With awesome mountains, fantastic food and wonderful nature, the Italian Dolomites are one of best places in Europe for a hiking holiday. Here’s our pick of 7 of the region’s best walks.
The Italian Dolomites can make a strong claim to be the most beautiful region of the Alps and we’ve picked seven of the best walks in Cortina. A world of sky-spearing silver peaks often rising near-vertically from the valleys, these mountains have a baroque, monumental appearance, full of jagged gendarmes, towering spires and soaring ridges, like vast mountainous cathedrals.
This advertising promotion is sponsored by Cortina Dolomiti. Main image: The slopes of the Dolomites are covered in wildflowers in early summer | Photo: www.bandion.it
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is solely the realm of climbers and mountaineers. This is also one of the most hiker-friendly destinations in the Alps, with an extensive network of well-waymarked trails, a host of chair lifts and cable cars to whisk you up into the high places, and arguably the greatest food to be found in any mountain area in the world.
The hiking here doesn’t have to be hair-raising or challenging either. Between the mountains are extensive areas of flower-rich pastureland, forest and meadow, as well as a dazzling array of turquoise mountain lakes, allowing for gentler walking – but always with spectacular mountain backdrops.
Cortina d’Ampezzo and the surrounding region is the very heart of the Dolomites. With its vast array of accommodation, top-end restaurants and exciting attractions, this buzzing Italian town is known as one of Europe’s top skiing destinations in winter, but in summer it transforms into a perfect ‘basecamp’ for an alpine walking holiday with friends, family or romantic partners. Here we round up of the greatest walks in the Cortina region, ranging from half-day hikes to multi-day epics, to give you a flavour of the wild nature, exhilarating hiking, and abundant scenic riches to be found here.
Our list of the best walks in Cortina
Time: 2.5 hours
Fist on our list of the best walks in Corina is an icon of the Dolomites, Cinque Torri is a spectacular cluster of vertical rocky towers set on a mountainside in the Nuvalao area. It occupies a special place in the hearts of Italian mountaineers as a rock climbing venue, but it also serves as a poignant monument to the bitter high-altitude fighting which took place in the Dolomite during the First World War; trenches used in the fighting are preserved here in an open-air museum. This easy walk up to the nearby Refugio 5 Torri takes you through peaceful woods, and gives you the opportunity to sample a rustic repast in the snug and historic refuge.
Time: 3.5 hours
Next on our list to the best walks in Cortina is Sotecordes Hike which offers beautiful views, this moderate hike takes you through some of the most beguiling and best-preserved natural habitats in the Cortina region: a great route for spotting marmots, chamois, alpine choughs, golden eagles and – if you come in early summer – a spectacular array of wildflowers. A beer and an excellent meal on the spectacular terrace of Rifugio Dibona is also obligatory – try the casunzei (pasta parcels stuffed with beet and ricotta cheese), the blueberry taglioni or the venison stew, and round things off with an apple strudel.
Time: 4.5 hours
As well as superb views of high pastures, Dolomitic peaks and the beautiful, forest-framed Lake Federa, this moderately challenging walk takes you past the Mesolithic burial site of the Mondeval Man, whose 1987 discovery sent ripples around the world by demonstrating that humankind was visiting the high mountains 7,500 years ago. You can also expect spectacular views of Pelmo, one of the region’s most imposing mountains.
Time: 5 hours
It’s a classic Dolomites scene – a shimmering alpine lake, fringed by emerald forest (or fiery autumn colours, if you visit in October), with a backdrop of towering mountains. So why not witness it three times in one walk? This demanding but rewarding and very photogenic hike (Instagram alert!) takes you past three exquisite lakes – Lake Pianozes, Lake d’Ajal and Lake Federa – and also encompasses ravines, waterfalls and woodland trails.
Time: 4 hours
The unreal colour of Lake Sorapis almost looks artificial at first glance, but the vivid milky turquoise of its waters is created by ‘rock flour’ deposited in the lake by its namesake glacier. This moderate hike takes you up to this famous lake through forest trails and an exposed but technically easy section across a rocky ledge, equipped with metal chains and makes it onto our list of the best walks in cortina.
Time: 3.5 – 4 hours
This spectacular, moderately challenging hike takes advantage of a cable car to whisk you up to the awesome Rifugio Lagazuoi, one of the most spectacularly-situated refuges in the Alps, with a lofty terrace at 2,750 metres in altitude giving views over a sea of Dolomitic peaks including Cinque Torri and the Marmolada. This route takes you downhill at first, into the forests and pastures around Lake Lagazuoi, before taking you back up into the rocky heights under the awesome presence of the Cime di Fanis peaks.
Time: 7 days
The Dolomites is well-known for the range of ‘Alta Via’ long-distance trails that criss-cross the region (the 11-day Alta Via 1 being a perfect choice for newcomers to the Dolomites), but this newer 7-day route aims to lasso together all the main highlights of the Cortina region, focusing on places featured on the Dolomites UNESCO listing. The route involves walking between mountain huts and refuges, malga mountain huts (backcountry restaurants) and traditional Ladin villages (a culture and language unique to the Dolomites), and as such offers a potent combination of awesome mountain spectacle, mouthwatering gastronomy and cultural insight.