3-DAY VAN ROAD TRIP IN THE DOLOMITES

Since 2019, Camille and Thomas have been travelling aboard their old 1988 campervan, Leon.
Having set off for Mongolia, COVID delayed their adventure but they weren't defeated.
Full time vanlifers, they continued to tootle along in search of the most beautiful scenery and wonderful hikes. This week, they are taking us on a micro-adventure in the Dolomites.

DOLOMITES

One of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world is in South Tyrol: the Dolomites.
So we didn't hesitate packing our bags and turn the van keys in the direction of Italy.
And the plan?
A breath of fresh air, hikes and spectacular scenery.
For this 3-day van micro-adventure in the Dolomites, we will tour the province of Belluno in the Veneto region where the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Lago di Sorapis and the Lago di Braie are hidden.
The Dolomites have tempted us for a very long time so the moment has come for us to experience what promises to be a memorable adventure.
And why not you too?

DOLOMITES

Before you set off on this micro-adventure, we must pass on our 3 golden rules.
They will help you to fully appreciate your country adventures and hikes!

• Rule no. 1: get up early.

The morning light is essential for us photographers; the gentle light and contrast make for a naturally sublime photo.
So if you're an amateur at beautiful photos then I guarantee you won’t regret dragging your camera on the hike!
Getting up early also means being the first to reach the goal, making the most of this unique moment alone or with your loved ones, savouring a leisurely breakfast at the summit and enjoying the mild climate (yes, if there’s one thing that's certain it’s that the mountain weather in the Dolomites is changeable and it can be very hot in summer!)

• Rule no. 2: equip yourself.

Leave your trainers and handbag behind and equip yourself appropriately to take on the Dolomites.
The key when hiking is comfort!
Don't be afraid to invest in quality equipment; it will last you a long time, promise!
Technical clothing, backpack, boots, hiking poles, flask, etc. will be your best friends.

• Rule no. 3: check the weather before your departure.

The weather forecast is a compulsory data point to check thoroughly before your departure so you don't take any chances in the mountains.
Make sure that the local weather shows clear conditions for the length of your walk.
Check the forecast the day before and just before departure as a storm or fog can be equally as dangerous as discouraging (especially if you're with kids!).
With the rules declared, it's time to begin our Dolomites micro-adventure: here we go in the van for 3 days that promise to be amazing!

Day 1: HIKE TO THE TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO

We arrived in the Dolomites at night, so it was early morning when we came face to face with the mountain.
Between us, we had missed it.
We are in the eastern pre-Alps massif and a few hours walk from our camp are the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo (the Three Peaks).
It is undoubtedly THE hike not to miss in the Dolomites.
The summit of the imposing peaks can reach a height of nearly 3,000 m.
Between cliffs and ridges that overhang the valley, the rocky trio impose and dominate the landscape.
In other words? It has to be seen!

TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO

3:30 a.m. and the alarm goes off (yes, it stings a little).
Breakfast, head torches and a yawn later, here we are on the way to the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo.
The hike starts at the Auronzo lodge (paid parking), however when it's closed you can depart from the Antorno lake 6 km lower.
That’s what happened to us!
At the Antorno lake, parking is free and if you're on a van road trip, I promise you will have a nice view from the window.
The Tre Cime hike starts in the woods and it climbs from the very beginning.
In total, a little over 8 km of walking including 600 m of positive elevation awaits us.
The trail then runs through forest, light-coloured rocks and the rest snow, it's wonderful.
At this time of day, our steps seem to amuse the birds who are barely awake.

LAVAREDO LODGE

After two hours, we get to the Auronzo lodge, the first one on the route.
In all, there are three of them.
Three very tempting opportunities to eat an enormous breakfast and have a break.
But just a little more determination and this break will soon taste very sweet in front of the Three Peaks.
The journey to the second lodge Lavaredo is fantastic.
There’s a clear view between the still snow-covered rocky peaks and serrated ridges that overhang the valley, I don't know where to look.
The sun rises and it's not the only one; we slow the pace, trying to make it as light as possible as we can hear hissing resonating throughout the valley in the distance: the marmots are out.

We go past the Lavaredo lodge, it’s a sign that the Tre Cime are not much further.
My GPS says another 2.4 km of walking.
I can't wait!
A few ups and downs later: there they are.
We are in front of three giant rocks that seem neverending in the sky. These Tre Cime are so beautiful.
A simple look upwards is enough to make us forget about the 3:30 a.m. alarm and the positive elevation.
It was worth it.

Day 2: SUNRISE AT THE LAGO DIE BRAIE

Does that mean anything to you?
The Lago di Braie is most certainly the lake that will appear first if you type “what to do on my van road trip in the Dolomites? ”.
And we understand why!
As is often the case in the Dolomites, this magnificent alpine lake is surrounded by a landscape worthy of a postcard or even a painting.
However, what makes Lago di Braie one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites is its intense blue water that reflects the surrounding mountain peaks when there is no wind.
It was clear that our road trip with Leon had to stop off here.

