Italy Hiking – Dolomites Grand Traverse

Trip Length 8 Days
Group Size 4–14
Activity level
Starting from
$4,699 for REI Members
$5,199 for non-members
Departures Jun 2021-Sep 2021

Northeastern Italy’s Dolomites spill over with grandeur. This 8-day hike takes us through some of its finest scenes.

With all trails above tree line, our adventure in the Dolomites is nothing short of breathtaking. Magnificent views of limestone pinnacles, alpine lakes, massive rock towers and green valleys below provide an awe-inspiring spectacle during our journey. Because the Dolomites were the front line between Austria and Italy during World War I, the region is still scattered with abandoned bunkers and fortifications, the history of which will be covered by our local guides.

Trek around the spectacular massif of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, observing the extraordinary spike-like shapes that tower above us. Enjoy a stay in the quaint villages of San Candido and Cortina. Each evening brings us comfortable accommodations—a cozy alpine hut one night and a private hotel another. Thanks to a unique blend of Austrian and Italian flavors, every meal is mouthwatering and noteworthy. Our journey through some of the most incredible areas of the Dolomites is a truly rewarding adventure.

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Trip Highlights

  • Hike amid dramatic landscapes of lunar-like terrain, soaring peaks and pinnacles
  • Experience one of the best sections of Italy's Dolomiti di Sesto Nature Park
  • Stay at cozy alpine huts with fabulous mountain views and enjoy delicious apple strudel!
  • Stay in the picture postcard villages of San Candido and Cortina


This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. Trip members should be strong, experienced hikers in good physical condition and capable of hiking 7–12 miles (5–10 hours) most days with daily elevation gain/loss of 1300'–4,400’. Hiking occurs between 5,000' and 9,000' elevation. Some hikes will involve sections of trail that are steep, rocky and exposed (many of these sections are secured with steel ropes or other aids). We strongly recommend an exercise regimen beginning at least 4–6 months prior to departure consisting of hiking (with as much elevation gain and loss as possible), walking/running, cycling and/or swimming.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Double-occupancy accommodations in 4-star hotels with private facilities for 4 nights; Co-ed mountain huts (rifugios) with shared 2- to 5-person rooms and shared, same gender bathrooms for 3 nights; meals as noted in the itinerary; Day 1 group transfer from Venice airport to San Candido; land transportation and luggage transfers; skilled bilingual guides; group transfer to Venice airport at trip's end.


Hotels with private facilities, 4 nights; Co-ed mountain huts (rifugios) with shared rooms and same gender bathrooms, 3 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Meet your trip leader in Venice, Italy, and transfer to San Candido.

Our trip begins in Venice, Italy. Meet the trip leader at 1pm at the Venice Airport. Transfer to our first night’s hotel in San Candido-Innichen, Italy, near the Austrian border. We are in the Upper Pusteria Valley, which belonged to Imperial Austria until 1918, and whose residents consider themselves to be Tyrolese first and foremost. Upon arrival, we’ll have some time on our own to admire this charming town’s Romanesque and Baroque-style churches or simply relax at a café in the village piazza which features the towering Baranci chain of mountains as a dramatic backdrop. We will meet our guides in the hotel lounge for an apéritif and a trip briefing at 7pm, followed by a welcome dinner where we get acquainted with our traveling companions and guides. Overnight in San Candido for two nights. Dinner included.

Transfer: 2.5 hours.

Day 2

Hike around the spectacular massif of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

Following breakfast we have a short transfer to Auronzo Rifugio to begin our first day of hiking around the spectacular massif of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The “Three Peaks” are some of the most dramatic formations in the Dolomites due to their extraordinary spike-like shape. We hike beneath their imposing rock faces, noticing subtle color changes as the sun traverses the sky and bathes them in a constantly changing light. The Cima Grande (Big Peak) is the highest (9,836'), followed by Cima Ovest (Western Peak) and Cima Piccola (Small Peak). Lunch is enjoyed at a Tyrolese mountain hut located at 7,300' with fantastic views of the fairytale mountain landscape. A hot bowl of nourishing barley soup is a local favorite, followed by a platter of regional cold cuts and cheeses. We make our way back to Auronzo, passing tunnels and bunkers left over from the battles of World War I. Overnight in San Candido. Breakfast and dinner included.

Transfer: 45 minutes; Hiking: 9.6 miles; 5.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 2,940'/1,870'.

Please note that hiking distances and elevation gain/loss are estimates for all days.

Day 3

From Lake Braies, hike to our cozy rifugio in Sennes.

Today is the start of our grand traverse. The next three nights will be spent in rifugios along our route allowing us to stay high up in the mountains and truly experience what life in this rugged yet breathtaking region is all about. Our luggage is transferred for us to the rifugio; we carry only our personal daypacks with water and other essentials needed for the day’s hike. A short transfer brings us to the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park and the beautiful emerald green waters of Lake Braies, surrounded on three sides by Dolomite peaks. We start to climb on a well-defined path past dwarf mountain pines, which we soon leave behind, eventually cresting a high saddle. The view back looks over the ice blue waters of Lake Braies, and ahead to the almost lunar expanses of exposed, weather beaten slabs of rock that characterize this cauldron-like expanse between the massifs of the Croda del Becco and Croda Rossa. Soon we see a square dot amongst this vast panorama. This is Biella hut, where we stop for a well earned hot lunch. Choose from many options including the local favorite of canederli (delicious dumplings of bread, cheese, and spinach sautéed in butter and sage) and of course strudel for dessert! We continue our hike and reach our cozy rifugio by late afternoon. Our hut is nestled into a high alpine meadow where cows’ bells chime as they meander amongst the mountains. There is time to shower and change before we join our group members in the dining room for a hearty South Tyrolean dinner. Breakfast and dinner included.

