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Bavaria & Dolomites

Old Apr 16th, 2014, 11:56 AM
  #1  
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Bavaria & Dolomites

Hi all - looking for some good advice for a trip we are planning mid to late May of 2015. We have 9 nights. The plan is to fly into Munich and grab a train to Salzburg. Spend 3 nights in that area (including visiting Berchtesgaden), rent a car and drive into the Dolomites for 3 nights. Thinking of the Val Gardena area as a base, but am open to recommendations. From Italy, we'd drive to Innsbruck, drop the car, & train to Mittenwald for 2 nights. Spend the last afternoon/evening in Munich before flying back to the US the next morning.

Picking up and dropping off the car in Munich probably makes more sense, but we find driving in countries where we don't the language to be somewhat stressful. Plus we enjoy the trains. Having a car seems fairly necessary for the Dolomites, however. Suggestions are welcome, and we are open to changes, keeping in mind that the main goal of this trip is Alpine Austria & Italy. Thank you!
Nylle is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2014, 12:17 PM
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Personally I think the Alta Badia area of the Dolomiti is nicer in some ways than the val Gardena, mainly because the towns remain closer to their traditional roots and are less about tourism. The val Gardena is what gets talked about a lot because, since the Dolomiti are in Italy, a lot of tourists visiting the Dolomiti are doing it as part of an Italy tour, and the val Gardena is their "gateway" to the Dolomiti.

But if you are coming from Austria, then being in the Alta Badia makes a lot of sense, especially if you are also going back to Austria.

Some of it depends on what you want to do and see. If you are going to the Dolomiti to get out of your car and do some walking and enjoying being immersed in the natural beauty (which would be my recommendation), then I think staying in the Alta Badia is primo.

If you are road tripping, then you need to figure out a nice loop (but I would certainly include parts of the Alta Badia in that).

The travel plan I would personally find the least satisfying for the Dolomiti would be picking a "base" and then driving back and forth every day to overlooks or cable car pickups.

The roads in the Dolomiti are marvelous, and it does indeed help to have a car. But at some point I think you want to give yourself time to get away from the cars and get away from the tourist infrastructure and just walk through the scenery. It is some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Italy -- which is saying a lot!

As for language, my experience of Munich was that English is very common, so if your travel logistics would be improved by picking up a car in Munich, then don't rule it out because you don't speak German.
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 12:25 PM
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I only realized after posting that your travel dates are May. That is far from an optimal time for the Dolomiti. Many, many places will be closed and the weather might not be clear. It is essential to have clear skies to appreciate the Dolomiti, because of their height. There is really no point in going if the weather is not optimal, and in May you still run the risk of genuinely rotten weather in that part of the world that makes driving miserable.

If you are traveling with an internet connection you can watch the weather and book last minute. But my recommendation is to work up a Plan A and a Plan B for travel in May in your target areas. If the weather isn't going make a trip to the Dolomiti worthwhile, there is plenty else to enjoy in that part of the world where the sun is shining or indoor attractions are plentiful.
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 01:26 PM
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I love your trip--some of my favorite destinations in Europe.
As for Dolomite weather, the average high is 74 and the low is 49 in May---not bad at all. And, less than a third of the days have any rain---I like those odds. We loved the Hotel Grones in Ortisei. Have fun !
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 02:24 PM
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Temperatures are of no importance in the Dolomiti. What matters is visibility. You can look to see how many hotels are closed in May. That in itself is an indication of it being low season (meaning, not optimal for touring).

I wouldn't book hotels based on "odds". I would book on the basis of a reliable forecast. You will be able to see one while you are in Germany, and you will be able to book last minute based on real time information.

In case it isn't already plain, I think the Dolomiti are an incredible destination and very much worth seeing. I urge you to go if you see forecasts indicating the visibility is good. But you don't need to book them in advance in May (far from it) and even if you are the kind of traveler who MUST BOOK AND PLAN, then book something you can cancel.

Most people who post on Fodor's have never been outside the most touristed areas and those most easily reached from Austria. I also urge you to ask your questions on TripAdvisor, where you are likely to get more fine-grained information.
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 02:27 PM
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I meant to type °Most people who post on Fodor's have never been outside the most touristed areas and those most easily reached from Italy." (I was actually rather angry somebody on the internet would urge you to go to the Dolomiti based on historic temperatures. It would be a total waste of time and money to trek to the Dolomiti when it was 74 degrees and overcast. You can do better than that)
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 03:46 PM
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Alta Badia was also a location I was looking at, so thanks for that input. We could push the trip into June and hope for better weather but we prefer avoiding the July & August crowds. We do intend to day hike - is that a problem at that time of year?

And Bob, I appreciate the encouragement!
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Old Apr 16th, 2014, 06:12 PM
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She bit !
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Old Apr 18th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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"Having a car seems fairly necessary for the Dolomites"
Why? Public transport is excellent in this area.

