Cross these awe-inspiring activities off your bucket list when you visit Italy’s rocky region.
On the cusp of the Italy-Austrian border, The Dolomites hold a unique charm and authenticity lost in many modern-day tourist destinations. In a place where a ‘guten tag’ will go down just as well as a ‘grazie’ and where spag-bol and schnitzel are both on the menu, The Dolomites location has spawned a cultural mish-mash that’s all it’s own.
Cultural ties aside, the real charm of The Dolomites lies in the landscape. Sharp auburn peaks bridge the top of the mighty mountains, encircled by deep, green valleys, fields and forests below. This scene spans for miles, interrupted only by lakes and the occasional bunch of farmhouses. These striking contrasts are most astounding in the Cortina region, dubbed ‘the pearl of the Dolomites’.
So, in a region blessed with vibrant culture, natural beauty, and so much more, where and what should top your travel hit list? Here’s our breakdown of what you should be doing on your Dolomites visit.
1. Find your inner adventurer
Whatever your adventure vice, The Dolomites have you covered. The region is renowned for skiing, mountain climbing, base jumping, para gliding, hang gliding and free climbing. The Alte Vie or ‘Alpine Trails’ are world famous, boasting a variety of walking trails to suit beginners and experienced trekkers. Rock climbers will rejoice in endless craggy hills and cliff faces ideal for skilled climbers and first-timers to enjoy.
For snow-bunnies seeking a less glitzy ski-spot, The Dolomites bridges the affluent with the authentic flawlessly. A happy medium, The Dolomites is ideally placed for skiing, with the region’s short summers and long winters proving perfect. Join serious skiers in their flock to the best skiing town of the region, Cortina d’Ampezzo – the hometown of the 1956 Winter Olympics.
2. Turn back time at the WW1 Frontline
In the early 20th century, the border between Germany, Austria and Italy ran straight through the Dolomites. The border’s placement was a point of contention during World War 1, with The Dolomites the frontline for many battles. During the battles, soldiers on both sides excavated a series of tunnels in the mountainsides to gain prime viewing and shooting platforms. The sites also were used as temporary barracks giving soldiers a safe place to rest between fights.
The wartime tunnels and barracks are still dotted throughout the region today, with tours of the well-preserved sites proving popular throughout the region. Some barrack rooms have been recreated using genuine artefacts from the time, with sites completed with sleeping bunks, heating stoves, storerooms, and other war relics to give travellers greater insight into the WW1 battles.
3. Go sky high
A cable car or ski lift ride is a must in this dazzling mountain region. Our favourite ride is the Marmolada cable car. The ‘queen of the Dolomites,’ mighty Marmolada mountain is the highest peak in the Dolomites, with a ride here delivering stunning views of the deep valleys and mountain ranges below. For those afraid of heights, perhaps give this one a miss – Mount Marmolada is more than 3000 metres tall.
4. Make a splash
Heights not your thing? Why not try the placid, crystal clear waters of The Dolomites lakes out for size. Surrounded by meadows and tree groves, The Dolomites lakes are the perfect spot to take a moment or two for quiet reflection… and we don’t mean reflection figuratively. The waters of The Dolomites lakes are often so clear they’re reflective. Your “who am I?” moment complete, tour the gingerbread-house style villages that dot the banks.
The fairy-tale magnificence of Lake Auronzo di Cadore makes it one of the region’s finest river villages. Community spirit is at an all-time high in winter, when the waters freeze up and polo games commence. The lake that held of the 1956 Olympic speed skating events, Lake Misurina is also worth a visit.
isango! fun fact: The 1956 Winter Olympics speed skating event on Lake Misurina was the last time the Olympics’ speed skating event was held on natural ice. Today during events, natural ice rinks are swapped for artificial ice rinks for safety reasons.
5. Get back to nature with a night in a traditional alpine hut
Perched beside rock faces and atop mountain ranges, the wooden and stone huts known as rifugios run along many alpine trails in the region. The lengthy tradition of mountaineering through The Dolomites has seen a pop-up of these authentic alpine huts. Whether you’re after a shared lodge or a more private oasis, these alpine huts offer a rarely-seen look into the rich hiking history of the region.