Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) is the most famous, most visited, and most photographed mountain lake in the Italian Dolomites. Located in the Fanes-Senes-Braies natural park, Lago di Braies is also part of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and with perfect reflections in the clear glacial waters, Lake Braies is truly picture-perfect. Locals call it the Emerald of the Dolomites.
The lake is so picturesque and so easy to visit that it attracts big crowds of visitors, both – locals as well as people coming from the other side of the world. And indeed, no trip to South Tyrol in North Italy would be complete without at least a short visit to Lake Braies.
In this article, you can learn what there is to see and do at Lago di Braies and find all the practical information and tips for your visit. Getting there, parking, shuttle bus (in high season), facilities, accessibility, hiking around the lake, renting a rowing boat, or even swimming – all your questions answered in one place…
In addition, you can find our recommendations on where to stay and what to see nearby. Take a look!
Good to know: Several languages are spoken in this part of Italy and so many places have at least two very different names – one in German and one in Italian. So Lago di Braies (Italian) is the exact same place as Pragser Wildsee (in German) and is the same as Lake Braies or Lake Prags (in English). Also other places nearby have at least two different names.
Lago di Braies is the biggest natural lake in the Italian Dolomites. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks of Seekofel massif and evergreen trees reflected in the green waters of the lake, this is one of the most picturesque mountain lakes in Europe.
Come here for the most beautiful mountain scenery, walk around the lake or take one of the longer hikes in the area, have a picnic with a view, or row a boat and admire the surroundings from the water. If you dare, you can also go swimming in the freezing cold glacial waters.
Good to know: Many people visit Lake Braies only because of the beautiful images they saw on Instagram, and hoping to take pictures like that themselves… However, it’s usually really, really busy at Lake Braies. So if you are here for the gram, you’ll have to either come in the lower season, arrive very early in the morning, or late in the evening.
Lago di Braies Facts
Here are some facts and numbers about Lago di Braies – Pragser Wildsee:
Altitude: 1,469 m (4,820 ft)
Surface: 31 hectares (76.6 acres)
Depth: Average 17 m (56 ft). Maximum 36 m (118 ft)
Walk around the lake: 3.5 km (2.2 miles) – 1.5 hours
When to Visit
You can visit Lake Braies in any season. The best time to visit Lago di Braies is in summer, from June to September. For fewer crowds, avoid summer weekends and the peak season from mid-July to mid-September.
For snowcapped mountains around Lake Braies, visit in May-June. The mountains will still have quite some snow which makes the scenery even more impressive.
Lago di Braies can also be visited in winter. However, the lake is usually completely frozen covered in ice and snow from November to April. And the hiking trail is closed. There is, however, a yearly Christmas market at the hotel and you can also see the lake from there.
How Much Time Do You Need
Lago di Braies is located right at the end of the road and close to the bus stop and car parking area. It’s just a very short walk from the car to the lake.
So if you are just passing by and don’t have much time, you can visit Lake Braies in just 30 – 45 minutes. Add half an hour if you want to rent a boat and another 1.5 hours for a hike around the lake.
Good to know: If you want to walk all around the lake and rent a boat, you should count at least 2.5-3 hours for a visit to Lago di Braies.
Or you can also do as locals do and spend an entire day at the lake. If you visit on a sunny day in summer, you’ll see people sunbathing, swimming, reading books, or having a picnic. Lago di Braies is also a very popular day trip destination for people vacationing in the area.
Location, Map & Getting There
Lake Braies is situated at the very end of Braies Valley (Valle di Braies), which is a side valley of the bigger and well-known Val Pusteria Valley. It’s about 200 km north of Venice (3 hours drive) and 100 km northeast of Bolzano (1h40 – 2 hours drive). The closest big airport is in Innsbruck, Austria, which is about 130 km and 2 hours drive.
See the exact location of Lake Braies on the map or simply take a look at the maps below.
Lake Braies is quite far from the highway, so no matter where you come from, prepare for a long ride to get there. The easiest way without mountain roads is if you are coming from the side of Bolzano or Innsbruck.
The last section of the road leading to the lake itself is about 8 km and – in summer – takes just 10 minutes. This road is in the valley and it’s a simple, relaxing drive. The lake’s elevation is just 1,469 m (4,820 ft) above sea level, so you don’t have to worry about any mountain roads here.
