As a special treat for those who are keen for a little adventure, we offer the opportunity (weather permitting) for an optional hike along a stretch of the famous Via Ferrata. Literally translated as "the Iron Way," the Via Ferrata runs throughout the Dolomites, incorporating a system of iron ladders to assist hikers on steep mountainous terrain. The trails were originally built and used by WWI soldiers fighting in this region. Our local alpine guide provides you with the necessary helmets and harnesses to safely negotiate this exhilarating way to access spectacular mountain terrain (optional hike, supplemental fee required).
We spend the first four nights in the village of San Candido before moving to Cortina for three nights. San Candido is located in the Val di Pusteria, part of the Southern Tyrol. Until 1918, this region was part of the Austrian Tyrol and its people are largely of Germanic descent; many still speak the Latin-based Ladin language. Their local cuisine is a sublime marriage of flavors from Austria and Italy. Our last three nights are spent in Cortina. The village lies in a sunny basin at the junction of the Bigontina and Boite valleys. Host of the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina village is equal parts rustic beauty and chic Italian style.
We spend our evenings in the comfort of small hotels nestled among the surrounding peaks. Cozy wood-paneled bedrooms and big fluffy duvets make for a great end to the day. The trip ends with a bus transfer to the train station and/or the Venice airport for connections to other destinations. Or you may choose to spend a few days in amazing Venice and explore the canals and narrow twisted streets of this unique city.
Day 1: San Candido - Innichen. Daily rail connections are available from Milan, Venice, Munich and Innsbruck. Since the region is bilingual, the villages and towns in this region have both an Italian and Austrian name. Depending on your arrival time, you will have some time to explore the village and admire its beautiful wooden farmhouses. The group will meet tomorrow morning. Since many people arrive directly from overseas and are tired, we have made tonight a "free night" dinner to allow you to rest up for the trip.
Day 2: Meet your guide(s) and hiking companions this morning at breakfast. After a brief orientation, we set off directly from the village for our hike, stopping for lunch at a mountain rifugio along the way. San Candido/Innichen is beautifully situated in the Upper Pusteria Valley and is fringed with thick fir-woods and crowned by the jagged peaks of the Baranci chain. In the early evening, you will have time to admire this charming town's Romanesque and Baroque churches and visit the ancient thermal baths or simply relax at a café in the village square. Overnight in San Candido/Innichen. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 3: Today we take a leisurely bike ride along the bike path from San Candido to Lienz, Austria. The 44 km (26 miles) bike ride is quite easy and is recommended for families with small children. This unique bike trail cuts through a valley surrounded by breathtaking mountains on either side. The one-way ride takes about 2 ½ - 3 hours, but if you are tired, there are six train stations along the route where you can load yourself and the bike and return back to San Candido. Once in Lienz, we'll park our bikes at the train station and visit the quaint Austrian village of Lienz. If time permits, kids might opt to take an exciting ride on San Candido's "Funbob," a summertime version of the bobsled. Overnight in San Candido/Innichen. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 4: We start the day with a short van transfer up to the rifugio at Auronzo. Our hike takes us around the spectacular massif of the "Tre Cime di Lavaredo." The "Three Peaks" are some of the most dramatic mountains in the Dolomites due to their extraordinary spike shape, alignment and subtle color changes that occur throughout the day. The Cima Grande (Big Peak) is the highest (9836'), followed by Cima Ovest (Western Peak) and Cima Piccola (Small Peak). We stop for lunch at a rifugio that offers magnificent views of the surrounding landscape, then continue down through alpine meadows to the valley below.
This afternoon, we may have the opportunity for an optional hike along a stretch of the famous Via Ferrata. The Via Ferrata (translated as the "Iron Way") runs throughout the Dolomites, incorporating a system of iron ladders to assist hikers on steep mountainous terrain. They have routes suitable for both adults and children, and all hikes are led by certified mountain guides (optional hike, supplemental fee required). Overnight in San Candido/Innichen. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: We leave the Sud Tyrol region this morning and hike towards the Veneto and its alpine gem, Cortina d'Ampezzo. As we draw closer to the wide valley where the town lies, the surrounding peaks of Monte Cristallo, Monte Pelmo, Croda da Lago, and the Tofanes fill our view. As we gaze upon this sublime scene, it becomes easy to understand why Cortina is considered to be the most perfectly situated town in the Italian Alps. Those who prefer a shorter day can catch a bus from our lunch stop in Cimabanche and explore Cortina on your own. We spend the next two nights at the locally famous Hotel Menardi. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Thursday. We begin our day with a short transfer to Passo Tre Croci where we pick up the trail to Lake Sorapis. The walk starts off nice, easy and flat, through a forested area with great views of the impressive Monte Cristallo. As we begin to climb, you will start to see the Tre Cime in the distance. We traverse the mountain, taking in the breathtaking views all around and descend to the lovely turquoise Lake Sorapis. We'll have the opportunity to try a delicious lunch of "canederli" (bread dumplings) before heading back down through the alpine forest to our hotel.
Trip members may also choose instead to spend a less vigorous day today exploring lovely Cortina and its environs. There's plenty of opportunity for shopping, strolling and perhaps just relaxing in an open-air café and enjoying the spectacular setting of this wonderful resort. For children and parents interested in the afternoon activity, your guides will accompany you on a short walk to the Cortina Parco Avventura/Adventure Park (Adrenalin Center) where guests can choose from three different rope courses and test their skills at zip-lines, tree climbing, bridge and net crossings. This evening you are free to dine wherever you like in Cortina. Includes: (B).
Day 7: Depending on the weather, we will either take you up to the Rifugio Nuvalau, which in the local dialect means the 'rifugio in the clouds.' If it is a clear day this route offers wonderful hiking and stupendous views. Otherwise we will hike amongst the "Cinque Torri" (five towers) whose towering spires dwarf all around. Return to Cortina where you will have free time to explore Cortina village (or return to the Parco Avventura!). A special farewell dinner at Ristorante El Zoco where we enjoy each other's company and recap the week's family adventures. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 8: This morning we transfer by bus to Corrombio for train commections to Venice train and other destinations. We can also take you to the Venice airport. Arrival in Venice is scheduled for noon. Transfer to the train station. Includes: (B).
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