Mountain Passes Of The Italian Dolomites Worth Stopping For A Photograph

Driving through the Dolomites can be scary at times. It certainly takes some time to get used to. With plenty of hairpin turns, narrow roads and locals who sometimes drive like there is no tomorrow, only confirming the stereotypes about Italian drivers.

But as long as you take your time and keep your eyes on the road you will be fine. Although the latter might prove itself difficult with the views you are about to encounter. 

The mountain passes of the Italian Dolomites offer great access to the many hikes and via ferratas which these ranges are famous for. I am about to share a bucketload of information with you.

So fasten your seat belt and get ready for a beautiful ride through the Dolomites’ best mountain passes. 

10 Beautiful Mountain Passes In The Italian Dolomites That Are Accessible By Car

1. Passo Rolle

Passo rolle Italian Dolomites
The reflective ponds near Passo Rolle

Nestled right beneath the dramatic spires of the Pale Di San Martino group, Passo Rolle is a must-stop when driving between Val di Fassa and San Martino di Castrozza. 

In the winter the area around Passo Rolle turns into a world-class ski resort and the summer transforms it into endless fields of colourful wildflowers. 

A challenging day hike to Passo del Mulaz starts here. By walking only 30 minutes away from the road you will also find Baita G Segantini and its reflective ponds – one of the iconic photography spots in the Dolomites. 

There are a few hotels directly at Passo Rolle should you want to be close to all the action. 

2. Passo Gardena

Passo Gardena from the summit of Gran Cir in the Italian Dolomites
View over Passo Gardena from the summit of Gran Cir

Passo Gardena is my favourite mountain pass in the Dolomites. Why is that you may wonder? For adventure junkies and photography lovers like myself, the Gardena Pass is the perfect playground.

With access to two great via ferratas: Gran Cir and Brigata Tridentina as well as the jaw-dropping views over Sassolungo (Langkofel) and a big larch tree forest turning gold during autumn months, you will want to spend some time around here. 

If that wasn’t enough Passo Gardena is one of the many passes crossed along the famous Alta Via 2 traverse of the Italian Dolomites. 

If you want to base yourself close to the Gardena Pass the nearest town is Corvara, only 15 minutes drive away.

3. Passo Sella

Marmolada at sunset photographed from the Sella Pass
Marmolada at sunset photographed from the Sella Pass

Not too far from the previously mentioned beautiful Gardena Pass is another incredible pass – Passo Sella. It takes its name from the Sella mountain group which stands right in between those two passages. 

The Sella pass is where you should stop if you want to get a closer look at the peaks of Sassolungo and Sassopiato.

If that’s not close enough, I highly recommend strapping a helmet and harness on and venturing into the heart of this group on the exhilarating via ferrata Oskar Schuster

There is a seasonal hotel opened between June and September and during winter ski months directly on the pass, creatively called the Passo Sella resort.

The two nearby towns connected by the pass are Selva di Val Gardena and Canazei. 

4. Passo Giau

Passo Giau in the Italian Dolomites at sunrise
Ra Gusela at sunrise

Passo Giau is certainly the most iconic pass on this list, mostly thanks to Instagram. The pass lies more or less halfway between Cortina D’Ampezzo and Selva di Cadore.

In the summer you can often meet hikers here, crossing the path along the famous Alta Via 1 – a 140-kilometre-long backpacking trip across the Dolomites. I have recently walked it myself! 

The peak you can see in the photo above is called Ra Gusela and you can access its summit along a via ferrata. The view from the top is completely different to the one below and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to venture off the beaten path. 

Another icon visible from the pass is Marmolada – Dolomite’s highest peak! 

Marmolada at sunrise
Passo Giau from the summit of Ra Gusela

5. Passo Falzarego

Passo Falzarego at sunset during autumn
Tofana Di Rozes framed by the changing larch trees

I have spent many days around Passo Falzarego exploring the area. There is lots to do here as you are about it find out!

The pass is a 30-minute drive away from Cortina D’Ampezzo in the direction of Selva di Cadore or Corvara. 

Just like the previously mentioned Passo Giau, the Falzarego mountain pass also lies on the Alta Via 1. Moreover, rifugio Lagazuoi – one of the most photogenic mountain huts in the Dolomites,  stands a few hundred meters above the pass.  

You can spend the day here hiking through the Lagazuoi tunnels and learn about the gruelling history of this place dating back to the First World War. 

Only a short hike away from the pass lies Lago Limides, another iconic photo spot in the Dolomites, where you can see the reflections of Tofana di Rozes – a mountain peak pictured above.

Passo Falzarego also offers great access to the area around Cinque Torri and to the via ferrata Averau

As you can see, you could plan your holiday just around the Falzarego Pass and you wouldn’t get bored. 

6. Passo Tre Croci

Passo Tre Croci in the Italian Dolomites
Alpenglow on Monte Cristallo at dawn

The Tre Croci Pass connects Cortina D’Ampezzo with Misurina and Tre Cime National Park. It also stands on the divide between two mountain groups: Sorapiss and Cristallo. 

