Alta Via 1
Col dei Bos
Alta Via 1
Alta Via 1
9 stages . 10 nights

The Alta Via 1: A guide to the trek

Walking guides - see all our background pages

Bare facts

The Alta Via 1 is a walking trail through the Italian Dolomites, for 120km (75 miles) from Dobbiaco in the North to Belluno in the South.

The highest point reached on our standard route is Rifugio Lagazuoi situated at 2,752m (9,029ft). The height gain on the route is around 6,665m (21,833ft).

Trekkers typically take 9 days to complete the hike, give or take a day or two.

Best bits

Some of the AV1's most exhilarating and exacting walking comes around Passo Falzarego and the old battle sites from World War One. Optional sections with cables let the walker explore the steep rocky hillsides and tunnels, including the famous Galleria Lagazuoi.

Towards the Southern end of the route, the character changes slightly as the massifs become more distinct. The AV1 rounds Monte Civetta to its West. These latter stages are a bit more bold than the earlier ones. The general theme remains, and stage 8 across the Cime de Zita offers a full day in the open mountains.

Staying at the historic Rifugio Nuvolau is also a highlight. The hut is perched at the top of the hill (2575m) providing 360 views of the surrounding mountains making it the perfect place for both sunrise and sunset views. This is one of the most traditional huts (set up in 1883) on the trail making it more basic than some of the neighbouring huts, but it's well worth it!

A final night is spent in an almost pastoral location yet still high in the mountains, just before Forcella la Varetta and the final roll down to the valley. Such charming spots are what make the AV1 distinct.

Map showing the route of Alpine Exploratory's Alta Via 1 walking holiday


Alpine Exploratory offers the following holidays based on our Alta Via 1 research:

Dolomites Alta Via 1
Dolomites Alta Via 1 (Guided)
Dolomites Alta Via 1 North
Dolomites Alta Via 1 South


Alta Via Uno would be the full title of the AV1, in Italian. Translated, it simply means High Route One. German is the language at the start of the AV1 and on the maps that we include in your info pack, you will see the route marked as the Dolomiten Hohenweg... again, the High Route of the Dolomites.

Is it for me?

The joy of trekking
There is great satisfaction in completing stages of a long-distance trek, even more so when it's a famous one like the AV1. There might be times when the climb seems too much effort, and when you encounter bad weather; at such times the goal keeps you going. Equally there should be days when you feel all-powerful, tackling the mountain trails as if they were paths in the park!

One of the best feelings on trek can be nearing the end of a stage, once you're well into the walk, knowing that you've ticked off another leg of the quest. At such points you've also got an evening in a new village to look forward to. Travelling in a self-sufficient manner through the charming yet stunning terrain of the AV1, this all makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying holiday.

The AV1 waymark on a rock in the Dolomites
Typical painted waymarkers

Can I manage it?
The AV1 is manageable for fit mountain walkers who are happy to walk for between 5h and 8h per day along a long-distance trail. It will greatly help your enjoyment of the trek to arrive fit at the start, used to walks of similar distance and height gain to those that you are about to face.

One tough stage is the initial climb of 900m (2,952ft) from Lago di Braies to reach the high mountains. If the day's optional detour to the Croda del Becco is taken, it is a day of fairly solid ascent! In other places the trail offers some particularly steep and loose paths, for example on the descent from Forcella di Lech (stage 3) as well as the ascent to Col dell Orso (stage 7), and ascent to the Cita Zima ridge (stage 8). These sections require steady balance and a head for heights.

The spacing of huts determine the distances each day, of course, and we can book many variations on our schedules according to how our clients want to approach the AV1. If you'd like a fast dash or a trip that minimises the longest days, we suggest our 8-day trek as a starting point. On the other hand, to savour the scenery on a slower schedule, we suggest our 12-day trek.

For those wary of walking the AV1 in one go, we can offer a rest day in the town of Cortina after stage 4. Cortina is a fine Italian town that comes alive in both Summer and Winter. It is a half-day's walk or a bus ride from the AV1 route.

The AV1 can also be tackled over two holidays, each fitting into a week. We offer both the North and the South halves and each makes an excellent trip in its own right.

What's it like underfoot?
Underfoot you will experience a variety of tracks and trails on the AV1. Standardly the mountainous sections run on single-track paths that can be rocky in places, sometimes with steps but mostly just the bare earth. Mud is not a problem in the same way as on paths in the UK, for example! Tracks are also common - perhaps gravel forest roads, ski pistes, or rough tracks for vehicles over agricultural land. There are some sections of country lanes, and on occasion some busier roads for example on the final walk to La Pissa.

Is it technically difficult?
The AV1 is first and foremost a walk. There is no glacier walking and no rock climbing. Especially of note in the Dolomites, an area famous for its via ferrata, there are no via ferrata sections on our AV1; we take the variant to La Pissa which avoids a via ferrata on the Schiara on the last day.

There are however some sections where the path crosses rocky and steep ground, plus sections with metal cables as handrails over Alpine walking terrain. Some stages cross open, unforgiving terrain without easy escape routes: full days of mountain walking calling for self-reliance especially in wet weather with bad visibility.

More than most of our routes, how difficult the AV1 is for any group depends heavily on the options chosen each day. For the strongest walkers the AV1 offers variants to the main route that take in steeper and looser terrain at the upper end of the Alpine walking scale. Equally, other variants offer smoother terrain, missing harder sections. It isn't possible to complete the AV1 on foot without at least some sections of loose ground with steep drops to the side, and the stage from Passo Duran to Pian de Fontana which is relatively exposed to the elements and high up. Please contact us and we'll be happy to describe the difficulties in more detail. Your rouetcards contain detailed information about likely hazards on the trail.

Gallery Lagazuoi Alta Via 1
Traversing the gully between the galleries below Lagazuoi

Unseasonal weather
The typical summer's day in the Alps brings hot sun, perhaps with occasional rain or afternoon storms. Fresh snowfall can occur each summer, most often, these leave a coating of an inch or two on higher passes only, and they disappear in a day or two. However, sometimes the snow stays for longer periods and is deeper. While the AV1 should be approached as a summer Alpine trek, with snow quite unlikely, it is wise to know that snow can fall even in summer.

We show this photo in order to be clear what an unseasonally wintry day can mean for the terrain underfoot. This is the path to Forcella del Lago (2,486m) on the AV1; the path climbs steadily up to the Forecella which is the obvious notch in the cliffs.

Late summer snowfall on stage 6 of the Alta Via 1
Snow on the approach to the Citta di Fiume

When to go?
Our Alta Via 1 season runs from mid-July to mid-September.This short season is imposed by the weather: the chance of late-Spring snow patches remaining into early July across the higher passes, and the chance of the weather deteriorating into late September. Because we can't predict the weather for the coming summer, we have to set these dates in advance.

  Guided group heading up the Forcella di Lech on stage 3    Alta Via 1

Where to stay

The AV1's hut-to-hut accommodation is a major attraction of the route. Except for the arrival day, rest day and departure day, the bulk of the trek is provided with mountain huts. On the Northern sections of the route, the huts are set to a high standard, in the Southern part of the route, the huts become a little more basic as the trail becomes more remote. It is impossible to stay in hotels on this trip as the route stays high in the hills except for five road passes. At start and end, and over any rest days, there is a choice of luxurious hotels, more modest hotels and auberges with a mix of rooms and dormitories.

Most of the accommodation is family-run, even in the larger places such as Cortina. We enjoy the variety of the places we have found; we aim to give a true experience of the Alps and of the Alta Via 1. In Cortina, if you take a rest day there, we book our splendid and comfortable hotel in the centre of the action.

The Italian huts along the Alta Via 1 are cosy and welcoming, catering for a large number of people enjoying the hiking in the Dolomites. A mix of private rooms and dormitories are common in the huts. (We will advise on the sleeping arrangements according to your particular schedule.) The Italian food served in the huts are a highlight and well deserved after a day in the hills!


Hannah at Alpine ExploratoryAlpine Exploratory's latest research on the Alta Via 1 was led by Nicky in September


City breaks after trekking

Our Alta Via 1 holidays come with notes on the following cities, in your info pack:

Venice in Italy
Innsbruck in Austria
Munich in Germany

City breaks after hiking in the Alps

The route

Here's a brief guide to the places and experiences on the AV1, on our normal 9-stage schedule.

Stage One
The AV1 starts at Lago di Braies, the mountain lake at the Northern edge of the Dolomites. Cortina is the town to the East that we stay in for a first night. Take a bus to the Lago where the route starts. The first climb from the lake, up to Rifugio Biella at 2,300m (7,545ft), is stiff but varied. At the col just before the refuge, there is an optional ascent to Croda del Becco, a lofty peak at 2,810m (9.219ft) with exceptionally wide views.

Stage Two
In profile, this second stage of the AV1 drops steadily to Rifugio Pederu and its roadhead, then climbs steadily to Rifugios Lavarella, Fanes and Muntagnoles at 2,060m (6,758ft). The terrain is solid, being largely on wide smooth tracks in the mountains, but with optional and rockier paths. The descent to the roadhead is notable for the mountain road in tight hairpins, as tight as can be imagined on this precipitous hillside, that marks the final section. To meet a truck here is quite a sight.

Stage Three
The next stage crosses a mass of landscape on this high ground, with the Alta Badia region close but largely unseen to the West. Stride out on easy tracks past Malga Fanes Grande at 2,102m (6,896ft) to begin the steady climb to Forcella di Lech at 2,486m (8,156ft), a window onto a new world. A narrow window at that! A steep descent on switchback paths to the lago below can be skipped by a longer variant path that we describe too, in our routecards. A long steady haul uphill to Rifugio Lagazuoi brings you to the AV1's highest point at 2,752m (9.029ft).

