Lago di Dobbiaco is a shimmering spectacle in the Dolomites that will leave a lasting imprint on you. Discover how to hike around this mirror of the Gods and let the whispers of nature compose a soul-felt melody you will not forget.
Lago di Dobbiaco — also known as Toblacher See and Lake Dobbiaco — is more than a pretty mountain lake. It is a doorway to alpine glories so fantastical one can’t help but feel they are entering a realm not of this earth.
Walking its shoreline in silence is a journey of discovery, where your thoughts become bound by the spell of nature at its most grand and minute. A lone swan feather floating on the lake can arouse as much awe as the mountains reflecting their might in its depths.
Unlike Lago di Braies, its renowned neighbor to the north, Lago di Dobbiaco can often be experienced in solitude. This makes it an even more special destination in South Tyrol. In fact, one that is vital in a world gone mad with senseless noise and hurry. Sound enticing? Dive in to learn the best way to get a dose of this natural treasure.
About Lago di Dobbiaco
Held in the palm of mountains, Lago di Dobbiaco beams emerald-blue at more than 4,000 ft (1,259 m) in the picturesque Val di Landro (Höhlensteintal), a side valley of Val Pusteria (Pustertal) and the “Gateway to the Dolomites” in eastern South Tyrol. The lake itself is a glacial relic, formed during the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago. As the massive glaciers retreated, their slow and powerful movements savaged the landscape carving out the basin that would eventually fill with the pristine waters of Lago di Dobbiaco.
However, according to local legend, glaciers had nothing to do with the creation of Lago di Dobbiaco. Instead, the lake arose from the tears of a sleeping giant named Nasswand, which is the mountain most prominent on its western end. Nasswand lies petrified at the gates of Val di Landro, guarding the village of his true love, for whom he still cries.
Indeed the tears of a sleeping giant may fill Lago di Dobbaico, but so does the Rienza River, also known as the Rio di Pusteria. The Rienza River originates 14 miles (23 km) away at the foot of Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Sexten Dolomites. It snakes northward through Val di Landro into Lago di Dobbiaco and then weaves into Val Pusteria flowing through Brunico before eventually converging with the Isarco (Eisack) River near Brixen.
Lago di Dobbiaco covers 35 acres — roughly half the size of Lago di Braies — and has a maximum depth of 11 ft (3.5 m). Beyond its mirroring beauty, what makes the lake a true treasure is the precious wetland that fans out from where the Rienza River and various mountain streams flow into Lago di Dobbiaco. This lush estuary is one of few remaining in South Tyrol and is a migratory resting and breeding habitat for a diverse array of waterfowl including several rare aquatic birds.
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Where is Lago di Dobbiaco
Like Lago di Braies, Lago di Dobbiaco belongs to the Fanes-Sense-Braies Nature Park, a vast preserve boasting some of South Tyrol’s most beautiful mountainscapes. The lake lies 2+ miles (3.8 km) south of the mountain town Dobbiaco (Toblach) in a densely forested corridor shouldered by the imposing Cime Nove (Neunerkofel) on the left and Monte Serla (Sarlkofel) on the right.
Dobbiaco is a treasure trove of architecture and history. Its official standing as a community can be traced back more than 1,000 years, yet its origins likely delve far deeper. Val Pusteria’s roots date to the Late Bronze Age. The valley was once under the rule of the Celts who were ultimately conquered by the Ancient Roman Empire in 15 B.C.
In addition to hiking Lago di Dobbiaco, Dobbiaco itself is well worth exploring. The arresting Baroque interior of Dobbiaco’s parish church, St. John the Baptist, stands out as a gem in Val Pusteria. Constructed under the skilled hands of master builder Rudolf Schraffl in 1769, his undeniable vision and expertise are evident in every detail. Remarkably, this awe-inspiring edifice was completed in a mere three years, a testament to Schraffl’s mastery.
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How to Hike Lago di Dobbiaco
Hiking Lago di Dobbiaco is a gentle excursion offering your legs a soothing reprieve from the challenging trails found throughout the Dolomites. A 1.5-mile (2.5 km) nature trail encircles the lake inviting moments of awe all around, especially for photographers and nature enthusiasts.
