The Dolomites—above the trees and away from the crowds
Nature-buffs and serious trekkers, be warned: the Alta Via, or “High Road,” of the Dolomites just might be absolutely everything you’re looking for in your next vacation! These rugged, limestone peaks and pinnacles of the Italian Alps can’t help but enchant with their pastel colors that shift in the light. This multi-day, rifugio to rifugio alpine tour offers one of the most demanding, and certainly one of the most rewarding, treks in Europe. Rich in conifer forests, alpine pastures, moraine valleys, mountain lakes, and glaciers, the Südtirol of northern Italy is a fascinating collision of the Austrian and Italian cultures. Traverse the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomiti di Sesto Natural Park, Croda Rossa and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park, and make pilgrimages to the Sella Massif, the Marmolada Glacier area (the “Queen of the Dolomites”), and Bletterbach Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Südtirol”). Six overnights in quiet, comfortable, and charming rifugio—mountain inns only accessible by foot with great amenities—provide a rare opportunity to really get away from it all, with five nights of typical creature comforts in three- and four-star hotels. Join us above the tree line for your next vacation.
10 Days of strenuous hiking on rocky, uneven terrain.
- Trek both the Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2—two of the famous, challenging “high roads” of the Dolomites—to absorb superb, vast landscapes above the tree line
- Hike rifugio to rifugio, and enjoy the quiet and charming atmosphere of these isolated mountain inns each night, away from the noise of the towns and cities
- Travel north to south with our professional guides to see vistas of more than 80% of the Dolomite Mountains—a recently added UNESCO World Heritage Site
Duration: 12 days Start Location: Innsbruck, Austria End Location: Innsbruck, AustriaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Innsbruck, Austria
Plan to arrive at the Innsbruck airport, where your tour leader will meet you at the cafe in the Arrivals Hall. We'll transfer 2-hours to San Candido (or Dobbiaco), our base for the next two nights. The afternoon is free for you to stroll around the village or just relax. In the afternoon, we'll meet again for a trip orientation and welcome dinner with our guide, ad we'll taste some typical dishes from the area.
Day 2 : Tre Cime di Lavaredo Warm-up Hike
The Sesto group that encompasses the Tre Cime di Lavaredo is practically bisected by the border between Italy’s German-speaking south Tyrol and the predominantly Italian speaking Veneto region – the frontier between Hapsburg Austria and Italy until 1918. The entire range was involved in the First World War, and wherever you turn are trench systems gouged by hand out of the rough dolomite surface, defensive barricades of stones heaped up by platoons of soldiers and the ubiquitous barbed wire.
One wonderful way to appreciate the Tre Cime formation in summer is by a pedestrian circumnavigation, during which their usual shapes mutate from sharp points to soft corners, the three sections apparently merging into one. They are separated by profound gashes caused by erosion along ancient fault lines dating back to the era when the rock was underground. Good paths lead all the way round open terrain with views spacing in all directions, thus making a spectacular walk.
Today we take a scenic drive up to Rifugio Auronzo (7,650'), and then hike for 3½ hours around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Monte Paterno, one of the most scenic mountain landscapes in the Dolomites. Along the way we’ll admire the spectacular Cadini mountain group on the south, with its rock spires and strangely formed needles.
From here, we'll head east along the wide, level former military track, beneath the dizzy threesome of the Tre Cime. Soon after, we'll come upon a commemorative chapel for the alpine forces who lost their lives in these inhospitable realms during the First World War. The trail then curves north, with a view of Croda Passaporto and the Rifugio Lavaredo (7690’) on a vast stony platform in the distance. We'll continue on, passing the Lago di Lavaredo and Lago di Cengia towards Rifugio Pian di Cengia Buellejochuette (8294’). Tucked into a sheltering rock alcove, the tiny immaculate hut serves delicious hearty soups that go a long way to warming walkers in the windy chill that seems to prevail here.
