Where Is Lago di Tovel?
Lago di Tovel (also referred to as Lake Tovel in English) is one of the most charming alpine lakes of the Dolomites and it is located within the Adamello Brenta Natural Park in Trentino, Italy.
Lake Tovel got famous during the ’60s because of a strange natural phenomenon that was turning its waters red during the summer months. Although during the last four decades the lake stopped turning its colors, it remains one of the best attractions in Trentino and an unmissable sight to put right on top of your bucket list of things to do in Trentino.
Abundant alpine fauna, pristine nature, waterfalls, and a jaw-dropping mountain-backdrop reflecting in crystal waters are just a few of the factors that impact the charm of this lake and make it so unique.
In this article, I gathered all the information you will need for your visit including how to get to Lago di Tovel, what to do, what to do, where to stay and where to eat, tips, curiosities, and much more. The following is a full content summary.
Lago di Tovel – Complete Guide Summary
1. Quick Facts about Lago di Tovel
Lago di Tovel is an alpine lake situated in North Italy part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dolomites.
Nicknamed both the “red lake” for its curious history and the “bears’ lake” for the presence of brown bears within the surrounding natural park of Adamello Brenta, Lake Tovel is one of the most incredible attraction of Trentino which is still unknown to most travellers and which too often still flyes under the radar.
Here are some Quick Facts about Lago di Tovel:
|Lake Surface Area||0.38km2|
|Walking Time||approx. 1 hour 30 minutes|
|Water Temperature||0°C (freezing in Winter) - 19°C in Summer|
|Country - Region||Italy - Trentino|
|Entrance Fee||Free (but you may need to pay for Parking)|
2. What to Do at Lago di Tovel?
Filling your lungs with fresh mountain air and walking around the mesmerizing emerald waters of the Jewel of Adamello Brenta’s National Park is only the start of your visit.
In fact, around the lake there are spaces for any kind of outdoor activity: here are some ideas on what to do and see on a day at Lago di Tovel.
2.1 Take the Loop Hike around the Lake Tovel
Lago di Tovel is a shrine of immaculate nature, spectacular and exciting from all sides and in every season. Thus, the best activity you can do here and the one you definitely cannot miss, is to take the 3.2km stroll around its shores. Dense forests, intimate corners, tiny white rocky beaches and incredible mountain reflections will surprise you over and over.
The road is mostly flat and feasible for everyone, with the exception of a small part on the East side which presents a little climb with some steps. If you are visiting the lake with a stroller or a wheelchair, I would recommend you to take your walk around the lake counter-clockwise: you won’t find steps and you won’t be missing a thing.
2.2 Hunt and Admire the Hidden Wooden Sculptures
Scattered around Lago di Tovel there are some incredible wooden sculptures crafted by Brenta Wood Art, a local community that promotes art through wood and which creates truly astonishing masterpieces.
Some sculptures are easily noticeable from the road while others are more hidden and will require a careful eye to be spotted. Carved from old trees, these sculpture increase the spirituality of the place and further increase the sense of immersion with nature.
2.3 Swimming in Lago di Tovel (and sunbathe too!)
Swimming at Lake Tovel is allowed and there are several flat spots from which you can easily access the emerald water. Whether you choose the green lawns or the white rocky beaches to enter the lake, get ready: the water will be extremely cold, no matter in which season you’re visiting!
In fact, due to the elevation of the lake and its geographical position (surrounded by high mountains from all sides) the water temperature never rises above 19°C. Still, for the daring ones, a bath in Lago di Tovel will be a chilling yet unforgettable experience: it will an immersion in the clearest and most transparent lake water you’ve ever seen in your life, my word.
2.4 Have a Pic-Nic in front of Lago di Tovel
Scattered around Lake Tovel there are a couple of dozens of wooden pic-nic tables, each one quite far from the others and each one slightly hidden with its own natural panorama and intimate space.
My best suggestion for satisfying your stomach at Lake Tovel is to pack your own food (and why not, also a couple of beers 😉 at home and then pick your spot: cheap, authentic and memorable!
Remember to leave no trace and bring all your trash home with you to help to preserve the park.
Curiosity: in Tovel there is not a single trash-bin but instead you’ll see small cartels of a bear telling you “once upon a time here there was a bin” and asking you to kindly carry everything back with you.
2.5 Take Amazing Photos at Lago di Tovel
Lake Tovel is as photogenic as it gets: wild alpine forests, emerald water and a mountain-backdrop to steal your breath.
Thanks to the effort of the park to keep mass tourism under control and marketing to a bare minimum, the place still hasn’t been assaulted by hordes of photographers and Instagrammers and it is easy to take your photos in tranquillity and take your time to get creative.
