Dolomites Hiking Tour - Classic
Classic Dolomites Hike: The Dolomites mountains of northern Italy offer some of the most spectacular hiking tours in the world. Jagged limestone peaks rise high above green valleys dotted with wildflowers and blue glacial lakes. The food is rich and hearty, with local Tyrolean specialties like polenta and gnocchi, and the wines are among the best in Italy. Our hiking tour is challenging, and our trip offers the comfort and relaxation of small, family-run hotels.
As a special treat for those who are keen for more adventure, we offer an optional hiking tour along a stretch of the famous Via Ferrata (weather permitting). Literally translated as “the Iron Way,” the Via Ferrata runs throughout the Dolomites, incorporating a system of iron ladders to assist hikers on steep mountainous terrain. The trails were originally built and used by WWI soldiers fighting in this region. Our local alpine guide will provide you with the necessary helmets, harnesses, and guidance to safely hike this exhilarating mountain terrain. (For the optional hike, a supplemental fee required.)
We spend the first four nights in the village of San Candido, part of the Southern Tyrol. Until 1918, this region was part of the Austrian Tyrol and its people are largely of Germanic descent; many still speak the Latin-based Ladin language. Their local cuisine is a sublime marriage of flavors from Austria and Italy. Our last three nights are spent in Cortina, often considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Please note: If this tour looks too challenging, we also offer an easy version of our Dolomites hike - “Dolomites Light” - that enables just about everyone to enjoy the spectacular alpine scenery of one of Italy’s most scenically dramatic regions. We have toned down the difficulty and length of the hikes, not the breathtaking views. The light version is designed to run simultaneously and in parallel with our regular version, the itinerary for which is listed below. This way, people can sign up for the easy version, and then do a more challenging hike later in the week if there are other hikers who are doing the other route. It also means that couples can travel together, but not always hike together if one is, shall we say, not feeling as spry as the other. Often the two groups will meet together for lunch as both groups will often be hiking in the same area, but on different routes.
Dolomites Hiking Tour - Classic itinerary
Independent arrival to San Candido/Innichen. Daily rail connections are available from Milan, Venice, Munich and Innsbruck. Since the region is bilingual, the villages and towns in this region have both an Italian and Austrian name. Depending on when you get in, you will have some time to explore the village and admire its beautiful wooden farmhouses. The group will meet tomorrow morning. Overnight Post Hotel or Sporthotel Tyrol in San Candido/Innichen. Hotel included. Dinner not included.
Meet your guides and fellow hikers at breakfast. We then take a bus and a chair-lift up to the Prati di Croda Rossa (2,000 m/6,000 ft.) for our first hike. We stop for lunch at a mountain rifugio and then walk back down and catch a bus back to our hotel. San Candido-Innichen is situated in the beautiful Upper Pusteria Valley and is surrounded by thick pine forests and crowned by the jagged peaks of the Baranci chain. You’ll have time to explore the town before meeting up again for dinner together. Overnight San Candido. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
After breakfast we transfer to the trail-head for a scenic and challenging hike to Prato Piazza. Our efforts are rewarded with a constantly changing alpine panorama en route to our lunch spot in an alpine meadow. The wildflower meadows create a colorful counterpart to the stark limestone peaks, offering great photo ops! After lunch we continue towards the high alpine plateau of Prato Piazza. Time permitting, an optional walk to the WWI fort of Vallandro before catching a shuttle back to San Candido. Overnight San Candido. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We start the day with a van transfer up to the rifugio at Auronzo. Our hike takes us around the spectacular massif of the “Tre Cime di Lavaredo.” The “Three Peaks” are some of the most dramatic mountains in the Dolomites due to their extraordinary spike shape, alignment and subtle color changes that occur throughout the day. The Cima Grande (Big Peak) is the highest (3,000 m / 9,836 ft), followed by Cima Ovest (Western Peak) and Cima Piccola (Small Peak). We stop for lunch at a rifugio that offers magnificent views of the surrounding landscape, then continue down through alpine meadows to the valley below. Or, go adventurous and try the famous Via Ferrata. Translated as the “Iron Way”, the Via Ferrata runs throughout the Dolomites, incorporating a system of iron ladders to assist hikers on steep mountainous terrain (optional hike, supplemental fee required). Overnight San Candido. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We leave the Sud Tyrol region this morning and hike towards the Veneto and its alpine gem, Cortina d’Ampezzo. As we draw closer to the wide valley where the town lies, the surrounding peaks of Monte Cristallo, Monte Pelmo, Croda da Lago, and the Tofanes fill our view. You will see why Cortina is considered to be the most perfectly situated town in the Italian Alps. Today we hike from Cimabanche to Ra Stua, where we stop for another delicious lunch. Afterwards you can choose to go directly to Cortina by bus, or do an optional afternoon walk from Ra Stua. We spend the next two nights at the locally famous Hotel Menardi, owned by a family that has been in the hotel business for 300 years! Before dinner you might enjoy a whirlpool in the hotel spa. Overnight at the Hotel Menardi or Hotel Ancora in Cortina. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Shuttle to the Tre Croci pass and then hike past WWII era bunkers and up to a high alpine lake. Stop at a rifugio for a break before climbing up onto a high ridge with awesome views. We often see Chamois, and sometimes alpine Ibex mountain goats on this hike. The walk ends at the top of Monte Faloria, where we take an unforgettable cable-car ride straight down to the center of Cortina. You have free time this afternoon to explore lovely Cortina and perhaps relax in one of the outdoor cafés. Tonight is a “free night” so you can dine anywhere you like. Your guides will have lots of suggestions. Overnight Cortina. Hotel and breakfast included. Dinner not included.
