If you're looking for places to add to your Dolomites itinerary you should consider spending an afternoon at Lago di Braies, Italy. Also known as Pragser Wildsee in German, this alpine lake is known for its pristine turquoise waters and incredible mountain backdrops.
During my trip through Italy we had a few days earmarked to explore the Italian Dolomites which meant we'd have an opportunity to enjoy these other worldly views for ourselves!
Although I must confess that half a day here is just simply not enough. While we had enough time to relax at the lake, have a snack at Hotel Lago di Braies and complete the circuit hike around the lake, I was left wanting to enjoy some of the longer hikes into the mountains that originate from here.
If there's one takeaway you should have from this post, it's that you need to spend at LEAST an afternoon visiting Lago di Braies!
In this post I'm going to tell you everything you need to know when considering a trip to Lago di Braies. I'll cover tons of useful tips and information along the way like how long you should spend here, what languages they speak in the area and more.
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Where is Lago di Braies located?
Lago di Braies, also known as Pragser Wildsee in German, is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy. This area is considered part of the Dolomites mountain range.
The lake is situated within the Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies, which is a protected area and a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
It is surrounded by stunning alpine scenery, with crystal-clear turquoise water and a picturesque boathouse that makes for a great photo opportunity.
What does Lago di Braies mean?
The Italian name Lago di Braies simply translates to Lake of Braies. The lake is also known as Pragser Wildsee in German, which translates to "wild lake of Prags." Given the multilingual nature of this area it's not uncommon for natural landmarks to carry two or more names.
What to expect when visiting Lago di Braies?
When visiting Lago di Braies, visitors can expect to be surrounded by the kind of breathtaking natural beauty that the Italian Dolomites has become famous for.
The lake area is ideal for hiking, swimming and canoeing. The area is also popular for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Visitors can take a leisurely walk around the lake or hike to a higher elevation for a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
The nearby towns of Dobbiaco and San Candido offer additional attractions, such as museums, churches, and historic buildings.
During my visit to the area we used Cortina d'Ampezzo as our home base. From Cortina you're looking at a scenic 50 minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Once you arrive to the hotel parking lot grab a spot, pay and make your way towards the main building. Lago di Braies resides on the other side of the hotel.
After you emerge on the other side you'll be greeted with your first views of the lake. To your left you'll spot the Instagram famous boat rental dock and to the right a café and some outdoor seating.
The café is a great place to grab a snack and a coffee either before or after enjoying the loop hike around the lake.
The loop around the lake is more of a nature walk than hike as the trail is wide, well maintained and fairly level. At just 2.3 miles (3.7 km) it's a great way to take in views of Lago di Braies from every angle. If you're looking to enjoy some longer hikes, the trail spurs off at the opposite end of the lake in multiple directions.
But on this particular day we just came to see the lake, so after reaching the far end of Lago di Braies instead of continuing deeper into the mountains we started back towards the hotel.
While we thoroughly enjoyed checking out one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites I must say I had quite a bit of FOMO that we weren't staying at the hotel or exploring the surrounding mountains.
If you have one takeaway from this post, don't repeat the same mistake I made! Be sure to budget more time to this area than just an afternoon.
Once you make it back to the starting point consider spending some time renting a boat, taking a cold plunge into the lake or having a nice sit down meal at the hotel.
Is visiting Lago di Braies worth it?
Visiting Lago di Braies is definitely worth it, as it is one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy and offers a unique experience for outdoor lovers. The lake's emerald-green waters are surrounded by towering mountain peaks and dense forests, making it a perfect destination for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
This was one of the most beautiful areas of the Dolomites we saw during my trip and I'd love to go back to spend more time hiking the surrounding trails or even spending a night at Hotel Lago di Braies. Otherwise I'd suggest checking out accommodations in Cortina d'Ampezzo which serves as a great home base for exploring the Italian Dolomites.
Whether you're a hiker, a photographer, or just looking for a relaxing day out, Lago di Braies has a little something for everyone. If you're in a hurry the mild loop around Lake Braies is a great place to start. If you have time I'd suggest getting out on the water and renting a canoe.
Where should I stay to visit Lago di Braies?
The most popular option is the Hotel Lago di Braies, located right on the shores of the lake. The hotel offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains, as well as comfortable rooms and various amenities. This is a great option if you'd like to explore some of the longer hiking trails in the area as they begin at your door step.
If you aren't interested in staying at the lake (which can be pricey) consider booking a room in Dobbiaco or checking out these hotels in San Candido. Either town is just a 20 minute drive from the lake and you'll find more options at better prices.
During my trip to the Dolomites we found a room in Cortina d'Ampezzo which served as a great home base. It allowed us to stay centrally to Lago di Braies, Seceda and Tre Cime di Lavaredo which were three of our must see stops during the trip.
Is there a fee to access Lago di Braies?
There isn't a fee to specifically access the lake, however you will in all likelihood need to pay for parking at the nearby parking lot.
If you're visiting Lago di Braies during peak summer season it's recommended that you arrive early in the morning as the parking lots can fill up early. This will ensure you secure a space and don't have to wait for one to become available.
Consider a pit stop in nearby Austria
Whether you're staying at Hotel Lago di Braies, Cortina d'Ampezzo or somewhere else in the area, keep in mind that the Austrian border is just a stones throw away.
