Dolomites “Alta Via” Hike Write a review
We love the Dolomites so much that we have developed this "Alta Via" tour (our fourth different itinerary!) to indulge our passion for the region. This is a special experience because we stay up in the mountains for four nights in isolated mountain chalets known as “rifugi” where you will have private double rooms with proper beds, pillows, hot showers, excellent food and a decent wine list while staying up high, in the crisp, clean, quiet air of the mountains, far from the valley floor. These chalets are not meant to be luxury hotels but our travelers always remark that they were more comfortable than they had expected. Personally, the experience of watching the sunset from high up in the mountains, in the peace and quiet of the rifugio is my definition of luxury. It is truly a priceless experience. Furthermore, we arrange a luggage transfer to the last of the two chalets so you only have to carry with you what you need for the first two nights on the hike to the first chalet.
We ease you into the mountains with two nights in lovely Ortisei village before taking you to hike the "Alta Via," or “Dolomites High Route”. You’ll hike some of Europe’s most spectacular Alpine scenery and stay in two of the Dolomites most charming mountain huts. This tour provides you with a real Himalayan-style trekking adventure but with comfortable lodgings and superb Italian food and wine at the end of the day. It’s a winning combination!
Dolomites “Alta Via” Hike itinerary
Independent arrival in Bolzano. Bolzano is the thriving capital of the South Tyrol region. It is 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 artifacts are on display in a fascinating archaeological museum that should not be missed. All of this is to say that Bolzano warrants a day to visit, so If you want to stay in Bolzano on the Saturday night, let us know and we will book you at the hotel in Bolzano, you have the choice between a convenient and comfortable three-star Hotel Regina or the luxurious Hotel Park Laurin (or similar). Today, you will meet your guide and the rest of the group at the rendez-vous hotel at 17:00 for a 50 minute transfer to the charming alpine village of Ortisei where we check into the four-star, family-owned and operated, Hotel Angelo Engel (or similar). Aperitivo in the piazza in Ortisei followed by dinner in the cozy hotel dining room. Hotel included, transfer and dinner included.
Rise and enjoy a hearty Tyrolean breakfast before departing on foot to take a funivia up the north side of the Val Gardena. Today we hike 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 taking on a challenging 550 meter/1,700 foot climb to a 2,500 meter/8,000 foot pass. From here the views are truly vast as you take in several of the Dolomites most dramatic ranges. The charming all wood Stevia hut welcomes us for a well-deserved lunch of fresh pasta, or the ubiquitous and delicious barley soup. More spectacular views await us after lunch before we gradually descend towards the village of Selva Val di Gardena. The worst of the descent is avoided with a van pick-up which takes us back to our hotel in Ortisei. We will be back in time to enjoy a gelato in the village piazza, a dip in the hotel’s indoor/outdoor pool, or a sauna in the spa. Overnight Ortisei. Details: Total distance: about 14 kms/8.5 miles. Uphill 700m/2,250ft and downhill 450 m/1440ft. Hiking time: 5h. Maximum altitude: 2500m/8000 ft. Summary: Moderate hiking to start then a challenging steep climb to the pass. Very good trails. A full day of hiking. Hotel, breakfast, lift ticket, and dinner included.
Your big adventure starts today as we embark on the “Alta Via” (high route) component of the tour where we stay four nights up in mountain chalets known as “Rifugi”. You will have proper beds, pillows, hot showers, excellent food and a decent wine list while staying up high, in the crisp, clean, quiet air of the mountains. We start this day with a 5 minute private van transfer to a funivia lift which whisks us 800 meters up to the start of our hike. We walk along the northern wall of the Odle massif. As we walk we take in vast views out over the Val di Funes and onto the spiky peaks of the Odler group which tower above us. Lunch is enjoyed at 2000 meters at the Rifugio Odle where you can sit back, relax and take in the scenery. After a warning lunch of homemade barley soup we set out again on a sensational trail that takes us beneath the imposing spires of the Furcheta to our final destination, the rifugio Genova. This charming chalet was constructed in 1898. It sits at 2300 metres at the entrance to the Puez-Odle national park. Toast the day’s hike with a cold beer, followed by a hot shower then dinner in the charming wood-paneled “stube.” Overnight in private double room (late sign-ups may have to share a triple or quadruple room). Hot shower and WC are down the hall. Details: Total distance: about 18 kms/11 miles. Uphill 750m/2,400ft and downhill 450 m/1440ft. Hiking time: 5h30m. Maximum altitude: 2425m/7760 ft. Summary: Moderate hiking, very good trails, but a long day. Breakfast, dinner and rifugio accommodation included. Lunch not included.
