Driving through the Dolomites can be scary at times.
With plenty of hairpin turns, narrow roads and locals who sometimes drive like there is no tomorrow only confirming the stereotypes about the italian drivers, it takes some time to get used to.
But as long as you take your time and keep your eyes on the road you will be fine. Although the latter might prove itself difficult with the views you are about to encounter.
The mountain passes of the Italian Dolomites offer great access to many hikes and via ferratas which these ranges are famous for and I am about to share a bucket load of information with you.
So strap you seat belt and get ready for a beautiful ride through Dolomites' best mountain passes.
7 Mountain Passes In The Italian Dolomites You Should Drive Through
1. Passo Rolle
Nestled right beneath the dramatic spires of the Pale Di San Martino group, Passo Rolle is a must stop when driving between Val di Fassa and San Martino di Castrozza.
In the winter the area around Passo Rolle turns into a world class ski resort and the summer transforms it into endless fields of colourful wildflowers.
A challenging day hike to Passo del Mulaz starts here. By walking only 30 minutes away from the road you will also find Baita G Segantini and its reflective ponds - one of the iconic photography spots in the Dolomites.
There are a few hotels directly at Passo Rolle should you want to be close to all the action.
2. Passo Gardena
Passo Gardena is my personal favourite mountain pass in the Dolomites. Why is that you may wonder? For adventure junkies and photography lovers like myself, the Gardena pass is the perfect playground.
With the access to two great via ferratas: Gran Cir and Brigata Tridentina as well as the jaw dropping views over Sassolungo (Langkofel) and a big larch tree forest turning gold during autumn months, you will want to spend some time around here.
If you want to base yourself close to the Gardena Pass the nearest town is Corvara, only 15 minute drive away.
3. Passo Sella
Not too far from the previously mentioned Gardena Pass is another one - Passo Sella. It takes its name from the Sella mountain group which stands right in between those two passages.
Sella pass is where you should stop if you want to get a closer look of the peaks of Sassolungo and Sassopiato.
If that's not close enough, I highly recommend strapping a helmet and harness on and venturing into the heart of this group for an exhilarating via ferrata Oskar Schuster.
There is a seasonal hotel opened between June and September and during winter ski months directly on the pass, creatively called the Passo Sella resort.
The two nearby towns connected by the pass are Selva di Val Gardena and Canazei.
4. Passo Giau
Passo Giau is certainly most iconic pass on this list, mostly thanks to instagram. The pass lies more or less half way between Cortina D'Ampezzo and Selva di Cadore.
In the summer you can often meet hikers here, crossing the path along the famous Alta Via 1 - a 120 kilometre long backpacking trip running across the Dolomites.
The peak you can see in the photo above is called Ra Gusela and you can access its summit along a via ferrata. The view from the top is completely different to the one below and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to venture off the beaten path a bit.
Another icon visible from the pass is Marmolada - Dolomite's highest peak!
5. Passo Falzarego
I have spent many days around Passo Falzarego exploring the area. There is lots to do here as you are about it find out!
The pass is located 30 minute drive away from Cortina D'Ampezzo in the direction of Selva di Cadore or Corvara.
Just like the previously mentioned Passo Giau, the Falzarego mountain pass lies on the Alta Via 1. It's also home to rifugio Lagazuoi - one of the most photogenic mountain huts in the Dolomites, which proudly stands a few hundred meters above it.
You can spend the day here hiking through the Lagazuoi tunnels and learn about the gruel history of this place dating back to the First World War.
Only a short hike away from the pass lies Lago Limides, another iconic photo spot in the Dolomites, where you can see the reflections of Tofana di Rozes - a mountain peak pictured above.
As you can see, you could plan your holiday just around the Falzarego pass and you wouldn't get bored.
6. Passo Tre Croci
The Tre Croci Pass connects Cortina D'Ampezzo with Misurina and the Tre Cime National Park. It also stands on the divide between two mountain groups: Sorapiss and Cristallo.
The latter with its highest peak - Monte Cristallo is pictured above. You can access its summit through an exciting via ferrata Marino Bianchi - one of my personal favorites.
Passo Tre Croci is also where the trail to Lago di Sorapiss sets off. This is one of the day hikes in the Italian Dolomites, you shouldn't miss.
7. Passo Delle Erbe
Passo delle Erbe is probably the least frequented mountain pass in the Dolomites, a true off the beaten track experience. You can access it from the town of Santa Magdalena in Val di Funes.
After driving through endless and narrow hairpins you get to a parking lot at the foot of Sass de Putia. The mountain you can see in the photo above.
Just on the other side of it runs the Alta Via 2, one of the 6 long distance treks running from North to South of the Dolomites.
Sass de Putia can be summited in a few hours via a challenging but rewarding day hike. I haven't done it yet, but it's in my plans!
This list is by no means exhausted. A few honourable mentions, which I haven't driven through yet are Passo Compologno, Pordoi or Pellegrino.
As always if you have any questions for me or would like to add something feel free to comment below!
If you need more help planning your trip check out my full Italian Dolomites Guide for more inspiration.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.