A walking holiday in Italy doesn't get much better than hiking from hut-to-hut in the Dolomites. Sure, the southern part of the Italian boot has its charms and the weather is actually always fantastic, but if you're looking for mountains, you really need to keep north. In this blog post you can read more about Dolomites hut-to-hut hiking, like the Alta Via 1 and the Alta Via 2, perhaps the two most beautiful hut-to-hut tours in Europe. Ready for your hiking in the Dolomites? Andiamo!
Last updated October 2022
The Dolomites have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. Thanks to their sublime, monumental and colourful landscapes, these mountains are among the most beautiful in the world. If you are looking for a real Italian adventure, then look no further. The Dolomites or the Alps? The Dolomites are part of the Southern Limestone Alps and can therefore be considered as part of the Alps. So we may speak of both the Dolomites and the Alps when we go on a hiking trip in Italy. Are you still with us? Good, then let's start with the best options for hiking the Dolomites!
At Bookatrekking.com we offer various hut-to-hut tours in the Dolomites. Here you can find all our offers.
1) Ultimate Hut-to-Hut Hiking in the Dolomites: Alta Via 1
The hut-to-hut hiking tour in the Dolomites that is number one on the list is the Alta Via 1. What is an Alta Via? Alta Via means nothing more than High Route or High Path. There are many high-altitude paths in the Dolomites. That is why the most popular 6 have been given a number. The paths that are part of these routes also have their own number. Viewed on the map it looks like a road network. Very convenient, because it allows you to plan the most beautiful routes. If you walk the Alta Via 1, you do not have to plan anything anymore. This route will take you to all the highlights such as Püez, Lagazuoi and Cinque Torre.
The Alta Via 1 starts at Lago di Braies, in German Pragser Wildsee, the lake pictured above. Lago di Braies is easy to reach from nearby Cortina d'Ampezzo and Dobiacco (Toblach). From Lago di Braies, you can walk to the Cinque Torri in four days. Ideal for a shorter walking holiday. The complete Alta Via 1 is about 120 kilometres long and ends at a bus stop near Belluno. You will have been on the move for about 10 days and with a short bus trip to Belluno it is all finished. On the full route you not only have the highlights in the north and middle of the route, but you also take in the unspoilt beauty and tranquillity of the southern Dolomites. If you want to read more about the Alta Via 1, you can do so in this comprehensive blog post.
The full Alta Via 1 or the shorter version? We will arrange it for you. All our offers can be found here.
2) Hut-to-Hut Hiking for Mountain Goats: Alta Via 2
Another Alta Via? Yes, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are a number of Alta Vias in the Dolomites. The Alta Via 2 is ranked 2, but in terms of beauty it could just as well have been ranked 1. It is the slightly tougher brother of the No. 1. Think Via Ferratas, steep climbs and descents and a high adrenaline level. On this exceptional route, you hike from north to south. The route starts in Bressanone, also known as Brixen, and ends in Croce d'Aune. Curious what that looks like? Hans Nijenhuis, known from Dutch newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad, went there with us and made the following video about it:
Is the Alta Via 2 really so different from its more popular brother? Despite being on the same mountain range and not so far apart, the difficulty level of these trails is quite different. The Alta Via 1 can be done without much difficulty by any hiker, beginner or experienced. However, the Alta Via 2 is only to be recommended The Alta Via 2 contains sharp ridges, Via Ferratas and steep slopes, which require experience in the mountains. Something for you? Read more about the Alta Via 2 here and check out our offers here.
3) Day Tour in the Dolomites - Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen
You can make a multi-day hut-to-hut tour out of it, but you don't have to. The Drei Zinnen / Tre Cime / Three Peaks are so well known that they can't miss out on this list. We can't go around it, but you can! Yes, you can hike around the Three Peaks. The circumnavigation of the Three Peaks can already be done in 4 hours, but you can also make a bigger day tour out of it and add legendary huts like the Laveredo Hut and the Drei Zinnen Hut.
The Three Peaks are located not far from Dobbiaco and therefore also very close to Cortina d'Ampezzo and Lago di Braies. If you are looking for more action for your Alta Via 1 trip, you should definitely include the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Want to know more? Our trekking experts will be happy to help you.
