THE DOLOMITES BECAME A UNESCO SITE IN 2009
The Dolomites are magnificent and unique, a place that begs for hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities, a place where every bend in the path brings astounding new vistas that take one’s breath away.
There are endless possibilities for hiking, scrambling, trekking, rock climbing, mountaineering, and canyoning. I know this area in depth and can suggest and design a visit to match your needs and leave you memories that you will keep forever.
To give some examples, let me suggest two great hiking experiences, in what are two of the most dramatic and beautiful places in the Dolomites. Let me note that the Dolomites are a large set of mountains covering a large area, divided into a number of distinct groups. Two of these areas and three groups are discussed next:
Brenta Dolomites is my favorite dolomite group.
Tofane & Lavaredo are in the area of Cortina D’Ampezzo, the most famous Dolomite city.
These are the most western dolomites, separated from the other groups by the highway leading from Verona to Innsbruck, Austria. It is the closest group dolomite to Milan, Venice, and Verona Airports. It is covered with forests at the lower elevations and amazing rocky peaks, cliffs and spires at higher elevations. It has a superb system of trails, and Refugios situated in dramatic scenery at the higher elevations, allowing a hiking adventure that will stay in the wilds of nature for many days, in surprising comfort.
I suggest an itinerary of 5-7 days going hut to hut. The hiking each day would take from 3-6 hours, at elevations ranging from 7,000 to 11,000 feet. These huts are the Refugios mentioned earlier, and perhaps the best examples of their kind: they are essentially small family-run hotels, bedrooms have 2, 4, 8, or more beds; sleeping is always comfortable; food is generally of exceptional quality for a ‘hotel’ typically perched on a cliff in the high mountains at a location giving dramatic views (the Refugios are serviced daily by cables to the nearest villages and towns many thousands of feet below).
For those of you a bit more experienced and fit, it is possible to add an easy climb/scramble to the highest Dolomitic peak. I also suggest adding some ‘Via Ferrata’, hikes among sheer cliffs, but perfectly safe due to protection with iron cables (these are described in a section below). The arrangement of the Refugios and trails allows the hiking program to be adjusted to suit your available time and desires.
Tofane & Lavaredo
The area around Cortina is most popular and most visited part of the Dolomites. It is very beautiful, full of history and has many natural attractions. The trek I suggest in this zone is easier then that in the Brenta's. It is possible to sleep in Refugios, but it is also possible to sleep in a regular hotel every night, using Cortina d’'Ampezzo as a base for activities. From Cortina, we can travel by car each day, reaching varied and different attractions, mountains, formations, and valleys in only 10-20 minutes.
Cortina is a very beautiful little town, the most popular dolomites area since the beginning of the 19th century. It was the site of the Winter Olympics in 1956, and offers skiing, climbing, hiking and other mountain activities in the immediate vicinity, and shopping, fashion, and fine dining in the town.
On one day we go to Tofane and hike up to a long tunnel dug by the Italian army during the first world war. On another we' ’ll walk around alpine lakes and meadows 5,000 feet higher than the town. On another we can explore the beauty of Misurina lake and hike around the famous Lavaredo towers. The hikes each day can take about 4-5 hours, and (as always) can be modified to suite your needs, including trying the ‘Via Ferrata’.
Via Ferrata are paths through the mountains along exposed cliffs, and up and down cliffs on steel ladders, all protected by cables at waist high level bolted to the cliffs. One wears a harness and helmet, and attaches oneself to the cables with slings and carabiners (all equipment I will provide). This allows the experience to proceed in perfect safety, in conditions normally seen only by experienced rock climbers and mountaineers. The Via Ferrata are suitable for beginners and do not require technical training if done with a guide, though they can be quite thrilling.
There are many Via Ferrata in the Dolomites and they are connected to the trail system, so that one can hike across a Dolomite group on regular trails, on Via Ferrata, or on some combination of the two, as one wishes. The Via Ferrata are often higher in the mountains than the regular trails, offer even more exciting vistas, and in some cases allow the opportunity to reach one of the Dolomitic peaks.
The High Ways:
High Ways are specially designated trials that local guides or councils have selected and designed to show off particularly interesting history, natural formations, beauty, and culture. These tend to offer the best of the Dolomites, and are well marked and maintained. Walks/hikes on them can take from 3 to 8 hours a day depending on the placement and the presence of Refugios and villages. Most highlight the beauty of the surroundings, and some may follow and use Via Ferrata, while others allow viewing of religious places (the Chapel High Way), and yet others are designed to highlight historical sites (from the World war, for example). We can design itineraries that include any of the High Ways you desire.