The world is getting more crowded every day and the popularity of social media has made it easier than ever for curious wanderers to find new parts of the world to explore, like Dolomites adventure travel. And while I always encourage people to travel more and get out of the comforts of their daily life, I have to admit that I always cringe a little when I see how tourism has changed or outright destroyed beautiful travel destinations.
It seems to be harder and harder to find untouched paradises but if you try hard enough, you might just surprise yourself!
I recently just spent three weeks in the heart of the Dolomites, an area that might conjure up images of busses of tourists and hoards of crowds. Would you believe me if I told you I saw hardly any foreigners? It’s true!
The Medio-Alto Agordino is a quiet valley that is amazingly off the beaten tourist path in the heart of the Dolomites, the mountainous region in northern Italy.
While certain parts of the Dolomites have become super popular, most tourists in the area head straight north near the Austrian border and completely miss out on this gem in the Agordino.
If you’ve always wanted to see the world-famous Dolomites but can’t bring yourself to face the crowds, this is your spot.
It’s jam-packed with adventure and culture and is the perfect place to come to reset. Read on, dear ones.
1. The abundance of day hikes everywhere
The hiking infrastructure in the Dolomites is seriously next level comprehensive. Get excited!
You can pretty much walk out of any door and be on a trail within minutes and the trail maintenance is terrific. Wide paths at a gentle gradient allow you to fully take in the scenery around you instead of staring at your feet while you walk on tricky terrain.
In the Dolomites, you can pretty much look at any mountain and if you want to get to the top of that mountain, you can almost guarantee there’s a path.
During WWI, the armies worked quickly to build roads up implausible mountain passes which, 100 years later, is super convenient hikers. There are few untouched valleys and peaks which makes getting around easy and simple.
2. Via Ferratas aplenty
The Dolomites are the home of the Via Ferrata, which means Iron Way in Italian.
A Via Ferrata is essentially a system of steel ladders and cables bolted into the side of the mountain which make it easy and quick to scale treacherous mountain cliffs. They were used during WWI during fighting while the Italians and Austrians strived to maintain control of the valleys below.
Nowadays, you can find recreational Via Ferratas all around the world but there’s truly no place to experience a Via Ferrata quite like Italy, for example the Sas de Rocia is a good option near Marmolada or Via Ferrata Sass de Stria in Arabba.
There are entire guide books the various routes so whether you’re a newbie or a keen climber, you’ll easily find something for you. You will need to have the proper gear so if you’re not sure but want to try it out, consider hiring a guide.
3. All the bike culture
Bikes are a way of life in the Dolomites. Dolomites adventure travel is everywhere.
The paved roads are littered with lycra-clad road bikes hauling up the mountain and the trails are just as busy. This area has put significant effort into its trail infrastructure making it easy to find bike trails for all abilities, and the perfect place for a bike holiday.
While I like biking, I’m not very good at it so I rented an e-bike (my first time ever!) and cruised the trails with ease. E-bikes are amazing and are a great option if you want to see the sites without putting in the maximum effort.
Some areas, like Arabba, have turned their winter ski slopes into downhill mountain bike trails so you can easily take the cable car up with your bike and spend the day exploring the trails.
4. Multi-day hikes are easy and convenient
The system of mountain huts is extremely comprehensive in the Dolomites and will blow your mind! Dolomites adventure travel is everywhere.
You can quite literally walk for weeks without carrying more than a change of clothes. The huts, called Rifugios, are like mountain mansions that provide shelter, bedding, three-course meals, alcohol, and snacks.
Sure, it’s not as cheap of an option as camping but it means having a light pack and not having to stress about food, I’d argue it’s worth it.
Check out Rifugio Falier under Marmolada if you’re looking for a short walk or Rifugio Tissi if you want a longer walk with some of the best views in all of the Dolomites.
5. Fly down the mountain on a zip line
There’s something so calming about doing a zipline.
You’re safely attached to the cable and there’s no feeling falling. The only thing you have to do is walk off the platform and float down to the bottom. It’s oddly serene and a great activity for those who don’t want too much of an adrenaline rush.
