The Dolomites are a mountain range that runs from the River Adige in the West to Piave Valley in the East. Located in northeastern Italy, this mountain range forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps and is bordered on the north and south by Puster Valley and Sugana Valley. Equally distributed amongst the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino, there are also similar mountain groups which are known as Western Dolomites (Dolomiti di Brenta) and Little Dolomites (Piccole Dolomiti). It was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 and has many regional parks as well as a national park located within the range.
The mountains are named after Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu who was an 18th century French mineralogist who first described the mineral carbonate rock dolomite. The mountains are also known as the ‘Pale Mountains’. The Dolomites have a large number of long distance footpaths that run across the mountain range and these require a week to be covered. These protected paths or vie ferrate were created during the First World War when the line between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces ran through the mountain range. For tourists who are visiting the Dolomites, can also view the open air war museums at Mount Lagazuoi and Cinque Torri.
The nearest city to the Dolomites is Venice and the Dolomites are divided into the Western and Eastern Dolomites by a line that follows the Val Badia – Campolongo Pass – Cordevole Valley axis. Being a mountain range, the Dolomites are famous for their skiing opportunities in winter with the summer and late spring/ early autumn season bringing in sports like hiking, cycling, Para gliding, hand gliding and base jumping.
The Dolomites are a major attraction for many tourists and hikers with many trails laid out like the Alta Via 1 which is also known as the Dolomite High Route 1 and runs for a length of 150 kms and can take hikers a week to two weeks to complete. There is also a tradition of free climbing in this area since 1887 when the ascent of the pinnacle of Die Vajolettürme was soloed by 17 year old Georg Winkler.
There are many events that also take place in this region like the Maratona dles Dolomites which is a bicycle racing race which occurs over the span of a single day. This race is very famous and popular as it covers seven spectacular mountain passes in the Dolomites. It attracts over 9000 riders from 40 different countries from all over the world and is open to all expertise levels of cyclists. In fact, it was described by National Geographic as being “one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike races on Earth.”
There are many major parks which also are big tourist attractions like Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Naturpark Schlern-Rosengarten, Naturpark Sextener Dolomiten, Parco natural provincial dell’ Adamello-Brenta and more. All these parks vary in size with the largest being 620.5 square kilometers and the smallest being 68 square kilometers.
People who are interested can go down the Mount Pasubio and Strada delle 52 Gallerie which is a military mule road that was constructed during the First World War and has 52 tunnels. The world’s longest staircase is also located here, having 4444 steps and can be found at Altopiano di Asiago and Calà del Sasso. For the adventurous travelers, there are many peaks in the region that attempt climbers like Marmolada, Tofana di Mezzo, Antelao, Sorapiss and many more. With so much to do and see, the Dolomites continue to be a major draw for many people.