About this Italy walking region
Italy’s spectacular rooftop, the Dolomites, offers some of the best mountain walking in Europe. Here is where the landscape of the Dolomite mountains enthralls walkers with the constantly changing play of light on towering peaks, the fresh country air, rich culture and traditions that vary from valley to valley.
The Dolomites are, in fact, the south-eastern Alps and whilst the walking areas listed below are primarily in the northern section of the Dolomites, the entire Dolomite range extends well into Veneto to the east and Trentino to the south. Even though the twin-provinces of Trentino-Alto Adige form one Alpine region, they are best thought of as independent of each other – completely different culturally, linguistically and historically. In general, the local culture in the northern section of the Dolomites is more Germanic than Italian, as the region was part of Austria for centuries, but after World War I the border was moved north to its present position. Now Italian and German traditions and language exist side-by-side in a friendly way – many Dolomite villages, in fact, have dual names.
The stunningly beautiful pink and white limestone mountains of the Dolomites are famous for meadows covered in richly-coloured wildflowers, picturesque Rifugios, the outstanding walking and, of course, exhilarating Via Ferratas. In Italy 'ferrata' – literally 'iron ways' – are aided rock climbs consisting of permanently fixed metal cables and ladders onto which climbers clip their safety harnesses. Providing access to sheer cliffs and rocky peaks, some of them date back to WWI, when they were used by Alpini troops to reach strategically important peaks. Many others have been created since by civilian mountaineers.
Walking in the Dolomites
This is a super region for a walking holiday, with a plethora of well-marked trails at all altitudes. Some of the trails have been used for thousands of years and have a feeling of timelessness that can transport you light-years away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Numerous chairlifts and cable cars are springboards for more demanding hikes, whilst Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm, in German), Europe’s largest high-alpine plateau, offers boundless easy walking that presents beginners and seasoned walkers alike with classic Dolomite views across undulating pastures. Ascending from 1800m to 2200m (5900ft to 7200ft), Alpe di Siusi is best-known for its multi-coloured alpine flowers. And in the distance, the 2000m (8200ft) walls of the Sassolungo Sassopiatto and Sciliar peaks attract hard-core rock climbers, while energetic walkers tread a vast network of excellent trails serviced by a system of refugios (mountain huts). Probably some of the most famous peaks in the Dolomites are the Drei Zinnen (German), also known as Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Italian. Located in Alta Pusteria (Hochpustertal) in the Northern Dolomites, numerous walking routes lead from the surrounding villages to and around these truly stunning peaks.
Most people who have travelled the region know its highest peak – Monte Marmolada (German: Marmolata; also nick-named ‘Queen of the Dolomites’). Located in the very heart of the Dolomites, it consists of a ridge running west to east made up of several summits with Mt. Marmolada itself 3342m (10,965ft) being the highest.
Weather depending, the Dolomites walking season runs from approximately mid June to the end of September/beginning of October. Note that nearly all mountain huts (called refugios) close around mid September!
Alta Pusteria/Hochpustertal (IT)
A treasure chest for walkers, outdoor enthusiasts and nature-loving families alike ● Set in the heart of the Dolomites ● World-famous Cime di Lavaredo peaks (three peaks in English) - 2,999m/9,839ft ● Lake Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies), emerald-green, stunningly beautiful and a mysterious 36m (118ft) deep.
Alta Badia to Monte Marmolada
The craggy, imposing mountains of the central Dolomites ● Wonderful combination of ancient Ladin traditions and Italian dolce vita ● Nature reserves Puez-Geisler and Fanes-Sennes-Prags ● Intrepid hiker's paradise ● The mighty Marmolada (3,343m/ 10,964ft), the Dolomite's highest mountain range ● Venice one hour!
The ideal walking holiday spot in the Dolomites ● Cosmopolitan resort and in winter a skiing Mecca ● From easy strolls to demanding high-Alpine trails and vie ferrate ● Nature reserve Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti d'Ampezzo ● The Tofàna mountains (3,243m/10,640ft) and Monte Cristallo (3,218m/10,558ft).
Plan de Corones (Kronplatz)
Best of both worlds – flanked by the Austrian Zillertal Alps (Tyrol) and the Italian Dolomites ● Dolomiti Superski in winter; wonderful walking in spring, autumn, summer ● Three nature reserves: Fanes-Sennes-Prags, Rieserferner-Ahrn, Puez-Geisler ● Mt. Kronplatz (2,175m/7,136ft), the region’s most popular mountain.
Breathtakingly beautiful mountains in the Southern Dolomites ● The legendary Rosengarten mountains of the mythical dwarf king Laurin (Laurino) - famed for their lustrous pink glow in the light of sunset ● Rosengarten means Rose Garden ● Nature Reserve Parco Naturale Sciliar-Catinaccio ● Mt. Kesselkogel (3,002m/9,849ft).
Seiser Alm & Schlern
Gentle Dolomites walking on Alpi di Siusi (Seiser Alm in German), Europe’s largest high-alpine meadow ● Acres of wildflowers with a storybook Dolomite backdrop ● Great regional cuisine! ● Charming, picturesque villages ● 350 km (217 miles) of walking trails ● Mt. Sciliar (Mt. Schlern in German), 2.563m/8,409ft.
Val Gardena (Gröden)
Popular High Alpine valley ● Countless highlights, from gentle family walks to high level treks and challenging vie ferrate ● Classic, breathtaking Dolomites scenery ● Three attractive villages from 1,200m/3,937ft up to 1,700m/5,577ft ● Mountain peaks up to 3,181m/10,436ft (Mt. Saslong/Mt. Langkofel in German).
More great places to go walking in Dolomites & South Tyrol: