The Dolomites, where sheer pink and yellow limestone pinnacles tower like monuments over quaint villages, flowery meadows, wooded valleys, and sun-soaked trails. Italian, Austrian, and ancient Ladin cultures intermingle peacefully in the small, scattered villages in this mountainous corner of Italy. The Dolomites also boast a surprising variety of beautiful wildflowers in the grassy meadows below the mountains. Our classic Dolomites inn-to-inn tour starts with a circuit of the Val Gardena, our favorite corner of the Dolomites, before venturing east through the Badia valley to the soaring rock towers that surround Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Your tour begins in Ortisei, a small, sunny village in the Gardena valley, with miles of hiking trails radiating in every direction. You’ll start your tour with a loop above the Gardena valley, visiting a couple high huts along the way, before heading east past the mighty Sella mountain, on to the historic mountaintop Lagazuoi, and finally to Cortina d’Ampezzo. You’ll have 3 nights in high huts and mountain inns (note, there are no single rooms at the huts), and 7 nights in comfortable 3 to 4-star hotels with great food. Our deluxe tour features some truly luxurious 4 and 5-star hotels.
Your typical day starts with a delicious buffet breakfast at your hotel – a feast of freshly baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, eggs, coffee and freshly squeezed juice – which gives you the energy needed for the day ahead. Before setting out on your hike, visit a bakery and market for lunch supplies, or bring some money for a stop in one of the alpine restaurants along your route. Soon, you’ll be out on the trail for 6-8 hours, with many hiking options to choose from. You’ll carry extra clothes in your daypacks for the 3 nights in huts, and your luggage will be transported for you from between villages.
You should finish your hike around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax, perhaps settle into the pool, or just gaze upon the outside panorama from your room balcony. After that, you’ll enjoy dinner at your hotel restaurant. These are multi-course feasts, often featuring delicious local Austrian and Italian specialties. Our hotels all serve fabulous food, and dinners will be hearty, filling, well-earned and very delicious. We typically leave dinner in Cortina free, giving you a night to explore on your own.
The Dolomites is truly a special region. With beautiful inns and hikes, this Dolomites tour will make an unforgettable vacation. If you’d prefer 4 and 5-star hotels, ask about upgrades at stops along this route, or check out our Self-guided Deluxe Great Dolomites Traverse with luggage and private rooms every night, and no huts. If you’d like a shorter trip, we offer either half as a 6-night tour, our Classic Dolomites Traverse, West and Classic Dolomites Traverse, East.
Ortisei – Arrive in Italy and transfer to the Dolomites. A private taxi transfer from Bolzano is included in your tour. Our driver will meet you on arrival and take you right to your hotel in Ortisei, a pleasant and very walkable town in the Gardena valley.
If you have extra time, we can arrange additional nights in Bolzano to give you time to explore this small, vibrant city before heading to the mountains. Bolzano is a pleasant city with large squares, outdoor markets, and a captivating natural history museum (home of the famous Ötzi iceman).
Ortisei – Ortisei is surrounded by pleasant hiking trails and is blessed with beautiful views from every corner. Take a dayhike through high scenic meadows to the Brogles hut, where the view lends a sneak peak to your route for the next few days gazing upon the jagged needles of the Puez-Odle peaks and the long back of the Schlern Ridgeline.
Or for a more adventurous outing, meet up with a local guide for a via ferrata climb (guide and gear not included) on one of the local routes. Via ferrata climbs are famous throughout the Dolomites, and there are many options to choose among, from easy beginner hikes to steep, challenging routes. The local guide office can help you decide on an appropriate route, rent gear, and provide a guide. If you’d prefer to relax in town, Ortisei has a nice, pedestrian-only town center and a great pool and spa.
Schlernhaus hut – You’ll have time for a slow start this morning before starting your day with a gondola ride high above town to the vast meadows of the Alpe di Siusi, the largest mountain meadow in the Alps. The undulating trail across the meadows passes by a number of small mountain inns. We’ll send you to a favorite lunch spot where you can enjoy some of the best homemade local flavors in the Dolomites, including our favorite Kaiserschmarrn in South Tyrol.
After lunch, a short but steep ascent leads even higher, to the historic Schlernhaus hut, perched on top of the mountain. Built in 1885, this was one of the first mountain inns in the Dolomites. Although it’s been expanded and renovated many times since, Schlernhaus still exudes a rustic charm, with simple private rooms, and cold running water (no showers). The spacious lodge-like dining room gives you a cozy place to relax and enjoy the accomplishment of arriving at such a beautiful place in the Alps.
