Traveling to the Dolomites? Don’t miss out on the fairy tale lake of the Dolomites: Lago di Carezza or the Karersee, how it is actually called in this German speaking region of Italy: South Tyrol. This is a must-do in the Dolomites, the rainbow lake that you have seen many times on Instagram with the iconic and majestic backdrop of the mighty peaks of the Latemar Mountain Range.
Here is a complete guide to visit Lago di Carezza with: how to get there, best time to visit, hiking trails, the legend, storm Vaia, the facilities, parking space, where to stay and much more.
Related: 10 Things to do in Alta Badia, South Tyrol.
In July 2020 I was ticking off some of the best places to visit in the Dolomites and obviously stopped at the Karersee. Only to realise this was actually my second time visiting after winter 2019 when I came here for snowboarding in the Dolomites.
1. Facts about Lago di Carezza or Karersee
The lake is located in South Tyrol, a German speaking region of Italy. Therefore the lake has an Italian name: Lago di Carezza and a German name as most locals call it: Karersee. They are both the exact same. You will see sign posts on your way in both languages.
The lake is located at 1,520 meter (4,985 ft.) above sea level and is about 300 meters (984 ft.) long and 140 meter (460 ft.) wide. The water level varies throughout the season and is at its lowest going towards winter as the lake is fed with spring water from the Latemar Mountain Range.
The Karersee is a Protected Natural Landmark. Max depth ever recorded was 22 meters (72 ft.) but mostly is about 17 meters (56 ft.). Apparently in winter you can scuba dive in Lake Carezza, but I am not sure how to organize this.
2. Best time to visit the Carezza Lake
I can tell you in winter it was nothing like it is in summer. The lake is frozen with a bunch of snow on it. The backdrop of the mighty Latemar Mountain Range are still epic, but definitely come here when the snow and ice is gone.
Towards April the ice is melted and the water level starts to rise with the coming of the Spring season. Days are shorter, temperatures are lower, but tourists are rare at that time of the year. Therefore the spring months of April and May are the best time to visit Lago di Carezza.
Peak months in summer are July and August, expect big crowds on these days. September and October are also low-season and not that busy.
But regardless what time of the year you visit Lake Carezza, either go early or late. Sunrise is absolutely epic, so is sunset. Therefore I advice you to stay in a hotel near Lago di Carezza. In the early morning you will have the lake all to yourself!
Also try to go on a sunny day. The colors of the lake are mesmerising and the sunlight hitting the water pierces through to the bottom. On a cloudy day you won’t have any of that and it will look a little disappointing may be.
3. How to get to Lake Carezza
The best way to get to the lake is by car. If you have your own car you simply use Google Maps or any kind of navigation to get you there. Lago di Carezza is located directly next to the scenic mountain road SS241.
By car to Karersee
The drive from Bolzano is about 35 minutes via the SS241 in west direction. It is a scenic ride through tunnels winding mountain roads and pituresque villages. Be careful there are a bunch of speed traps along this road. Some are max 50 km/h, some are 40 km/h.
Are you staying in Val di Fassa then take the SS241 in East direction and follow this road for only 20 minutes until you reach the lake.
From Trentino to Lago di Carezza is 85 kilometers and take a little more than 1 hour. Cortina d’Ampezzo is also 85 kilometers away but the roads through the mountains take you 2 hours.
Parking at Lago Carezza
No need to worry about getting rid of your car as there is a big parking area next to the lake. Prices for parking are very reasonable. The first 15 minutes are free, then it is like €1 per hour, but 6 hours cost for example only €4.
If you are looking to park your camper van next to Lake Carezza you pay €30 per day, Im not sure if there are electricity plugs, but I guess not.
If you drive into the parking area you need to grab a ticket from the machine to open the gate. Next to the restaurant there is a ticket machine where you will need to insert your parking ticket and pay the due amount upon leaving. The machine accepts all major credit cards.
By bus to Lake Carezza
There is a bus stop right in front of the lake and as there is only one road (SS241) from Bolzano to Vall di Fassa it is pretty straight forward getting to Lago di Carezza by bus. Bus 180 goes every 20 minutes from the Bolzano bus station to Lago di Carezza and costs €4,50 for a single ride. Duration about 50 -70 minutes. See below.
From Val di Fassa there is a bus (also nr. 180) every 2 hours plus some extra timings. The ride takes only 20 minutes and costs €1,50.
Click here for more info about the bus time schedules and prices in South Tyrol.
4. Swimming is prohibited
I bet on a hot summer day the first thing you think about when you visit Lago di Carezza is that you want to jump in this crystal clear water. But well I guess I just ruined that dream for you.
The Karersee is protected natural landmark and fenced all around. To keep the lake as natural as it is, it is prohibited to climb the fence and get close to the water. There are signs all around saying that swimming in Lago di Carezza is prohibited.
5. STOP getting that epic Instagram shot
There is a big rock sticking out in front of the lake with the magical Latemar Dolomite peaks in the backdrop. Yes it is the ultimate photo for Instagram. No worries there is no long line to get that photo, because IT IS NOT ALLOWED!
Basically trying to get that ultimate shot you are violating the rules! Be aware that there is security all around. People who do climb the fence will be fined!
Yes you can come super early before everyone else arrives, but is it really worth breaking the rules and giving the bad example?
6. Hikes around Lago Carezza
The most popular activities around Lake Carezza are hiking and e-mountainbiking. There are numerous hiking trails around Lago Carezza, but the most popular one is of course the loop around the lake.
The circular route around gives you scenic views over the lake from all angles. It is an easy 20 minute walk that is predominantly flat. Lago Carezza is completely fenced off and there is a path along, you can’t get lost!