Forcella Pian di Cengia (8274’) is the next landmark, a mere cut in the rock crest and leading into an immense scree-filled amphitheater littered with more war material in the shape of timbers and barbed wire from fortified positions. You drop abruptly north via a barren gully to start with, then the path levels out for the panoramic traverse west, the stark surrounds enlivened by delicate yellow Rhaetian poppies and lilac round-leafed penny cress. Below lies a sparkling tarn, emerald or sky blue in color, depending on the weather. The final section crosses welcome grassy terrain below Monte Paterno and the “sausage” (Frankfurter Wurstel), and above a pretty cluster of lakes, the Laghi dei Piani. Rifugio Locatelli (7890’) at Forcella Toblin, must be the best-visited hut in the whole of the Dolomites for its amazing position opposite the spectacular worlds famous Tre Cime, whose sheer sides rise solemnly to the south from an immense base of scree, and takes on beautiful hues of pink and orange at sunset.
From Rifugio Locatelli, we'll hike to Rifugio Auronzo where the van will wait for us. There is the possibility to shorten this day by hiking from Rifugio Lavaredo directly to Rifugio Locatelli. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to wander and explore the area or catch up to the time change with a relaxing nap.
Day 3 : Hike Around Picco di Vallandro to Prato Piazza
We'll start the day with a short transfer to Ponte della Chiesa and start your hiking day to Forcella Vallettina on the trail n. 33 and walk around the Picco di Vallandro (9,308') to the Rifugio Vallandro/Duerrenstein (6,691') on the trail n. 34 (also Alta Via n.3). From here you have fantastic views of the Croda Rossa and the Cristallo group right in front of you. From the Rifugio Vallandro hike to Rifugio Prato Piazza, your home for the night, set in an idyllic high-altitude pasture valley. It is probably the best vantage point for viewing the Croda Rossa, so-called for its blood-red rock due to the presence of iron oxide. According to legend, the mountain evidently assumed its coloring in legendary times to express solidarity with Princess Moltina. A timid newlywed, she wassubject to spiteful ridicule when a jealous noblewoman exposed her humble origins – she had been brought up by marmots! Moltina’s embarrassment and bright red blushing were experienced directly by the mountain, Croda Rossa, which has retained its sanguine coloring to this day. Note: No luggage transfer
Day 4 : Superb Traverse Under the Croda Rossa Massif to Rifugio Sennes
This rewarding itinerary constitutes an especially panoramic diagonal crossing of the Fanes – Sennes – Braies Park. New landscapes are revealed every step of the way and there are ample opportunities to see wildlife in the shape of chamois, marmots and ibex.
From the path junction in front of the refuge, you leave this picturesque valley. Through light conifer forrests, it crosses a water course and begins its gentle climb west, amidst masses of wild flowers and you may glimpse wood grouse. A well-maintained rocky mountainside path with timber fencing climbs over a rise to a grassy hollow with magnificent outlook onto Croda Rossa peak, its modest remnant glacier and frontal moraine – the heaped-up debris gradually pushed downhill by the advance of the ice mass in a previous era. Once out of this valley, another ascent takes you shortly to the highest point on this route, 7736 feet. You coast the sloping barren rock and scree flanks of the Piccola Croda Rossa, habitat of sizeable herds of chamois and yellow Rhaetian poppies, and descend almost imperceptibly in and out of more dramatic moraine valleys.
About two hours from Pratopiazza at a sharp turn left, marked as Gaiselleite on maps, the terrain becomes more earthy and crumbly and there are several exposed passages rendered trouble-free by well-secured guiding chain and cable. You quickly find yourself back on grassy in the company of lightening-struck Arolla pines, isolated black sentinels. After coasting north you drop through Alpenrose to join a jeep track.
This leads uphill to photogenic Ross Alm (or Malga Cavalli, 7027’), the summer residence of a shepherd who keeps horses and offers simple meals and refreshments to wayfarer. Continue to Rifugio Biella passing by Forcella Cocodain (7651’) which is a great spot for views which reach as far as the snowbound Austrian Alps. From here, we'll descend to the Rifugio Sennes (6962’). Note— Luggage will be waiting at rifugio
Day 5 : Pederu - Fanes
Today, we'll have a relaxing hike to Rifugio Fanes (6725’). After breakfast we descend to Pederu (5052’). From here we'll continue on a gradually ascending jeep track passing by the Picio del Lake until Rifugio Fanes. In the afternoon there is the possibility to make a nice excursion to Passo Sant’Antonio (8090’) or to the peak of Col Becchei di Sopra (9,161') from where you will have an unforgettable view of the Fanes plateau. Note— Luggage will be waiting at rifugio
Day 6 : Altopiano di Fanes
Today we'll hike 2½-3 hours through the Altopiano di Fanes, with its panorama of the Western Dolomites. From the Rifugio Fanes, we'll hike uphill toward the Forcella del Lago (8,470') with spectacular views, and from where we'll steeply descend 3000’ to the Capanna Alpina. We’ll be able to see the Marmolada (11,024'), the highest peak in the Dolomites. Note— Luggage will be waiting at hotel.