The zip line of San Tomaso is a great option for all abilities. The zip line course starts you on a baby zip line that shorter and calm. Once you reach the halfway point, you’re treated to grappa to calm your nerves for the bigger zip line but even then, as you’re dangling hundreds of meters in the air, it’s a peaceful feeling. This is a great short activity for the whole family if you’re looking to fill half of a day.
6. Cable cars for your rest days (or any days)
Who says you need to break a sweat to have an adventure?
In the Dolomites, you can have an adventure in your normal day clothes. The system of cable cars makes it incredibly easy to ride to the top of the mountains, super different from our mountains here in New Zealand.
The ride itself is amazing providing you a panorama view of the mountains and lakes below. Some cable cars, like the one that takes you to the top of Marmolada, take a while to reach the top so you can soak in the views.
Once at the top, go for a short walk or simply head to the cafe for a refreshment. Coffee or wine is acceptable at any time of the day, no judgment.
7. World-famous climbing I reckon
I’m just going to come out and say it without any real climbing authority behind me but the Dolomites has some of the best rock climbing in the world. Sheer cliffs, vertical walls, thousands of meters of perfect rock to be scaled.
The limestone rock climbing in the Dolomites is great whether you’re a beginner or super experienced and the routes are varied so you can pick and choose the type of climbing that best suits you.
I hired a guide who took me on the best multi-pitch climb I’ve ever done. We completed six pitches of easy climbing topping out at 300 meters. I’m by no means a climbing junkie and I’m not that good but I felt totally safe with a guide and climbing to the top of the Dolomites was truly a highlight of the trip.
8. Hikes for all abilities here
I’ve become accustomed over the years to associate amazing views with outrageously challenging hikes but this is not the case in the Dolomites. The Dolomites caters to every hiking ability from those who just want a few hours of easy walking to those who want to push their limits.
It’s common in the Dolomites to take a cable car up to the top of the mountain to reach easy trails that are mostly flat. You get all the benefits of being in high altitude without having to sacrifice your whole day.
When you’re finished, you can have an Aperol Spritz or beer at the cafe before heading back down the mountain. Winning!
On the flip side, you can also find some challenging hikes as well. Dolomites adventure travel is everywhere with hikes for every person.
After all, the Dolomites are known for their steep mountains and sheer vertical rock faces. You’ll have no trouble finding an off-trail adventure that requires more technical skill and a longer time commitment, but it might be good to hire a guide.
Just like any high alpine terrain, the Dolomites can be very unforgiving if you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing and the weather is extremely fickle.
Luckily, guides are plentiful and you can quickly find one by talking to the friendly staff at the info centers.
9. Plenty of amazing food to keep you fueled
You can have high Dolomites adventure travel without high fuel intake and if you’re looking for a carbo reload, you really can’t do much better than in the Dolomites where pasta and pizza reign supreme.
Italians take their dining very seriously and if you don’t plan at least two hours for every meal, you’re doing it wrong.
Pizza and pasta aren’t the only things they are good at though. This region, in particular, is known for their polenta, mushroom and cheese dish as well as their dumplings and like most places in Italy, hearty fresh salads are a great option if you’re trying to keep it light.
Don’t forget a nice glass of wine to accompany the meal if you’re aiming to be as authentic as possible.
10. Dripping with culture everywhere
There’s no question that heart pumping Dolomites adventure travel is available around every corner of the Dolomites but if you need to exercise your brain, there are plenty of museums and cultural spots to keep you busy.
Check out the Andraz Castle, an ancient Tyrolean manor dating back to 1000 A.D. or head to the top of Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites and the highest mountain in the range. At the top of one of the cable car, you’ll find the museum of the Great War which also happens to be the highest in Europe.
This museum is a sensory experience where you can feel and hear what the soldiers experienced as they fought against one another and the hostile forces of nature.
Have you heard of this corner of the Dolomites? Are you keen to visit? Any tips to share? Spill!