrounding peaks.

It then climbs to Averau Saddle before descending to the famous Cinque Torri rock formation. This is one of the best hikes near Cortina for history enthusiasts. There is an outdoor World War I museum at the foot of Cinque Torri with remnants of trenches that were used in the battles.

Read more: Guide to Cinque Torri & Lake Limedes hike

4. Lagazuoi Tunnels

  • Distance: 6 km / 4 mi
  • Elevation gain: 673 m / 2200 ft
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
Lagazuoi Tunnels Hike 23

Just on the opposite side of Passo Falzarego and Cinque Torri runs the hike to Monte Lagazuoi. What’s unique about this hike is that the majority of the route runs through a network of tunnels.

The tunnels were dug during World War I and used during battles. If you want to learn a bit about the complex history of how the Dolomites became a part of Italy then add this hike to your list.

Read more: Guide to Lagazuoi Tunnels hike

5. Col De La Puina

  • Distance: 7.6 km / 4.7 mi
  • Elevation gain: 550 m / 1800 ft
  • Time required: 2.5 – 3 h
Col De La Peina 139

This very unassuming hike quickly became one of my favorite hikes around Cortina. With only a 7.6 kilometer distance (4.7 miles) and 550 meters(1800 feet) of elevation gain it’s neither long nor strenuous yet it pays tenfold in views.

The hike runs at the foot of the towering Monte Pelmo and takes you to a small ridgeline. From here you get great panoramic views of Monte Antealo, the second-highest peak in the Dolomites.

Read more: Guide to Col De La Puina hike

6. Tre Cime Circuit

  • Distance: 9.5 km / 5.9 mi
  • Elevation gain: ca. 400 m / 1300 ft
  • Time required: 4-5 h
Tre Cime Circuit 3

Cortina is a great town to use as a base if you want to check out the Dolomites most famous Nature Park – Tre Cime. There are great bus connections from Cortina to Rifugio Auronzo from where you can hike the Tre Cime Circuit.

This is the number 1 hike in the park with hundreds of tourists visiting every day. However, If seeing many other people on the trail isn’t something you want to experience, then skip this hike. There are plenty of other less-frequented routes in the Tre Cime Nature Park that you can undertake.

Read more: Guide to Tre Cime Circuit hike

My Favorite Via Ferratas Around Cortina D’Ampezzo

Cortina is a paradise for any via ferrata enthusiasts. There are at least 20 different routes you can reach within less than half an hour’s drive from the town center. I have a separate article dedicated to all via ferratas near Cortina, but I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

1. Marino Bianchi

  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Time required: 6-7 hours
Via ferrata Marino Bianchi - one of the best via ferratas around Cortina D'Ampezzo

If you are looking for a personal recommendation, via ferrata Marino Bianchi is one of my favorite routes in the Dolomites. With that said, one needs to work hard to get to it first. I am talking about an hour-long, calf-burning approach through a scree gully to the Staunies saddle, where the ferrata begins.

Once you start your scramble along the cable-protected sections it is a continuous feast for the eyes. Make sure to pay attention to the route though, some sections of this ferrata, though well-protected, are very exposed.

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Marino Bianchi

2. Ra Bujela

  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
Via ferrata ra bujela 1

Amazing views, a very well-thought-out route, and easy access. I don’t think there is another via ferrata in the Dolomites that packs so much in such little time. If you are looking for a quick half-day outing around Cortina, perhaps somewhere to practice using your via ferrata gear, you should pick this route.

The beginning of via ferrata Ra Bujela can be reached with a chairlift and the bottom of the chairlift is only a 10-minute drive from the center of Cortina.

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Ra Bujela

3. Michielli Strobel

  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Time required: 4-5 hours
Via ferrata michielli strobel 1

If you want to see Cortina in all its glory, one of the best panoramic views of the town, with Monte Pelmo as the backdrop, is from the Michielli Strobel iron path. The route climbs along the western ranks of the Pomagagnon range and reaches Punta Fiames.

This is a lesser known via ferrata, so if you want to escape the crowds, you should consider this route.

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Michielli Strobel

4. Averau

  • Difficulty level: beginner
  • Time required: 2 hours (not including hut approach)
Via Ferrata Averau 1 1

Witnessing sunset from the top of Monte Averau is still one of the best experiences I have had in the Dolomites. For a photographer like me, it was a pure dream in every direction.

It’s a quick summit tour and the via ferrata section is not longer than 50 meters. The rest of the route is just a hike to the top.

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Averau

5. Degli Alpini Al Col Dei Bos

  • Difficulty level: intermediate
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
Via ferrata col dei bos 1

This iron path is a popular choice for guided tours leaving Cortina D’Ampezzo. If you would like to have a go at a via ferrata accompanied by an experienced guide, chances are you’ll be offered the opportunity to tackle this route.

There is plenty of history behind this route which is why it’s chosen for tour groups. It starts near Passo Falzarego, a very strategic point during World War I.

The pyramid-shaped Monte Antelao and Marmolada, two of the highest peaks in the Dolomites, can be seen from this ferrata. 

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Degli Alpini Al Col Dei Bos

6. Giro Del Sorapiss

  • Difficulty level: advanced
  • Time required: 10-12 hours (not including hut approach)
Via ferrata giro del sorapiss 1

Completing this iron path will be a true test of your endurance. Giro del Sorapiss is a circuit around Monte Sorapiss, one of the peaks at the foot of which Cortina was built.

The Sorapiss circuit encompasses 3 separate via ferratas: Alfonso Vandelli, Carlo Minazio And Francesco Berti. They are intertwined with long hiking sections. The circuit can be done in a day, provided you start at sunrise and finish at sunset. A much safer option is to stay the night at the cozy Rifugio Vandelli or one of the two alpine bivouacs along the way.

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Giro Del Sorapiss

7. Giovanni Lipella

  • Difficulty level: advanced
  • Time required: 6-8 hours
Via ferrata giovanni lipella 1

Via Ferrata Giovanni Lipella scales the western slopes of Tofana Di Rozes and is filled with World War I history. Tofana di Rozes together with Tofana di Dentro and Tofana di Mezzo form the Tofane group, which stands proudly above Cortina D’Ampezzo.

Whilst Tofana Di Mezzo (3rd highest peak of the Dolomites) can be reached with a cable car, the only way to get to the top of Tofana di Rozes is with the power of your legs (and hands).

Read more: Guide to via ferrata Giovanni Lipella

My Favorite Photography Spots Around Cortina D’Ampezzo

1. Passo Tre Croci

Passo Tre Croci 1

This beautiful viewpoint of Monte Cristallo is only 30 minutes into the Lake Sorapiss hike, which starts at the Tre Croci mountain pass. I took this photograph at sunrise in the second half of October.

2. Cinque Torri
Cinque Torri and Mount Antelao

Cinque Torri translates to five towers. It is a beloved subject amongst landscape photographers. I took my favorite shot of Cinque Torri (pictured above) at sunrise near the summit of Monte Lagazuoi. The pyramid-shaped mountain you can see in the background is the Dolomites’ second-highest peak – Monte Antelao.

3. Passo Giau

Passo Giau 1

Passo Giau is the easiest-to-reach photography spot around Cortina. If you want to capture the great light hitting the Ra Gusela summit, the mountain that made Passo Giau famous, then make sure to be there for sunrise.

4. Monte Lagazuoi

Rifugio Lagazuoi 1

Another easy-to-reach photography spot near Cortina D’Ampezzo is Monte Lagazuoi and the Lagazuoi mountain hut. It is only a cable car ride away from Falzarego mountain pass. You can book an overnight stay in the hut and enjoy both sunrise and sunset atop the summit.

5. Rifugio Pomedes

Rifugio Pomedes 1

Another great mountain hut to stay at for any photography enthusiast is Rifugio Pomedes. Similarly to Lagazoui, it can also be reached with the help of a chairlift. From the hut’s terrace, you have great views of the jagged Croda Da Lago and Monte Antelao. The start of the previously mentioned via ferrata Ra Bujela lies nearby.

6. Lake Auronzo

Lake Auronzo 1

If you are a sucker for emerald lakes and mountain reflections then take a 30-minute drive from Cortina D’Ampezzo to Auronzo. The lake lies on the Southern tip of the Tre Cime Nature Park, a 40-minute drive from Cortina.

7. Summit of Mount Averau

Via ferrata averau 1

Monte Averau is my favorite sunset photography spot near Cortina D’Ampezzo. From the summit, you get to see Antelao, Croda Da Lago, Mount Pelmo, and Mount Civetta all perfectly aligned. To get to the summit you will need to tackle a very short via ferrata section, so make sure you come properly equipped.

8. Summit of Ra Gusela

Via Ferrata ra gusela 1

Some of my best sunrise shots from the Dolomites were taken atop Ra Gusela. Rifugio Nuvolau and the previously mentioned summit of Monte Averau can be seen in the picture.

9. Lago Federa

Croda Da Lago Circuit Lago Federa 1

The ultimate autumn photography spot in the Italian Dolomites lies along the Croda Da Lago circuit hike. I am talking about Lake Federa. Reserve a bed at Rifugio Palmieri, built right on its shoreline, If you would like to be there at sunrise. In my opinion, that’s the best time to photograph the lake.

10. Lake Di Limides

This tiny seasonal lake can be reached within 20 minutes on the hike to Cinque Torri. Lake Limides (also written Limedes) offers a great reflection of Tofane di Rozes and Monte Lagazuoi. The lake is only there between June and September. By October most of the water dries out and it turns into a swamp.

My Favorite Hotels in Cortina D’Ampezzo

Other Regions of the Dolomites Worth Visiting

Support my website!

Hi Reader! If you found any of my articles about the Dolomites useful please consider using the affiliate links below (at no extra cost) when booking your holiday. Thank you

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *