A unique mineral that makes up breathtaking mountains, the Dolomites have long been a source of both fascination and awe.
The mountainous area was named after Déodat Tancrède de Dolomieu, a French chemist and mineralogist. On a trip here in 1789, he collected the unusual carbonate rock and ran tests to discover its as-yet-unknown properties. Thus, dolomite became the name of both the mineral he discovered and the mountain range in which he found it.
Geography & Location
The Dolomites are situated between the Austrian border to the north and the Venetian plain to the south. The range is about 105 km long and 95 km wide (65 mi. by 59 mi.), and the Val Badia acts as a border between the eastern and western Dolomites.
The section of the Dolomites known as Alta Badia, or “High Abbey,” is also known as the Ladin Valley (with the highest concentration of this linguistic minority). Both the Austrian and Italian cultures have melded in this part of Italy—in food, architecture and especially language.
From an administrative point of view, the five Ladino valleys are divided among Bolzano autonomous province (Val Gardena and Val Badia), Trento autonomous province (Val di Fassa) and Veneto region (Cortina d’Ampezzo and Fodom).
Reach New Heights
The Dolomites’ stunning peaks have drawn foreign mountaineers for centuries. On Dolomites to Venice Family Adventure, join us as we take in the silence of the trails, the dramatic, serrated mountain peaks dotting the scenery, and the warm, understated local hospitality.DETAILED ITINERARY
Dolomite consists of calcium magnesium carbonate, which differs from limestone (calcium carbonate) only in its magnesium content.
The jagged, greyish masses that tower above are the only part of the range made up of dolomitic rock. The velvety, lush hills below these imposing structures are actually volcanic rock that settled into the ravines of the range some 200 to 250 million years ago.
Due to titanic shifting in the Earth’s plates, these Alps were pushed up to their present form during the Alpine Orogeny. At that time, the mountain range was still under the Tethys Sea, and the mountains would have been islands and archipelagos. You can still find shells and other fossils in the rock that remains from that time.
The Queen of the Dolomites
Take in the view from atop Marmolada—the highest peak in the Dolomites, towering above at 3,343 metres (11,000 feet). It’s known as “the Majesty” of this area, as well as “Queen of the Dolomites.”
Marmolada is the only peak in the Dolomites made of limestone rather than dolomite rock. The theory is that it was covered with volcanic rock while the other ranges were undergoing the “dolomitization” process, and thus it “missed the boat.”
On the southern slopes are the glacier runs upon which you can ski year-round. At approximately 4.5 km (2.7 mi.) long and 1.5 km (0.9 mi.) wide, this is the largest and most renowned glacier in all of the Dolomites. Now it’s in retreat, and you can see the crevices and scars left on the rock by the abrasive and erosive power of the ice.
“The mountain reveals herself in all her infinite beauty only to those who love her for the scent of the malga and the roar of the torrent, for the harshness of the cliffs of rock and the softness of the whispering pasture; to those who know in equal measure the edelweiss and the cyclamen, the cloud and the brook, the stone and the grass-stalk; to those who feel the thrill of ascent, the pleasure of the walk through the woods, the harmony of the start and the tinkle of the cow-bell. Only those that understand all this can aspire to know the rugged pathways of the high mountain.”