Discover all the secrets of the Aragonese Pyrenees’ greatest treasure
Located in the north of Italy and spreading out across five provinces (Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine and Pordenone), the Dolomites is a mountain range formed thousands of years ago by limestone rock of marine origin called ‘dolomite’. Today, this climbing, hiking and ski haven is a spectacle of primitive shapes and an unbelievable panorama. Discover the millennial history of its glaciers and fairytale lakes along these 10 trails in the Dolomites.
When coming upon Lake Sorapis, one could easily feel as if they have found a piece of heaven on Earth. Considered a classic trail in the Dolomites, this lake owes its pristine blue waters to the limestone that encompasses it. A play with light uncovers new blues that are so bright that we feel immersed in a fairy tale, especially having come from a trail that is born in the “Tre Croci” Pass and guarantees a succession of cliffs, ravines and slopes that are simply spectacular (and a bit vertiginous). All these feelings seem to disappear the moment we reach Lake Sorapis, the best antidote for the adrenaline.
The Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites. A paradise on Earth characterized by its drooping crest from east to west, with Punta Penia as the highest peak (3,342 m). This classic route on the way to mount the top of the Dolomites starts off at Fedaia Lake, passes by the Pian dei Fiacconi refuge and goes on to a via ferrata until the Punta Penia glacier (must bring your own via ferrata gear, crampons and ice axe). To call it a day, we can return by the funicular and fully contemplate the panoramic views this marvellous icy paradise has to offer.
There are places that just resurfaced after having been abandoned for years all while preserving their potential. The Pordoi Pass is one of those places. At 2,239 meters above sea level, this mountain pass set between the regions of Veneto and Trentino-alto Adigio join the trade routes between the valleys of Fassa and Cordevole. The highest peak in the Dolomites, the Marmolada, does not leave our sight for an instant as we follow along the trail which stays at a minimum of 2,500 meters above sea level. Among the many charms of this route are the famous cyclist memorial in honor of Fausto Coppi and the Viel dal Pan refuge, a relic from World War I.
The most iconic place in the Dolomites is the ensemble composed of the so-called “Tre Cime di Lavaredo” (the Three Peaks of Lavaredo), a spectacle which is actually the primitive remnants of an old glacier. At the banks of the Misurina Lake or starting at the midway point from the Auronzo Refuge, we can opt for various routes to reach the base of these mountain tops. The classic route and its variations are made up of stone paths, as well as smoother ones coupled with streams camouflaged by nature. A unique experience that we can top off with the unbeatable photographs of the three main peaks: “Cima Piccola” (little peak), “Cima Grande” (big peak) and “Cima Ovest” (western peak).
The mountain group of “Sassolungo” (“Langkofel” in German) which literally means ‘long rock’, is made up of the most emblematic symbols of the Dolomites. A place that can easily be taken for fantasy starts off at Sella Pass and is well-known for its quirky cable car which wanders in and out among nature’s whims 40 years after its installation. While on this trail, “Sassopiatto” (“Plattkofel” in German), which translates to ‘flat rock,’ can be spotted and is just as captivating. The whole circuit takes about seven hours which can easily be divided into different stages if we choose to stop off at one of the mountain huts found on the way (the Vicenza refuge is one of the most popular ones).
Are you still waiting for that one road bike route that will mark you for life? Take note of the Stelvio Pass, a thrilling mountain pass in the Dolomites with 48 curves rising up to 2,757 meters above sea level, it is known to be one of the toughest classic stages in the Giro d’Italia cyclist competition. Hands down, this is a unique setting with snowy peaks in the background, making way for a pure rush. Most of the routes take off from the town of Bormio and they trace into a beautiful circular trail that crosses through the Umbrail Pass, down through Switzerland and ending atop the Stelvio Pass with rising zig zags worthy of any seasoned cyclist.
Imagine a beautiful route dotted with flowers of all colors, cows out to pasture in the distance and a cabin that offers up a hearty bowl of “Peverà”, a soup made of ground pepper, cheese and bread crumbs to top it all off. This conglomeration of experiences is what is in store on the Adolf Munkel Trek, one of the most emblematic treks in the Dolomites and set at just a few kilometers from the town of Santa Maddalena. After getting started in the area of Zanser Alm, the trail that unfolds before you in the meadows do not lose sight of the towering peaks of the Dolomites. This trail is perfect for enjoying the charming scenery while discovering curiosities such as the mysterious statues carved out directly from the rock.
It was in June 2009 that the Thinking Christ statue and its famous Cross were placed at the peak of Monte Castellazzo, converting it into a new travellers monument for those in search of the perfect trail in the Dolomites. From Rolle Pass (1,980 m), we begin a walk along the gentle hill covered in pine trees and clouds until we come upon the famous statue that unleashes various surprises: the panoramic view of “Le Pale di San Martino” (The Pala group massif) mountains or the commanding Lagorai mountain range. Moreover, this is the ideal place to pay a visit to the old remains of trenches from World War I. This is truly a place where the past and the present of the Dolomites blend together.
The “Strada delle 52 Gallerie” (road of 52 tunnels) combines a hiking path with the enchantment of the history of the Dolomites’ peaks. Having a military background, this line of tunnels was built by the Austro-Hungarian empire during WWI to ease the transport of supplies while staying out of harm’s way. A modern feat which will leave you feeling as if you were an explorer in search of your destination along a hiking trail that starts at Xomo Pass (1,058 m) and gently rises so we may be inspired by the traces of history. This gallery is not a simple route, but rather a trip into the past.
Some of the routes in the Dolomites hide away natural gems, such as the Fanes Cascades. After crossing the town of Fiames, we reach the start of the path that takes you along a smooth and easy trail with the promised rapture of seeing water emerge from a fairytale-like backdrop, even more so when snow is abound. One of the main alluring attractions of this trail is the choice to climb the waterfall using a via ferrata. Plunging into the depths of the valley nearing its canyons is a one-of-a-kind experience, undoubtedly highly recommendable for the most daring of adventurers.