Walking Holidays

Europe’s majestic mountains ~ with a genuine specialist
Organised & Self-guided Walking

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Tel. 01799 513331 - ClosedCollett's Ltd. is ABTA bonded W6883 - Travel with confidence
Organised & Self-guided Walking with a Genuine Specialist

March 6th, 2017 – Snow fell over the weekend, setting the scene for a great end to the season in the Dolomites. The skiing and snowshoeing is superb, a fantastic treat for all our guests who arrived on Sunday.

We still have some rooms remaining in our Chalets at the end of March on our winter skiing and snowshoeing holidays, starting on the 19th and 26th March – Click here for Special Offers and Availability. Or call us on 01799 513331 to reserve a room!

After three hours of searching the rugged woodland on the slopes of Sassongher, hair covered in pine needles and cobwebs from checking every rock and low hanging branch, I plonked myself down on a rock and examined the map once again. I had set out on what I’d thought would be a reasonably straight forward task and was following directions to a spot above Corvara that promised to deliver a rare sight.

In fairness I’d been warned that my subject would be a difficult one to track down and I was starting to realise why my advisor (one of the resort flower experts) had been so keen to escort me. I was beginning to wish I’d taken him up on the offer. I was looking for a path not marked on the map and had been told not to look for the biggest boulder in sight –there were many –and not to go any further than the bench. Well I’d found numerous paths and at least four benches and I was beginning to wonder what constituted the correct one. The only other advice I’d been given was to look out for a man-made waterway or stream which I’d yet to find. Temptation to head back to the chalet for a cup of tea was growing but the thought of going back empty handed was a daunting one and the bulk of my camera seemed to weigh heavier as I thought of turning back.

My prize was a flower. Well an orchid really. An orchid so rare in certain European countries now that some authorities have kept it under armed guard to protect it from further decline. Luckily there were no armed guards here today in the Alta Badia, just a steadily growing haze of midges. Discarding the notion of benches and boulders I went in search of the waterway in a last ditch attempt. A further 200m or so down the path the trees parted to my left, giving way to a cascade of rocks that could have indeed been a dried up riverbed. A flicker of hope. And sure enough just beyond was a bench. I turned uphill and started my ascent up the scree. I selected the largest boulder in view and made a beeline for it.

Then there they were. Cypripedioideae, more commonly known as the lady slipper orchid. A group of six nestled at the base of the boulder. Characterised by their bright yellow slipper-shaped pouches that trap insects, forcing them to pollinate the orchid, dark purple petals and large green leaves they’re instantly recognisable.

When to look for the lady slipper

Flower enthusiasts from all over the world travel to the Dolomites to observe and photograph the rich fauna and flora. In May and June the meadows are at their best adding a sporadic injection of colour to the meadows. Higher up in the rocky and glacial zones alpine flowers are equally in abundance. In a landscape full of and trumpet gentians it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a scene from The Sound of Music, an understandable reason why people come back again and again!

Through my years of working with Colletts in various mountainous locations I’ve been lucky enough to go along on many of the flower walks on offer to our guests. During the early months of the summer season flower experts join our chalet teams and host their own specialist days that highlight the flowers in season. A complete novice in the subject when I first joined, I have slowly absorbed information about the plants I see on a daily basis and can now identify a growing number of varieties. I’ve also formed my own ‘to do list’ in terms of tracking down flowers I’ve yet to see.

There are some illusive flowers that are much harder to find however and even when you’ve got your eye in it may be necessary to get some local knowledge for the more secret of spots. I certainly wouldn’t have been stood before this collection of orchids without being pointed in the right direction first. I took my photos and enjoyed the moment for a while. The forest was completely deserted and apart from the birds and trees there wasn’t a single sound. It’s a feature of the Dolomites that you don’t have to venture far from civilisation to find some peace and quiet.

Being so well hidden, many visitors to the Alta Badia will pass sights like this by none the wiser. But with the right information or the company of one of our local experts the less obvious gems of the landscape can be discovered. All you need to do is ask one of our organisers at office hour and you two could discover something unique a little off the beaten track. Alternatively, check out our walking in the Dolomites page for more information. 

Walking Holidays with Collett’s

It is always great when a group of people collectively venture out for the day somewhere unknown. A simple shared interest, such as walking holidays in Europe, bring people from all different backgrounds together, beginning as strangers but ending with a real sense of connection – a sign of a good day out in the mountains!