Stage Four
Today the progress is Easterly to begin with. It must be so in order to see the best of the Falzarego and Cortina areas before the AV1 heads further South. In the morning head down to Pian dei Menis in the valley. An optional excursion down the Galleria Lagazuoi, a restored World War One tunnel built originally by Italian troops to attack the Austrians who held the Lagazuoi summit, can be added. Torches are needed! From the valley, climb back into the hillside on the other side, aiming for Rifugio Nuvolau at 2,575m (8,448ft). The Nuvolau hut is one of the best-sited on the route, on an airy perch with cliffs on two sides. Various routes can be taken today, via the Cinque Torri, a rock formation high above Cortina.

Stage Five
In the descent from Rifugio Nuvolau, we head back towards Rif Averau, and then start on the rockier path to Passo Giao. After this important road pass of Passo Giao, the path then takes to open hillsides around the back of Monte Formin. These are grassy and wide plains giving easy walking. After Passo Ambrizzola and the convergence with the alternative route, the AV1 strikes a generally donwhill course over pastures and through woodland, to the charmingly sited Rifugio Citta di Fiume at 1,918m (6,292ft).

Stage Six
Leaving Rifugio Citta di Fiume, we head through the woodlands towards Passo Staulanza. After crossing a ski resort, the trail heads up and up to reach the Rifugio Coldai at 2,132m (6,995ft) on the flanks of Monte Civetta. Passing the beautiful lake Coldai, the views open up onto the valley around the town of Alleghe and Rifugio Tissi can be spotted up ahead. We continue past Rifugio Tissi to Rifugio Vazzoler for the night. Please note that we cannot recommend the Giro di Monte Pelmo, in this context a near-circumnavigation of this famous Dolomite mountain, today because the terrain is unusually steep and loose.

Stage Seven
Completing the route around Monte Civetta is today's goal, and then reaching Passo Duran at 1,601m (5,252ft). Terrain and paths are well defined but quite hard going across steep, rocky and rooty ground to the Coll dell Orso. There is a grand sense of scale to today's walking, with the aspect of distant hills changing from West to South throughout the day. Passo Duran comes as a minor road pass, tranquil by evening, and a friendly base for the night.

Stage Eight
Heading to Rifugio Pian de Fontana today is a tough day of hiking! We now enter the final massif of the AV1 with the route taking to slightly more remote hills. The first section takes us over rough ground to Rifugio Pramperet in its high pasture. Large open combes are crossed on the way. The final notable ascent of the trek is almost to the summit of the Cime de Zita, to a col at 2,395m (7,858ft) called Forcella de Zita Sud. Then it's a long stretch of downhill to Rifugio Pian de Fontana, a small hut on a grassy shelf at 1,632m (5,354ft). Restful and pastoral are the words here, despite its position on the edge of high mountains.

Stage Nine
A short final stage takes you briefly uphill to Forcella la Varetta at 1,701m (5,580ft) before a long descent through woods to Rifugio Bianchet and the winding track to the road. This is the Agordo to Belluno road, which we meet at La Pissa near La Stanga, for buses to Belluno. This finish misses out the difficult via ferrata descent from the Schiara; while a bus ride into town is not as natural a finish as walking, it works nicely and it keeps the whole trek at roughly the same level of trekking difficulty with no need for via ferrata equipment. Congratulations - you've reached Belluno!

The Alta Via 1 in context

The AV1 compared to treks in the UK
Compared to most treks in the UK, the AV1 has lower daily distances but with higher amounts of ascent and descent. The West Highland Way in Scotland, for example, has much longer stages but is over much easier terrain with much less ascent. Of course, the altitude is higher throughout on the AV1, as it is on most Alpine treks. Perhaps most important of all is the terrain, where trekking in the UK - as opposed to some hillwalking - is a lot less rough underfoot and less demanding in balance and dealing with drops to the side.

The AV1 compared to the TMB and the Walker's Haute Route
The AV1 adds a third fascinating option to the classic duo of the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walker's Haute Route. Compared to the TMB, the AV1 has less daily distance and elevation gain. A lot of the AV1's distance runs along good solid and wide tracks, making progress quick and easy.. but importantly, the rocky and rough sections when they come are more demanding than those on the TMB. Some settings are bold and mountainous.

More sections of the AV1 have steep drops to one side or other, or both. The AV1 is a trek in and across the mountains, as opposed to the TMB's gentler terrain set apart from the main massif. The AV1's uphill walking is more spaced out; there are fewer solidly uphill sections taking all morning, for instance. Compared to the Haute Route, the AV1 is less challenging overall, but with one day (to Pian de Fontana) that some might feel approaches the Haute Route's level of terrain and situation.

