The Italian Dolomites are one of the most fantastic mountains in the world. Their sharp pointed pinnacles and steep pale stony cliffs plunge steeply down to green valleys, creating some of the most incredible landscapes in the world. There are eighteen summits that extend beyond 3,000 metres in height with Marmolada being the highest.
The Dolomites (meaning ‘pale mountains’) are sturdy in contrast. Rough crags, pinnacles and towers encircle magical green meadows, multi-coloured forests, fields and lakes. These striking contrasts are at its best in Cortina – ‘the pearl of the Dolomites’. The whole region has been designated a UN Heritage Centre.
There are many reasons to visit the area. Here are our picks on the most satisfying things you can do while touring the Dolomites.
The Dolomites are renowned for skiing, mountain climbing, hiking, base jumping, paragliding, hang gliding and free climbing. The Alte Vie or ‘Alpine Trails’ are world famous and, in some instances, really challenging treks. These mountains are a rock climbers’ dream with different sorts of climbs for all – novices, skilled as well as the seriously professional types.
Soar like an eagle under a parachute or glider’s wings from one of the mountains and thrill to the feeling of weightlessness – and live your dream. You will get a view which only a few others do – above the spectacular peaks of the Dolomites.
The Dolomite region is a skier’s heaven. Short summers and long winters make it ideal for extended skiing seasons. The most famous and best skiing town is Cortina d’Ampezzo. The 1956 Winter Olympics were held there.
Visit The Tunnels And Galleries In The Dolomites
In the early 20th century the border between Germany, Austria and Italy passed through the Dolomites. During World War I, it was the frontline. Soldiers on both sides excavated several series of tunnels in the mountains in order to fire at each other and wrest control of the heights.
Hiding places in the Dolomites (World War I)
These tunnels and galleries contain the remnants and artefacts of that period till date. You can explore and see the still preserved barrack rooms (complete with sleeping bunks and heating stoves), storerooms, machinegun emplacements and other war relics.
Take Cable Car/Ski Lift Rides
The experience of a cable car or ski lift ride in the Dolomites is unlike any other. They provide spectacular views unequalled in the world. Even in this picture postcard world, some locations stand out from the others. Just to name three – Lagazuoi near Cortina, Pass Pordoi and Mont Seuc. The Dolomites, with the light on them constantly changing, are a photographer’s delight. Once viewed, the scenery from the lifts will be sure to drag you back.
The ‘queen of the Dolomites,’ Marmolada is the highest peak in the Dolomites. The entire journey in getting up to the top is an experience not to be missed. As your gently swaying cable car lifts you towards the peak and above the clouds, you feel like you have wandered into a movie set. The views are awe-inspiring and on a clear day you can see Venice!
Tour The lakes
If the sight of peaks of this region leave you in awe, their counterparts, the placid clear waters among the Dolomites are just as captivating. These numerous pools of magic are flanked by golf-course like meadows and groves of trees while reflecting the pale peaks rising above them. The picturesque little towns and villages that sit on their banks add to their allure.
Lake Auronzo di Cadore is an outstanding example. Its fairy-tale surroundings are further enhanced in winter when the waters totally freeze up to the point where polo is played on it. Another serene and tranquil lake is Misurina which is worth a visit. Lake Misurina is where the speed skating events were held during the 1956 Winter Olympics (it was the last time Olympic speed skating events were held on natural ice.) The spectacular scenery of Lake Misurina features in most photos of the area.
Spend The Night In A Mountain Hut (Rifugio)
To round off your Dolomites adventure or make it even more memorable, you should stay at a traditional alpine hut. You can really soak in the magical atmosphere of the mountainous landscape. The long history of mountaineering in the Alps has seen the building of many huts (rifugios) along the trails and throughout the high Dolomite massifs. These wonderful wooden or stone cabins are very often perched precariously on the rocks. The vistas from here are extraordinary. There is no greater feeling than the camaraderie of other walkers, sharing an excellent dinner, a good night’s sleep and a generous breakfast before you set off again.