The plush, green pines climbing the pale faces of the Dolomites creates an alpine masterpiece no matter if gazing skyward or peering into the heart of the lake. Only the whisper of a breeze or the flutter of the feathered awakens a ripple over the mirror-still mountain scene.
Circling Lago di Dobbiaco can be accomplished within an hour’s time. Nevertheless, one could effortlessly while away a couple of hours, drinking in the captivating vistas and marveling at the wildlife you encounter on the stroll.
We recommend beginning the hike on the eastern shore and walking counter-clockwise along the lake’s edge. Especially, if you are hiking late in the day so you can watch the setting sun set the peaks alight. The nature trail is well-marked (Naturlehrpfad and Sentiero Natura) so you will not have any issue finding where to go once you arrive at Lago di Dobbiaco. You can also reach the lake by hiking from the heart of Dobbiaco, which adds another hour to the journey.
As you meander the trail, allow the sights and sounds to fully envelop you. Lago di Dobbiaco is a place where you can reconnect with nature in a profound way. The cheery melodies of birds in song paired with the tranquil lapping of the lake is tonic for the soul. Each step reveals a new treasure; be it a quiet moment of reflection by the water’s edge or the bewitching sight of sunlight bouncing off the surface like diamonds cast from the heavens.
When you arrive at the northern bank of Lago di Dobbiaco, near Restaurant Seeschupfe, you will encounter a mini-waterfall. Beyond making a great photo stop, it is also a fun place to watch mallards and other waterfowl navigate the water flow.
Along the loop, you will also come across a series of 11 informative stations eager to share the secrets of Lago di Dobbiaco with you. Each station reveals a distinct aspect of the area’s fascinating vegetation, wildlife, and ecology.
On the western shore towards the mouth of the Rienza River, there is also a wonderful viewing platform that sits above the wetland. This end of the lake looks like a meadow rolling over the surface. With luck, you may catch a glimpse of migratory birds passing through during their seasonal journeys.
Eventually, you will wander away from Lago di Dobbiaco and enter a marshy woodland where you can watch the Rienza River flowing beneath you. This entire stretch of the nature trail is atop a boardwalk so you do not have to fret soggy feet.
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How to Rent a Pedal Boat on Lago di Dobbiaco
After hiking the loop trail around Lago di Dobbiaco, consider getting up close and personal with the lake by renting a pedal boat. While certainly not as romantic as renting a boat on Lago di Braies, a pedal boat provides the opportunity to admire Lago di Dobbiaco and the surrounding mountain from an entirely different vantage point.
Pedal boats can be rented during the warmer months from a rental station next to the Seerestaurant, a shoreside eatery located on the western bank. Prices in 2022 were 10 EUR for a half hour and 15 EUR for an hour.
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The Best Time to Visit Lago di Dobbiaco
Autumn and spring are without a doubt the best time to visit Lago di Dobbiaco. In those seasons, the lake is at its most vibrant with wildlife and color. Bird lovers will find autumn and spring especially wonderful as you can witness rarer species such as herons visiting the lake.
Moreover, the fall months typically witness fewer crowds, as many tourists and families are bound to their school and work routines, leaving you with more space to appreciate the tranquil setting. By the way, if you are a nature enthusiast, be sure to pack binoculars for the walk around Lago di Dobbiaco. We wish we had a pair on our first visit.
To savor the serene beauty of Lago di Dobbiaco all to yourself, we suggest embarking on your hike either at the break of dawn or late in the day. We particularly like to visit the lake after hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It is a peaceful way to wind down after spending the day trekking amid the staggering summits of the Drei Zinnen Nature Park.
Another option to consider is pairing your visit with a hike on Prato Piazza — a gorgeous alpine meadowland gifting sweeping views of the Dolomites. It is located just north of the lake in Val di Braies.
