I believe that there is no better holiday than hiking in the Dolomites! The environment is stunning, the weather is perfect, the food is delicious, and you are constantly active
My husband and I have hiked in the Dolomites multiple times but have only done day hikes and stayed in hotels. During these hikes, we would stop for lunch at rifugios, cottages with restaurants and some overnight accommodations. Rifugios can be found throughout the Italian mountains. We have often discussed how fun it would be to spend the night at a rifugio and wake up surrounded by the mountain views.
After researching, we discovered the existence of Alta Vias, meaning “high roads”. The Alta Vias allow hikers to traverse between rifugios along hiking trails high up in the Dolomites. We ultimately chose to embark on Alta Via 2, a 12-day hiking route that combines moderately challenging hikes and stunning scenery. Additionally, this route presents the opportunity to experience some easier Via Ferratas.
We decided that six days was enough, so we're saving the second half of the trail for next summer. It is fun to have a group of people walking together, and fortunately, my sister and her husband were easily convinced to join us. However, it is important to note that the rifugios have limited availability, so it is necessary to book in advance. In our case, we made our reservation in March for our vacation in July.
Last year, we embarked on a hike along an Inca trail in Peru, which gave us a clear understanding of what essentials we needed to pack. It is crucial to be prepared with high-quality rainwear, even if you hope you won't need it. Thankfully, my Typhoon trousers and jacket occupied minimal space in my backpack, making them an ideal choice.
We started our road trip in Gothenburg at lunchtime. We then drove through Sweden and crossed the Öresund Bridge to reach Denmark. From there, we took the Rödby-Puttgarden ferry to Germany and continued our drive on the autobahn during the night. We passed through Austria in the early morning and finally arrived at the Plose gondola station in Italy at 9 a.m., making it 20 hours on the road. The weather was perfect, with a clear blue sky, and we were excited to stretch our legs and begin our adventure.
We started the hike by taking the Plossegondola up to the mountain station, which sits at an elevation of 2050 meters above sea level. We had read that it was better to skip a somewhat boring hike through the pine forest and conserve our energy for the mountain. Once we reached the top, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the outdoor terrace: sandwiches, juice, and cappuccinos. Lovely!
Feeling full and satisfied, we continued our journey towards Rifugio Plose 2447 meters above sea level), our destination for the first night. We arrived early and decided to unload our backpacks in our room before embarking on a hike to two peaks: Pfannspitz and Monte Gabler. The views were absolutely stunning!
In the evening, we indulged in a three-course dinner at the rifugio and played a game called "Kniffel," which we learned is the German version of Yatzy. We had opted for the half board option at all the rifugios, which cost approximately 70€ per person per night.
When we woke up and looked out the window, we were delighted to see a beautiful view, precisely what we had hoped for. We quickly put on our flip-flops and made our way down to breakfast, where we found small groups of hikers from different countries gathered around the tables - British, Dutch, Polish, Canadian, and more. After enjoying a satisfying meal of yoghurt, eggs, and sandwiches, we packed our belongings and set off.
As we started our hike, we noticed there was still some morning fog, and it was a bit chilly. We began with a long descent, during which we took a wrong turn, but eventually corrected our path and started a challenging uphill climb. The sun was scorching, and our energy was dwindling, but the reward at the top of "Forcella de Putia" was worth all the effort. The view from there was breathtaking.
After taking a short break to rest and recover, we continued towards our destination for the day - Rifugio Genova (2306 m.a.s.l.). Once we arrived, we could sit outside in the sun and savour a delicious pasta meal with refreshing cold drinks. However, there was a minor inconvenience as only two showers were available for all the hikers, resulting in a queue forming. Nevertheless, we made the most of the situation and patiently waited our turn.
In the evening, we had the opportunity to share a table with a friendly group from Germany during dinner. It was an excellent chance for everyone to exchange their hiking experiences and stories.
All rifugios follow the same schedule: breakfast at 7 a.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. To ensure a peaceful environment for all guests, it is expected to be quiet by 10 p.m. in the dormitories. This means you start your day early and can proceed at a relaxed pace.
The initial part of the day resembled a picturesque scene from Sound of Music. Lush green meadows adorned with vibrant flowers stretched out against a backdrop of clear blue skies and mountains of various hues. However, the landscape underwent a drastic transformation as we encountered a steep slope, necessitating a zigzag ascent. Upon reaching the Forcella della Roa crest, we took a well-deserved break to replenish our energy with a satisfying sandwich.
It was finally time to put on the Via Ferrata equipment as the trail ahead was steeply uphill, and a cable was attached to the mountain that we could use to secure ourselves. Despite my fear of heights, I climbed to the next crest, Forcella di Selles, with fear and excitement. We felt awesome and cool with our gear on until a bunch of lively pensioners in sun hats, without any safety equipment, suddenly appeared behind us.