The best photoshoots spots at Lake Tovel in my opinion are:
- from the entrance beach (300meters from the parking Lago)
- from the rocky beaches
- from where the loophike raises (East-Side of the Lake)
- from the Lake’s corner (walking 10minutes clockwise from the entrance)
- on the tiny jetty (photo above)
- from a rock emerging from the lake in front of the “lawn beach”
3. How to Get to Lago di Tovel?
Lago di Tovel is located on the South-West side of Val di Non, in Trentino (Italy). In the map below, you can find the location of Lake Tovel, the nearest airports (in yellow) and nearby attractions (in red). The lake during the high season (summer) is well connected by an efficient service of public shuttles, although the faster way to reach it remains with a private vehicle.
3.1 Nearest Airports to Lago di Tovel
Lago di Tovel is quite far from major airports, the closest being in Verona (Italy). From here, you can rent a car and reach the lake in slightly less than 2 hours. Other convenient airports are Inssbruck in Austria and Venice and Bergamo in Italy.
In general, the whole Trentino and Dolomites Regions are easier to visit with a private vehicle as you’ll get much more freedom to draw your itinerary and and get way less stressed trying to make timetables fit each other. Moreover, many places are remote and not reached by public transports.
If you plan to stay few days, I suggest you rent a car from your the airport (if you don’t have your own) and also explore the stunning alpine attractions nearby.
Here is a helpful table with the driving times and distances between Lake Tovel and the nearest airports.
|Verona||143km||1 hour 55 minutes|
|Innsbruck||194km||2 hours 35 minutes|
|Bergamo||228km||2 hours 50 minutes|
3.2 Reaching Lake Tovel by Car
Driving a car is the fastest and most practical way to reach Lake Tovel.
The road SP14 to the lake is in excellent condition and feasible for all kinds of vehicles, so you just need to open your Google Maps and follow the instructions.
The last 11km of the road from Tuenno (closest village) to Lago di Tovel are an exciting introduction to this beautiful natural park: the view of dense pine forests, mountain streams and a huge landslide will guide you to your destination.
Important to note is that depending on the season, traffic may be restricted and you won’t be able to park your car in the closest parking (Parcheggio LAGO) and instead you will need to stop on one of the other 4 parkings present on the road, the furthest being at 11km from the lake.
In the next paragraph I will tell you more about how to park your car conveniently and cheaply.
3.3 Parking near Lago di Tovel
On the road that leads to Lago di Tovel there are 5 different Parking area, which are free during low season (March, April, May, October and November) and require a ticket during high season (June, July, August, September and weekends of October).
The ticket prices for all Parking areas near Lake Tovel are:
- 10Euro/day for car
- 5Euro/day for Motorbike
- 20Euro/day for RV
- 20Euro/day for Minibus (10-19pp)
All Parking Areas cost the same amount but the distance from the lake differs greatly: the closest “Parking Lago” is just 300 meters from the lake (5 minutes walk) while the furthest away “Parking Capriolo” is at a whooping 5.2km (1 hour 45 minutes walk).
During low season, you’ll always find a spot in the nearest parking as visitors attendance is still pretty low (and it’s free!).
During high season the Parking works on a first-come first-serve basis, so I recommend you to arrive early if you really want to find a closer parking spot. If you don’t, know that from all the other parking areas it is possible to either have a great hike, or to take the public shuttle to the lake which runs every 20 minutes. From 10.30 to 16.30 you’ll be forced to stop at “Parking Capriolo” and take the shuttle from there.
In the last year, the park tried to implement mandatory pre-booking online from the app EasyPark and through the Adamello Brenta website but from my experience it seems the system is still not working properly. During my last two visits I simply had to pay at “Parking Capriolo” and I could drive straight to the lake.
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: until the end of the Coronavirus outbreak in Italy, the shuttle service is suspended and you can reach the lake only with your own private vehicle.
3.4 How to Reach Lago di Tovel by Public Transport
The shuttle service “Val di Tovel Express” to Lago di Tovel runs from 23th of June until the 3rd of September and it connects the lake to the nearby villages of Cles and Tuenno.
If you are in Trentino without a car, the easiest starting point to reach is clearly Cles, as it is connected to the Trento-Malè railway line. From the website Trentino Trasporti you can see all timetables in real time and calculate the best route for you to take.
If you are in Trentino with a car but the Parking areas are already full, you can park your car either in Tuenno (11km from the lake) or at Parking Capriolo (5km) and take the shuttle to Lake Tovel.
The cost of the shuttle round-trip ticket is 5Euro and here you can find the updated timetable. As the running times vary greatly during the season, I recommend you to make sure before your trip that the public service is available for your dates.
