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The beautiful DolomitesItalian-Dolomites-07Italian-Dolomites-08

Since June 2009, the Dolomites have been designated an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The site of the Dolomites – the “Pale Mountains” – comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps.  In terms of uniqueness, the Dolomites surpass any other place in the world for their beauty and diversity in natural landscape and it is no wonder therefore that the Dolomites are widely regarded as being the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world.  Covering an area of about 15,942 sq km, the 9 mountain ranges that constitute the Dolomites are spread over 5 provinces and 3 regions.

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The beauty of the Dolomites derives from a variety of spectacular vertical forms such as walls, pinnacles, spires and towers with contrasting horizontal surfaces including ledges and plateaus and also from a diversity of colours provided by the contrasts between the bare pale-coloured rock surfaces and the intervening colourful forests and meadows below.  The colourful attraction of the Dolomites is further enhanced at sunset when the rocky cliffs of the Dolomites – with rich deposits of calcium and magnesium – take on hues that vary from light yellow to bright red which gradually transition to different shades of pink and violet as the sun sets into the horizon.  Such colours can also be observed at sunrise.  The locals call this extraordinarily beautiful phenomenon “Enrosadira” (“alpenglow”) – a term in Ladin, an official language spoken by most locals, the other official languages being Italian and German (no surprise therefore that most places bear 3 names in 3 languages!).

The Dolomites have 18 peaks that are above 3,000m and some of the rock cliffs rise more than 1,500m rendering them among the highest limestone walls in the world.

As have been remarked by Reinhold Messner, the renowned mountaineer who has climbed thousands of mountains in the world including having made the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and being the first climber in history to have ascended all 14 peaks in the world that are over 8,000m:

“… I climbed on thousands of mountains around the world. My conclusion is: no mountain can compete with the beauty of the Dolomites. The Dolomites are distinctive …”

“They are not the highest, but they are certainly the most beautiful mountains around the world.”

Italian-Dolomites-3-01Italian-Dolomites-3-02Within the Dolomites is Alpe di Siusi (“Seiser Alm” in German), Europe’s largest alpine plateau the size of 8,000 football fields.  The beauty of the Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm area is legendary: in summer, it is a hiker’s paradise, and in winter, a skier’s paradise and the best way to enjoy it is by getting out and about – on foot or by bike in the summer, and by ski or snowboard on the slopes in winter.

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Popular Valleys in the Dolomites

Val Gardena

Val Gardena, a valley right in the heart of the Dolomites in South Tyrol, is nestled beneath and between the alpine summits of the spectacular Sciliar (2,563m), Sassolungo (3,181m), Puez-Geisler (3,025m) and Sella (3,152m) groups of mountain ranges and sitting at an elevation of between 1,236m and 1,563m with 3 key towns – Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva – that are no more than 10km apart between Ortisei in the west to Selva in the east.

In and around Val Gardena, the meadows – including Alpe di Siusi – and ski slopes rise up to as high as 2,518m with mountain summits as high as 3,181m.  At sunrise and sunset, Alpe di Siusi is a popular location to look towards the Sciliar and Sassolungo to enjoy the “Enrosadira” phenomenon.

The mountains and alpine meadows are easily accessible via the numerous lifts and lift facilities all over Val Gardena.

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Val di Fassa

Located in the north-eastern part of Trentino, and situated along a 20km stretch of road from Moena (in the west) to Canazei, Val di Fassa is a valley sitting at an elevation of between 1,114m and 1,465m and surrounded by the imposing Catinaccio (2,981m), Sassolungo (3,181m), Sella (3,152m), and Marmolada (3,342m – the highest in the entire Dolomites) groups of mountain ranges.

The Catinaccio/Rosengarten Group in Val di Fassa is particularly famous within the Dolomites for the “Enrosadira” phenomenon at sunrise and sunset with Pazzo di Fassa (along the valley) being the optimal place to view it.  The other location along the valley popular for such viewings is Campitello di Fassa looking towards Sass Pordoi (2,950m) of the Sella Group.

Like Val Gardena the mountains and alpine meadows are easily accessible via the numerous lifts and lift facilities all over the valley.

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Cortina d’Ampezzo

Cortina d’Ampezzo, commonly referred to as “Cortina“, is a town along the Ampezzo Valley that lies in the southern Dolomites in the Veneto region in Northern Italy.  Situated at an elevation of about 1,200m and surrounded by peaks that are generally above 2,000m with 2 that are as high as 3,200m (Cristallo and Tofana di Mezzo), Cortina is unsurprisingly one of the most popular summer and winter sports resorts in the Dolomites.  No wonder therefore that it was chosen as the site for the 1956 Winter Olympics!

The stunning scenery of the Dolomites around Cortina beckons to the extent that visitors to Venice often make side trips to Cortina all year round to enjoy not just the spectacular alpine scenery but also the beautiful town of Cortina itself.

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