The latter with its highest peak – Monte Cristallo is pictured above. You can access its summit through an exciting via ferrata Marino Bianchi – one of my personal favorites. 

Passo Tre Croci is also where the trail to Lago di Sorapiss sets off. This is one of the day hikes in the Italian Dolomites, you shouldn’t miss. 

7. Passo Delle Erbe

Sass de Putia and Passo delle Erbe in the Italian Dolomites
Sass de Putia and Passo delle Erbe

Passo delle Erbe is probably the least frequented mountain pass in the Dolomites, a true off-the-beaten-track experience. You can access it from the town of Santa Magdalena in Val di Funes. 

After driving through endless and narrow hairpins you get to a parking lot at the foot of Sass de Putia, the mountain you can see in the photo above. Sass de Putia can be summited in a few hours via a great beginner via ferrata. 

Just on the other side of it runs the Alta Via 2, one of the long-distance treks running from North to South over the Dolomites.

8. Passo Compologno


Connecting the towns of Corvara and Arabba, the Compologno Pass is the perfect spot to break up the journey and enjoy the views along the way. 

The mountain pictured above which is visible from the pass is called Sassongher. It’s accessible with a beginner via ferrata and with the summit measuring over 2700 meters a.s.l. it makes for a great day outing. 

Another attraction nearby is the Boé Gondola. Boarding from Corvara, the gondola takes you up to the start of via ferrata Piz Da Lech as well as a few different hikes in the Sella mountain group. 

9. Passo Fedaia


With a few choices of restaurants and hotels as well as a regular running bus, passo Fedaia seems more like a small mountain town rather than just a pass. 

A man-made lake of the same name and a massive dam are two features which separate Passo Fedaia from the rest. 

The mountain in the photo above is none other than Marmolada, the queen of the Dolomites, their highest peak!  

The Fedaia Pass marks the start for an advanced via ferrata Eterna Brigata Cadore, ending at Punta Serauta, the lowest of several peaks on Marmolada.

So far I had 4 failed attempts to tackle this ferrata, each one interrupted by either poor weather conditions or me just feeling lazy. I now have another good reason to come back. 

Just on the other side of the pass, you will find Malga Ciapela, where you can catch an aerial tramway to another of Marmolada’s peaks – Punta Rocca. This is where you can find the Museum of the Great War!

10. Passo Pordoi


Passo Pordoi connects the towns of Canazei in Val di Fassa with Arabba. It’s one of several passes which I have crossed on my backpacking trip along the Alta Via 2.

An absolute must-do on the pass is catching the cable car to the top of Sass Pordoi for an elevated view of the surrounding mountains, including (once again) Marmolada! 

From the top of the gondola station, it’s only an hour and 15 minutes to the summit of Piz Boè, the highest in the Sella mountain group.

Here you can grab a lunch or even book an overnight stay in the second-highest mountain refuge in the Dolomites- rifugio Capanna Fassa. It’s one of my favourite huts I have stayed at! 

If you don’t want to spend the money on the gondola, from Passo Pordoi you can hike along the path nr 601 to rifugio Viél Dal Pan. It’s a great beginner hike with beautiful views over Marmolada and Lake Fedaia.

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Hi! I am the photographer and creator of 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.


  1. For which of these passes can we easily just pull over to a side lane or a parking lot to take some nice pictures instead of taking hikes. By hikes, I mean more than 200-300 meters

    • Hi Sam. That would be Passo Gardena, Passo Sella, Passo Pordoi (here it is just a cable car to Sass Pordoi), Passo Falzarego (same cable car to rif. Lagazuoi), Passo Giau, Passo Compologno.

  2. Hi! Gorgeous photos! I am planning a trip to the Dolomites and we are coming from Venice. We were planning to go to Ortisei first and then to Cortina, since we are stopping at the prosecco trail on the way back to Venice. My question is – does it matter which direction we drive these passes? Coming from Venice, I thought we would cut over from Bolzano and hit Lake Carrezza, then the Sella Pass up to Ortisei. I know it adds a couple of hours but thought it would be a good way to see more. Or, are we doing things backwards and it doesn’t make sense this direction. Same with going from Ortisei to Cortina…are we going the wrong direction on Passo Gardena? Any advice is welcome! Thanks!

    • Hi Stacey.Thanks for stopping by. I think your planning is on point. You will have great views when driving over Sella Pass. You can stop right at the top and do a short hike up to Col Rodella (Part of the Sassolungo Circuit) to see everything from a higher perspective. Driving from Ortisei to Corvara then to Cortina over Passo Gardena and Passo Falzarego is also great and make sure to stop on both passes. If you have some time on the Passo Falzarego then hike up the Lagazuoi tunnels to rifugio Lagazuoi then take the gondola back down. You will find both Sassolungo Circuit and Lagazuoi Tunnels descriptions in the day hikes in the Dolomites category

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