3.5 Reaching Lago di Tovel by Bike
You can reach Lago di Tovel by bicycle following the scenographic road SP14 starting from either Tuenno or Cles. The road to the lake is magic, entirely immersed in untouched nature with breath-taking views on both sides. I cycled twice to Tovel myself and I can only say that it is an experience that you have to try to believe.
The road requires a basic fitness condition as it gets steep at times (especially toward the end). If you’re entirely out of condition but still would like to try the emotion of climbing the Tovel Valley on pedals, you may be happy to know that in Cles there is an E-Bike Rental Shop.
The distances between the lakes and nearby towns are:
- Tuenno – 10.8 km
- Cles – 15.1 km
- Malè – 30 km
- Dimaro – 34.7 km
3.6 Hiking to Lago di Tovel
From the Parking “Capriolo” starts a charming 5.4km hike trail called “Sentiero delle Glare” (translated from local dialect – Trail of Landslides) that brings you to the shores of Lago di Tovel in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The path crosses dense forests and masses of rocks collapsed long time ago.
On a beautiful day, the “Sentiero delle Glare” is an enjoyable and non-demanding hike feasible for both adults and children, definitily worth walking and where you can get extremely unique photoshots.
If you want to walk from the parking to Lake Tovel but not going back by feet, it is possible to purchase a one-way shuttle ticket for the cost of 4 Euro.
4. Lago di Tovel Weather
Lago di Tovel enjoys an alpine continental climate characterized by enjoyable summers and cold snowy winters.
Due to the elevation of the lake (1178m) and its geographical position (surrounded by all sides by tall mountains) the temperatures also in summer never get too high, scratching the 22-25C° in the warmest days of the year (July and August).
A good rule of thumb to dress properly, is to expect a temperature 10C° less of the one in Val di Non, the valley you’ll cross before entering the Natural Park. Be sure to dress properly and don’t get surprised by the sudden decrease of temperature (happens to most tourists!).
The road to the lake closes from 15th November until March because of intense snowing and icy roads. The lake freezes during this time and it is reachable only with snowshoes or snowmobile.
5. When to Visit Lago di Tovel
The road to Lake Tovel is open from April until 15th of November and between those dates, anytime is excellent to visit the lake! During the winter the road is closed due to heavy snowfalls and icy road, so unless you truy enjoy hiking with snowshoes (9km road) you’re better to choose another season to plan your trip.
The best time to visit Lake Tovel depends on the colours you would like to see. Spring is still chilly but blooming with flowers; summer is luxuriant and ideal for taking a bath while autumn…oh autumn is an explosion of colours like no others!
Personally, I love the summer and I would suggest you to go between June and September, although autumn as you can see from the picture above has its own charm.
6. Where to Eat at Lago di Tovel
The dining options around Lake Tovel are quite limited and consist of the restaurants of the only two hotels in the area, both offering local specialties.
- Chalet Tovel Restaurant: well priced elegant restaurant that attempts to joint local traditional food with innovation and creativity
- Restaurant Hotel Red Lake: modest restaurant of 60 places proposing local specialties, it is possible to eat on the balcony watching the lake.
Both restaurants also have a bar nearby where you can buy beverages, ice-cream and other small bites.
In addition to those two restaurant, there is another option near Parking Capriolo (the furthest from the lake – 5.4km)
- Al Capriolo: restaurant offering also local specialties but also Pizzeria
Personally, I would suggest you to go for a picknic lunch if you’re visiting on a warm sunny day as the outdoor tables are just so characteristic and beautifully located. Instead I would suggest you to consider eating at the restaurants if you’re interested in trying local food, during rainy/cloudy days or simply for a good dinner at the end of your visit.
7. How much it Costs to Visit Lago di Tovel
The Access to Lago di Tovel is Free, but you may have to pay the parking if you come with your own vehicle.
Let’s go with order:
- If you reach the lake by bike or by feet, the access to the Lake is free year-round.
- If you come with a private vehicle in April – June or October and November (outside of the weekends) it is also free.
- If you come with a private vehicle in June, July, August, September or in the weekends you’ll have to pay the Parking Fees (10 Euro/car, 5 Euro/bike, 15Euro/RV).
- If you come by public transport, you’ll have just to purchase the ticket shuttle (5 Euro/roundtrip).
8. Trekking Trails near Lago di Tovel
Photo Credit: www.roterrucksack.com
The Dolomites are plenty of suggestive hiking trails for all fitness levels and also near Lago di Tovel you’ll be spoiled by choice.
