Alta Badia in the Italian Dolomites is rightly famous as a ski resort, but when it comes to summer holidays this little slice of the South Tyrol is less well-known. It’s something of a hidden gem however, offering an incredible array of activities for adventure enthusiasts - as these ten unique experiences show. Here’s Mpora’s pick of the best things to do in Alta Badia this summer.
1) See the mountains that moved Messner to poetry
The scenery in Alta Badia is some of the most stunning in the world. Don’t just take our word for it though. Legendary climber Reinhold Messner, a man who’s seen more than his fair share of mountains, reckons the Dolomites are the most beautiful range on the planet.
The celebrated architect Le Corbusier famously called these peaks “the most impressive buildings in the world", and humanity as a whole has deemed them so stunning that they’ve been awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
"Reinhold Messner, a man who’s seen more than his fair share of mountains, reckons the Dolomites are the most beautiful range on the planet."
Nestled in steep-sided valleys, the various villages of the Alta Badia area afford some of the most stunning views the South Tyrol region has to offer - and that’s before you’ve even left your hotel room.
2) Follow in the tyre tracks of the Giro heroes
Alta Badia is one of the best places in Europe for cycling enthusiasts. It regularly hosts one of the most anticipated stages of the Giro d’Italia, with climbs that separate the men from the boys in the peloton.
Don’t worry if you’re not quite up to Vincenzo Nibali standard just yet though - the local tourist office has itineraries to suit all ability levels and offers guided rides for both hobbyists and experts every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from May until the end of July for just €25 (£20) per person.
You can sign up at the ufficio turistico or at one of the numerous local hotels that have been certified as “Bike Friendly" or “Bike Expert" (meaning they have special facilities for cyclists). If you’re lucky, you may even come across local heroine Maria Canins out on the roads. Just beware of trying to keep up - she may be in her 60s but with two Grand Boucle titles under her belt she’ll probably still beat you on the climbs.
3) Ride the Gran Fondo on a Pinarello
Throughout the summer the tourist office will be supporting several large bike-themed events. On June 19th the Sellaronda Bike Day will give visitors a chance to ride the Giro stage just a month after the pros have passed through, with roads closed to traffic for the occasion. On Sunday 3rd July, the legendary Gran Fondo event Maratona dles Dolomites-Enel will roll into town.
The local authorities are also constantly dreaming up new itineraries for cyclists and put a lot of time and effort into local cycling infrastructure - including facilities for e-bikes, which are becoming increasingly popular. The resort also has a partnership with top Italian bike brand Pinarello (which Brits will know as the suppliers of Team Sky’s bikes) meaning there are opportunities to test some of the world’s finest road racing machines.
4) Indulge your singletrack mind
Of course, Alta Badia’s cycling infrastructure isn’t just for lycra lovers - mountain bikers of all shades, from trail riders to downhillers, will find plenty to entertain themselves here too. The lift system that makes this place so popular with skiers in the winter is thrown open to mountain bikers in the summer months, offering access to some incredible singletrack descents.
If you’re into cross country or enjoy earning your turns then you can take advantage of the numerous enduro itineraries around the area - either in your own group or with one of the guides that the tourist office will be happy to arrange.
5) Pitch your tent under the stars
If you prefer to spend your days exploring the mountains at a more sedate pace, you can swap the saddle for a pair of hiking boots and hit the network of well-marked trekking trails that criss-cross the Alta Badia area. The paths here are high - ranging from 1,500m up to 3,000m at some points - but it’s not all hardcore hiking. There are plenty of gentler itineraries on offer.
However if you are looking for something challenging, book one of the overnight trekking tours that involve camping out in a tent in the hills. These are available July 14-15th, 28-29th and on August 4-5th. Hikers in August will have the added benefit of being accompanied by an astronomer who’ll talk them through the constellations in the crisp summer skies.
6) Scale a legendary route or scare yourself on a Via Ferrata
The exposed red rock of the Dolomite is to climbers what a red rag is to a bull. These mountains are home to more classic routes than you can shake a stick at and have been the backdrop to many a climbing movie (including the 1993 ‘classic’ Cliffhanger, featuring Sylvester Stallone). If you fancy perfecting your guttural Gabe Walker grunts, then Alta Badia is one of the best places in the area to do it.
Legendary routes like the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Rosengarten, the Sella towers and Mount Santa Croce, all of which were first climbed by Reinhold Messner, are within easy reach but there’s also plenty on offer for less experienced climbers too. If you’re just starting out you can practise your bouldering or get a lesson at the indoor climbing centre and if it’s the thrill of heights you’re after without having to get too technical try tackling one of the vie ferrate.
7) Jump off a cliff... and fly to safety
The same features that make Alta Badia such a great place to go climbing (high peaks, sheer cliffs, stunning scenery) also make it great for paragliders and hang-gliders. If the weather’s right, you’ll find flyers flocking to the popular take-off points - Boè, Vallon, Col Alto, Col Pradat, Forcelles and Piz La Villa. It’s not just for experts either, there are several operations that offer tandem flights so you can try it for the first time. For the truly extreme, there are also great places to go BASE Jumping round Alta Badia too.
8) Get stuck into gastronomy
In a country as famous for its food as Italy, you’d expect nothing but the best when it comes to the range and quality of restaurants on offer, and Alta Badia doesn’t disappoint. What better way to relax and refuel after a long day’s hiking, biking or climbing than by sampling local delicacies and enjoying the excellent Italian wines on offer?
9) Eat Michelin-starred bear food
This summer the resort is hosting something a bit special for foodies too - the Giro d’Italia dei Sapori (tour of Italian flavours). Inspired by the cycling tour, the event will see ten renowned chefs drawn from different regions of Italy taking over at ten participating mountain huts around the Alta Badia area and creating menus inspired by the culinary traditions of their local region. The tourist board promises that: “the gastronomic specialities will tell the tale and narrate the traditions of each region, tied to the local produce and naturally to the star chef and his or her background."
As if that wasn’t enough, there are a whole series of other food-themed events taking place throughout the summer too including the “gastronomic symposium" La Dolomitica on August 5th, the ‘Waterfall of Taste’ event, which will see local restaurants serving food at the foot of the Pisciadú waterfall, and the ‘Dinner with the Bear’ on August 25th. This one of a kind dinner will see Michelin-starred chefs taking over a museum dedicated to yes, a bear. The prehistoric Conturines bear to be precise. It’s definitely not one to be missed!
10) And that’s just the start of it…
Of course, the activities and events listed here are just a fraction of those on offer this summer season - so whether it’s cycling, hiking, climbing or just food and wine that float your proverbial boat, then Alta Badia is well-worth checking out. In fact, this little gem of a resort could be Europe’s ultimate adventure destination.