The Lago di Braie is just next to our camp so we let ourselves have a lie-in. Wake up alarm: 5:00 a.m. We wake up impatient and excited, just like when the last season of Game of Thrones was released. To be honest, we stopped ourselves from going to look at the lake on arrival last night as we wanted to keep it a complete surprise.
And it was.

You will understand, we love an early morning stroll. So on this beautiful sunny morning, we walked the three and half kilometres or so around the lake to not miss a moment of this amazing sight. The stroll is relaxing; through the firs, we look out for the smallest detail, the slightest reflection.

LAGO DI BRAIES

The plan for the day is decided as we go along: “Shall we come back tonight for sunset?”. It’s a resounding YES. Thomas and I are the type of people that like to enjoy certain places several times: at different times, with different colours and in different ways. We can always be surprised (make the most of not having to walk five hours to the lake!)

We came back to the Lago di Braie a few hours later (Leon needed a clean-up and we needed bread!) Everything is different in the evening, it’s a different ambience. We walked, took photos and then sat on one of the benches around the lake. While my attention was completely turned to a German couple paddleboarding on the lake (“fed up, I want to do that too”), I almost missed the most beautiful surprise of the evening. I had never seen a fox up close. The evening couldn't have ended better, we did well to drag the day out.
Night fell and it was silent going back to the van. We both stayed with our thoughts as if talking would break the magic of this encounter. Thomas cracked first: “You see, when you have the chance to see a wild animal up close, it makes a place even more magical. Seeing an animal so close, it's a high point!”. It’s true. We set the GPS to the Sorapis lake, the next stage on our Dolomites road trip, and on the way the conversation focuses on one subject alone: the wild animals that have graced many of our adventures, whether it be the reindeer in Norway or the Atlantic puffins in Scotland.

Day 3: HIKE TO THE SORAPIS LAKE

I heard that the Dolomites were worth a detour but the Lago di Sorapis may be the ultimate proof. I was going to describe the place with some nice words but do you know what? You will discover it soon enough so I’m playing the suspense card a little longer.
You’re getting to know the drill, 04:00 a.m.: the alarm rings and we wake up a little easier than the previous day. We’re getting used to it. Leon is parked at the Passe Tre Croc, right next to the start of the hiking trail. I only have to look out of the window to know that the weather is on our side and this is going to be a great hike. Quick, grab breakfast and let’s go.

Just like the Tre Cime di Lavaredo trail, this hike starts in the forest. Except that here, it sparkles and starts out flat. The hike to Lago di Sorapis is about 15 km return trip by foot including 600 m positive elevation. As the first rays of sun weave between the conifers, these first steps wake us up gently.

DOLOMITES

The lights are magnificent and softly embrace the surrounding landscape. Each area is beautiful to look at and I don't think we’ve ever taken as many breaks as we have in the Dolomites. Our breathing starts to speed up as we feel the positive elevation. The trail changes colour from green to yellow as the sun hits the ground. As we go along, you get the impression the trail is narrowing, wait... It’s not an impression.

Advice to those with vertigo that this route may prove difficult. A little before arriving at the lake, the trail becomes more and more narrow along the cliffside and it's impossible to walk side by side. A little adventure within an adventure. Good luck, it's worth it, promise.
After almost two and a half hours of walking, I begin to hear running water so we aren’t too far away. The excitement silences us and believe me, that’s rare. 200 m, 100 m, 50 m... we’re there.
I have no words...

Now I understand why they say that the Lago di Sorapis hike is the most beautiful in the Dolomites.
Whether it's the route to get to the lake or the lake and its surrounding, it's completely magic.
We take the time to look from every angle, crawl in between the rock, sit down for several minutes and have breakfast (yes, we love eating). We feel wonderfully well here. Believe me, I will remember this apple and this sandwich forever.

It's 08:00 a.m. and other hikers start to arrive, a few smiles are exchanged that proudly say “it’s beautiful, isn’t it? ” and it's time for us to leave this place of dreams.
I could have stayed forever.
I look over our shoulder one last time at the Lago di Sorapis and I’m already nostalgic.
The return trail unties our tongues, the excitement is still palpable, we can hear “no, but have you seen the colour of this water? ”, “I’ve rarely seen such a beautiful place”, “I already miss it”.
While writing this, we already miss the Sorapis lake.
We already miss the Tre Cime and the Lago di Braie.
We already miss this 3-day van road trip, three days of freedom, three days of fresh air.
Without hesitation, the Dolomites have to be seen and seen again.
Am I going over the top?
You tell me!

ROAD TRIP ACROSS THE UNITED STATES WEST COAST
ROAD TRIP ACROSS THE UNITED STATES WEST COAST

CAMILE AND THOMAS