This is the one post to rule them all. I’ve already put out specifics on all my trips in the Dolomites now, but this is the all encompassing summary one that I’ll list out exactly all the details of my trip from getting around to where to stay and what hikes to do (plus some I didn’t quite get to).
Cortina was home to the 1956 Winter Olympics and is about to host it again in 2026. Its infrastructure is built just for that but with fewer tourists than perhaps other Olympic venues have. There’s one main walking road in town that connects a few restaurants, upscale shops, and a grocery store Coop. Cortina is a huge ski town with gondolas and lifts going to town and plenty more that connect different slopes. But in the summer, it’s home to some of the most amazing hiking spots and via ferrata trails. Most gondolas and lifts run in the summer for mountain bikers and sightseers alike, so there’s no shortage of easy ways to get around. There’s something for everyone to do, whether it’s a long, classic bike ride through the town and nearby mountain passes, or a hut-to-hut trip connecting the many rifugios that operate around Cortina.
The best season to go is June-September when the huts are open and snow has melted off the mountains. Going into the fall season, a lot of shops and rifugios start closing, making it harder to get around without a car and limits opportunities, although fall gets you those golden larches. It’s also great for skiing in the winter time, though I haven’t been. This blog will focus more on the summertime activities!
How to get there
While the majority of Europe has an amazing train system, it mostly works for bigger towns. Cortina feels a bit more off the beaten track since the only public transportation through is by bus.
The closest airport is Venice and ATVO offers an easy bus ride direct from the airport, or from Venice Mestre if you opt to spend some time in Venice. It only runs a few times a day in each direction, so make sure to catch it at the appropriate time! The bus ride was quite enjoyable for the views of the countryside that quickly transform into impressive mountains and towns. Alternatively, Flixbus also has some affordable options. You can also take the Süd Tirol Bus 445 coming from the Dobbiaco train station, north of Cortina. Sometimes the busses run late, so don’t fret too much if it doesn’t show up exactly on time, but make sure you’re at the bus stop early just in case. There’s also a Cortina Express bus system that runs between Dobbiaco and Venice, but it doesn’t seem to run as frequently. It might work with your schedule though!
You can also opt to rent a car – it wasn’t as much an option when I visited due to cost. But given enough people traveling with you, that could be a better option for more flexibility. I’ve had no issues renting with a US license and never had to obtain an international license for short term travel. In Europe, they drive on the right side, just like the US. I was suprised my first visit that only British and former-British countries drive on the left side. Just pay extra attention to signs if they’re not in a language you know.
How to get around town
If you’re taking the bus into Cortina, it’ll drop you off where the local busses meet you as well. It’s a fairly small bus station, but you’ll be in good company in the summer with plenty of people to ask around if you’re ever confused. There’s a small office where you can buy bus tickets, which is the safest bet. Sometimes you can buy bus tickets on the bus and the bus driver will give you exact change back, which is super nice. The cost for each ride varies, depending on how far you’re traveling. I think on average I paid 2-5€.
I exclusively traveled on Dolomiti Bus 30/31 traveling east towards Tre Cime and west towards Passo Falzarego. There’s a few other Dolomiti Bus routes that pass through Cortina, but I found little use of them. Unfortunately you do have to do some browsing and mapping to figure out where the busses go if you’re looking to explore other towns. I just found that the majority of places I wanted to see surrounded Cortina. If I had time, I would have visited Marmalade, not too far away, but a non-trivial bus ride and an exchange or two.
For just getting around town, there’s local urban busses that are much smaller than the travel bus. There’s 8 different lines with their own schedules here. They all pass through Piazza Roma and the Bus Station in Cortina. I’ve used this to get to Fiames.
There’s plenty of places to rent bikes and e-bikes if you want to get around that way. Technically you’re supposed to walk bikes through the pedestrian streets of town, which is full of paved stones anyway. Otherwise, town is extremely walkable, stretching only a few streets wide. And whether or not you choose to stay in a hotel in town or further away in a hosted home, it’s still walkable if you have the time!
To get up the mountains, there’s a lot of lifts open in the summer that are quite affordable if you want to skip some of the forest hiking. Perhaps it’s worth hiking from town at least once, but most of the views are gained at the higher alpine regions, so don’t feel bad for paying a little for ease on your feet, especially if you’ll be spending several days here. It saves time and energy!
What to eat
You can’t really go wrong! There’s a lot of solid restaurants and bakeries. But if you’re really cheap and need food to-go, the Coop has lots of options from crackers and cookies to bread and yogurt and easy salads.