4) The Best of Pale di San Martino: Palaronda Trek
Pale di San Martino, the Pala Group, is majestic, elegant, literally hardcore, an Italian favourite, and, is home to one of the most fun and kind of sexy treks in the Italian Dolomites. Sexy, you say? Well, if you have a look at the photos and see the landscape you are hiking through, you can definitely get a few sexy profile photos orInstagramstories on this trek. This is the Palaronda Trek: short, accessible, not too technical, and a great way to spice up your time in Italy. The Pale di San Martino is the largest massif of the Dolomites and it is located between eastern Trentino and Ventore. Its highest point is 3,192 metres: Cima de Vezzana.
The Palaronda Trek is short, accessible, and doable for most hikers. The classic version, also known as the Palaronda Soft Trek, is 4 days long, counts about 35 kilometres and entails almost 3,000 of elevation. Sounds like the life of an ibex but you too can do this. Your daily hiking time isn't much longer than 5 hours max so in the huts you will have plenty of time to rest your legs, fuel up, and recharge yourself. Hiking times are generally a bit shorter than on other famous Dolomite hikes. Read more about the Palaronda Trek here.
At Bookatrekking.com we also have various offers for the Palaronda Trek. Here you can find all our options.
5) The Granite Dolomites: Alta Via del Granito
The Alta Via del Granito (Granite High Route) is a 3- or 4-day circular traverse of the unique granite area of the Cima d'Asta - Cime di Rava group in the Northern Italian Lagorai chain, geographically still part of the Dolomites. The Alta Via follows a network of ancient paths and former military roads, dating back to the First World War, connecting the only two refuges in the group. Three days of pleasant trekking amidst stupendous natural landscapes, stark reminders of the Great War, mountain huts and alpine pastures, good evidence of man's ancient pact with nature. In short: The Alta Via del Granito is pretty epic.
Do you like mountains? Are you looking for an epic hiking adventure off the beaten track? Of course, the Alta Via del Granito is for you! If you came here to get that questions answered, we have to have a very good chat. We can imagine you are looking for something different than the outrageously popular Alta Vias further up North. Maybe you came here because they are fully booked. Let's be clear that the Alta Via del Granito is not just an alternative to other treks in this part of the world. This is an epic adventure that is very popular with Italians but hasn't really made it to the mainstream long-distance hiking world yet. That, our friend, allows you to enjoy an unspoilt local rifugio experience. Here you can read more about the Alta Via del Granito and our offers are right there!
How Do I Get To the Dolomites?
he Dolomites stretch across South Tyrol. It is not a huge area, but it can take some time to get from A to B because of the travel time in the valley. Getting there is not difficult at all. The Dolomites have an extensive public transport network with Bolzano, Venice and Innsbruck nearby, you will be able to find a flight. The journey to the most beautiful areas, around Brixen / Bressanone and Cortina d'Ampezzo depends on which route you choose. For your convenience, we have separated this into the Alta Via 1 and 2, our favourite options for the Dolomites. Do note, getting there by train or bus is tricky.
Alta Via 1: Cortina d'Ampezzo
The start of the Alta Via 1 is at Lago di Braies in northern Italy. However, the best place to start is the town of Cortina d'Ampezzo. It is easy to reach from Venice, has an excellent connection to Lago di Braies via Dobiaccio and Toblach and you can easily get back here after the hike.
Alta Via 2: Brixen / Bressanone
The Alta Via 2 starts just outside Brixen. So you don't have to travel by bus from Brixen to the starting point. Brixen is located on the A22, the main Alpine route in this region, making it easy to reach by car from Innsbruck or Bolzano.
Alta Via del Granito: Trento / Venice
The Alta Via del Granito is best reached from Trento or Venice. Trento if you come by car from the north, Venice if you come by plane and depend on a rental car or public transport.
Palaronda Trek: San Martino di Castrozza
The Palaronda Trek starts at Passo Rolle, which is known from the Giro d'Italia. Here you will find the small village of San Martino di Castrozza. This is about 2 hours away from Bolzano, Trento and Venice.
Sometimes it is easier to arrange a taxi for your transport in the Dolomites. If you book a trip through Bookatrekking.com we are happy to help you with this. Find all our options for the Alta Via 1 and 2 here!
