Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day Trip to the Dolomites from Venice

The beauty of Dolomites is described so many times in literature, travel blogs, and documentaries that I decided to include this beautiful mountain range (also an UNESCO Heritage Site) into my itinerary. I've done a quick search on the net and found out that it is only a 2 and a half hour drive from Venice, which is perfect for a day trip! However, I do not drive well enough and certainly, will not risk my life attempting to drive in an unfamiliar region (especially when hairpin turns are involved up on the mountains!)
three peak National Park Dolomites, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
In the Three Peaks National Park of Dolomites. Worth every penny spent!
So you see, renting a car is not an option for me, does it mean I have to skip the Dolomites? HELL NO! The landscape is said to be one of Europe's most beautiful site and so I told myself that I have to see it! While Train Travels is possible from Santa Lucia Train Station in Venice, it only brings you to one of the Village nearby (Pieve Di Cadore) where you'll have to change to a bus towards Cortina... or I heard there is a Cortina Express Bus from Mestre and the Airports but I am not too sure how it works... and anyhow, you will have to hike to get up to the mountain top.

I only have a day for the Dolomites, so I won't be doing any hiking/camping. I wanted this trip to the Dolomites to act as an introduction to the mountain, to prepare for a hiking adventure in the future (Well now you know that I am definitely coming back!)

So after spending hours comparing my options, tour operators, destinations and a lot more, I settled with a tour operator based in Venice -- The VenetoInsider.com. Why did I choose them you asked? Firstly, it is among the first results on the google search engine, so I think they must be good (if google said so!). Try googling the keyword "Dolomites day tour from Venice". Secondly, they offer a private tour for those who enjoy flexibility in their itinerary (just what I was looking for!)

Lake Misurina, most beautiful lake in the world
The colorful boats complete this photo of the beautiful Lake Misurina. Loving the colors!
Lake Misurina, Vivian Lee, Miss Happy Feet
Ending my Venice love affair with a unforgettable visit to the Dolomites!
So Bingo! I contacted the VenetoInside.com via email and the booking process was a breeze. My email was returned the very same day, and in no time, my trip was booked, arranged and sealed!

On that fine Monday morning, I took the bus number 2 from Mestre to Piazzale Roma in Venice.  The meeting point of the tour is really easy to find. Just walk to the end of the car park and at your left-hand site, you'll see the Hotel OLYMPIA, just behind a small canal. (At the right side of the car park, there is the people mover).

Right on time, my driver/guide, Mr. Francasco was standing there with my name clearly written on an A4. He introduced himself and invited me to board the sparkling black Mercedes car. Along the way, he explained our basic itinerary and asked for my preferences. I am a nature person, so I've chosen to cut down our time in Cortina (it is too expensive for me anyway) and added in the Tree Peaks national Park into our itinerary. Also, upon my request, we managed to stop at the viewpoint of Santa Croce Lake and a green pasture along the way where I enjoyed chasing the cows!

green pasture in Dolomites, cow in Dolomites, good beef
loving this! Cows in dolomites spend most of their time running in the wide pasture, I am guessing great milk and high quality meet as a result!

All in all, my day went like this:

Santa Croce Lake- Cortina d'AmpezzoLake of Misurina -a random Pasteur full of cows- a lake  along the way that I liked- the Tree Peaks of Lavaredo- the National Park.
With the basic itinerary being highlighted.
Note that the entrance fee for the Tree Peaks National Park is not included in the tour. I paid 25 Euros to get into the park but believe me when I say it was totally worth it!
Rate: 25 Euro per car.

wandering the streets of Cortina. 
Cortina is a popular ski town in Italy during the winter months, however, if you are planning to visit it during Summer, be aware that it doesn't mean that it will be a ghost town! You might as well find all the campsites FULL! During my visit in the morning, it was already buzzing with energy. Despite it being a little budget-UNfriendly, I still had an amazing time walking down the busy shopping streets, visited some local craft shops and a church. I was amazed by the colorful flowers planted in almost every perfectly carved wooden balcony, typical of Cortina.

The temperature at the peak was quite low, but since I have been living in Russia for 5 years, coldness doesn't intimidate me, I went up only with a long sleeve over my shoulders. However, it is highly recommended that one dresses appropriately if you are thinking of driving to the top at the Three Peaks National Park. (it could be windy.)
Lake Misurina
Beautiful Lake Misurina again! 
Besides the National Park, Lake Misurina was undoubtedly the highlight of my day trip. I love how the white mountains in the distance fall graciously onto the lake, creating the surreal mirror effect that looks so magical and inspiring. Walking down the boardwalk with the sound of birds chirping away had some kind of calming effect on my body and soul, as if I was in a whole new world. This is an example how nature resets our bodies and minds.

HF Scoring System:

Information: 17
Flexibility: 18
Communication: 18
Safety: 20
Comfort: 20

Total: 93
Stars: 5

Would I recommend this tour?

Dolomites rocks color
Look at the colors at the peak!!
Definitely! Based on the score above, it is a 93 (a solid 5), and here is why: Right from the start, it was super easy to book a tour with the VenetoInside.com. Emails were replied within a day in English, information about the itinerary and meeting point, time and prices are clearly written on the website. Next, My driver, Mr. Francasco is knowledgeable about the region. For the whole drive, I felt safe and there was no awkward silence during the drives in between destinations. Mr. Francasco was constantly telling me fun facts about the region, including information about the train to Cortina, where to stop for good coffee, where to rent camping gears, the story about the Longarore Dam, book recommendations on the Langarone Tragedy and much more. On our way back to Venice, he even recommended some places of interest to visit during my trip to Naples!
However, there were still some instance when we couldn't understand each other (Hey it happens! I don't speak perfect English either!) and also, I think it would be great if the tour were 9 hours instead of 8, well I just wished I had more time... the Dolomites is spectacular!
In a sentence, the day trip was exceptional. I strongly believe that the grandeur of the mountains have made great impact on the imagination and minds of those who have seen it with their own eyes.

General information about the tour:

One-day Private Excursion to Cortina and the Dolomites from Venice:
    Up to 3 people (transfer by car): €602.50 - starting from €200.84 per person
    Up to 6 people (transfer by minivan): €650.00 - starting from €108.34 per person
    Up to 8 people (transfer by minibus): €697.50 - starting from €87.19 per person
* Entrance Fee to the Three peaks National Park is not included.

Booking website: Venetoinside.com
Facebook: Venetoinside.com
Twitter: Venetoinside

Fun Fact: 

International Highline Meeting Dolomites
via bored panda.com
Have you ever heard of the International Highline Meeting Monte Piana, Misurina?  The meeting is held every year in the first week of September since 2012 and it is attended by professional highlanders and enthusiasts from all around the world to share their love for the extreme sport and also the astonishing scenery of the Dolomites.

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Thank You for Reading! 
My visit to the Dolomites was fully supported by the Venetoinside.com. However, all opinions are as always my own. 
Feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

1 comment:

Harris said...

The views are amazing and it is wonderful to see cows grazing in a pasture. Absolutely beautiful!