Lake Braies (Lago di Braies) is situated in the stunning natural landscape of Puster Valley (val Pusteria) in South Tyrol (Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano – Alto Adige). Undoubtedly, it is regarded as the gem of the Dolomite Alps (Dolomiti) – one of Italy’s ten natural wonders.
The turquoise surface of the lake’s cold waters, reflecting the peaks of majestic mountains, presents a breathtaking spectacle that certainly should be admired and etched in memory.
Chances are, you’ve already seen captivating photos of Lake Braies on Instagram and wish to visit this place to take similar pictures.
Let’s figure out how realistic it is to plan a visit such that expectations align with reality.
How to get to Lake Braies
You can reach Lake Braies in two ways:
- By car. This method is the most convenient and fastest.
- By bus and train. This is a longer method.
Parking near Lake Braies
Arriving in the first half of the day, about 1,640 feet (500 meters) before Lake Braies, you’ll encounter a traffic jam. Don’t worry, patiently wait, and in about 15 minutes, you’ll be near the entrance to the parking area.
Parking is paid upon usage, and initially, the queue at the cashier worried us. Did we enter a “tourist hell”?
But, everything turned out fine. When we returned from our walk around the lake, there was virtually no queue.
From 6 AM to 5 PM, three hours of parking will cost 8 euros. You can pay by cash or credit card.
If you arrive in the evening or early at dawn, you can save a few euros.
A bus stop for route number 442 is located at Lake Braies. This bus runs once an hour from the town of Dobbiaco (Italian: Dobbiaco, German: Toblach). The travel time is about 30 minutes. A round-trip adult ticket costs 10 euros. For children from 6 to 14 years old – 6 euros.
You can reach Dobbiaco by regional train, for example, from Bolzano. The trip will take at least 2 hours.
Where did the name Braies come from and what does it mean
The Italian name Lago di Braies dates back to 1940 and refers to the nearest commune of Braies, which is also known as Prags. The earlier name Pragser Wildsee has German origins and translates literally as “Wild Lake of Prags”.
There are several legends surrounding Lago di Braies. One of them says that in the past, an ugly tribe of people who owned a large amount of gold lived in the valley. When farmers wandered into this place with their cattle, they were mesmerized by the shine of the precious metal and wanted to take it away from the savages. The local tribe flooded the valley, changing the direction of several underground springs. As a result, Lake Braies was formed, which blocked the way to the immense wealth, as it was deep at the bottom of the lake.
How Lake Braies became popular
Lake Braies became a tourist attraction thanks to the business-minded aristocrat Emma Hellenstainer. Pragser Wildsee belonged to her husband’s family, who gave it to his beloved wife in 1856. Emma promoted the beauty of the mountain lake in Europe and attracted visitors, for whom she invented and organized interesting tours. The accessibility of travel was also facilitated by the opening in 1877 of the Pustertal Valley railway (Ferrovia della Val Pusteria).
In 1899, the family hotel Pragser Wildsee was built on the shore of the lake, ready to accommodate the growing number of tourists. The attractiveness of the object was enhanced by the surrounding beauty and the opportunity to engage in mountaineering.
The popularity of Lago di Braies increased after the release of the Italian TV series Un Passo dal Cielo about the life of the Forest Corps commander, played by actor Mario Girotti (Terence Hill).
Hotels near Lake Braies
Today, the Hotel Lago di Braies is located on the shore of Lake Braies – this is the only option if you want to have convenient and exclusive access to the lake in the evening and early in the morning when there are no crowds of tourists.
The cost of a room is around 300 euros per day. I recommend booking the hotel for at least 2 nights. In the morning and evening, it is strategically wise to enjoy the views and stroll along the lake, and during the day, to go out and explore the sights of the Dolomite Alps.
The Alpine Lake Braies is located at an altitude of 1494 meters above sea level. The natural formation of the water basin is associated with a landslide that broke off from the top of Mount Sasso del Signore and blocked the Rio Braies river.
The lake has a surface area of about 33 hectares with a length of 1.2 km and a width of 300-400 meters. Around the perimeter of about 3.04 km, you can walk at a slow pace in 1.5 hours.
The maximum depth of the pond is 36 meters, and its average value is 17 meters. The water temperature does not rise even in summer above 15°, while in winter the lake freezes and turns into an ice rink.
Lago di Braies is surrounded by three mountains, the most majestic of which is Croda del Becco, reaching 2810 meters above sea level.
Nature around Lake Braies
Lake Braies is part of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park (Parco Naturale Fanes-Sennes-Braies), which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009.
In the green coniferous forests surrounding the mountain lake, various species of butterflies, ants, pygmy owl, black and gray woodpecker live. In the clean water, there are salmon, Arctic char, grayling, and whitefish (special permission is required for fishing).
Around the lake, a tourist trail is laid out. There are also hiking routes lasting from 3 to 4.5 hours. In my opinion, for the first acquaintance with the lake, it is quite enough to take a standard walk around. Sometimes there are small ascents and descents. A minimal level of physical fitness is required.