The Dolomites and South Tyrol, the Other Italy
Yes, you are in Italy, but you could just as easily be in Austria. Don't shout it from the rooftops, because the inhabitants of South Tyrol and therefore of the Dolomites call themselves Tyroleans in the first line. In German and Ladin Südtirol, in Italian Alto Adige, informally 'just' Sudtirolo. The area is trilingual. The majority has German as their first language, a quarter has Italian as their mother tongue and a small minority (still) speaks Ladin. This is a very old Rhaeto-Romanic language that you as a tourist will probably never be able to understand.
If you don't speak Italian but you can speak a little German, you will quickly make friends in the Dolomites. All signs are in both German and Italian, dishes often have a German name and the communal area in the rifugios (or Schutzhütte) is also called "Stube" in German.
The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
We mentioned it already. The unique peaks and rock formations of the Southern Limestone Alps, the Dolomites, are a World Heritage Site. Of course, it didn't all begin with the discovery of the mineral dolomite in the 18th century. The history of the Dolomites begins about 280 million years ago, when a mountain range at the edge of the oceanic gulf slowly sank and the region where we find the Alta Via 1 and 2 changed into a tropical sea basin. It is hard to imagine this when you come face to face with the Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites.
The impressive formations were created 30 million years ago when the African and European plates collided and the Alps developed. If you have ever hiked in the Dolomites, you will understand very well why this area was put on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009. The Dolomites are divided into 9 sub-regions and the entire area extends over the provinces of Udine, Perdenone, Belluno, Trento and Bolzano/Bozen. The latter four sub-regions are home to our favourites, the Alta Via 1 and 2.
What Is the Best Season for Dolomites Hiking?
The season for a hut-to-hut trek in the Dolomites is from mid-June to mid-September. The relatively short season is due to the weather conditions that limit access to the trails. A typical summer day in the Dolomites is characterised by bright sunshine and clear skies. However, there may be the occasional rain shower or afternoon storm. There is, nevertheless, no snow on the trails, which is the main limiting factor for off-season accessibility. In summer, there may be some light snowfall, but the snow does not accumulate and is usually gone by the next morning. Make sure you bring waterproof and warm clothing and not just shorts.
Hiking in The Dolomites: What Are Via Ferratas?
A via ferrata, in English iron path, or in German Klettersteig, is a protected climbing path with cables, ladders and iron supports attached to rock walls. There are several famous Via Ferratas in the world, the highest of which, onKota Kinabalu, is one of them! The purpose of the Via Ferrata is to help trekkers on their way up. However, the Via Ferratas on the Alta Via 2 had a different purpose when they were built. During World War I, the Dolomites were the scene of battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. The Via Ferratas were installed during those years to allow troops faster access to the front lines.
Most trekkers on the Alta Via 2 carry along a harness and a helmet as a security measure. These items are not required, but if it helps you to feel more comfortable on the route, they are always welcome. Safety first!
You'd really like to, but still have some questions about Via Ferrata's or don't know exactly what you need? Our trekking experts are happy to help you!
Can I Camp During My Walking Holiday in the Dolomites?
We'll get right to the point: wild camping is not allowed on the Alta Via 2. Hikers are required to spend the night in mountain huts, rifugios in Italian. The good thing about spending the night in the huts is that you don't have to bring a tent, cooking kit, and the food for the 13 days. The rifugios vary in size and accommodation options, but they all offer a shower, a good night's sleep including half board with tasty local cuisine.
We at Bookatrekking.com maintain warm contacts with rifugios and are happy to take the burden of booking off your shoulders. Find all of our deals for hiking in the Dolomites here..
A Solo Hut-to-Hut Hiking Tour in Italy, Is That Possible?
Yes, it is certainly possible to walk a hut-to-hut in Italy on your own. Finding a place to stay as an individual is often much easier, in the shared rooms there is often a spare bed that you can claim. Hiking individually is done a lot, also by Italians themselves. In the huts you often have a quick conversation with fellow hikers so you don't have to spend your evenings alone.
Our offers in Italy can also be booked for 1 person. View all our options here.
Safe Hiking in The Dolomites in Italy
When you go on a trekking tour in the Dolomites, it is wise to be aware of a few things. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the Dolomites. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, our trekking experts have the following tips for you.
1. Don't overdo it: Mountain hiking is the perfect outlet and escape from everyday life. But, don't overdo it. "Overestimating and underestimating are dangerous. Don't overestimate yourself or underestimate the route to be hiked," says Sierd, also Kilimanjaro expert for Bookatrekking.com. "Rather choose the slower option and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not pleasant and a high pace can be dangerous. Don't forget the word holiday in hiking holiday."
