Tierser Alpl, Rosengarten Dolomites Travel Guide

The Dolomites

The Dolomites Travel Guide

The Dolomites are a mountain range in northeastern Italy located in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. In 2009, these mountains were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Site consists of 9 mountain ranges covering a total area of 142,000 hectares. Apart from the sheer size of the Dolomites, it’s their astounding beauty that renders onlookers utterly speechless.  

The unique coloration of the peaks is perhaps the most striking feature of the Italian Dolomites. The light and time of day reveal different shades of peach, rose, white and violet in the rock. The color is further dramatized by the sculpturesque shapes of the pinnacles. Nestled between the cliffs, you’ll find high alpine pastures and meadows. These meadow-scapes are dotted with huts, cows, and horses. Many huts serve food and drink. So, when you’re hiking in the Dolomites, you don’t need to pack a lunch, as there’s usually a delicious meal waiting for you on the mountain.

 

When to visit the Italian Dolomites

If you want to hike, the best time to go to the Dolomites is from the end of June to the end of September. That time frame also corresponds to the time when the mountain huts (hütte, rifugio) are open for overnights and food. It’s also when most cable cars are in operation. Many hiking trails begin or end with an aerial tram ride. If your aim is to ski, the season begins in December and ends in April. We visited the Dolomites in May and August. Traveling to the Dolomites in May is hit or miss since the weather is unpredictable. It can still snow, but it’s not “ski season.” Because the region’s many chairlifts aren’t in operation, hiking is limited. Also, many hotels and restaurants are closed, making it difficult to find places to eat. August in the Dolomites is high season. You’ll see lots of people on popular trails. We experienced great weather, with the occasional thunderstorm. 

 

What languages are spoken in the Dolomites

The Dolomites are located in 5 different provinces (within 3 regions) in Northeastern Italy. One province, South Tyrol (in German: Südtirol; in Italian: Alto Adige), was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I. German continues to be the primary language spoken in this region. When traveling and hiking through South Tyrol, every street, advertisement, natural area, mountain hut, etc… is written in both German and Italian. Throughout this guide, we will use both names to avoid any confusion. Another language that you may encounter is Ladin, a romance language spoken in the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino, and Belluno, by the Ladin people

 
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Italian Dolomites Travel Guide - where to stay, where to go, where to hike, what to eat

Dolomites Travel Guide Overview

  • Where to Stay in the Dolomites
  • Where to Go in the Dolomites (Interactive Map)
  • How to get to the Dolomites
  • What to Experience in the Dolomites
  • Where to Hike in the Dolomites
  • What to Eat & Drink in the Dolomites
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Rosengarten (Catinaccio) Range, Dolomites

Where to Stay in the Dolomites

There are many ways to experience the Dolomites. For those that want to experience the culture of the valleys and the towns, we recommend staying in farm stays. For those seeking a luxurious getaway, look no further than the region’s 5-star spa hotels. And for hikers who want to stay in the mountains, we recommend sleeping in mountain huts (rifugio, Hütte).

 

Roter Hahn Farm Stays (South Tyrol Only)

Roter Hahn (Red Rooster) is a trademark given to farmhouses in South Tyrol that provide quality holiday accommodations. There are 1,600 Roter Hahn farms in the region. The goal of Roter Hahn is to put people in touch with the rural world of South Tyrol. Another objective is to help farmers establish another occupation and stream of income.

We stayed in three Roter Hahn Farms and had outstanding experiences each time. The hosts were hospitable, the rooms were clean, and overall the prices were cheaper than other accommodation options.

To look for farm stays, use the Roter Hahn website. There’s a form, next to each farmhouse page, that lets you reach out and request a reservation. If the farmhouse has availability for the date(s) given, they’ll reach out to you via email.

 

Luxury Spa Hotels

If farm stays sound too rustic, and you’re in the mood for a real treat, check out some of the best 5-star hotels in the Dolomites.

Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa is a mountain hotel in San Cassiano (St. Kassian), Alta Badia. Rosa Alpina has a spa and wellness center replete with a Finnish sauna, an indoor pool, a Turkish bath, a hot tub, and a fitness center. With its “Dine Around” concept, you have a lot of choices for on-site dining, including the 3 Michelin-starred Restaurant St. Hubertus, the Fondue Restaurant, and the Restaurant Wine Bar & Grill. 

Hotel Montchalet is a splurge-worthy hotel in Ortisei (St. Ulrich) in Val Gardena (Gröden). This 5-star hotel features a swimming pool, spa, and wellness center, bar and restaurant. The room rate includes breakfast and dinner.

