Dolomites - Day Trip from Seefeld by Car

Description: Dolomites
Location: Italy
Duration: full day

The Dolomites - some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe - are only a short car drive from Seefeld down over the Brenner Pass. The route over the Europa bridge and down the toll motorway to the border with Italy is already described in the South Tyrol By Car page elsewhere on this site.

The Europa bridge on the way from Innsbruck to the Brenner Pass

The straightforward motorway route in Austria and Italy is highly recommended as it takes the driver down into Italy extremely quickly from the Seefeld plateau.

The route described here heads down south of Brixen (Bressanone in Italian) to the motorway exit at Klausen, where there is an exceptionally impressive monastery on a rock promontory in the middle of the main valley.

Once through the toll gates there is a sign for the road into the Val Gardena (Grödnertal in German). This is a lovely valley which not only has the dual languages of Italian and German common in the rest of the South Tyrol, but also the rare Ladin language. It is one of the only remaining outposts in the Dolomites and parts of Switzerland.

The Val Gardena is known for its walking in the summer and the skiing in the winter. In fact, the first settlement in the valley, Ortisei (or St Ulrich) has lifts heading up both sides to mountain pastures. The gondola heading up to the south arrives at a famous plateau which has gorgeous views over the surrounding peaks and across to the mountains on the other side of the motorway - the Seiseralm.

This is a destination which could be visited on its own for its beauty, but for the purposes of this trip description we head further on up the valley to the villages of Santa Cristina (St. Christina) and Selva (Wolkenstein).

This valley is famous for its woodcarvers and all the villages along the way are filled with shops and showrooms for the local handicrafts. (Those who have visited Seefeld in the winter and seen the Snow Festival will also have seen the ice-carvings created for that event, which are all carved by woodcarving students from the South Tyrol.)

The road up to Selva is a winding road that is not particularly big but after Selva the road starts up the curves at the base of the Sella group, the spectacular mountains which have been visible at the end of this valley. As the road travels higher the scenery gets more and more awe-inspiring, with views to the Sassolungo above Selva and across to the Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites.

Spectacular scenery of the Val Gardena

A lovely route is to head up to Plan and then left around to the Passo Gardena (Grödnerjoch) at 2121 metres. From here the road winds down to the pleasant town of Corvara before heading up and over another pass (the Passo Campolongo) and down to the tiny and very picturesque village of Arabba, which is another favourite Dolomite ski resort in the winter.

From here, if time permits, a diversion can be made down the valley to Malga Ciapela and the base of the Marmolada mountain, with the three cable cars providing spectacular views out over the range on a good day.

The ambitious might even want to make a stop at the famous old ski town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, but this would possibly necessitate an overnight stop or a very long day.

Most will prefer to head straight over the Passo Pordoi - with its lovely views of the Sassolungo across the valley and drop down to Canazei. From here the route heads into the Val di Fassa and eventually over the Passo Costalunga into the Val d'Ega and out to the motorway near the capital of the South Tyrol, Bolzano (or Bozen in German).

If time permits, a short stop can be made to admire the cathedral or the bustling centre of the city, or a visit can be made to the mortal remains of Ötzi, the man discovered in the ice high above Obergurgl and Vent, whose current resting place is in the Archaeological Museum in Bolzano.

Bolzano in the South Tyrol

Most however will prefer to head back up the motorway to Austria after a long day in the mountains and the spectacular scenery of the Dolomites. The journey is a straightforward one with a direct route through on the Italian and Austrian motorways past Innsbruck until the climb back up to the Seefeld plateau.

NB. As with other day trips by car in the South Tyrol, the journey can involve steep climbs and descents, hairpin bends and unprotected drops and should not be undertaken by anyone nervous about driving in the mountains.

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