Walking Holidays In Europe


Walking Holidays In The Dolomites

An essential guide to walking and hiking in the Dolomites

Paul Bloomfield
By Paul Bloomfield

Another good alternative to the busier French and Swiss Alps, I would argue the Italian Dolomites, in Italy’s far northeast, are the most beautiful section of the Alps. This is my top choice for a walking holiday that combines photogenic mountains with superb cuisine.

Soaring limestone shards pierce the sky in jagged pinnacles and ridges reminiscent of the mountains of Patagonia, set ablaze by the setting sun in the characteristic enrosadira, or ‘alpenglow’.

The Dolomites have a character distinct from its neighbouring ranges in both geological, cultural and linguistic terms. Bunkers, trenches and other military remains encountered on high-level trails such as the Kaiserjäger are reminders of clashes along the Austrian front during the First World War, and while in some valleys German rather than Italian predominates, you’ll also hear Ladin, derived from ancient Latin, spoken here and there.

Throughout, well-kept trails access high meadows and passes, limpid Alpine lakes, dense pine forests and lofty villages. All-in-all, the Dolomites are easily one of my favourite places for a walking holiday in Europe.

The best walking holidays in the Dolomites

Our experts' top picks


Alta Via 1

Paul Bloomfield
By Paul Bloomfield
  • Distance: 75 miles (120 km)

  • Duration: Seven to ten days

  • Start/end point: Lago di Braies to Belluno

  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

This moderately challenging hut-to-hut Dolomite traverse is as close to Patagonia’s Torres del Paine as you’ll get this side of the Atlantic. But with better pasta and more WWI history.

The trail commences in Lago di Braies in the north and finishes in Belluno in the south. As you progress along the route, you traverse a UNESCO World Heritage landscape renowned for its awe-inspiring mountain peaks, panoramic vistas, and diverse flora and fauna.

The crown jewel of the journey is the Cinque Torri - a spectacular rock formation offering some of the most breathtaking views in the Dolomites. Accommodation along the Alta Via 1 varies, from mountain huts known as "rifugios" that provide food and shelter to campgrounds for those who prefer to sleep under the stars.


Alta Via 2

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 160 km
  • Duration: Two weeks
  • Start: Brixen (Bressanone)
  • End: Croce d'Aune
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Italy's Alta Via 2, stretching around 160 km, is a challenging trek that takes you deep into the more remote areas of the Dolomites. Typically completed in two weeks, it's recommended for experienced trekkers due to its rugged terrain and occasional via ferrata sections.

Starting from Brixen in South Tyrol and concluding in Croce d'Aune, the AV2 offers less crowded paths than Alta Via 1 and a more rugged experience, winding through quieter parts of the Dolomites.

Notable highlights include the Pale di San Martino, the largest plateau in the Dolomites, and the awe-inspiring Marmolada, the highest peak in the range. As on Alta Via 1, you can expect to find comfortable accommodation in the form of mountain huts, known as "rifugios", and camping is also an option in certain areas.


Dolomites to Lake Garda

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 66 km

  • Duration: Eight days

  • Start: Bolzano

  • End: Lake Garda

  • Difficulty: Moderate

The route starts in Bolzano, a medieval city known as the gateway to the Dolomites. It ends at the awe-inspiring Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake.

The path traverses through forests, over passes, and vineyards, with panoramic views. It’s known for its stunning views, cultural attractions, and excellent food and wine.

Numerous alluring villages and towns along the route provide accommodation options, including guest houses, hotels, and agriturismo establishments.

Lake Misurina Italian Dolomites

Lake Misurina in the Italian Dolomites

Planning a walking holiday in the Dolomites

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked


Tre Cime de Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) comprise possibly the most-photographed scene in the region, with ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ Marmolada a spectacular second. Food is a treat, blending Austrian and Italian influences – the Alta Badia valley in particular is awash with superb cuisine, and its mountain huts (really more or less rustic restaurants on high plateaux) devise special menus each summer to showcase top dishes at bargain prices.

Need to know

Airports at Venice, Verona, Treviso and Innsbruck provide access to the Dolomites. Trains and buses provide reliable, cheap and regular transport across the region, including up to trailheads on road passes, and mountain refuges – usually open mid-June to mid-September – offer simple but comfortable overnight stays on long-distance trails. Peak holiday season in Italy is mid-August, when accommodation is often booked out.

Top walking holidays

Six waymarked Alta Via (High Route) trails wind roughly north-south through the Dolomites; 120km Alta Via 1 (AV1) is the easiest and most popular, suitable for beginners to long-distance Alpine treks yet showcasing the diverse scenery of the region. At 160km, AV2 is more technical and strenuous, while the other four are more challenging, with extended sections of via ferrata (climbing routes with permanent cables and ladders).

About the author

Walking Holidays In The Dolomites

Paul Bloomfield

Paul is an award-winning travel journalist writing on walking and hiking in Europe and beyond for the likes of the Telegraph, The Times, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic Traveller.

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