Lago Di Braies | A Complete Travel Guide – Tips, Visit Info & Things To Do

View of Lago di Braies, Italy

Located in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, Lago di Braies is a stunning alpine lake that has been a popular destination for centuries. Its crystal-clear waters, surrounded by towering mountains, make it a must-visit spot for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.  In this blog post you will learn everything you need to know about this incredible natural attraction including how to get there, when to visit it, facts and tips and more to help you plan your perfect trip.

ABOUT LAGO DI BRAIES

Lago di Braies, also known as Pragser Wildsee in German, is arguably the most beautiful lake in the Dolomites. Located in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region of northern Italy this natural lake originated from a landslide. Its creation is due to the blocking of the Rio Braies stream because of a landmass that detached itself from the nearby Sasso del Signore. The lake has a unique turquoise color due to the presence of glacial sediment. The surrounding mountains, including the Croda del Becco, reflect beautifully in clear waters, making it a popular spot for photography and filming.

In the 19th century, the region surrounding Lago di Braies became a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors and mountaineers who were drawn to the area’s natural beauty. The lake was first mentioned in travel literature in the mid-1800s. In 1882, a hotel was built near the lake to accommodate visitors. The hotel, named Hotel Pragser Wildsee, is still in operation today and has been expanded and modernized over the years.

Today, Lago di Braies is a popular tourist destination, known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain views. The lake is encircled by hiking trails, and visitors can rent rowboats or take a guided tour of the lake. In the winter months, the region is a popular spot for winter sports, such as skiing and snowshoeing. Despite its popularity, Lago di Braies has managed to preserve much of its natural charm, and visitors can appreciate its unspoiled beauty.

LAGO DI BRAIES FACTS

  • Name: Lago di Braies (Italian), Pragser Wildsee (German), Lake Braies (English)
  • Region: South Tyrol, Italy
  • Altitude: 1,469m above sea level
  • Size: 31 ha.
  • Depth: Average 17m (56ft), Maximum 36m (118m)
  • The walk around the lake: 3.5km (2.2 miles) – 1.5h
  • Type: Mountain Lake
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WHERE IS LAGO DI BRAIES?

Lago di Braies is situated at the end of Val di Braies (Pragser Tal) which is a side valley of the bigger and more popular Val Pusteria Valley in eastern South Tyrol, Italy. The lake belongs to the Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park – a massive protected area of South Tyrol covering more than 25,000 hectares.

If you are visiting Lago di Braies from Venice, like we did, it will take you about 3 hours to drive north. Other option is to get there from Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, for about 2 hours drive. If you are staying in popular Cortina d’Ampezzo you will have less than an hour drive. The closest airport is in Innsbruck, Austria, located about 130 km away (about 2 hours drive).

LAGO DI BRAIES TIPS

There are couple of important things to know before you visit Lago di Braies:

  • Entry to Lago di Braies is free and accessible the whole year!
  • The best time for photography at Lago di Braies is early morning.
  • Using drone is not allowed unless you have a permit. 
  • There is a restaurant near the entrance to the lake (try apple strudel!)
  • You can bring you own food and use benches around the lake to have a mini picnic (food from local vendors can be pricey)
  • There are toilets located near the parking lot and at the Lago di Braies Hotel (small fee applies)

WHEN TO VISIT LAGO DI BRAIES

Lago di Braies is one of those popular places that can be visited at any time of the year and leave you in awe. Summers brings magical sunrises with soft orange colors and winters freeze the lake creating alpine paradise. 

I highly recommend to visit Lago di Braies in Spring or Autumn. If you need to visit it in the Summer at least avoid weekends so you can encounter less crowds.

During Spring time the lake’s water is higher and the upper mountains are still covered with snow making the area more picturesque. Also, you can admire a sea of wildflowers around the Dolomites. 

In Autumn the water level in the lake falls significantly and the surrounding larches turn shades of yellow and orange. Their reflection off the lake creates a beautiful backdrop. If you are a photographer you won’t have to wake up so early for sunrise since it happens at more reasonable hours. 

In winters, keep in mind that the access to the lake depends on weather and road conditions. The lake is completely frozen and covered with snow. Also the hiking trail is closed. 

BEST TIME OF DAY TO VISIT LAGO DI BRAIES 

Depending on the purpose of your visit you might enjoy Lago di Braies at different times. 

If your goal is to photograph this stunning lake I highly recommend to come for sunrise. That means you will need to be at the lake around 5-6 am (summer time). You won’t see the sun rising behind the horizon (since the lake is surrounded by mountains) but at least the light and calmness of the water create magical views. In addition, you will have the lake to yourself 🙂 At 7am the boathouse opens and there is already a line of people waiting outside. 

Mornings are also great for those who are planning hikes since the trails are less crowded and temperatures are lower. At around 8am parking lots start filling up quickly and there will be lots of people either on boats, walking around the lake or simply resting on the benches nearby. After 4pm, when the boathouse stops operating, you should expect less crowds. This is a great time to enjoy the views while simply resting by the lake. Also, it is a good time to visit the lake as a first timer. You can simply scout the area to get familiar with what to expect when you come next day in the early morning. 

