Top image credit: 3 Zinnen Dolomites, Harald Wisthaler
A summer escape into the embrace of Mother Nature is an enticing prospect in South Tyrol. In fact, with an annual average of 300 days of sun for alpine adventures in the Dolomites, an influence of Mediterranean culture and world class gastronomy, there are some deliciously dynamic ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Italy’s most northernmost province.
Consider the 3 Zinnen Dolomites holiday region; found in the most north-eastern corner of the province, it offers a genuinely natural escape that’s overflowing with mountain peaks, clear lakes, green valleys and lush meadows. Here are 5 great ways to ensure you make the most of this holiday region…
In 2009, the Dolomites were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many hikers consider the Three Peaks as the landmark of this range and you too can scale the paths to the rocky trio of Cima Grande, Cima Occidentale and Cima Piccola. There are plenty of trails to suit all abilities. For example, the Three Peaks Lodge Tour is an intrepid circuit – via the Zsigmondyhütte, Büllelejochhütte and Dreizinnenhütte huts – that rewards walkers with the impressive northern faces of those famous sky-skimming peaks.
There is of course much more to discover. With the region’s mountain cableways open from May to November, summer proves one of best times to explore and they provide easy access to those lofty starting points for a high-altitude adventure. Early risers should aim to make for the 360° panoramic viewpoint at the summit of Monte Elmo (with the Monte Elmo cable car on hand to help) where a sunrise ascent will give you some brag-worthy Instagram shots and a great story to come home with.
The 3 Zinnen Dolomites holiday region also boasts a splash of picturesque lakes. Lago di Braies lake is one of largest and deepest natural lakes in the Dolomites and its piercing aqua waters can be best enjoyed by rowboat. You can also go boating on Lago di Dobbiaco lake, in the Fanes-Senes- Braies Nature Park, or take a lakeside walk on its Discovery Trail, with 11 stations providing details on the nature and wildlife of the area. The lake’s quiet location and vegetation makes it an ideal resting and breeding ground for many kinds of birds and, during the spring and autumn months, several rare migratory species of waders and waterfowl can be spotted here.
There are many natural gems and great places to find in the 3 Zinnen Dolomites holiday region. When planning your travel itinerary be sure to try and incorporate one or all of these:
Prato Piazza pasture
The Prato Piazza pasture quietly unfurl their bucolic tentacles at 2,000m above sea level. These wild and rolling meadows are surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of hulking peaks, making for a serene stopping point and a great spot for a photo opportunity that’s packed with verdant hills and wild flowers.
Val Fiscalina valley in Sesto/Sexten leads from the village of Moso/Moos through the Three Peaks Nature Park to the Rifugio Fondo Valle hut. A walk here will give you a unique angle of the Sesto sundial - the largest stone sundial and spectacle of its kind - where the movement of the sun tallies to the numbered names of the mountains it sits above.
Rest tired feet
After a long day of exploration, Italy’s first Kneipp Active Park can be found in Villabassa/Niederdorf and makes for a therapeutic treat. Cold-water treading, barefoot walks on wet grass and cooling mudpacks will quickly soothe tired feet and soon have you back on the path of adventure.
It’s not all hiking. If exploration on two wheels shifts you ‘into gear’, there are myriad bike trails that are backed up by equipment hire, guides and bike schools. The undulating 120km-long Stoneman Trail has established itself as a daring challenge on Europe’s mountain bike scene while the newly created Erla and Standschützen downhill trails inject a healthy dose of adrenaline in those who like to swoosh down the single track. Alternatively, for those seeking to scramble and then ramble up in those imposing peaks, the ‘Dolomites Without Borders’ initiative was set up specially to extend into both Italy and Austria. Thanks to their close proximity to one another, this cross border high-altitude hiking concept has seen a dozen rugged sections of Via Ferrata established.
However you plan to tackle the peaks, a pitstop at any of the welcoming mountain huts comes highly recommended. Alpine huts come in all guises; some are small and rustic, others elegant and sophisticated, but all offer great cuisine. They can prove either the target destination of your trail through the Three Peaks Nature Park, or a refreshing pause on a longer adventure. For example, tackle the strenuous Toblacher Alpine Ridgeway and you can turn this into a more manageable two-day trek, with an overnight stay at the Bonnerhütte mountain hut.
As you journey, savour delights like the hearty South Tyrolean Marende of Speck bacon, cheese and Schüttelbrot flatbread, (paired with wine), try Schlutzkrapfen (a ravioli-like dish) and indulge in the pancake-sweet Kaiserschmarrn dessert. There are further local gastronomic delights to tempt travellers at farmhouse inns, such as the sunny terrace of Kinigerhof farm in Sesto, or there’s even Michelin star dining to be found: try Restaurant Tilia in Dobbiaco/Toblach.
South Tyrol has a good train network, with services available from Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Deutsche Bahn (DB). Once in South Tyrol, DB/ÖBB train travellers can use an Anschlussticket Südtirol ticket to travel on public transport to and from the station to their accommodation, both on their day of arrival and departure.
The closest airports are Innsbruck to the north, and Venice and Verona to the south with many flight connections available from the UK. South Tyrol is less than two hours by car from Verona and Innsbruck.
Bus and rail schedules in South Tyrol are well-coordinated, so if you’re looking for a car-free way and more sustainably friendly method of seeing the mountains, small towns and valleys, consider picking up a Mobilcard. This can be used on all public transportation services on the South Tyrol Integrated Public Transport network, including public buses, Citybus, regional trains and public cable cars.
Love travel quizzes, events and competitions? Then sign up today for free so you don’t miss out!