The Dolomites are one of the most impressive mountain ranges in all of Europe, with their steep, sharp peaks jutting up from green valleys like a giant’s pincushion. And Rifugio Lagazuoi, Italy just happens to command some of the most amazing views in all of the Dolomites. Needless to say, that is a very big compliment. It was the first rifugio we booked when planning our Alta Via 1 trek and it definitely lived up to the hype with several of the most incredible viewpoints we’ve ever seen.
Rifugio Lagazuoi, located at a breathtaking 2,750 metres above sea level, is the highest of all the Dolomites rifugios. It looms over Passo Falzarego roughly halfway between Val Badia and the main adventure hub of the region, Cortina D’Ampezzo.
While relaxing on the expansive terrace (or from your own balcony if you’re lucky enough to book a room) you can enjoy the sight of dozens of peaks, including Cunturines, Tofane, Odle, Cime di Fanes, Cinque Torri and, of course, wonderfully reflective Marmolada.
Hikers flock to the area in summer to explore these fabulous mountains, filled with picturesque valleys and stunning peaks. The panoramic views from Piccolo Lagazuoi are also among the top highlights of the incredible long-distance Alta Via 1 trek (in our opinion, the number one highlight).
For more info on one of the best hikes in Europe, check out:
In winter, the Rifugio is equally popular with skiers, both downhill and nordic (cross-country). When snow blankets the surrounding mountains the views take on an entirely new personality.
5 Amazing Things to Do at Rifugio Lazauoi
Whether you are staying in the rifugio, visiting on a day trip or basing yourself somewhere else nearby, there are lots of terrific things to do in the Lagazuoi area.
1. Find the Best Viewpoints
The first thing to do, though, is the most obvious. With some of the best views in all of Italy, Rifugio Lagazuoi provides constant inspiration to hikers, climbers, skiers and photographers.
Just a short 20-minute walk up the hill from the rifugio (at 2,752m) to Piccolo Lagazuoi at 2,778m brings you to one of the most stunning panoramic viewpoints in Europe. The path is wide, easy and well-maintained (although it can get pretty busy around sunset).
There are actually 2 different routes. One follows the rocky ridge to the right and another goes along a vertigo-inducing metal walkway along the left edge of the cliff but both join up after just a few minutes.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of mountains on display from up here but the most dramatic are the three Tofane peaks and the Marmolada glacier. Plus, you can see down to Lago di Lagazuoi far down in the valley and even Passo Falzarego at the very bottom of the cliffs. Whatever the time of day or weather conditions, though, this is the one viewpoint you simply can’t miss.
Best Lagazuoi Sunset Viewpoint
Piccolo Lagazuoi is a very popular sunset spot but we liked the rock outcropping jutting out just before you get there. It is the perfect spot to take photos back toward the rifugio while the setting sun lights it up and emphasizes the superb scenery in the distance.
We were lucky enough to be out there without many other people (just a few hardcore members of a photography tour) because rain was looming. It eventually caught us but at least not until after the sun came and went a few times, allowing us a mesmerizing mix of sun and dark cloud shots.
Best Lagazuoi Sunrise Viewpoint
This one is a dead heat between the rifugio terrace and either of the two benches located on outstanding viewpoints just below the cable car station. From either bench you have an unencumbered view of the valley and distant peaks as the sun slowly lights up the sky. You will also be basically at the front of the queue, meaning no other sunrise gawkers getting into your photos, and probably can enjoy some solitude (something you won’t find on the terrace).
However, from the terrace you can include the benches in your photos, which works well if you are travelling with someone. One of my favourite photos from the entire Alta Via trek is this one I took from the first bench of Laynni watching the sunrise on the second bench. In general, Laynni is better at coming up with the highlight photos but I definitely play the volume game and every now and then one hits. Plus, she told me to take this one.
2. Relax on the Deck with a Drink or Meal
Yes, the drinks are overpriced but, hey, isn’t it worth an extra euro or two to enjoy your latest Birra Moretti while experiencing one of the top views in Italy? Alcoholic drinks cost around €4-7, coffee is about €2 and hot chocolate €4. Even water is €2/€3 for half/full litre. So, no bargains, but still well worth the experience, in our opinion.