Weather is always unpredictable in the Alps. In the Dolomites, July and August, sometimes September and October too, are usually more or less dry. That doesn't mean that May-June is necessarily rainy, every year is different.
Only on e thing is certain: there are much more cold and rainy days in Bavaria and Austria than in the Dolomites.

Be aware that a scenic car ride from Salzburg to Val Badia or Val Gherdeina (with some stops at outstanding places around Zell am See, Felbertauern road, East Tyrol, Pustertal) will take a whole day.
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Old Apr 18th, 2014, 02:25 PM
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Hi,

I wouldn't worry about the weather in late May. Weather is always a crapshoot. In 2009, the weather forecast, up until the day we left, for our trip to Austria and the Dolomites was for rain nearly every day where we would be based. Rained a bit the day of arrival in Munich, that was it!

We've been to Austria, Bavaria 11 times, 8 since 2001, and included the Dolomites 4 times since 2001.

We also prefer to stay in the Alta Badia, due to the more "quintessential" Dolomite scenery. We stayed twice at the Ciasa Montanara in La Villa/Stern in Alta Badia. Love it here!

www.montanara.it
www.worldisround.com/articles/355539/index.html
www.worldisround.com/articles/324504/index.html

The Lagazuoi cable car opens May 24, 2014 and isn't too far from La Villa/Stern or the Alta Badia in general. This is the earliest to open in this area.

Problem is most cable cars aren't open till mid June and the Alta Badia is a bit further than the Val Gardena, if that matters. It will most likely be a bit quieter here than the Val Gardena. That said, driving the passes, which are spectacular, make up for the lack of cable cars running. You'll find some places to pull over/park and walk among the Dolomite peaks. There's a cafe/rest stop at the "top" of the Gardena, Sella, Pordoi and Giau passes. The Gardena Pass, which separates/connects the Val Gardena and the Alta Badia is our favorite drive in the area.

To reach the Val Gardena (or Alta Badia), take the highways from Salzburg/Berchtesgaden to Innsbruck and then the Brenner Pass (actually a multi-lane highway) and the A22 to the Val Gardena. Salzburg to Innsbruck is roughly 2 hours, Innsbruck to the Val gardena about 1:30. Add maybe an hour to go through the Val Gardena, over the Gardena Pass and into the Alta Badia.

If interested, we also stayed in St. Christina, Val Gardena at the Garni Ariston. Nice place, good location. The Mont Seuc/Seiser Alm cable car which goes from Ortisei (Val Gardena) up to the beautiful Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi, opens mid May, the earliest in the area. This is an excellent area for walks with a gorgeous Dolomite backdrop.

www.garniariston.com
www.alpedisiusi-seiseralm.com/index.html
www.worldisround.com/articles/351565/index.html

Again, if interested, this is our own "Best of the Dolomites" drive:

It can be started/ended from any point really, but I'll use Val Gardena:

Head to Selva and over the amazing Gardena Pass to Colfosco and Corvara (Alta Badia). Here, take the Campolongo Pass to Arabba. From Arraba take the Pordoi Pass towards Canazei. Before you get to Canazei, take the Sella Pass (or stop in Canazei and go back a bit to continue). Take the Sella Pass and at the end, get right on the Gardena Pass (they branch off one another) towards Selva and the Val Gardena. There's a cafe/restaurant/rest stop at the "top" of the Gardena, Sella and Pordoi Passes. You'll also notice a few small places to park along the passes to get out and walk among the Dolomite peaks.

For some info and photo's of the passes, check out:

www.alpineroads.com/dolomites.php

Some are listed under the German and or Italian name:
Gardena Pass - Grödnerjoch
Sella Pass - Sellajoch
Pordoi Pass - Passo di Pordoi
Campolongo Pass - Passo di Campolongo

Rainy day options could include the old towns of Bozen/Bolzano (and the excellent exhibit on the "Ice Man" at the Museum of Archaeology) or Brixen/Bressanone (and another good museum, the Diocean Museum).

www.bolzano-bozen.it/en/
www.brixen.org

Hope this helps.

Paul
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Old Apr 18th, 2014, 02:33 PM
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Just want to add:
The area where English will be least spoken is the Italian Dolomites. You'll always find someone that speaks some English in restaurants and such, but we find English is less common here than in Austria and Bavaria. The way the road signs are in Europe makes things easier than here, they don't say East, West, North or South, but all road signs list the names of the towns/villages the road is heading towards. Makes a lot of sense.

Just another note, we love staying in the Berchtesgaden area (30 min. from Salzburg by car) for our visits that include Salzburg. These are our two favorites:

www.mayringelehen.de
www.friedwiese.de/enska/isl.htm

We have more photo's (3 pages of them) of each at:
www.worldisround.com/home/pja1/index.html

Oh, we also LOVE Mittenwald! Stayed here in 5/05 and 10/06.

Paul
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Old Apr 23rd, 2014, 07:10 AM
  #12  
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Paul, wonderful info - thanks SO much!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2014, 02:38 PM
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You're welcome. All the area's your looking to see a gorgeous!

Paul
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