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For thousands of years, the Dolomites have been home to the Ladin people. Tracing their roots to the Romans, the Ladin culture is rich in traditions rooted in ancient times. On this magical itinerary, you will travel across three of the Ladin valleys on foot — Val Gardena, Alta Badia, and Cortina d’Ampezzo — and through some of the Dolomites’ most spectacular scenery.
Along the way you’ll experience the mountainous wonders of the Dolomites as you hike through wild Alpine meadows, deciduous and evergreen forests, and lunar-like terrain in the shadow of soaring peaks and dramatic walls. This rugged mountain landscape alternates with the refined South Tyrolean towns of Ortesei and Corvara, and the Venetian village of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Dolomites’ extensive network of rifugi, owned both privately and by the Italian Alpine Club, will fuel hikers with delicious, authentic food!
As you are enjoying these mountains, be sure to enjoy the Ladin people and the cuisine and crafts of this unique tri-cultural region. We find fanciful intricate woodcraft and meet local artisans as you journey through the valleys. The Ladin language — a Rhaeto-Romance language also referred to as neo-Latin — is officially recognized as a minority language in parts of the Dolomites. In the valleys where we are traveling, most signage is written in Italian, German, and Ladin. You may even learn to speak some Ladin yourself!
Val Gardena & Resciesa
In the morning, we meet our guide in Innsbruck, Austria, for a trip briefing before heading to Ortisei, Italy, where we will begin our hike for the day.
Our drive through the mountains is a great introduction to the incredible scenery of South Tyrol. From Ortisei, we take the cable car to Rifugio Malga Saltner (6,926') to the start of our hike. The trail is predominantly gentle with little elevation change and is the perfect introduction to get our hiking legs warmed up for the next few days. We stop for lunch at a rifugio and to admire the jagged north faces of the dramatic Odle Group.
Ortisei is dominated by the Rasciesa Peak in Val Gardena. This valley is locally known for skiing and rock climbing, as well as its woodcarving tradition, which has flourished here since the 17th century. The flank of the Odle mountain group, amply named "needles" in Ladin, has been subject to long term erosion, revealing the fascinating earth and rock strata underlining the principal pale dolomite rock. We see an array of geological material including gray chalks dating back 240-250 million years, wine red porphyry from a relatively late volcanic phase, and a blood-red variety of sandstone. In 1968, due to the erosion, or perhaps thanks to it, intriguing skeletal fragments emerged. Scientists believe it belongs to a long extinct porpoise-like ichthyosaurus, and it is now displayed in the museum at Ortisei, a recommended follow up to our walk.
We will continue downhill on a forested trail to the middle cable car station, Mount Seceda (5,545'), from where we have the option to ride the gondola into town or hike down. There will be some time to freshen up before our welcome aperitif and dinner off the lively cobblestoned streets of town.
Hotel SureghesOrtisei, Italy
This family-run hotel offers a warm and cozy atmosphere with modern furnishings in typical Tyrolean style. Located in the main village of the Ladin Val Gardena, Hotel Sureghes is within a few minutes of the cable car to the Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest high plateau, as well as the lively village center with numerous cafés and shops.
Alpe di Siusi Plateau
Today, we take the Alpe di Siusi cable car up to hike around Mount de Bulacia and along the footpath to the Goller Kreuz and to the Witches' Benches, two enormous stones of red porphyry located on the western side of the rock.
Alpe di Siusi is the largest high-altitude Alpine plateau in Europe and offers a front row seat to iconic Dolomites landscapes. The Alpe is dominated by an ancient coral reef known as the Sciliar/Schlern Massif. At its base, volcanic intrusions have encouraged lush pasture carpeted with an unbelievable range of wild flowers fed by plentiful natural springs or streams drained off the mountain. One of the most jaw-dropping vistas is the vertical walls of the massif that rise perpendicular in front of us, piercing the sky — simply spectacular! The name of Siusi may signify 'flow of water' as in the Schelrnblut, a mysterious stream whose flow-level is constant all year round.
On the plateau, we enjoy a loop around Mount de Bulacia, our guides leading us on to the Filln Kreuz, where we can take in the spectacular views of the Gardena Valley and the hamlet of Bulla on the gentle valley side of Ortisei. We then hike down (or choose to take the cable car) into the idyllic scene below to the village of Kompatsch.
We return to Ortisei for a free evening to explore the many restaurants and flavors available in the pedestrian village.
Puez Odle National Park
After a short transfer, we find ourselves in the picturesque town of Selva di Val Gardena nestled among forested slopes and pastureland. The Dantercepies cable car takes us to Passo Gardena (6,955'), from where our hike amidst the Dolomites' signature rocky terrain to the Passo Cir (8,100'), in the heart of the surrounding peaks. Eventually, the trail widens and follows undulating terrain leading us to the Forcella Ciampai Pass (7,760') where we may pause to take in the stunning 360-degree views. From here, we may choose a longer option that will bring us from the Passo Cir to the Sass Ciampac (8,770') with even more extensive views.
