Favorites in the Dolomites
Picking a favorite hiking destination in the Dolomites is a tough choice for Alpenwild hikers.
The Dolomites is a large region with many clusters or mountain groups to choose from. Even though the various mountain groups are formed with the same dolomitic rock, and are in the same geographic region, each area of the Dolomites has a unique personality and special appeal. Each sub-group has its own characteristics. Each valley its own culture and traditions. We’ve chosen three destinations that hold special appeal for Alpenwild hikers, and we’ve included some interesting facts to help you plan your adventure.
Val Rendena, Trentino
Val Rendena lies between two of the most famous mountain groups in the Italian Alps: Adamello and Dolomiti di Brenta (Brenta Dolomites). The first is not part of the Dolomites, as it’s mainly formed by granite and not limestone. However, it does include the largest glacier in Italy. The Brenta group, on the other hand, is the most south-western group of the Dolomites. It is the only one west of the Adige river and is quite detached from the rest. Both groups, and indeed the valley between them, are included in the Adamello-Brenta Natural Park, an area protected for its biodiversity.
Val Rendena is a popular holiday destination in summer and winter alike. It is home to numerous ski resorts. These resorts are built on either sides of the valley, making it the perfect place to spend a winter holiday. In the same way, its intricate web of paths is enough to keep any hiker busy for many days.
The Brenta Dolomites are best known for their impressive rock towers, understandably famous amongst rock climbers and mountaineers. The highest summit in the group is Cima Brenta. It is 3151 meters tall. Cima Brenta is closely followed by Cima Tosa at 3136 meters. Cima Tosa has an iconic wide, flat top. These mountains are great to explore on foot, skis or snowshoes. However, they look their best if seen from afar: an unmistakable skyline right above the valley.
Val di Zoldo, Veneto
Val di Zoldo is a beautiful valley located in the province of Belluno. This area starts just north of Longarone and ends at Passo Staulanza. It’s dotted with a number of beautiful small towns and hamlets. It is enclosed amongst two of the most impressive mountains in the Dolomites: Pelmo and Civetta, as well as the San Sebastiano group to the south.
Pelmo is located at the north-east of the valley, just east of Passo Staulanza, and has a height of 3168 meters. It is also known, in dialect, as el Caregón de ‘l Pareterno, literally “God’s throne.” This is due to its shape that resembles a big chair. It was also the first summit in the Dolomites to be climbed. This was done in the summer of 1857, by the Irish mountaineer John Ball.
Civetta, on the other side of the valley, is probably one of the most famous and impressive mountains in the Dolomites. Its north-west face is 4 kilometers long and 1,000 meters high. It’s known in the mountaineering world as “the face of all faces”. This cannot be seen from the Zoldo valley itself, but it can be easily accessed though a good path. This path from Palafavera leads up to Rifugio Coldai, and then onto the other side, towards Rifugio Tissi. Needless to say, it’s an impressive sight, full of mountaineering history.
Inhabitants of this valley were “forced” to emigrate to America and Germany between the XIX and XX century, in search of jobs and a better life. Some of them became famous gelato makers, so be sure to try some at the end of your hike!
Val Badia, South Tyrol
Val Badia, or Gadertal in German, is enclosed between two of the most incredible areas in the whole of the Dolomites: the Puez-Odle Natural Park and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park. Same as for the other valleys mentioned above, it’s a great place to discover in both summer and winter. Overall, it is a must see destination for nature lovers.
From Val Badia we have access to the other side of the Puez-Odle group. Easily accessible from the valley are also Passo Gardena and the Sella group, Passo Falzarego and the Fanes plateau. The perfect location to discover quite a wide area.
The main curiosity about this valley is that the main language spoken here is not Italian nor German, but Ladin. Ladin is spoken in a few other valleys in the Dolomites. Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romance language that has survived in a number of valleys in the Dolomites. It has been recognized as a language at both provincial and national level.
The More You Know
With so much to choose from in the Dolomites, becoming familiar with the major sub-groups is a good start. Each of these three are worth a visit and deserve your consideration when planning your visit to the “pale mountains”—the Dolomites.