Dolomites Grand Traverse, Italian Alps Hiking Write a review
Northeastern Italy’s Dolomites spill over with grandeur. This 8-day hike takes us through some of its finest scenes.
With all trails above tree line, our adventure in the Dolomites is nothing short of breathtaking. Magnificent views of limestone pinnacles, alpine lakes, massive rock towers and green valleys below provide an awe-inspiring spectacle during our journey. During the First World War the Dolomites were the front line between Austria and Italy with the result that we hike past abandoned bunkers and fortifications, the history of which is be covered by our guides.
Trek around the spectacular massif of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, observing the extraordinary spike-like shapes that tower above you. Enjoy a stay in the quaint villages of San Candido and Cortina. Each evening brings us comfortable accommodations— cozy and comfortable fully catered alpine huts for three nights, and four star hotels for the other four nights. Thanks to a unique blend of Austrian and Italian flavors, every meal is truly delicious. Our Dolomites Grand Traverse is a journey through some of the most incredible areas of the Italian Alps.
Dolomites Grand Traverse Hiking Tour Includes:
Accommodation: 7 nights accommodation ( 2 nights in San Candido at a four-star, 3 nights in comfortable rifugi [mountain huts, fully catered, extensive wine lists, hot showers, and at least one of the three nights in private rooms for people in double occupancy, the other two nights you may have to share a room with other people ], 2 nights at a four-star hotel in Cortina.)
Meals: 7 breakfasts, 1 picnic lunch, and 7 dinners
Luggage: Bags are transferred from Venice on day one to the San Candido hotel. Your bags are also transfered to the first and second rifugio so you do not have to carry anything other than your day pack. However, we are unable to transfer your bags to the third rifugio. Your luggage will be transfered to the Cortina hotel and you will need to carry with you what you need for one night in the rifugio. It is very easy. At the end of day 6 your luggage will be waiting for you in your hotel room in Cortina. Your luggage is then transfered with you on the final day to Venice airport or Mestre train station.
Active days: 6 days of guided hiking
Guides: At least 1 bilingual Customwalks guide accompanies departures of 2 - 8 people; 2 guides accompany departures of 9 or more people
Max group size: Tours are capped at 14 people
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!).
Dolomites Grand Traverse, Italian Alps Hiking itinerary Request full itinerary
Our trip begins in Venice, Italy. Meet the trip leader at 1pm at the Venice Airport. Transfer to our first night’s hotel in San Candido-Innichen, Italy, near the Austrian border. We are in the Upper Pusteria Valley, which belonged to Imperial Austria until 1918, and whose residents consider themselves to be Tyrolese first and foremost. Upon arrival, we’ll have some time on our own to admire this charming town’s Romanesque and Baroque-style churches or simply relax at a café in the village piazza which features the towering Baranci chain of mountains as a dramatic backdrop. We will meet our guides in the hotel lounge for an apéritif and a trip briefing at 7pm, followed by a welcome dinner where we get acquainted with our traveling companions and guides. Overnight in San Candido for two nights. Hotel and Dinner included. Transfer: 2.5 hours.
Following breakfast we have a short transfer to Auronzo Rifugio to begin our first day of hiking around the spectacular massif of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The “Three Peaks” are some of the most dramatic formations in the Dolomites due to their extraordinary spike-like shape. We hike beneath their imposing rock faces, noticing subtle color changes as the sun traverses the sky and bathes them in a constantly changing light. The Cima Grande (Big Peak) is the highest (9,836'), followed by Cima Ovest (Western Peak) and Cima Piccola (Small Peak). Lunch is enjoyed at a Tyrolese mountain hut located at 7,300' with fantastic views of the fairytale mountain landscape. A hot bowl of nourishing barley soup is a local favorite, followed by a platter of regional cold cuts and cheeses. We make our way back to Auronzo, passing tunnels and bunkers left over from the battles of World War I. Overnight in San Candido. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included. Transfer: 45 minutes; Hiking: 9.6 miles; 5.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss in feet: 2,940'/1,870'.
Today is the start of our grand traverse. The next three nights will be spent in rifugios along our route allowing us to stay high up in the mountains and truly experience what life in this rugged yet breathtaking region is all about. Our luggage is transferred for us to the rifugio; we carry only our personal daypacks with water and other essentials needed for the day’s hike. A short transfer brings us to the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park and the beautiful emerald green waters of Lake Braies, surrounded on three sides by Dolomite peaks. We start to climb on a well-defined path past dwarf mountain pines, which we soon leave behind, eventually cresting a high saddle. The view back looks over the ice blue waters of Lake Braies, and ahead to the almost lunar expanses of exposed, weather beaten slabs of rock that characterize this cauldron-like expanse between the massifs of the Croda del Becco and Croda Rossa. Soon we see a square dot amongst this vast panorama. This is Biella hut, where we stop for a well earned hot lunch. Choose from many options including the local favorite of canederli (delicious dumplings of bread, cheese, and spinach sautéed in butter and sage) and of course strudel for dessert! We continue our hike and reach our cozy rifugio by late afternoon. Our hut is nestled into a high alpine meadow where cows’ bells chime as they meander amongst the mountains. There is time to shower and change before we join our group members in the dining room for a hearty South Tyrolean dinner. Comfortable Alpine hut with dining room, a la carte dining and hot showers, breakfast and dinner included. Transfer: 30 minutes; Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 3450'/210'
We have an easy start this morning as the trail follows a broad meadow before descending switchbacks to Pederu hut where we can stop for a welcome coffee and fresh made pastry. Here you will see a collection of baita, or small huts that local shepherds use when bringing their livestock up to the meadows for summertime grazing. The trail dips and climbs amongst alpine clearings and sparse pine woods to the Forcella de Medesc. We enter the Fanes Plateau, which features a karst landscape dotted with stubby green pines that soften the otherwise barren sheets of rock. A small stream meanders through the plateau where horses and cream colored cows graze. It is amongst this gentle yet harsh landscape where we overnight at the Rifugio Lavarella (6725') or Rifugio Fanes (6725').
