Lago di Carezza (Karersee) in the Dolomites boasts such rare beauty it borders on mystifying. Here’s your guide to conjuring a spirited adventure around its forest-shrouded shores.
Every mountain lake in the Dolomites is breathtakingly beautiful, but only one is hypnotic. Lago di Carezza’s rainbowed waters cast a spell no mortal can resist. Not even a stout-hearted soul like Winston Churchhill could deny the lake’s allure. Upon spotting Lago di Carezza while vacationing with his wife in the summer of 1949, he raced off to the shoreline and immediately began bringing the sight to life on canvas.
Whether Lago di Carezza will inspire you to pick up a brush, pen poetic prose, or simply get lost in its dazzle, we cannot say. But we can promise you this: Lago di Carezza’s iridescent charm will seize your imagination, stir your soul, and etch its place as one of your favorite sights in the Dolomites.
- About Lago di Carezza
- The Mystical Allure of Lago di Carezza
- What Really Lies Beneath the Lake
- A Symphony in the Forest
- How to Hike Around Lago di Carezza
- The Best Time to Visit Lago di Carezza
- Visiting Lago di Carezza in the Winter
- How to Get to Lago di Carezza
- Where to Stay
- Additional Tips for Visiting Lago di Carezza
About Lago di Carezza
In a land of towering giants, Lago di Carezza is a gentle wonder. It is the smallest of the most popular lakes in the Dolomites. Lago di Carezza spans a mere 9 acres — imagine two baseball fields stitched together. Given its modest footprint, we were rather surprised to discover just how deep the lake dives.
Gazing upon the pristine waters of Lago di Carezza, it’s easy to be fooled into believing the lake is a mere puddle in the grand scheme of things. But the clarity of the water conjures deception — casting an illusion of shallowness that hides its true depths.
Amazingly, Lago di Carezza plunges to an average depth of 56 feet (17 meters) — the equivalent of a five-story tall building standing beneath the tranquil facade. Fed by underground springs and the melting snow of the surrounding peaks, the lake is at the mercy of Mother Nature. As the seasons come and go, so too does its volume.
Hidden in the enchanting Eggental Valley (Val d’Ega) of South Tyrol, Lago di Carezza is surrounded by some of the most dramatic peaks of the Dolomites. The most notable mountain group lording over Carezza is the Latemar massif, particularly known for its striking horseshoe-shaped arrangement of summits. Only the peaks of Seceda or Cadini may be more bizarre. The labyrinthic limestone formations of its northern face create the iconic backdrop for the lake. Soaring to a height of 9,342 feet (2,842 m), the Diamantidi Tower is Latemar’s most prominent peak.
Lago di Carezza also lies near the Rosengarten (Catinaccio) massif — a mountain range in the Dolomites famous for “blushing” at sunset. The Rosengarten looms west of the lake, which reflects the massif’s mighty southern face in its waters.
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The Mystical Allure of Lago di Carezza
Lago di Carezza is an enigma. An ever-changing canvas painted by the mood of the mountains… and the mood of the observer. It can at one moment be ghostly still — beautifully mirroring the deep evergreen timbers and pale peaks above — and another moment a doorway to the other side of a looking glass, where the delicate line between reality and imagination quivers.
We found that the longer we peered into the lake the more it drew us into its mystery. Like a scene torn from a fairy tale, Lago di Carezza’s emerald waters radiate a kaleidoscope of hues akin to a rainbow. This ethereal sight could lead one to believe the bottom of the lake is bedazzled with jewels. However, the Ladin people of the region will tell you differently: such a mesmerizing spectacle, they suggest, must surely be the work of witchcraft.
According to the ancient folklore of the Dolomites, Lago di Carezza or “Lec de Ergobando” and “Lech de l’ercaboan” (Lake of Rainbows) as it is known in Ladin, obtained its stirring spectral beauty at the hands of a forlorn sorcerer. Legend has it, that long ago, a mermaid named Ondina called Lago di Carezza home.
She entranced all who laid eyes on her and heard her song. Adorned with a river of golden hair and blessed with a voice as seductive as the finest wine, Ondina aroused awe and desire in mortal men. One day her siren song fell on the ears of Masaré, a sorcerer who lived high up on the summit of Mount Latemar.
Enraptured, Masaré longed to make Ondina his own. After failing to lure Ondina from the waters of Lago di Carezza, the sorcerer sought help from a witch named Langwerda. She advised Masaré to disguise himself as a jewelry merchant and win Ondina’s heart with an unexpected gift: a rainbow.
Under the guidance of the witch, Masaré cast a glorious gem-studded rainbow across Lago di Carezza from Mount Latemar to Mount Catinaccio. But alas, the sorcerer’s love was not meant to be. In his haste, he had forgotten to veil himself in the guise of a jewelry merchant, revealing his true form to the mermaid.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the sorcerer, Ondina dove into the depths of Lago di Carezza, never to surface again. Heartbroken, Masaré hurled the rainbow into the lake shattering it into a million vibrant shards, each one sinking beneath the water’s surface, leaving a haunting tapestry of colors forever whispering of the love that could never be.
