Visitors to Val Gardena in South Tyrol are entirely captivated by the breathtaking rock formations of the majestic Dolomites; the most beautiful mountains on earth according to the world-famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner. These form part of the Eastern Alps and are distinguished by their special, light rock, known as Dolomite.
The characteristic rock of the Dolomites consists of fossilized coral reefs from the Triassic period (about 250 million years ago). These reefs were formed by organisms and sediments.
The Dolomites are named after the French scientist, Deodat de Dolomieu. During a journey through South Tyrol, he collected samples of the “remarkable” rock that, unlike normal limestone, hardly reacted at all with hydrochloric acid. Dolomieu discovered that this was because the Dolomite rock also has a high magnesium content. The new mineral was catalogued under the name “dolomite” after the man who discovered it; in 1864, the mountain region was named the “Dolomites”. The rock is harder than limestone.
In order to enjoy the Dolomites, it is not necessary to climb to its highest summit, Sasso Lungo (10,433 ft.). The lower peaks also have plenty to offer, for example, Sassopiatto, Fermeda, Gruppo delle Odle, Passo di Gardena and Gruppo di Sella. The latter in particular is world famous for its Sella Ronda the large ski circuit around the Sella mountain range.
British climbed the Dolomites first
The history of hiking and Alpine tourism in Val Gardena is interwoven with the history of the various ascents of the Dolomites and thus with the history of British mountaineers in particular.
The British publisher, Hurray, first mentioned the Dolomites in a travel guide in 1837 and interest in the region subsequently surged. The first visitors were mainly English and included the first researchers, such as J. Gilbert and G.C. Churchill. Hikers now come from all over the world to experience the healing power of the mountain world. Val Gardena is the ideal starting point for hikes into the fascinating mountain world of the Dolomites.
The almost inexhaustible hiking region between Le Odle peaks, Sella mountain range and Alpe di Siusi (the largest high altitude Alpine meadow in Europe) offers countless highlights, ranging from family walks to hiking tours lasting anything from one to several days. Trekking in the Dolomites offers circuits of Val Gardena featuring a combination of hiking and via ferrate with romantic overnight stays in mountain huts. The tour around Sasso Lungo is an absolute classic. The six-hour hike is a unique spectacle offering views of almost all mountain chains in the western Dolomites, as well as an insight into the climbing walls of Sasso Lungo and other mountains. With a little luck, it's also possible to spot marmots and mountain goat frolicking about on the green meadows at the foot of the Sassopiatto.
So many rocks, so many routes, so many famous names above Val Gardena. The elite classics, such as the “Comici” on the Salami Tower of Sasso Lungo or the “Messner” (named after the famous South Tyrolean and world-famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner) on the second Sella Tower (V+), continue to be extremely popular with all who climb them. The normal route on Sasso Lungo is also a real experience that should certainly not be missed. As every route on Sasso Lungo, even the easiest is strenuous but also attractive in its own way. These are historical works of art, as the local mountain guides like to call them. They are classics that were first explored before 1940.
For more information on Walking & Treking in Val Gardena/Gröden click here
For more information on Climbing in Val Gardena/Gröden click here
The most beautiful mountains are also home to the best cycle routes. With the splendid peaks of the Dolomites as a backdrop, Val Gardena is the ideal region for bike holidays.
Just four years old and already a cultural highlight. The Sella Ronda Bike Day has earned a place in the hearts of cyclists. And this is not surprising as travelling on two wheels and crossing the most beautiful passes in the Dolomites, surrounding like in winter on skis the Sella-Massif without being disturbed by any other traffic is a truly unique experience.Thousands of cyclists cross Passo di Gardena, Passo Campolongo, Passo Pordoi and Passo di Sella, taking in unforgettable panoramic views along the way. In 2009, the Sella Ronda Bike Day takes place on 12 July. From nine in the morning to half past three in the afternoon, the 34,2 miles route is closed to all other traffic from Selva, Corvara, Arabba and Canazei, which means that, on this day alone, the passes and viewpoints are the exclusive preserve of the cyclists. There is no stress involvedsince the Sella Ronda Bike Day is not a race but a day of celebration for cyclists of all ages and fitness levels. It's not necessary to register in advance or to pay a participation fee. Participants simply get on their bikes and set out along the most beautiful panoramic roads in the Dolomites, stopping and starting as the mood takes them and enjoying fantastic views of the peaks along the way.
For more information on the Sellaronda Bike Day click here
For more information on Biking in South Tyrol click here
How to get there
Whether you want to book a package with a tour operator or book independently, South Tyrol and its Val Gardena are easy to reach from the UK.
Tour operators featuring South Tyrol and Val Gardena in summer include Inghams, Colletts Mountain, Inntravel, Leger Holidays, Marmot Travel, Kuoni Travel and Thomson.
It is also easy to put together your own holiday to South Tyrol as many low cost airlines fly into nearby airports of Verona, Milan-Bergamo and Venice.
Flights to Verona from the UK (1.5 hours’ drive from Bolzano/Bozen):
Car hire is available from all airports and hotels can arrange airport transfers for guests. Passengers flying in to Milan Bergamo, Verona Catullo, Venice Marco Polo or Venice Treviso can now also connect with low cost transfers to all the major resorts in South Tyrol from as little as €29 return. The transfers can now be booked online via lowcostcoach.com.
For more information on how to reach South Tyrol click here
To find the best holiday-deals in Val Gardena click here