Welcome to the Italian Dolomites
With their explosive shapes and unique colours, the Dolomites are arguably the most stunning mountains in the world; they are certainly the crown jewels of the Alps. At every turn you are stopped in your tracks by their sheer magnificence. It is a paradise for walking holidays, whether you are a high level trekker, moderate hiker or idyllic stroller, not to mention flower lover, artist, photographer, Via Ferrata climber or an all-round alpine enthusiast. Or, if you simply seek out an idyllic alpine retreat.
Our centre-based holidays are located in one of the prettiest valleys of the central Dolomites, where unspoilt Tyrolean villages bewitch you with their wood-rich chalets and picturesque churches in a landscape of wildflower-strewn pastures, while the colossal natural monuments, which are the Dolomites, tower above you like castles of rock, which soar to the sky as if frozen in mid-explosion.
The central Dolomites lie largely in Italy’s northernmost province, the South Tyrol, which borders Austria and Switzerland to the north. To the south are the alluring historical cities of Venice and Verona. Geologists believe they were heaved up by great movements in the earth’s crust 50 million years ago when Europe and Africa collided. Since then the actions of ice and water have carved them into the overwhelming sculptural forms we see today. More recently history has shaped the area. After WWI, the area passed from Austria to Italy. In spite of drastic efforts, Mussolini failed to italianise the region and the area now thrives on the harmonious co-existence of the Austrian and Italian cultures in a region where Latin meets Germanic.
Walking in the Italian Dolomites on a Collett's holiday
For walkers, we offer a memorable holiday experience in an area with UNESCO World Heritage status. Our base in Corvara provides superb access to beautiful waymarked trails of all grades. We are flanked by two natural parks: the Fanes to the east, stretching dramatically towards Cortina, and by the Puez-Odle to the west, extending equally dramatically to the Val Gardena. To the south towards Arabba, we have a vast natural plinth, Monte Sella (3152m) and our highest peak, the Marmolada (3343m), Queen of the Dolomites.
These majestic massifs host our brilliantly-researched and extensive portfolio of walks. Within our tried and tested gems, there are a handful of must-do classic hikes, but otherwise with Collett’s you will get off the beaten track into special and breathtaking landscapes.
The scenery is glorious, whatever the altitude you view it from. Gentle strollers will gaze upwards in awe from idyllic lower-lying trails at the startling rock formations that surround them. Meanwhile, high level trekkers look down with amazement from the rocky reaches to the exquisite
Cuisine - Eating and drinking around The Dolomites
Alongside the natural splendour of the Dolomites is a gastronomic presence that will surely excite the casual and not-so-casual gourmet. As well as a host of Michelin star-rated restaurants, the general quality of the cuisine in the Dolomites is outstanding.
You can expect fresh, locally-sourced ingredients whether you go for pasta, seafood, game or even pizza. Pair with a glass of world-class wine from the South Tyrol or Veneto, just to keep it really local. Round off a genuine Dolomites moment with a plate of local cheeses and the perfect digestif, a ‘prima uva’ grappa.
There’s every chance that all this culinary joy will unfold in a stylish restaurant or hotel dining room with absorbing views of the mountains that brought you here in the first place. Either way, there are not many destinations in the world that combine all the ingredients of a magical holiday in such a superlative way.
Culture - The timbre of the Tyrol
The South Tyrol became a melting pot of Latin and Germanic cultures when it was transferred to Italy from Austria after WWI. It’s an intriguing mix of flare and efficiency, gathering in the best components of two great countries.
Villages and towns are beautifully presented, litter-free and immaculately clean. Affluence has reigned since the area’s status of provincial autonomy came into effect in 1991 with 90% of taxes being paid back into the region. It is now the wealthiest province in Italy with tourism replacing agriculture and hydro-electric power as the principal economic activity.
These might be the world’s most majestic mountains and valleys, but the success of tourism is also due to a modern mountain-dwelling community, which is enlightened, environmentally conscious, hospitable and industrious.
Easy & Moderate Walking in the Dolomites
Here in the magical Dolomites, the intermediate walker and gentle stroller will thrive on the many waymarked paths, which wend their way at low and medium altitude between picturesque hamlets and villages. You can enjoy the spectacular scenery in many different ways, perhaps meandering casually for two or three hours on riverside tracks and through wildflower-strewn meadows, or by venturing a little higher on to the woodland trails, upland pastures and occasionally the lower rocky reaches of the massifs themselves. Many of these routes were originally hunting or smuggling trails.
