Welcome to your wildest dreams, nature lover, because they have come to life in the flesh.
Lago di Sorapiss nestled in the Italian Dolomites is here to change your life. Seriously, this alpine lake, accessed by at 10+ km return hike is one of the best things we’ve encountered in close to three months on the European continent. The colour of this water is like nothing we’ve ever seen. We only wish we’d been here earlier in the morning and perhaps in late September as the lake was partially frozen, but even this barely put a dint in its beauty.
If you’re planning a trip to Northern Italy or the vicinity in the future, the Dolomites (and of course this hike) are an absolute must. It’s just a hop, skip and jump from Venice – all you need is a car. We are fortunate enough to be travelling in our incredible Spicy Junior from Spicy Campers (more on this later) and so accessing the region and the hike was not a worry.
Believe it or not, this hike was actually our second choice in this area – we really wanted to complete the Tre Cime di Laverado circuit. However, to access the starting point of this hike (Rifugio Auronzo) by camper van is €40 (for a car it’s €25) and sadly for us this was simply too expensive. Don’t know about you we think that’s a pretty ridiculous price – perhaps if you head up with a crew in one vehicle it’s a bit more feasible.
Where to Base Yourself for Lago di Sorapis
The ideal base for this hike is Cortina d’Ampezzo. This little town is ridiculously well-known – it held the 1956 Winter Olympics and has served as the backdrop of a number of movies. There’s a number of accommodation options here, but we chose Camping Cortina for €21 per night for two people – it’s open all year round and has a great little pizzeria attached which seemed to be a local favourite.
What’s great about Cortina is it doesn’t matter if you’re staying in five-star luxury or a campground – you’ll still have the most incredible views of mountain peaks all around you.
Starting Point for Lago di Sorapiss Hike
As always, this was what we found the most challenging! From Cortina d’Ampezzo, you’re heading to Passo Tre Croci. We had trouble finding this on HERE Wego, which is our trusted navigation tool, so we needed to use Google Maps in Wi-fi and then head straight there. You can find the route here. If Google Maps isn’t your style, follow the blue signs for Misurina out of Cortina you’ll reach it. Keep an eye out for Bar Ristorante Son Zuogo on your right – the car park for Passo Tre Croci is just beyond it.
Insider tip: Look out for Passo Tre Croci – this part of the world isn’t signed overly well and the sign we saw for this place was covered in stickers so you could barely read the writing! We’d recommend Google Maps all the way to be safe.
Once you’ve parked the car, keep your eyes out for the sign for #215 – the trail for Rifugio Vandelli and Lago di Sorapis just behind the fence. The trail for #215 also continues across the road – don’t follow it! We made this mistake the day before and whilst we found a cute little mountain hut, you won’t find the lake by heading this way.
The Hike to Lago di Sorapiss
This bad boy is a D R E A M. The scenery is nuts – there’s literally mountains all around. It’s a tough enough hike that you’ll get a sweat up, but still do-able for the inexperienced. There’s a few steep sections that will leave you puffing so you will need at least a bit of cardio fitness. Don’t be put off though – this hike is a little like our hike to Lagoa do Fogo in the Azores. It’s so scenic you won’t even notice the effort.
Want to read about another bucket list hike we found in the Azores, Portugal? Check out another of our favourites here.
The hike in and out (using the same trail to return) is just over 10 kilometres. The hike in took around two hours with a truckload of stops to admire the scenery, and 1.5 hours moving it on the way out.
Throughout the journey you’ll encounter a couple of small waterfalls to jump over, and a few areas with stairs and cable to hold onto to ensure you don’t fall over the side of the track into the valley. Don’t let this put you off – there were a number of young children on this hike so unless you’re terrified of heights these small obstacles shouldn’t be an issue.
Once you reach Rifugio Vandelli (it closed the week before we arrived) you can grab something to eat, or head a couple of hundred metres to the lake shore to explore. Plan to spend an hour exploring here – it’s magnificent! When you can tear yourself away, head back via the same trail.
As always, we had the least equipment of everyone else on the trail – many were kitted out in full-on alpine outfits, wearing hiking boots (weirdly a few were wearing what looked like snow boots) as well as walking poles. Don’t stress too much about this – we were really worried about being cold but we were just wearing running tights, with a couple of layers and a warm jacket and we were sweating – keep in mind this is the middle of autumn! The only time we started to cool down was by the lake… not surprising considering it was half frozen over!
We were also wearing in Nike runners, but would have preferred shoes with better grip as we found a couple of points a little slippery – a lot of the trail is wet from tiny rivulets of alpine water running down the mountain. The more we hike, the more we realise we need to bite the bullet and spend some money on proper shoes (help us, we’re poor).
Lago di Sorapiss: no picture could do this place justice.
Save this one for a sunny day – the light on the water is spectacular!
We arrived at the lake at 2.00 pm on a Sunday – if we got the chance to do this again, we’d recommend getting here earlier rather than later and coming on a week day. This is for a couple of reasons – it was quite busy at this time. The lake is also surrounded by mountains, so once the sun starts to lower in the early afternoon it dips behind the peak directly behind the lake and really cools things down quickly.
As always take a friend! Whilst this trail doesn’t require any scrambling, it’s not exactly a stroll in the park. Get our tips for adventuring safely here.