There are several hikes to the nearby villages like for example a 2 hour trail (downhill) that leads to Obereggen. The hike from Obereggen to Lake Carezza takes you through the forest and is about 3,5 - 4 hours. There is a mountain hut close to the trail called Stadlalm, which serves food & drinks. The Stadlalm is closed on Thursdays.
At the end of the parking lot there is a trail leading over a hanging bridge, it is a short walk from the visitor center.
See the picture below for some other recommendations for hiking around Lago di Carezza.
7. Lago di Mezzo - Mittersee
When hiking around Laka Carezza in the summer months there is actually a second lake a little uphill. From the Karersee to Mittersee or Lago di Mezzo is only about 20 minutes walk. There is only water in the lake until mid summer as the places tends to dry up in the months after.
8. Storm Vaia
Unfortunately at the end of 2018 a massive storm hit the Dolomites. Storm Vaia reached wind speeds of up to 200 km/h and left a devastating trail. It uprooted more than 20 million trees and destroyed more than 5,000 hectares of forest.
In winter 2019 I saw the devastation with my own eyes, simply unbelievable what Storm Vaia caused to this area. Nowadays the fallen trees are taken away and it open spots in the forests around the Karersee are easily spotted. It will take up to 150 years for these areas to grow back like before.
9. Viewing Platform
There is a viewing platform with amazing views over the lake. At the viewing platform there are information signs where wyou can also read about Storm Vaia and more background information about the lake.
10. Visitor Center Lake Carezza
When you reach the lake you will find a visitor center opposite of the road. Here there are free of charge toilets, information about hikihg around Lago di Carezza, maps, parking lot, a souvenir shop, a restaurant and a bar.
The restaurants serve pretty simple food, but surprisingly good actually. The antipasti plate with ham & cheese was a good snack. Its setting is less spectacular and there is no view over the lake or the mountains. Just for a quick bite I would recommend sitting here. Prices are very reasonable like in most places in South Tyrol.
11. The Legend of Lago di Carezza
The story goes that once a beautiful nymph, named Ondina, called Lake Carezza her home. Her beauty and her enchanting singing caught the attention of a Wizard named Masare. He fell in love with the mermaid but she hid in the lake when he came to visit her.
The wizard was adviced by a witch called Langwerda who told him to create a rainbow from the Rosengarten to the lake that would surely draw the nymph out. If he would then dress up like a seller of precious stones and jewels he could catch the nymph.
As soon as the nymph came out of the water the admire the rainbow the wizard ran to the lake but forgot to disguise as the jewel salesman. The nymph emerged quickly into the lake and never to be seen. The wizard got so angry that he threw the rainbow into Lake Carezza and that is why it is now called the Rainbow Lake of the Dolomites with all its beautiful emerald colors.
You can read all about the legend of Lago di Carezza from the signs on the viewing platform.
Cool fact about Lago di Carezza - There is actually a bronze statue of Nymph Ondina hidden underwater. When the waters are low in winter the statue emerges above the water. Scuba diving is also been done in this crystal clear water to find the statue of nymph Odina.
12. Drones are not allowed
As I found no sign saying drones are not allowed I asked one of the security guys around. He was resolute in his answer: drones are not allowed and will be confiscated if they catch you. As much as I would have loved flying, I didn’t wanna break the rules.
13. Day trips to Karersee
If you are residing in the Bolzano area then you might wanna hop on one of the day tours to Carezza Lake. In case you just want to visit the lake then I suggest you to either rent a car or take the bus to Lago di Carezza as described in how to get to the Karersee.
Most of the day tours from Bolzano stop at Lago Carezza for a little bit and then continue onwards to other tourist destinations in the Dolomites like: Tre Chime, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lago di Braies, Alpe di Suisi, Lagazuoi, etc.
14. Where to stay around Lago di Carezza
If you are road tripping in the Dolomites then add Carezza to your itinerary. I already gave you the best tip for visiting Carezza Lake and that is to go at sunrise. Therefore the best thing to do is get a hotel nearby in villages around: Nova Levante - Welschnofen, Segheria - Latemar or Carezza - Karersee.
These are 3 hotels all within 5 minutes drive from the Karersee or actually even walking distance.
My nr. 1 recommendation is Residence Chris Appart. It is the cheapest in the area, has the best reviews and is the closest to the Lake. You can even walk to the lake in the morning if you want, as it is only 1.2km, around 15 minutes. Price: €120 per night. Rating: 9.2/10.
A more luxury place to stay near Carezza Lake is Sporthotel Alpenrose with an amazing indoor and outdoor pool. It costs around €200 per night per room, including breakfast. Rating: 9.3/10. It is located 25 minutes walk downhill from Karersee, less than 2 kilometers.
Hotel Adler is also located only 20 minutes walk uphill from the lake and has great ratings: 8.5/10 and costs around €170 per night with breakfast.
15. Other lakes in North Italy worth visiting
Other amazing lakes in this area are: Lago Di Braies (2 hours), Lago di Tovel in Trentino (1 hour 10 min), Lago di Molveno (1 hour 40 min), Lago di Misurina (2 hours 20 minutes).
Lago Di Braies is probably the most well known lake in the Dolomites and an absolute stunner, but expect huge crowds in summer. It is also called the Pragser Wildsee and very touristy, a real Instagram hotspot.
Lago di Molveno is a lesser known lake, but absolutely stunning and totally worth going if you are traveling from Lago di Carezza in the direction of Trentino. Don’t skip this one!
In case you are traveling towards Cortina d’Ampezzo from Lago di Carezza then make sure you visit Lago di Molveno.
I hope all these tips for visiting Lago di Carezza were helpful. Let me know if you have any more questions. Send me a message on my Instagram account @traveltomtom or leave me acomment below.