After our visit to Lago di Braies we decided to head over to Lienz, Austria for lunch instead of having it at the lake. It's the perfect place to stop for a cold pint of beer and some schnitzel! From the lake parking lot you're looking at a 60 minute drive over to Lienz.
If you've never been to Austria this is a fun way to incorporate a pit stop in a new country. You could also consider spending a night or two there on your way through to another town. The city is incredibly peaceful, outdoor oriented and has a beautiful pedestrian oriented town square.
Are there restaurants at Lago di Braies?
Visitors can find a charming café at the nearby Hotel Lago di Braies. This café offers a selection of refreshments, snacks, and light meals, perfect for enjoying a relaxing break amidst the stunning scenery.
You can enjoy the hotel café or restaurants for lunch even if you aren't staying at the property. However, a read of their website suggests they may not accommodate outsiders for dinner. I'd suggest checking with the hotel directly before trying to have dinner at the lake unless you're a guest.
Alternatively, the nearby towns and villages in the region offer a variety of dining options, from traditional Italian cuisine to Austrian fare, ensuring that visitors can find something to suit their tastes after a day of exploring the enchanting Lago di Braies. Consider heading to nearby Lienz, Austria or Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for a meal when you're finished at the lake.
How long does it take to see Lago di Braies?
The time it takes to see Lago di Braies varies depending on your preferences and planned activities. For a leisurely walk around the lake, it usually takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, allowing you time to fully appreciate the stunning views and picturesque surroundings.
If you plan to engage in other activities, such as canoeing, hiking, or photography, you may want to allocate at least half a day to fully experience the beauty and tranquility of this area.
There are also a number of day hikes that originate from Lago di Braies. I'd recommend using AllTrails to find one that suits your ability level and time commitment to the area. If you're going to try a lengthier day hike in the area I'd recommend reviewing my day hike packing list to ensure you have everything you need.
Are pets allowed at Lago di Braies?
Yes, pets are allowed at Lago di Braies, as long as they are kept on a leash and under the owner's control. This ensures the safety and enjoyment of all visitors, as well as the well-being of the surrounding wildlife. Just be sure to clean up after them along the way!
What is the best time of day to visit Lago di Braies?
The best time of day to visit Lago di Braies depends on your personal preferences and the type of experience you're seeking. Early morning visits offer a peaceful and serene atmosphere, with fewer crowds and a calm, reflective lake surface. This is also an ideal time for photographers, as the soft morning light creates a magical glow over the lake and mountains.
Alternatively, late afternoon and early evening can provide a romantic ambiance, with the setting sun casting warm hues across the landscape.
Just be sure to arrive early enough to ensure sufficient sunlight for any hiking or canoeing you want to do during your visit. If you visit during midday you do run the risk of having to deal with an overcrowded parking lot and a busier loop around the lake.
What is the best time of year to visit Lago di Braies?
The best time of year to visit Lago di Braies largely depends on your preferences and intended activities. The summer months of June to September offer warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it ideal for hiking, swimming, and picnicking.
Autumn, from October to November, offers crisp, cool weather and stunning fall foliage, making it a great time for photography and peaceful walks if you don't mind the chilly mornings and evenings.
Winter, from December to February, transforms the area into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered peaks and frozen lakes ideal for skiing and snowshoeing.
Finally, spring, from March to May, offers mild temperatures and fewer crowds, making it a great time for nature walks and enjoying the tranquility of the lake. Just be mindful that if you plan to do any hiking you may encounter snow along the trails at higher elevations.
Can you swim in Lago di Braies?
Yes, swimming in Lago di Braies is allowed, and the lake can offer a refreshing escape from the summer heat.
However, the water temperature rarely climbs over 15°C even during the summer months. How long do you think you can last in the icy water of Lago di Braies?
Can I visit Lago di Braies without staying at the hotel?
Yes, visitors can visit Lago di Braies without staying at the hotel. The lake is open to the public and visitors can purchase parking which includes access to the area for the day. There are several parking lots available at the lake, and visitors can park their cars and enjoy the surrounding mountains without having to stay at the hotel.
How long is the hike around Lago di Braies?
The hike around Lago di Braies is approximately 2.3 miles (3.7 km) long and takes around 1 to 2 hours to complete at a leisurely pace. This should give you plenty of time to stop for photos and to take in the incredible views.
The trail around the lake is mostly flat and well-maintained, making it accessible for visitors of all fitness levels. There are several benches along the trail, providing scenic views and places to rest. For those who want to further explore the area, there are also several more strenuous hiking trails that lead into the surrounding mountains, offering stunning views of the lake and the surrounding landscape.
You can explore the other hiking trails in this area by using AllTrails.
What language do they speak at Lago di Braies?
The Lago di Braies area is located in the South Tyrol region of Italy, which is a bilingual province where you will find locals who speak German and Italian. While Italian is widely spoken throughout Italy, German is the predominant language in this region. This explains why the lake is also referred to Pragser Wildsee which is the German alias.
As with many other parts of Europe, basic English is also spoken by many people who live and travel to this region.
Hopefully this post dedicated to Lago di Braies Pragser Wildsee in Northern Italy proves helpful when planning your trip!