We left Innsbruck just after sunrise and made our way across the border into Italy (always an anxious moment when travelling with a South African). As we drew further from Austria the architecture changed and I suppose, became more Italian. We drove east towards the Dolomites, in my opinion one of the most magnificent mountain ranges in the world. Below, I’ve given a few insights into where we went, where we stayed and what we did. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help!
Must See Destinations:
Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is an ‘Instagram classic’. I’d seen so many photos of this lake and had always wondered what it was really like. Was it as beautiful as everyone had made out, or was it in the middle of an industrial estate? Was it, after its ‘Instagram fame’ now merely a tourist trap with crazy prices and bus-loads of visitors?
It turns out, the lake was actually quite remote: a good 30 minutes drive from the major road taking us east from Bozen. What’s more, it was spectacular. Around each corner stood another snow topped mountain; one side lay a tiny church, dwarfed by Hotel Pragser Wildsee. The hotel was closed when we arrived at the lake which meant we had the entire place to ourselves. It also meant we weren’t able to take a boat on the lake, so we improvised and ‘found’ a raft.
Lake Misurina is another incredible spot that’s set less than an hour from Lago di Braies. There lies around 10 hotels which was a bit of a surprise after only seeing photos of just one hotel at Lake Misurina. It is said that a visit to Lake Misurina can cure asthma, although I didn’t have asthma when we arrived so I neither confirm nor deny that theory.
Catinaccio (and surroundings)
We decided to take the scenic route from Lake Misurina back to Lana, where we stayed for the duration of our time in South Tyrol. Driving towards Tiers Valley took us literally through the clouds and up, into the same mountains which we had been admiring from way down by the lake just minutes earlier. The roads narrowed and steepened as we drove into what felt like incredibly remote, untouched land. Even the cabins became few and far between until we joined another main road.
We literally stumbled across it. Instantly we knew we had to pull over and take a look. Mist hovered eerily over the frozen lake, with a mermaid sculpture sat right in the middle. Dense greenery contrasted with the golden oranges of the rocks on the lakes’ bed. It wasn’t until we were about to leave that the Dolomites broke through the clouds and yet again, stole the show.
Where We Stayed:
We arrived at Hotel Schwarzschmied an hour after sunset. It wasn’t until the following morning that we were able to appreciate the stunning scenery that surrounded us. I stood on the balcony and looked out towards the mountainside, a beautiful church to my left with orchards and vineyards spreading as far as I could see. We were in Italy, that was for sure.
Hotel Schwarzschmied was such a great find. Nestled in the centre of a quaint little town, it’s the perfect retreat while exploring in the Italian Alps. There are so many hiking and cycling trails literally on your doorstep and I’d love to go back in the summer and spend more time around here: so many trail runs to be had! From outdoor pools to indoor pools, saunas to relaxation rooms; this hotel has it all! What’s more, it’s family run and everyone is super friendly and accommodating.
I knew we would have a pleasant stay from the moment we arrived but I had no idea about the culinary delights we were soon to indulge in. Finally! A hotel with incredible, fresh and healthy food! From homemade pasta to fresh local honey and pressed juices, we were amazed at the authentic Italian cuisine at both breakfast and dinner.
Neither of us were ready to leave Lana but it was soon time to hit the road again. Hotel Schwarzschmied is truly somewhere I’d rush back to; I haven’t felt that relaxed in a long time.
Our Favourite Town:
Merano is a really cute little town in South Tyrol and much like Innsbruck, it’s totally surrounded by mountains. We actually stayed in Lana, just a few miles south but visited Merano on our way back to Zurich. You can park right in the centre, where we somewhat hesitantly gave a man our car keys with pretty much every item we owned in the boot. You probably only need a couple of hours to explore but it’s well worth a look around. After some serious browsing and a quick coffee we were ready to go.
Photos by Elan and myself. Next on the blog: Zurich!
Check out Elan here: