For our way back up to Germany from Slovenia this December we were less limited with time compared to the past years. So we decided to use this opportunity and make a short road trip out of it. A skiing / camping road trip through the Italian Dolomites and onwards to Austrian Tirol & German Romantic Road that is. Due to bad weather forecast we ended up staying just 4 days in Italy, but I think we made an absolute best out of it. In this post you can read what we saw and did in the Dolomites, where we skied & camped and more.
Places: Sexten (Sesto), Drei Zinnen (Tre Cime), Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies) lake, Kronplatz (Plan de Corones), Bruneck (Brunico), Brixen (Bressanaone)
How: with our LR Defender
Stayed in: winter camping
We started this trip in KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia, from where we drove via TARVISIO, CAVAZZO, SAPPADA and made our first base in SEXTEN. Here, we skied in the beautiful TRE CIME AREA and also stopped at the famous lake LAGO DI BRAIES. Later on we also skied at KRONPLATZ, shortly visited BRUNECK and spent some time in BRIXEN. Then our journey took us to Austria. Mind that this is a very BILINGUAL AREA, so all the places have ITALIAN as well as AUSTRIAN names, lots of local people were speaking German.
It was still pre-season so we were not worried about not finding a place to sleep and we decided not to pre-book anything in advance. We are used to this freedom especially when travelling with our Defender. In the worst case, we can always sleep on a parking lot anyway. It turned out that both of the CAMPGROUNDS we stayed at had lots of free spaces (we saw other on the way, free as well). We travelled in the second week of December. If you are heading there in high season or/and on a weekend definitely book in advance. We stayed 2 nights in the amazing CARAVAN PARK SEXTEN (more about it later on) and one night in BRIXEN, at the LÖWENHOF CAMPING.
SEXTEN (SESTO) | great skiing place in Parco Naturale Tre Cime
It has been many years since I last skied in the Dolomites (in CANAZEI) and I wasn´t sure what to expect. Our original plan was to stay at some of the places around SELLA RONDA (which surely is the best & most known skiing place around here as well), but due to heavy snow and my still not completely healed knee injury we decided to skip it this time. Instead, we spent some time here in SEXTEN and we really loved it!
Being used to skiing in FRANCE, this was of course a much smaller ski area (around 70km of pistes were opened), but for the start of the season and just for a couple of days it was perfect. There were absolutely no cues and no crowds at the slopes, sometimes we had the place all to ourselves. For 45€ DAILY SKI TICKET, this was a great sunny (but very cold, like -12C) day.
There are more STARTING POINTS, all connected in this ski area. We were closest to TRE CIME SKILIFT so this is where we started. Free parking by the way, at least at the time of our visit and a bus stop at the skiing place too. Other places we then ended up skiing down to (and can be used as starting points as well) are MOOS, BAGNI DI SAN GIUSEPPE, WALDHEIM and VIERSCHACH.
No need to wait for a free table this time haha, this really felt like we had our own private ski place from time to time. There are quite some nice huts up here and we were really surprised how friendly the staff was and how good they all spoke English. Not really used to that in Italy, no offence.
CARAVAN PARK SEXTEN | great camp site, hotel and spa with a swimming pool
Okay so we both have never really done WINTER CAMPING and we were totally new in what a winter campsite can offer. And my oh my this one was a jackpot. I think we are now spoilt for ever if we compare all the future ones we visit with this one. Firstly, this is not only a camping, there is also a HOTEL, LODGES, TREE HOUSES, APARTMENTS and CHALETS. We just got the cheapest pitch which was 35€ A NIGHT for 2 persons and a car. Electricity (although we didn´t need it) and hot showers included.
There were a lot of firsts on this trip – first time sleeping in a car at -12C, first time cooking outside in the snow and so on. There is a lot more to write about this WINTER CAMPING topic, so I am preparing a separate post (coming up soon), but I can already point out a few pluses and minueses.
To point out the POSITIVE SIDES – it is really a special thing to do and feels much more of an adventure compared to summer camping. The views on the mountains in the morning were just awesome. Also, there is something romantic about sitting by the open fire in the middle of snow. And we were absolutely not cold while sleeping in the car (we had really good sleeping bags).
Now, the NEGATIVE SIDES – everything freezes! And by that I really mean everything. Want to cook? Good luck, olive oil is frozen. Want to use the towel in the morning? It is frozen too, because it was wet the evening before. Bikini, frozen. Seriously, we could have played frisbee with our swimmers haha. We (okay maybe me more) were also afraid the car might not start at this low temperatures, but it did, all good. The car windows was frozen from the inside and it took us a lot of time to de-freeze everything in the morning. It was also more challenging to change clothes inside the car and the worst thing was probbaly the fear of having to go out for a pee in the night. Didn´t happen luckily :).
