Hiking in the Dolomites is top of your Italy’s bucket list?! Then, I have a great experience in mind for you.
The Grotta Azzurra di Mel is a naturally-formed small grotto full with resplendent turquoise water. You will find it at the end of a beautiful hike in the Dolomites in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto.
The hike to the grotto will take you from a medieval castle through a lush forest, across a hill covered with thousands of pieces of slate rock and then down to a river bed with large jagged boulders and stones. Make sure that you wear comfortable hiking clothes and suitable shoes with a strong grip.
The physical effort of getting to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel is more than worth it though. Once there, you will find yourself in a place seemingly plucked out of a fairytale. Or a local legend, if you prefer.
Do you know what is an anguana? This is a water nymph who lives around rivers, ponds, and streams in the mountainous areas of Northeastern Italy. She can bewitch you in many different ways, not all of them benign.
Well, even if your imagination customarily doesn’t like to run wild, as soon as you reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites, you will feel like you are in a very special, almost mystical spot. A spot where an anguana or two would not be out of place. For the grotto is at the end of a challenging at times walk and it is surrounded on all sides by tall slate hills covered with lush bushes and creeper plants.
The grotto’s crystal clear water sparkles under the rays of the sun. The bottom is covered with pebbles and you feel like reaching in and scooping them out to have a closer look at. Don’t do it though for entering the water – as tempting as it is – is strictly forbidden for safety reasons and, I would actually imagine, to not anger the anguane which must live in that place.
‘But enough of fairytales!’, you must be groaning by now. ‘Just tell us how to get to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites by ourselves!’
Of course, I will. Keep scrolling down the page to see all the pertinent information helpfully organised in bite-size chunks. From useful tips on how to approach and navigate the hike to my personal experience walking to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites, everything’s provided.
P.S. And if you do the hike and meet an anguana or two, please, please, let me know!
Hiking in the Dolomites: Grotta Azzurra di Mel – A Beautiful Hike in the Veneto, Northern Italy
Where is the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?
You will find the Grotta Azzurra di Mel near the hamlet of Villa di Villa and the medieval Zumelle Castle which are about 7.5 km away from the town of Mel in the province of Belluno in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto.
The Grotta Azzurra di Mel is a natural cave eroded by the water. The grotto is very interesting to visit as it is filled with turquoise blue water which is beautiful to see.
How to reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?
There are two starting points from which you can reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites:
1. Drive to Zumelle Castle and leave your car in the spacious parking lot there. You will see a large board with information about the Grotta Azzurra di Mel as well as signs in white and light blue colours pointing the way. Simply follow the path up the hill and enjoy the beautiful views of the Dolomites and the forest. On the other side of the hill, you will see the tarmacked road. Follow it for a couple of minutes until you spot another large informational board (see the photo below) next to rudimentary steps leading up another hill and into the forest.
2. Punch ‘Grotta Azzurra di Mel’ in Google Maps and just follow the driving directions. Once arrived, you will see a small parking lot just off the road. The road turns and twists as it descends down the hill. Park your car and then walk carefully on the side of the road until you reach the above informational board. Be aware that this parking lot is quite small and the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites is a popular one when the weather is good. If you can’t find a place to park there, then drive over to the Zumelle Castle and start the hike as described in point 1 above.
From the steps on the above photo, the hike continues as follows:
- The path goes up through the forest until you reach a hill covered with millions of pieces of slate rock.
- Go across the hill, the path is narrow but feels safe. At the bottom of the hill you will see shrubs and the bed of the spring Rui.
- At the end of the hill, the path curves down towards the river bed and from this point onwards you need to walk on the river bed.
- After a while, you will reach a small turquoise pond with a small but picturesque waterfall.
- Here the path leaves the river bed and goes up the bank (it is the opposite bank to the one you accessed the river bed from).
- You need to climb up a small but steep slope. There are plenty of tree roots sticking out for you to hold on and pull yourself up.
- Continue following the path along the river bank until you reach the grotto.
There are signs in white and light blue colours along the way.
Is the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel difficult?
I found the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites challenging at several points along the way. I love walking and I have hiked quite a lot around the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. However, I am generally not sporty, neither I am an experienced hiker and/or an outdoorsy person.