Plattkofel hut – Leaving Schlernhaus, you’ll make a relatively easy traverse of the high meadows. Views of the Catinaccio group lead you forward, and there are beautiful mountains in every direction. After a couple hours, you’ll pass by the handsome Tierser hut, a great place to stop for lunch.
From Tierser, a steep but brief decent to Pas de Duron followed by a couple more hours of moderate traverse brings you to Plattkofel Hut. Newly renovated, with private rooms and hot showers (and wifi and laundry service), Plattkofel is more a comfortable mountain inn than a hut–and we think you’ll appreciate it. It’s a popular daytime stop with hikers, and takes on a quiet ambiance in the evening that allows you to relax and enjoy a beautiful evening high in the mountains.
Selva – Today you’ll traverse the dramatic Sassolungo and Sassopiatto mountain group. One option includes a steep and somewhat rugged ascent leading directly into the heart of the mountains, surrounded on all sides by jagged peaks. You might hike all the way to a high pass and the Toni Demetz hut, where a fun gondola can bring you down to the Sella pass. From here, a bus takes you to Selva.
Alternately, continue your circuit lower down through green meadows with constant views to the north and west over the Alp di Suisi. The Ciampinoi lift will bring you directly to Selva, the highest village in the Gardena valley that has a number of fine hotels and restaurants.
Selva – A second day in Selva gives you a chance to further explore this beautiful region. A great hike from town leads directly up to the Seceda meadows, part of the Puez-Odle Nature park. Seceda has a number of wonderful trails. A favorite leads to the higher reaches of the meadows to Piera Longia, a picturesque mountain restaurant at the base of the peaks.
Your descent from Seceda can be eased by a lift down to the valley floor, or you can take an energetic detour to the Stevia hut, for their fantastic apple strudel and otherworldly views of the Sella mountain. Return to Selva for a 2nd night.
Corvara – From Selva, a dramatic hike through the U-shaped Vallunga valley leads you to a high, rocky landscape and the Puez hut, over the Gardena pass, past the massive Sella mountain, and down to the quiet Alta Badia valley.
The Gardena pass is also accessible from Selva by bus or cable car, and you can have an easier day today walking the many pretty trails near the pass. From here, a scenic descent or a short bus transfer brings you to Corvara. Stay luxurious 4-star hotel in this pleasant village.
San Cassiano – This is a more moderate day over the meadows of Pralongia, the hills that separate Corvara and San Cassiano, with gorgeous views all around. Hike below the Setsas peaks and then on wooded trails down to the lovely small village of San Cassiano, framed by a gorgeous backdrop of mountains.
Although quite small, San Cassiano has a number of very fine hotels that promise a welcoming and comfortable night.
Lagazuoi hut – Today’s dramatic walk takes you high above the valley to the rifugio Lagazuoi, a popular hut perched at the summit of a mountain with incredible views and rich history. The direct trail is an uphill route through a quiet valley, with optional detours for a longer day. You can also choose an easy day today by taking a bus to the Falzarego pass, and walking to even taking a cable car to the hut.
Lagazuoi was the scene of fierce fighting in WWI, and many tunnels and artifacts remain to this day. Lagazuoi has comfortable rooms, fairly spacious dorms and hot showers, and takes care to serve abundant and delicious meals. This is a popular hut and private rooms fill fast… even dorm space is often unavailable for last-minute trips. Booking early will allow for the best chance at securing accommodations here.
Cortina d’Ampezzo – Finally, you’ll finish your Dolomites Traverse with a hike to Cortina d’Ampezzo. Your hike leads you across the valley to famous Cinque Torri region. Starting from Lagazuoi, you might take a moment to explore some of the WWI tunnels just below the hut (if you haven’t already). Then a steep but straightfoward descent leads to the Falzarego pass. If you prefer, you can take the cable car from Lagazuoi to Falzarego instead.
The Cinque Torri hike is filled with WWI memorials and features some fine lunch stops at local huts. Hike up to the Averau hut for some of their famous cuisine (they are renowned throughout the region), then down to the Cinque Torri WWI open-air exhibits. We’ll arrange for your taxi to meet you at a mid-point enroute and take you to Cortina d’Ampezzo for a final, celebratory evening. Dinner is on your own tonight.
depart – Today you say arrivederci, and depart for your post-tour destinations. Transportation by taxi from Cortina to Venice is included in your tour, or a taxi can be booked for custom travel to other destinations.
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