Restaurants I did enjoy in no particular order: Dolom’eats all’Aquila, Pizzeria Ristorante Croda Cafè, Restaurant Pizzeria Al Passetto, Da Po’
Hut food can be hit or miss, but generally the more pricey ones are better! Some feel much more fresh and others feel like they served us reheated frozen food.
If you’re hiking, there’s probably plenty of rifugio or little restaurants along the way that serve food, even mid-hike! There’s no shortage of food anywhere.
Where to stay
Hotels are obviously one option to basecamp yourself. They’re quite pricey in Cortina though. One of the cheaper ones I stayed at was Hotel Serena Cortina and was quite impressed! It was close to town and a super easy walk to the grocery and bus station. The room was tiny, but with plenty of space and had some cute older touches to it. There’s plenty more luxurious options if you’re willing to €300+. The breakfast that this hotel served was really nice, although maybe that’s standard for Italy. Way better than the continental breakfasts served in American hotels.
There’s also airbnb options. You can find them through AirBnb, Booking.com, Vrbo. The one I stayed at was super cute and the host was very friendly! I must have booked simply based on availability and cost for 3 people. Ciasa Donna Bon Bon is the place to stay! Every morning, they served a wide array of breakfast foods from a variety of rolls, meats, cheeses, and jams. Uncle Marco would ask us for coffee preferences too. Super hospitable and we have very fond memories there. One of the cool parts was his ceramic heater that could dry our soaking wet socks so quick.
And lastly, you can either camp or stay in a hut outside of town! Some huts you have to walk to and others you can drive or bus right up to! Knowing where to camp doesn’t seem super obvious but there are some campsites around. I’m just not sure they’re worth it compared to just staying at a hut. There’s also some strict requirements about where you can freedom camp (without permit) and lots of areas around rifugios say that you can’t do it – though I actively saw plenty of backpackers. It seemed like as long as they packed up when the sun was up, it was okay. I personally liked the huts since they were cheaper by a large margin for a solo traveler plus the views you get without a car to drive up before sunrise or after sunset.
How to reserve huts
Every hut is different but here’s the run down of the huts and how they work! Generally most people will book the half board, which includes a 3-course meal, breakfast, and bed. If you book early enough you might get options for private rooms or dormitories, which will also vary between huts. Most of them will also have an option sack lunch you can buy to go. The majority of huts only accept cash since there’s no service or wifi, so make sure you have the right amounts! And many of them make you pay half the cost as a depositto secure your reservation. And even reserving a hut can look different. Some are an online system, some you WhatsApp message, and others you email. There’s not confirmation code, but they’ll write your name down on an old school reservation book and it somehow runs like a smooth engine.
Once you’ve booked your hut (or maybe you take the chance to do a walk up), you can arrive quite early and set stuff down. Flag down a staff member and they can show you around where you’ll stay. You’ll be asked to remove your shoes any time you enter living quarters. So bring your indoor crocs or sandals! This is a great way to prevent mud from tracking into the beds. It’s amazing to see how a few staff members can operate a whole hut. You’ll likely be able to pick which bed you’ll sleep in if you arrive early enough, but some will assign you your bed and even your dining table as well.
The staff member will take your dinner orders then (or sometimes at dinner time). Dinner starts at 6pm promptly, so don’t be late to arrive to the hut (some might start at a different time). There’s usually at least 2 options for each course, an antipasto, primo (main), and dolce (dessert). It’s super fun to talk to other guests if you can make an effort to! I’ve met people from all over, like Singapore, Sweden, Colorado, Germany, and plenty more I’m forgetting now. I often paid after dinner, but you can also pay in the morning. Drinks are not included for dinner, but they are included for breakfast. It seems like it’s customary to have a coffee and orange juice in the morning. Plus the wide array of foods. Check for the times when breakfast is available so you don’t miss it.
The huts will say that the tap water is non-potable, but I kind of feel like it just hasn’t been tested and is likely fine to use. It does cost quite a bit relatively to get a bottle of water there. But you use the same water to brush your teeth, so take that as you will. Some huts will have showers too, but I don’t think all are free. And the nicer ones will even have hairdryers!
For bed, make sure you bring a sleeping bag liner. It’s a little confusing when they call that a “sleeping bag” which means something entirely different in America. The goal is to keep their sheets and comforters clean since they can’t wash it often. Each hut has a different vibe – some may go to bed earlier than others, so be mindful.
