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The Dolomites is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Europe and is famous for it’s jagged rock peaks. It is ideal for nature lovers and offers so many family-friendly activities as well as stunning scenery.
One of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Dolomites was to see the famous Seceda ridgeline. The Alpe di Seceda is located in Val Gardena, which is where we based ourselves in the Dolomites. When you step off the cable car, you immediately see these jagged peaks jetting out from the ground with this carpet of green grass along the side of them.
How to Get to Seceda
First, you need to use the Seceda cable car to get to the top for the views. There is a decent size parking lot at the cable car station. Granted, in the summer (high-season) we got there around 9:00 am and the car park was almost full so get there early if you can.
We purchased tickets directly at the cable car station. The tickets are expensive, but it’s worth it. At the time we went, tickets for an adult were €37 and for kids aged 8-15.99 years old it was €19 and kids under 8 were free. You’ll take two cable cars so you take the first one, get off and then walk a few steps for the queue for the next one. The views from the cable car were spectacular.
Hiking Seceda with Kids
Once you get off the cable car, you’ll only have to walk a few steps to see a playground. You can spend some time playing at the small playground on the hill. The slide was quite steep and fast but it was fun for my boys (ages 6 and 8).
Hiking to a Rifugios/Hütte
All throughout the Dolomites, they have these “rufigios” or “hütte” which are basically mountain taverns that serve up delicious South Tyrolean food. From Seceda, there are several rufigios to choose from. We had our eyes set on the Baita Troier Hütte because it had a play set for the kids including a swing set, play tractors and sand pit. They also had some adorable goats in their small petting zoo. But, the best part of this place was the speculator views.
You should try Knödel soup which is a bread dumpling with speck (cured ham sort of like bacon) served in this warm broth. Even in the summer it can be quite cold in the mountains, so it was nice to warm up. The kids ordered some German-style sausages and fries. And to finish we had a Buchteln with custard which was a soft roll filled with apricot jam topped with a rich vanilla custard.
The maps are a bit confusing and I didn’t find a ton of super helpful instructions online on how to get to this place. Basically you can either walk on the left path toward the ridgeline and then hike down the stairs to Baita Troier Hütte or what we did was go down the paths toward the right and then hiked a bit up to the hutte.
Either way you have to walk down and then back up. It took us about 45 minutes to walk down and the way back was a bit longer because we had to stop to take breaks. The hike back up is straight uphill a few flights of stairs but once you get past those it wasn’t too bad. It was definitely a workout but you can stop and take breaks along the way.
They were holding the Gherdëina Craft Beer Festival in the Sëlva. Every year in July, they host a dozen or so brewers in the town hall square. My husband brews his own beer so it was a perfect opportunity for him to try out some locally produced beer. I was going to hang back at the hotel with the kids, but decided to join him which turned out to be a good idea. They had a large stage where a biker band playing loud amazing German rock music. The kids danced and even learned a traditional German dance.
Once the kids got tired of the music, we headed outside and stumbled on this really cool playground. The views from the playground were really breathtaking.
Lago Di Braies
Lago Di Braies is one of the most popular places in the Dolomites. It is a crystal-clear alpine lake set among this breathtaking mountain backdrop along with these rustic wooden rowboats. It’s an intagrammer’s dream place. And although I knew going into it that it was going to be super-touristy, I set my expectations and was determined to get on one of those rowboats.
How to Get Here
We drove our rental car to the lake which was about 1 hour and 40 minutes from our hotel. Due to the increase popularity, they put in some restrictions on driving in the summer months. In 2022, between July 10 – September 10 during 09.30 AM and 04.00 PM the road towards the Pragser Tal valley is closed. In order to visit the Lake Braies, you have to reserve parking in advance to visit. To check the current regulations and how to buy tickets, click here.
What to Do at Lago Di Braies
Row a Rowboat
We got there as early as our kids would allow, which was around 10:00 am. We headed straight for the rowboats and although there was already a line, it only took us about 20-25 minutes to be on a rowboat. You can rent them for either 30 minutes or an hour. We chose to do a half hour ride because our kids get bored sitting on boats.
Hike Around the Lake
You can hike around the lake which is a 5km fairly easy hike. The path is mostly flat with some stairs. You can hike in either direction from the rowboats. We started walking to the right behind the church. About half way around the lake, we saw a sign for Malga Foresta restaurant. I believe the sign said like 20 minutes walk. I had also seen it recommended on another blog, so I thought it would be a good way to get off the main path.