Transfer: 30 minutes; Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 3450'/210'

Day 4

Enjoy the karst landscape of the Fanes Plateau

We have an easy start this morning as the trail follows a broad meadow before descending switchbacks to Pederu hut where we can stop for a welcome coffee and fresh made pastry. Here you will see a collection of baita, or small huts that local shepherds use when bringing their livestock up to the meadows for summertime grazing. The trail dips and climbs amongst alpine clearings and sparse pine woods to the Forcella de Medesc. We enter the Fanes Plateau, which features a karst landscape dotted with stubby green pines that soften the otherwise barren sheets of rock. A small stream meanders through the plateau where horses and cream colored cows graze. It is amongst this gentle yet harsh landscape where we overnight at the Rifugio Lavarella (6725') or Rifugio Fanes (6725').

There is an optional 2–3 hour hike in the afternoon to Passo di Sant'Antonio, a grassy saddle offering rewarding views of Monte Antelao, the "King of the Dolomites". At the end of the day we enjoy a hearty meal in the cozy wood paneled dining room. Choose from a wonderful mix of Austrian, Ladin, and Italian cuisine accompanied by a surprisingly good wine list. Tonight we might try the "cajinci", also known as "Schlutzkrapfen" in South Tyrol and as "ravioli with ricotta and spinach" in Italy. Breakfast and dinner included.

Hiking: 6.5 miles; 3.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, one section involving a long and steep descent; Elevation gain/loss: 2300'/1475'

Optional hike: 5 miles; 2–3 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 1,300'/1,300’

Day 5

Hike to Rifugio Lagazuoi—one of the highest huts in the Dolomites.

This morning we pack our daypack with what we need for one overnight. Our luggage will be transported to Cortina where we will arrive tomorrow afternoon. After a hearty breakfast we set off on a beautifully serene hike that features a gentle descent along a wide valley lined by majestic peaks for the first two hours. We take an amazing trail that climbs steeply out of the valley, hugging the broad flanks of Monte Cavallo, before threading its way through spires and then plunging back down to rejoin the principal trail to Lagazuoi. It features a truly impressive series of switchbacks that descend steeply towards Lagacio Lake where we will take a break for a picnic lunch. Following lunch we have our epic climb to Rifugio Laqazuoi, which sits perched on a ledge overlooking the strategic Passo Falzarego. A starkly beautiful mountain landscape is made more dramatic by the visible remnants of the terrible struggle that occurred here between 1915 and 1917. Twisted bits of barb wire, trenches and bunkers line our route up to Lagazuoi, which at 2,752 meters (9,029') is one of the highest huts in the Italian Dolomites. Our efforts are rewarded by a truly awesome 360° view of the surrounding mountains and distant green valleys. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails, rock and scree, very steep downhill and one section with slight exposure; Elevation gain/loss: 3500'/1230'

Note: In case of challenging weather, we have an alternative route which features Rifugio Scontoni, a fairytale mountain hut that serves up the best strudel in the Dolomites!

Day 6

Hike past World War I remnants, finishing in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Early risers won’t want to miss the dramatic sunrise over the mountains to the east. We make our way towards Cortina with the high peaks of the Tofane group to our left and the Cinque Torri (Five Towers) on the far side of the valley. ​Our trail winds past remnants of the World War I battles fought here; we pass by the dugouts and bunkers of the Austrian front lines and the eerie remains of Italian trenches and fortifications. Initially we stay high above the valley following the rocky sides of the Tofanes massif, before descending towards Falzarego pass and climbing up for lunch at Rifugio Scoiattoli. After lunch we have the option to hike through the Cinque Torre Open Air Museum or relax in a sun chair at the rifugio before boarding a chair lift to save our knees a long downhill. We transfer to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy’s world famous alpine resort town and host of the 2026 Winter Olympics. There is free time this afternoon to explore this bustling town and its shopping, regional museum, open-air cafes and galleries, and enjoy a delicious gelato or a cold frothy beer. Breakfast included.

Hiking: 5.3–6.3 miles; 3.5–4.5 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails with some rocky sections; Elevation gain/loss: 1089'/1175'.

Day 7

Hike past jagged peaks and an enchanting alpine lake.

Our last day hike features fabulous panoramic views, a jewel-like alpine lake, and the Dolomites signature spire-like rock formations. The hike begins with a gradual two hour climb to reach the Rifugio Croda da Lago for a coffee and strudel break. We pass by the enchanting Lake Federa, whose blue-green waters reflect the surrounding peaks. Continuing our climb, we reach the Ambrizzola crest, revealing unparalleled views of Monte Pelmo and "La Marmolada". The path then crosses a gently rolling alpine plateau until ending at 7,335' Passo Giau, the second highest road pass in the Dolomites. Enjoy a well-deserved beer at the rifugio here before transferring back to Cortina.

For those wanting to experience the famous Via Ferrata or "Iron Way" (weather permitting) we will opt out of the hike and head off with a local alpine guide (supplement applies) to summit Punta Fiames. The Via Ferrata is a network of protected iron ladders and cables that enable hikers to ascend vertical or exposed sections of trail without the need to rock climb.

There is some free time to enjoy Cortina before gathering for dinner, where we toast and celebrate our successful grand traverse with newfound friends. Breakfast and dinner included.

Transfers: 50 minutes; Hiking: 8.7 miles; 5–6 hours; Terrain: hard-packed dirt trails; Elevation gain/loss: 3225'/850'. Optional Via Ferrata Activity: 5 hours; Transfer: 20 minutes.

Day 8

Say farewell to the Dolomites.

Our adventure ends with a private two-hour van transfer to the Venice Airport. We plan to arrive by 11am in time for flights departing at 1pm. Breakfast included.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.