Alpenroyal Grand Hotel Gourmet & Spa is a 5-star resort in Selva di Val Gardena (Wolkenstein in Gröden) in Val Gardena. With unbeatable mountain views and spa facilities, Alpenroyal is a perfect place to stay in summer and winter (600 meters from Col Raiser ski area). Breakfast is included in room rate. In the summer, there are free hiking trips available daily.

 

Mountain Huts

One of the best things about hiking in the Dolomites is that you can sleep in a mountain refuge (Schutzhaus, hütte, rifugio). These mountain huts are located directly on the trails and enable you to stay on the mountain, without having to carry camping gear. Whether you want to break up a longer trek, or simply wake up in the Dolomites, sleeping in a charming Hütte is a rewarding experience. The Dolomites have a vast network of rifugios, which allows you to hike from one hut to another. It’s important to make reservations in advance.

Mountain hut setup and amenities

  • Showers. The hut may, or may not have showers. If they do have a shower facility, you will have to pay about 4 EUR for a 3-minute hot shower.
  • Rooms. Depending on the hut, you may, or may not have a private-room option. Some huts only have a “Lager” option, which is a large room with multiple beds.
  • Food. Most huts offer Halbpension (Half Board), which means breakfast and dinner are included in your room rate. Sometimes, they only offer Frühstücks-Pension, which means only breakfast is included.
  • Bathrooms. Bathrooms are almost always shared.

What to Bring

  • Cash. Mountain huts don’t accept credit cards. You’ll need enough money for the accommodation, dinner (if it’s not included), extra drinks (wine, schnapps, espresso drinks), and a hot shower.
  • Waterproof House Slippers (e.g. Crocs). Bring a pair that you can shower and walk around in. You’ll be asked to take off your hiking shoes, before going to the bedrooms/bathroom areas.
  • Sleeping Bag Liner. Your rifugio will notify you if you need to bring one.
  • Playing Cards, Basic Cosmetics, Sleeping Mask, Ear Plugs, Microfiber Travel Towel.
 
Seceda, Fermeda Peaks, Dolomites Travel Guide

Where to Go in the Dolomites - Italian Dolomites Map

Click the dots on the map to explore specific destinations.
Dolomites Travel Destinations
  • Bolzano (Bozen)
  • Catinaccio (Rosengarten) Dolomites
  • Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
  • Val Gardena (Grödnertal)
  • Puez – Odle (Puez - Geisler) Nature Park
  • Val di Funes (Villnöß)
  • Cortina d'Ampezzo
  • Fanes – Senes – Braies (Prags) Nature Park
  • Tre Cime (Drei Zinnen)
Lago di Sorapiss, Dolomites

How to Get to the Dolomites

Airports Near the Dolomites

Getting to the Dolomites usually requires a multi-leg journey. If you’re flying internationally, look for flights to these international airports.

  • Munich International Airport (Germany)
  • Malpensa Airport (Milan, Italy)
  • Marco Polo International Airport (Venice, Italy)

If you’re flying more regionally, also look for flights to these airports:

  • Valerio Catullo Airport (Verona, Italy)
  • Innsbruck Airport (Austria)

 

Transit to the Dolomites

We recommend renting a car at the airport and driving to your destination in the Dolomites. Here are the approximate driving times it takes to get from each respective airport to the heart of the Dolomites (according to Google Maps). You’ll probably want to add some buffer time, because… mountains.

  • Munich International Airport (Germany) to Val Gardena (Grödnertal): 3.5 hr
  • Malpensa Airport (Milan, Italy) to Val Gardena (Grödnertal): 4 hr
  • Marco Polo International Airport (Venice, Italy) to Val Gardena (Grödnertal): 3 hr 15 min 
  • Valerio Catullo Airport (Verona, Italy) to Val Gardena (Grödnertal): 2 hr 15 min
  • Innsbruck Airport (Austria) to Val Gardena (Grödnertal): 1 hr 40 min

Note: You can take the Cortina Express Bus from the Venice Airport to Cortina D’Ampezzo, a town in the Dolomites.