We descend an incredible switchback trail towards the Alta Badia, stopping at Rifugio Col Pradat for an exquisite lunch with a jaw-dropping view of the valley. After lunch, a short trail leads to a cable car where we will decide to hop on to descend to the village of Colfosco or hike down a fairly steep, rocky trail (adding 1000' descent). Our next two nights are spent in the town of Corvara located in the Alta Badia, or South Tyrol, in the heart of the Dolomites. It is a classic example of a South Tyrolean village and the jumping off point for many visitors to the region.
Before the First World War, this region was part of Austria, and the fusion of Austrian and Italian culture is evidenced in the food, architecture, and language. The local people (called "Ladini") speak Ladino, which is rooted in the Romansh language, one of the four official languages spoken in Switzerland and in northern Italy. The signs in this area are written first in Ladino, then in German, and lastly in Italian — perhaps a testament to the order in which people identify themselves.
Tonight, we're in for a taste of Ladino culture and gastronomic feast as we visit a local agriturismo, Maso Runch, a family-run farm dating to the 18th century. Buon appetito!
Hotel TableCorvara in Badia, Italy
The Hotel Tablé offers a refined environment and features bright and spacious rooms, each with a balcony. The on-site restaurant prepares both international cuisine and local Ladin dishes. A bar/pastry shop, reading room with fireplace, and spa are available for guests.
Santa Croce Sanctuary
After a hearty Alpine breakfast, we transfer to the church of San Cassiano to begin our hike to the Santa Croce Sanctuary at the base of the Sasso della Croce. We pass through a number of closely-knit hamlets with ancient timber farmhouses and barns, known as viles. These small communities are characteristic of Val Badia; in medieval times they were grouped together for protection, forming self-sufficient units with their own collective oven and well. The properties have been safeguarded from obsolescence thanks to the deeply-rooted and legal process of the maso chuiso — closed farm — introduced in the 6th century, whereby the eldest son is expected to carry on farm activities while other siblings must seek fortune elsewhere.
As our walk wends uphill through pine forest, we have great views of Santa Croce, the mountain groups of Conturines and Sella, and the Val Badian towns of La Villa, San Cassiano, Corvara, Pedraces, and San Leonardo. The sober white church was consecrated in 1484 and the original chapel was built in the 11th century, when a wealthy count of the Val Pusteria withdrew here to meditate in repentance for his harsh treatment of his subjects. He then donated his earthly possessions to the nearby abbey, the badia, hence the name, "Val Badia."
A charming rifugio here welcomes us for a short break on the panoramic terrace before we continue to the scenic Armentara meadows trail to a typical Ladino shepherd's house for lunch. Here, we will taste local specialties such as turtres (Ladino vegetable pastries), grilled veggies, and homemade cakes. We descend on foot to the town of Valgiarei where we will meet our private transfer to take us to our hotel.
Lagazuoi Massif & Averau
This morning, we start our day at Passo Falzarego (6,906'), where we will take the cable-car to Rifugio Lagazuoi, one of the highest rifugi in the Dolomites — sitting on the patio feels as though you're at the edge of the world, with views that stretch for miles on a clear day. We may see Marmolada (10,964') and Antelao (10,709'), the two highest peaks of the Dolomites.
The tragically famous rock fortress, il Castelletto, stands below us, the setting of incredible battles and harbor of caves and tunnels where the soldiers of WWI dwelled for months on end. This area was the setting for incredible battles, and if time allows, we will explore the restored galleries, trenches, and emplacements near the rifugio. So much fighting occurred here that it literally changed the face of the mountain by the end of the war — a permanent and poignant reminder of the deep and lasting wounds of military conflict.
After taking in this incredible scenery and sobering history, we take the return trip via cable car to start our hike, heading south into a beautiful valley. We pass Lago Limedes, and depending on the light, this beautiful little lake has a rich green color and offers beautiful reflections of Monte Averau. Heading up through a rocky canyon toward Forcella Averau, we work up an appetite as we approach Rifugio Averau. This offers the perfect spot for a delicious lunch of perhaps homemade gnocchi and ravioli as the rifugio is well-known for having one of the best restaurants in all the Dolomites.
After we fuel up, we set off for the final leg of the day on a rocky traverse with impressive views of Marmolada, Dolomites' highest peak and only glacier. Our hotel for the next two nights is Rifugio Giau. This classic Alpine accommodation is nestled at the top of Passo Giau and ensures we enjoy some of the most stunning hotel views on the continent.
Rifugio GiauColle Santa Lucia, Italy
The Albergo Alpino Passo Giau sits atop the Giau Pass, one of the most beautiful and best known passes in the Dolomites. The rifugio offers nine cozy double rooms with en suite facilities, decorated in the traditional Ampezzan style with wooden furniture, each with nearly 360° views from their own panoramic balcony.
Our hike today will take us to the breathtaking Cinque Torri (Five Towers) boulders. As we will see, the famous profile isn't comprised of just five towers — there is also a mass of secondary boulders, fractured towers and peaks sprinkled liberally across the entire area. We enjoy a loop around the towers and the opportunity to learn more about the World War I history in this area with visits to many sites along the route. Hike through restored trenches and explore the rugged dwellings of the soldiers who fought in The Great War.