However, the hike to get to the restaurant was straight uphill and not shady so the sun was beating on us the whole way there. Once we got there, we found a little creek for the kids to play in. The food was ok, but not really worth all the work to get out there. Although we weren’t the only crazy ones as the restaurant was completely packed with people.
Enjoy Cafes Nearby the Lake
If I had to do it again, I would have done the rowboats and then just enjoyed the lake from the nearby cafes. They are located right next to the church and steps from the boat house. And although I saw many people swimming in the lake, it is technically not allowed. The water is freezing so I don’t think it would be quite pleasant even if you were able to get in.
PanaRaida Adventure Trail
The PanaRaida Aventure Trail was definitely our kids favorite thing we did in the Dolomites. It is an easy hike with 10 adventure stations along fields set in this dramatic mountain scene. Honestly even if you don’t have kids, this walk is really enjoyable. You begin at the parking place of Monte Pana. You walk from the bottom of the chairlift towards the left up the hill. You’ll see a wooden gate and a signs pointing towards the adventure trail.
On the adventure trail was a water playground with all these wooden channels. The kids could pump water down into the wooden water wheels and make small pools of water. There are also picnic tables and benches at the playground. The trail also featured a giant tree swing, wooden log maze, tree house playground, wooden cable car, art tunnel and a small lake. We stopped at the lake to have a picnic lunch. Overall, I highly recommend checking it out.
Hike into Vallunga
This was another fun easy hike for the whole family. The Vallunga Valley is an easy walk with beautiful jagged cliffs on each side. I believe there is a 5km hike through the meadows, but we strolled through stopping to look at the St. Sylvester’s Chapel and the waterfall (cascate Vallunga). While we were heading back towards the restaurant, we got to watch some paragliders land, which was really fascinating.
At the beginning of the valley entrance, there is a small barefoot path called the Percorso Sensoriale Vallunga. There is also a small play area for the kids. You can even pump water into a wooden alpine cow and then “milk” it. The kids really loved playing there and they have these nice lounge chairs where you can sit and enjoy the view.
We stopped for lunch at Baita Ciampac Hütte which winded up being a perfect stop for the kids. They had a beautiful playground with wooden horses, swing sets and a huge wooden playhouse. My husband tried the spinach Spätzle with ham and cream which is another South Tyrolean delicacy.
On rainy days, you can take a horseback riding lesson at Pozzamanigoni. in their covered riding arena. We didn’t have much experience with horses, and the instructor was really helpful getting us comfortable with the horses and giving them directions. They even had a miniature horse for my 2 year old. They have lessons for beginners and even riding excursions for more advanced riders. It was also really fun to watch the young kids learning how to jump horses over hurdles outside. The lesson for all five of us was €200 for an hour.
When to Visit the Dolomites
In researching the Dolomites area, it seemed that summer (late May through August) was the ideal time to visit if you want to do some outdoor activities such as hiking. Make sure to check the lifts opening times because some close starting in November.
Where to Stay in the Dolomites
The Dolomites area is quite a large area so things are a bit spread out. You’ll want to figure out what all you want to see and then which base is best for you and your family. We chose to stay in the Val Gardena area. It was close to Seceda and other lifts like Ortesi. We stayed at Alpenhotel Plaza in Santa Cristina which was a lovely 4-star hotel surrounding by the mountains. The town seemed less touristy than the neighboring towns like Selva.
The hotel offered a full breakfast, afternoon snack and multi-course meal dinner. The kids enjoyed the indoor/outdoor pools and there was also a relaxing adult-only spa with a grotto pool, jacuzzi and sauna. Keep in mind that dinners are late (typically 7:00 pm) in Italy so make sure your kids get an afternoon snack. They offered huge family rooms which were very spacious. The only thing I didn’t realize when booking was that it did not have air conditioning. For the first nights without a fan, was quite warm even with the cool breeze from outside but we managed to find a fan at a hardware store nearby and after that it was manageable.
Overall, the Dolomites was an amazing trip for our family. It was full of nature and adventures outdoors. I really enjoyed our time there and hope these tips are helpful in your upcoming travels to the Dolomites.