If you’re traveling around the Dolomites without a car, use these resources:

  • Dolomiti Bus –  transit schedules for the province of Belluno (Veneto Region)
  • SAD bus site – transit schedules for South Tyrol (Alto Adige)
 
Tre Cime di Laveredo, Drei Zinnen, Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

What to Experience in the Dolomites

Our favorite things to see and do
Dolomites Travel Guide - Tierser Alpl, Rosengarten Dolomites
Tierser Alpl Hütte (Rifugio Alpe di Tires)

Staying the Night in a Rifugio

One of the best things about hiking in the Dolomites is that you can sleep in a mountain refuge (hütte, rifugio). Sleeping in a mountain hut, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, is a wonderful experience in and of itself. However, it’s also very practical, if you want to break up a longer trek. During our trip, we spent 3 out of 7 nights in mountain huts. It’s really rewarding to end your day in a remote location in the mountains, as opposed to your car.

We also loved the atmosphere of the huts. People play cards, read books, examine trail maps, and drink Schnaps. And because you’re seated with other hikers at dinner, you get to connect with new people and share your experiences.

Another benefit of staying in a hut is seeing how the colors of the mountains change with the time of day. When we arrived at the mountain hut Tierser Alpl (Rifugio Alpe di Tires) in the late afternoon, the mountains looked purple. In the morning, they looked yellow. To learn more about our experience staying at this mountain refuge, read Hiking to Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus in the Rosengarten Dolomites.

 
Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop Trail, Dolomites Travel Guide
Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop Trail

Hiking the Loop Trail around Tre Cime di Lavaredo

This hike upstages all others. The views are mind-blowing. You might even think that you don’t deserve them, after barely breaking a sweat on the trail. Well, you deserve them. And, we hope you go.

In a nutshell, the hike circumnavigates the iconic Three Peaks (Drei Zinnen in German, Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Italian). It takes about 4 hours to do the whole loop, which is 9.4 km in length. The most impressive view of the peaks is from Dreizinnenhütte, which is a mountain hut facing the north side of Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It’s also a great place to have lunch. 

Where to start. If you’re coming to Naturpark Drei Zinnen (Tre Cime Natural Park) for the day, then drive to Rifugio Auronzo. There is a 30 EUR toll to drive up to the hut. Alternatively, if you’re staying in a mountain hut, you can start the hike at Fischleintal in Sexten, where there’s a parking lot. It will take 3.5 hours to reach Dreizinnenhütte from Fischleintal.

We wrote a whole guide to hiking around Tre Cime di Lavaredo so you can plan a perfect day hike or 3-day trek.

 
Seceda, Val Gardena, Dolomites Day Hike | Moon & Honey Travel

Hiking around Val Gardena

Val Gardena (Grödnertal) is a valley in South Tyrol that encompasses the towns St. Ulrich (Ortisei), St. Christina (Santa Cristina) and Wolkenstein (Selva Gardena). From these towns, you can hop on an aerial cableway to various plateaus and summits in the Val Gardena Dolomites.

We spent a day hiking in Val Gardena from the mountain station Seceda to Regensburger Hütte. This breathtaking hike starts with views of the Fermeda peaks, which look like an open swiss-army knife. The trail then descends and winds through the farm Pieralongia. This magical spot looks like a sacred pagan place of worship and sacrifice. It’s UNREAL. You have to see it!!  Next, the trail cuts across Cisles Alm (Alpe di Cisles), a meadow with stunning views of the Geisler (Odle) Group and uncountable peaks.

Want to learn more about this hike? Read Hiking from Seceda to Regensburger Hütte in Val Gardena.

 
Pragser Wildsee, Dolomites | Moon & Honey Travel
Pragser Wildsee

Lago di Braies

Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee in German) is called the Pearl of the Dolomites. There are a few ways to enjoy this beautiful lake: (1) hiking around the lake (takes one hour), (2) renting a rowboat, and (3) having lunch at the lakeside hotel,  Hotel Lago di Braies.

What time to visit. This lake isn’t a secret. We arrived at 9:00 a.m., which we thought was early enough to beat the crowds. It wasn’t. We recommend coming as early as 7 a.m. to enjoy the serenity of the lake without the heavy foot traffic.

 
Adolf Munkel Trail, Geisler (Odle) Peaks, Dolomites | Moon & Honey Travel
Adolf Munkel Trail

Hiking at the foot of the Geisler Peaks

The Adolf Munkel Trail in Villnöß (Val di Funes) is an easy 8.8 km hike that takes you to the foot of the Geisler (Odle) Peaks. As you ascend along a small stream to the peaks, you’ll quickly understand why the Dolomites are called the Pale Mountains.

After hiking beneath these impressive pinnacles, the trail leads you to a high alpine pasture. Cows, donkeys, and horses might greet you as you hike to the mountain hut Gschnagenhardt Alm (Malga Casnago), elevation 2,006 meters. You can relax outside, order lunch, drink a beer, and interact with the animals.

