The Dolomites are my absolute favourite destination in Italy and Lago di Braies is one of the many stunning places to see here. I don’t know about you, but whenever my friends talk about their holidays to Italy, they always mention Rome, Milan, the Amalfi Coast or Venice. Don’t get me wrong, they are all beautiful places, but I noticed that people are a lot less likely to mention a visit to the Dolomites and Lago di Braies.
If you love breathtaking scenery, a wealth of mythological legends, outdoor activities, photography or just visiting unique places, read on to find out why you should add Lago di Braies to your Italian itinerary!
1) LAGO DI BRAIES IS A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE
If something is a UNESCO heritage site, you know it’s going to be good. After all, a place can only be included on this list if it provides an ‘outstanding universal value’. Considering Lago di Braies is thought of as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, I guess we can safely justify that fact.
The best way I can describe Lago di Braies to you is that it’s magical. It looks just like a fairy tale landscape belonging to the elves and faeries. Its pristine turquoise waters provide the most stunning glass-like reflection of the Croda Del Becco, and its shores are framed with perfect emerald-green pine trees and snow-capped mountains. It is just breathtaking.
2) IT’S HOME TO ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT LEGENDS IN ITALIAN FOLKLORE; THE KINGDOM OF THE FANES
If you’re a sucker for mythical legends then you’re in luck. You see, this area was indeed once home to the elves and dwarves. Even the mountains surrounding Lago di Braies are thought to be hiding the entrance to the underground realm of an ancient kingdom.
As the legend goes, this area was once home to the peaceful Kingdom of the Fanes people. However, after a marriage gone wrong to an evil foreign king, the tale centres around a powerful warrior princess gifted with invincible dwarven armour and a star-crossed love story that ends in magical warfare. The war causes the Fanes Kingdom to fall and the survivors flee inside the mountains surrounding Lago di Braies. It is said that the Fanes people continue to wait there until the rebirth of their Kingdom. Interested and want to know more? You can read the full legend here.
You should be aware that it’s still rumoured that the underground realm of the Fanes Kingdom can still be found today, but only by sailing across Lago di Braies by boat to the base of the Croda del Becco. In all honesty, standing on the lake’s shores and looking at the beauty of this place has me thinking ‘hmm, maybe the myths could be true…’
3) RE-LIVE THE LEGENDS: HIRE A TRADITIONAL ROWBOAT AND SAIL ACROSS LAGO DI BRAIES.
If you were inspired by the legend above why not try to travel to the Kingdom of the Fanes yourself? Just like the legend, you can hire a traditional wooden rowboat and row to the base of the Croda del Becco in search of the underground realm’s hidden entrance. In fact, up until 100 years ago, you could only access the southern shores of the lake by boat.
Hiring a boat is definitely one of the highlights of Lago di Braies and for those who find hiking is really not their thing, exploring Lago di Braies by boat provides a relaxing alternative. Boats can be hired from June to September from 10am-5pm daily. They cost 12 euros for half an hour and 20 euros for 1 hour.
4) THERE ARE PLENTY ACTIVITIES TO MAKE FOR A GREAT DAY OUT IN THE SUN
No matter if your thing is a casual walk, experienced hike, rock climbing, rowing, fishing or simply lazing by the shore and taking the occasional dip in the pristine alpine waters – you can do all of it at Lago di Braies.
The area boasts 34 different hikes from easy to difficult and two climbs. The most well known and easiest of the hikes is the route around the lake, suitable for adults and children over 7. Don’t underestimate it though, the route does involve going beneath a mountain, up and down a large number of stairs and can get pretty high at times. It’ll also set you back 1.5 – 2 hours. You can find hiking and climbing routes, maps and details here.
5) LAGO DI BRAIES IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A MAGICAL PICNIC
Lago di Braies might be quite well known, but if you’re expecting it to be a tourist friendly hotspot with numerous cafes, restaurants and places to buy drinks, think again. It is highly recommended you pack plenty of food and water for your time here.
In saying this though, the best thing about Lago di Braies is that it’s not built up which makes it the perfect excuse to have a picnic! And amongst such a gorgeous setting, could anything be more ideal? Around there lake, you’ll find various places with picnic tables, but if they are all full, you can always set up your picnic by the water.