Depending on the weather we will either go up to the Rifugio Nuvolau, which means “rifugio in the clouds” in local dialect but offers spectacular views if it is clear, or we will hike amongst the “Cinque Torri” (five towers) whose jagged spires dwarf those below. Tonight we enjoy a special farewell dinner at Ristorante “El Zoco” to celebrate the week’s adventures. Overnight Cortina. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We leave at 9:00 by van for a 2-hour transfer to the Venice airport. From there you can take a bus or water taxi into town or to the train station for onward travel. If you're flying out of Venice, don't book anything leaving before 1 or 2 p.m. to be sure. Earlier transfers can be arranged, at your expense. 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.
Visit the Dolomites: great site about the area, see especially the section on culture, traditions, food, etc.
Val Pusteria: general site with weather forecast, photos, etc.
The Via Ferrata: very informative Wikipedia site on these unique trails
World War I in the Dolomites: a short history of some of the battle sites we encounter during our hikes
Cortina d’Ampezzo: very interesting site relating the history of Cortina and the area, going back to Neolithic times and stone-age human remains!
Speak Ladin? a short introduction to this ancient language, a remnant of the Roman occupation of 2,000 years ago
Activity rating: 4 out of 5 = Rewarding : The walks have challenging uphills and downhills and are a bit longer. Daily activity is up to six hours. Max distance 20 kms. Note: To enjoy this tour you need to be an experienced hiker who can happily walk for five hours during the day, and also cope with some steep uphills and downhills. All of our trails are very safe, but some of them have a some “airy” parts where people who suffer from vertigo might not be happy. Having said that, all one has to do is look away! Most of our trails are very well maintained, but on the rare occasion you might have to cope with a short stretch of scree. Anyone in decent physical shape can enjoy this hike.
The Via Ferrata: Weather permitting, we offer you the opportunity to go with a qualified Alpine guide along the Via Ferrata. This is an optional hike that we make available to all trip participants, however we reserve the right to exclude any participant if we think he/she is not of sound body, or mind! The Via Ferrata is not for the faint of heart: you wear full climbing harnesses and helmets (equipment is provided) that enables the guide to lead you in safety into difficult mountain terrain where some easy rock climbing is required. Often times you are following routes that were put in place during WWI by Austrian or Italian mountain troops. The cost of the Alpine guide (€450 paid in cash directly to the alpine guide) is divided by the number of participants. Maximum group size is 8 participants. This is an optional activity.
Trip Cost Includes: 4 nights San Candido/Innichen at a 4-star hotel, 3 nights Cortina in a 4-star hotel; 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners; bilingual Customwalks guide(s) to accompany the tour and lead you on the walks; all lift tickets during the tour to access and return from our regularly scheduled hikes, all van and bus transfers as per the itinerary including final transfer to the Venice airport; and luggage transfer between San Candido and Cortina.
Booking: e-mail us at email@example.com 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.
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Getting There: the trip starts with your arrival in San Candido/Innichen at our pre-booked hotel. San Candido is well connected by rail and bus with the rest of Italy.
Air: The most convenient airport to the trip is Venice. Innsbruck (Austria) is much closer to the start of the trip, but Venice is closer to the end. Other airports in Northern Italy include Verona or Milan (Linate or Malpensa). For a complete list of Itlian airports and a selection of low-cost airlines, see our "Transport Info" page.
Rail: All trains to San Candido from within Italy pass through Verona and then the town of Fortezza. Journey time from Innsbruck to San Candido is about 3 hours, while Venice is 5-6 hours, Verona 4 hours, and Milan is 5-6 hours. 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. See the Austrian rail system website here if you are coming in from Innsbruck.
Bus: there is a convenient direct bus from Venice (“Mestre” train station, or directly from the airport) that takes about 4 hours, including a 50-min. stop/change in Cortina. It only runs on the weekends. See the website (in English) for the Cortina Express.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: the trip ends with a private van transfer to the Venice airport, arriving around 11:00 a.m. From there you can get a bus or water taxi into town or to the train station. See our "Transport Info" page for more information on transportation alternatives at the Venice airport.
Private Transfers: we can also arrange for a car or van to make your transfer easier; please contact us for details as we may have other people interested in a private transfer from Venice airport.
** BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: We can arrange for a private transfer from an airport or train station to San Candido. Here are some prices:
-- From Venice airport or “Venezia Mestre” (3 hrs): van for 8 pax €340, car for 2-3 people €280
-- From Verona airport or train station (3.5 hrs): van for 8 pax €450, car for 2-3 people €400
-- From Innsbruck airport (2+ hrs): van for 8 pax €320, car for 2-3 people €260
-- From Bolzano train station (2 hrs): van for 8 pax €250, car for 2-3 people €200
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip. Please e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
It is hard to believe that we did this tour nearly 5 years ago now considering how fresh the memories are . Our guide was Manu who was and I am sure still is one of the most delightful and helpful guides I have ever walked with . The scenery was consistently spectacular and the walks were moderately challenging particularly the day we did the Via Ferrata . What a buzz that was I absolutely loved it . Anyone who loves the mountains should do this hike. You will be surprised how isolated you can feel in the centre of Europe .
This is one of my favorite trips. The scenery is just breathtaking, in that lovely mountain air. The people were friendly, the food was fantastic. Brett insisted we try strudel at every stop... I got to use a little Italian and a little German (only because I wanted to). The towns we stayed in were super, with wonderful local-feeling lodgings. It's quite strenuous, especially if it has been snowing, but if you don't mind the workout, the rewards are huge!
I took this tour with Customwalks in 2008. It was a spectacular trip that we will never forget. Our guides were top notch, hikes were breathtaking, food was out of this world, and lodging was beyond expectations! It was the trip of a lifetime for us!
by Brett from Christchurch, New Zealand