Welcoming mountain huts, known as rifugios, are dotted around this extensive network of numbered paths, each one with its own sun terrace, on which walkers can soak up their magical surroundings, whilst enjoying well-earned refreshment.
Some people come here with specific intentions: fossil collectors love the region’s rich geology; artists and photographers try to capture their own visions of these unique mountains; bird and wildlife observers can admire a diverse range of fauna and, whilst spotting a pair of golden eagles is fortunate, sightings of buzzards, chamois, deer and the comical marmots punctuate many lower level walks.
High Level Walking
It is hard to think of anywhere in Europe that offers the high level walker such good access to an extensive network of sensational walks on waymarked trails and protected paths. It is all on our doorstep. At every turn, you are exposed to the most mesmerising landscapes, whilst enjoying a choice of routes that suit individual fitness levels.
From Corvara, you can venture on foot into both the Puez Odle and Fanes national parks on walks of a lifetime. Just to the south of Corvara the valley reaches its terminus and here we are towered over by the colossal flanks of Monte Sella, a natural plinth, monumental in size and splendour, where you might easily spend a week without repeating the same walk.
Further afield, yet still within easy access, there is Cristallo (3221m), Tofana (3244m), Lagazuoi & Cinque Torre (2800m) with its World War Tunnels and Open-air WWI Museum and, of course, the Marmolada (3343m), Queen of the Dolomites, with its brilliant white glacier dominating many a panorama. The rifugios are a positive part of high level walking in the Dolomites. The welcome is warm and the food, service and refreshment are excellent and affordable – and most importantly of all – they offer unforgettable panoramas from their sun terraces.
Like all our destinations, the Italian Dolomites is world-renowned for alpine flora, providing good access to celebrated sites, such as the Pordoi Pass, the Bindelweg and the Vallunga. We offer flower walks for 2 weeks in June when you are guaranteed an explosion of colour in the meadows and upland pastures that surround us.
It is one of life’s great pleasures to walk in breathtaking landscapes that are so rich in fascinating flower habitats, where classic and rare species flourish. Over the years we have documented the locations of the sought-after species and this invaluable knowledge grows each year, providing so much pleasure for our flower enthusiasts.
When to visit the Dolomites
Our summer season of walking in the Dolomites runs from mid June to mid September. People who visit us in June and July will witness the explosion of colour that characterises the the phenomenal flower season. They will marvel at snow-capped peaks and see waterfalls at their most gushing. Alpine flora thrives in its own way throughout the season, but after mid July, you just have to get a bit higher to appreciate it. In June you can’t miss it. Exquisite flowers grow everywhere, from roadside verges to high rocky crags.
Typically, the area livens up and dies down as the season unfolds. June is early in terms of tourism and sometimes we can venture out on a walk and not see anyone all day. It’s almost like having exclusivity to your own mountain paradise. After 20 June, we move into a mid-season atmosphere as local services intensify a little and more local shops open.
For a walking holiday in the Dolomites, Corvara takes some beating because strategically it is the best located village in the South Tyrol’s prettiest valley. Over the years it has been a genuine pleasure to watch the reaction of our guests as they arrive and are immediately awe-struck by their surroundings. Unsurprisingly, the area acquired UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009. The valley wends its way below majestic peaks to Monte Sella (3152m), a glorious and colossal plinth, which typifies the drama of Corvara’s location with magnificent rock formations looming over wildflower-strewn pastures, woodland and sleepy hamlets, where the window boxes of old farmhouses overflow with colour.
Corvara is the principal village of the Alta Badia and has two gondolas, one to the Pralongià Plateau at 1980m for easier and moderate walks, the other to the eastern turrets of the Sella at 2152m for amazing high level walks and also two Via Ferrata. It is a vibrant mountain resort with some delightful cafes and bars, stylish shops and a good range of locally-supplied alpine activities including sport climbing, a climbing wall, high ropes, skating, a swimming lake, golf, tennis, archery etc. It is also close to some absorbing places of interest. In short, whatever you choose to do, you’ll soon be glad you came.