Key information: The Dolomites
- The Dolomites attract extravagances - spectacular, marvellous, outlandish - and have long been one of the world's most loved walking areas.
- Huge, wildly eroded limestone cliffs and spires soar above meadows, forests and lakes. Walk through varied and always dramatic scenery. Revel in beautiful and rich plant and animal life. Contemplate the horrors of the high altitude World War I battlefields, then stay in comfortable and gemutlich refuges. The area is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating96
- Natural interest17
- Human interest8
- Negative points2
- Total rating96
- Note: Negs: popularity, possible crowding in places
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: Variable
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The Dolomites are, in Walkopedia's opinion, Europe 's most thrilling mountains, arguably it's most beautiful and certainly it's most outlandish. The area is riddled with outstanding walks.
Everyone has seen pictures of the Dolomites, but the reality will always exceed your expectations. The vast limestone towers that soar, thousands of feet above the surrounding scree and high meadows, with beautiful, often virgin, mixed forest on the lower slopes, evoke the grandest serene majesty. They are not as high as the tallest Alps, but outdo all but the greatest (the Matterhorn, the Eiger and the like) for sheer drama.
The crown jewel Alte Vie routes are brilliantly chosen, winding across high stony plateaus and meadows, under an ever-changing backdrop of cliffs and soaring massifs.
Best walks include:
Note: via ferrata sections involve real risk (don't try them in bad weather and make sure you are suitably equipped) and are probably a thrilling challenge for the minority of walkers, terrifying for the rest. There are good alternatives to all via ferrata sections.
A glory of the Alte Vie is the regular refuges, simple but comfortable and providing food, with some at hotel standards. Many have outstanding views. You can, as a result, walk for days with a medium weight pack only.
The Dolomites enjoy a rich plant and animal life you will be delighted by the bright alpine flowers you will see throughout the walking season. The forests are a mixture of pine and deciduous trees. You are likely to see marmots and may see chamoix. Eagles, white partridges, choughs and capercaille are about.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Walking in the Dolomites - Cicerone – Gillian Price
Shorter Walks in the Dolomites - Cicerone – Gillian Price
Treks in the Dolomites, Alta Via 1 and 2 - Cicerone – Martin Collins and Gillian Price
Dolomites Trekking, Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2 - Longitude Books
Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 1 - Cicerone – John Smith and Graham Fletcher
Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 2 - Cicerone – Graham Fletcher and John Smith
Good quality maps are usually available locally.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Late June to September (the refuges are closed before and after then). Check precise opening/closing dates. You can make wonderful day walks at other times.
Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights. It can snow even in high summer. Beware of afternoon thunderstorms in high summer. Keep away from peaks, ridges and "ferrata" equipment if they get near.
The nearest major airports are at Venice, Verona and Innsbruck. Train and bus access is available (see guidebooks), although most people will approach by car. If on long trails, you can get taxis back to your car from various roadheads.
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.
See Walk Summary above, and the guidebooks, for detailed route information.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Altitude: Likely to affect you a bit: expect to puff and perhaps develop a mild headache. Take the first day gently.
- Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights. (This applies especially to the via ferrata sections of some Dolomite walks and other vie ferrate in the Dolomites.)
- Harmful animals: including snakes, and ticks in some areas. Take all appropriate precautions.
- This is remote country: Carry sufficient food and other supplies. Help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently, which most people do, but come fully prepared.
Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has its advantages. Expedition organisers include:
- Headwater – www.headwater.com – organize self-guided walking through some of the most beautiful areas of the Dolomites.
- Wilderness Travel – www.wildernestravel.com
- Sherpa Expeditions – www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk
- Alternative Travel Group – www.atg-oxford.com
- Inntravel – www.inntravel.com
- Exodus – www.exodus.co.uk
- Great Walks of the World - www.greatwalks.net
Endless and excellent options.
The high Dolomites are packed with fairly regular refuges of varying degrees of sophistication (a few are of hotel standard) which all provide beds and blankets, food (including lunch) and drink. They are a glorious amenity, meaning you can walk long distances with a relatively light pack. Bring light sleep sheets. Book ahead and remember to cancel if your plans change. Many guidebooks have detailed information on relevant refuges.
An excellent option as for day walkers to is stay in more comfortable hotels/inns. We ate like kings at the very comfortable Passo Giau (+390457720130 – www.passogiau.it) with its marvellous views.
Don't miss the Hotel Lago di Braies, romantically faded, with huge atmosphere and helpful staff. A good place to rest, eat and enjoy the outstandingly beautiful lake at start or finish (+390474748602, email@example.com). [We were kindly looked after at the comfortable [Hotel Mae] at Mareson.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- www.summitpost.org -excellent general information
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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