The glorious Dolomites in the eastern section of the Alpine range and adjoining South Tyrol are arguably Europe’s finest walking destinations. The Dolomites are characterised by outcrops of pink and white limestone, mountain meadows carpeted in flowers, exhilarating Via Ferrata (fixed rope climbs) and some spectacular high-ridge paths.
South Tyrol, in spite of its name, is part of Italy and not Austria, as you might first think. With its snow-capped mountains, apple orchards and lush wine-growing valleys, flowers in abundance, historic castles and picturesque villages such as Arabba, Cortina d'Ampezzo and Wolkenstein, South Tyrol offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Italy.
Paths are well-maintained and plentiful and there is a network of huts (“rifugi”) which offer lodging and meals during the ‘official’ hiking season, from mid-June to mid-September – although this is a region blessed with sunshine. On average, 300 days a year are clear and sunny in the Dolomites and South Tyrol, making it a year-round destination for hiking from spring to early autumn and for skiing in winter. You can choose between more challenging, high altitude walks and gentler, quiet valley trails that meander through traditional hamlets.
Some of the highlights in this region include the pretty Tyrolean village of Dobbiaco, the starting point for a week-long walk into the high and rugged peaks of the Alta Pusteria Valley, recognised by UNESCO as one of the world’s most spectacular mountain environments, and the Tre Cime, three huge obelisks of sheer rock that have together become one of the region’s most famous landmarks.