8-Step Guide For A Stress-Free Visit To Lago Di Braies In The Italian Dolomites

Lago di Braies (also known as Pragser Wildsee in German) is the jewel in the Italian Dolomites’ crown. For those of you who have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of it, Lake Braies is a crystal blue lake located beneath an amphitheater of rock. A breathtaking location that comes with a certain price tag.

Tips on visiting Lago di Braies / Pragser Wildsee

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Due to the ease of access (and a massive social media presence), Lago di Braies is one of the most popular spots in the Italian Dolomites.

Due to over-tourism, restrictions have been introduced in recent years to improve the traffic on the access road to Lake Braies. Before I get to the nit and grit of it all let’s begin with getting acquainted with the Pragser Wildsee.

1. Where is Lake Braies located?

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Pragser Wildsee lies within the boundaries of the Fannes-Senes-Braies Nature Park and is located near the Val Pusteria region (Puster Valley) in the Northern part of the Italian Dolomites. The driving distances from the nearby towns and closest cities are:

  • Dobiacco: 16km / 20 mins
  • Cortina D’Ampezzo: 46 km / 1 h
  • Bolzano: 101 km / 1 h 45 mins
  • Venice: 205 km / 3 h
  • Innsbruck (Austria): 134 km / 2 h 20 mins
  • Munich (Germany): 289 km / 3 h 50 mins

TIP: Lago di Braies also marks the start of the popular 142-kilometer-long traverse Alta Via 1 which I hiked a few years ago together with my dad.

2. Where to stay near Pragser Wildsee?

I highly recommend picking a base for a few days in one of the towns in the Pusteria Valley: Villabassa, Dobiacco, San Candido, or Sesto. There are plenty of things to do around here and many great accommodation options. If you would like to support my site, use the links below to make a booking.

3. When is it possible to visit Lago di Braies?

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You can visit the lake year-round but depending on your objective some months are better than others, for example:

  • If you are a photographer and want to see the best colors aim to go in the second half of October
  • If you would like to hike in the area go between mid-June and October
  • If you just want to see the lake you can go anytime between May and November. Outside of those months, the lake is frozen and/or covered with snow.

4. How to get to Lago di Braies?

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By car

Typically you can just drive to the lake. During the peak summer months, there are some restrictions in place which I talk about below. Make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

TIP: If you are coming from abroad and need to rent a car I highly recommend Discover Cars. It’s a search engine for car rentals with great customer service and competitive market prices.

Parking at Lake Braies

There are 4 car parks along the road and close to Lago di Braies. 

  • P1 Parcheggio Lago di Braies – located 6 km from the lake. This is where you can leave your car to catch the bus to the lake.
  • P2 Parcheggio Lago di Braies – located a 15-minute walk away from the lake. There is a small Kiosk selling burgers right next to the car park. The cost is only 6 Euro per day which makes it the closest, most economical parking lot near Lake Braies.
  • P3 Parcheggio Lago di Braies – located right behind P4 and only a 5-minute walk from the lake. Electric car charging stations are available here.
  • P4 Parcheggio Lago di Braies – The closest but also the most expensive of the car parks. This car park can be prebooked during the high season.

TIP: If you are traveling in the high season when the road restrictions are in place, you can pre-book the P4 and be exempt from them. More info here.

By bus

Bus no. 442 operates at regular intervals between the town of Dobbiaco and Lake Braies. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes and there are 15 stops along the way. Check for a bus stop near you on the Sued Tirol Mobil website. Type in St. Veit (Prags), Pragser Wildsee as your destination.

TIP: You can also travel by bus to Lake Braies from Cortina D’Ampezzo. The journey takes around 90 minutes and requires one change in Dobbiaco.

5. Seasonal driving restrictions to Lake Braies

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Each year during the peak season (usually between mid-July – mid-September), to minimize traffic jams, the road leading to Lake Braies remains closed to private vehicles between 9 AM and 4 PM.

If you are travelling within those dates make sure to either arrive early or late in the afternoon or use public transport instead. The exact dates are published on the official website of the Braies Valley Tourism Association.

