We had a quick breakfast, checked out, got our car – parking overnight was €15.20, filled up gas €37 (Slovenia gas was cheaper than Italy) and from Ljubljana, we drove 4 hours to Cortina d’Ampezzo where we stayed as the 1st base to explore the magnificent Dolomites. The Italian Dolomites have been on my bucket list for a long time so I was really glad that we finally made it. The area is huge, with many picturesque towns and hiking trails so we split up the eastern region staying at Cortina d’Ampezzo and the western region staying at Ortisei. I was debating visiting the Dolomites during the fall for its colorful foliage but I read that lots of cable cars and gondolas will be shut down for the season until the winter so longer hiking is required to get to places that I want to visit. Thus, I decided the easy route by visiting during the summertime. Another benefit of visiting the summertime is the wildflowers will be blooming up the mountains!
We arrived at our hotel for the next 2 nights – Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa by noon time, and luckily our room was ready so we dropped off our luggage and headed to town to order lunch to go to save us time. Originally, my plan was to just hang out in the town and save the hike for the next day but the weather was the ultimate factor. The weather forecast showed sunny and clear this afternoon while cloudy and chance of rain the next day morning. So we decided to do the popular Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike this afternoon. We ordered burgers at Janbo for €18 and ate during the hour drive to Tre Cime National Park. There’s a private road that cost €30 to get all the way up to Rifugio Auronzo where the hike starts. In peak summertime, they close the road once the parking lot is full so it is recommended to go early in the morning; it opens at 7 AM. In our case, we got there at 2 PM and since the early morning people are leaving, the road is open and plenty of parking spots up there.
The view of the town we drove passed by to get up to Rifugio Auronzo:
What I love about hiking in the Dolomites is that there are plenty of rifugios (mountain huts) along each hiking trail where you can buy drinks, food, and use the bathroom (the one at Rifugio Auronzo charges €1) so there’s no need to carry all those with you or worry about where to go for toilet; it makes hiking much easier! The hike to the famous three peaks – Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit is a loop so you can choose to do it clockwise or counterclockwise. I read which one is better and decided on counterclockwise because you have the nicer views most of the hike in this direction. Also, clockwise is the most popular, we avoided other hikers in this direction when stopping for photos!
The first section is completely flat as you can see from the photos below all the way to the 2nd mountain hut – Rifugio Lavaredo.
The views were incredible! We got warm fast but the winds were super chilly so whenever it was windy, we got cold real quick! We wore a hoodie that we can take on and off to adjust.
Looking back at Rifugio Auronzo:
We passed by the little chapel where a lot of people there from the clockwise hiking direction. At the afternoon, the back of the chapel is lit up while the front is in shade.
The chapel with the incredible peaks as backdrop, how beautiful is that?
We made it to Rifugio Lavaredo and took a short break for photos.
Lots of hikers here so we asked one to help taking a photo of us 😀
The next section of the hike to Rifugio Locatelli started to get a little more challenging with gaining in elevation and then back down hill.
Looking back at Rifugio Lavaredo:
The wildflowers were in bloom!
For this hike, I did wear sneakers in case you are wondering! I was the only one wearing a dress though haha!!!
The back view of one of the peaks and I love this angle with the wildflowers!
Rifugio Lavaredo looked so small from up here, we basically walked a big loop to get up; there’s a shortcut that’s steeper to get straight up. If you are hiking clockwise, I guess you can take this shortcut down.
The route turned and now we can see Rifugio Locatelli from a distance (left-hand side). From here, it goes downhill a bit. Some sections are quite steep so the clockwise folks will need to walk uphill.
After this turn and look back, we can finally see the three peaks where its name came from – Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
We stopped at various spots for photos and we were the only ones there 🙂 The three peaks were in shade in the afternoon that’s one of the disadvantages!
The sky was beautiful, it was a right decision to do the hike this afternoon….but poor Jason did this 4 hours+ hike after 4 hours of driving!