This was particularly true late in August 2013, as Chalet Angelo guests headed to the northern Dolomites for a walk around Sas de Putia. Neither myself, or our guests had explored this area before, so we started the day by planning our route on the map with Emma, our walk organiser for the day. Sas de Putia stood over us as we made our way round the circular route along the gravel path. It soon seemed rather busy as we climbed the many switchbacks and realised that we were walking part of the Alta Via 2 – a hut to hut excursion still very popular at this time of the year.

Venice in Winter
Venice in Winter
Mountain & city breaks - Venice Hotels
Mountain & city breaks - Venice Hotels
Venice in Winter

We reached a point where a route to the left could be taken to the summit. Gazing up into the low, grey cloud perched right on top, we were all thankful today’s walk wouldn’t take us up there. That couldn’t be said however, for one of Haus Valentin’s guests who caught us up and excitedly prepared for the 1A Via Ferrata to the top! I was already looking forward to hearing all about it over dinner that evening.

As we descended across wide-spread grasslands, the walk suddenly became very unique. In the distance we would hear a low booming sound coming from the edge of a hill. Upon approach, we came across 3 very large wooden horns; an instant temptation. Everybody gave it a go, blasting out funny sounds across the valley and creating intrigue for the next walkers drawing near. Carvings of snails, an eagle and even a bicycle sat in the surrounding area, a fantastic hand-made collection by very proud local people. What a very unprecedented and unforeseen addition to our walk that could be enjoyed by everybody.

Just when we thought it was over, another charming place came into view as we traversed our way along a rocky path. Munt de fornella, a small wooden restaurant stood with a beautiful back-drop of the Sas de Putia peak. A sweet signpost pointed to places across the globe, as well as their distance – even the 15m walk to the restaurant itself had been included. Docile goats wandered the premises, ponies stood munching the grass nearby and a low hum of a happy crowd filled the place with a sense of contentment after a long days walking!

Collett’s Blogs

Collett’s blogs are written by our resort diarist, photographer, walker and skier, Kelly Diggle. If you are out on a walk, snowshoe itinerary or ski day with her you are sure to be included in her photographs in one of her weekly blogs. Kelly’s personal travel blog can be found here. You can keep up to date with Kelly on Twitter here.

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By day, Corvara is alive with traffic. Cafés are full with coffee enthusiasts, coaches arrive and unleash excited visitors en masse as cars slow to find a space and cyclists push themselves to the top of the hill. By night, and particularly every Thursday evening in the summer, the road closes and local acts come out to entertain.

It’s between 5pm and 10pm that barriers are laid out to prevent any cars driving through. Almost instantly people take advantage of being able to walk on the road without worry as shops open their doors for late night intrigue. It’s at 9pm that the town really comes to life!

As I headed down to the open air stage, crowds began gathering from every direction in anticipation for the first act of the night. Before long, a group of ladies in long skirts and cowboy boots joined the stage to show off their country style moves. A warm round of applause encouraged the dancers to put all of their effort in, persuading the crowd to tap a foot to the music.

Between acts I decided to have a look inside an inviting building behind the stage. The open room had been filled with impressive water colour paintings for all to browse and enjoy, with each piece representing the Dolomite Mountains. It was clearly a perfect place for parents to respite as I saw many children queuing just outside for the free candy floss and popcorn on offer.

Upon hearing an accordion further up the street, I wandered over to have a look. Two young boys, no older than 12, sat confidently each with their own instrument, taking it in turns to play. Fantastic skill and entertainment surely enriched the dinner being enjoyed by a couple sat outside a restaurant behind them.

Toward the bottom of the street, I saw yet another gathering. Bouncing excitedly down the road I caught a glimpse of men dressed smartly in traditional Lederhosen. As I ducked through the crowd, the men burst into Schuhplattler, a traditional folk dance, rhythmically striking their knees, thighs and soles to the beat of an accordion. It did nothing but bring smiles to people’s faces as the tempo increased and then men churned out some striking high kicks in turn.

To top off a wonderful fun-filled evening, a Zumba group burst into action, blasting out catchy music across the street. With a large area at the back (covered mostly in darkness), it would have been rude not to join in and give it a go. The Zumba-experts let out a cry of encouragement as I jumped into position, promoting the idea to other passersby. The atmosphere during the entire evening was fantastic with a wide variety of entertainment; I might just have to pop back next week to find out what’s in store.

Collett’s blogs are written by our resort diarist, photographer and walker, Kelly Diggle. If you are out on a walk with her you are sure to be included in her photographs in one of her weekly blogs. Kelly’s personal travel blog can be found here.