Self-guided Dolomites Express

Italy Inn-to-inn

The otherworldly beauty of the Dolomites is on full display on this hut-to-hut hike from the Gardena Valley to Cortina d'Ampezzo.

Self-Guided Tour

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  • Length
  • 8 days, 7 nights
  • Departure Dates
  • Jun 15 – Sep 30, 2020
  • Tour Cost
  • June/Sept $2790
    July $3190
    Aug $3390
    $600 single
Reserve this Tour

More options for this tour

Self-guided Classic Dolomites Traverse

Small group guided tour with guaranteed departures, max size 14 people

Private Guided Classic Dolomites Traverse

Make it private! Your companions, your dates, your tour - we do the rest.


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 4 nights in comfortable 3 to 4-star hotels with great food.

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 prefer 4 and 5-star hotels, ask about upgrades at stops along this route.  We also offer a Self-guided Deluxe Great Dolomites Traverse with luggage every night and no huts.

Map of Self-guided Dolomites Express


Day 1

Ortisei – Arrive in Italy and transfer to the Dolomites.  A taxi transfer from Bolzano to Ortisei is included at the beginning of 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).

  • 3-star Stetteneck or similar
  • D

Day 2

Schlernhaus hut – You’ll have time for a slow start this morning before starting your day with a gondola 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.

  • Schlernhaus hut
  • B / D
  • hike: 5-7 hours, 9.5 miles; Elevation: 2590 ft. up, 1110 ft. down

Day 3

Plattkofel hut – Leaving Schlernhaus, you’ll make a relatively easy traverse of the high meadows.  Views of the Catinaccio group lead you forward, but 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 couple more hours of moderate traverse bring 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 us to relax and enjoy a beautiful evening high in the mountains.

  • Plattkofel hut
  • B / D
  • hike: 5-7 hours, 8 miles, 1260 ft. up, 1750 ft. down

Day 4

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, to the Toni Demetz hut, where a fun gondola brings you down to the Sella pass where a bus takes you to Selva.

Alternately, continue your circuit lower down through green meadows with constant views to the Ciampinoi lift, which will bring you directly to Selva.  Selva is the highest village in the Gardena valley and has a number of fine hotels and restaurants.

  • 3-star Krone or similar
  • B / D
  • hike: 5-7 hours, 7 miles; Elevation: 1400 ft. up, 1590 ft. down

Day 5

Corvara – From Selva, a dramatic hike through the U-shaped Vallunga valley leads you to a high, rocky landscape and the Puez hut, past the Gardena pass and 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 in a tasteful 3-star hotel in Corvara.

  • 3-star Villa Eden or Tambra
  • B / D
  • hike: 7-9 hours, 9.5 miles; Elevation: 3050 ft. up, 3170 ft. down

Day 6

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.

This was the scene of fierce fighting in WWI, and many tunnels and artifacts remain to this day. Despite it’s mountaintop position, Lagazuoi has comfortable rooms 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.  Try to book early for the best chance at a private room.

  • rifugio Lagazuoi
  • B / D
  • hike: 5-7 hours, 7 miles; Elevation: 3920 ft. up

Day 7

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 will be on your own tonight, and we’ll give suggestions for good restaurants in town.

  • 4-star Hotel Cortina
  • B
  • hike: 6-8 hours, 9.5 miles; Elevation: 1480 ft. up, 3600 ft. down

Day 8

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.

  • B
Included 4 nights 3 to 4 star hotels
3 nights huts/inns
7 breakfasts, 6 dinners
luggage transfers between villages
Bolzano to Ortisei taxi transfer
Cortina to Venice taxi transfer

topo maps
detailed route descriptions
sightseeing suggestions
local contact for questions

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