Read Hiking the Adolf Munkel Trail for trail directions and a trail map.

 
Büllelejochhütte hiking trail, Tre Cime Natural Park, Dolomites Travel Guide

Discovering World War I Trails and Tunnels

During World War I, the front between Austria-Hungary and Italy ran through the Dolomites. A bitter mountain war was waged between the opposing sides from 1915 to 1917. Both armies built tunnels, trails, and trenches to secure the border and protect themselves. The reason why there is such a great network of trails today is due to the efforts of these WWI soldiers.

During the course of the war, the greatest threat to both armies was the extreme weather. In December 1916, avalanches buried 10,000 Italian and Austrian troops in just two days.

Though it’s impossible to imagine how a war could be fought in such unforgiving terrain, there is plenty of evidence pointing to this region’s inglorious past. As we hiked to and around Büllelejochhütte via in Naturpark Drei Zinnen, we saw trenches, tunnels, and trails built by the Austrian army.

 
Lago di Sorapiss, Dolomites Travel Guide
Lago di Sorapiss

Lago di Sorapiss

Lago di Sorapiss is a glacial lake within the region Veneto. The lake takes its name from the mountain Sorapiss. Framed by trees, Lago di Sorapiss is one of the most stunning places you’ll see in the Dolomites. Apart from the mountain backdrop, the most spectacular feature of the lake is its unique turquoise color. The water also has a milky quality due to suspended powdered rock. You might think you’re looking at an enchantress’ pool filled with a magic potion.

To get to the lake, start at Passo Tre Croci. The hike takes 1.5 – 2 hours, one-way.  You’ll take Trail no. 215 towards Rifugio Vandelli, which is a mountain hut closely located to the lake. The first-half of the trail is flat, but the second-half is steep. There are ropes and stairs that will aid you in your ascent. We saw people of all ages on this trail.

 
Dolomites Travel Guide - Hiking in Tre Cime Natural Park

Where to hike in the Dolomites

There are 10 major parks in the Dolomites. Some hikes traverse through several parks. There’s no fee to enter these areas. You can concentrate your time in a single area, or easily explore several parks like we did. If you’re interested in buying trail maps, we recommend Tappeiner.

  1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park
  2. Dolomiti D’Ampezzo Natural Park
    • Day Hike: The glacier lake Lago di Sorapiss
  3. Dolomiti Friulane Natural Park
  4. Naturpark Fanes – Sennes – Prags (Fanes – Senes – Braies Natural Park)
    • Day Hike: Walk around the glacier lake Pragser Wildsee (Lago Di Braies)
  5. Naturpark Drei Zinnen, aka Sexten Dolomites (Tre Cime Natural Park)
  6. Naturpark Puez – Geisler (Puez – Odle Natural Park)
  7. Naturpark Schlern – Rosengarten (Sciliar – Catinaccio Natural Park)
  8. Bletterbach Natural Monument
  9. Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino Natural Park
  10. Adamello Brenta Natural Park
 
Geisler (Odle) Group, Regensburger Hütte, Dolomites | Moon & Honey Travel

What to Eat & Drink in the Dolomites

Italian Custom: Coperto

Coperto means cover charge. It’s the fee you pay to sit at a table in a restaurant. Generally, the fee is somewhere between 1 EUR and 5 EUR. This may, or may not be advertised on the menu. You generally won’t pay a coperto in this region of Italy. During our trip, the only place a coperto was added to the bill was in the city of Bolzano.

 

Austrian Etiquette

Prost (Cheers) – In Austrian culture, it’s really important to make purposeful eye contact when you toast.  Say “Prost” or “Zum Wohl.” You should tap glasses with everyone within reach.

Mahlzeit (Bon appetite) – You say Mahlzeit right before anyone at your table begins to eat. It means “enjoy your meal.”

 

South Tyrolean Gastronomy

Schlutzkrapfen (ravioli tirolesi in Italian) – These are similar to Italian ravioli and traditionally filled with curd cheese and spinach. Because we visited during Eierschwammerl (chanterelle mushroom) season, we ate Schlutzkrapfen prepared with delicious mushrooms. 

 

Knödel (dumplings) – The most common dumplings are made with either Speck (bacon), Käse (cheese) or Spinat (spinach). They are often served in a soup, or as a side dish. You can also order the Knödel-Trilogie, which is one of each, garnished with butter and parmesan.

 

Südtiroler Speck (smoked ham) –  South Tyrolean ham is often served on an Aufschnittplatte, which is a cold meat and cheese platter. 