They also serve terrific food. You can get paninis and cheese or meat plates for €5-10 or order full meals. Pastas run €11-13 and other mains are mostly around €20. If it helps at all, we had three meals at Lagazuoi and all were fantastic. Besides, this is Northern Italy, you best get used to the prices making you a bit uncomfortable…
3. Experience History in the Lagazuoi Tunnels
The slopes and ridges surrounding Rifugio Lagazuoi are riddled with WW1 tunnels, all of which feature fascinating historical context and horrifying historical incidents.
There are many to explore all the way down the path to the north, some that open up onto the far side of the ridge with more panoramic (and neatly framed) looks down the valley to the east.
The main Lagazuoi tunnel, however, goes all the way from the fore-summit (Anticima) down to the Martini Ledge. This was built by the Italian army to destabilize and attack the Austrian forces holding the ridge.
There are multiple branches including openings to each of the Anticima and Martini Ledge, plus an artillery gallery, helical tunnel and main mine shaft. The mine itself was finally destroyed in explosions in June of 2017.
Today, the entire Lagazuoi tunnel network has been restored and the entirety of its 1-kilometre length has been fitted with cables and ladders to serve as a very unique Via Ferrata. There are Via Ferrate (assisted climbing routes) all over the Dolomites but this is the one of the only ones located inside a dank cave. Exploring the Lagazuoi Tunnels is a popular rainy day activity when the mountain trails (and views) aren’t as inviting.
Other than a handful of windows cut out of the rock (with very cool and unique views), the tunnel is mostly dark so it is worth bringing a head lamp (or renting one at the bottom). The light on your phone will work in a pinch but it is often important to have both hands free.
Also, make sure you wear good shoes/boots and consider renting a helmet to take up with you. Very occasionally rocks can rain down from the ceiling, or you could simply slip and fall. Either way, a helmet isn’t a bad idea.
While you can traverse the Lagazuoi Tunnels in either direction, for fairly obvious exertion reasons (make no mistake, it is steep) most people take the cable car to the top and go down via the tunnel.
640 metres elevation gain or loss
2-3 hours hiking time (depending on direction)
4. Marvel at Lago Lagazuoi
Also known as Lech de Lagacio in the local Ladin language, the vibrantly blue Lago di Lagazuoi (2,180m) is gorgeous from high above and eminently photogenic. Of course, it isn’t so bad up close, either, as its size (or lack thereof) and protected location mean it is often glassily calm and reflective.
It is filled with fish that are obvious even from shore and the water is possibly warm enough for a swim in late summer or early fall depending heavily on your tolerance for very cold water. On a tolerance scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being a “polar plunge” enthusiast and 1 being – I don’t know, a cat? – I’m probably a 3. Maybe a 4 if people are watching.
Anyway, Lago di Lagazuoi is accessible from several different directions. Roughly an hour’s hike down from Rifugio Lagazuoi (and 1.5 hours back up), or a similar 1-hour hike up from the parking area at Restaurant Capanna Alpina. It is also located along either branch of Alta Via 1 coming from (or heading to) Rifugio Fanes or Rifugio Lavarella.
Since most people hike the Alta Via 1 from north to south (as we did), you can either choose a relatively flat route around Monte Cima del Lago via Rifugio Scotoni to Lago di Lagazuoi. However, if you don’t mind a strenuous climb, slightly treacherous descent and are okay with heights, we’d highly recommend opting to cross the Forcella del Lago (Lake Pass).
Coming through a narrow notch in the mountains, you are greeted by a stunning vista down to the lake, with mountains surrounding it in all directions and the welcome sight of Rifugio Lagazuoi perched atop the next ridge, still seeming impossibly far away. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it looks. Or has the difficulty just faded in hindsight? Probably a bit of both. It doesn’t matter, though, because it is still worth it, and one of the top highlights of hiking the Alta Via 1.
Then, looking back from Rifugio Lagazuoi you get the full spectre of Monte Cima del Lago (2,650m) looming over it. All in all, a truly spectacular area.
5. Relax in the Lagazuoi Sauna
They claim that their larch wood Finnish sauna is the highest in the Dolomites and we have no reason to doubt that claim (unlike the idea that only the Finnish know how to make a good sauna). Either way, relaxing in the sauna is a perfect end to a day of hiking, climbing, skiing or spelunking.