Psst – there are no bins in the area, so make sure to take all rubbish with you!
6) IT HAS IMPORTANT TIES TO WWII AND THE HOSTAGES OF THE SS
If modern history is more your thing, you should visit inside Lago di Braies Chapel and Hotel Lago di Braies. Both are closely linked to the hostages of the SS, during the end of World War II which, just like the fairy tale legend, is also a fascinating story.
The hostages were a group of 139 prominent aristocrats, politicians and clerics from 17 European countries. The reason for being held hostage? To be used as Hitler’s human shields in the last days of the war. Hitler’s plan was to send them to his “Alpine Fortress” as they made their last stand against the Allies. The SS was given the orders that if the German military weakened, they were to execute all the prisoners. As the days passed, Germany’s military grew fragile causing the situation to become more and more volatile. In response, the US Army launched a desperate rescue effort to save the hostages before they we killed.
When the prisoners were liberated, they were brought to the lake where Hotel Lago di Braies owner Emma Heiss-Hellenstainer welcomed the prisoners and was key in their rehabilitation. To this day, you can experience this piece of history through the memorabilia on site.
7) CAPTURE THE MOST BREATHTAKING MEMORIES
Leaving the best ‘til last, my favourite thing to do at Lago di Braies was take photos. No matter the weather or the season you visit, Lago di Braies is always looking beautiful, so come prepared with your camera.
As a keen photographer, my top tip is to arrive early to avoid the crowds, especially if you’re visiting in peak season. I made sure I was staying close to Lago di Braies so it was easy to start my day bright and early at 7am. Yes, I know it’s early, but it was so nice and peaceful to walk around the lake and really take my time with my photography. Definitely worth it, especially because I couldn’t have asked for better memories to look back on!
I hope this post has inspired you to add Lago di Braies to your list of Italian destinations. It truly is a beautiful area no matter where you look and there’s a myriad of things to see, do and explore in the Dolomites region. Can’t wait to hear all about what you discover here too!
Entry to Lago di Braies is free, however, if you’ve travelled by car you will need to pay for parking. There are a few paid carparks located very close to the lake, but I can imagine in peak season it would get crowded. Parking costs 2 euros for the day if you arrive before 7am, 6-8 euro if you arrive between 7am – 5pm and costs 4 euro after 5pm.
The lake is open at all hours of the day and night, all year round.
- Lago di Braies is dog friendly, so feel welcome to bring your furry friends. Be considerate though! Lago di Braies is a UNESCO heritage site, so you must pick up after them.
- Toilet facilities are available at the southernmost part of the lake and inside Hotel Lago di Braies.
- The only place to buy food on site is at Hotel Lago di Braies. It is recommended to bring your own food and water.
- Disabled access to the lake is available from the carpark. However hiking around the lake is not possible with strollers, wheelchairs or recommended for people with limited walking ability.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest airports to the Dolomite region are Verona, Venice Marco Polo and Venice Trevisio from Italy, Innsbruck, Salzburg and Klaenfurt from Austria and Munich from Germany.
Hire a Car
From Venice Marco Polo airport, I hired a car and drove to Lago di Braies. It was a really easy drive and took me just under 3 hours. I personally recommend hiring a car for your own comfort or if you’re keen to visit sites in the early morning or late evening. If you’re visiting outside peak season, hiring a car is a must as public transport is extremely limited.
If hiring a car is not ideal for you, there is a direct “Flixbus” from Venice Airport to Dobbiaco station– the central bus station in the Dolomites. From here, you can catch bus 442 to Lago di Braies. The total journey by public transport from Venice to Lago di Braies is approximately 4.5 hours. This is not ideal for a day trip, so if you plan on catching public transport, I would recommend at least spending the night in the area.
If you’re coming by train, bus 442 also passes Dobbiaco and Villabassa train stations, making transfers to Lago di Braies easy. Bus 442 comes every 30 minutes in peak season and costs 3 euro. You can find Bus 442’s timetable here.
If you’re staying near Monguelfo train station, there is also a direct shuttle service to the lake and also costs 3 Euro.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Lago di Braies. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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