 

South Tyrolean Beverages

White Wine  – South Tyrol is a major wine producer. And, 60% of their total harvest is white wine. They make excellent Gewürztraminer, Weissburgunder, and Chardonnays.  

 

Schnaps – “Ein Schnapserl in Ehren kann niemand verwehren!”  Translation: “No One can refuse a cherished schnaps.” This toast perfectly suits the culture in South Tyrol. After dinner, many people opt for a fruity Schnaps, as opposed to an espresso, as a digestif. 

 
Tre Cime Natural Park, Drei Zinnen, Dolomites Travel Guide, Italy

Dolomites Travel Resources

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@moonhoneytravelers
  • Alta Via 1.  We just finished hiking the Alta Via 1 - a multi-day trek in the Italian Dolomites. And, it was an adventure we’ll never forget.  The first two days of the trek, we hiked in pouring rain. With no mountain views and poor weather conditions, we tried our best to keep our spirits up.  On Day 3, we set off once again in rain. After a few hours on the trail, it started to snow. The smart thing would have been to turn back and secure a taxi to the next rifugio. But, we kept going. As we progressed, it became increasingly more difficult to find the trail. The snow was covering up the trail markers and the wind swept away the footprints of other hikers. We lost the trail several times.  The snow that was floating down ever so gently as first turned into a no-bullshit blizzard. We were soaking wet, increasingly numb, and at a complete loss of where to go. I started crying. With no one in site and no idea where the hut was, we started to freak out.  At this point, we were physically shaking. We took a few me minutes to regroup in a WWI cave. Sheltered from the blowing snow, we could locate where we were on Maps.me.  We found the trail and willed our frozen bodies into motion. When we saw Lagazuoi hut, we felt a tidal wave of relief.  After ringing out everything from our shirts to our underwear and changing into warm clothes, we drank 2 liters of hot tea and then met the most amazing group of women! Thank you Chris, Sigi, Jo and Susie for the wonderful company, conversations, and shared meals.  @susielambie @jored7  Photo: 2 days after the storm.
  • 2 years ago Kati and I visited the Dolomites for the first time.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, as we were relocating from Cologne to Vienna. We drove through Germany’s Black Forest, Switzerland’s Appenzell region, across the Dolomites and finally into Austria.  During our time in the Dolomites, we experienced our very first hut to hut hike. Until that point, multi-day hiking was a vague, intimidating concept. After our short 3-day trek around Sexten, we were hooked. And, looking back, it’s easy to say that that trip really changed our lives.  We’re finally back in the Dolomites. This time we’re here to hike the Alta Via 1.
  • The pearl of the Rätikon.  Our recent hike around the Rätikon Alps started and ended here. During our trek, we saw almost every vantage point of this lake.  We just published our 5-day hiking itinerary (link in bio). We also included suggested 3 and 4-day routes, if you have less time.  https://moonhoneytravel.com/europe/austria/raetikon-high-trail/
  • Rätikon.  This beautiful limestone mountain range straddles the border between Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.  We just wrapped up a 5 day hike around the range, overnighting in Austrian and Swiss mountain huts along the way.  We’ll be sharing our itinerary on the blog very soon. Until then, happy hiking dear friends.
  • Berliner Höhenweg (Berlin High Trail)  We just finished trekking the Berlin High Trail in Tyrol, Austria.  This gorgeous alpine route showcases the finest mountain and glacier vistas of the Zillertal Alps. It’s an extraordinary adventure replete with challenging ascents and descents, rustic and grand mountain huts, and bell-wearing cows and sheep.  Our trekking experience was filled with indescribable beauty, hearty Austrian food, agonizing and dangerous descents in rain, physical pain (follow our stories for details), and a stolen iPad. 
Some days were extraordinary. Other days were quite good. And one day was utterly miserable. That’s life in a nutshell, right? Cheers to living the good days, the okay days and the bad ones too.
  • I want to share with you one of my favorite German words.  Genießer/Genießerin is a person who delights and takes pleasure in living. It’s someone who enjoys and relishes the present moment completely. It can be applied broadly, whether someone enjoys reading, drinking a cappuccino, hiking, or cycling. The connotation of this type of pleasure is wholly positive.  There is no direct translation in the English language. In English, too much pleasure is perceived as a negative. We use words like glutton, hedonist, libertine to describe people who take (too much) pleasure in certain things. In English, pleasure must be restrained. Without such restraint, pleasure isn’t “good,” but marred with sin.  Would you define yourself as a Genießer/Genießerin?

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