HOW TO GET TO LAGO DI BRAIES

BY CAR

Getting to the lake by car is very comfortable but can also be tricky when it comes to parking. I will explain it in detail in the next paragraph. We drove from Venice and it was a pleasant less than 3 hours drive. Also, the advantage of driving a car is that you can visit the lake for sunrise to avoid the crowds. Use Google Maps from your location and you should be set. 

Here are approximate travel times from different locations:

  • Brunico 30min via the SS49
  • Cortina 55min via the SS51 and SS49
  • Dobbiaco 20min via the SS49
  • Milan 4.5 hours/ 420km
  • San Candido 20min via the SS49
  • Venice 3 hours/ 200km
  • Verona 3 hours/ 250km
  • Villabassa 20min via the SS49
  • Innsbruck 2.5 hours/ 130km

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To prevent over-tourism and environmental damage, there is an advance booking system at Lago di Braies between July 10th and September 10th. The road is closed from 9.00am – 4pm and can be reached only by public transportation, on foot, by bicycle or upon presentation of an online – reservation or valid transit permit. Book your ticket here.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

From mid-June to mid-September you can visit Lago di Braies by public transport. There is a train to Niederdorf (Villabassa) from where you can use a regular bus service: bus 442 between Toblach/ Dobbiaco/ Villabassa/ Lago di Braies that runs every 30min from 8am to 7.30pm year round. Tickets costs 3-5 euro and are available at transport hubs and some hotels. 

For most up to date travel information check out the official website . Usually before the high season starts there is a reservation system for shuttle bus set up on the web. 

GUIDED TOURS

Another more relaxing option for you might be to join a private tour. Here you can find a private day trip from Bolzano that includes Lago di Braies along with Lago di Carezza, Misurina and Tre Come and other iconic Dolomites locations. 

PARKING AT LAGO DI BRAIES

I highly recommend to secure a parking ticket during the summer months. From July 10th to September 10th, 9:30 am to 4 pm access to the lake is closed to cars, buses and motorcycles. The only exception is if you book overnight stay at the Hotel Pragser Wildsee (as a guest you will park directly and free of charge at the hotel) or one of the following tickets online beforehand. 

Here are the options:

If you are planning to arrive before 10 am there are two car park options on the right side when you get there – P3 closest to the lake and P2 next to it. 

P3 Parking fills up quickly and it costs:

  • 8 euro for the first 3h if you arrive between 7am and 5pm, 
  • 5 euro for the first 3h from 5pm to 8pm 
  • 3 euros total for arrival from 8pm to 7am

After the first three hours you will pay 0.80 euros for each additional 30min to a maximum of 14 euros per day. In peak season a reservation for the day is 18 euros.

If you visit Lago di Braies to capture it during sunrise this is your best place to park.

P2 Parking is more affordable and still super close to the lake. You will pay $6 to an old man (cash only). 

Keep in mind that parking at Lago di Braies is limited and if it is already full you will not be allowed to drive further into the valley until space become available.

P1 Parking is your final bet. It is located in the town of Segheria, 5.5 km from the lake, from which you can take a shuttle.

More info and booking availability here.

WHERE TO STAY NEAR LAGO DI BRAIES

There are several accommodation options near Lago di Braies, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels. The most popular option is to stay in one of the nearby towns, such as Dobbiaco or San Candido, and take a bus or taxi to the lake. Check out the options here.

One highly recommended option is the Hotel Lago di Braies, located just a few steps from the lake. The hotel offers comfortable rooms with stunning lake views, as well as a restaurant serving local cuisine. Alternatively, search for more accommodation options in Braies here

For those on a budget, Camping Olympia would be a great option. It is located in the nearby town of Villabassa and offers campsites, lodges and apartments at an affordable price.

We stayed at Steinerhof Hotel (5min drive from the lake) and later at the Friedemann (22min drive). It was nothing fancy but totally enough to get mountain vibes and focus on exploring the lake. Don’t forget to try their apple strudel! In both locations it was very delicious.

 

THINGS TO DO AT LAGO DI BRAIES

Lago di Braies Boat Rental

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Lago di Braies is to rent a boat and explore the lake at your leisure. The boats are available for rent, and visitors can enjoy the serene beauty of the lake while paddling around. 

Located by the shore La Palafitta boathouse rents out handmade rowboats from mid-May to late October or November. Each boat can hold up to 4 adults. Children are welcome on boat tours but those under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult during the ride.

Opening hours are: 

  • May 20th – June 18th 2023  9am – 5.pm
  • June 19th – September 4th  8am – 7pm 
  • September 5th – November 11th   10am – 5pm
  • The rental price per boat (1 boat 4 people):
  • 30 min – 25 euros 
  • 60 min – 35 euros.

Be sure to get there early since there is a limited number available. Otherwise be prepared to get in line by lunch time. Swimming in the lake is allowed and there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, such as fishing or sunbathing on the lake’s shore.

