Dolomites is a huge playground for outdoor enthusiasts seeking active breaks. Its also an idyllic escape to rediscover nature and spend time in tranquility. We have fallen for the charm of this unique mountain area in northern Italy and have profound reasons why you should head there too. Read on and we are sure you will be impressed too.
Rank upon rank of Mountain ranges
Mountains here are not the gently sloping ones, they rise and just go straight up resembling tall seeming endless walls. The bewildering beauty, the towering vistas and cascading ribbons of trails kept us captivated throughout the times. Our evenings after extensive outdoor time would end at mountain huts perched at spots with great views. These little hamlets are stocked well with warm Austrian and Italian food, chilled beers and damn good wine.
Riding through pastures, grazing farms alongside the music of tinkling bells of herds of sheep and ending up at high passes is what cycling in dolomites is all about. An extraordinary circuit famed the tour de Sella is a high alpine cycling trail that skirts the Sella mountain range and involves trading some hair raising bends and curves to relish possibly the most glorious views of dolomites.
Easily accessible high altitudes
A maze of cable cars and chairlifts guarantees easy access to high altitudes and placate tired knees for the downhill haul. With this convenience it might seem the trails would be crowded but the protected areas in fact are huge and its effortless to find some soothing solitude and get up close with nature, the mountains and the lakes.
Road trips and rewarding Drives
Vintage car owners, sports bikers alike make an annual pilgrimage to the celebrated road routes riding the smooth asphalt through these exquisite mountain range. This region is also known to have some of the highest paved roads in Italy and the rides are often exhilarating with innumerable sharp curves and switchbacks. The view through the glass pane will always be crowded with stunning scenery of the passing towns and crooked dolomites making the drive well worth it.
Mix of Italian and Austrian culture
Only here we were greeted by multiple variations of Hello from Halo in German to Ciao in Italian. The dolomites were part of Austria during Austro-Hungarian Empire era until the border lines were pushed further inwards in Italy and are now entirely in Italy. This means a great orchestration of the Austrian and Italian cultures.We found many towns, mountains, passes, lakes, refugios (mountain huts) had both Italian and German names. Added to this the val di Fassa region has strong Ladin culture and is known to host festivals throughout the year. All these convoluted cultures make this area really unique and unlike any other part of Italy.
Cute little towns
While the mountains may be commanding the horizon, the valleys are reigned by towns with flower lined houses where everyone seems to know everyone else and you are welcomed warmly. These storybook towns radiate a magical vibe against the jutting mountains in the background.
Reliving wartime history
The troops during the world war built trenches, steel cable ways and these are still well preserved. The entire mountain ranges are war riddled and resemble an open museum. Its easy to stumble upon these tunnels and hideouts built during the world war. Exploring these life size museums leisurely is a unique experience where no one is hurring you, nor there are huge lines or closing times and no loud guides.
Tasting most amazing food
When you arrive at the mountain hut hungry like the wolf the huts have everything to satiate your cravings. The items on the menu are diverse from tyrolean dumplings, polenta, grill platters, pizza to pasta. You have to try the Kaiserschmarren, a shredded pancake topped with fruits, generous honey and dusted with sugar. There is always some flavoursome espresso coffee brewing and people have it all the time, before or after meals. Most huts offer fullboard or halfboard to the guests staying overnight which includes a heartful breakfast, a multi course dinner and an elaborate lunch. These huts prove time and again that great mountain days can come with great food too.
Feudal Castles and churches
The landscapes in dolomites are made of soft rolling hills, soaring rocky sharp peaks. Then there are castle straight out of fairy tales that attract culture-lovers. The quaint churches set on the foot of giant monoliths of dolomites look like scenes fresh out of a postcard.
The way the dolomites turn into a staggering palette of different pink, orange and finally purple during the sunrise and sunset can leave anyone spell bound. This phenomenon termed Enrosadira is due to the rock walls of the Dolomites that contain a mixture of magnesium and calcium carbonate.
There is a magic in seeing the mountains from above. Base jumping and wing suit flying take this to a freaking insane level while paragliding is much more safer and gives more air time. The feeling of skimming over valleys and soaring over the mountains is unparalleled. Paragliding is possible from the village of Campitello di Fassa. The weather in the months of September and October is considered to be most favorable for these flights.
Hiking and climbing
This one was the most compelling reason we headed to the dolomites in first place. With so many routes to choose from each day is a new adventure in this side of Italy. Hiking in the dolomites is completely unique with well marked trails, maintained hiking paths and mountain huts serving delicious meals after a day of roughing it on the trails.
Via Ferratas (translate to roads of iron) provide a taste of climbing steep, rock faced mountains without the need for having any previous experience in tow. Dolomites are the birthplace of this climbing style when it started back in the early 19th century. Routes were secured with iron cables and ladders, tunnels and trenches dug in treacherous section to aid movement of troops, arms and machinery. All we needed now was a via ferrata kit, a carabiner to clip on the safety belt to the iron cables and we set out on walking eery tunnels, climbing airy mountains and trudging scary passes.
It is possible to hike into the alpine along a trail or relax and ride up in a lift or cable car – there is something for everyone. Even if you are not into any of the activities likes skiing, hiking just marveling at the spectacular scenery and dramatic mountains deserves a trip.
If this has you interested, continue on with our visual journey of the dolomites for more.