One of the best things about staying here was their WELLNESS. This was really just perfect AFTER SKIING and to warm up before going to bed. Even more so, if you are sleeping in the car. It costs 6€ for 1,5 hrs and includes several POOLS (with little stones instead of tiles on the bottom, so cool), HOT TUBS (also outside), amazing RELAXING CHAIRS, rocks and even a FIRE PLACE. There is also a SAUNA (extra costs) and the possibility to book a PRIVATE SPA.
Overall this was a very nice place for a fair price. Besides the amazing WELLNESS AREA we loved the fact that the campsite is really in the nature, yet close enough to the ski place. You can either take the free bus or drive to the parking with your car, it is really close. The SANITARY FACILITIES were very very nice and there were a couple of RESTAURANTS/ bars on site. We also liked the fact there was a big SKI ROOM, where we stored all our skiing equipment during the night. Friendly receptionists on top of everything – highly recommend this place to anyone interested in winter camping.
PRAGSER WILDSEE (LAGO DI BRAIES) | one of the most known lakes in the Dolomites
As a part of DOLOMITES UNESCO World Heritage, this lake is one of the most visited ones and most famous ones around here. It definitely looks much different in the summer, when you can rent a wooden boat and row around, but it has its charms in winter as well. There is one marvellous HOTEL on spot, with long tradition and magnificent views if you wish to spend a night. Otherwise there are many PARK AREAS for daily visitors (parking fees apply). Of course there are CAFES and RESTAURANTS as well.
Naturally, the lake was completely frozen at this time of the year and it was funny to WALK ON ICE from one end to another. Do take care and always check how thick is the ice before walking on it. In the summer, you can make a ROUND WALK AROUND THE LAKE, it should take around 1hr. Somebody made an IGLOO on the lake and we even witnessed a wedding photo shooting, so over all it was a nice stop and we´ll be back for more in the summer.
KRONPLATZ (PLAN DE CORONES) | famous skiing slopes close to Bruneck
With over 2000m altitude, this is a wonderful (and the largest) SKIING PLACE CLOSE TO BRUNECK. Kronplatz is also a part of a huge skiing system called the DOLOMITI SUPERSKI. It is basically one large hill top from which several ski pistes are leading into the valleys under. You can reach the top from around 5 different villages, so everything is very well connected.
Here, the interesting point is the TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN, where you find lots and lots of RESTAURANTS, BARS, SKI SCHOOLS, SHOPS and even MUSEUMS. You can visit the famous MMM Corones (MESSNER MOUNTAIN MUSEUM, which is truly an amazing building on its own as well) and LUMEN (Museum of Mountain Photography). So even if you are not skiing at all, it might be interesting to come up here. The views are great on all sides and you will definitely not be bored up there.
BRUNECK (BRUNICO) | good base for discovering the area
We only stopped shortly in Bruneck and actually wanted to spend a night around here, but couldn´t find a nice camping spot. So we decided to drive further on to Brixen. Otherwise Bruneck seemed to be a good place to visit also in the summer time as there are quite some HIKING TRAILS around. There are also great museums, restaurants, a nice Christmas market now in December, shops and more.
BRIXEN (BRESSANONE) | lovely smaller town with a wonderful old town
So later on that afternoon / evening we reached our camping spot in Brixen – a town that really surprised us with its BEAUTIFUL OLD TOWN. We stayed at LÖWENHOF CAMPING attached to LÖWENHOF HOTEL, for only 19€ A NIGHT for 2 persons and a car. We also got free BUS TICKETS which we used for getting into the old town. The hotel itself also had a WELLNESS, RESTAURANTS and more, everything was pretty new and again, we really enjoyed our stay and can recommend it if someone is looking a place to stay here.
Wandering the streets up and down, we found the CHRISTMAS MARKET too. And what a nice one! Not too big, but still big enough to have everything one needs. Mulled wine, decorations, yummy food, light, artisan products to buy and so on. There were also many nice shops and restaurants in the city and what we really liked – no tourists.
Having spent this short time here, we really want to come back again and see some more of the Dolomites – in the winter as well as in the summer. It really is a wonderful area for skiing, hiking and other outdoors activities. Also, if you are a fan of camping, this is definitely one of the best areas you can camp in in Europe. We´ll be back!
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