The sauna is open from 9-4 every day, holds up to 8 people and costs €25/person for 45 minutes. They provide a bathrobe and shower token for after. It is open to both guests of the rifugio and day trippers so we recommend reserving spots ahead.
6 Great Hikes Around Rifugio Lagazuoi
There is a huge network of trails around Mount Lagazuoi heading off in all directions, including to Cinque Torri and Mount Nuvolau. There are practically endless variations to be had by combining different trails but here are a few of the best options around the Lagazuoi Rifugio.
1. Piccolo Lagazuoi
It is short, simple and we’ve already discussed it in the viewpoints section but it is worth mentioning again since it just happens to feature (in our opinion) the best viewpoint on the entire Alta Via 1 trek (which likely makes it one of the best in all of the Dolomites). This is a Lagazuoi hike that anyone can do and it is accessible.
2. Frontline Trail
Wide, simple and well-marked, this historic World War 1 soldier’s route leads from the Passo Falzarego parking lot all the way up to Rifugio Lagazuoi. After some time switchbacking gently up the hillside it reaches the Travenanzes Saddle, continues to the Lagazuoi Saddle and, eventually, the rifugio.
It takes 1.5-2 hours and involves 660 metres of elevation gain. You can then retrace your steps back down (1-1.5 hrs), take the cable car down or tackle the Lagazuoi Tunnel.
3. Capanna Alpina to Rifugio Lagazuoi
From the Capanna Alpina restaurant (located on the highway with a parking area), trail 20 starts our fairly flat but, because this the Dolomites, that part doesn’t last long. 2 steep kilometres later you will reach Rifugio Scotoni, then continue up to the top of the valley where you are treated to expansive views of Lagazuoi, Fanis and Val Badia.
Here you can take a left to check out beautiful Lago di Lagazuoi before climbing up past a series of historic military ruins, then very steeply up to Rifugio Lagazuoi. This is a tough hike with more than 1,000 metres of elevation gain that will probably take 4-5 hours including time to enjoy the views.
If you are staying at Rifugio Lagazuoi for the night then, congratulations, you can relax with a drink and maybe a sauna. If not, count on 2-3 hrs hiking back down by the most direct route.
4. Rozes to Mt. Lagazuoi
Coming from the direction of Cortina D’Ampezzo, you can start hiking from the Rozes parking area. Located under the picturesque bulk of Mount Col de Bois at 1,820 metres above sea level, this parking lot is just half a kilometre east of the Cinque Torri chairlift.
From there, follow trail 402 uphill between Col dei Bois and Tofana di Rozes, through a tunnel, then along a ridge above the treeline. Here you will begin climbing to Forcella Col de Bois and eventually Forcella Travenanzes, all the while with a shocking sheer rock face looming over you.
Watch for the many WWI ruins and remains throughout this section before reaching the even more impressive Lagazuoi Tunnels between Forcella Lagazuoi and Rifugio Lagazuoi. Only slightly easier than the hike from Capanna Alpina, this hike involves around 900 metres of elevation gain and takes most people 3-4 hours one-way. Hiking back down usually takes about half that.
5. Kaiserjäger Path
A second, more exciting and challenging alternative from Passo Falzarego parking area, the Kaiserjager Path climbs the spectacular west flank of the cliffs to (eventually) reach Piccolo Lagazuoi.
This is a via ferrata route so even though it is possible to do au natural, we would recommend having the proper gear. It isn’t well-marked, either, so make sure you download a trail map for offline use.
Along the way you’ll cross a 25-metre-high Tibetan plank bridge, climb and follow many steep ledges and pass a variety of WWI trenches and huts. While the Frontline Trail was the most commonly used route, the Kaiserjager was the fastest route for sending messages, supplies and munitions to the units at the top.
The trail finishes along the ridge to Piccolo Lagazuoi and the refuge with stunning views along the way.
There is 650m of elevation gain and it takes most people around 2 hours to reach the rifugio. Then you can turn it into a loop by following one of the other routes down or take the cable car back down to Falzarego pass.