You don’t have to be in some super shape to give this hike a try. We saw all sorts of people walking the trail. Just be aware in advance that you will be walking on different types of terrain which will be uneven for most of the time.
As such the path can be challenging at times. For me, the main points of difficulty were as follows:
- The steps leading through the forest (see point 2 under the heading ‘How to reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?’ above) are quite high so if you are doing the hike with kids (see the heading ‘Is the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel suitable for kids?’ below), be prepared to give them a hand there.
- Walking on the riverbed is fun but the boulders are big and very irregular so you need to really watch your step at all times.
- Where the path leaves the river bed and goes up the riverbank, there is a small slope (see the above photo) that you need to climb up. It’s not high but it is steep. There are lots of tree roots around to grab and pull yourself up.
- Once you reach the area with the small waterfall, you need to continue forward to get to the actual grotto. On the way there you will need to go over two very large boulders that are touching one another but there isn’t a gap big enough to squeeze through it between them. So, we had to climb over the boulders, one us (that’s me!) doing it not very elegantly, I must add.
Otherwise, the trail is very well signposted with signs in white and light blue colours so it’s easy to follow and at all times you know that you are on the right track.
Officially, the hike is given a difficulty level of Turista which is the lowest level of hiking difficulty in Italy.
What are some do’s and don’ts when you hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?
Large informational boards are placed at the two main starting points of the trail (see points 1 and 2 under the heading ‘How to reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?’ above). Once you are there, please, spare a minute to familiarise yourself with all the do’s and don’ts they prescribe. I have summarised them below for your interest:
- Swimming is not allowed in the grotto. The water looks very tempting and it is a beautiful turquoise colour. Swimming is forbidden though. Please, respect this!
- No high heels nor flip-flops on the trail. Suitable shoewear is a must.
- No dog fouling. Plus, dogs need to be on a lead at all times.
- No bicycles and no buggies/strollers. The terrain is very uneven.
- No littering and no fires.
- The hike is suitable for children over 1,25 m height.
Other things you need to be aware of in advance:
- There are no toilets along the actual path.
- There are no rubbish bins also, so please take your litter with you.
- The path is uneven, hiking shoes with a good grip are a must. Also, be aware that there may be slippery stones and boulders and falling rocks along the way.
- If it rains or if it has rained recently, don’t attempt the hike as there is danger of floods. Keep in mind that a large portion of the trail is an actual river bed which is at the bottom of a narrow gorge. You don’t want to be there if it rains or storms.
- It is expressly forbidden to do the hike and be on the trail from sunset to sunrise.
In terms of do’s, here are my personal recommendations and suggestions:
- Bring water, snacks and an insect repellent.
- A small first-aid kit with some plasters and a disinfectant may come in useful in case you scrape your leg on the jagged boulders.
- Wear comfortable clothing with no loose ends and good hiking shoes with a strong grip.
Is the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel suitable for kids?
The hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites is not a walk in the park. There are wet jagged boulders to walk on, a slope to pull yourself up, and muddy/wet patches along the way. Plus, based on the informational boards placed at the trailheads, only children over 1,25 m height should attempt the trail and they have to be accompanied at all times.
If you haven’t hiked with your child before, perhaps try another easier trail before attempting this one. Click here and here for twenty lovely hikes and walks in the Veneto which are great for families.
We hiked to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites as a family. Our small child has been on many hikes with us before and on that day she was up for the challenge. The surrounding forest and the river bed created a very magical atmosphere so there were no questions ‘Are we there yet?!’. At the same time, we held onto our child, tried to find the easiest stones to step on and generally kept our eyes open at all times.
We saw several other kids of different ages with their parents on the trail. Yet, after all, the decision and the responsibility to take your child with you on the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites lie exclusively with you.
What is your personal experience of hiking to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?
I absolutely loved the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites.
It’s a hike that I had been wanting to do for a while, as I had been seduced by the colour of the water which I had glimpsed in passing in a photo of the grotto.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t prepared to hike to the grotto on the day that we actually went there. It all happened very spontaneously. It was the last day of August this year and, completely suffocated by the heath in Vicenza and our broken at the time air conditioner, a very spontaneous decision was taken for us to escape to the Dolomites for the weekend.
