Dolomites “Alta Via” Hike
We love the Dolomites so much that we have developed a new tour, our fourth different itinerary, to indulge our passion for the region. The tour eases you into the mountains with two nights in Selva Val di Gardena before taking you higher to hike the "Alta Via," or High Route. You’ll see some of Europe’s most spectacular Alpine scenery, and stay in charming mountain huts (“rifugi”) for three nights mid-week. We hike from hut to hut, and then relax with a cold beer, a hot shower and a delicious meal at the end of each day. Your main luggage will be transferred directly to the final hotel, so you need only carry what you need for those three nights. We end the tour back in the comfort of a four-star hotel with a spa. This tour provides you with a real Himalayan-style trekking adventure but with comfortable lodgings and superb Italian food and wine. It’s a winning combination!
Dolomites “Alta Via” Hike itinerary
Independent arrival in Bolzano, the thriving capital of the South Tyrol nestled amongst vineyards and orchards at the edge of the Dolomites. It is also home to Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old mummified “ice man” whose body was found in the nearby mountains two decades ago. His body and related artefacts are on display in a fascinating archaeological museum. Meet your guides and the rest of the group for a drink at 7 p.m. followed by dinner. We stay overnight at the four-star Hotel Laurin, which has a heated swimming pool and has been a fixture in the heart of historic Bolzano since 1910. Overnight Bolzano. Hotel and dinner included.
We depart at 9 a.m. for a 50-minute van transfer to Ortisei, where we take a gondola lift up above the tree-line to 2,500 meters (8,000 ft) for the start of our first hike. We walk below the dramatic southern face of the Odle massif, and enjoy expansive views across the valley to the Alpe di Siusi, whose jagged rock towers seem to pierce the sky. We arrive at a rifugio (mountain hut) for a perfectly-timed snack break before carrying on to another rifugio with magnificent views beyond the Gardena pass. Enjoy a hearty Tyrolean lunch before setting off again to gradually descend towards Selva Val di Gardena. The worst of the descent is ingeniously avoided with a van pick-up which takes us to our home for the next two nights, the historic four-star Hotel Oswald. You then have free time to explore the village or enjoy the hotel’s indoor swimming pool and spa facilities. Dinner is in the hotel dining room. Overnight in Selva Val di Gardena. Hotel, breakfast, lift ticket, and dinner included.
We have a short walk this morning to the “Funivia” which whisks us up out of the valley to an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,400 ft). Our hike begins gently this morning as we slowly climb and then traverse for the first hour beneath the north wall of the Sassolungo. We then veer south and follow the trail as it winds its way between two towering spires of rock to a surprisingly-located rifugio where we stop for a well-earned piece of strudel before continuing up to a narrow pass and another spectacularly-located rifugio for lunch. Afterwards we are launched down the side of the mountain in a “pod” lift which takes us one by one down the otherwise knee-destroying descent to the Passo Sella, where we resume our hike, now on the southeast side of the Sassolungo. A final gondola ride takes us back down to the village. You have free time this afternoon before meeting the group again for a drink. Tonight is a “free night” so you can dine wherever you like. Choices range from a superb one-star Michelin restaurant to a simple pizzeria. Overnight in Selva Val di Gardena. Hotel, breakfast, and lift tickets included. Dinner not included.
Our big adventure starts today as we embark on the “Alta Via” (high road) component of the tour. A 1.5-hour van transfer takes us into the heart of the Dolomites mountains. An hour of hiking brings us to the Passo Giau, which at 2,236 meters (7,155 ft) is one of the highest passes in Europe. We continue hiking towards the impressive mass of Monte Pelmo and then enjoy a picnic lunch beneath the Becco di Mezzodi before carrying on to the Rifugio Citta di Fiume (1,918 meters/6,135 ft), one of the few remaining authentic rifugi still mostly frequented by climbers. The rifugio sits on a small grassy clearing with a view onto the imposing flanks of Monte Pelmo. The building’s foundations date back to the 1600’s. Originally a stone barn, it was restored in 1924 after suffering shelling during WWI. In 1964 it was expanded and converted into a rifugio. Toast the day’s hike with a cold beer, followed by a hot shower then dinner in the charming wood-panelled “stube.” Overnight in rooms that host up to six occupants. Shower and WC is down the hall. This is the most spartan/rustic of the three mountain huts. Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner and rifugio accommodation included.
The day starts out easily this morning as we gradually descend to the Passo Staulanza, where we stop for coffee and a slice of Sacher Torte, the wonderful Tyrolean chocolate cake. We will need the food energy as we start to climb up to the Rifugio Coldai for yet another panoramic lunch. Another 2.5 hours of hiking brings us to the unforgettable Rifugio Tissi. Situated beneath the west face of the mighty Monte Civetta, Tissi is famous for the spectacular views and sunsets experienced from its cozy interior. As we dine, the setting sun bathes the craggy parapets of Civetta with its last golden rays. Overnight in rooms that host two, four, and six occupants. Shower and WC down the hall. Breakfast, dinner and rifugio accommodation included.
