The Three Peaks of Lavaredo, are also known as Drei Zinnen in German, and Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Italian. They are one of the most iconic views of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009 and a mandatory stop for anyone visiting the mountains of Veneto region.
The 3 Peaks rise on the border between the provinces of Belluno and Bolzano and can be reached from Cortina, in just under half an hour, with a car.
The Three Peaks of Lavaredo are considered by many to be the most beautiful mountains in the world and are visited by millions of people every year.
Considering the amount of people who go there, you should read the recommendations you'll find on this page, so as to make the excursion enjoyable even in the busiest moments. Before the practical advice, however, let's see some theory.
The Three peaks of Lavaredo are 3 rocky obelisks rising side by side. The Big Peak stands in the middle, its height is 9,839ft, almost 3 kilometers. The West Peak height is 9,754ft and the Small Peak height is 9,373ft above sea level.
... the characteristic white color makes these mountains unique in the world...
All 3 peaks are formed of Dolomia Principale, a carbonate sedimentary rock with a characteristic white color, that makes these mountains unique in the world.
The stratification, clearly visible on the walls, formed approximately 150 Million years ago. It was between the end of the Paleozoic and the end of the Mesozoic. If you'd like to know more about the geological history of the Dolomites, please read our in-depth article below:
One of the most distinctive features of Dolomia is the phenomenon known as enrosadira. As the sun sets, it illuminates the Dolomia and gives it beautiful shades between pink and purplish.
To enjoy this spectacle, you need to be there in the months from late May to early August. In our case we were trying to find as few tourists as possible, so we visited the 3 Peaks on a cold weekend in early October. The sun was never in a position to illuminate the peaks frontally, so we've not been able to see the sunset projecting its red light on the three peaks.
How to get to the Three Peaks
To reach the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, from the Italian side, there is only one road from Cortina. It takes you through the "Tre Croci" Pass, then through "Misurina" and the Antorno Lake.
From here you need to cross the tollbooth of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo Parking Area, paying a flat rate of about 30€ per day. You will then need to head to the parking lot, which is located at the top of the climb, near the Rifugio Auronzo.
... try to arrive very early in the morning...
Consider that it's good to arrive very early in the morning. The toll gate opens at 06AM and, during peak season, parking lots may be full even before 09AM.
To take the photos for this page we went up in early October, very low season, on a cold and not particularly sunny day. Sure that we would find few people, we left without any hurry, arriving around 11:00. We found almost a 20 minutes queue and we barely managed to park in the last available spots. Think what it could be in July or August...
There are two alternatives that will allow you to save the price of parking, at the cost of making some compromises.
The first alternative is to walk up the climb, not really for everyone, that starts at the parking lots near Lake Antorno. From there you can walk along path 101 until the Auronzo mountain lodge. The hike has an approximate duration of two hours with a positive elevation gain of about 450 meters, 1,500ft.
If you want an idea of the track, clicking here you can see the path that has been generated with komoot.it. Or, instead, you can click here to download the GPX of the hike.
The second option is to use the bus that, from the bus station of Cortina, reaches the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in about one hour. In this case it's possible to spend much less, but you have to be careful about return times. To get more information and purchase your ticket, we invite you to apply directly to the ticket office in the station of Cortina
From the carpark to the 3 Peaks
Once you have reached the parking lot of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo we suggest you follow the classic path, that goes along the trail 101, it will bring you from Rifugio Auronzo to Rifugio Lavaredo, and it will also allow you to see an amazing panorama of Auronzo di Cadore and its lake. Remember that this is a hike, so it is best to equip yourself with appropriate clothing, water and at least something sweet to eat. If you are unfamiliar with the mountains, we recommend you read our page with some recommendations on how to approach a hike safely:
Once you reach Rifugio Lavaredo, you will have to turn slightly left and climb up the scree, following the beaten road.
Alternatively there is a straighter, unmarked and steeper shortcut, that cuts through the curves of the trail.
Climb up to the saddle, that is also the border between Veneto and Alto Adige regions. From here you will see an enchanting view of the Sexten Dolomites while, on your left, the Three Peaks will begin to appear in all their glory.
At this point you'll have to make one more effort and head to the Rifugio Locatelli. There you can enjoy the most beautiful and characteristic view of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, where the three towers stand out in front of you, as in the promotional images. This is a great place to stop and have lunch, but we'll talk about this in the next chapter.
Once you have taken some photographs and regained some strength, you have to think about how to get back to the starting point. There are two ways, the first, the fastest one, is to walk back the same road, heading towards the Rifugio Lavaredo. The second, slightly longer and more demanding, is to follow the path 105. At first it descends quite steeply, then it climbs up towards the plateau of the "Grava Longa", up to the Malga Langalm, the last point where you can stop for a drink or eat something. From here you have to continue towards the parking lot, which is about half an hour away.
