In the Dolomites there are lot of wonderful alpine lakes, both natural and artificial. Many of these are known worldwide, a popular destination for holidays, day trips or simple visits of a few hours. Among the most famous ones we can certainly mention the Braies and Misurina lakes or the Rèsia, Carezza and Anterselva lakes, to name a few.
Then, there are other splendid small bodies of water nestled between the rocks, located at higher altitudes, in less hospitable place, difficult to reach. For this reason, even more fascinating. Above all, I immediately think of two: the small Lake Antermoia, inside the Catinaccio Group, located behind the homonymous hut and nestled on a lunar-looking detrital plateau, and Lake Piasciadù, in the Sella Group, just below the peak with the same name, next to the Cavazza Hut, a destination for hikers who climb the walls of the famous Tridentina via ferrata.
Very close to the beautiful “Valle Isarco“, there are two small lakes that I am particularly fond of and that I would like to talk about. In a different way, they are less known than the most famous alpine lakes and both can represent a perfect destination for fun and rewarding day hikes. Unique and unspoiled places, where nature expresses all its beauty and contemplative power.
The Totensee lake
We are in the heart of the “Alpe di Villandro“, a few kilometers above the town of Chiusa (exit Chiusa – Val Gardena on the A22 highway). An extraordinary natural terrace overlooking most of the western Dolomite groups. From here, on clear days, you can admire the Mt Sciliar plateau, the “Catinaccio” Group, the “Sassolungo” and the “Odle” massifs. In the background, the silhouettes of the “Tofane”, “Marmolada” and Mt Antelao. A boundless area of over 20 square kilometers, the second largest alp in Europe immediately after the “Alpe di Siusi” just in front. Alpine huts, pastures, peat bogs, mountain pines: an enchanted place, an ideal destination for several winter and summer excursions.
Following various possible itineraries, one of these leads to the “Totenkirchl” (lit. “church of the dead”) and to the nearby lake “Totensee“, a small body of water lying on a rocky basin just below the summit of Mt Villandro.
Contrary to popular belief, the names of these two places, although referring to the same concept, are not related to each other. Villandro and its “Alpe” are places rich in history and witnesses of ancient and recent periods and eras. The church was probably built during the seventeenth century by some miners of the area (Villandro was a very important mineralogical site for the whole of South Tyrol during the various historical periods) intent on building a shelter to escape the last epidemic of plague that hit the region. According to the exact translation from German, the pronunciation should be in the plural (“tote” in German means dead, its plural is “toten”). However many still today define it, using the singular, “church of the dead”, probably referring to the last death caused by the plague of that period. The name of the lake situated next to the small chapel – although defined with the same expression, “lake of the dead” – does not owe its origin to similar concepts or stories. It takes its name, however, from the land on which it stands, fruitless and unproductive, for this considered as “dead”.
In spite of what the toponyms witnessing the history of this place, there is nothing macabre or sad here. Quite the contrary. We are in a splendid corner of South Tyrol, immersed in an intact and still very wild natural context.
The lake is 5 minutes walk from the church, on trail 2A that leads to Mt Villandro. It is nestled between the rocks and protected by the peaks of the ridge just above. Silence and peace are interrupted only by the swift and high-pitched whistle of the marmots that populate the surrounding lands. Located at the sides of the lake, there are some comfortable wooden deckchairs, perfect for stopping, closing your eyes and immersing yourself in the context, letting only the quiet populate your mind. In the distance you can see the silhouette of the “Odle” Group and, next to it, that of the “Sassolungo” and “Sassopiatto”. They are a perfect frame to complete this extraordinary picture.
Come up here with the intention of spending some time.
One of the main purposes of your excursion can only be to contemplate the beauty of this place and its surroundings, letting yourself go.
The Wackerer lake
Not far from here, a few kilometers away, there is another enchanted place: here gently rests a small body of water from which you can admire, in contemplation, a breathtaking view.
It is the Wackerer lake, over 2100 meters above sea level, in the Puez-Odle Natural Park, just above the “Passo delle Erbe”.
ATTENTION: the lake is located inside a private property. It can be accessed but the respect and care of your own actions, always necessary, are even more appropriate here.
Although the surface on which the lake extends is truly reduced, its beauty is immediately evident on arrival: soft grassy slopes populated by pastures, small wooden huts all around and the gentle movement of the mountain air that shapes the surrounding meadows. In front of us the “Odle di Eores” slowly give way to the “Sass de Putia” massif which, in all its might, is reflected in the waters of this small reserve.
The lake can be reached, also in this case, from different starting points. The most fascinating route, however, is the one that, starting from “Plose” (station at the top of the town of Bressanone), closes a clockwise loop through the panoramic trail of the Dolomites, stopping just beyond the lake in the beautiful “Malga Schatzer“. This is a very pleasant excursion at high altitude, cutting the slopes that host large and crowded ski trails during the winter season. The arrival at the lake involves a couple of hours walking, without too much effort, accompanied at all times by the peaks just in front of us.
Once you arrive you need to stop for a while, taking care not to disturb the cows that graze around there. The panorama, especially on beautiful sunny days, leaves you completely speechless. The shape of the “Sass de Putia” that is reflected on the water is an emotion that only a Dolomite environment can offer.
Do not be in a hurry to continue your hike, let yourself be lulled by the air that kisses these meadows and sinuously moves the waters of this small lake.