TIP: These restrictions exclude hotel guests staying at the Lake Braies Hotel or those who have pre-booked a parking spot on the P4 parking lot.

6. Hiking trails that start at Lago di Braies

The majority of people who visit the lake, only go as far as the boat jetty located only 100 meters away from the parking lot, but if you want to escape the crowds, Lago di Braies is the perfect location to get introduced to hiking trails of the Dolomites.

Lago di Braies Circuit

  • Distance: 4km / 2.5 mi
  • Walking time: 1-2 h
  • Elevation gain: 50 m / 165 feet
  • When to go: May – November
  • Hiking difficulty: easy
  • Trail color: yellow

The circuit around the lake can be done either clockwise or anticlockwise. I recommend going clockwise. There is not much explaining to do about the route.

Just follow the path along the shoreline and enjoy the views! No maps, navigation skills, or even hiking boots are needed. This is as easy as it gets in the world of hiking! 

Seekofel (Croda del Becco) Summit via Rifugio Biella

  • Distance: 18 km / 11.2 mi
  • Walking time: 7-8 hours roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: ca. 1400 m (ca. 4600 ft)
  • When to go: Mid-June – Mid-October
  • Hiking difficulty: Challenging
  • Trail color: blue

A challenging trail to the Croda Del Becco summit, the mountain that reflects in Lake Braies. This is a full-day excursion that requires good stamina. You can break it down by staying in Rifugio Biella overnight.

The first part of the trail to Rifugio Biella is also the first stage of the previously mentioned Alta Via 1.

Lago di Braies – Malga Rossalm – Ponticello

  • Distance: ca. 12 km / 7.5 mi
  • Walking time: 5 hours
  • Elevation gain: ca. 800 m (ca. 2600 ft)
  • When to go: Mid-June to Mid-September
  • Hiking difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail color: red

This is a one-way hike that is perfect for escaping the crowds at Lake Braies and exploring the stunning Fannes-Senes-Braies Nature Park. The trail first leads uphill away from the lake on the same path as the hike to Seekofel summit before branching off towards Malga Rossalm.

Malga Rossalm is a high alpine restaurant and it makes for a perfect spot to grab lunch before descending to Ponticello. From here you can easily catch a bus to the P1, Villabassa, or Dobiacco.

7. Facilities near Lake Braies

Don’t let the serene pictures of the lake fool you. The area around Lake Braies is actually (and sadly) quite developed. There is a huge hotel right on its shoreline, a little chappel right nearby, and of course the famous jetty with row boats tied to it.

Apart from that you can expect some small restaurants, plenty of parking spaces and even a little souvenir shop. There are also paid toilets at the car parks.

8. Frequently asked questions about Lago di Braies

Is Lago di Braies worth visiting?

There is no doubt about the fact that the lake and its surroundings are breathtaking. However, the allure of the place is somewhat tarnished by its popularity. In the morning arguments between groups of photographers fighting for a spot are common and people breaking into the boathouse to pose on the jetty before it opens is at times hilarious, at times annoying. Go see it, just don’t expect to be there alone, that’s all I am saying.

Is it possible to swim in Lake Braies?

Swimming in the lake is strictly prohibited. It’s a part of a nature reserve.

Are drones allowed at Lago di Braies?

Drones are not permitted in the nature parks in the Italian Dolomites and Lago di Braies is no exception. Sadly, even fines don’t fend off tourists with drones. You can often see them being flown above the lake by people who feel above the law.

How to rent the row boats at Lago di Braies?

Boat rentals operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. The row boats can be rented for either 30 or 60 minutes and the prices have skyrocketed in recent years reaching a whopping 50 Euro/30 minutes for a private boat. Prebooking a boat is only possible if you want to use it for a photo production or similar and the prices are even higher.

Other things to see and do nearby

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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.

20 Comments

  1. Hi Marta,
    This is very interesting! Thanks!

    The trail Lago di Braies – Malga Rossalm – Ponticello, I had a question about this trail.
    I am staying at the hotel next to the bus stop at Ponticello.
    I am doing the AV1, and was wondering how is the trail from Ponticello to go to Refugio Biella?
    I was told that it wasn’t a good tail to take.

