Many regional parks, including the Dolomiti Bellunessi National Park, are located in the Dolomites. The Dolomites were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
Their name originates from the carbonate rock, dolomite, which is dolomitic limestone. They are also known as the Pale Mountains.
Since it was part of Austria before World War I, it has a unique mixture of Italian and Austrian traditions.
A Bit of History on the Dolomites
The Ladin people have called the Dolomites home since 5 B.C. They have preserved their culture, language, and ways of life. They are known for their craftsmanship and cultural contributions.
For many years, these high rocky regions were traveled by hunters and gatherers from many areas. There is evidence of a Jesuit priest, Franz von Wulfen, climbing these peaks in the 1790s and John Ball the first known person to climb Mount Pelmo.
The front line between the Austrian-Hungarian and Italian armies ran through the Dolomites during World War I. Today this area is visited by climbers to climb paths through the rock walls that were created by mine explosions during the war. There are many long-distance footpaths, called alte vie or “high paths”, throughout the Dolomites.
Visiting the Dolomites Italy — Some Interesting Facts
- this region is divided into the Eastern and Western Dolomites
- summer activities include hand-gliding, para-gliding, hiking, mountain climbing, BASE jumping, cycling, and hiking
- in the winter skiing is the predominant activity
- since 1887 free climbing has been a tradition
- in the first week of July, an annual single-day bicycle race, Maratona dles Dolomites, takes place where cyclers traverse seven (7) mountain passes in the Dolomites
- Strada delle 52 Gallerie, a military mule road built during World War 1, has fifty-two (52) tunnels
- here is some information on the Top Peaks in the Dolomites
- the most beautiful Mountain Passes in the Dolomites
- the Dolomites were actually underwater at one time proven by formations and fossils discovered
- the mineral, dolomite, could have some significant health benefits although the research as of this moment is not conclusive
- because of their exceptional beauty, the Dolomites are a protected UNESCO World Heritage site
- because of their light color and otherworldly appearance, they are also called the Pale Mountains. They have inspired many legends, myths, folklore, and even some stories and works of literature.
- in 1991 Otzi, an ice mummy, was discovered in the Dolomites on the Similaun Glacier. Thought to be 5,000 years old it was found that he was shot with an arrow. He can be viewed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.
Things to See and Do — Visiting the Dolomites Italy
* The Mountain Culture — there are great museums in Merano and Balzano that provide a wealth of information on the storied culture of this area. At the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, you will find Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, Otzi the Iceman, found buried in a glacier in 1991. Experience centuries-old traditions, ancient castles, different languages and dialects as well as gracious hospitality throughout the region. Two other museums to explore are the Lumen Museum of Mountain Photography and the Messner Mountain Museum Corones.
* The Lookout (Cadini di Misurina) — located near the rifugio Auronzo experience an incredible view of the jagged mountain peaks and Lake Misurina.
* Hiking — there is some incredible hiking in this area for a number of reasons including the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets as well as exploring the natural landscape that is filled with ancient trails through the green woods and alpine meadows past bubbling creeks and mountain huts. There are both multi-day hikes as well as more casual day hikes. There are many trails from which to select including the Sceda Ridgeline, Vajolet Towers Trail, the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo, and Lago di Sorapis.
* A Via Ferrata Experience — in Italian, this is translated as “iron path”, which is a protected climbing path using rungs, ladders, and steel cables attached to the rock enabling a climber to safely move about with a harness if needed. Hikers are able to complete the path without the technical know-how of a rock climber.
* Paragliding — floating high above the picturesque towns and distinctive landscapes is quite a thrilling experience. Experience the exquisite view of the snowy mountains of Austria as well as the peaks of the Dolomites on the other side. For those interested you can book through the Cumulus Club Sexten.
* Health & Wellness — in this slower pace of life a “oneness” with nature permeates the atmosphere encouraging a full appreciation of the natural beauty and enhancing the wellness of one’s mind, body, and soul. Here is a total commitment to wellness with its spas, saunas, yoga, and massages. The locals embrace this wellness culture as evidenced by their interest in paragliding, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. Practically every hotel is designed with health and wellness facilities. Two choices are the Hubertus Alpin Panorama Hotel in Kronplatz and the Hotel Miramonti in the mountains above Mirano.
* Lakes — the glacial lakes in this area are incredible. A couple of the alpine lakes include the Rainbow Lake of Lago Di Carezza and Lago Di Breies.
* Towns & Hamlets — there are numerous gorgeous hamlets and towns scattered about the region. It is like being in the middle of a fairy tale with its cobblestone streets fountains and gardens, homes and chalets with pretty flower boxes, pastel-colored laneways, and ancient churches.
* Alta Badia — in the heart of the Dolomites is this area inhabited by the Ladin folks with their mountain culture and language. This is a unique place to visit with some of the best hiking trails in the entire region.
* Alpe di Siusi — this alpine meadow is beyond gorgeous with its green pastures and marvelous views of the alpine huts and rolling hills.
* Val di Funes — this valley exhibits such amazing beauty and serenity that it is an astonishing experience to view. Within its charming village, there are friendly locals and mouth-watering food. You can view the peaks of the Puez-Odle National Park and visit the churches of St. Johann in Ranui and St Maddalena.
* Skiing — here you will find some of the best skiing in the world. There are several ski resorts and hotels in the Dolomites. With the majestic scenery in the middle of the Alps, it is most definitely a one-of-a-kind adventure.
* Road Trip — take a drive through the Dolomites and be totally engrossed by the jagged peaks, little quaint towns, verdant meadows, and emerald lakes. The roads are exceptional and car rentals are affordable.
* Stay in a Rifugio — stay in a little traditional mountain hut and experience excellent alpine food in a dining hall filled with boisterous visitors. These alpine huts are a great place to learn about the alpine culture while enjoying great food, beer, and schnapps. The majority of these huts are privately owned and it is advisable to book well in advance. A few Rifugios to consider are Vajolet, Nuvolau, Fannes Hutte, and Locatelli.
* The Mountain Passes — as part of any road trip include the majestic mountain passes. These hairpin roads are encased by large trees and enormous mountains overlooking the scenic valleys below. Some of the favorite passes include the Sella Pass, Passo Giau, and Passo Gardena.
* The Alpine Cuisine — the province of South Tyrol has the most celebrated cuisine throughout the country with 26 Michelin Stars for its 19 restaurants. Here the alpine influences of Germany and Austria are combined with the very best of Italian foods. These centuries-old food traditions create a unique culinary experience. Combined with delicious local wine these dishes include the freshest ingredients, local cheeses, and fresh pasta. This farm-to-table approach to food includes sustainable food sourcing as well. Each dish is produced in harmony with the natural habitat. The food is affordable, there are plenty of vegetarian options, and the quality is consistent. Some favorites are Schlutzkrapfen, a ravioli pasta filled with ricotta and spinach, Kaiserschmarrn, a fluffy pancake topped with applesauce and cream, and cheese dumplings.
Visiting the Dolomites Italy is Quite an Adventure
This land of jagged peaks emerging from alpine meadows, with scenic beauty, lakes, marvelous hiking, skiing, and some of the best cuisine anywhere, is a “must-do and see” on anyone’s destination list.
This is truly a land of enchantment with the most welcoming locals. Immerse yourself in this wonderful culture and experience some of the most majestic views anywhere in the world.
As far as accommodations in the Dolomites there is a wide choice between Airbnb, guesthouses luxury hotels, and more modest lodgings including rifugios. Hotels fill quickly during peak times so plan in advance.
This is most likely a part of the world that was not on your destination or bucket list but it is worth some serious consideration.