Day 7 : Sella Massif and Via del Pan to Passo Fedaia Under the Marmolada Glacier
From the Rifugio hike under the majestic Sella massif to Passo Pordi (7,345'). The trail is on a typical Dolomitic stone desert trail; it is rocky and sometimes exposed. We may see the occasional hardy wildflower such as the tiny white alpine mouse-ear and yellow poppies.
A longer option is to hike to the top of the Piz Boè (9,416'), where you can enjoy spectacular views. From there you hike to Sas de Pordoi and take the cable-car to Passo Pordoi or hike down following the Alta Via n. 2 path. Along the way we will be able to appreciate some incredible views of the Sassolungo, Marmolada, Civetta, Pelmo, Antelao and Col di Lana mountains.
At the Passo Pordoi take path No. 601 which leads (towards the south) in the direction of a chapel, we;'ll walk further under the eastern face of Sasso Beccèi to the saddle near the “Sass Beccèi” mountain hut (7,947', private inn). Passing the Baita Federòla hut (7,773' private hut with inn) turn left and walk along the Vièl dal Pan. In German, Bindelweg which, literally translated, means The Way of the Bread. This ancient path connects the Fassa Valley and the Agordo region. The cart path is wide and easy to walk on and consequently very busy, offering a very good view especially towards the Marmolada, which is clearly and majestically visible here. At the halfway point, we'll arrive at Viel dal Pan hut (at 7,976', private hut with inn) which is situated in a beautiful area. From here, the path becomes narrower and curves under the Fòrfesc (Schere in German) and the Belvedere.
At the junction with path No. 698 (this leads to Porta Vescovo towards the north), path No. 601 leads towards the south and then west, passing steep grassy slopes and later heads southeast. Walk through a beautiful natural wooded area to the barrage of Fedaia Lake and reach the Marmolada mountain hut at 6,704. The Marmolada mountain hut (Italian: Rifugio Ettore Castiglioni alla Marmolada) is privately run but has belonged to the central registered office of the Italian Alpine Club since 1995. From the Marmolada hut after passing the dam, walk along the southern bank of the lake in order to reach the Passo di Fedàia, run by the family Soraruf 6,743'. Note— Luggage will be waiting at rifugio
Day 8 : Hiking Under the Impressive South Face Marmolada Glacier, the Queen of the Dolomites
We'll start with a short transfer to Malga Ciapela. Near the Malga Ciapela at 4,706', we'll come across the valley station of the Marmolada cable car with its three sections: the first reaches the 7,708-feet of altitude on the Antermoia, the second 9,676' on the Serauta, and the third 10,725' on the Punta Rocca. This is an excellent tourist route for those who want to combine a walk without any great physical effort and enjoy the beauty of the nature, which is readily available.
From the Malga Ciapèla, we'll follow a trail near a rural tourist area. Subsequently the slope begins to lead uphill. At 5,372', path No. 610 heads uphill and to the right in the direction of Malga Ombretta). We'll remain on the path number, passing by the Rifugio O. Falièr (6,802') ,with the bivouac “Marco Dal Bianco” and reach the Passo Ombretta (pass at 8,944'). Continuing along our trail, walking through the Valle di Contri and then follow the path no.606 (towards the west), we'll reach the Contrìn mountain hut (at 6,802'). The Rifugio Contrin belongs to the Italian National Alpine Association (Association of Italian Mountain Infantry). A chapel is situated in this idyllic rocky basin. Note: No luggage transfer.
Day 9 : Passo delle Cirelle to the Green Oasis of Fuciade
From Rifugio Contrin, we'll walk along a trail in the direction of Malga Contrìn; the path leads over a steep rocky area and then reaches a large crater. We'll turn towards the southwest and remain on a trail that passes near the Passo delle Cirelle (Ladin: Pas de le Zirèle) (pass at 8,800'). The path now heads south over numerous hairpin bends (or more directly if you slide over the rocky ground; the snow patches should be avoided) until reaching the green oasis of Fuciàde with its hut, your home for the night. Note— Luggage will be waiting at rifugio.
Day 10 : San Pellegrino - Redagno
From the Rifugio Fuciade, we'll enjoy a beautiful hike to Moena, and then transfer to the Hotel Villa Berghofer located in Redagno, one of the most idyllic places of South Tyrol. At 4,920', the hotel offers a breathtaking view of the vineyards and the surrounding mountain peaks. Silence, freedom, nature: the location is simply unique. Built in the early sixties as a Grand Hotel, the Berghofer was completely restructured in 2007. Now it remains as a manor with modern South Tyrolean elements. Furniture and accessories are an elegant mix of old and new, traditional and modern, as well as alpine and Mediterranean style. Note— Luggage will be at hotel.
Day 11 : Redagno
Close to the village of Redagno, nature has unfolded a breathtaking and even mystical place: Bletterbach Canyon, the “Grand Canyon” of South Tyrol. This canyon, 5 miles long and is as deep as 1,312' in places, exposes the geological development of the area like a “stone-turned book of geology.”
Today we will have a hiking tour of the Geoparc Bletterbach, which is included in the Dolomites recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can find fossilized imprints of plants, shells, amphibians, and many other traces of prehistoric times. If we have time, we’ll also visit the Geoparc’s small but excellent museum.
After our exploration, we will have lunch at the exclusive hotel’s mountain cottage situated at almost 6,000'. Here you will taste the best polenta in a special copper boiler, mixed berry cake, and the special Strauben – a fried sugary dessert. We’ll hike for an hour through meadows and pine forests back to the hotel.
In the afternoon you can enjoy the swimming pool of the hotel or take a sauna in the private cabin outside the hotel. Enjoy a farewell dinner in the 500-year old gothic stube (a traditionally wooden room in a building where the stove is located and meals are prepared).
Option: Hike & Bike: There are many routes to go hiking or biking in this area: up to 8,200' to the peaks of the mountains Corno Bianco/Weißhorn and Corno Nero/Schwarzhorn or through the forests. Cooking class with the hotel’s chef. Enjoy the swimming pool of the hotel or take a sauna in the private cabin outside the hotel.
Day 12 : Transfer to Innsruck, Austria - Departure
After breakfast, we'll transfer to the airport in Innsbruck, Austria (2 hours) for departure flights home.
DATES: Best time to go: June, September Departures: Sep 1 - 12, 2013
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Alberto De Giuli
Alberto De Giuli, a fully certified UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide, was born in the small town of Padova, Italy. After receiving his degree in economics from the University of Venice; he decided to pursue his true passion, to guide in the mountains. He currently lives in Arabba, which is in the heart of the Dolomites. Alberto has spent several years guiding groups on climibing, hiking, trekking, and skiiing adventures. He truly enjoys showcasing the Dolomites to everyone!
Guilia Monego is a professional skier and adventure enthusiast. Her passion for skiing and the mountains has led her to work as a ski instructor, complete in many alpine ski races and events to leading hiking trips throughout the Dolomites. Whether she is leading a ski expedition in Patagonia or China to photography trips to British Columbia, she is at home at the mountains.
Luca Gasparini is an enthusiastic bilingual professional mountain guide. The mountains and outdoors has always been a part of his life. He started skiing at seven years old, rock climbing and ice climbing at age 19. Luca is living in the Dolomites working as a mountain guide in heli skiing, ski touring, off-track-skiing, ski safaris, ice climbing and snow shoeing in winter and rock climbing, trekking, canyoning and mountaineering in summer.
After being high school science and chemistry teacher, Karin Pizzinini decided to pursue her two big passions: travel and photography. Now she works both as an art director, making documentaries about Ladin arts and culture, and as a hiking guide in her beloved Dolomites, where she grew up and lives. She is a year-round outdoor enthusiast - enjoying telemarking and ski touring in the winter, hiking, rock climbing and climbing glaciers in the summer. She used to compete in cross country skiing, cycling and ski touring, where she has achieved the title of Italian champion. Karin says her mission is transmitting knowledge, be it as a teacher, a guide, a film director or a writer. Guiding trips through the beautiful scenery where she lives, and on trips around the world, enables her to share her enthusiasm with her groups, which is certainly one of the things she likes best.