After breakfast, take a quick hike up to the iron cross at the Col Reàn for breathtaking views over the sheer drop-off down to Lake Alleghe which shines like a turquoise gem below. Then lift your gaze and take in the main peaks of the Dolomites: the Marmolada, Sella Col di Lano, Fànes, Lagazuoi, Tofane, the Dolomiti Ampezzane, and mighty Monte Pelmo. We slowly descend along the top of a massive slab of rock to reach the flanks of Monte Civetta. We stop for a scenic picnic lunch and then gradually descend into a larch forest before reaching the Rifugio Carestiato, which offers views over the Cimonga mountains and the northeast side of the Pale di San Martino. The Carestiato rifugio is a real gem, whose owners take particular pride in the cuisine they offer hungry hikers. Overnight in rooms that host four occupants max. Shower and WC down the hall. Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner and rifugio accommodation included.
A 30-minute downhill stroll brings us to Passo Duran, where we have a 1-hour van transfer to Passo Valles. The Rifugio Valles provides a welcome coffee stop before our last spectacular hike to Passo Rolle. The path climbs gently to the Forcella Venegia, then descends through a broad valley below the impressive spires of the Pale di San Martino. We have lunch in a traditional stone “malga” where cows are kept during the summer months and fresh cheese is made daily. After lunch we have a gradual climb up to Baita Segantini and eventually arrive at the Passo Rolle where we transfer by van down an impressive array of switchbacks to the village of San Martino di Castrozza. Avid hikers can opt to hop out half-way and continue for another 1.5 hours on the “Sentiero dei Finanzieri.” We stay the night at the four-star Grand Hotel des Alpes, which has an indoor swimming pool and spa featuring a Turkish steam room, and three types of sauna. Massages and spa treatments can be booked in advance. We dine tonight in the cozy wood-panelled “stube.” Overnight in San Martino di Castrozza. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
We leave this morning at 9.30 a.m. for a 1hr.45 minute transfer to the Trento train station for trains departing at noon. From there you can get connections to Venice, Verona, Milan, Innsbruck and beyond. For private groups we can also arrange final transfer to Venice (airport or train station, both of which are about a 2.5-hour drive). Breakfast and transfer included.
The hikes in the Dolomites are the most challenging that we offer. The paths are good, but you require good footing and should be used to hiking on steep, rugged terrain. Many of the hikes are no steeper than our Cinque Terre walk, for example, but the distances we hike in a day are a little longer. We walk 4-7 hours a day but often take a chair-lift, cable-car of funicular up or down various stretches, allowing spectacular views and for an easier hike. Daily distance between 8 and 16 kms.
Activity rating: 4 out of 5 = Rewarding : The walks have challenging uphills and downhills and are a bit longer than our usual hikes. Daily activity is up to six hours. Max distance 20 kms. This tour is suited for experienced hikers who can happily walk for five to six hours over steep terrain. The trails are safe, but some of them have a some “airy” parts where people who suffer from vertigo might not be happy. Having said that, all you have to do is look the other way! Most of the trails are well maintained, but occasionally you have to walk on a short stretch of scree. Anyone in good physical shape can enjoy this hike.
Trip Cost Includes: 1 night Bolzano, 2 nights Selva Val di Gardena, 1 night San Martino di Castrozza in superior 4-star hotels with spas, and three nights in rifugi (mountain huts). Note: Rooms are based on a first come, first served basis. Some of them have double rooms available, some quadruples, and some six and eight-bed rooms, but we usually manage to get the smaller rooms. At Rifugio Citta di Fiume there are only 6 person rooms. In Rifugio Tissi and Carestiato there are two and four person rooms. Toilets and showers are in the hallway (it's a great way to meet people!). Also included: 7 breakfasts and 6 dinners; 2 picnic lunches; bilingual Customwalks guide(s) to accompany the tour and lead you on the walks; all van transfers and lifts (gondola lifts) as per the itinerary including pick-up from Bolzano and final transfer to the Trento train station; main luggage transfer (other than day-pack) from second hotel to last hotel.
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Getting There: the trip starts in Bolzano, which is easily reached by train from various Italian cities. The closest airports are Innsbruck, Verona, Milan, and Venice. Travel time by train to Bolzano: from Innsbruck 2 hrs, direct; from Verona 1.5 - 2 hrs, direct; from Milan 2.5 - 3 hrs, with one change; from Venice (Mestre) 2.5 - 3.5, most with one change; from Florence: 3 - 3.5 hrs, some direct high-speed trains; from Rome 4.5 - 5, some direct high-speed trains.
Air: The most convenient airports to the trip are Innsbruck, Verona, Milan, and Venice. For a complete list of Itlian airports and a selection of low-cost airlines, see our "Transport Info" page.
Rail: See the Trenitalia website (in English) at this link. For alternative high-speed rail travel, see the Italo website. For complete information on using the Italian train system, see our blog post.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: After breakfast on Sunday, we provide a 1hr45-minute shuttle to the train station in Trento, arriving around 11:30 a.m. for noon trains. From there you can get trains to Venice (takes 2-3 hrs, depending on departure), Milan (2.5 hrs), Verona (1 hour), Innsbruck (2.5 - 3.5 hrs), Florence (3.5 hours), or other cities.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip, or feel free to e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
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