Summer and winter, families are more and more often walking the hiking trails that cross or bypass the Italian Dolomites in South Tyrol. While this holiday destination may seem out of the ordinary, it still has plenty of amazing and authentic kids-friendly sites, excursions and activities.
The Dolomites, this gigantic chain of mountains crossing three regions of north-eastern Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered by the famous French architect Le Corbusier as « the most beautiful architectural work in the world ». In short, the Dolomites have nothing to envy the other massifs of the globe. They are the stars of the Alps! Imagine: 18 summits over 3,000 meters, 141,903 ha of landscapes, hundreds of vertical walls and steep cliffs giving way to deep and narrow valleys where there are charming villages… A real treasure of geomorphology that makes mountaineering enthusiasts very happy. The Dolomites are also a paradise for hikers, skiers, cyclists and nature lovers. There are countless blog posts and Instagram publications that reveal the beauty of the place, to the rhythm of the seasons. Because in summer and winter, the Dolomites dazzle travellers who venture into its coniferous forests and hay meadows and flowers that shelter deer, chamois, stoats, marmots and many other mammals without forgetting the reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish that bathe in the fresh waters of its many lakes, which reflect the most beautiful peaks of the massifs, sometimes partially snow-covered, sometimes crossed by cotton clouds.
1. Must-sees during SUMMER
- Feed the reindeers that live peacefully in the farm of the small village of Dwarf, nestled in the mountains of Croda Rossa. The magical atmosphere of the place seduces young and old who would swear that they are in Finnish lands, in the village of Santa Claus himself. Practical information: Excursions organized every Tuesday from the 20th of July to the 24th of August and every Thursday from the 25th of June and the 10th of September, from the funicular station Croda Rossa at 10:30 P.M. and 2 P.M.; starting prices from €16/adult and €11/child; Destinations
- Explore the Baranci Valley with its rail-sledge wagons where you can enjoy the view of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, the most famous summit of the Dolomites, with an altitude of 3,000 metres. Mom and Dad get caught up in the fun. Practical information: Open every day from May 31st to October 7th from 9:30 A.M.to 5.30 P.M.; €11/adult for 1 round; €7.50/child for 1 round; +39 0474 710355; Destinations
- Picnic in the immensity of the Val de Funes, where the charming little church of San Giovanni reigns supreme. This unusual landscape attracts romantic couples and photography enthusiasts who wait for the sunset to capture the essence of their holidays in the Dolomites. Practical information: Frazione Santa Maddalena 39, Val di Funes, 39040; Destinations
- Swim in the turquoise and cold green waters of Lake Braies, the pearl of the Dolomite lakes. The more cautious cross with the boat and enjoy the scenery to fly their drones.Families love the walk around the lake that leads to the Foresta Valley, suitable for the movement of the little ones who travel in strollers. Practical information: €6/h parking; Boat rental €12/30’ and €20/1h; Destinations
- Enjoy a horseback ride from the equestrian center of Charlotte which hosts 11 horses and 4 ponies. After a brief safety exercise, you will be looking for the best spots in the area alongside an experienced guide. Practical information: Open all year; Strada Veia 12 | Partio funivia Col Rodella, 38031, Campitello di Fassa; +39 3338056581; Destinations
Lakes of Dolomites, families’ favorite trekking places
2. Must-sees during winter
- Enjoy the slopes of the prestigious ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Appreciated by globe-trotting tribes around the world for its exceptional wilderness and family activities galore, you cannot miss visiting the planetarium, its adventure park and Lake Sorapis whose glacial origin gives it its turquoise colour. Practical information: Via Guglielmo Marconi, 15, 32043; +39 0436 862171; Destinations
- Take panoramic selfies in the funicular cabin that connects Ortisei to Alpe di Suisi, the highest alpine meadow in Europe with its countless hikers’ shelters and traditional chalets. At the top, a breathtaking view of the Dolomites and some cows with singing bells await you. Practical information: Str. Resciesa, 14, 39046 Bolzano; +39 0471 796174; 30 ‘ascent; 18.50€/person; Destinations
- Embark on a snowshoe hike to Lake Resia, a true geographical curiosity of the Trentino region. Imagine a beautiful frozen lake where, in the centre, a steeple emerges, the only survivor of a small village engulfed in the 1950s after the construction of a dam. Every summer, many divers come to the site. Practical information: Strada statale 40 – Lago di Resia, Curon Venosta; Destinations
- Visit the mountaineering museum Messner, erected on the plateau of Kronplatz (2,275 m), which honours the athletes who, at the risk of their lives, have made its reputation. A treasure of architecture by Zaha Hadid, the building, with its futuristic lines, crosses the rock and contains all the history of the profession as well as 250 years of technical equipment. We take full view, outside as in. Do not miss ! Practical information: Open 7/7 from 25 November to 22 April 2018; +39 0474 501350; €10/adult; €4/child; Free for toddlers under 6 years old; Destinations
