The Dolomites of South Tyrol is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and picturesque mountain ranges of the world. The region has been on my bucket list for years, and I finally had the privilege of joining the WT trip Hiking in the Cortina Dolomites in the fall of 2018.
The region is full of jaw-dropping towers, spires, and pinnacles—all surrounded by lush grass valleys, brilliant turquoise lakes, and small villages straight out of a fairytale.
Not quite Italian and no longer Austrian, South Tyrol is a world of its own. It was a part of the Austro-Hungarian County of Tyrol until it was annexed by Italy after World War I. As a result, South Tyroleans suffer from an identity crisis of sorts—a common saying among locals is that they are “too reserved to fit in with their Italian neighbors, and too flamboyant to pass as Austrian.” It’s a place where German pragmatism, Austrian mountaineering culture, and Italian passion create a distinct culture that seems to match the stunning scenery.
Within the first day, I knew that this journey was not going to disappoint. Our first stop was Albergo Passo Giau—located on a mountain pass with 360 degree views, it was the perfect way to start the trip. I found myself sitting on the ridge, a mere five-minute walk from our dining room, for hours just soaking in all the scenery. I felt like I could’ve stayed in that spot all night, but was finally convinced to come inside for a four-course feast and one too many bottles of local wine.
When our group set out on the second day, we all fully understood why this is considered one of the best outdoor adventure destinations in the world. The concentration of quality trails in such a gorgeous mountain range is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We were able to either hike directly out of our hotel or only needed a short 20-minute drive to get to every trailhead.
Our group quickly fell into the therapeutic rhythm of a WT hiking trip in the Alps—a light breakfast, a few hours of hiking in the morning, a hearty lunch at a rustic Rifugio on the trail (and maybe a beer or grappa for some energy), a few more hours of hiking in the afternoon, some rest at our comfortable Rifugio, a gourmet dinner paired with wine, and falling asleep amid the cool mountain air away from the stresses of everyday life. Makes you wonder if life can always be this simple…
As with every WT trip I have been on—while the scenery and itinerary were absolutely incredible, what really made the trip were the leaders and the group atmosphere. WT has been bringing travelers here for more than 20 years now, and many of our guides have been leading this adventure since the beginning. They know the Dolomites inside and out, are old friends with all the hotel owners, and give guests a true “insider’s access” to the area. When you combine that with a group of travelers who are quick to laugh and eager to learn, you have the recipe for the journey of a lifetime.
—Text and photos by WT staff Scott Abbott, Hiking in the Cortina Dolomites. Check out the video below for even more about the trip!