As the sun’s rays reflect off Putia peak we head east on a 13.5 km (8.5 mile) hike around the mountain. The trail features magnificent views from above the tree line before gently descending into the soft embrace of the larch woods. The trail follows the valley of the mills, and we see ancient wooden aqueducts that fed water from the mountains to the water mills below. Lunch is had at a log mountain hut, the Utia di Goma. We are once again above the tree line and we have a gradual climb that takes us up over the Putia Forcella (strong hikers have the option of hiking up Putia peak, two hours out and back) and back home to Rifugio Genova where we enjoy a relaxing drink in the deck-chairs overlooking the valley. Hiking time: 5h. Maximum altitude: 2415 metres/8768 ft. Summary: Total climb of 950 meters/ 3000 feet. Easy hiking on good trails, one 2 km section on 4X4 road plus optional challenging climb. This hike is very pleasant because it stays up high as it loops around the flanks of Putia mountain. We never drop below 1950 meters/6,000 feet. Breakfast, dinner and rifugio accommodation included.
Today’s hike is made up of dramatic alpine terrain as we strike into the heart of the Odle-Puez national park. The trail eventually gets squeezed between several peaks as we climb to the Nives pass. This section of trail requires you to climb ladders and rungs that are bolted into the rock. There is no exposure, so if you can climb a ladder, you can do this. However, if you are not happy with this section of trail, there is an alternative path that you can take. We crest at 2740 metres/8768 ft. Energetic hikers can take an optional out and back trail to the top of Piz Duelda peak, which tops out at 2,909 metres/9,308 ft. The views are impressive as we gradually descend to the welcoming embrace of Puez Hutte for lunch, which is nestled in amongst the surrounding peaks at 2475 metres/7920 ft. A large, sunny terrace welcomes us where you can kick back and take in the quiet solitude of these gorgeous mountains. After lunch we have a two and a half hour hike to Gardenacia hut. This rifugio was built in 1937 and renovated in 2009. Happily the owners kept many of the original features and furniture to retain an old world charm. The Gherdenacio rifugio has an additional special feature; a sauna with large one-way windows that look out over a stunning alpine view. What a great way to relax at the end of an epic day of hiking! Indeed, this is an extremely comfortable rifugio where we are delighted to stay for two nights. Overnight in private double rooms (late sign-ups may have to share a triple or quadruple). The shower and WC are down the hall but we also offer you a free Sauna so you can use the modern shower facility in the Sauna area. Hiking distance: Total distance: about 16 kms/10 miles. Uphill 1000 m/3,200ft and downhill 800m/2500 ft. Hiking time: 6.5 hrs. Maximum altitude: 2740 metres/8768 ft. Summary: Challenging hiking, good trails but with some assisted climbing to be done on ascent to Nives Pass (option to avoid this trail is available). That means climbing up ladders and steel rungs. A long day, with a section that entails a 600 metre/1900 ft continuous climb but then an easier gradual descent after lunch. Breakfast, dinner and rifugio accommodation with Sauna facilities included.
We have a variety of options on offer for today’s hike to suit the weather and your energy levels. All of them feature spectacular views, and isolated trails, it all depends on how much you want to do. Past hikers have been seduced by the rifugios lovely terrace and fabulous sauna so we have offered a morning hike and the afternoon off to relax and enjoy the amenities. However, if you are keen for another full day of hiking we take you on an epic hike that features the imposing vastness of the Gardenacia plateau, a descent down a dramatic enfilade, then gently undulating pastures, lunch in charming La Villa village and then a chairlift back up into the mountains with a final 40 minute climb back up to the rifugio.
Details: Total distance: choices range between 8kms/5 miles and 17 kms/11 miles. Hiking time: 3hrs to 6hrs. Good trails throughout. Breakfast, dinner and rifugio accommodation with Sauna facilities included.