Good to know: If you come to Lago di Braies in the low season (mid-September to the 2nd weekend of July), you can normally simply drive to the lake. But if you visit here in summer, it’s not that straightforward. Read on for more information.
Visiting Lake Braies by Car
The easiest way to visit Pragser Wildsee is by car. Outside of the busiest summer months, you can drive all the way to the end of the road and leave your car at the big parking lot right at the hotel.
The official ‘high season’ starts from around mid-July and lasts until mid-September. If you are visiting during that time of the year, you may not be able to drive to the lake as they close the road between 10 AM and 3 PM. In that case, you’ll need to take a shuttle bus (more info below).
Also, keep in mind that parking can get quite busy at Lake Braies. So try to come before 9 AM or after 3-4 PM.
TIP: Since the rules with regards to driving and parking at Lago di Braies in high season change every year, it’s essential to check for the latest updates before your trip. So if you are planning to drive to Lake Braies by car between the second weekend of July and the second weekend of September, make sure to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
Our experience: Every time we visited Lago di Braies, we were able to drive all the way to the lake and could always find a spot quite easily. But we were always there at the beginning of July and we always went there in the afternoon. Because most people come here in the morning, it’s much quieter if you come later in the afternoon.
There is a big car parking at Lake Braies, at the very end of the road. There is also a smaller parking lot before that. If it’s not too busy, don’t stop at the first parking you come across, but drive all the way to the end. The parking lot next to the lake is so much more convenient.
Parking cost: During the day, it costs 6 EUR to park the car at Lake Braies for up to 3 hours. If you stay longer you pay an additional 0.5-0.8 EUR per hour. If you come after 5 PM, parking costs 4 EUR for 3 hours. After 8 PM – 2 EUR.
The last time we visited, the parking fee was indeed 6 EUR, plus a small hourly fee after that. However, just a few weeks later, they introduced an obligatory reservation and charged 10 EUR for parking, no matter the duration of the stay.
By bus or shuttle bus
In summer (mid-June to mid-September), you can visit Lago di Braies by public transport. Take a train to Niederdorf (Villabassa), and from there, there is a regular bus service to Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies).
The bus you need to take is bus 442 between Toblach/ Dobbiaco/ Villabassa and Pragser Wildsee/ Lago di Braies.
Good to know: From around mid-July to mid-September, local authorities usually close the last part of the road between the locality of Ferrara and Lake Braies. So if you come here during the day (10 AM to 3 PM), you’ll have to leave your car in Ferrara and take a shuttle bus from here. You can also hike to the lake in about 1-1.5 hours.
Once again – make sure to check the official website for the most recent updates if you are traveling here in summer!
It’s also possible to drive to Lago di Braies by bike. If you are an avid biker and are staying nearby, you can visit Lake Braies by bike. Please note, however, that it is not possible to bicycle all around the lake.
Lago di Braies tours
It’s also possible to visit Lago di Braies with a tour. Many tours going to the Dolomites include this lake in their itinerary, but you should check this to be sure. Here are some of the best tours that visit Lake Braies*:
* This information is correct at the moment of writing, so be sure to double-check the description for the exact itinerary.
Lake Braies Hotel, Restaurants & Facilities
Pragser Wildsee has been a popular mountain destination in the 19th century already. There is an old historic hotel – Grand Hotel Pragser Wildsee – at the northern shore of the lake that just celebrated its 120th anniversary. It was first opened in 1899 and has been owned by the same family ever since.
At the hotel, there is a nice restaurant overlooking the lake, and you can have lunch or dinner here. There are also some other (simpler) restaurants at Lago di Braies that are open in high season.
TIP: If you book a stay at the hotel or if you reserve a table at the hotel restaurant, you can normally drive all the way to the lake and park at the hotel, even in summer. Also if you stay at one of the other (cheaper) hotels along the road to Lake Braies, you’ll be able to drive this road (at least up to your hotel) at any time.
There is also a souvenir shop and (paid) bathroom facilities here – you can find it all close to the car parking and the hotel. At the south side of the lake, there are (simpler) bathrooms as well.
