The Three Peaks region in the Dolomites is arguably the world’s most beautiful adventure playground, with hiking, cycling and artful alpine cuisine just three of the reasons to visit...
Tucked away in the east of South Tyrol, the Three Peaks region (or Drei Zinnen Dolomites) in the Dolomites is dominated by the outcrops of three spiky monoliths jutting high into the sky. It’s home to scenic valleys, alpine meadows, ancient forests and beguiling lakes, perfect for cycling and hiking – fuelled by hearty South Tyrolean cuisine. Read on for five reasons to visit…
It’s easy to rise above your everyday concerns on the Prato Piazza. This high-altitude plateau near Braies, far from traffic and civilisation, is one of the most breathtaking spots in Europe. Surrounded by mountains, you are treated to a million-dollar view every way you turn. It is also a hub for hiking, with trails to suit every mood and level of ability.
Families will enjoy the easy walk to Monte Specie. The summit is marked by the ‘Homecomer’s Cross’ and offers incredible views across Tofane, Monte Cristallo and the Three Peaks. Those looking for something a bit more challenging should take the path to Picco de Vallandro for an invigorating three-hour climb to stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
On returning to the plateau you’ll definitely have worked up an appetite. The Prato Piazza Mountain Inn and the Rifugio Vallandro are ready and willing to serve hearty regional fare to hungry hikers.
The region of the Three Peaks offers some of the most challenging and dramatic cycling in Europe. But for a more gentle (yet equally exhilarating) option, perhaps you should consider e-biking. The e-mountain bike has become a popular option in the region, allowing riders to enjoy and explore nature with a little extra zip to tackle hills and steep climbs.
The main hub for e-mountain biking is the beautiful village of Dobbacio, known as the ‘Pearl of the Peaks.’ From here, any number of e-cycling adventures await. A popular ride is the Drava Cycle path between Rio Pusteria and Lienz in East Tyrol – 90 kilometres, downhill all the way. Or you could follow the Val Pusteria cycle path to Brunico and then on to Rio Pusteria and Bressone. The stretch from Dobbiaco to Cortina follows the tracks of an old railway line.
The Jora Hut dining experience is something of an open secret in foodie circles. Each year chef Markus Holzer serves sophisticated South Tyrolean cuisine in an alpine hut in San Candido. Sitting at an altitude of 1,325 metres, it’s a rare opportunity to experience an artful combination of Alpine and Mediterranean cuisine in the heart of the Dolomites.
The hut is located on the piste of the Monte Baranci skiing region – a wonderland of white in winter and surrounded by lush alpine meadows in summer. The menu offers classic South Tyrolean dishes including speck dumplings in beef stock, a hearty Tyrolean marende with locally produced speck, smoked sausages and local cheeses, and the ever popular apple strudel.
Make sure you try Holzer’s more innovative dishes. The chestnut tagliolini is a popular choice, as is the spruce honey parfait, sprinkled with rosehip and chocolate crumble. The hut also hosts special themed nights, including the popular ‘Pasta on the Rocks’ evenings, where ingenious pasta creations are washed down with the finest South Tyrolean wines.
There are three languages spoken in South Tyrol; Italian (as it is part of Italy) German (as it was part of Austria until World War One) and Ladin (an old Rhaeto-Romance language spoken only in Alta Badia and Val Gardena). Each village and town therefore has two or three names. For example, Prato Piazza (in Italian) is also known as Plätzwiese (in German). This article references the Italian names.
The high-altitude spa village of Villabassa is one of the best places to visit for some post-hiking relaxation. The village is home to the Raiffeisen Kneipp Adventure Park, a wellness destination that follows the principles of Sebastian Kneipp – one of the forefathers of the naturopathic medicine movement. You can partake in a range of activities designed to maximise your wellbeing, including bathing your arms in cold water until your skin tingles, strolling on ‘barefoot walking paths’, water treading to boost circulation, and drinking from natural springs. You can also try 'dew treading', where you walk barefoot in the fresh dew – a refreshingly cold and invigorating experience.
During the South Tyrol Jazz Festival, the region becomes a stage, with jazz part of the landscape. Concerts are held in alpine pastures. Bands lead revellers through narrow streets. And musicians perform before the massive Dolomite peaks. Combine these breathtaking backdrops with great food, fine wine and amazing music and it’s easy to see why the South Tyrol Jazz Festival is an irrepressible highlight on the European cultural calendar.
The festival kicks off on the last Friday of June and continues for 10 days to the first Sunday in July. There are over 90 concerts in over 50 different locations in South Tyrol, featuring more than 150 international musicians ranging from world stars to young talents. Not just for jazz fans, this is a festival for people who love music and love life.
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