2. Plan carefully ahead: Good planning is half the battle! Hiking maps, reading material, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning tours and enable you to determine the length, height difference, difficulty and conditions of your tour. When planning group hikes, always plan the trip for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. Therefore, always check the weather forecast in advance. Also, contact our trekking experts and get informed before you start.
3. Bring your gear: Gear is everything. In the most extreme cases, it makes the difference between life and death, and in all cases, the difference between pleasure and a suffer fest. Provisions, rain, cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone (European emergency number: 112). However, lighter luggage makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra stuff. Your equipment should always be suitable for your planned trip.
4. Suitable shoes or boots: Trail running shoes are fine for weekends in the mountains, but on longer trips you just want to have at least A/B hiking shoes. That means high mountain boots that are also water resistant. For example, on the Alta Via 2, a fairly technical trail, your ankles want extra support and you want to avoid sprains.
5. Stay on marked trails: The Dolomites have an endless number of marked trails - these are well supervised and maintained. It can be tempting, but it is not a good idea to take short cuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. If you do, you have a good chance of getting lost. Steep slopes of packed old snow are also often underestimated and can be dangerous. In doubt? Then don't do it.
6. Regular breaks: Again, you are on a walking holiday. Take time for your walk and rest regularly. Our advice: If you have little time, it is better to take the short option than to speed up the long option.
7. Children are in charge: When you take the children on a hut-to-hut trek, the children are in charge, is the motto at Bookatrekking.com. The children are happy, mum and dad are happy. Listen to them and don't exhaust them. Play a game along the way so that they don't ask you every five minutes if they are there yet. Of course, always choose the child-friendly option.
8. Respect nature: Do not leave rubbish behind, avoid noise, stay on the marked paths, leave animals alone and respect the protected areas.
Weather During a Hut-to-Hut Trip in the Dolomites
The most important rule for hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites and the Alps or other high mountains is that the weather in areas above 2,000 metres changes much more quickly and that different climatic conditions prevail than at the altitudes where we normally travel. When planning a trip for a hut and for mountain hikes, the weather forecasts should always be taken into account. Even in high summer, when the temperature in the valley is over 30 degrees, it can snow in the high mountains. The reason for this is that for every 1000 metres of altitude, the temperature can drop by 5-6 degrees. Because cold air can also store less moisture, it rains or snows more often in the high mountains than in the lowlands. In the high mountains, a thunderstorm can be particularly dangerous; in principle, the chance of thunderstorms increases in the afternoon and the weather can change very quickly due to the altitude.
You can recognise a possible thunderstorm by the lightning strikes or small cumulus clouds piling up. A sharp drop in air pressure is also a sure sign of an approaching thunderstorm. In case of thunderstorms, always avoid the via ferrata and other metal objects. Seek shelter in a cave or under a ledge as soon as possible. Nevertheless, good protection from the sun is essential. The tree line in the Alps is at an altitude of between 1,800 and 2,200 metres - above this level, you are exposed to the burning sun, which is always strong in the high mountains.
Hiking in the Dolomites and COVID-19
A hut-to-hut hiking tour in the Dolomites is a perfect option to avoid ending up in crowded hotels or bivouacking on overcrowded beaches. Of course, you will still have to spend the night in huts where you will certainly not be alone. To control the COVID-19 pandemic, the following measures should be taken into account:
- Do not go to the huts if you have symptoms.
- Huts may not operate at full capacity, so be sure to book your stay in advance.
- Bring your own face mask. .
- You need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillowcase.
- Bring your own travel towel
Where Do I Book My Hut-to-Hut Tour in the Dolomites?
At Bookatrekking.com you can book your hut -to-hut hiking tour in the Dolomites. We arrange the mountain huts for you and make sure you receive all relevant information well in advance. If you have any questions about the Alta Via 1 or 2, please contact our trekking experts. They will be happy to help you!
Here you will find all our offers for a hut-to-hut hiking tour in the Dolomites.
Looking for a slightly different walking holiday in Europe? Then take a look at one of our blog posts below:
-Hiking in Wales
-Hiking in England
-Hiking in Schotland
-Hiking in Ireland & Northern Ireland
-Hiking Holidays in Croatia
-Walking Holidays in Austria
-Walking Holidays Switzerland
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