There is an optional 2–3 hour hike in the afternoon to Passo di Sant'Antonio, a grassy saddle offering rewarding views of Monte Antelao, the "King of the Dolomites". At the end of the day we enjoy a hearty meal in the cozy wood paneled dining room. Choose from a wonderful mix of Austrian, Ladin, and Italian cuisine accompanied by a surprisingly good wine list. Tonight we might try the "cajinci", also known as "Schlutzkrapfen" in South Tyrol and as "ravioli with ricotta and spinach" in Italy. Comfortable Alpine hut with dining room, a la carte dining and hot showers, breakfast and dinner included. Hiking: 6.5 miles; 3.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, one section involving a long and steep descent; Elevation gain/loss: 2300'/1475'. Optional hike: 5 miles; 2–3 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 1,300'/1,300’
This morning we pack our daypack with what we need for one overnight. Our luggage will be transported to Cortina where we will arrive tomorrow afternoon. After a hearty breakfast we set off on a beautifully serene hike that features a gentle descent along a wide valley lined by majestic peaks for the first two hours. We take an amazing trail that climbs steeply out of the valley, hugging the broad flanks of Monte Cavallo, before threading its way through spires and then plunging back down to rejoin the principal trail to Lagazuoi. It features a truly impressive series of switchbacks that descend steeply towards Lagacio Lake where we will take a break for a picnic lunch. Following lunch we have our epic climb to Rifugio Laqazuoi, which sits perched on a ledge overlooking the strategic Passo Falzarego. A starkly beautiful mountain landscape is made more dramatic by the visible remnants of the terrible struggle that occurred here between 1915 and 1917. Twisted bits of barb wire, trenches and bunkers line our route up to Lagazuoi, which at 2,752 meters (9,029') is one of the highest huts in the Italian Dolomites. Our efforts are rewarded by a truly awesome 360° view of the surrounding mountains and distant green valleys. Comfortable Alpine hut with dining room, a la carte dining and hot showers, breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner included. Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree, very steep downhill and one section with slight exposure; Elevation gain/loss: 3500'/1230' Note: In case of challenging weather, we have an alternative route which features Rifugio Scontoni, a fairytale mountain hut that serves up the best strudel in the Dolomites!
Early risers will be rewarded with the dramatic sunrise over the mountains to the east. We make our way towards Cortina with the high peaks of the Tofane group to our left and the Cinque Torri (Five Towers) on the far side of the valley. Our trail winds past remnants of the World War I battles fought here; we pass by the dugouts and bunkers of the Austrian front lines and the eerie remains of Italian trenches and fortifications. Initially we stay high above the valley following the rocky sides of the Tofanes massif, before descending towards Falzarego pass and climbing up for lunch at Rifugio Scoiattoli. After lunch we have the option to hike through the Cinque Torre Open Air Museum or relax in a sun chair at the rifugio before boarding a chair lift to save our knees a long downhill. We transfer to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy’s world famous alpine resort town and host of the 2026 Winter Olympics. There is free time this afternoon to explore this bustling town and its shopping, regional museum, open-air cafes and galleries, and enjoy a delicious gelato or a cold frothy beer. Four star hotel and breakfast included. Hiking: 5.3–6.3 miles; 3.5–4.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails with some rocky sections; Elevation gain/loss: 1089'/1175'.
Our last day hike features fabulous panoramic views, a jewel-like alpine lake, and the Dolomites signature spire-like rock formations. The hike begins with a gradual two hour climb to reach the Rifugio Croda da Lago for a coffee and strudel break. We pass by the enchanting Lake Federa, whose blue-green waters reflect the surrounding peaks. Continuing our climb, we reach the Ambrizzola crest, revealing unparalleled views of Monte Pelmo and "La Marmolada". The path then crosses a gently rolling alpine plateau until ending at 7,335' Passo Giau, the second highest road pass in the Dolomites. Enjoy a well-deserved beer at the rifugio here before transferring back to Cortina. For those wanting to experience the famous Via Ferrata or "Iron Way" (weather permitting) we will opt out of the hike and head off with a local alpine guide (supplement applies) to summit Punta Fiames. The Via Ferrata is a network of protected iron ladders and cables that enable hikers to ascend vertical or exposed sections of trail without the need to rock climb. There is some free time to enjoy Cortina before gathering for dinner, where we toast and celebrate our successful grand traverse with newfound friends. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included. Transfers: 50 minutes; Hiking: 8.7 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails; Elevation gain/loss: 3225'/850'. Optional Via Ferrata Activity: 5 hours; Transfer: 20 minutes.