Where to Eat on Lago di Dobbiaco
The easy hike around Lago di Dobbiaco is unlikely to work up an appetite unless watching ducks and swans dive for minnows inspires your hunger. Regardless, dining with a view of one of the prettiest lakes in the Dolomites is a fine way to unwind.
Two establishments sit shoreside: Seerestaurant (also known as Ristorante Lago di Dobbiaco) and Restaurant Seeschupfe (also known as Ristorante Il Fienile). Both offer a visual feast with their menus and are open for lunch and dinner during the primary tourist seasons.
Another dining option to consider is a shoreside picnic. Plenty of spots along the nature trail invite you to sit and nibble on a Tyrolean snack hiding in your backpack or lay out a sumptuous spread picked up from one of the many farmer’s markets in the nearby towns.
Additional Things to Do at Lago di Dobbiaco
Make a Splash – If you are visiting the Dolomites in the summer, you can go for a swim in Lago di Dobbiaco. Just be aware that the temperature at your hotel pool will be toasty compared to the lake. According to the Toblacher See campground, the water temperature of Dobbiaco never exceeds 60°F (16 °C).
Cast a Line – Fishing is allowed on Lago di Dobbiaco from dawn to dusk. You can pull river, marbled and rainbow trout from the lake, as well as European grayling, a fetching freshwater fish in the salmon family. Fishing Dobbiaco requires a valid license and a day permit, which can be purchased at the Dobbiaco tourist office located near the entrance to Val di Landro. Staff will also provide information on equipment rental in town.
Skate, Ski, Snowshoe, Run – If you are hitting the slopes in the Dolomites during the winter, come down to earth for a bit and visit Lago di Dobbiaco. The lake completely freezes over making it a popular winter sports destination for skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and even curling. During the Christmas season, Dobbiaco hosts the largest Krampus Run in South Tyrol. Close to 600 Krampus participants from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland descend upon the town square, creating an evening filled with ancestral fright.
Stroll the Cobblestoned Streets of Dobbiaco – As we noted above, Dobbiaco brims with antiquity and architecture. While visiting Lago di Dobbiaco, you should make plans to tour the town too. If you are a fan of classical music, consider timing your trip during the Gustav Mahler Music Weeks, which takes place during the last half of July each year. Gustav Mahler spent the final summers of his life in Dobbiaco. The soaring beauty all around him inspired his final compositions including his symphonic masterpiece “The Song of the Earth”.
Lago di Dobbiaco Map
The below map provides a bird’s eye view of Lago di Dobbiaco and the nature trail that encircles the lake. As we mentioned earlier, we prefer to walk counter-clockwise, but if you encounter a crowd making the journey around the lake just head in the opposite direction to enjoy a more peaceful walk.
Where to Stay on the Lake
Picture waking up to the morning sun softly kissing the emerald blue of Lago di Dobbiaco. If this appeals to you, then consider staying in one of two hotels located lakeside.
The historic Hotel Baur am See (also known as Hotel Baur Al Lago) is a charming gem located on the eastern shore. Opened in 1901, the hotel effortlessly combines traditional Alpine architecture with modern amenities, creating an elegant yet cozy atmosphere.
On the northwestern shore lies the Skyview Chalets. Ideal for couples seeking a romantic getaway, these adults-only mini-lodges offer a serene retreat. Each chalet boasts a direct vista of Lago di Dobbiaco, complemented by a sun deck and a whirlpool, providing the perfect setting for relaxation and connection.
If camping in the Dolomites sounds up your alley, then consider “roughing” it at Camping Toblacher See. This popular campground right above the lake offers a tent meadow and pitches for caravans, campervans, and motorhomes.
How to Get to Lago di Dobbiaco
As we mentioned earlier, you can easily walk to Lago di Dobbiaco from the center of Dobbiaco. Simply follow trail no. 29 signposts for the lake and you will be there in about an hour.
If you choose to drive to Lago di Dobbiaco, there are a couple of options for parking. A spacious car park is available on the eastern shore right off the SS51 road. It is 2 EUR to park for a couple of hours. Another Lago di Dobbiaco parking option is at the Seerestaurant. As long as you dine first, you can park for free.
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