It’s been a few years since I stumbled across a photo of a shimmering emerald green lake on Instagram with a rugged mountain backdrop in the background. The mountains were mirrored crystal clear in the smooth surface of the water, on which a lonely old wooden boat was floating. This photo completely flashed me and it didn’t take long until I found out where this magical place was: it was the Pragser Wildsee (in Italian Lago di Braies) in the middle of South Tyrol, more precisely in the Dolomites. What might have been an insider tip years ago has long since ceased to exist: along with the Three Peaks, the Braies Lake is the most popular spot in the entire Dolomite region .
Has it lost some of its magic as a result? Yes, perhaps. It took me three tries to really take him into my heart.
Lake Braies: Instagram hype in the heart of the Dolomites
The Pragser Wildsee is located in the middle of the Dolomites at the end of the Pragser Valley at an altitude of almost 1500m. It was created by a mudslide, from which a dam was formed. The lake is approx. 1200m long and measures approx. 400m at its widest point, the deepest point is approx. 36m.
The 2810m high Seekofel on the opposite bank of the lake is responsible for the striking mountain backdrop that has made the lake so famous. It is hard to believe that another 1300 meters of altitude separate you from the lakeshore to the mountain peak that is enthroned in front of you. Viewed from the Seekofel, the Braies Lake probably looks like a greenish-blue shimmering pearl with bustling ants on it. Maybe that’s why it is also called the ‘Pearl of the Dolomites’.
My 1st visit: So this is the famous Lago di Braies?
A few more years passed from the time I discovered the photo of Lake Braies on Instagram until I felt the bottom of the lake under my feet for the first time. The Dolomites were too far off the beaten track for me, too little time … you probably know the Struggle. But in summer 2018 the time had finally come and I was able to include a visit to Lago di Braies on the way back from Venice. It was late afternoon when I got there and what followed was … disillusionment. The parking lot was super full, on the lakeshore crowds of people and prams clogged the paths, no crystal-clear reflecting water and the boats on the lake looked as if they were in a war battle. Idyll? Nothing.
The attempt to take at least a few nice photos of or on the jetty of the boathouse was stopped very quickly. It is forbidden to stay in the boathouse if you do not want to rent a boat. Drone flying is also prohibited. I withdraw to the edge of the lake to escape the hustle and bustle and let my disappointment sink in. It’s nice, no question about it, but I didn’t expect any of that. You can see the photos of my first visit here.
My 2nd visit: Lake Braies in winter
Since I’m not someone who gives up quickly or who doesn’t miss second chances, I drive back to Lake Braies only a few months later in winter. I’m curious how the lake looks in the snowy mountain scenery. Since it has not been very cold in the past few weeks, to be honest, I am not assuming the scenario that then presents itself to me: the lake is completely frozen over and completely covered with snow. What somehow still has its charm in reality (after all, you can walk far out onto the lake), unfortunately, does not work at all in photos. And again – disappointment.
All good things come in threes: It’s a wrap!
Well then, I’m not giving up. In the summer of 2019 I will return to South Tyrol and, with full intent, to Lago di Braies again. And this time I’m better prepared. It is 5:30 in the morning when we park our car (in the parking lot that is not empty to our horror) and walk to the lakeshore with our camera and drone in our luggage. With us there are only two handfuls of other people at the lake and we all have the same goal: beautiful photos. Correspondingly, we treat each other with respect, nobody gets in each other’s way.
For the first time, Lake Braies lies in front of me, as I had imagined it to be over the years: infinitely calm, the water shimmers in all nuances from deep dark blue to emerald green and the brown wooden boats are lined up along the boathouse like a pearl necklace. The mountain scenery of the Seekofel is reflected in the smooth water surface and there is no breeze blowing that could destroy this photo idyll.
Now he has me, the Pragser Wildsee. At last.
Getting the photo opportunities that I have in my head is no easy task in the end. But more on that below, there I will give you detailed instructions on which obstacles you have to reckon with and what you have to pay attention to.
Tips for Lake Braies – parking & renting a boat
But first of all, very quick and dirty, a few tips and information worth knowing for your visit to Lake Braies. Here we go.
Directions & parking at Lake Braies
Lago die Braies is located in the Braies Valley, a side valley of the Puster Valley and part of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park. If you simply enter ‘Pragser Wildsee’ in your navigation system, it should lead you there very precisely.
Parking at Lake Braies is just as uncomplicated, there are a total of 3 large parking spaces for cars, buses, campers and motorcycles. The parking spaces are different distances from the lake, the front parking lot is the most expensive. From here it is only 2 minutes to the lake. Since I used the front parking lot (the hotel parking lot) on all of my visits, I can only tell you the fees.
In the main time from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., these are € 6 for the first three hours (as of 2019). Here you can see an overview:
This drastic measure shows how hopeless the lake is now. On peak days, over 10,000 visitors were counted every day (!), An almost unimaginable number. The traffic block clearly serves to protect the environment, because as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dolomites, a natural treasure such as Lake Braies must be protected.
If you reach the Braies Valley before 10 a.m., you can easily drive in by car, park by the lake and of course drive out again. You do n’t have to wait until after 3 p.m. to leave the Braies Valley .
A boat tour over the Lago di Braies – the boat rental
We all know the wonderful pictures of the people in the nostalgic wooden boats on the lake. It looks nice and yes, it’s really fun to paddle across the lake in a boat like this. But you better not take too long, because the prices for the boats are steep.
You pay 18 € for 30 minutes – 28 € for 60 minutes . When borrowing you pay 28 € – should you be back after 30 minutes, you will be reimbursed 10 €. I don’t know why this is done.
The boat rental is open from June to September from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Personally, I have never seen a queue for the boats. The fluctuation is high due to the high rental fee, ie boats come back every minute and are lent again. This means that you never have to wait more than a few minutes.
The best time to visit
The cynic in me says: at night. In the winter. When there is a blizzard. At minus 15 degrees. Then you are guaranteed to be alone. Ha!
Realistically, the following answer is probably the best: It depends on what you want to do. Taking photos? Then very early in the morning before the boat rental opens and before the first public bus arrives at 8:30 a.m. Do you want to go boating and take a few photos with your smartphone? Then the time is irrelevant.
In general, the following applies: if it is important to you to escape the crowds a little, then use the off-peak times. Before 9/10 a.m., after 5 p.m. And preferably not on the weekend. And of course, Lake Braies is much more crowded in summer than at other times of the year.