The Dolomites’ stunning peaks have drawn foreign mountaineers for centuries, yet somehow they remain one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. On this trip, we will explore two gorgeous corners of the incredible Dolomites mountain region: the Alpe di Siusi and the Alta Badia. The Alpe di Siusi is a plateau surrounded by the South Tyrolean Dolomite Mountains that tower above the charming villages of Siusi allo Sciliar and Castelrotto and the Alta Badia, tucked further away into the mountain zone, is equally majestic and full of irresistible charm. Be ready to experience the area’s hospitable people, diverse hikes, fabulous hotels, and all the spa time one deserves after an invigorating day of walking in the mountains.
Day 1. Alta Badia
Your guides look forward to a rendezvous in the lobby of Hotel Greif, from where they will accompany you on the 1.5-hour drive to the hamlet of Badia. Following a short briefing and introduction to this breathtaking corner of the Dolomites, we set off on a warm-up hike, beginning with a chairlift ride from the valley up onto an alpine path. Our uphill trek through the pine forest leads us to the Santa Croce Sanctuary at the base of the Sasso della Croce (stone of the cross), where we will encounter several stations of the cross that line this pilgrimage trail before we reach the impressive white church that was consecrated in 1484. The original chapel was built in the 11thC by a wealthy count of a nearby valley who sought a peaceful setting to retreat to and meditate. He later donated all of his earthly possessions to the nearby abbey, the Badia, which lends its name to the valley, Val Badia. After taking in the spectacular views of the Conturines and Sella mountain groups, as well as the Santa Croce looming over us, we’ll lunch at a former ‘pilgrim’ hospice built in 1718. The post-lunch descent away from Santa Croce is an easy-going, downhill dirt path lined with pine forest that eventually turns into a wide gravel track. We’ll pass by closely knit hamlets of timber farmhouses and barns before we end our route in San Cassiano for a warm welcome at the Rosa Alpina. After some time to settle into the hotel, we will gather over a selection of the outstanding wines of the South Tyrol, followed by dinner in the hotel’s wine bar and grill.
Day 2. Valparola Pass
Our day begins with a drive to Valparola Pass and a gradual climb across grassy flowered flanks to the ruins of WWI military fortifications. From here, our route continues with breathtaking views of the Conturines, Sas de Pütia, and Puez-Odle massif. This magnificent circuit is one of our favourites, filled with pristine panoramas, green pastures, and wildflowers. Continue to a fork where you can choose to hike to the top of the Setsass Massif (approx. 1.5 hours), soaring at 2,575 m (8,448 ft) and stretching 3 km (2 mi.) from west to east, with a beautiful vista as your reward! From the fork, whether you hike the Setsass or not, you’ll continue across the grass-rock flank to climb to a crest of red earth with extraordinary views over the lush pastures of the Pralongià High Plateau and the Marmolada Massif. Considered the “Queen of the Dolomites,” Marmolada plays host to the Marmolada Glacier—the only glacier in all the Dolomites. From here, we hike to lunch and then continue down the gradual descent on a wide gravel road to San Cassiano. Should you prefer a shortened route, a nearby gondola can assist with the descent to town. Tonight, we are treated to a refined gastronomic meal at the hotel’s 3-star Michelin restaurant, St. Hubertus. The evening begins with an aperitif in the hotel library with Chef Norbert himself, followed by a sequence of beautifully-crafted dishes, thoughtfully paired with the region’s exceptional wines—buon appetito!
Day 3. Val Badia to the Alpe di Siusi
Bidding farewell to San Cassiano, we walk along a valley trail (or opt for a short shuttle) to the neighbouring village of Colfosco. Once in the outskirts of town, a gondola lifts us to a mountain lodge perched across from the impressive Sella Massif, from which the valleys of Setus, Mezdi and Pisciadu dramatically drop away. Our morning hike continues along a gorgeous traverse under the dramatic Cir peaks to the top of the Gardena Pass and onto the Dantercepies gondola where our final destination comes into view. Following the descent to Selva di Gardena, we shuttle onward to the charming village of Ortisei to explore the cobblestone pedestrian laneways and choose from a variety of lunch options. The final leg of today’s journey begins with Ortisei’s gondola swiftly lifting us from the valley to Europe’s largest alpine meadow, the Alps of Siusi. The incomparable beauty and incredible variety of Alpe di Siusi’s flora and fauna are truly unique in the world. Its plateau is surrounded by the South Tyrolean Dolomites and overlooks famous villages of Siusi allo Sciliar and Castelrotto below. From the top of the gondola, a gentle dirt path leads us to our base for the upcoming three nights, the Alpina Dolomites. Once settled into your room, treat yourself to a dip in the indoor/outdoor pool while enjoying the dramatic view from your alpine perch. We’ll gather again over an aperitivoprior to dinner in the hotel’s exceptional dining room.
Day 4. Alpe di Siusi
There are two hiking options to choose from today, both of which begin from the hotel’s front door. The shorter hike starts with an initial climb, though our efforts are soon rewarded with gorgeous views of the valley towns of Castelrotto, Ortisei and Santa Cristina along a path that loops 360 degrees. We’ll learn about the wide range of flora, much of which is protected, and hear tales of the mythical ‘witches’ benches we’ll pass by along our route. For a more challenging, longer option, hike from the hotel to a 100-something-year-old mountain hut. Set atop the Sciliar plateau, the Bolzano mountain hut and its stunning views of the neighbouring Catinaccio Massif await us at this favourite hikers’ hideaway. Consider a late morning cappuccino then continue our route to the Rifugio Tires for lunch on its panoramic terrace, before hiking through the remarkable Denti di Terra Rossa (teeth of red earth) as we descend into Compatsch and the Alpina Dolomites. No matter what you choose, you are sure to encounter incredible vistas and a day well-spent in this magical corner of Italy. We dine tonight in a remarkable setting on a specially prepared dinner (lest we ruin the surprise) that we will not soon forget…including our mode of transportation.
Day 5. Further into Alpe di Siusi
This morning, we set off from the hotel to the hamlet of Saltria, where we catch a chairlift to assist with a swift ascent into the high alpine air for today’s hike. Our route leads us to a spectacular ridge including vistas of the Fassa and Duron valleys, with the impressive backdrops of the Gruppo del Sassolungo and Sassopiatto. Continuing along the path, shared by some grazing, bell-ringing milk cows, our hike leads past a small stream where we’ll take in views of yesterday’s hike and gaze back on the rewarding vistas we trekked today. After lunch at a mountain cabin favoured by locals, our journey leads back to Compatsch. Raising glasses to what we hope has been an excellent exploration of this unique region, this evening we dine in a private stube in the hotel.
Day 6. Farewell
Wake early for a vigorous hike or savour a last cappuccino on the breakfast terrace before bidding farewell to the Alpina Dolomites as we set off for Bolzano for your onward travels.