After making a detour to the top of Piz Duleda, we continued our hike to our final destination for the day - Rifugio Puez. We celebrated our arrival with Aperol Spritz while enjoying the sun. However, just half an hour later, a storm and even a tornado (!) suddenly passed by. The strong winds blew our skylight open, causing a lot of commotion as the entire staff worked together to fix it. Afterwards, we borrowed a deck of cards, ordered a carafe of red wine, and relaxed. For dinner, we tried knödel, a type of Tyrolean dumpling, which surprisingly tasted better than its name suggests.
Surprisingly, we woke up to another day of beautiful weather. We begin our hike and are soon treated to a breathtaking view of the entire Vallunga valley. Along the trail, we spot numerous Edelweiss flowers and take a refreshing dip in a small lake. The surroundings offer a mix of enchanting hobbit-like landscapes and lunar-like terrains, making the journey even more fascinating.
Just in time for lunch, we arrive at Passo Gardena and find refuge at Rifugio Jimmy. As we settle in, the drizzle turns into a full-blown storm with heavy rain and strong winds. Luckily, we manage to secure a table inside before the storm hits, and soon, the place becomes packed with other hikers seeking shelter. Despite the chaos, our food arrives just before the power goes out, making us feel incredibly fortunate once again.
After enjoying a delicious chocolate fondant, we bid farewell to Rifugio Jimmy just as the fog lifts, revealing a sunny sky. As I gaze at the majestic Sella Massif in front of me, I feel a flutter of excitement in my stomach because I know we will be climbing up there. It seems almost impossible to comprehend. We choose to follow the path 666, which lives up to its devilish name with its steep and challenging terrain. The final stretch is supported by cables, so we gear up again and secure ourselves to the cable, ensuring a safe ascent up the last slope. The view that greets us at the summit is breathtaking! Filled with pride and contentment, we make our way to Rifugio Pisciadu, where we can finally take off our shoes and relax.
As we continue on the trail, we encounter the same group of hikers from different countries every evening. Each person has their own unique experiences of the day. Unfortunately, not everyone was fortunate enough to have lunch indoors during the storm. After dinner and more card games, we venture outside again. In the distance, thunder rumbles, and the sky darkens, but the sun still manages to break through in places, creating a beautiful sight.
We had a restful night in a cosy, newly renovated room at the top of the rifugio. As we set out in the morning, the chilly air prompts me to wear my thin fleece sweater. Being at a high altitude, there are patches of snow that haven't melted yet. We come across a slightly larger area that makes for a perfect sledging hill. In the absence of sledges, we put on our rain trousers and enjoy the thrill of speeding down the snowy slope.
The landscape here on the Sella Massif is devoid of flowers and looks like the moon's surface. Nevertheless, the breathtaking views make up for it, and we enjoy ourselves thoroughly. Our next destination, Rifugio Boé, isn't too far away, but we're not quite ready to stop hiking for the day.
After enjoying a delicious sandwich at the outdoor restaurant, we leave our backpacks behind and only bring a sweater and via ferrata equipment with us as we tackle Piz Boé, the highest point in the Sella massif. While it's not a challenging climb, it does feel good to secure ourselves with a cable due to the "airy" nature of the climb. The peak is 3152 meters above sea level and offers an indescribable view. To our surprise, a rifugio is at the top, where you can easily get a cold drink if desired.
During dinner, we had a pleasant conversation with the owners, who assisted us in arranging a taxi for the next day. Feeling full and satisfied with our day, we finally retired to our beds. Bed sheets are not provided, but we each have our sleeping bag liner, which acts as a duvet cover that we can snuggle into comfortably. It works great!
On our last day of walking, we step outside the rifugio and are greeted by cold and crisp air. The temperature is only a few degrees, so we put on long trousers for the first time. There is only a short distance before we face an impressive view on the crest of the long, steep slope down to our final destination - Passo Pordoi!
As we descend the slope, we must concentrate on our footing to avoid slipping on the gravel. It's a shame because we would love to appreciate the fantastic view fully. We wave to a Canadian couple in a gondola above us, whom we have encountered every evening. They have chosen the more comfortable route down. Once we reach the valley, we have just enough time for a refreshing cold drink before a taxi arrives to take us back to our car.
This hike is truly something I wish everyone could experience. As long as you are healthy, there is no reason to hesitate. No prior knowledge is necessary - just make sure to book a rifugio in advance, wear comfortable hiking shoes, and take your time. I am already excited for next summer when we embark on the second part of Alta Via 2. I can't wait!
Marianne | Hiking enthusiast
Meet Marianne, a hiking enthusiast who, along with her husband, stumbled upon the joy of wandering in the wilderness a few years back. On their trips, she's the official photographer, capturing the stunning vistas and candid moments of their adventures. When not travelling, you often find her in her garden, where she loves to grow everything from tomatoes to bright and colourful zinnias.