Walking & Wellness in Val Gardena
in the Italian Dolomites
The Dolomites is a spectacularly beautiful region of Italy and definitely worth exploring. Forget the beautiful Italian beaches, after a trip to the Dolomites you will discover the attraction of a holiday in the Italian mountains with the stunning beauty of the surrounding nature.
Furthermore this area is renowned for its great cuisine and fabulous wellness and spa facilities. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site where the culture, languages and temperaments of Austria and Italy meet as one. The locals are bilingual in German and Italian, yet many speak a third language, Ladin, a Latin language related to Swiss Romansch.
A Fabulous Family Destination
There is so much to do in Val Gardena it makes for a fabulous active family destination but it is equally suitable for those travelling alone or as a couple. We stayed at the Alder Dolimiti Spa & Sport Resort, which was wonderful. It offered luxury and pampering, delicious and abundant food, cosy accommodation, a huge 3,500 sq metre Water World with indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, relaxation areas, salt water pools and one of the best spas in the Alps. More to follow on this hotel in a subsequent post.
So Much To See and Do
The landscape is stunningly beautiful with green meadows, wild flowers, cows grazing happily and charming houses adorned with wooden carvings. In fact everywhere you see beautiful carvings from street corners and fountains to churches. We were in Val Gardena for just four days and would have gladly have stayed much longer to really do it justice. Here are some of the activities we tried.
Walking, Hiking and Skiing
The top activity in the region has to be hiking during the Summer months and skiing during the Winter. We visited in early Autumn and there are so many varied hikes to choose from, some lasting around five or six hours, but many shorter and easier ones like the ones we tried.
Unter den Geislern Hike in Nature Park Puez Odle
A stunning hike we undertook on the first day with the gondola from St Cristina (a short taxi or bus ride away from our hotel in St Ulrich also known as Ortisei) lasted around 2 and a half hours, going at a very leisurely pace. In fact the beauty of the Dolomites is totally mesmerizing. You feel embraced by nature; all you can see for miles are stunning rock formations and beautiful landscapes.
Mountain Lunch at Sofie Hütte 2410
The food in the Dolomites is amazing and there are plenty of good mountain restaurants to choose from. The portions are large and there are lots of courses! We had a splendid lunch at the Sofie Hütte dining on generous portions of local specialities, which tasted delicious and were beautifully and elegantly presented.
After a beautifully presented mixed starter followed by a local type of ravioli filled with spinach and topped with butter and cheese (all preceded by a delicious crispy gnocchi type amuse bouche!) we felt totally replete. Local wines accompanied the meal and a glass of the local schnaps, Mugo made from Zirbelkiefer, rounded it all off nicely. Sitting outside on the terrace at 2410 m in the late September sunshine we rested our weary legs as we took in yet another stupednous view.
8025 Genuine Alpine Gin
The restaurant distills its own gin using herbs from the surrounding area and we also enjoyed a most welcome and refreshing gin and tonic made from their very own “8025 Genuine Alpine Gin”. Served in beautiful glasses with local juniper berries and lots of ice, it felt like heaven!
Soon our legs were no longer weary, (though maybe slightly unsteady!), as we made our way to the Seceda gondola and back to St Ulrich and our hotel, Hotel Adler Dolomiti to enjoy its spa facilities.
Wellness and Spas
The wellness and spa facilities in the region are legendary and some of the best in Europe. Our hotel’s selection of wellness and spa facilities including swimming pools, whirlpools, sauna and steam were very welcome after all the hiking and walking. In addition there are a number of public pools and spas in the area too.
The Burning Dolomites
Photo copyright of Val Gardena – Gröden Marketing / www.valgardena.it
Known as the bleached rocks for the paleness of the stone, the colours of the Dolomite mountains change from early morning to late evening. The sunsets are legendary giving forth to the name the “Burning Dolomites” and the deep pink colours make it look as if the rocks really are on fire.
The first two nights of our stay the Dolomites were pink and glorious and on the third evening we took a hike to a fabulous look out to view the mountains and watch the sun go down.
Although we were unlucky in the fact that the sunset was not as dramatic as the first couple of nights, we saw how the rock changed colour as the sun disappeared behind the cloud and it was truly magical. Instead of one of the pink sunsets we enjoyed a deep golden one.
The hike to get there involved plenty of steep uphill climbs but it was certainly worth it to get the amazing views.
Earlier in the day we had visited a local brewery, Eguia Beer, run by Lukas Demetz in Santa Cristina. As well as tasting a variety of beers we got to learn about the process of craft beer making. Not being a beer drinker I was probably not an expert at evaluating them, but it was all good fun and I definitely discovered one I liked.
Wood Carvings And A Meeting with Artist Gehard Demetz
Wood carving is one of the traditional crafts you will find all over the region and whether you’re looking for an angel to decorate your tree, or a sculpture for your house, this area is definitely the place to go since every small town seems to have its own shop selling wood carvings.
However, we visited internationally renowned sculptor and artist, Gehard Demetz, whose wooden carvings are on a very different level and indeed, very unique. Gehard hails from Val Gardena and his work is very highly acclaimed having been exhibited all over the world including at the prestigious Art Basel and Miami Art Basel events.
Other highlights of our trip involved taking a trip in the stylish (and adrenalin inducing!) 2 person gondolas to the Rifugio Toni Demetz 2685. The refuge was built as a result of a tragic accident which occurred on this spot, and is now a cafe and a shelter offering visitors a safe haven from wind, rain and snow. It offers stupendous views over the Dolomites.
During our stay we did plenty of walking and hiking, ate a variety of amazing delicacies, enjoyed shopping at the local markets and shops, and indulged in the many wellness facilities at the hotel. The fresh air and mountain views were something you can’t put into words. So if your thinking of heading for the mountains for your next holiday, why not give Val Gardena in the beautiful Italian Dolomites a go?
Travelling from Zurich
There are a number of travel options as you can easily reach Val Gardena by car, train or plane.
Train and Taxi to Val Gardena
We travelled from Zurich to Innsbruck by train, a pleasant journey through gorgeous scenery taking around 3 and a half hours. At Innsbruck we took a taxi direct to the hotel which was about an hour and a half. Innsbruck is the nearest airport.
Hotel Adler Domomiti Spa and Sport
For more information please visit the Val Gardena Tourism Website here.
|All photos by Christina Fryer using Olympus OMD EM10 Mk 3|
except for top photo by Paul Morris and the photo by Val Gardena Tourism
We thank Val Gardena Tourism and the Hotel Adler Dolomiti for hosting us in the Dolomites
All opinions, however, are entirely are own