On this website, you can have a complete view of all available trails nearby, while here you can find the trekking trails directly leaving from the lake with the walking time and distance to cover them:
- Sentiero delle Malghe (mountain cottages’ trail) – 17.4km – 6 hours 30 minutes
- Sentiero Le Glare (landslides’ trail) – 11.4km – 1 hour 45 minutes
- Sentiero delle Antiche Segheria (old sawmills’s trail) – 1.5km – 20 minutes
- Giro Doss della Dena – 12km – 5 hours
Note: the numbers refer to total distance and walking time for the round-trip (going and coming back to the starting point).
9. Where to Stay near Lake Tovel
10. Camping near Lago di Tovel
Parking and RVs can park and stay overnight at a small parking place at approx. 1km from Lake Tovel for the price of 20Euro/day. The parking though does not offer any complimentary service.
If you are looking for nearby organized camping areas, I can signal you the following two camping in Val di Non:
- Camping Park Baita Dolomiti: at 40-minutes drive from Lago di Tovel, it is situated in Sarnonico, Alta Val di Non
- Area Sosta Smarano: quiet and well-organized camping in Smarano, a village 35 minutes from the lake
Both camps are great options and provide wide spaces and high standards of services.
11. Curiosity about Lake Tovel: The Legend of the Red Lake
Lake Tovel is also named the “red lake” due to a natural phenomenon that was happening in summer, in which part of the lake was turning entirely red. This phenomenon could have been vividly admired until the summer of 1964 (picture of that year) after which the red shade started to dislay less and less until the 1980, last year in which the year turned slightly red.
After decades of debates and studies, in 2003 a committee of scientific experts investigated the micro-fauna of the lake and found out that the reason the lake was changing colour was due to a micro-algae (called “Tovellia” in honour of the lake) which could proliferate in great number thanks to the nutrients coming from nearby pastures.
Since the 1960’s, the techniques of growing livestock changed and shifted away from the area and with them, also the nutrients that were making the Tovellia Algae multiplying so fast in summertime. Although few Algae are still present and can be seen with microscopes today, they are sadly not enough anymore to replicate so intensively to turn Lago di Tovel Red.
What remains today, are the photos and stories of a surreal natural marvel and a welcoming emerald lake.
12. Tips for Visiting Lake Tovel
As we are approaching the end, I want to leave you here my best tips to visit Lago di Tovel and make the best out of your trip:
- Make sure the battery of your phone/camera is fully charged. The lake is truly majestic and you’ll want to take thousands of photos.
- Pack your own food and have a pic-nic in one of the many wooden tables scattered around the area: it is an awesome experience! Leave no trace and bring your rubbish with you.
- Take your time to assaporate the delightful natural ecosystem of Lake Tovel, plan at least a half-day visit to enjoy this unique UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Flying drones is not allowed (in all Italian’s natural parks you need a permission from the park’s administration). If you still choose to fly (as some visitors do) know that you’re taking chances to be fined.
- Plan carefully your transportation. Keep an eye on the official website about how and where it is allowed to park as rules change often and without prior advice
- There are public toilets available at parking Lago and on another spot about half-way of the lake ring
- Remember that in winter the road to the lake is closed!
- Don’t forget to bring your water bottle!
13. Places to See Near Lago di Tovel
Trentino is an alpine region full of natural marvels which deserves at least one week to grasp and live its exceptional beauty. Having grown up in this region, I will leave you here my best suggestions to help you complete your travel itinerary to this beautiful corner of the world.
Best Attractions near Lago di Tovel with driving times:
- Santuario di San Romedio – 35 minutes – a mystical sanctuary formed by 4 churches one over the other. Bonus: they also addomesticated a brune bear which lives in the surrounding garden
- Ski Slopes Folgarida Marilleva – 45 minutes – if you’re travelling in winter, then you have visit this ski resort. It is one of the largest on the Alps and, also if you don’t like skiing, you’ll love the views you can enjoy from the mountain lodges situated on peaks between 2000 and 3000meters high.
- Val di Rabbi – 50 minutes – A secluded valley accessible from Val di Sole, popular for its waterfalls, the longest suspension bridge of the Alps and natural Spas.
- Ortisei e Alpe di Susi – 1 hour 45 minutes – Ortisei is a typical South Tyrolese town famous for its wood artisans and wood sculptures. The nearby Alpe di Siusi offer an astonishing highland plateau for high-elevation hikes.
- Lago di Braies – 2 hours 40 minutes – the popular brother of Lake Tovel, also called the “Pearl of the Alps”. If you liked Lago di Tovel, you’ll also love this one!
If you found this guide useful or have any question about Lake Tovel leave a comment below! I love to hear from fellow travellers 🙂
Enjoy your visit and see you in the next article!