If you want a clearer idea of the hikes, you can take a look at the two paths we made using the website komoot.it. On the top left corner there are the walking times.
- About the path that goes and comes back through the same road, you can click here for an image, or you can click here for the GPX path.
- The second path, the one that makes a ring around the Three Peaks, can be seen here, as image, or you can click here for the GPX.
Remember that all trails are very well marked, it's almost impossible to get lost. If you have any doubt, simply follow the flow of people.
Eating at the Three Peaks
As you may know, on this website we always suggest stopping to eat in the mountain lodge of the area. It allows you to taste typical dishes and it's a well-deserved reward after the fatigue of the hike, but in this case there are a few things to consider.
Because of the large number of people who frequent the Three Peaks area, eating at one of its mountain lodges is likely to become more complicated than expected. There is nothing worse than arriving hungry and being told there is no room for you. The solution we recommend is leaving with a packed lunch. If you are lucky enough to find a seat, you will have a snack to eat while waiting for a table or in the afternoon. If the mountain lodge, on the contrary, is too full, you can sit somewhere and eat surrounded by nature, which is still a great experience. This way you will avoid any stress.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the area is covered by four mountain lodges, all of which are very beautiful and traditional, but let's give a brief summary:
- The one where we recommend you stop to take photos is the Rifugio Locatelli and is the largest of the four. Built in 1882, it is difficult to reach for provisions, so it is a real mountain refuge, not a fancy restaurant at high altitude, as you may have seen in other areas.
- On the way back, if you walk the same path, you will see the Rifugio Lavaredo, a medium-sized structure where you can see an alternative, but still wonderful, view of the Three Peaks. Here is the same as before, it's a real mountain refuge, the phone doesn't even have coverage, because no internet means no card.
- If you decide to come back from the alternative road you will see the Langalm hut, a small, extremely quaint location. It's a little less touristy than other refuges, here you can feel the real mountain feel.
- The fourth is the Rifugio Auronzo, which is the point of departure and arrival of the various routes. Again, it is a traditional alpine refuge, where to drink or eat something without too many pretensions in front of an unimaginable panorama.
In our case, unfortunately, we were forced to bring lunch from home, as all facilities had closed the previous weekend. If you decide to visit the Three Towers in October or later, you should make a phone call and check on the actual opening. If you opt for a packed lunch, always remember not to litter and always put garbage in your backpack. It's really important.
One final clarification: packed lunch is preferable also if you have a rather tight budget. Carrying drinks and food at high altitudes is challenging; this has an impact on prices.
Before we conclude, we would like to leave you with some interesting facts about the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, whose iconic image has been used in various media:
- Despite the fact that it appears to be reserved only for experienced mountaineers, the ascent of the Big Peak, along the normal route, does not present major technical difficulties. The UIAA, the difficulty scale, is about 4 out of 10, which makes it manageable, with the help of a guide, even by good, but non-professional, climbers.
- As evidenced by the clearly visible war trenches near the Locatelli Refuge, the Three Peaks and Mount Paterno were the scene of fighting during World War I. A huge beacon was even installed by the Italian engineers on the Big Peak, capable of illuminating enemy lines.
- The Three Peaks have been immortalized in several commercials, such as those for Novi chocolate, as well as appearing in Forst beer cans.
- The famous mountains appears in the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story and also in the videogame Far Cry Primal.
- The actual border that crosses the Three Peaks coincides with that between the Holy Roman Empire and the Serenissima republic of Venice, and has remained unchanged since 1752. Previously the peaks belonged, from time immemorial, to the municipality of Auronzo di Cadore.
- Despite seeing many photographs taken from a tent on social media, camping near the three peaks is prohibited by law.
- On the road from Cortina to Toblach there is an observation point, to see the Three Peaks from the state highway. You can find it exactly here, but don't expect great majesty, you can also see it in the two small photos beneath.
- If you decide to do the loop trail, near the parking lot, you will see a lot of stone cairns. Tourists, in fact, use the local stones to leave a sign of their passage.
Once your hike is over, if you still have some strength left, you can take the opportunity to also visit Lake Misurina, one of Italy's largest high-altitude lakes and a great spot to have a piece of cake before heading home. If you would like to get some more information about Lake Misurina, please read our article below:
We hope you liked this page on the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. Before saying goodbye, we would suggest you read all the articles we wrote about Cortina d'Ampezzo by clicking here.
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