Best time to visit the dolomites

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE DOLOMITES


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

There’s no best time to visit the Dolomites; the region delights all year. While the rest of Italy sizzles Jul-Sep, temperatures here rarely top 25°C, with the odd thundery downpour – perfect for an active summer break. To avoid the crowds, visit in May, June or autumn, when it’s cool and settled. There’s snow Dec-Apr and it can drop to -10°C, but the dry air makes this surprisingly comfortable. As with any mountains, it’s cooler the higher you climb, so pack layers but also shades – the Dolomites has sun eight days in 10, more than any other range in the Alps.

THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES


WHAT TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in the Dolomites…


Rather than powering down pistes, try snow shoeing. Anyone can grasp walking on snow and it’s a peaceful, low-octane way to appreciate the Dolomites in winter. Cross country skiing is also popular, allowing you to cover more ground in a day. The Alta Pusteria Valley is a great place to start, with forest trails and military tracks into Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park, beneath the Tre Cime or up to the viewpoints of Durrakopf and Strudelkopf.
Italy is foodie heaven, but with the Dolomites bordering Austria, the menu goes way beyond pizza and pasta, so tuck in. Nicknamed ‘the bread of the Dolomites’, polenta comes fried or grilled during summer, with Parmesan or mushrooms, and in winter is bathed in meat stew. Wash it down with Prosecco from grapes grown on ancient vineyards in the foothills of the Dolomites. Active souls will enjoy the fuel supplied via the Tyrolean menu – Groestl, a bacon, onion and potato fry-up, Kaiserschmarren, a pancake served with plum compote, and giant apfelstrudel.
You don’t need to scale the rock faces to get a close-up insight into the mountains, thanks to the Museum in the Clouds, one of six museums in the South Tyrol founded by Alpine mountaineer Reinhold Messner. Feast your eyes on sensational 360° views through the building’s glass lanterns and roofs and discover the history of how these mountains were scaled.

Things not to do in the Dolomites…


Forget your walking boots. This region is a magnet for hikers and climbers, with long-established, well maintained trails. Once the snows clear in April you can walk until late October, with summer hiking still pleasant thanks to the cool conditions. The variety of walks is huge, from flat ambles to challenging scrambles, so be honest about your fitness and don’t rule out joining a guided walking holiday. Be aware that hunting season runs Sep-Feb, too. Italian hunters don’t have a great safety record, so if you see a sign that says ‘Zona di refugio, divieto di caccia’, take it seriously.
Go if you have vertigo. Of course, there is much to enjoy at ground level in the Dolomites, but the unforgettable views, inevitably, involve a climb to a point or high plateau, sometimes along exposed paths. This might be challenging for anyone with vertigo, so consider your routes carefully.
Ignore the towns and villages. It’s possible to spend all your time in the meadows and mountains, but it’s worth exploring the area’s towns and villages. They feature a mix of classic Tyrolean chalets, medieval churches, sunny piazzas and shady courtyards. Merano hosts an excellent outdoor market while Bolzano has a cathedral, castle and another of Messner’s Mountain Museums. In the pretty village of Dobbiaco, you’ll find Gustav Mahler’s cottage, where he spent his summers composing.
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Dolomites travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN THE DOLOMITES


Claire Daniel, from our supplier Exodus, explains the unique appeal of the Dolomites, and offers tips on wildlife watching and snow shoeing.

Why the Dolomites?


“The Dolomites boasts dramatic scenery with jagged peaks and lush green valleys, but it has a very different culture and feel to the French Alps. The Tyrolean influence mixed with the Italian culture gives it a truly unique flavour. Parts of the Dolomites speak primarily German, while other ones are more Italian dominated, but also speak a much rarer language called Ladin.”

Snow shoeing tips


“If you can walk, you can snow shoe! You don't need to worry about any kind of technique; the thing to look at is the fitness level required for the trip, to make sure that you can cope, as it is more tiring than walking. Keep age in mind, too – our small group holidays in the Dolomites are only for adults and minimum age is 16.”

Tips on spotting wildlife


“The area’s rich wildlife, including ibex, chamois, marmots and golden eagles, can be spotted in many different areas during summer. As soon as you head onto the trails, away from the towns and roads, there are great opportunities to spot some wildlife.”

Itinerary tips


“The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is possibly my favourite place in the world. I trekked around there when I was a child and kept incredible memories of the area and the sheer rock faces of the three chimneys. I am always happy to go back again and again.”

Tips from our travellers in the Dolomites


ADVICE FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Dolomites travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
“Considering snowshoeing? Go for it! The vast snowy landscapes – fields of snow punctuated by dramatic, sharp-edged peaks – were truly memorable.” – Paul Chinnock

“We were surprised by the numbers of people following the suggested walks so this is perhaps not a holiday for those wanting to escape from everyone. The number of people on the walks meant that the chances of seeing wildlife were much reduced. However, the flowers were spectacular. We saw several Lady's Slipper orchids within an hour of arriving in the Dolomites.” – Eileen Hardy

“A highlight was the availability and variety of fresh fruit - lemons, grapes, peaches, figs and walnuts. Delicious! The scenery from the highest part of the walks was truly spectacular, as was seeing the local people going about their day in the very remote hilltops.” – Gerard O

“Despite having a mobility problem, I managed three out of four walks. They were amazing and our guide Rudy was invaluable; he gave me the confidence to carry on even on some quite hard terrain. Also the food was delicious!” – Margaret Pomfret

“Bring clothes for all weathers. We had one day when we needed sunscreen and a hat, and the next it was freezing rain.” – Wendy Pillar
Photo credits: [Temp chart: John Fowler] [Helpdesk: Kochneva Tetyana] [Why the Dolomites: Son of Groucho] [Spotting wildlife: Zoltán Vörös] [Review 1 - Wendy Pillar: Wendy Van Norden] [Review 2 - Paul Chinnock: Umberto Salvagnin]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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