Italy’s Dolomite Mountains rise up like a cathedral of rock, full of rugged crags and breathtaking pinnacles. Hit the mountain trails to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site. Hike up to ridges and high mountain passes to behold spellbinding vistas of snowcapped peaks and verdant valleys. Trace the dramatic wartime history of this magnificent place–the Dolomites were the front line between Austria and Italy during World War I and are still scattered with abandoned bunkers and fortifications. Walk through meadows blanketed by wildflowers, discover beautiful lakes, and stop for lunch in picturesque mountain huts, or rifugios. Visit charming Tyrolean villages where an ancient language and customs prevail, and experience the unique combination of Austrian and Italian culture and cuisine.
Arrive at the Venice airport and meet your trip leader. Drive north into the heart of the Dolomites to Cortina d’Ampezzo, the site of the 1956 winter Olympics and our home for the next three nights. After lunch, enjoy time to relax or explore the town. Later, meet up for a trip orientation and a welcome dinner of local specialties.
Hotel Ambra Cortina (D)
Take to the slopes this morning on our first hike, the western portion of the Alpe di Sennes Circuit, which passes through two natural parks and beneath the dramatic crags of the Croda Rossa mountains. We’ll set out from Rifugio Malga Ra Stua (5,472'), and follow the trail through a varied landscape of marshlands, verdant valleys, and stark alpine slopes, reaching an altitude of 6,942 feet. Stop for lunch at the Rifugio Fodara Vedla (6,429') and then follow a World War I mule track back towards our starting point. (7 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Hotel Ambra Cortina (B,L,D)
Today we start our trek at the Rifugio Auronzo (7,650'), surrounded by a magnificent amphitheater of spiky peaks. Our trail twists steeply uphill to the rocky pass at Pian di Cengia (8,200'), passing abandoned World War I bunkers and barracks. Trek across a scree slope to Rifugio Locatelli (7,800'), set at the foot the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, three enormous plates of rock that jut out of the massif—one of the most famous sites of the Dolomites. Gaze at these fantastic natural fortifications as we enjoy lunch at the rifugio. After lunch, take a hike just below the Tre Cime. Return to Cortina, where the remainder of the day is free. (8 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Hotel Ambra Cortina (B,L)
Pack a bag for our overnight expedition into the Fanes-Sennes- Braies Natural Park. Set off on a winding trail from Fiames (4,240') to Ponte Outo, stopping to see commemorative rock plaques marking the 1916 Austrian front. Then trek uphill to the Malga Fanes (6,890'). Our home for the night is the cozy Rifugio Fanes (6,760'), a wood-paneled inn built and run in the lively spirit of Tyrolean culture. If you wish, go on a late afternoon hike up to the Paso San Antonio ridge. (7.5 miles hiking, 5 hours; 4 miles optional hiking, 2 hours)
Rifugio Fanes (B,L,D)
We have two hiking options today. Trek uphill to Forcella del Lago (8,170') for spectacular views before descending to the hut at Capanna Alpina (5,660'). Or hike across the rolling Altopiano di Fanes to the hut, enjoying a panorama of mountains that includes the Marmolada (10,968'), the highest peak in the Dolomites. A short drive brings us to the alpine village San Cassiano. Ride a chairlift up to Piz Sorega (6,570') and follow a ridge trail to our lunch spot at the Rifugio Bioch (6,850'). Then hike down to the town of Corvara (5,120'), located in Alta Badia. This is Ladin country—a long-isolated people with an ancient culture and a language closely related to the Swiss Romansch dialect. Settle into the lovely Posta Zirm Hotel, a four-star hotel equipped with excellent spa facilities. (9-11 miles hiking, 5-7 hours)
Posta Zirm Hotel (B,L,D)
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 a rocky trail up and down along the south face to the Rifugio Franz Kostner (8,366') where we’ll stop for lunch. Weather permitting, you may also opt to climb to the pyramid-like summit of Piz Boè (10,341') and then descend steeply to meet the group for lunch. This afternoon, hike down to Lago Boè and through the woods to Corvara, or return by chairlift. (7-9 miles hiking, 5-6 hours; 8-9 miles optional hiking, 6 hours)
Posta Zirm Hotel (B,L,D)
Our last hike begins in San Cassiano. We’ll make our way through picturesque hamlets of traditional farmhouses and barns, built in tight clusters since the Middle Ages. Continue uphill through a pine forest, ascending steeply at times, and admiring views of the villages of the Val Badia below as well as the Sella and Santa Croce 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. Hike on to our lunch spot, a typical Ladin shepherd’s farmhouse, and sample turtres and other Ladin specialties. Head back down into the valley to the town of San Leonardo and drive from here to Corvara. Gather tonight to celebrate your Dolomite adventure at a farewell dinner. (7 miles hiking, 5-6 hours)
Posta Zirm Hotel (B,L,D)
After breakfast, drive to Venice, arriving at the airport in the late morning.
National Geographic Adventures 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.
This expedition is not currently being offered.
We will be hiking 5 to 7 hours per day (7 to 11 miles), on moderate to steep grades and at elevations ranging from 4,240 feet to a max of 10,341 feet. Most days have options for more, or less, hiking. We will stay 6 nights in first-class hotels and 1night in a rifugio (a traditional Tyrolean mountain hut).
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