Comparing our 5 big Alpine treks
The Haute Route is substantially the toughest, suitable only for trekkers with particularly solid experience, balance and fitness.

The Via Alpina includes three rocky cols that approach the Haute Route's level of challenge, though the route as a whole is more forgiving. The same applies to the Adlerweg but in its case one col (the Eppzirlerscharte) stands above the rest as very difficult, and it can be skipped by descending and taking the train. The Adlerweg is notable for some long days on wide tracks.

The AV1 is more consistent in its difficulty but is especially demanding of good balance, with steep, rocky and wild situations calling for mountain experience.

The TMB is a superb all-rounder that mixes tough, solid mountain days with gentler ones, allowing trekkers to sample the harder terrain as at the Fenetre d'Arpette (a variant, shared with the Haute Route) while not requiring any extremes.

It's worth noting that each trek has different possible schedules, governing the physical difficulty, and on many days different variants affect the terrain difficulty.

Below we compare the stats of our 5 big trips:

A week and a half of Alpine trekking from Dobbiaco to Belluno
Cinque Toree on the Alta Via 1
Distance: About 120km or 75 miles
typically done over 10 stages

Ascent: About 6,650m (22,000ft)

Highest point: Just over 2,750m (9,000ft) and the route spends much time over 2,000m

Terrain: Good mountain paths, some rockier and looser sections, tracks and country lanes

Accommodation: Mostly mountain huts, plus hotels at start and finish

Season: Mid-July to mid-September
Two weeks of Alpine trekking in a circuit from the Chamonix valley
Lac Blanc on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Distance: About 180km or 110 miles
typically done over 11 stages

Ascent: About 10,700m (35,000ft)

Highest point: Just over 2,500m (8,200ft) and the route crosses several passes around 2,500m

Terrain: Good mountain paths, rockier and looser sections, cables and ladders, tracks and country lanes

Accommodation: Hotels, huts and auberges in a varied mix

Season: Early July to mid-September
Two weeks of Alpine trekking from Chamonix to Zermatt
Col du Tsate on the Walker's Haute Route
Distance: About 200km or 125 miles
typically done over 14 stages

Ascent: About 12,900m (42,300ft)

Highest point: Just under 3,000m (9,800ft) and the route crosses several passes over 2,900m

Terrain: Good mountain paths, rocky and loose sections, wild remote cols, cables/ladders, tracks and lanes

Accommodation: Hotels, huts and auberges in a varied mix

Season: Mid-July to mid-September
Three weeks of Alpine trekking in the Tyrol from St. Johann to St. Anton
View of Innsburuck on the Adlerweg
Distance: About 387km or 242 miles
typically done over 19 stages

Ascent: About 14,400m (47,240ft)

Highest point: Just over 2,250m (7,380ft) and the route crosses a number of cols above 2,000m

Terrain: Good mountain paths, forest tracks, some rockier and looser sections, tracks and country lanes

Accommodation: Hotels and huts in a varied mix

Season: Early July to mid-September
Three weeks of Alpine trekking across the width of Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen Valley on the Via Alpina
Distance: About 349km or 219 miles
typically done over 18 stages

Ascent: About 19,960m (65,485ft)

Highest point: Just over 2,800m (9,180ft) and the route crosses three passes above 2,300m

Terrain: Good mountain paths, rocky and steep cols, grassy cols, tracks and country lanes

Accommodation: Good hotels and no huts (but can be added)

Season: Mid-July to mid-September

Hike the Alta Via 1 with Alpine Exploratory

Alpine Exploratory offers three self-guided options for the AV1, plus one guided trip. We're also pleased to book shorter or longer sub-sections of the route according to your available dates. Please contact us to discuss options.

Dolomites Alta Via 1
Dolomites Alta Via 1 (Guided)
Dolomites Alta Via 1 North
Dolomites Alta Via 1 South

Our self-guided holidays give you what you need to complete the route under your own steam. We book your accommodation in a mix of huts and hotels and we give you our detailed routecards, the local maps, and lots of notes. Importantly we will advise on the ideal schedule and accommodation to suit your approach to the AV1. As well as the full route from Dobbiaco to Belluno we offer half-routes which we call North and South. These end and start, respectively, in the resort of Cortina which is off-route and nearly half-way.

Our guided trip is similar but gives you the benefit of an Alpine Exploratory leader to show the way.

Please ask us any time for more details. Please feel free to describe your walking experience and preferences, and we'll suggest which trek you might enjoy most.

Keep up with us on Facebook, Instagram, and our Blog for photos and updates from our own travels and clients' trips.

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Forcella di Lech on the Alta Via 1
  Approaching Forcella di Lech on stage 3    Photos from the Alta Via 1

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