Tucked away in north-eastern Italy, the Dolomites are far removed from our other tour regions. And yes, the Dolomites are worth the trip!
Huge Limestone Peaks
The Dolomites are impressive, that’s for sure. Giant cliffs of yellow and pink and grey rock rise severely from the green meadows below. What they lack in glacier clad peaks, are made up for through vertical rock walls. The Dolomites are steep and rocky, and are famous worldwide for their vie ferrate – high difficult trails with fixed cables that fall somewhere between hiking and climbing. There are many trails, both cabled and not, that lead you into this surreal rocky moonscape.
and Flowery Meadows
Yet the mountains are also surrounded by miles of gentle green meadows filled with cows and horses, huts and inns, and hiking trails to suit every taste, including the largest mountain meadow in the Alps, the Val Gardena’s Alpe di Siusi. Additionally, the area boasts a surprisingly rich array of wildflowers that can be a particular treat in late June and early July… all of the normal alpine flowers (and there are many) are in display here, and also many spectacular varieties not often seen else where like fire lilies and lady slipper orchids.
We can’t recommend this area highly enough… the Dolomites are beautiful, rugged and charming. Bellisima!
Rich and Varied Culture
Culturally, the Dolomites are a crossroads, with Tyrolean, Italian and ancient Ladin cultures all coming together here. Much of the region was Austria’s South Tyrol before WWI, and this is evident still today – the architecture is tidy, the buses run with Germanic regularity, and many of the locals still speak German as their first language. Large parts of the Dolomites, particularly in the south and east, are predominantly Italian, both in language and feel, and Cortina d’Ampezzo – perhaps the most famous village in the Dolomites – is a prime example of this.
Most of our tours focus on the Val Gardena, a beautiful valley in the western Dolomites near Bolzano. The Val Gardena is a Tyrolean area, but locally the Ladin culture dominates. Ladin is an ancient language related to Latin that came with the Roman soldiers who once occupied the area, much like the Romansch language of eastern Switzerland. The Gardena valley is now a delightful mix of all three, where apple strudel lives side by side with spaghetti Bolognese, the hotels and huts are great (most of the “huts” have private rooms), English is widely spoken, trails meticulously maintained, and the espresso is a revelation.
Charming Villages and Hotels
Our main village-base, Ortisei, features a wide pedestrian-only cobblestoned core, wonderful hotels, and is ringed by picturesque mountains and tempting trails. Higher up, the village of Selva is tucked against some of the most impressive peaks in the region, such as the mighty fortress-like Sella. In neighboring valleys, San Cassiano and Corvara offers a slightly more remote ambiance, and larger Cortina d’Ampezzo is more resort-like, surrounded by famous mountains and WWI relics. And Bolzano itself is a beautiful small city, filled with wide-open plazas, and home to the Ötzi iceman, a 5300 year old man found virtually intact in a nearby glacier. The museum where he resides is a fascinating addition to any trip.
We love to hike, and we love to eat, and the Dolomites do not disappoint. From cheese and sausage at a simple mountain hut to gourmet Michelin-starred restaurants, the Dolomites have it all. We’ll point you to our favorite alpine restaurants, and book you in hotels where the meals are a star, not an afterthought. The combination of rugged hikes and great food that you’ll find in the Dolomites is hard to beat!
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