Walk around the lake.

The 4 km walk around the lake is a leisurely and enjoyable hike that takes approximately one hour to complete. The path is well-maintained and is suitable for visitors of all ages and abilities. Along the way, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the lake and its surroundings, as well as take advantage of several photo opportunities. It is essential to wear comfortable shoes, carry water, and apply sunscreen as the sun can be strong, especially during the summer months.

Hike above the lake.

For more experienced hikers, a trek above the lake is an ideal adventure. The Dolomite Mountains provide stunning views from above the lake, and there are several hiking trails that lead to the top of the mountains that surround the lake. The most popular hike is the one to the Plätzwiese meadow, which takes approximately four hours and covers around 9 km. The hike is moderately challenging and is not recommended for novice hikers. However, the views from the top are simply breathtaking and make the effort worthwhile.

Visit Lago di Braies chapel and the film set.

The chapel at Lago di Braies is a beautiful and serene spot located at the lake’s edge. The chapel’s interior is stunning, with intricate frescoes and artwork that visitors can admire. Additionally, the lake has been featured in several movies and TV shows, including the popular Italian TV series, “Un passo dal cielo” (“A Step from Heaven”). Visitors can check out the film set near the lake’s edge and even take a picture on the famous wooden pier.

Have a Picnic or Dine at One of the Restaurants.

There are several picnic spots around the lake where visitors can enjoy a packed lunch while taking in the beautiful scenery. Alternatively, there are two restaurants near the lake that serve delicious Italian cuisine. The Restaurant Lago di Braies is located at the lake’s edge and offers indoor and outdoor seating, while the Restaurant Pragser Wildsee is situated a short walk from the lake and boasts a large outdoor terrace with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Go for a swim or stay at the beach.

Swimming is allowed in Lago di Braies however it isn’t a popular attraction due to cold water. Even during the warmest summer days most people just dip their toes or jump in and out quickly as it’s too cold to actually swim in it. Instead you can relax in several beach areas on the west side of the lake. It is rather a flat area with stones but you can still spend some good time there. Don’t forget to pack a towel and water shoes.

PLACES TO VISIT NEARBY

When you visit Lago di Braies keep in mind that there are lots of other beautiful places to see in the area. 

Short drive (about 22min) will take you to Lake Dobbiaco. It is not as popular as Lago di Braies but also very picturesque and easy to visit. 

When you pass Lake Dobbiaco and keep driving in the direction of Cortina or Venice (about 18 min) you will reach Lake Misurina. The lake is next to the road so it’s very convenient to make a quick stop to admire the beautiful views. 

Extra 50min drive from Lake Misurina will take you to another picturesque scenery around Lake Limides. There is easy 1.4-mile out-and-back trail near Cortina d’Ampezzo, Veneto, that takes an average of 50min to complete. 

Another must see place in the area is Val Di Funes and its popular Santa Maddalena church siting in the middle of one of the most picturesque valleys. It is about 1.5h drive from Lago di Braies and an easy short uphill 15min walk. The views are breathtaking. 

If you have a little more time to spend around the area, you should absolutely drive to stunning emerald colored Lago di Carezza. It will take you about 2h from Lago di Braies (same direction as Val Di Funes) to reach the lake but at least you will drive right up to the lake. The views are amazing. 

RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR AT LAGO DI BRAIES

In the past years Lago di Braies became one of the most popular lakes on social media. The fame on Instagram and other similar platforms caused a rise of irresponsible people who are willing to break any rule to take the perfect shot. They break into the boathouse prior to opening hours, steal row boats to take shots, buzz drones relentlessly… and more. Don’t be a part of this group and think about the ways to enjoy the lake views while still preserving it for future generations. 

Here are couple of things to remember:

  • Don’t litter –  I hope this is something we all keep in mind. Don’t drop your trash anywhere but take it out with you. 
  • Pick up trash you see there – If you encounter any litter in the area pick it up and dispose properly
  • Don’t break into the boat house –  I can’t even imagine that people do it. The boat house is officially open at 7am and this is your time to get on the platform to take extra shots. There are also other spots on the hike around the lake where you can take incredible shots. 
  • Don’t fly the drone – I will be honest with you. Those drone shots of the lake are beautiful so flying one was very tempting when we visited the place. But rules are rules and there are signs everywhere so you can’t miss them. The parking lots, beaches and hotel area up to the lake are private property. Panoramic flights over the entire lake area are legally permitted but you need to apply for a permit at the administration of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park. Also, keep in mind that the drone must maintain a flight altitude of 20 meters above the private property. Places, structures and people must not be recognizable. 

Lago di Braies is a breathtaking destination that should be on every nature lover’s bucket list. Its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain backdrop make it a must-visit spot in the Italian Dolomites. Whether you choose to travel by public transport or car, there are plenty of options for getting to the lake. And with a range of accommodation options nearby, visitors can choose the perfect place to stay and explore the surrounding area.

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