    Thank you for your reply 🙂
    Nook

    • Hi Nook. Thanks for stopping by. From Ponticello to Malga Rossalm it is mostly a gravel road, but it is very scenic, after Malga Rossalm you enter high alpine meadows. It is very quiet here. Then you can join the trail to Rifugio Biella. I did enjoy this hike and views wise it’s very similar to the original Av1 route. Do Consider doing the extension to Seekofel summit. I hope that helps.

  2. Hi there 🙂 We are hiking AV1, spending the night before in Cortina. I understand we can travel by bus to the start of the hike at Lago de braies. I’ve seen some information that says to book the bus to the lake ahead of time – is this really necessary? Seems like overkill to me but I don’t want to be left stranded in Cortina. Thanks!!

    • Hi Sarah. There are both public buses and commercial buses travelling there. The seats on public buses are normally first come first served. It is a busy destination though. Very busy in fact. If you are going in July or August then pre-booking might not be a terrible idea. Sorry I can’t give you a straight answer but I simply am not 100% sure and can’t tell you how busy it will get on a particular day.

  3. Hi there, loved reading this. Thank you! We plan to visit The Dolomites and Lake Braies in early May. Do you think it will be open then? Have you visited the Dolomites at this time of year?

    • Hi Clair,

      yes it will be open. There might be ice on the lake still though or it will be just thawing. Yes I have been to the Dolomites in early May. Enjoy your trip!

  4. I’m hiking part of the Alta via 1. I’m hoping to do 5 or 6 huts. I have the first 4 booked. My question to you is what do I do with the rest of my luggage while hiking? Are there companies that might transport it to where I end the hike? Or are there places to store luggage? I’d love any advice that you can give. Thank you, Pixie

    • Hi Pixie. There is luggage storage in Cortina. You could go there first to drop off your luggage. From cortina you can bus to Lake Braies. When you exit after day 5 (Probably on Passo Giau) you can catch bus back to Cortina. I hope that helps!

  5. Hello, thanks for your info. With the car parks, can you drive in anytime for sunrise or are there boom gates or anything, is the ticketed price for certain times only? I’m planning early sunrise, walk around the lake, maybe rent a boat (try to be first in line) then leave right before it’s crazy busy. Are there ticket machines or a person? Thanks so much

    • Hi Suzie. There were boom gates at the parking lot, but more and more places introduce parking machines. If you get there very early your should be able to get a spot somewhere. Most people start arriving 8-9AM

    • Hi Annika. One of the times I visited LAgo di Braies there was a pair of instagrammers who must have taken a thousand photos (most of them the same frame) in a boat, in a white dress and a mandatory fedora hat. They didn’t care about anyone else being there trying to photograph the lake without them in the frame. They never paddled further than 10 meters from the boat terminal. No enjoyment of the lake and canoe whatsoever. It was all done for a staged photoshoot. Yes there are people like that and I try not to pay attention to it too much, but places like Lago di Braies certainly attracts many photo-crazed crowd. That’s why I often tell people not to feel bad about skipping it.

    • Hi Menno, I personally think sunrise and the golden hour after sunrise is the best. That’s when the sun rays are coming across the mountains. A lot of the photos in this post were taken during the golden hour after sunrise. Thanks for the coffee! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the informative updates and wonderful pictures. I am travelling in mid Oct . Does it snow at Dolomites and will it be still crowded at Lago di braies. Are cable access to Seceda possible at that time.
    13-17 th Oct

    • Hi Sarita. Thanks for stopping by. I am currently based close to the Dolomites and over the past few days, we had the first snowfall above 2000 meters. I hardly doubt this snow will stay but just giving you a heads up.
      Yes, you can have snow in the Dolomites in mid-October, but you can also still expect late summer-like weather during the daytime. I have recently published the perfect fall itinerary for the Dolomites. Most of the photos in that article were taken between mid-October and the end of October.

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