Three Peaks Nature Park Circuit
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Fly into Venice’s Marco Polo airport, the closest to the Dolomites region. From here you’ll take a bus to the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, a busy skiing center in winter and hiking draw in the summer months.
Check into your hotel in downtown Cortina and begin to enjoy the ambiance of this attractive high-altitude town. Have lunch and a stroll around your hotel. Cortina’s proudest moment was hosting the Winter Olympics in 1956. The Stadio del Ghiaccio (Ice Stadium), built for the Olympics and now a public skating rink, still carries the Olympic logo and a basin for the Olympic flame.
This afternoon, take the Faloria cable car up into the mountains for a great overview of the Cortina area. Back in town, visit the Centro Storico or Old Town. In these quaint streets, you will have dinner and a walk before returning to overnight at your hotel.
You’ll have a full day to enjoy Cortina and the beauty of the surrounding area.
Start your day with some outdoor adventure by driving up to the Giau Pass, from where you can admire the hairpin turns famous during the Giro d’Italia bike race and do some hiking surrounded by amazing panoramas. Then visit the open-air Museo all’Aperto delle 5 Torri to learn about Italy’s role in World War I and how this area was part of the battleground in the war, with cannons still mounted here, and trenches you can still walk in.
Back in Cortina, have lunch and then take a break from the outdoor beauty to visit the Mario Rimoldi Modern Art Museum. The collection presents local and international artists from the 20th century in the areas of experimental, neo-avant-garde, and abstractionism. The museum is open during summer and fall.
You’ll also see the breathtaking Saints Phillip and James parochial church, located on the Corso Italia. The current structure, with its vaulted ceilings and beautiful architecture, is made up of two separate churches originally built in 1775 which were joined during their restoration in 2009.
Have dinner in town then retire to your hotel to rest up after your full day of wanderings.
Today after breakfast, you’ll head to the best hiking destination in the Dolomites. Located in the Three Peaks Nature Park, they are known in Italian as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo or Three Peaks of Lavaredo. These are the most famous mountains in the Dolomites, including dramatic limestone peaks and towers within landscapes of meadows, lakes and forests. This trek will take you on a circular hike covering about six miles and taking around three hours, but with several beautifully situated mountain huts along the way offering food and drink, you can plan to spend a good part of today in this gorgeous landscape.
From the starting point at the Auronzo mountain hut near Misurina, you’ll begin your hiking adventure. Out the back of Rifugio Auronzo, the wide, flat and well-maintained path clings to the back wall of the three peaks, meandering past the scenic Cappella degli Alpini and on to the Lavaredo mountain hut. From here it’s a short uphill stretch to one of the most iconic viewpoints in the Italian Dolomites, Forcella Lavaredo, a mountain saddle with breathtaking views not only of the surrounding panorama but also of north walls of the Three Peaks, shaped like bishops’ staffs.
Next, you follow the signposts towards the Locatelli mountain hut. Rifugio Locatelli is one of the most photogenic huts in the Dolomites. The perfectly located hut looks directly onto the impressive trio of peaks and backs onto a picturesque scene of meadows and lakes. Rest up in this fabulous setting, or head even higher to explore a series of remaining WW1 tunnels carved into the side of the mountain.
From here, trail 105 drops downhill to the Langalm hut, which has a restaurant and bar and is next to three picturesque ponds. From here you’ll hike along the foot of the west side of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo until you reach the starting point, the Auronzo mountain hut.
Returning to Cortina, have dinner in Old Town then return to your hotel for some well-earned rest!
After breakfast, drive from Cortina north to Dobbiaco, which is considered another gateway to the Dolomites. Dobbiaco has an old and new town, and a jewel of a lake, Lake Dobbiaco. Composer Gustav Mahler spent his summer holidays here from 1908 to 1910.
Have lunch in the Old Town, then a stroll, taking in the exterior of the Castel Herbstenburg and walking along Via Massimiliano, lined by five passion chapels.
This afternoon, have an easy but visually rewarding stroll around emerald-colored Lago di Braies. The two-mile circuit trail hike starts at the parking lot behind Hotel Lago di Braies and takes between one and two hours.
Dobbiaco has a strong Austrian influence, so you’ll find Germanic language and Austrian food. For a change of pace, get a sense of local food products by visiting the Tre Cime Alpine Dairy, which offers interesting insights into cheesemaking. A museum at the beginning of the tour shows the life of valley farmers, while films illustrate the cheese production which you can also witness from the visitors’ gallery. Tastings of the cheese manufactured here is available as well as sales of the finished products in the shop.
Enjoy some Austrian specialties at dinner tonight before returning to your hotel.
Another full day of local hiking begins with your driving to the Zanser Alm parking area in Val di Funes/Villnöss Valley to take the Adolf Munkel Trail in the Odle – Geisler mountain group, another of the most spectacular hiking trails in the Dolomites. This trek is about six miles in total taking about three hours to complete.
The starting point of this hike is trail Number 6 in the direction of Tschantschenon. Early trail highlights include the picturesque Geislerhütte. Follow trail 36 to Gschnagenhardtalm alpine pasture where you’ll find a nice mountain hut. En route to the Geisler Alm, the small detour to Gschnagenhardtalm is worthwhile to see both the mountain huts in a spectacular setting.
Geisler Alm is a beautiful place to relax. There is a restaurant here and a nice outdoor seating area. You can have lunch and sample some Tyrolean apple strudel and absorb some terrific views of the Dolomites. Continue from here on trail 36 in the direction of Dussler Alm, and from there back to the car parking at Zanser Alm.
Don’t miss one of the most iconic photography spots of the Dolomites, that of the church of St. Magdalena, which you can visit after your Adolf Munkel Trail hike. Walk up the steep road from St. Magdalena village itself to the church in its magnificent setting.
Spend some time back in Dobbiaco, find a traditional restaurant for dinner, then return for some much-needed sleep at your hotel.
There is one last picturesque hike left on today’s itinerary, that of the Lake Dobbiaco circular trail, which is a comfortable walking tour around the emerald Lake Dobbiaco, with 11 nature stations that help you learn about local flora and fauna. The trail is about 1.5 miles long, and should take no more than 45 minutes to complete.
The walk starts from the parking area at Lake Dobbiaco, at the entrance of the Val di Landro. From here you can see imposing cliffs at the end of the valley while you can spot Lake Dobbiaco through the forest. En route, you pass a little pebble beach, and then a panoramic platform above the lake.
After lunch in town, you will collect your luggage and take a bus back to Cortina, and then on to Venice. Your hotel will be in the area of the Marco Polo airport, in preparation for your trip tomorrow. Have dinner at your hotel.
Breakfast at your hotel, then catch a shuttle to the airport for your trip back home, full of amazing memories of your walks and hikes in the beautiful Italian Dolomites.
The Dolomites of northern Italy are one of the most spectacularly beautiful mountain ranges in the world. They are ideally suited for a trip abroad to experience some of the best hiking on the planet. You will hike the amazing Three Peaks Nature Park, along with the Lago di Braies and Lago Dobbiaco trails, plus the stunning Giau Pass. Split your time between two gateways to the region, Cortina d’Ampezzo to the south and Dobbiaco to the north. And experience the dual Italian and Austrian cultures that permeate the area, from the languages to the food.
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