Walking and Hiking Italy’s South Tyrol and the Dolomites
Taking in both Mediterranean landscapes and Alpine peaks and bordering Austria and Switzerland, the Dolomites are Italy’s northernmost province. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 South Tyrol is renowned for its contrast and variety of cosmopolitan, historic and the natural beauty and the pale mountains, which according to the famed architect Le Corbusier are “the world’s finest example of natural architecture”.
With over 1,300km of Walking, hiking and mountain trails the South Tyrol is a must for walkers and families, with leisurely strolls at medium altitude to challenging hikes through glaciers and Alpine lakes.
Inspired by the regions German influence, the trails are well–marked and take in apple orchards and chestnut groves, along irrigation channels, past pastures and meadows and up Alpine mountain paths.
The Dolomites are named after the French geologist Deodat de Dolomieu who discovered in 1788 that unlike the other limestone Alps, the pale Dolomites are made up from fossilised coral reefs formed in the Triassic Period – around 250 million years ago.
Over 13,000 kilometres of natural, well–marked walking and hiking trails lead through apple orchards, along irrigation channels and Alpine mountain paths. Elsewhere they lead through sweet chestnut groves, across high pastures and meadows. South Tyrol offers plenty for all levels of stamina, from leisurely strolls at medium altitude to challenging trekking tours amid glaciers and Alpine lakes.
The trails are suitable for all levels from a 2 hour amble on the sculpture walk trail featuring contemporary art installations along the trail or the beautiful Peace footpath in Kastelruth / Castelrotto with 14 stops that inspire peaceful mediation and contemplation.
The 2 hour Via dei Masi/Ultner Höfeweg farm trail passes lakes, farms and shrines and features Europe’s oldest trees – Larch Trees. The circular Foiana/Völlan chestnut trail takes in picturesque chestnut orchards.
For the more strenuous, the 3 hour Picco di Vallandro/Dürrenstein trail is higher and for more of a challenge, there is the 12 km Marlengo/Marling irrigation channel path
The challenging Similaun glacier trek starts from 1,650m to the Rifugio Similaun/Similaunhütte mountain hut at 3,017m. A brilliant 7 hour circular hike to the high–alpine area of lakes is the Laghi di Sopranes/Spronser Seen trail and the Roda di Vaèl/Rotwand trails in the mountains offer an adventurous hike bordering on mountaineering.
Good planning and safety must always be a priority when undertaking any rural hiking or mountain trails. It is essential to have up–to–date maps, check current weather forecasts and carry an appropriate safety kit for any emergencies that might occur.
As well as walking, the South Tyrol is a hive of activities and historical attractions.