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Written by
Frances McCann
Frances McCann

Adventure Of The Week: The Alta Via 1

In Italy’s Dolomites range, soaring limestone towers reflect the golden glow of the sun, and green plateaus contrast with asperous scree. This is a showstopping European mountain range, which although adjacent, feels a world apart from the perhaps more “stereotypical” snow-capped peaks of the French & Swiss Alps.

The Dolomites range is famed for its Via Ferrata, where bold adventurers can follow the network of steel cables bolted into the rock, often on precipitous sites, and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The Alta Via 1 is a wonderful alternative, as it is possible to complete the route avoiding the notorious and vertigo-inducing Via Ferrata. You’ll still need a head for heights, but the trek is a very accessible way to take on one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges.

Trekking the Alta Via 1 – through one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges.

In a Nutshell:

The Alta Via 1 is a “high route” through Italy’s Dolomites range. Providing an escape from urban life, this hut-to-hut mountain trek is a world class adventure, which although far from easy, is very achievable for most experienced (but perhaps non-technical) walkers.

Distance: The complete Alta Via 1 is around 140km, walking from Lago di Braies (near Cortina) to La Muda (near Belluno). We break this up over 9 days of walking.

Lagazuoi - Alta Via 1
Don’t forget your head for heights!

Grade: We often get asked “how difficult is the Alta Via 1?”. We grade the trek as “moderate to strenuous”. It’s not quite as tough as some, but you have to be prepared to do a bit of scrambling across narrow scree paths, there is a lot of elevation gain, and of course you’re walking hut-to-hut so are very much “on the trail” for the duration of the trek.

Why Walk Here?

There is no better way to clear your mind and refresh your soul than a hut-to-hut mountain trek. By “hut-to-hut”, we mean that there are no towns for the main part of the trek, so you’ll find shelter in mountain refuges along the way, and be blissfully removed from the stresses of day to day life. Pure and simple walking, without a care in the world.

Rifugio Nuvolau
The views from the Rifugio (mountain huts) will take your breath away.

Do not, however, let a lack of fancy hotels put you off! On the Alta Via 1, mountain refuges or “rifugio” are a true highlight of the adventure. Some have a fascinating history, built by mountaineering pioneers and run by generations of the same families. Expect comfort, warmth, a sense of camaraderie and companionship (after all, you are sharing the same experience and goals with wonderfully diverse people from all around the world), and views that no 5 star hotel in the glitzy part of any city could possibly rival.

Oh, and the food is quite simply outstanding! Classic simple Italian dishes, done right.

Rifugio Carestiato
Rifugio Carestiato – an example of the cosy, comfortable interiors.

The Dolomites are all about THOSE VIEWS. We try to avoid using the word “breathtaking” to describe walking trails, as the natural world often is just that. But perhaps nowhere is it so apt. Formations such as Cinque Torri have to be seen to be believed.

The 20th Century saw the Dolomites become an important strategic region during war-times too, and signs of this turbulent modern history are evident throughout the region.

Rifugio Scoiatolli views.
Gazing at the glorious views from Rifugio Scoiatolli.

Of course after all that time in the wilderness, the Alta Via 1 is book-ended with the chic and charming towns of Cortina and Belluno too, both of which have adventure at their heart. A chance to indulge in the “Dolce Vita”

Planning & preparation

We suggest a 9 walking-day itinerary for the complete Alta Via 1, although it is possible to walk sections to fit into shorter time-frames or see the highlights. Browse our suggested itineraries for the Alta Via 1 here. We don’t include baggage transfer on this trip (it isn’t possible to deliver baggage to the more remote rifugio, but it can be included as an option for some days).

Due to the limited accommodation, this is one of those trails that it is wise to book as far in advance as you can. Each year we have to disappoint walkers, particularly if they can’t be flexible on dates. So do book early.

If you have any questions about the route, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.