Seasonal Planning for Travel to the Dolomites
The jagged Dolomites mountains of Northern Italy are spectacular at any time of year, and there's no 'bad' time or single 'good' time to visit. Your decision on when to travel should depend on the kinds of experiences you want to have. If you're into skiing, winter is ideal. If it's hiking you're after, summer and early fall is your best bet.
Temperatures and weather conditions vary depending on how high you go into the mountains. In all seasons it's important to be prepared with layers of clothing. It's highly likely that your day's destination will be significantly cooler than the place you set out from, especially if you're hiking.
Although the Dolomites are a subrange of the Alps, they look quite different than other regions of the mountain range. Mountain lovers could combine trips to the Dolomites and other parts of the Italian Alps (as well as the Alps in Switzerland and Austria, just over the border). One aspect to consider in favor of the Dolomites - they receive more hours of sunshine, even in winter, than other mountain ranges in the area (they are sunny the vast majority of the time).
Much of Europe, including Italy, takes summer holidays in August. Many Italians take two weeks off from mid-August, coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th, although some people take off the entire month. While the Dolomites don't get as busy this month as some other places further south, it is a time when a lot of Italians (and other Europeans) travel, so you should expect thicker crowds, higher prices, and limited availability of hotels and transport unless you book well in advance.
|Summer||Cooler temperatures than other parts of Italy, good weather||Many tourists, high prices (especially in August)||Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, general sightseeing (waterfalls, towns, etc.)|
|Fall||Fewer visitors, beautiful colors||Cool temperatures, mountain huts closed, some snow||Hiking, cultural/town activities|
|Winter||Sunny days, good ski conditions||Cold temperatures, snow||Skiing and snow sports|
|Spring||Few other visitors, lower prices||Cool temperatures, mountain huts closed, some snow||Lower elevation hiking, cultural/town activities|
Summer is an ideal time to visit the Dolomites, and outdoor enthusiasts in particular will enjoy exploring the region in temperatures that are much cooler than southern and lowland Italy. While many parts of Italy are absolutely scorching during mid-summer, in the Dolomites the temperatures rarely top 77° F (25° C), and more commonly stay around 70° F (21° C). However, most of the annual rainfall in the Dolomites comes in July and August, as summer thunderstorms are not uncommon.
Popular activities in the Dolomites in summer are hiking, mountain climbing, climbing via ferrata, and mountain biking. The area is well-suited to active and adventurous travelers, but if you do have any mobility challenges or prefer a more relaxed pace, you can also enjoy sightseeing in the small towns and villages, and appreciate the spectacular mountain views from lookout spots.
Summer is an ideal time for multi-day hiking trips not only because of the weather, but also for the network of rifugi (mountain huts) that is open at this time. You can hike into the relative wilderness without worrying about returning to town overnight, or lugging camping equipment with you. Talk to your local specialist if you're interested in creating an itinerary that makes use of these mountain huts.
Summer is prime wildlife-spotting season in the Dolomites as well. It's possible to see ibex, chamois, marmots, and golden eagles while hiking trails away from settlements. The wildflowers are also great at this time of year. Avoid the busiest trails for the best chance of seeing wildlife.
The only real drawback to visiting the Dolomites in the summer is that it's peak season, which runs from June to late August. While you won't experience the same kinds of crowds as the Vatican City at Easter or Venice during Carnevale, many hiking trails can get busy, and prices will be higher.
Summer Events in the Dolomites
The Maratona dles Dolomites is the biggest of the Italian Granfondo bicycle races, and takes place in late June or early July.
Music festivals are also widespread throughout the Dolomites in summer.
Autumn is a good time to visit the Dolomites if you are seeking cool weather and few other tourists. September and October see average highs of 64° F (18° C) and 55° F (13° C), respectively, but by November the winter is setting in. Another attractive feature of autumn in the Dolomites is that the vegetation—particularly the larch trees—turn golden. This is the low/shoulder season in the Dolomites, after the pleasant summer and before the prime ski conditions of winter.
Hiking trails in the Dolomites tend to stay open until late October, when snow arrives. Hunting season in the Dolomites begins in September (and runs until February), so do heed any signs you see when hiking that suggest you're entering hunting territory. You wouldn't want to get in the way!
Along with the other shoulder season, spring, the autumn is a great time to check out the cute towns and villages of the Dolomites. You can find a beautiful mix of architecture and views, including Tyrolean-style chalets and medieval churches.
While visitors can tour the wine country around the Dolomites throughout the year, the autumn is a particularly fun time for wine enthusiasts, with some excellent (and long!) wine festivals in various places.
Autumn Events in the Dolomites
Ladin Festival, Canazei, early September. The resort town of Canazei hosts an annual end-of-summer festival for three days, where you can experience local Rhaeto-Roman culture and cuisine.
Merano Wine Festival, November. The resort town of Merano in the Alto Adige region showcases some of Italy's best food and wine.
While winter is off-season for travel to many parts of Italy, this isn't the case in the Dolomites, with their fantastic conditions for skiing and snowboarding. All levels of ability and experience can find facilities to suit them. If you're not a confident or experienced skier or snowboarder, you can also try snowshoeing, an activity suitable for a range of fitness levels.
Winter is quite long in the Dolomites, with snow sticking around between December and April. Winter temperatures can be very cold, as low as 14° F (-10° C). However, the air is generally dry and there's a lot of sunshine, so you shouldn't be uncomfortable if you're well-dressed. January is the coldest month, with average lows/highs around 19°/34° F (-7°/1° C) (but this varies based on the elevation). December and February aren't significantly different. You can expect dry and clear conditions for most of the winter.
Many of the rifugi mountain huts that you can stay in during the summer are also open in the winter (though generally closed in spring and autumn). Visitors can drop in for meals while out skiing, or even stay overnight. If you're really adventurous and want to enjoy a multi-day skiing trip away from most of the crowds, you can plan to ski between rifugis.
Hunting season in the Dolomites runs until February (beginning in September). While skiing on maintained runs, you're unlikely to enter hunting territory. However, if you go off course or are out snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, take notice of any signs you see suggesting you're entering hunting territory.
Winter Events in the Dolomites
Christmas Markets are held in various towns and villages in the Dolomites in the weeks before Christmas, in December.
Winter lasts a bit longer in this northern part of Italy than elsewhere, and it's not uncommon for snow to stick around until April (or longer at higher elevations). Temperatures remain quite cool in April and May, with April highs of 50° F (10° C) and May highs of 59° F (15° C). There's more rain in these months, although not as much as the summer. With these weather conditions in mind, it's perhaps not surprising that the short spring season is low/shoulder season in the Dolomites.
However, the Dolomites do thaw out in the spring. Late spring (May) and early summer (June) are ideal months to visit if you are seeking cool weather that's comfortable for outdoor activities, and few other tourists. Hiking trails in the Dolomites tend to mostly open by mid-to-late May, after the snow has melted. Wildflowers start to carpet the mountain meadows in late spring (and continue through summer).
Spring is a great time to check out the cute towns and villages of the Dolomites, with their Tyrolean chalets, medieval churches and, of course, mountain views. There are also six museums located around the South Tyrol area founded by a pioneering Alpine mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, which are great places to retreat indoors and learn something new.
Spring Events in the Dolomites
Vino in Festa, South Tyrolean Wine Road, late May-early June. Wine lovers should make time to visit this month-long wine festival, hosted by 15 wine-making districts along the South Tyrolean Wine Road.