As one stands on the shores of Lago di Carezza, the essence of the legend seems to reverberate with every ripple. It is said if those pure of heart stare long enough into the waters, they can still catch glimpses of Ondina swimming in the fathoms of the lake. We had no such luck.
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What Really Lies Beneath the Lake
While there very well may be a mermaid darting around the shards of a rainbow in the deep of Lago di Carezza, the lake’s pristine environment, despite its relatively small size, is actually home to a surprising number of aquatic species.
According to signage we read on the lake’s viewing platform, the crystal clear water of Lago di Carezza allows sunlight to penetrate deep into the lake, promoting an abundance of aquatic plant life including water lilies, rushes, and sedges. This in turn provides a habitat for notable fish species such as the Arctic char. These alpine lovers are known for their ability to survive in cold, oxygen-rich waters and are found in many mountain lakes in the Alps.
Another fish species that can be found in Lago di Carezza is brown trout. They thrive in the deeper parts of the lake, where they feed on smaller fish and aquatic insects. Other common aquatic life in the lake includes snails, freshwater shrimp and airborne insects like dragonflies, which zip around the lake like lightning bolts in the summer months.
The vibrant interplay between this flourishing ecosystem and Lago di Carezza’s mineral-rich water, together with the dolomite and limestone comprising the surrounding mountains, results in the dazzling display of rainbowic colors rarely found in other lakes.
A Symphony in the Forest
Beyond the shores of Lago di Carezza is also a world unto its own. The forest tickling the face of Latemar is the Karerwald, a haven teeming with flora and fauna. Here, red deer, roe deer, and chamois roam the dense coniferous woods, while a riot of wildflowers rivaling Alpe di Siusi carpets the lake’s banks in the warmer months.
Even more fascinating, within this wild woodland is something, or rather someone, with a voice so melodic it’s sought after by luthiers from every corner of the planet — the renowned hazel spruce, or “singing wood” as it is known. This tree, with its nearly perfect concentric growth rings, produces such soulful resonance that the famous 17th-century Italian luthier, Antonio Stradivari, visited the spruce forests stretching from Carezza to the Paneveggio-Pale di San Martino Natural Park of Trentino to find the perfect tonal wood for his violins.
The best sound supposedly comes from “moon wood”, which is spruce harvested during a specific lunar phase when the Moon is at its greatest distance from Earth. During this period, the tree’s sap retreats to the roots leaving the wood lighter. This amplifies its resonance bestowing instrument makers a rare acoustic edge.
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How to Hike Around Lago di Carezza
Lago di Carezza is easily accessible by car or bus, with ample parking available at the lake’s visitor center just a stone’s throw from the northern shore. However, our favorite hikes in South Tyrol are those that pair natural beauty with local culture and history. So, our advice? Don’t rush your visit. Soak in the area a little more by initiating your visit to Lago di Carezza with a hike from Carezza village.
The 2.5-mile hike (4 km) we recommend begins at the parking area beneath the Paolina lift station. From the station, you will follow trail no. 6 to Lago di Carezza. The first stretch carries you through the sleepy village of Carezza where you will pass quaint farm homes, chalets and a small church before ducking into the Karerwald forest.
The forest path winds downslope to the hollow of Lago di Carezza, but before you reach the lake you get to trek across the Hängebrücke — a 190-foot (58 m) long suspension bridge, or Tibetan bridge, spanning the Rio di Nova gorge. The views from the bridge make this way to Carezza worth the hike alone. We lingered on the wavy bridge longer than many would find comfortable.
Shortly after the bridge, you will reach the Lago di Carezza visitor center, which tunnels beneath a roadway to reach the entrance to Lago di Carezza. At the lake, you can drink in the alpine splendor from a viewing platform before embarking on a scenic trail that loops around the lake’s edges, offering more panoramic vistas at various points. The walk around Lago di Carezza takes less than half an hour.
Along the trail, you’ll notice a wooden fence safeguarding the lake. You might be tempted to hop the fence for a better shot, but that is prohibited. Visitors are not allowed to approach the lake under any circumstances. Lago di Carezza’s delicate ecosystem is vulnerable to pollution and erosion. Therefore, it is important to protect this natural treasure and ensure it remains so for generations to come.
Another sight you will most certainly notice on the hike are patches of bare land. In 2018, a once-in-a-century wind storm named “Vaia” swept across parts of South Tyrol and Trentino razing more than 12,000 acres of precious forestland. On one terrifying evening, about 24 years’ worth of wood was “harvested” by Mother Nature. We first visited Lago di Carezza a few months after the storm and were shocked by the amount of destruction.