I’d recommend browsing a map to see where all the rifugios are located. The official Cortina map is great for all sorts of planning! But here’s a list of all the huts I visited plus a few I would have liked to stay at for the views! Planning for a higher seated rifugio gives you the best opportunity for sunrise and sunset views. Starred ones are ones I stayed at. The ones with more details are ones I’d like to stay at in the future. The rest are options if the linked ones aren’t available. Prices are all dormitory half board (dinner and B&B).
Rifugio Alpe di Sennes and Rifugio Sennes: Alpine meadow huts opposite Lago di Braies (walk up north over the ridge)
Rifugio Biella: High alpine hut even closer to Lago di Braies
Rifugio Fodara Vedla, Rifugio Pederü, Malga Ra Stua: Meadow vibes in Val di Redo area.
Rifugio Fanes and Rifugio Lavarella: Seated next the the alpine lakes of Cortina. Would be a fun gravel bike ride!
Rifugio Prata Piazza and Rifugio Vallandro: great views to Cristallo, but difficult to get to with busses.
Rifugio Pomedes*: 4/5 Beautiful views of Cortina and the Nuvolau group. 90€. 50% deposit by bank transfer. Cash only.
Rifugio Giussani: Situated on a saddle between Tofana di Mezzo and Tofana di Rozes. 65€. 10€ deposit by bank transfer. Cash only.
Rifugio Ra Valles and Rifugio Col Drusciè: Restaurant only
Rifugio Duca d’Aosta: A lower vantage than Pomedes.
Rifugio Angelo Dibona: A forested rifugio beneath Pomedes.
Rifugio Lagazuoi: Highly sought after for its prominent views. 105€. This has a sauna for 25€ extra! Booking online. Credit card.
Rifugio Valparola: Sits on a pass between steep cliffs and tall peaks. 59€. Message online.
Rifugio Scotoni and Rifugio Col Gallina: Situated by steep cliffs and meadows.
Rifugio Averau*: 5/5 Beautiful views all around, great service and very clean, amazing food. 85€. Online booking 50% deposit, credit cards okay.
Rifugio Nuvolau: Better views than Averau, but I’m not sure about the service inside. 61€. 40% deposit.
Rifugio Scoiattoli and Rifugio 5 Torri: great spots right next to the famous Cinque Torri rock feature, just lower views than Averau and Nuvaolau.
Malga Giau and Rifugio Passo Giau: great options for higher views, similar to the ones by Cinque Torri.
Rifugio Fedare: Situated in a meadow beneath Averau and Nuvolau.
Croda Da Lago
Rifugio Croda da Lago: When skies are clear, great views with larches next to Lago Federa.
Rifugio Son Forca: Sits under the Ivano Dibona route with views overlooking the edge of Cortina and the Pomagagnon range.
Malga Popena: Restaurant only.
Rifugio Bosi: A decent hut with views towards Tre Cime, but not prime.
Rifugio Sorapis*: 4.5/5 Great food and next to the prettiest lake! Felt very homey, but not intuitive to book. 65€. Text or WhatsApp to book. Or email when out of season. No deposit, cash only.
Rifugio Tondi di Flora: Restaurant only.
Rifugio Faloria: High alpine hut overlooking Cortina, easy lift access from town. 100€ includes cable car ride.
Rifugio San Marco and Rifugio Scotter Palatini: further south of Sorapis, out of San Vito di Cadore town.
Rifugio Fonda Savio: Sits under the Cadini group, rivaling Tre Cime. Email or phone reservation. 70€
Rifugio Lavaredo*: 4/5 Quiet with great views. The food was subpar. 75€, reservation by email, no deposit, cash only.
Dreizinnenhütte: Classic views of Tre Cime, a longer hike in and more crowded. 72€. Reservation online. Payment by cash.
Where to rent gear
There’s plenty of shops to rent gear from but I ended up using Snow Service which has 3 shops. Snow Service 1 is right next to the bus station, so it’s quite convenient. They have everything from via ferrata gear to bikes and skis. I think the other rental place is Cortina Pro Sport. There might be another one or two! But all the prices are fairly similar. For via ferrata, you can rent the kit (helmet, lanyard, harness) for 30€ a day and the rate gets cheaper per extra day.
What trails to hike
There’s a few areas I really enjoyed getting to. Make sure you visit Tre Cime for the epic, classic views of jagged peaks. It’s a short, relatively flat walk, but there’s ways to explore some side trails. It goes without saying, go at sunrise or sunset for even more epics views. The Cadini group has a lot of hikes and some via ferrata and slightly more difficult trails connecting all the huts. This is the most rugged set of peaks in the Cortina area!