You can visit Lake Braies in a wheelchair or with a baby in a stroller. The area around the hotel is quite flat and there are wide walking paths. This way everyone can admire some of the nicest views of Lago di Braies.
You won’t be able to go all around the lake in a wheelchair, but you can explore the northern shore of the lake and a part of the western side.
Things to Do at Lago di Braies
Now that we covered all the practical information for visiting Lake Braies, here is what you can see and do at the lake:
1. Admire the views at the boathouse
Lake Braies is very picturesque and some of the nicest views can be found by the boathouse, just a short walk from the car parking. You can also take a walk along the lakeshore and admire the beautiful scenery here.
The further away you go from the hotel and the boathouse, the smaller the crowds. But it’s never really quiet here during the day in summer. Further below, you can find information about the hike around the entire lake.
2. Rent a boat
One of the nicest ways to enjoy the scenery of Pragser Wildsee and the surrounding mountains is by renting a boat on the lake. There are usually plenty of rowing boats available at the boathouse, and even on the busiest days, you normally don’t have to wait long for a free boat. In fact, every time we visited, there were no waiting times at all.
You can rent a boat for 30 minutes or for a longer time. We rented a boat for half an hour and that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the lake. You pay when you return the boat. So you don’t have to decide in advance how long you’ll use it and can see how it feels and how much time you think you need.
According to a local legend, the south end of the lake has a gate that leads you to the underworld. You can only reach that gate by boat, but we never found it. 😉 I guess this legend dates from the time when there was no hiking path around the lake and so the other side must have looked far and mysterious indeed. In the past, you could only get to the other side by boat.
Good to know: Lago di Braies boathouse is only open in high season, during the day. In July and August, it’s open from 9 AM to 7.30 PM, in May, September, and October – from 10 AM to 6 PM. It costs 18 EUR to rent a boat for 30 minutes or 28 EUR for an hour. Just a few years ago, we paid 15 EUR for half an hour. So the rates seem to go up every year. TIP: Bring cash for the boat.
Is it worth it? It’s not cheap to rent a boat at Lake Braies, but we found it totally worth it. It’s such a great way to enjoy this magnificent place!
3. See the chapel & the film set
At the northwestern side of the lake, after you pass Lago di Braies hotel, you’ll find a small chapel and a film set.
The chapel belongs to the hotel and was designed by Otto Schmid, the same architect who designed the hotel. It was opened in the beginning of the 20th century, a few years after the hotel.
A film set was built for the Italian TV series ‘Un passo dal cielo’ that was filmed here. It has largely contributed to the even higher popularity of Lake Braies than ever before.
4. Hike around Lago di Braies
One of the nicest things to do at Lake Braies is walking the circular loop all around the lake (Giro del Lago – Seeweg). It’s an easy hike of about 3.5 km and takes about 1.5 hours. If you don’t stop for the pictures all the time, you can also do it faster.
We did this hike twice. The first time we visited, we started at the boathouse and walked to the left (clockwise) and the second time – we started at the chapel and walked anti-clockwise. I can’t really say which way is nicer as the views are great in both directions. Just don’t forget to turn around once in a while!
You should note that the eastern side of the lake is steeper and there is some climbing and some stairs involved. Whereas the western side of the lake (where the chapel is) is relatively flat. So if you are looking for an easy stroll, go to the right and come back the same way. But if you are fit enough to do some easy uphill walking, definitely go all the way around the lake.
Good to know: Lago di Braies hike is really easy, so you can do it with young children as well. The first time we visited, our younger kids were 7 years old and this hike was not even a challenge for them. I think you could easily hike all around the lake with kids from about 3-4 years.
Shoes: You don’t absolutely need hiking shoes for Lago di Braies loop trail. However, there are some steeper sections and it’s all gravel, so it helps to wear shoes with good grip. Sneakers or hiking sandals will normally be ok, but I wouldn’t do this hike in flip-flops.
5. Go swimming (if you dare)
In the warmest summer months, you can also go swimming at Lago di Braies. However, the water temperature in this mountain lake is really cold. So most people just step into the water and are out a few seconds later.
The first time we went to Lake Braies, our kids absolutely wanted to go swimming. It was freezing cold and it took longer to change clothes than the time they spent in the water.
