Alta Via 1

  • Evening light from Passo Giau - © William Mackesy
  • Nuvolau group from Passo Giau2 - © William Mackesy
  • Pelmo through clearing mist2 - © William Mackesy
  • the welcome Rif Biella - © William Mackesy
  • Summer wonderland - © William Mackesy
  • Below Sennes - © William Mackesy
  • Above Pederu - © William Mackesy
  • An hour after Fanes - © William Mackesy
  • Descending from amazing Forcella del Lago - © William Mackesy
  • From Rif Dibona, morning2 - © William Mackesy
  • From Rif Dibona, morning2 - © William Mackesy
  • From below Cinque Torri - © William Mackesy
  • Cinque Torri - © William Mackesy
  • Second Nuvolau via ferrata stretch - © William Mackesy
  • Evening light from Passo Giau2 - © William Mackesy
  • Evening light from Passo Giau4 - © William Mackesy
  • From Passo Giau - © William Mackesy
  • Sunset from Paso Giau2 - © William Mackesy
  • Cable ascent, Pelmo - © William Mackesy
  • Val d"Aracia, Pelmo - © William Mackesy
  • Descending from the Pelmo cliffs - © William Mackesy
  • Pelmo through clearing mist2 - © William Mackesy
  • Ra Gusela - © William Mackesy
  • Lago di Braies - © William Mackesy
  • Pelmo from way below - © William Mackesy

Key information: Alta Via 1

  • 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.
  • Alta Via No.1 is often described as the classic high Dolomites path, with justice: you will revel in unsurpassed Dolomites scenery.
  • This is demanding walking in high mountains with some (avoidable) via ferrata sections. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating94
  • Beauty37
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest6
  • Charisma36
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating94
  • Note: Negs: popularity and possible crowding in places.

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 150km (usually done in shorter chunks)
  • Maximum Altitude: 2752m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Pelmo through clearing mist2 - © William Mackesy


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, but the Alte Vie are recognized Crown Jewels.

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 Alte Vie routes are brilliantly chosen, winding across high stony plateaus and meadows, under an ever-changing backdrop of cliffs and soaring massifs.

Alta Via No.1 begins at the immaculately pretty Lago di Braes, above the wide valley that separates the Dolomites from the Alps. After briefly rounding the lake, it turns south and climbs steeply into the highlands, taking in the First World War battlefield below the enormous Le Tofane, cresting the high Nuvolau with its tear-inducingly beautiful 360o views, and circuiting the huge towers of the Pelmo mass. For us, the highlights were descending the narrow gully, between huge, smooth cliffs, from the Forcella del Lago, an extraordinary little gap in a long, soaring spine, to the beautiful little Lago di Lagazuoi (the view back across the lake, partly obscured by shreds of poetic Chinese mist, was especially beautiful); the World War I relics around the base of Le Tofane and the subsequent traverse below that massif, with (on a good day) its extraordinary views; the gut-wrenchingly exposed but wildly exhilarating via ferrata (cable and ladder assisted) descents from the Nuvolau ridge; the ascent round the desolately magnificent bowl of broken boulders and snow of the Val d'Arcia and the subsequent descent down a vertiginous shale slope and via ferrata Pelmo cliff traverse on the Sentiero Flaibani (Tip: if a route has a name, it is likely to scare you into nightmares that night). Amazing.

Note: The 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 Alta Via 1 is its regular refuges, all 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.

Not many people have the time to walk the whole 150km of the Alta Via, but, with frequent access and exit points, creating a route to suit your time and inclination is not difficult. Day walks are very possible.

of this walk

Day 1: I can't believe it: after a terrible UK summer we have finally achieved glorious early September weather, when home can be one of the world's loveliest places. But here, as we entered the Dolomites foothills last night, the rain began. And this morning, I peer out from my room overlooking the wonderful Lago di Braies onto dour, steady rain.


Nevertheless, our group strides out cheerfully after a leisurely start,.....


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.


We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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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.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.


Name: Greg Locock
Posted on: 19/10/2010
I did this at the end of uni, in 1983, with 3 friends. A great walk, I don't think we did quite the whole thing. Highlights were a terrific and insane scree run, and the ridge walks. Lowlights -the polenta served in the refugios. I still won't eat it!

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Nuvolau group from Passo Giau2 - © William Mackesy

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.

From Passo Giau - © William Mackesy...

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