As you can see this section of the hike wraps around the mountain going downhill…it was a longggggg way down!
Near Rifugio Locatelli, there are caves from World War II like this. There’s one that gives a good view of the three peaks, but we couldn’t find it.
The second half of the hike goes all the way down and then a steep up looping around the three peaks.
This spot gives a front view of the three peaks!
Rifugio Locatelli in the background, we didn’t hike up there since we didn’t have to stop for anything so saved ourselves some walk.
Mountain wildflowers that I have never seen before:
Another photo spot:
The bright pink wildflowers that shaped like a bell:
When going downhill with loose rocks, I wish I was wearing my sandals; my toes were pushing against the sneaker ouch!
The mountain ranges surrounding the area:
We finally made it to the bottom and from here, it goes all the way up OMG….I would say this is the hardest section of the hike in terms of physical strength! We saw a guy walking down the opposite direction carrying a toddler on his back woah!! Jason said he couldn’t do that with our daughter LOL!
It was a steep climb up and they know that so they build this bench as a rest spot! Look at Jason!
This upward climb was a killer, I stopped every 20 steps or so to catch my breath! It seemed endless, are we done yet? The view, if you are doing clockwise, you’ll have this view for the first half of the hike which is a lot less interesting than the counterclockwise direction with mountain huts.
We finally made it up and the hike got easier from this point but still some way left to go! We started hearing sounds that sounded like wind chimes, we were wondering where the sounds came from.
It turned out the sounds were from the bells of each of those cows, how cute is that?
The three peaks were lit up from this angle, amazing aren’t they?
The last mountain hut in the trail – Malga Langalm, we are almost done!!!
A lake down there but it was hard to get a reflection shot:
Plenty of cows scattered around this area and we didn’t want to interrupt their late lunch!
Sometimes they just block the road when they feel like it! For sure, they make good props to the three peaks photos 😀
We walked to an empty space for photos of the three peaks from this angle.
Once we turned, we thought we were done but no….still a way to go to the parking lot 🙁 Lots of stacking rocks on this last section:
We saw cars and you couldn’t believe how happy we were! We shouldn’t have parked our car all the way up close to Rifugio Auronzo!!! So if you are doing counterclockwise, try to park your car away from Rifugio Auronzo and at the lower level parking lots so you have a shorter walk to get back to your car! The hike plus photo stops took just over 4 hours and it was well worth it; the views and the hike were breathtaking!
We drove down and since we were still early for our dinner reservation at 7:30 PM at Ristorante Amadeus by Nero di Seppia, we stopped at our hotel for a quick break. Our room was located at one of the towers so it required one flight of staircase up without an elevator. Jason described the room as a maid’s room back in the old days in the mansion haha!
I don’t like this old-style and empty-looking bathroom.
This room cost over €450 per night during the peak summer time and the hotel was fully booked! We stayed two nights and luckily I used one free night certificate when it was 50K Marriott points before it devalues – now this hotel cost 100K Marriott points at peak time!!!
We drove to Ristorante Amadeus by Nero di Seppia for our dinner, they have a parking lot so make it convenient. All popular restaurants require a reservation at Cortina during the summertime so plan ahead to avoid disappointment and save time. I choose this restaurant because it’s a seafood restaurant. The dishes were expensive as Cortina is a very upscale town!
The mussels and clams were tasty but small portion!
Grilled seafood platter was yummy:
I ordered seafood spaghetti as the main course, it was okay but very small portion!
Jason wanted to order the steamed spider crab but they don’t have it but they have the spider crab spaghetti. It wasn’t like the one we had in Menton, France years ago with a whole spider crab 🙁 It was okay in taste.
First time I was given a bib hahaha!
The dinner was okay, not impressive but expensive at €115. We missed the affordable and good food in Slovenia. We were super tired after dinner and headed back to our hotel to get a good night rest!