Soaring peaks, tooth-like crags and lush verdant slopes, the Dolomites are some of Italy’s most dramatic scenery. Nestled in the north east of the country, the ‘pale mountains’ are spread across three provinces and consist of 18 peaks rising in excess of 3,000m.
Cloaked by cloud, dusted with snow or gleaming in the brilliant summer sun, the mountains take on many different guises. Catch them in the morning mist and again in the etherial glow of the evening and you’ll witness two totally different spectacles.
The Dolomites are an outdoor lovers’ dream with ample opportunity for skiing, hiking and climbing. You don’t have to be an extreme adventurer to enjoy this region, however, as the scenery alone is enough to enthral anyone who visits. Many of the smaller towns feel typically Alpine and German is spoken in some parts, making this a great place to experience a different side of Italy.
Bolzano is known as the gateway to the Dolomites and is a picturesque city filled with castles, a cathedral and plenty of Gothic architecture. From the town centre you look out to the mighty Rosengarten, a mountain shrouded in mythology. The story goes that the dwarf king Laurin kept a beautiful rose garden, but as punishment for the imprisonment of a beautiful princess he cursed the garden and declared nobody should see it by day or night. He forgot about the time in between, however, and the mountain glows a beautiful shade of pink at dawn and dusk.
All the peaks are a joy to discover but the highest, Marmalada, is perhaps the most explored and affectionately known as Queen of the Dolomites by locals. Hike beneath the mighty glacier on the mountain’s north face or take a cable car to the top for a spectacular bird’s-eye-view. Lagazuoi is also worth exploring with its network of brilliantly preserved tunnels built by the Italian army during WWI.
When to go
The Dolomites can be visited year-round. If you're looking for an active holiday with hiking, mountain and biking then summer is the best time to visit. (June to September). In July the flowers are blossoming and the pastures are colourful. In Fall there are beautiful colours and in spring as the snow melts and the trails re-open for hiking and cycling.
In winter (December to March) the Italian alps turn ski resorts and offer other winter activities.