If you plan to visit Italy for the first time in summer, a hiking trip in the Dolomites must be on your itinerary. The Dolomites are a Unesco World Heritage site located in North-East Italy.
A beautiful Mountain region in the Italian Alps encompasses the lesser-known part of East Northern Italy such as Trentino & South Tyrol, Veneto and Friuli Venetia Julia. Individually there are four province towns home to the Dolomites: Trento, Bolzano (Bozen), Belluno, Pordenone.
How to get to the Dolomites
Getting to the Dolomites is more accessible than what you may think. From Venice, it’s only a short drive by car. Good buses and train network from Venice-Mestre is available, so you don’t need to hire a car. With 1-2 train changes in Treviso and Calalzo di Cadore, you can get to Cortina in a couple of hours by train too.
If you plan to visit South Tyrol, you can get to Bolzano (Bozen) with the fast-train Frecce, from Venice-Bolzano is 2.5-hour train ride. From Bozen, an excellent bus network connects the city to all little towns and South Tyrol villages. But you can also hire a car if you prefer being more independent and tour the region on your own.
Why staying in mountain huts in the Dolomites in Summer
The Dolomites offers so many and varied opportunities regarding mountain landscape and sports and activities and food experiences and Thermal Spas.
With so many Dolomites Towns and villages to visit, if you have a limited time, you are bound to make a choice. While most overseas travellers tend to add Cortina D’Ampezzo to their trip itinerary, it is the Venetian Dolomites’ most touristy place.
While Cortina offers breathtaking panorama views and right places to eat and shop, spending half-day visiting this small town is more than enough. I would spend more time in the nearby Cadore region and visit Auronzo, San Vito, Croda Del Lago and more little villages.
The 3 Cime di Lavaredo (a.k.a. Drei Zinnen) is another must-see place, with spectacular views. Probably after Cortina the most popular destination in the Dolomites, near Auronzo di Cadore.
You can get there by car but be ready for crowds! In July and August is like being in Venice San Marco Square, so you soon get the picture!
While you will love hut to hut hiking in the Dolomites
If you are more a nature lover and prefer being active in the outdoors, you must go hiking in the Dolomites rather than visiting touristy towns. Between Auronzo and Pieve, the Cadore region boasts some of the best hiking trails. I’d say some of the most beautiful Mountains filled with lakes, small rivers, majestic rock formations, vast pastures and meadows covered with green carpets and wildflowers (springtime).
The locals most favourite way to stay in the Dolomites in summer is going for a day-hike and then eat at the local Rifugio. Going on a hut to hut hiking is more for trained hikers or those who love adventure. The right idea is to combine Venice’s trip to the Dolomites with a stopover in Vittorio Veneto if you choose the Dolomites’ Eastern side.
In July 2019, I will be running one week tour – for women only – from Venice to Trieste through the Dolomites. We will be spending a couple of days hiking and sleeping in one Rifugio.
The best way of hiking in the Dolomites
While you can go alone and set off on your own, The Dolomites have very well-organised tourist offices in Cortina and throughout each region, going on a Dolomites Tour for hiking experience is probably the best way to make the most of your time, especially if you are visiting the Dolomites for the first time.
If you plan to go hiking in the Dolomites in June 2019, I’ll be running a tour together with a local Mountain Leader in South Tyrol, where you can check a jazz and hike tour in South Tyrol.
Going from rifugio to rifugio, – hut-to-hut – is the best way to tour the Dolomites. The Dolomites region is famous for its beautiful mountain huts, where you can sleep at night in comfortable wooden rooms (bunk beds only) and eat some excellent local produce.
They are scattered around the region and accommodate hikers and walkers keen to come here for a real Dolomites Trek experience. In my opinion, this is the only way to savour these gorgeous mountains of the Italian Alps.
Self-guided hut to hut trips in the Dolomites
If you choose to go by yourself, there are a few things that you should know before hiking alone in the Dolomites. Mountain huts are open from Mid June to mid-September only. You should book in advance to make sure you get a bed on your self-guided trek of the Dolomites. The region is vast, and you should make your research first where you want to go.
This list of all Italian Rifugi in the Dolomites will help you find the huts you want to stay overnight. Most rifugi offer bunk-beds, but there are a few that provide double rooms too.
Things to know about the Italian Rifugios
Italian Mountain huts are of good quality. Most places offer half-board at reasonable prices. For 45 to 55 Euro per person in shared dorms, you get breakfast and a warm dinner, usually local produce like soup, pasta or rice dishes and locally produced cheeses and meats. There are facilities like bathrooms, terrace and other communal areas.
What to pack for hiking in the Dolomites from hut to hut
Packing light is essential for any hiking trip. Here are useful things that you must pack in your backpack:
- Silk Bed Liner – Blankets are available in the mountain huts — no need to pack a sleeping back.
- Flip-Flops or light slippers for walking in the dorms. Inside the night area, no boots are allowed.
- Headlamp to freely move around when lights are switched off in the night.
- Small Toiletry bag – with a foldable toothbrush, toothpaste, soap bar and a travel towel.
Remember not to leave anything behind, so return downhill with the garbage. Leave the place as you found it and respect others. In Summer, on some days, especially at weekends, many hikers and visitors stay overnight, so be mindful and respectful of others’ space.
Moreover, there in each hut, there is a visitor book for you to leave your review and suggestions. Should you embark on a challenging hike or hike alone, you should let the hut manager know of your movements in the Dolomites for safety reasons.
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First published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2021
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