6. Lagazuoi Circuit
This is my personal invention, although I’m sure many others have done it already, they just didn’t all write about it. Since you’ll be trying to hit all the top highlights around Rifugio Lagazuoi, this will be a fairly long hike so it makes sense to start by taking the cable car up to the rifugio.
After exploring the upper part of the Lagazuoi Tunnels and enjoying the views from Piccolo Lagazuoi and the terrace of the rifugio, start the long, rocky downhill to Lago di Lagazuoi. After a short rest, climb to the exceptional viewpoint at Forcella del Lago, come back down and backtrack to Forcella Lagazuoi before starting east around Col de Bois before heading down to the valley with direct views of Cinque Torri and Mount Nuvolau framed in front of you the entire way.
The entire route is about 15 km with 800m elevation gain and 1,400 metres of loss and will likely take around 5-6 hours. If you decide to skip the cable car and ascend either through the tunnels or on the Kaiserjager Path you can add another 600m of gain and 2 more hours of hiking.
How to Visit Rifugio Lagazuoi on a Day Trip
Although we spent the night as part of our Alta Via 1 trek, we had to reserve our room 6 months in advance to make sure we got the night we wanted. So, even though we would highly recommend staying overnight if it works out, it is still well worth visiting Rifugio Lagazuoi on a day trip.
The cable car from Passo Falzarego runs from 9 am to 5 pm (€16.50 one-way / €23.50 return), offering a quick and scenic route up (or down). Or you can hike up on any one of the trails listed above in the hiking section. The vast majority of Rifugio Lagazuoi visitors only come for a couple of hours, usually for a drink or a meal in between exploring the tunnels and checking out the best viewpoints.
Keep in mind that the restaurant gets very busy in the middle of the day so you shouldn’t plan on a quick turnaround, especially if you’re planning to eat.
Visit Rifugio Lagazuoi as a Stop on the Alta Via 1
There are other alternatives in the area – Rifugio Scotoni, Rifugio Dibona, Rifugio Cinque Torri – but if you can get a reservation, spending the night at Rifugio Lagazuoi is a memorable experience and an ideal stop along the Alta Via 1. Many people also choose to spend a night at this beautiful hut without subjecting themselves to all that hiking. Lagazuoi is known as one of the best rifugios in the Dolomites.
If you are interested in the Alta Via 1 check out our Ultimate Guide to the Alta Via 1
The benefits are, first of all, the serenity of seeing the place without the day trip crowds. In addition, you get to enjoy both sunset and (if you are an early riser) sunrise, both of which can offer incredible skies and stupendous views. If nothing else, you can greatly improve your chances of getting some clear skies if you stay overnight.
And, even if you aren’t really into mountain scenery, world-class hiking or evocative historical sites, well, at least there’s free wifi.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Rooms
The Lagazuoi refuge has private rooms with balconies and shared bathrooms on the first floor and communal dorms down below the terrace (also with shared bathrooms).
All the rooms (including the dorms) are beautifully done in traditional wood with fantastic views, some with their own private balconies and others shared balconies. Even though the washrooms are shared they are clean and modern.
Because of the water shortages in the Dolomites (those mountains are just sieves) they charge extra for hot showers. Which is understandable since they collect as much of their own water as possible from spring snow melt and summer rains, then pump the rest up from Passo Falzarego.
Pets are not allowed in any of the rooms.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Food and Drink
Every guest has to sign up for at least the Bed & Breakfast option. Then you also have the choice of including your dinner in the room cost or ordering a la carte. Lunch is up to you. We ordered packed lunches to take with us on our hike the next day or, if you are at Lagazuoi around lunch, you can simply order off the menu.
The restaurant is lovely, with big views from every window, comfortable seating and nice decorations, not to mention the gorgeous terrace seating. Altogether, the restaurant can hold up to 100 people.
They have a large and varied menu (including vegetarian options) specializing in traditional Ladino food with some Venetian and South Tyrolean dishes mixed in.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Prices
No, Rifugio Lagazuoi is not a budget hotel. However, it is a pretty special place and just a night or two probably won’t hurt the wallet too badly. Plus, if you’ve spent any time in Northern Italy you’ll already be used to parting with hard-earned cash.
