Nothing prepares you for the otherworldly beauty of the Dolomites, whose 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. This Great Dolomites Traverse, West, inn-to-inn tour makes a circuit of the Val Gardena, our favorite corner of the Dolomites. A longer self-guided tour can be arranged with additional days extending east to the Badia valley and Cortina d’Ampezzo, so check out our self-guided Great Dolomites Traverse.
The Val Gardena is easily and quickly reached by bus from Bolzano, a beautiful small city filled with plazas and museums. You’ll start with 2 nights in Selva, a tiny village at the upper end of the Val Gardena, with miles of hiking trails radiating in every direction. This will be followed by 3 days (2 nights) of hut-to-hut hiking high above the valley, overnighting in remote mountain inns – the tidy Tyrolean Plattkofel hut and historic mountaintop Schlern hut. Then you’ll circle back to the Gardena valley for 2 nights in Ortisei, a charming village with narrow cobblestoned streets lined with elegant shops. Both of our mountain inns feature private rooms, indoor bathrooms (Plattkofel has showers as well), and delicious home-cooked meals. Our standard tour features comfortable 3-star village hotels, while the deluxe tour opts for more luxurious 4-star hotels in Selva and Ortisei, with beautiful pools and spas, and great food. You won’t want to leave!
Your typical day starts with a delicious buffet breakfast at our 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 2 consecutive nights in huts, and your luggage will be transported for you from Selva to Ortisei.
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.
The Dolomites is truly a special region. With gorgeous hotels, charming villages, and numerous exciting hikes, this Dolomites tour will make for an unforgettable vacation.
Selva – Arrive in Italy and transfer by train to Bolzano, where you’ll be met by a private taxi that takes you to Selva.
Bolzano is a pleasant city with large squares, outdoor markets, and an captivating natural history museum (home of the famous Ötzi iceman), and a night or two here makes a natural pre-tour or post-tour extension. Arrive in Selva with time to wander the village and enjoy the crisp air and dramatic views from town.
Selva – Selva is surrounded by pleasant hiking trails and is blessed with beautiful views from every corner.
After a quick morning transfer to Ortisei, you’ll begin your dayhike hike past the oldest chapel in the valley and up to the beautiful Seceda meadows. This gorgeous valley is not to be missed, with quiet meadows and extensive views of the towering Puez-Odle mountain group. Descend to the village of Selva for your 2nd night.
Plattkofel – Hiking hut-to-hut, you’ll hike high above the valley on a circuit of the towering Sassolungo mountain group, to rifugio Plattkofel, a cozy mountain inn tucked away on the edge of the rocky group.
Pack extra clothes for 2 nights away, and leave your remaining luggage to be transported to Ortisei. Rifugio Plattkofel is more a small mountain hotel than a hut, with private rooms, hot showers and great food.
Schlernhaus – Continue on a rolling high-level traverse hemmed in by rocky towers. Today’s hike is relatively easy, with very little altitude gain and loss, and this enjoyable walk takes you past the Tierser hut, perfectly placed for lunch, to Schlernhaus, an historic mountain inn atop the mighty Schlern peak, with breathtaking views in every direction.
Schlernhaus is a lodge-style inn built in the late 1800’s, and is spectacular. You’ll have private rooms but no showers tonight.
Ortisei – An easy downhill traverse of the Alpe di Siusi, the largest mountain meadow in the Alps, promises more panoramic views of the region, eventually leading to a gondola that whisks you down to Ortisei.
Numerous trails give you options for longer or shorter hikes. You’ll finish the day in the village of Ortisei, with a charming, pedestrians-only main road, and a wide range of classy hotels and shops.
Ortisei – On your last day, start with a cable car ride to a ridge high above town. Here, one of our favorite hikes in the valley takes you through the high scenic meadow trails of Seceda, beneath the rugged Geisler mountains, where you can look back across the valley on almost your entire route.
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. In the evening, you can unwind and enjoy the gourmet cuisine at your tasteful village hotel.
depart – After breakfast, your taxi driver will meet you at your hotel to take you back to Bolzano.
The otherworldly beauty of the Dolomites is on full display on this hut-to-hut hike from the Gardena valley to Cortina d’Ampezzo.Learn more ›
The self-guided Haute Route tour links Chamonix to Zermatt via a spectacular series of trails with high passes, quiet trails, and stunning views.Learn more ›