Dolomites at a Glance

by Maria E. Bellini

Where are they?

The Italian Dolomites – the spectacular, vast mountain range is part of the Alps in north eastern Italy. Extending over three regions: Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, they attract thousands of adventure enthusiasts each year.

The Dolomites are not to be considered as a continuous mountain chain, but as nine separate mountain systems, each with their own characteristics.

They are situated in the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine and Pordenone. In 2009 the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What makes them special?

The fairy-tale like Dolomites are famed for their dramatic rock formations. They offer a stunning landscape of spiring pinnacles, steep ridges, jagged rock, vertical faces, deep gorges and plenty of scree. The pale dolomite rock muting into the soft tones of creamy pinks, pale vanillas and frosty greys. An almost spiritual vision set upon a background of changing skies, ranging from concise blocks of blues, to wandering, comfy clouds, to moody angered skies ready to scream a sharp flash of lightning.
The Dolomites are like nothing else in Italy, walk in these impossibly beautiful mountains, and you’ll feel like you’ve conquered the world. There are also some lesser known facts about the Dolomites, which we covers here.

Gruppo Sassolungo, Dolomites Italy

Why are they like this?

From a Geological point, the Dolomites are a combination of two different kinds of rocks, volcanic and pale-coloured dolomite, also known as “dolostone” or “dolomite rock”.

The unique forms and shapes, that we can see today are a result of centuries of erosion. In the area, over 230 million years ago – lay a vast expanse of sea. And today, fossils and traces of the ancient marine life can be found along the trails. In recent times – 65 milion years ago (yes that’s recent in geological times!) the Alps and the mountains came into existence through tectonic events.

How are they divided?

9 Systems make up the Dolomites – they are:

  • Pelmo, Croda da Lago
  • Marmolada
  • Pale di San Martino, San Lucano, Dolomiti Bellunesi, Vette Feltrine
  • Dolomiti Friulane and d’Oltre Piave
  • Dolomiti settentrionali
  • Puez-Odle
  • Sciliar-Catinaccio, Latemar
  • Bletterbach
  • Dolomiti di Brenta

There are also ten sepearte parks, set up in the Dolomites, which manage, define and are responsible for a single area, safeguarding flora and fauna and offering visitors information.

The parks are:

  • Nature Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites – Belluno
  • Nature Park of the Sesto/Tre Cime Dolomites – Bolzano
  • Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park – Bolzano
  • Nature Park of the Belluno Dolomites – Belluno
  • Sciliar Nature Park  – Bolzano
  • Puez – Odle / Puez-Geisler Nature Park – Bolzano
  • Nature Park Trudern Horn – Bolzano
  • Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino Nature Park – Trento
  • Adamello – Brenta Nature Park – Trento
  • Nature Park of the Friuli Dolomites – Udine

Marmolada- Fedaia

What are the highest peaks?

  • Marmolada 3,343m – 10,968ft
  • Antelao 3,264m – 10,706ft
  • Tofana di Mezzo 3,241m – 10,633ft
  • Sorapiss 3,229m – 10,594ft
  • Cristallo 3,221m – 10,568ft
  • Monte Civetta 3,220m – 10,564ft


There are many different valleys, each with thier own distinctive attributes. Some of the most well known are:

  • Val Gardena
  • Val Badia
  • Cortina d’Ampezzo
  • Val di Fassa
  • Val di Funes
  • Cadore Valley

For a list of the main valleys see this wikipedia page in Italian: 


World War One – the 19th Century saw the Dolomites turned into a bloody setting for conflict between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Betwen the years of 1915-18 many battles were fought, with the war claiming thousands of victims from both sides. Today the local communities of the Dolomites remember those that lost their lives through numerous commemorative activities and events – making sure that the knowledge of war and its solemn significance is remembered throughout the coming generations.

What can you do there?

Via ferrata – climbing – free climbing – hiking – trail running – great for photography – skiing – cycling…

Which Trail races are set in the Dolomites?

Dolomiti Extreme Trail – June
Dolomiti di Brenta Trail – September
Lavaredo Ultra Trail – June
Dolomiti Winter Trail – March
Sella Ronda Trail – September

What about asking/hiking routes?

“Alte Vie” – the “High Routes”. These are varied trekking routes with relative high altitude, spectacular surroundings, and breathtaking views. Routes are varied, can be technical, Via Ferrata.

  • Alta Via n. 1 – name: Via Classico starts: Lago di Braies ends: Belluno distance: 150km
  • Alta Via n. 2 – name: Via delle Legende starts: Bressanone ends: Feltre distance: 185km
  • Alta Via n. 3 – name: Via dei Camosci starts: Dobbiaco ends: Longarone distance: 120km
  • Alta Via n. 4 – name: Via Grohmann starts: San Candido ends: Pieve di distance: Cadore 90km
  • Alta Via n. 5 – name: Via di Tiziano starts: Sesto ends: Pieve di Cadore distance: 100km
  • Alta Via n. 6 – name: Via dei Silenzi starts: Sappada ends: Vittorio Veneto distance: 190km
  • Alta Via n. 7 – name: Via di Lothar Pateras starts: Pieve d’Alpago ends: distance: Segusino 110km
  • Alta Via n. 8 – name: Via Panoramica starts: Bressanone ends: Salorno distance: 160km
  • Alta Via n. 9 – name: Via Transversale starts: Bolzano ends: Santo Stefano di Cadore distance: 180km
  • Alta Via n. 10 – name: Judikarienhöhenweg starts: Bolzano ends: Lago di Garda distance: 200km

For more information:

When should you visit the Dolomites?

Best time is June to October – for running, hiking, and cycling

Which airport should you fly to?

Fly to Venice, Treviso, Verona , Bergamo or Milan.

Want to know more?

Official website of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site – See more at:

Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.

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