Along the way, we'll likely witness rock climbers scaling the towers on their various faces. We complete our loop around the Cinque Torri and enjoy yet another exquisite lunch where we can kick back at Rifugio Scoiattoli, with balcony seating to the Cinque Torri before hiking back to Passo Giau by one of the return options. An additional climb to Rifugio Nuvolau may present itself if timing and energy allow, adding two miles and a 1000' ascent and descent to the hike. Tonight, we'll enjoy a renowned local restaurant, DaAurelio, a fine way to top off the day.
Croda da Lago Massif
Today, we enjoy a beautiful hike around the Croda da Lago Massif (7,335') starting right from the rifugio after breakfast. We begin on the grassy Col Piombin, (a name stemming from past lead mining) and head over the Forcella Giau (7,742') with plenty of ups and downs to make things interesting. Here the views of the Tofana and Lastoi de Formin are nothing short of inspiring. Sharp ears may hear the peeps of marmots.
The path drops to cross a few streams and then gains up to the earthy saddle of Forcella Ambrizzola (7,470'). We will enter the spectacular ragged valley amid the Croda da Lago and Lastoi de Formin range and admire the vistas of these impressive Dolomitic formations. We continue to Rifugio Croda da Lago Palmieri (6,699') for our last delicious Alpine lunch, overlooking the prominent Tre Cime di Lavaredo and its neighbors towering above the Cortina valley.
We'll enjoy a more forested descent along babbling brooks to the main road to meet up with our private transfer into Cortina d'Ampezzo, a charming Alpine resort town surrounded by stunning peaks and uniquely sheltered from the cold winds of the north, giving it a mild climate year-round. Having hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina enjoys a reputation for great skiing, but also attracts hikers and climbers in the summer who challenge the rocky faces of the nearby mountains.
We will enjoy a final dinner and celebrate our adventures in the beautiful Dolomites.
Hotel CortinaCortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
The Hotel Cortina is one of the oldest hotels in Cortina d’Ampezzo, dating back to 1870. The renovated building has retained all of its traditional Ampezzan charm and attention to detail, while adding modern services and amenities. Set in front of Cortina’s 19th-century bell tower, the hotel offers a fitness center, restaurant, and a terrace bar overlooking the Corso Italia.
After breakfast and a 2-hour transfer where we can admire the landscape one last time, we bid farewell at the Venice airport.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Jun 22-29, 2020
Jul 19-26, 2020
Sep 12-19, 2020
$4,995 Per Person
First two reserved:$0
Additional (not guaranteed for nights 5 & 6)$355
See single supplement policy below.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. This trip is rated 3+, moderate to strenuous, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the most strenuous). We hike full days through spectacular mountainous terrain. Most days include long elevation gains and losses ranging from 1,000 to 3,400 feet; hiking duration ranging from three to five hours, and mileage ranging from 5.5 to 8.5 miles. Most hiking is between 5,000 and 8,000 feet.
Trail conditions vary greatly, including a mix of wide dirt paths, hiking trails with rocks and roots, rough, large rocky steps, loose scree, and shallow stream crossings. Uneven terrain underfoot requires agility and stable footing and balance. We request that you bring hiking boots with full ankle support and two trekking poles, which help provide comfort, significant stability, and most importantly, enjoyment. Our hikes take us through farmland, forest, rocky glacial terrain, and over mountain passes. Each hike includes sustained climbing and descending, often steeply. The trails occasionally travel through exposed sections with drop-offs and traverses steep hillsides or on rocky switchbacks, which may pose an issue for those with vertigo or a fear of heights. Feel free to call our office for further details.
Most Convenient Arrival Airport:Innsbruck Airport, Innsbruck, Austria (airport code INN)
Most Convenient Departure Airport: Venice Airport Marco Polo, Venice, Italy (airport code VCE)
The Dolomites are usually warmer and receive less precipitation than the rest of the Alps. However, as in all mountainous areas, the weather can change suddenly, and it can vary greatly between regions within the Dolomites. In the summer, from mid-June to early August, days are pleasantly warm with cool nights and the occasional storm. September tends to be clear and fairly warm with good consistent weather through to the middle of October.
You can expect a mix of warm, sunny days sometimes punctuated by rainy, cooler weather. You should always be prepared for sudden changes in the weather while you are out on the trail. Keep in mind that elevation gain and loss will also affect the temperature.
In the Dolomites, you'll find some of the heartiest and homiest cuisine in all the Alps. The combination of the cultural influences here results in dishes ranging from traditional Italian pastas, polenta, and game meats, to Austrian strudels and sauerkrauts, to Ladin soups, stews, and cakes. The northern valleys, where we will be traveling, pride themselves on delicious breads and thinly sliced speck, made exclusively in the region. There is a variety of memorable wines from the area, as well, both red and white, and several types of grappa.
Hiking on uneven terrain, 4-5 hours and 5.5-8.5 miles per day.
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Katya d'Angelo
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