The funny thing is that it left such an impression that they remembered it quite vividly when we returned back to the Dolomites a few years later. The second time, none of the kids asked to go swimming anymore. 🙂
Good to know: The best places for swimming are at the several ‘beach’ areas on the west side of the lake. It’s not really a beach, rather a flat area with stones.
TIP: Make sure to pack a towel! Water shoes would be very helpful if you are planning to spend more time here.
6. Have a picnic or dine at one of the restaurants
There are several picnic tables at Lake Braies and so if you bring a picnic, you could make your day even more special by picnicking by the shores of the lake. The mountain backdrop is amazing!
There is just one problem, however – you never know if you’ll find a free picnic table. And apart from that, there aren’t many spots where you could just sit down undisturbed. The south side of the lake is less busy and has a more open coastline, but it’s mostly stones there, so not very comfy to sit down for a longer time.
In addition, you’ll also find several restaurants at and near Hotel Lago di Braies. We had an early dinner at one of the outdoor restaurants here and – while clearly met to cater to big groups of tourists – the food was really good.
Good to know: Even though some sources say that food is pricey at Lago di Braies, we actually found it very affordable for such a popular location. I’m sure that hotel restaurant prices are much higher, but there are cheaper alternatives too. We had Wiener schnitzel at the restaurant located between the parking and the boathouse and – if I recall it well – it was about 8 EUR. It’s not a fancy meal but everything was really good and also fast – perfect for a family with hungry kids…
7. Go hiking in the area
In addition to the most popular hike around the lake itself, Lago di Braies is also a starting point for various other hiking trails in the area. The Dolomite High Route #1 (Alta Via 1) starts here as well.
One of the nicest hikes to do here is that to Seekoffel mountain hut (Biella – Seekofelhütte) high in the mountains at the southern end of Lake Braies. It takes about 3.5 hours to get there from Lago di Braies hotel.
If you hike for another hour, you can go to Seekofel – Croda del Becco, which is a viewpoint overlooking Lago di Braies from above. This hike takes about 4.5 hours from Lago di Braies one way.
Keep in mind that both these hikes are quite strenuous as you will be climbing all the time. So only do this if you are staying in the area, can start early, and have an entire day for it.
Where to stay near Lago di Braies
Since you don’t need more than a few hours here, you don’t absolutely have to stay near the lake. You can easily visit Lake Braies from other popular places in the Dolomites, or even from Bolzano, Lake Garda, or Venice.
However, if you want to experience this magical place without the day tourists, it might be nice to stay nearby. That way, you can come to the lake very early in the morning or at sunset as well.
The best place to stay for visiting Lago di Braies is, of course, the hotel at the lake itself – the historic Hotel Lago di Braies. If it’s fully booked or above your budget, there are several other hotels just a short distance from the lake. See our suggestions below!
Here are some of the best accommodations near Lake Braies:
- Hotel Trenker. This is a very nice 4* hotel in the typical Soth-Tyrollean style. Located just 1.9 km from Lago di Braies, you could walk or bike to the lake from here.
- Gstattlhof. This accommodation offers self-catering apartments for various group sizes. Great customer reviews and excellent location just 1km/ 15 minutes walking distance from the lake.
- Steinwandterhof. This is a highly-rated farm stay, also just 1.8 km from the lake.
You can see the entire selection of the accommodations on Booking.com.
TIP: Using the map below, you can compare hotels, apartments, B&Bs, and short-term rental accommodations in the area close to Lago di Braies. Keep in mind that some accommodations are only available in summer, so you’ll have to insert your travel dates and group size to see all the best deals for your stay. Check it out!
Camping at Pragser Wildsee
There is no camping at Lago di Braies itself. If you are looking for camping nearby, check out Camping Olympia. It’s about 15 km/ 15 minutes drive from Lago di Braies. Not only it’s the closest camping ground to Lago di Braies, but it’s also the nicest camping in the area.
Lago di Braies with Kids
If you are thinking of visiting Pragser Wildsee – Lago di Braies with kids and are not sure what to expect, I’d say go for it! It’s a wonderful place to visit in the Dolomites with children!
Lake Braies is easy to get to by car, there are good facilities, and this is one of the best easily accessible sceneries in the Dolomites mountains! Furthermore, there are flat pathways at the north shore and also on the western side of the lake, so you can easily visit Lake Braies with very young children as well.
