Europe is the homeland of via ferrata. It’s where it all began, back in the early 1900s. Even the term via ferrata, now used pretty much worldwide, came from here: it’s Italian for “Iron Way” (you’ll still see Germanic countries using Klettersteig).
Via ferrata in Europe stretches from the highest peaks to the coast, from the Dolomites to the Julian Alps to the Costa Brava. With over a thousand routes to choose from, we had a hard time picking out our favourites. Rest assured that there are plenty more than we could possibly list in this article.
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular mountain range or area, you’re very likely to find a cheeky little via ferrata route there too.
Via Ferrata in the Dolomites, Italy
Italy is a big country and you can find via ferrata from the Tyrol to Tuscany. For this one though, we had to focus on the via ferrata in the Dolomites. They’re simply spectacular. Plus, it’s the Dolomites that people consider the home of the first via ferrata routes. They were used to move troops to strategic positions during WW1.
Because of this, via ferrata in the Dolomites is all about getting somewhere. You can use the routes to traverse knife edge ridges or connect up two bits of hiking trail that would otherwise be unconnectable. Famous long distance routes like the Alta Via 2 do just that, over several days.
For day trips, there are plenty of good options for Dolomite towns to base yourself in. Cortina, on the east side of the Dolomites, has a good twenty routes you can do in the area. As well as classic scrambles and ledges, there’s also at least one that takes you behind a waterfall…
On the other side of the Dolomites, the area of Trentino has a good selection of towns. Personally, I have stayed in Madonna di Campiglio to do day routes in the Brenta Dolomites. From here you can also do the 3-5 day via ferrata and trekking route Via delle Bocchette. It’s been on my to-do list for years: incredible rock, incredible panoramic views and fantastical ladder ascents of sheer cliff faces.