Italy’s Dolomite Mountains rise up from the surrounding alpine valleys like a cathedral of rock, adorned with rugged crags and breathtaking pinnacles. Hit the trails to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, hiking across high rocky ridges and idyllic meadows to picturesque rifugios, or mountain huts. Trace the dramatic wartime history of place that served as the Austria-Italian frontline during World War I, and discover surprising cultures within charming villages, where the ancient customs of the Ladin people still thrive and Austrian and Italian influences seamlessly blend.
Hike amid glorious landscapes of pillars, pinnacles, and colossal rock walls including the stunning Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Rosengarten’s pink peaks.
Encounter remnants of World War I, trekking along supply paths past abandoned bunkers and barracks.
Discover the culture of the little-known Ladin people, exploring their once-isolated villages and dining in the farmhouse of a local shepherd.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, home to Ötzi, a natural human mummy.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Venice, Italy
Arrive in Venice and travel north into the heart of the Dolomites. Our destination is
Cortina d’Ampezzo, the site of the 1956 winter Olympics and our home for the next
three nights. Spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring the inviting lanes and
piazzas of this charming alpine town on your own. Join your fellow travelers for an
orientation and welcome dinner this evening. Hotel Franceschi Cortina (D)
Day 2 — Alpe di Sennes Circuit
Take to the surrounding slopes this morning to tackle our first hike, the western
portion of the Alpe di Sennes Circuit. The trail runs beneath the dramatic crags of
the Croda Rossa mountains and passes through two stunning nature parks—the
Dolomiti D’Ampezzo and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies. Beginning at Rifugio Malga Ra
Stua (5,472’), we’ll cross over landscapes of marshlands, verdant valleys, and stark
alpine slopes, eventually reaching an altitude of 6,942’. Break for lunch at the
Rifugio Fodara Vedla before returning to our starting point via a World War I mule
track. (7 miles hiking, 5 hours) Hotel Franceschi Cortina (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Today’s trek begins at Rifugio Auronzo (7,650’), a remote hut surrounded by a
magnificent amphitheater of spiky peaks. Our trail winds steeply uphill to the rocky
pass at Pian di Cengia (8,200’), taking us by abandoned World War I bunkers and
barracks along the way. Hike across a vast scree slope to the foot of the Tre Cime di
Lavaredo, a trio of enormous rock plates jutting out of the massif. Enjoy lunch
beneath these fantastic natural fortifications before hiking under their north faces.
Return to Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you can spend the rest of the day at leisure. (8
miles hiking, 6 hours) Hotel Franceschi Cortina (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Altopiano di Fanes/Corvara
This morning we’ll hike the undulating landscapes of the Altopiano di Fanes while
enjoying panoramic views of Marmolada (10,968’), the highest peak in the
Dolomites. A short drive will then take us to San Cassiano, a quaint village nestled
within the folds of a verdant alpine valley. Ride the chairlift up to Piz Sorega (6,570’)
and follow a ridgeline trail to our lunch spot at the Rifugio Bioch. From here, we’ll
hike down the mountains to Corvara (5,120’), a village in the Val Badia region where
the once-isolated Ladin people still celebrate their ancient language and culture.
Settle into our hotel and enjoy an evening of relaxation after this long day of hiking.
(9-11 miles hiking, 5-7 hours) Posta Zirm Hotel or Sporthotel Panorama (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Sanctuary of Santa Croce
From San Cassiano, set off into a pastoral landscape dotted with picturesque
farmhouse hamlets, built in tight clusters known as viles since the Middle Ages.
Ascend into a pine forest, breaking for views over the villages below and of the
surrounding Dolomite peaks. Our destination is the Sanctuary of Santa Croce
(6,710’), an elegantly simple 15th-century chapel set against the towering rock face
of Sasso della Croce. Continue on to the nearby farmhouse of a Ladin shephard to
sample turtres and other Ladin specialties for lunch. Afterwards, trek down to the
valley town of San Leonardo, where we’ll catch a return transfer to Corvara. (7 miles
hiking, 5-6 hours) Posta Zirm Hotel or Sporthotel Panorama (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Sella Massif
Today we’ll traverse the south face of the majestic Sella Massif, which rises up from
green valleys like a hulking rock fortress. Begin from Passo Pordoi (7,345’) and
zigzag up to Forcella Pordoi. Follow the mountain’s dry and rocky terrain along its
south face to the Rifugio Franz Kostner (8,366’), where we’ll stop for lunch. Weather
permitting, you may also wish to tackle the steep, pyramid-like summit of Piz Boè
(10,341’) before our break. Ride the gondola down to Passo Pordoi, and transfer to
Welschnhofen, located at the base of the famous Rosengarten Mountains. (7-9 miles
hiking, 5-6 hours) Hotel Engel (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Rosengarten
Begin the day with a drive up to the Karerpass, where we’ll catch a gondola to the
Paolina Hut (6972’). We’ll find ourselves in the heart of the Rosengarten mountains,
named for the brilliant rose-colored hues that emanate from their peaks at sunset.
Make the circuit around Rotwand, one of the most massive mountain walls in the
Alps. Return to our hotel at the base of the Rosengartens, which is perfectly
positioned to take in the mountain’s colorful evening display. (7 miles hiking, 6 hours) Hotel Engel (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Seiser Alm/Bozen
The day begins on the Seiser Alm, Europe’s largest high-alpine plateau. In the
summer months, the meadow’s rolling green pastures are blanketed with colorful
wildflowers and populated by grazing cattle. Enjoy a relaxing stroll through this
idyllic landscape, and return to the valley for our transfer to the town of Bozen. Here
we’ll be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the South Tyrol Museum of
Archaeology, home to Ötzi the iceman—a 5,000-year-old natural human mummy
discovered by hikers in the nearby Ötztal Alps. (4 miles hiking, 3 hours) Hotel Engel (B,L,D)
Days 9 & 10 — Venice
Return to Venice, and take a guided walking tour of the city. Then gather for a farewell dinner to celebrate our adventure. The next morning, depart for your flight home.
Hotel Bonvecchiati (B,L,D; B)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.