Lago di Sorapis is beyond words how beautiful the lake is. It’s very popular! Think of the most popular hike you’ve been on, and it’s exactly that. It helps to stay overnight in the hut to avoid the people. It’s not a very hard hike, but does have some elevation gain and stairs to climb.
Croda da Lago is another beautiful lake. It’s gorgeous with golden larches in the fall and opens up a bit more than Lago di Sorapis. The rifugio there sits right on the lake too!
I didn’t get a chance to visit, but the Fanes area is known for its alpine lakes and meadows. It could be done as a bike ride. E-bikes are available to rent too, but I’m not sure how the battery life would work. Take a local urban bus to Fiames and hike the forest road up Val de Fanes to the lakes.
If you have a car, it’s easy to get to the Instagrammable Lago di Braies, just north of town. And with a car, there’s even more to explore outside the Cortina area, like Marmalade and Pisa Boè for more mountaineering, hiking, and via ferrata.
The Cinque Torri area is lovely for its open meadow views. It’s a different kind of impressive than the Tre Cime area. It was a very relaxing way to end my trip. Rifugio Lagazuoi is definitely worth a visit for the highest rifugio in the area. I quite liked the wildflower covered meadows on my way from Passo Falzarego to Rifugio Averau and Nuvolau and even the area between that and Cinque Torri proper.
What is via ferrata
Via ferrata is one of the most thrilling, yet doable without a guide, sort of adventure and it’s super popular in the alps. During WWI to protect the soldiers from falling off dangerous scramble routes, these iron paths were created. They’ve since been restored and better reinforced for leisure use, but there’s still remnants from old paths, like broken logs bridging the path. But overall, it is quite safe as long as you are careful. The lanyard is like a bungee that extends in case of a hard fall, dampening the stress on the equipment. It’s y-shaped so that you’re always clipped up to a cable at any given point. My best advice is to only use one hand to clip and unclip so you don’t accidentally unclip both carabiners at the same time. Via ferrata will vary in difficulty from a walk next to a cliff to actual rock climbing moves that can feel vertical at times. Usually they’ll have iron rungs if the rock becomes too vertical, so then you climb a ladder. The two biggest via ferrata routes are Ivano Dibona and Punta Anna, the first being less technical but quite long if you complete the full route with the Cristallo peak. The hiking map shows which trails are technical and which are just hiking trails. I used this to help decide which via ferrata routes to travel. For the rock climber, the via ferrata will feel easy. For the average hiker, a via ferrata will test their limits and fear of heights at times, but is not as demanding as rock climbing itself.
I was able to keep my extra stuff for 5€/day at the Multiservice Cortina, booked with Radical Storage. It was a little weird – it didn’t seem particularly safe, but it is an option if you really need! Otherwise, ask your hotel if you can store for a bit.
Links to all the blogs and my personal itinerary
Arrive in Cortina by bus. Got groceries at Coop and hop on the Dolomiti Bus to go east to Tre Cime. Hiked to Rifugio Lavaredo and did an extended hike to Dreizinnenhütte.
Enjoyed sunrise and hiked out to Rifugio Auronzo to take a bus back to Misurina and explored there. Hopped on the bus again since it was rainy and explored more of town and got pizza in town. Checked into Hotel Serena Cortina and ate my grocery store dinner. Got my rental gear and sorted out my gear for the next day.
Woke up early for breakfast and walked to the bus stop to get to Rio Gere to start my Ivano Dibona via ferrata journey (half way to Tre Cime). Completed the full length of it and hiked out Val Padeón. Continued hiking pass the highway to Lago di Sorapis for the night.
Strolled around the lake before breakfast. Took a more leisurely hike out to the bus stop and enjoyed a little breakfast at Tre Croci. Bussed back to town and grabbed more groceries before taking the lifts west up to Rifugio Pomedes and did the Ra Bujela via ferrata. Sat outside to watch the sunset.
Contemplated the Punta Anna again and decided to do the easier walk on Sentiero Astaldi before walking down to Cortina to grab more snacks. I think I could have just hiked straight to the next hut instead. But I took the bus once again, but going west all the way to Passo Falzarego and hiked an easy trail to Rifugio Averau, my favorite stay of the trip. No sunset this day.
Woke up for sunrise and hiked to Rifugio Nuvolau. Returned for slow hike down a different path to the bus stop with some rest in between. Bussed back to town and lounged in town until it was time to take the bus back to Venice.