Walk of the Week: Dolomites Alta Via 1 Complete
Italy's Alta Via 1 is a classic long distance trek through the Dolomites mountain range in the northeast of Italy. The route cuts through the spectacular limestone peaks on high mountain paths that link the traditional mountain accommodation known as 'rifugi' together. The remote refugi of the Alta Via 1 offer spectacular views, and have been giving a warm welcome to walkers for decades.
In a nutshell
Where? The starting point for this unique tour is the charming town of Cortina. From Cortina, a scenic bus ride takes you to the start of the Alta Via 1 at Lago di Braies in Süd-Tirol which, like many parts of the Dolomites, has an Austrian feel. The looming limestone rock faces that surround the turquoise lake give you an idea of the type of landscapes you will be walking through over the next week and a half. The distinctive blue triangle markers keep you on track as you head south through valleys punctuated by soaring spires of limestone, alpine meadows, grassy plateaus and dramatic scree slopes. You'll spend your evenings enjoying hearty, full-flavoured dishes, delicious bowls of pasta, excellent local wines and perhaps even some belly-warming digestivos in a unique rifugio atmosphere. Your adventure on the high trails between the limestone bluffs ends when you reach the beautiful alpine town of Belluno. Distance? 140 km total, spread over 9 days of walking.
Grade? This "complete" tour is graded moderate to strenuous. Daily distances range between 9 km and 18 km, and with ascents of up to 900m and descents of up to 1300m you should be prepared for rocky, loose ground and unavoidable narrow paths across scree slopes. Some of the ascents and descents are very steep and some can be exposed, so this trip requires a good head for heights and sure-footedness in places. There are two particularly long days on this trip where you can expect to be walking between 8-10 hours each day.
Why walk it?
- Spectacular scenery. The Dolomite's cliffs and spires, originally a huge coral reef in the ocean of Tethys, have been eroded in bizarre ways. They are surrounded on all sides by vast scree slopes and alpine meadows. The mixed forests of beech and pine contrast with the dramatic peaks to create a landscape that is unmatched in all of Europe.
- Unique rifugi atmosphere. The network of rifugios, or mountain huts, are the perfect way to get close to the nature of the Dolomites. The refugi differ in their amenities however each of them welcome walkers into a warm atmosphere built upon the rich history of mountain traditions, with many of them still run by the families of the mountaineering pioneers that built them back in the 1930s.
- Challenging mountain walking. Walking on high trails and narrow paths amongst the glowing peaks presents challenges to even experienced mountain walkers adding to the sense of adventure.
Have a look at our Italy Product Manager, Nikki's Dolomites Diary to get an idea of what to expect on the Alta Via 1.
Planning and preparation?
Getting to Cortina
By Air: Venice Marco Polo Airport is the most convenient airport, with various international airlines operating here. The smaller Venice Treviso Airport is serviced by low-cost carrier Ryanair. The Cortina Express runs from Marco Polo Airport (2h20). If you choose to fly into Treviso Airport you can take a bus from Treviso town to Venice Mestre or Marco Polo Airport for onward connections with the Cortina Express.
Getting from Belluno
To from Belluno to Venice: From Belluno take a train (changing at Conegliano) to Venice Santa Lucia station (approx. 2h30); see www.trenitalia.com for timetables. From here, take a bus from Venice Mestre to Venice Marco Polo Airport (35 mins). See timetable. To return from Belluno to Cortina: Dolomiti Bus Lines 9 and 30 run between Belluno and Cortina, if you need to return there to collect any additional luggage (we can request if luggage be left at your first hotel in Cortina—subject to prior agreement). Journey time takes just over 1 hr. For timetables, see www.dolomitibus.it/dolomitibus/jsp/orari.
View our range of self guided walking tours in the Dolomites or if you would like to discuss the Dolomites Alta Via 1 Complete tour in particular get in touch with a member of our team on firstname.lastname@example.org.