One of the most picturesque and Instagram-made famous spots in the Dolomites is the emerald and blue alpine lake – Lago Di Braies (Pragser Wildsee). Many places in the Dolomites have dual names in Italian and German. From what I read, this beautiful lake is extremely crowded so in order to get postcard-perfect photos without or minimize people, it requires advance planning. It used to be that you can book a private time before it opens to the public but at a rate of €150. I was so glad that got changed and instead, you can reserve one of its wooden boats as early as 7 AM before it opens to the general public at 9 AM at an affordable hourly rate of €35 but reservation is up to 3 days in advance due to the weather in mountainous area is not accurate for a long term weather forecast. (Note that this has changed again as of Nov. 2022 that you can reserve one of its 10 boats up to 4 days in advance and the remaining boats are on a first come first served basis.) I booked right at the 3 days clock and secured a boat at 7 AM. For more information and to book the “Sunrise Boat Experience” at: https://www.la-palafitta.com/en#section-2
Also, note that the road going into the lake has a special restriction to regulate the traffic during peak summertime, it was July 10-September 10 in 2022, so you can’t drive into it between the hours of 9:30 AM to 4 PM unless you have a parking or hotel reservation (there’s a hotel right by the lake that I would love to stay a night but they require a minimum of 3 nights). You can drive out anytime. As our boat reservation was at 7 AM, we got there before 9:30 AM so it wasn’t an issue. That rule changes too so check the lake website at: https://www.prags.bz/en for the latest information.
We arrived at 6:45 AM, parked our car at the nearest parking lot to the hotel and walked to the boat house. It wasn’t open yet and the water was so calm to give the reflection.
There were quite a few people there taking photos. I wasn’t the only one wearing a dress at this time 😀
The lake is so beautiful and the boat house added icing to the cake!
We took a few snaps before the boat house opened at 7 AM.
When the boat house opened, I was expecting all those people had a reservation and all rushed into it. I was so surprised that it wasn’t the case, only another couple and we had the reservations!!! I guess people weren’t aware of this new reservation sunrise boat experience! The other couple got on the boat and rowed off to the other side of the lake and we were the only ones there to take photos! How amazing is that???
One of the staff helped to take a photo of us:
Row, row, row your boat hahahaha!
We took turns taking photos and tried to position the boat without making too many ripples, this was our first time rowing a boat :O It was peaceful, beautiful, and a wonderful experience!
The clouds rolled in and started to drizzle so no more reflection. We turned back to the dock. The staff was super nice she said that we have half an hour left so we can come back later once it stopped raining.
We took some more photos even though it was drizzling. The boats lined up nicely for the photo.
Luckily, the drizzle stopped after 10 minutes or so and it started to get cleared up. However, at this point, the sun was rising higher and it lit up the mountain on the back but other areas are in shadow so it made it difficult for balancing the exposure.
The wind picked up and blew the boats to this side of the lake…
With the wind, there was no more reflection so we didn’t go back for the remaining half hour. We climbed up the steep hill (there’s a bench there not sure why they put it up there while not making any stairs to reach it) for a higher-angle view. It was so steep that it was hard to stand and we kept slipping down, we eventually had to grab onto a tree to stabilize ourselves. The boat house was blocked by trees…
Another angle but there were tree branches on the left side. The boats were on the other side of the boat house and the ripples so it wasn’t picture perfect but still pretty.
Then, we walked toward the chapel on the right side of the lake.
What a cute chapel with an awesome backdrop!
We waited a long time for the sun to come out of the clouds for this pic…
Around 9 AM, part of the mountain was in shadow and people started rolling in…
The sun just got higher than the mountain still had a long way to go to light up the whole mountain and lake.
Under the bridge to the boat house:
One last look at the beautiful Lago Di Braies and the sky was perfect at that time…sighhhh…I don’t really have luck with the weather but as Jason said it could be worst! Goodbye Lago Di Braies, it was nice to finally see you and you are truly beautiful!
We left just at 9 AM and the parking cost €10. We drove back to town and filled up gas in town as it was the cheapest around that area – €41.45. Time to explore the town, parking was €3 per hour, and coins only as the credit card and change machines were not working. I always save up those precious Euro coins for parking.
The town wasn’t busy given it was peak summer time, I wonder how it will be during peak winter ski time? Cortina d’Ampezzo is a high-end luxury ski town so majority, if not all, of the stores, are luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, you named it! Thus, not many souvenir types of stores. We shopped at Louis Vuitton to help our relatives to buy LV leather goods as the Euro was almost equal to the US Dollar which made it cheaper to buy. I ended up buying two bags for myself hahaha! The good thing about it is that as it’s a small town, no crazy lines as in the big cities’ LV stores. Actually, we were the only customers there so we got superb service!
As with every village and town in Italy, regardless of its size, there is always a church and a bell tower!
The mountains and the wooden houses surrounding the town made it extra picturesque.
The buildings themselves are beautiful!
Balconies lined with flowers added colors to the greenery landscape, all of those are hotels!
What a pretty sign!
The town center is small, only one main street filled with shops and hotels; walking from one end to another end took no longer than 10 minutes.
Across the street for the mountain views, I love towns like this which remind me of Switzerland.
Another beautiful building is the tourist information center.
Off to lunch…I picked the restaurant outside of town, up the mountain for its views – El Camineto but it was fully booked for lunch urg…I wasn’t expecting a reservation required for lunch 🙁 We continued driving up to Baita Piè Tofana next to the cable car station. It was very busy too but luckily we got a table. It was filled with locals so that was a good sign!
A nice presentation of bread and pig cheek meat; that was a first and interesting.
Amuse-bouche of a meat ball and ham mini sandwich, pretty good!
Jaso ordered a dish of mixed raw and grilled fish nicely presented on a vegetable to make it look like a tree. He said it was creative and good!
A deer? steak and I forgot what it was wrapped on the left side, Jaso said it was really interesting the taste and texture.
Their menu is definitely things that are new to us, I wasn’t that adventurous so I took the conservative dish of duck ravioli. It was good but the portion was not filling.
Free house ice cream, it was really good!
The surprise find lunch was €95, expensive but good.
On the way down from the restaurant, the views were remarkable, my only complaint was that they need to build pullovers/viewing platforms for stops to appreciate the views! We found an abandoned piece of land that we can safely pull over and walk over for views like this! How lucky are those people who live there with views like this every day!!!
Back to our hotel since we already explored the town so time for exploring the hotel grounds. There is a large terrace with this view.
Rooms with the view above cost a fortune!
The hotel is tucked up the hill via a small road that can fit a car from one direction but at least the road was not busy. Parking was valet only due to limited spaces and cost €40 a night, Cortina is expensive!
For dinner, I had a reservation at Il Vizietto di Cortina at 7 PM, good that I made a reservation as the place was packed too! It is one of the few seafood restaurants and it’s located in town but at least after 6/7 PM? parking is free in town. For starter, we ordered the grilled prawns, and finally my favorite Meditteranean king prawns, yummy!!!!!!
Jason ordered the seafood risotto which was good as you can see the ingredients were a good mixture of seafood.
I ordered the seafood spaghetti and more prawns 😀 I gave all the fish to Jason as usual. It was flavorful.
Dinner cost €92, it was better than the night before at Ristorante Amadeus by Nero di Seppia. Cortina is very expensive but it’s the prime location to visit Tre Cime National Park and Lago Di Braies!