17 Days in Europe – Day 7 The Great Dolomite Road

By 17th August 2017Europe17

According to my Google timeline, we covered 232 miles today and were out of the house from 8:34am to 10:02pm.  We drove up a total of 4,500 meters through the Dolomites – that’s like driving to the top of Europe’s highest mountain Mont Blanc.

You could read that first sentence and think “Nope, that’s not for me”.  And for some it would be too trashy.  But for us, all of us, it was one of the best days of the holiday.

A bit of background first –

The Great Dolomite road is a winding ascending and descending stretch of road between Bolzano and Cortino d’Ampezzo.  It is 86 miles long and most of the major Dolomite mountains can be seen from the road itself, as well as beautiful lakes, rivers and towns.

What are the Dolomites?  They are part of the Alp mountain range but are made from a distinctive type of rock that gives them a very different shape, colour and texture to ‘standard’ mountains.

Our journey was fairly sedate to Bolzano as it’s mostly motorway from our accommodation to the start of the road.  We did have to stop off for picnic food on the way though.  How does it take 45 minutes to pick out a sandwich?

Todays blog isn’t going to be wordy, other than saying we drove, stopped, took photos, drove, stopped, had coffee, drove, stopped, walked there is not much to say.  There will be plenty of photos though!

I’ll just pick out the key places so you get a feel for how it was.

Our first main stop was the Lake of Carezza.  An emerald lake surrounded by Alpine trees with the Dolomites rising up in the background.  Wowzers.

It’s well developed for tourists which means lots of people, but at the same time means easy parking, toilets, cafe’s, paths round the lake etc.  We stopped and walked not even 300 yards from the car to the Lake side.  It was breathaking.

From here we worked our way to the town of Canazei.  This is a typical mountain town and a great base to explore the area.  From here you have two choices in which way to tackle the Dolomite road.  We wanted to go to the cable car at the Pordoi Pass so headed East.  The road starts to wind up, one hair pin bend after the other – maybe 15 or 20 in quick succession.

At each bend there is a sign that tells you how many meters above sea level you are.  The road levelled out at 2,239 meters.  There were sheer drops off the sides at various points, race cars and motorbikes overtaking us, buses coming down in the opposite direction.  I loved it!

At the peak of the Pass there is a cable car that takes you up another 700 meters in just 4 minutes.  The high point is called Sass Pordoi and is spectacular.  Like most cable car stations there is plenty room to walk out on the mountain itself – paths that lead off in every direction.  Benches to have picnics on and then a restaurant.  Some of the sections closest to the station are fenced off, but you only need to walk a few minutes to get right out in the open.  And you are high up!!!

We had taken food up with us and a bottle of Prosecco.  After Charlotte spent a good 20 minutes building one of those little rock tower thingies we sat and ate just watching the world pass by.

The clouds rolled around and gave us the most amazing views.  At one point it hailed for a minute or so and then the next minute it was boiling hot.  It added to the really moody atmosphere of the place.  We got some amazing photos – all from my mobile phone – so that shows you how great the view was!

During our stint on the mountain top we made time for cake and coffee.  Some went for Strudel, I went for Black Forrest Gateaux.  It wasn’t on the table long enough for me to take a photo 🙂

We headed back down and then on-wards on our travels.  Taking the winding road that you can see in some of the shots above.

Over the next few hours we would go over 3 more 2000 meter plus passes –

Falzarego – 2105m
Valparola – 2168m
Gardena – 2136m
All equally spectacular in their own way.  Everywhere you look you could take amazing photos.

A few of the roads are not for the fainthearted, but I had worked myself up at this point so was in the groove.  The only problem I had was that my leg was starting to cramp from working the pedals so much.  Don’t tell the rest of the car party though – it was particularly tough when using the brake.

Even the Sat Nav thought the road was rough (sic)

C’mon.  It says Sciare ahead.  Say it out loud.  Scary ahead.  C’mon people, get with it.

And yes, that’s me doing 44km per hour on a 90 road.  You drive it faster – I dare you.

We seemed to be chasing the sun everywhere and got excellent glimpses of clouds, sun rays and weather all over.  Even Charlotte was taking photos out of the car windows.  And Marcus was kept entertained by our screams every-time we thought we might slip off the slide of a cliff.

Eventually the road brought us back in a circle to Canazei and we made our way back to the motorway and then back to our apartment.  It might not sound like much amazing happened, but to a car full of mountain and scenery fanatics – this is a day to remember.

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