We set out this morning for our final Alta Via hike. We quickly enter a dramatic landscape as we ascend towards the Para Dai Giai to hike along a high ridgeline at 2450 meters/8000 ft. Our last hour of hiking takes us along the southern side of a group of mountains making up the Crespeina massif. As we slowly descend, we will see climbers on the Piz da Cir whose vertical pitches have enticed local climbers for over a century. We end our hike at the Danterceipe “hut” which is a super modern structure of steel and glass with fabulous views from its excellent restaurant where we have lunch. After lunch, we happily cheat by taking the gondola down the last 600 m/1,900 ft to Selva val Gardena where we get a private transfer all the way back to Bolzano.. We splash out tonight with a memorable dinner to celebrate our Alta Via experience. Overnight in Bolzano. Details: Total distance: about 15 kms/8 miles. Uphill 1100m/3,500 ft and downhill 750 m/2460 ft. Hiking time: 4.5h. Maximum altitude: 2525 metres/8300 ft. Summary: Another full-on hike with a challenging 500 meter/1600 ft continuous climb at the beginning of the day, then a second sustained climb of 500 meters to the Crespiena fork. Good trails throughout but with a little scree for about 15 minutes towards Forc. Di Sassonher. Hotel, breakfast, lift ticket, van transfer, dinner included.
Independent departure from Bolzano. You can walk to the train station, or catch a taxi. Bolzano is well connected by train to Verona, Milan, Venice, 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 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.This tour is not appropriate for people who suffer vertigo, or who have bad knees or hips. The terrain is sometimes steep and we sometimes have long ascents and descents. Some days require 6 hours of hiking. Daily distance between 14 and 18 kms/8 and 12 miles.
Luggage Transfers: How they work.
On day 2 you just need to have in your BACKPACK what you need for the day. Your main luggage is transferred to the Ortisei hotel. On day 3 you need to prepare 3 packs/bags. Your BACKPACK will have what you need for two nights in Rifugio Genova. You can prepare a second TRAVEL bag which will go to the last Rifugio which will have fresh clothes for you to have when you arrive at Rifugio Gerdenacia.When we leave Rifugio Gerdenacia this bag will be transferred to the last hotel, in Bolzano. The third bag, which will be your main bag/suitcase will stay at the hotel in Ortisei and you will be reunited with this bag/suitcase when we pass by on our way to Bolzano on the last day of the tour. In this bag/suitcase, you will leave all your “city” clothes/shoes/stuff that you don’t need in the mountains. On day 4 you will just carry in your BACKPACK what you need for the day because you can leave what you don’t need in your room at Rifugio Genova. On day 5 you will be carrying your BACKPACK to Rifugio Gerdenacia where your TRAVEL bag will be waiting for you. On day 6 you just need your BACKPACK for the day. On day 7 you will put all your stuff in your TRAVEL bad and that will be transferred to the last hotel in Bolzanoi. For the day 7 hike you just need what you need for the hike in your BACKPACK. All clear?
Backpacks: On these trips you will be carrying more in your backpacks than on other tours because: a) we are in the mountains and therefore you need to carry more layers and be ready for any weather conditions; b) you may need to carry more water since it may not be available; and c) you will have to carry extra clothing for two nights in the first rifugio. That means you will carry a slightly heavier pack on the hike to the first rifugio, then a light day pack for the loop day, then a slightly heavier pack to the second rifugio.
In general: This is a challenging tour for fit hikers who will be happy to end the hike each day and recover with a cold beer. Not appropriate for novice hikers or even for experienced but unfit hikers.
Terrain: Rolling and often steep terrain. Challenging sustained climbs and descents of up to 1,200 meters/4,000 feet. Altitude can play a role but the highest we sleep at is 2,297 meters/7,350 and the highest point on the tour is 2,737m/8,760 feet.
Actual walking time: Between 5-7 hours per day.
Distances: Usually we cover between 12 and 18 kms (8-12 miles) per day
Surfaces: Trails consisting of compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and frequently on rocky and uneven trails. Scree slopes and steep switchback trails are also encountered. Sometimes it is necessary to use one’s arms to climb up a short “impasse”, or sit down on your bum to descend sections that are too big for a step. You might also find somewhat overgrown trails.
Footing: Good to tricky. You must almost ALWAYS pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes or boots with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: The trails are safe, but some of them have some “open” parts which could unsettle anyone who suffers from vertigo (on the other hand, 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. You also have to carry what you need for three nights up in the mountain huts, so your day-pack will be a little heavier than usual. Elevation gains are between 600 - 900 m (1,970 - 3,000 ft) .
