FAQs, Facts, and Links

There’s a lot of misinformation and confusion about the Dolomites, starting with the simple matter of exactly what and where are they are!

Is "Dolomites" just another name for the Italian Alps?
No. The Italian Alps extend all across the north of Italy, along its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. The Dolomites are but a small section of the Alps, located in the northeast part of the country. Some so-called cycling "tours of the Dolomites" traverse the Stelvio, Mortirolo, and Gavia passes, but none of these passes is even near the Dolomites. You can see this for yourself just by noting the differences in the forms and colors of the mountains.

What sets the Dolomites apart from the rest of the Alps?
The Dolomites are known for their bizarre forms and spectacular coloration. This is the result of their origin (under an ancient lagoon!--the Tethys Sea) and resulting
chemical composition. Over the course of their 250 million-year history, wind, water, and ice have sculpted them into dagger blades, ruined castle battlements, soaring cathedral spires, organ pipes, jagged fangs, and other fantastic forms (though the author Dino Buzzati asserted that it is wrong to say they resemble anything--they look only like their unique, magnificent selves). Their colors change with the path of the sun: purple, silver, gold, terracotta, rose... Magical and enchanted are the words that best describe these mountains.

Are the Dolomites and "South Tyrol" synonomous?
Absolutely not!
The Dolomite range is primarily located in the province of Belluno, in the Veneto region. The South Tyrol (Sud Tirol/Alto Adige) is synonomous with the autonomous province of Bolzano, which, with the autonomous province of Trento, comprises the autonomous Trentino-Alto Adige region. Although these two provinces are entirely mountainous, only 10% of the mountains are Dolomites (though they spend a lot on marketing to make you believe otherwise). In contrast, two thirds of Belluno province are covered by Dolomites. There are also Dolomites in the provinces of Udine and Pordenone in the Friuli region.

German the language of the Dolomites?
German is only spoken in the province of Bolzano, that is, the South Tyrol. In the provinces of Trento and Belluno, the languages spoken are Italian, Trentino and Bellunese dialects, and Ladino, a Rhaeto-Romance language not of Germanic origin. (It is also spoken in the Val Badia and the Val Gardena in Bolzano province).

Cycling in the Dolomites

Unlike other parts of the Alps, the Dolomites are not a solid range of impenetrable mountains, but instead, are composed of groups of peaks (fossilized reefs and atolls!) separated from one another by valleys (you can see this for yourself here). To get from one valley to another, you ride over a pass. The roads are excellent and there are abundant signs indicating the way to passes and towns, so it is extremely easy to find your way around, and consequently, to plan your own tour. By staying in or near a town like Alleghe, Caprile, Colle Santa Lucia, Selva di Cadore, Pieve di Livinallongo, or Arabba, you can ride loops that will take you over most of the famous, spectacular passes. Hotels, apartments, B&B's, and agriturismos abound, offering accomodations for any taste and budget.

A map of the Province of Belluno is your best choice. You can find them in book stores, magazine/stationery stores, souvenir shops, etc.

The guidebook shown at left, Passi e Valli in Bicicletta--Dolomiti Bellunesi , by Anastasia, Pauletto, and Supino, gives details of 45 passes and climbs (not all climbs lead to passes): length, average and maximum gradient, difficulty rating, suggestions for loops, and more. (available in Italian only). Ediciclo Editore s.r.l., ISBN 978-88-85327-69-6

Hiking in the Dolomites

Hiking trails in the Dolomites are easy to find and follow. The best known are the Alta Via routes that criss-cross the range. There's no need to pack a tent, sleeping bag (a sleep sack, yes), food, and stove, for wherever you go, you'll find abundant rifugi (refuges) offering comfy bunks and hearty, delicious meals prepared by the innkeeper (this is Italy, after all!). The excellent Tabacco topo maps (1:25,000) can be purchased in bookstores and newspaper/magazine stores.


The Cammino delle Dolomiti was modeled on the Camino di Santiago di Compostela. It is a multi-stage trek, created as an itinerary immersed in "faith, culture, and nature," intended to be traversed by groups of all ages and backgrounds, immersing them in the beauties of nature, taking them to visit centuries-old churches, sanctuaries, and hospices, fostering a sense of community and spiritual growth, and deepening the knowledge and appreciation of the land, people, and traditions of Belluno province. Stages can be hiked one at a time, or in combination with other stages.

Street view? No, trail view! You can do virtual hikes in the UNESCO Dolomites, thanks to Google Maps. Click here to see the areas available for exploration. You can click each area to learn more about it and see 360 degree views. Choose one and then click "View on Google Maps" in the info window on the right. In the lower left click "Back to Map." Clicking on the pegman will show trails as squiggly blue lines; just place pegman on the trail and away you go. I had mixed feelings about "virtual hiking" but it does offer advantages: for one thing, it will entice hikers to visit the Dolomites (not that they really need that). Secondly, it enables them to preview trails to determine if they are suitable for their cababilities, not to mention enable those who have hiked them to relive their experiences. Finally, it enables people who are physically (or otherwise) unable to hike, to experience places they would never have been able to see otherwise.


The most spectacular area of the Dolomites


The National Park of the Bellunese Dolomites offers nature trails, thematic trails, educational excursions, artistic and cultural events, support for traditional activities, festivals, and more. In addition to their hostel, they operate an environmentally-friendly restaurant which supports local farmers and culinary traditions. Find other authentic, genuine, places to stay and eat here.

Mazarol, the official park guides' co-op, offers guided hikes and treks, nature walks, historic/environmental programs, and more, both within and outside of the park. You can find a schedule of activities on their site.


The name says it all: whatever kind of adventure you seek (hiking, climbing, canyoning, geortouring, MTB riding, paragliding), go with local guides who know the territory best.


Learn more about the geological origins in this spectacular video

Magico Veneto is an incredibly detailed site full of useful information, cycling-hiking-mtb itineraries, fascinating facts, and wonderful photos of the entire Veneto region.

For 360 degree views of the Dolomites in Belluno province, visit

Enjoy wonderful starlit scenes of the mountains on the site of The Astronomical Association of Cortina

dolomitebook Media

Dolomites, Journey through an Enchanted Kingdom (Light Hunter Publications, Cortina d'Ampezzo. ISBN 88-86297-02-5) is a wonderful overview of the entire range: geology, geography, flora and fauna, history, culture, customs and traditions, cuisine, attractions, and lots more.

Mozart and the Dolomites (available on Amazon) is described as "a stunning and original time-accelerated film that reveals the beauty of the breathtaking Italian mountain range as time passes and seasons change: clouds perform intricate dances with the mighty peaks, night falls and stars appear to create their own ballet performed to Mozart's Requiem." Click here to enjoy a clip: Kyrie-La Corsa delle Nuvole.

The Dolomite groups included in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site are located in 5 provinces, but 40% of them are in the province of Belluno.


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©2001-2017 The BiciVeneto lion logo and all text and photos on this site are, unless otherwise noted, the sole property of April Pedersen Santinon. Duplication, reproduction, or use of the text, images, and photos without the author's permission is strictly prohibited.

The "official" site of the Dolomites. A wealth of information about all area of Belluno provice, including trails, vie ferrate, bike parks, places to stay and eat, culture, and more.

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