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The Best Time to Visit Lago di Carezza
Like all popular destinations in the Dolomites, Lago di Carezza is at its most serene in the early morning hours when the bulk of vacationers are still clinging to their pillows. By beating them out the door, you will be able to watch the lake come alive as the mist of dawn lifts beyond the summits.
Dusk is also another excellent, less-crowded time to visit. Watching the setting sun set fire to each pale peak of the Latemar massif is a sight to behold.
Lago di Carezza is open for visitors 24/7, all year long, making it a destination you can experience whenever the mood strikes. But if you want to catch Lago di Carezza at its absolute best, spilling over the shoreline like an overfilled Hugo Spritz, you should aim to visit in May, June, July, or August. Our first encounter with the lake was in May, and it was starkly different than our most recent visit in October.
Visiting Lago di Carezza in the fall is still quite the spectacle, with the autumn colors setting the mountainsides ablaze like a fiery Van Gogh painting. But to truly appreciate the magic of Lago di Carezza, you need to see it when the waters are ready to put on their full Broadway show.
Visiting Lago di Carezza in the Winter
In the winter, Lago di Carezza’s rainbow hues turn icy blue until powdery snow cloaks its frozen surface. Despite the lake’s wintry transformation, the enchantment of Lago di Carezza does not slumber… especially during the Christmas season.
One of South Tyrol’s prettiest Christmas markets is held at Lago di Carezza. “Christmas Magic at Carezza Lake”, as it is called, takes place on weekends from late November to late December. Unlike many other markets in the region, the lake’s elevated location assures a snow-kissed scene for your Christmas market experience.
Cozy wooden stalls shaped like lanterns hug a section of the lake trail — filling the crisp air with tantalizing scents of cinnamon, roasted chestnuts, and our personal favorite, mugs of Glühwein. Wood stoves also dot the Christmas market, offering both warmth and the comforting aroma and crackle of a roaring fire.
If possible, we recommend coinciding your visit with the market’s Krampus weekend. It’s an experience like no other. Our encounter with these mythical beasts left us wide-eyed with wonder.
How to Get to Lago di Carezza
Lago di Carezza is one of the easiest destinations to reach in the Dolomites. The lake is just 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Bolzano (Bozen) along the Great Dolomites Road. You can be standing shoreside in about 40 minutes by parking at the visitor center located on the northern shore as mentioned earlier. If you are coming from the spa resort town of Merano, add another 30 minutes to your drive time.
At the visitor center, there are restrooms plus a couple of boutique bistros ready to serve up some refreshments. And if you’re craving something more substantial, there are a number of restaurants and charming mountain huts scattered around the area where you can grab a bite. For inspiration on what to order, check out our list of must-try foods in South Tyrol.
If you are visiting Lago di Carezza from Trentino, the lake is about a 20-minute drive from Vigo di Fassa. From Cortina d’ Ampezzo, in the Veneto region, the drive is more than 2 hours so we suggest either staying near Lago di Carezza or planning your visit to the lake on a future trip to the Dolomites.
Carezza can also easily be reached via public transportation. Our South Tyrol Travel Planning Resources cover how to use public transportation in South Tyrol, as well as include maps so you can confidently plan your routes.
Where to Stay
Lago di Carezza does not offer any lakeside hotels. The nearest accommodations for visitors are located in the villages of Carezza (Karersee) and Nova Levante (Welschnofen). If you are staying in Val di Fassa in Trentino, the nearest village is Vigo di Fassa.
If you opt for nearby accommodations, you will find a wealth of hiking trails winding through the Latemar and Rosengarten Groups. We recently hiked the Hirzelweg, which runs right beneath the face of the Rosengarten. The views we encountered were mind-bending.
Additional Tips for Visiting Lago di Carezza
Arrive early to savor serenity: If you want to experience Lake Carezza at its most magical, plan to visit early in the morning before the crowds descend. Alternatively, if you arrive early evening you will also have more of the lake to yourself. And if you time it right, you get to witness the lake’s transformation under the soft hues of dawn and dusk.
Don’t bring your swimwear: No, we do not implore you to go skinny dipping. Given the lake’s arresting allure, it’s only natural to ask: Can you swim in Lago di Carezza? Swimming is forbidden in Lake Carezza. A fence encircles the lake to protect its natural state.
Come as you are: If you are visiting Lago di Carezza during the hiking season, you do not need to wear hiking shoes or boots to traverse the trail around the lake. You can circle Lake Carezza in regular shoes or even sandals if you wish. It’s one of the few destinations in the Dolomites where we do not recommend proper footwear.
Pack a picnic: Save yourself some money and enjoy a leisurely meal by the water’s edge. There are a number of benches surrounding Lago di Carezza where you can take a seat and tame your hunger. As always, be sure to leave no trace and keep this natural gem pristine for future generations to enjoy.