- Rent a toboggan at the Vallierteck ski resort, where the sled trails are lit until 11pm. You race, you exchange teams, you fall, you laugh, you want to stop time. Before going to bed, you can reward the efforts of toddlers with a good hot chocolate. Practical information: Service available 7 days a week from January 1st to February 1st; 45′ session; Mainstreet 22, Resia 39027; +39 0473 633101; Destinations
3. Kids-friendly restaurants
- Gourmets book a table at La Stua de Michil several weeks in advance, a unique establishment in the Dolomites, where the whole family can savour, in an old and huge wine cellar, delicious regional cuisine that has been awarded a star in the Michelin Guide. A gastronomic moment! Practical information: Str. Col Alt, 105, 39033 Corvara In Badia; Service from 19h to 21h30; Closed on Sunday; +39 0471 831 000; Destinations
- At the restaurant Ütia Crёp de Munt, we discover the best traditional Ladin recipes such as fried ravioli, hay soup or big game livers and venison. A special mention for the fresh pasta dishes and elderberry juice. Practical information: Str. Pedecorvara 30, 39033 Corvara; +39 349 35 74 435; Destinations
- Not only, the dining room of the I Tabla is pretty but also, its menu is democratic and enticing: polenta with sausage, pork shanks, barley soup, dumplings, etc. Menus for children, menus without allergens and gastronomic menus, the establishment makes every effort to seduce every kind of traveler. Practical information: Braia Fraida 39036 The Villa (BZ); +39 3332 884 417; Destinations
- Young and old gourmets will find themselves at Caffe Pasticceria Kofler. This is where you may order a pastry and a hot drink for the pleasure of your taste buds! The choice is great, the flavours varied and the taste is always unmissable. We love it! Practical information: Via Heideck 15, 39030 Sesto; +39 0474 712132; Destinations
- Three-star chef Norbert Niederkofler opens the doors of his restaurant St Hubertus to demanding families who enjoy exceptional service and cuisine in a 100% alpine setting combining hunting trophies, beautiful woodwork and elegance. On the menu: risotto, gnocchi, tartare, ravioli and many other local flavours… Practical information: Strada Micura de Rü, 20, 39036 San Cassiano BZ; Service from 19h to 22h. Closed on Tuesdays ; +39 0471 849500; Destinations
4. Weather and climate
- The beginning of autumn and spring are the best times to visit the Dolomites with young children. The months of May and September are the mildest and sunny, with temperatures around 22°. In July, the sun is available in the early hours of the morning and gradually leaves room for some clouds and a light shower in the late afternoon.
- You are strongly advised against staying in the Dolomites in January and August. In January, the wind is icy and the air is humid. The snow falls off and hides the hiking trails. In August, the Italians invade the premises by hundred despite the many drops of rain and daily storms. The hotels are full, the attractions overcrowded and the prices explode.
- Remember that the temperature gradually decreases with altitude. If you are camping under the stars, consider settling below 1,200 metres. The days can be hot but the nights are usually cold or very cold.
- The weather is changeable in the Dolomites. It sometimes reserves some surprises to the travellers. We can take the road in the early morning and return late at night having travelled all four seasons in one day. Every season, the Dolomites offer an amazing natural spectacle!
Every season, the Dolomites offer an amazing natural spectacle!
- The region of the Dolomites can be reached from Treviso, Innsbruck Kranebitten, Bergamo Orio al Serio, Venice and Verona airports. It all depends on the location of your accommodation. Some low-cost airlines like Ryanair offer unbeatable rates for these destinations, provided you book your flights a few weeks, even a few months, in advance. Parents, do not forget to book a booster seat also if your baby journeys on the plane in his or her own seat.
- Once disembarked on the tarmac, you can take advantage of car rental or embark on the first train. The Dolomites can easily be reached by car from the A22 Brennero but also by train from three main lines: Verona-Trento-Brennero-Munich; Bolzano-Merano-Val Venosta; Fortezza-Brunico-San Candido-Lienz. For the question of security but also of comfort, families often choose the car. Car parks are numerous in the region although are paying in most of the tourist sites visited.
- Once at the site of your choice, the best way to visit the surroundings is to walk. Nothing is easier and more pleasant than to travel through breathtaking landscapes at your own pace, according to your programme of activities! You can also take the opportunity to take in some panoramic cable cars. Some rides are suitable for young children travelling in strollers. Inquire at the front desk of your hotel or on the website of the Sud-Tyrol Tourism Office.
6. What to bring for the children?
- In addition to a warm jacket to protect your baby from wind and cold at high altitudes and potential storms that rage on the heights, do not forget to take away Mr Teddybear, the faithful companion to your little one. If you are worried about missing the essentials, all his or her travel essentials are listed on our travel checklist for babies aged 0-3.
- Our checklist for toddlers from 3 to 6 also brings together all the essentials of your little one. Coat, swimsuit, boots, plasters, bathrobe, games, colouring books or even night light. We thought of everything!
Sources : L’oeil d’Eos, Süd Tirol, Enfant en voyage, Routard
Sarah, aged 26, journalism and travel addict, from Brussels