High Season (summer)
2-person room with 2 beds – €160 B&B / €224 half-board
2-person room with bunkbed – €150 B&B / €214 half-board
3-person room with single bed and bunkbed – €225 B&B / €321 half-board
3-person room with 3 beds – €234 B&B / €330 half-board
4-person room with 4 beds – €300 B&B / €428 half-board
Dorm bed – €62 B&B / €94 half-board
In winter low season the prices vary but will generally be slightly lower than in the summer. To check the latest rates and availability go to the Rifugio Lagazuoi online booking page.
When it comes to experiencing the Dolomites, mountain huts are the way to go to truly get away from it all.
Rifugio Lagazuoi in the Winter
The skiing in the Dolomites is legendary and Rifugio Lagazuoi is located right in the heart of it all. It is even part of the Super8 Ski Tour circuit, a famous figure-8 loop of downhill ski runs that hits all the most scenic spots and best slopes in the area. The entire circuit can be done in about 3 hours including travel time between lifts.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Weather
It never gets overly warm this high up in the mountains but summer is definitely the most pleasant time of year to visit. However, pack layers even in summer as July averages are just 11/1C high/low. In addition to the forecast, it doesn’t hurt to check the Rifugio Lagazuoi webcam before starting out.
Of course, assuming you’re doing other things in the area, you will find it much nicer down at more normal altitudes. Cortina D’Ampezzo, for example, is at 1,200m and in mid-summer you can expect averages of 21/11 high/low. The entire region gets more precipitation in summer, as well, but it usually comes in spurts and is unlikely to settle in and ruin your holiday.
The higher you go, though, the less predictable the weather is and the faster it can change so always be prepared when heading into the mountains. Dress in layers, pack warm clothes and be ready for anything.
Check out our essential Day Hike Packing List
The History of Rifugio Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites
The Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled the entire region around Lagazuoi for centuries up until 1915 when, early in World War I, the Italian army took Cortina. This pushed the Austro-Hungarian army back to Lagazuoi where they dug in to defend the rest of their territory.
In response to the obvious defensive advantages of holding the high points, each army began a long campaign of tunnelling, explosives and sabotage. This continued for over 2 years with tremendous damage done on both sides until the Italians were finally defeated and pushed back (on this front, anyway) on November 1st, 2017 in the Battle of Caporetto.
For the next 45 years the tunnels, fortifications and shelters built during the war lay abandoned while hikers, climbers and skiers increasingly discovered Lagazuoi’s charms. Leading up to 1963, when renowned local climber Ugo Pompanin and a group of his friends formed a company, enticed investors and constructed the Falzarego-Lagazuoi cable car.
Rifugio Lagazuoi itself was built in 1965 when Ugo Pompanin and his family upended their lives (Ugo working in a butcher shop, Alda a housewife) to build a hut up at this insanely beautiful spot. Ugo is credited with many of the best first ascents in the Dolomites and over the years they dedicated themselves to improving access to the fantastic area around Falzarego Pass.
This mountain hut remains a family-run business and, in the years since, they have worked to make it more eco-friendly through the use of solar panels and a variety of other technologically innovative energy-saving techniques and clean energy methods. Today, Rifugio Lagazuoi is one of the most inspiring and popular rifugios in the Dolomites.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Map
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How to Get to Rifugio Lagazuoi
There are really just two ways to reach the rifugio itself – on foot or by cable car. As we detailed in the hiking section above, there are many different hiking routes you can choose. The Frontline Trail (2 hrs), the Lagazuoi Tunnel (2 hrs), the Kaiserjager Trail (2 hrs, includes via ferrata), the Rozes Trail (3 hrs), the Capanna Alpina Trail (4 hrs) or on the Alta Via 1 from Rifugio Fanes or Lavarella (5.5 hrs). All of them have some fairly steep sections and involve a minimum of 600m of elevation gain.
However, if you’re not able (or interested) to hike up such a steep and challenging trails, the Rifugio Lagazuoi cable car is a great option. Leaving from Passo Falzarego at 2,100m, it covers just over 1 km of distance and arrives just below Rifugio Lagazuoi at 2,750m a mere 3 minutes later. A much more efficient way of getting up the hill, I’d say.
It is a fully aerial cable car – meaning just small glass cabins attached to ropes anchored at top and bottom of the mountain, with no support pillars in the middle. There are just 2 cabins that travel at over 40 km/hr, providing some extraordinary views on the way up (in addition to all the great views you’ll enjoy from the top).