Hiking Poles: REQUIRED! If you don’t bring your poles the guide will hit you over the head with their own poles.
Compared to the Cinque Terre: Significantly more difficult than the Cinque Terre because the distances are much longer and the terrain and footing much more difficult. If you enjoyed the hikes in the Cinque Terre and found them to be a dawdle, and you regularly hike and backpack, then these 5-rated tours right up your alley.
Other: These tours are not appropriate for first-time hikers. People with hip and knee issues will probably find that these tours will aggravate your pre-existing injuries to the point that you may have to abandon the tour. Hikers need to be fit with healthy joints who can easily hike for six hours a day and who are also used to negotiating rocky, uneven terrain.
Challenging Tours: Dolomites Alta Via, Republic of Georgia – Tusheti National Park
Trip Cost Includes: 2 nights Ortisei at a four-star Hotel Angelo Engel (or similar), 4 nights in comfortable rifugi (mountain chalets) and 1 night Bolzano at the historic Stadt Hotel Citta (or similar), a superior three-star hotel with spa in the heart of old Bolzano. Note: Rooms in the huts are based on a first-come, first-served basis. If you book early, and you are a couple there is a good chance we will be able to reserve double rooms for you, however, it may be necessary to have three or four people maximum in a room. Toilets and showers are in the hallway (it's a great way to meet people!). Also included: 7 breakfasts and 6 dinners; bilingual Customwalks guide(s) to accompany the tour and lead you on the walks; all van transfers and lifts as per the itinerary including pick-up from Bolzano and final transfer to Bolzano.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below. Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.
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 1hr private transfer to the train station in Bolazano, arriving around 10:30 a.m. for 11:00 am 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.
My second year in a row hiking the amazing Italian Dolomites ( and luckily for me with the same guide !) The scenery was spectacular and our trip itinerary was very carefully organized and thought out to maximize the beauty, the ups and downs, and some trail variety and the best Refugio's and one amazing sauna !!!I totally felt in the best hands with our guide who truly watched out for us. And you could also tell the guide vicariously enjoyed our enjoyment of the mountains and shared the excitement with the the views and the food and travels together. He was very special and unique and had a great sense of humor and spoke English fluently.I highly recommend this trip. It was a little tough for me being an older person and hiking with significantly younger people ( i.e. my 31 and 28-year-old sons who are in incredible shape). 10 miles a day - six days in a row - was certainly a challenge; but well worth it.
Wining and dining in the Dolomites... and working up an appetite! This was an intense hike. My body took a bit of a beating, but I was smiling the whole time as my eyes took in the amazing Dolomiti. The itinerary was thoughtfully designed to give us the best experience and give us exposure to a variety of landscapes, refugi, and terrain. Amazing trip. Terrific guide. Wonderful memories.
You need to be in good shape to do this trip, individually the walks are all wonderful with good paths and outstanding views. When you put six of these walks together it's quite a physical challenge but it was also a great adventure. As always the guides looked after us brilliantly and we had a lot of fun on this trip.
The Alta Via is spectacular- featuring awe inspiring vistas and beautiful terrain, it was an incredibly special trip and stands out as one of the best vacations we have ever had among many great ones.I found that rising with a cup of warm coffee and the sunrise was a fantastic way to start the day as we made our way through the rugged terrain. The rich mountaineering history in the area fosters a wonderful sense of camaraderie as we made our way as a group through the countryside.I would heartily recommend- we are actually thinking of booking this very trip for a 2nd time in fact.
My second year in a row hiking the amazing Italian Dolomites ( and luckily for me with the same guide !)
The scenery was spectacular and our trip itinerary was very carefully organized and thought out to maximize the beauty, the ups and downs, and some trail variety and the best Refugio's and one amazing sauna !!!I totally felt in the best hands with our guide who truly watched out for us. And you could also tell the guide vicariously enjoyed our enjoyment of the mountains and shared the excitement with the the views and the food and travels together. He was very special and unique and had a great sense of humor and spoke English fluently.I highly recommend this trip. It was a little tough for me being an older person and hiking with significantly younger people ( i.e. my 31 and 28-year-old sons who are in incredible shape). 10 miles a day - six days in a row - was certainly a challenge; but well worth it.