We packed and left with no firm plan in our heads and just managed to quickly book accommodation for the night in the city of Belluno. On the drive to Belluno, I remembered that we would be passing close to Mel – a picturesque town in the Dolomites – and the nearby Zumelle Castle. I thought that we should stop to see the castle and try to find the Grotta Azzurra di Mel of which I knew that is somewhere near there.
As it happened, we punched Grotta Azzurra di Mel in Google Maps and the app guided us to the small parking area just above the second trailhead (see point 2 under the heading ‘How to reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel?’ above). We parked the car, walked down the sloping curving road for a couple of minutes to reach the trailhead and started the hike to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel from there.
The path took us through a forest, across a hill covered with pieces of slate, and then it curved down to the river bed at the bottom of the hill. From there, we walked on the river bed stepping on large jagged boulders and jumping over the tiny rivulets that were running here and there between them. There were other people hiking the path but not too many. For most of the time, we were completely on our own.
There were signs in white and light blue colours along the way, clearly marking the path.
It is a very pretty hike and when you reach the Grotta Azzurra di Mel at the end of it all, it’s really worth it.
Unlike the suffocating heath we had left behind in Vicenza, it was very nice and cool in the forest. Magically, there didn’t seem to be any mosquitoes at all when we were there. This was super lucky as we had left the insect repellent in the car.
Even though the informational board at the second trailhead specifically states that the hike from there takes around 20 mins, it actually took us just under an hour to get to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel. It also took us just under an hour to do the return hike. We took it slowly, stopped often to admire the surroundings and take photos. At one point, we spent several minutes admiring a large crayfish which was hiding under a stone in the water.
All in all, hiking to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites was a great experience for us as a family.
Personally, I am super glad that I was able to cross this hike off my Italy’s bucket list. The grotto was a peaceful, magical place and it was so nice being there and just quietly enjoying its beauty tucked away in the bosom of the Dolomites.
Hiking in the Dolomites is an adventure you mustn’t miss if you find yourself in this part of Italy.
A great way to experience the beauty and the tranquillity of the Dolomites is to head to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel. This is a small, naturally-formed grotto with turquoise water at the end of a lovely and challenging at times hike.
The above blog post provides lots of details and tips to help you attempt the hike by yourself. I have covered starting points, do’s and don’ts, types of terrain to walk on, and lots of helpful pointers. I hope you have a wonderful time exploring this beautiful corner of the Dolomites for yourself.
More Helpful Links
- 20 Family-Friendly Walks and Hikes Up to an Hour and a Half from Vicenza – First Part
- 20 Family-Friendly Walks and Hikes Up to an Hour and a Half from Vicenza – Second Part
- Trentino, Italy – Castles, Hikes, and Alpacas – The Perfect 4-Day Itinerary (With or Without Kids)
- Three Caves in Italy to Easily Explore with your Family This Year
- Pieve di Cadore’, Italy – 6 Things to Do in Titian’s Birthplace
- Italy Through the Eyes of a Passionate Hiker
- Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona – Visiting Italy’s Church Suspended Between Heaven and Earth
- Campo di Brenzone – A Great Day Trip to a Medieval Village in the Hills above Lake Garda, Italy
- Fish, Fossils and Frog or My First Hike in Italy
- Lake Caldonazzo, Italy – 10 Things to Do around Trentino’s Largest Lake
- Lago di Fimon – A Pleasant Lakeside Walk Just Outside Vicenza, Italy
- 11 of the Best Day Trips from Venice (With Lots of Photos, Travel Times and Italy Train Tips)
- Day Trips from Verona – 16 Destinations in Italy to Fall in Love With (With Travel Times and Train Tips)
- Day Trips from Vicenza, Italy – Over 90 of the Best Destinations
- Day Trips from Padua, Italy – Over 35 Unmissable Destinations in the Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna
Have you hiked to the Grotta Azzurra di Mel in the Dolomites yourself? How was it for you? Which other hikes in the Dolomites or in the Veneto would you recommend that I do? Where in the world is your most favourite hike?
Let me know in the Comments section below!
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