The Lagazuoi cable car runs over two distinct seasons:
Winter – December 23rd to April 10th (could vary depending on snow conditions)
Summer – May 29th to October 22nd
It runs every 15 minutes, with the first leaving from the bottom at 9:00 and the last at 16:40. The last downhill run leaves Rifugio Lagazuoi at 17:00.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Cable Car Prices
Adults €16.50/23.50 (one-way/return) and €18.50/25.50 (August)
Children under 16 €11/14 (one-way/return) and €12/16 (August)
Where to Stay Around the Rifugio Lagazuoi Dolomites
Hotel Al Larin is one of the best value hotels in notoriously expensive Cortina D’Ampezzo. We spent 6 nights there altogether – 3 before hiking the Alta Via and 3 after – and have nothing but good things to say about the service, the rooms and the breakfast.
It is a 30-minute drive from Passo Falzarego but is the main hub for the area and is a good base for exploring more of the Dolomites.
Check rates and availability for Hotel Al Larin
A charming old hayloft that has been repurposed into a comfortable, midrange hotel, Digonera Historic Hotel is only 17 kilometres from Passo Falzarego and easy access to Rifugio Lagazuoi. There are also balconies with mountain views, buffet breakfast and a Finnish sauna.
Check rates and availability for Digonera Historic Hotel
For 4-star luxury surrounded by the Dolomites, Hotel Ciasa Salares is the perfect choice, located just 10 km away in San Cassiano. Along with all the top-end comforts there is a spa, indoor pool and sun terrace. In the summer they have weekly communal barbeques as well.
Check rates and availability for Hotel Ciasa Salares
Popular attractions close to Rifugio Lagazuoi
Cortina D’Ampezzo is the main hub of this section of the Dolomites. It has great hiking, fantastic restaurants and is even known for its shopping. Pretty much everything in the area can be easily accessed from Cortina.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the best day hikes in the Dolomites. With its dramatic “three chimneys” surrounded by stunning scenery, it is a must-see destination.
Lago di Sorapis is the best of a large selection of beautiful alpine lakes in the Dolomites. It can get very busy in summer so plan to get there very early (or very late) to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
Lago di Braies is another incredibly photogenic lake nearby. It is the traditional starting point of the Alta Via 1 but is also a very popular day trip destination, with clear water, outstanding reflections and weirdly friendly cows.
Alta Via 2 – 6. We have already discussed the Alta Via 1 and it is the most popular of the Italian high routes, featuring Lagazuoi right in the middle of the itinerary. However, there are 5 more amazing routes nearby as well, all varying greatly in terms of difficulty, accessibility and accommodation options.
Those who have already hiked the Alta Via 1 or are looking for something quieter or more challenging should consider trying one of these alternate options (most involve a lot of via ferrate).
Trip Planning Resources
Here is a list of the most important resources we use when planning our travels, all in one convenient spot. Full disclosure, when you use any of these links to reserve or sign up for something, we receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated. However, your price does not change and we have only included products and websites that we can honestly recommend.
- Most international visitors fly into Venice and for checking out flights we usually find that SkyScanner is the fastest and most accurate site.
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- We’ve used Discover Cars in many different countries and they usually have the cheapest deals and have always been very reliable, including several times in Italy.
- If you’re interested in local guided tours, including everything from city tours to cooking lessons to adventure activities, check out the huge range of options at Get Your Guide.
- World Nomads offers some of the best global travel insurance coverage. It is especially good for frequent travellers and digital nomads but also has competitive plans for short trips.
Rifugio Lagazuoi Summary
As beautiful as the sharp, craggy mountains of Northern Italy are from every angle – and there are dozens of amazing areas – many people believe that Piccolo Lagazuoi is the best viewpoint in the Dolomites. And after nearly 3 weeks spent hiking in the area, we are inclined to agree.
You can spend a few hours on a day trip taking photos, relaxing with a drink on the terrace and exploring some WWI tunnels or book a room to see Lagazuoi later without the crowds and enjoy both sunset and sunrise. Either way, Lagazuoi is sure to stand out as one of the highlights of your trip.
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