With somewhat older kids, rent a rowing boat or go hiking all around the lake. Our kids especially like the south side of the lake (the far end), because you can easily get close to the water and there are many stones to play with. The last time we visited, the boys also found hundreds of frogfish in the shallow waters and we could have spent hours there…
Finally, get some ice cream at the hotel at the end of your visit and your day will be a big hit with your kids. Lake Braies is really a great destination for the whole family!
Places to Visit Nearby
In addition to Lago di Braies, there are so many other beautiful places to visit in the Italian Dolomites.
One of the nicest places just nearby is Lake Dobbiaco (Toblacher See). While not as popular as Lago di Braies, it’s also very easy to visit and is extremely picturesque as well.
Another must-see place in this part of the Dolomites are the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) peaks, the symbol of the Dolomites. If you can, go for a longer hike here. It’s a day trip in itself, however. You can read all about it in our complete guide to visiting and hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
For a shorter visit (and if driving in the direction of Cortina or Venice), stop by at Lake Misurina. It’s just next to the road, doesn’t require much time to visit, and is well worth it!
If you want to visit yet another stunning mountain lake in the Dolomites, check out the Lago di Sorapis. It’s probably even more beautiful than Lago di Braies, but requires a 2-hour hike to get there (and is totally worth it!). You can read all about this hike here: Lago di Sorapis hike.
Also the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo and the mountain passes around it are well worth a visit. Cinque Torri and Lake Lmides are both very easy hikes and the scenery is phenomenal! Just as Val Gardena or Val Di Funes…
I could go on and on with this list as there are just so many really nice places to visit nearby. If you have more time in the area, check our guide to the best hikes in the Dolomites. You can easily spend a few weeks here and still not see even half of just the most beautiful places, not even to mention all the rest…
Lago di Braies Tips & FAQ
The best time to visit Lake Braies is in the summer, from June to September. For smaller crowds and better pictures, arrive early in the morning. Avoid summer weekends as it gets really crowded at Lago di Braies.
The best time for photography at Lago di Braies is early in the morning. That’s when the reflections are at their best and there are no crowds at the lake. For snowy landscapes and fewer crowds, come in late spring – early summer.
Yes, you can visit Lago di Braies in winter. The lake is accessible the whole year. However, the lake will be frozen and covered with snow, and the hike around the lake is also closed at least from November to April.
There is no entrance fee to visit Lake Braies. However, you’ll have to pay for the car parking (about 6-10 EUR, depending on the duration of the stay) or for the shuttle bus (about 3-5 EUR per person).
While you can see the lake and enjoy some really nice scenery in just 30-45 minutes, we recommend planning at least 3 hours for your visit to Lago di Braies. This will allow you to walk all around the lake, go for a boat ride on the lake, and have a more relaxing visit. If you are also planning on having lunch or dinner here, count 4-5 hours.
Yes, swimming is allowed in Lago di Braies. However, the water temperature remains very cold. Even on the warmest summer days, most people just dip their toes or jump in and out as it’s too cold to actually swim in Lake Braies.
Lake Braies is a private property of the hotel and drones are not allowed. There are signs at the entrance clearly saying that drones are prohibited anywhere around the lake.
More tips and travel inspiration for visiting the Dolomites & Northern Italy:
- Where to Stay in Val Gardena
- Trentino Summer Vacation
- Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites
- Lago Federa Hike (Dolomites)
- Val di Fumo Hike (Trentino)
- Lake Garda
- Best of Milan
- Bellagio, Lake Como
- One Day in Venice
Travel inspiration for other parts of Italy:
- Where to go: Best Places to See in Italy
- Cities: Best Cities in Italy
- Rome: Tips for Visiting Rome & Hidden Gems or Rome
- Tuscany: Best Towns in Tuscany & Tuscany Itinerary
- Cinque Terre: Cinque Terre Travel Guide & How to See Cinque Terre in One Day
- Amalfi Coast: Capri Island & Amalfi Coast Itinerary
- Italian Riviera: Best Ligurian Towns & Porto Venere
LEARN MORE: Italy Travel – complete guide and overview of all our articles
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