Our adventure ends with a private two-hour van transfer to the Venice Airport. We plan to arrive by 11am in time for flights departing at 1pm. Transfer to Venice airport and breakfast included. Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.
Backpacks: On this tour you will be carrying more in your backpacks than on other tours because: a) we are in the mountains so 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 readily available; and c) you will have to carry 1 change of clothing and your toothbrush for the 1 overnight in the a rifugio. We do organize a bag transfer to Rifugio No. 1, and and again to and from Rifugio No. 2. Here is how it looks day by day.
a. Day 1: You and your bags are picked up from Venice airport and transferred to San Candido.
b. Day 2: First hike is a loop Hike. you just carry what you need for the day.
c. Day 3: Hike to Rifugio No. 1, you just carry what you need for the day. A small duffel bag with your overnight requirements will be transported by 4X4 to the rifugio No. 1. Your main luggage will be transferred to the final hotel in Cortina.
d. Day 4: Hike to Rifugio No. 2, you just carry what you need for the day. A small duffel bag with your overnight requirements will be transported by 4X4 from rifugio 1 to rifugio No. 2.
e. Day 5: Hike to Rifugio No. 3, you carry what you need for 1 overnight. The small duffel bag with your other stuff is transported from rifugio No. 2. To the hotel in Cortina where you will be reunited with all your luggage on Day 6.
f. Day 6: Hike from Rifugio No. 3 to Cortina. You will carry in your backpack whatever you required for the 1 night in Rifugio No.. 3. Overnight tonight in a Hotel in Cortina where you will be reunited with your main luggage, and the small duffel bag that was transported from Rifugio No. 2.
g. Day 7 Hike. loop Hike. you just carry what you need for the day.
Activity Level 4 = Rewarding:
In general: This is a Rewarding tour for fit hikers who will find them a satisfying and challenging workout; they are not appropriate for unfit hikers.
Terrain: Rolling and often steep terrain with frequent challenging ascents and descents, often over rugged and uneven terrain
Actual walking time: between 4 - 6 hours per day, mostly in the morning but also in the afternoon
Distances: Usually 10 - 15 km (6 - 9 mi). Max distance is 18 km (11 mi).
Surfaces: Trails are a mix of compact earth or dirt track, gravel roads, and rocky, uneven trails. You will also encounter ancient stone stairways and rocky steps. You may also find somewhat overgrown sections.
Footing: Good to tricky. You must 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: This tour has some sustained climbs of two to three hours so you just put it in low gear and enjoy the exertion and wonderful views.
Hiking Poles: Highly recommended and your guides will mutter to themselves when they see you did not bring any poles. If you don’t bring your poles and ask your guide to use his or hers, they will refuse because they need them!
Compared to the Cinque Terre: More difficult than the Cinque Terre mostly because the distances are longer and because you will be carrying a slightly heavier back-pack. If you enjoyed the hikes on the Cinque Terre and want to hike more, then these 4-rated “Rewarding” tours are perfect for you.
Other: These tours are not appropriate for first-time hikers. People with hip and knee issues might find that they aggravate your pre-existing injuries. Hikers need to be fit and able to hike for five hours a day. You should also be used to negotiating rocky, uneven terrain.
Rewarding Tours: Dolomites "Classic" Hike, Tuscany Mountains, Dolomites Grand Traverse
Bellissimo I went on this trip in September 2019 and it met and exceeded my expectations. The level of difficulty was accurately described as 3-4 and the terrain and vistas are just spectacular. Our guides, Dennis and Melissa, were engaging and experienced and I would recommend them to any traveler. They did a great job of adjusting the hikes to the weather and conditions. The rifugios were charming, food was plentiful and accommodations were comfortable.
You need to take this trip! I went on this trip in July 2019. It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! The views were spectacular, the rifugios were charming, and the guides were knowledgeable, skilled, and truly delightful. The difficulty level was accurately described, and for me it was challenging enough to justify all the fabulous food and wine every evening. I could have never organized this on my own, even if I had wanted to, which is one of the reasons organized trips are so worthwhile.
Trip of a lifetime I went on this tour in July 2019. I would not have been able to plan this trip on my own. Every detail was perfect. Our guides, Marco, Dennis and Francesca were terrific!! So knowledgeable and fun. The hikes were challenging, which i loved. I definitely want to repeat this exact trip again! A wonderful bonding experience with my family.
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I did the grand traverse of the Dolomites July 15-20th, 2018 and it was amazing. Exceeded all my expectations!!! Dennis, Marco, and Francesca were absolutely wonderful and catered to everyone's wishes! I will do another trip just because of how great of guides they were!
From snow to rain to sun, an unforgettable adventure. Guided right, and fed well. Wine and views to remember, with great comrades!