The Unique and Amazing Fanes Senes Braies Dolomite Natural Park


Fanes Senes Braies Natural Park is one of ten Dolomite parks in northern Italy. Yes the Dolomites aren’t in one location but ten. I didn’t know this fact until my first visit to the Dolomites in 2011 which was to Sciliar Catinaccio Natural Park near Castelrotto. It’s gorgeous! Now all of the parks are stunning but each has its own unique features and special attractions. So as I began planning a trip to a second Dolomite park, I wanted to find the right one for me. And Fanes Senes Braies Natural Park did not disappoint.
This park was created in 1980 and covers 25,000 hectares in the Badia, Pusteria, Marebbe and Landro valleys. The most famous spot in the entire park is Lake Braies, probably because it’s easily accessed and because it’s so damn beautiful. It’s located at the northern edge of the park and has a parking area (fee-based) and a lovely 4km walk around it that is suitable for most folks. Lake Braies is the largest lake in the Dolomite parks. I admit I’ve not been here as I accessed the park from the west. And I tend to gravitate to lesser-visited spots. But it’s definitely worth stopping by this stunner of a lake — just do so very early. Sunrise is a magnificent time.
I used this lovely village as a base for my trip. San Vigilio di Marebbe is located on the western side of Fanes Senes Braies with easy access to some fabulous trails. The town is small but has just enough of what you need — a Eurospar market; loads of hotels, guesthouses and apartments; a handful of restaurants and some outdoor shops for buying/renting gear. I highly recommend Hotel Olympia for your stay. San Vigilio also happens to be the home of the Fanes Senes Braies Visitor Center so you’ll be able to get some good information on the park and all it has to offer. The people of this charming village are wonderful — warm, helpful and fun. It’s actually one of my favorite Italian mountains towns.
There are loads of hikes in the park that can be accessed from different areas and towns. And many are longer and a bit more difficult. However there are also walks that often start in the towns that are far easier. I took one that ran along the stream in San Vigilio di Marebbe. It was easy and lovely. Then there are those trails that fall into the moderate category for those who have a good level of fitness and mountain hiking know-how. I took 2 such hikes that begin in Pederü and are ones I would highly recommend. Each of these hikes has its own unique beauty and I wouldn’t — and couldn’t — choose one over the other. I’m happy I was able to do both!