The ‘High Trail Number 1’ or, in short, the ‘AV1’ is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europetraversing the heart of the Dolomites mountain range in Northern Italy. The region is characterized by jagged mountains, high exposed precipices and spectacular lakes, creating dramatic and unique views, different from the classic alpine views.

Data:

Length: 120 km

Cumulative climb: 6,660 m/21,850 ft.

Maximum Altitude: 2,752 m/9,028 ft.

Duration: 8-12 days

Difficulty: easy – moderate

Lodging: huts (‘Rifugio’ in Italian)

Season: mid-June to the third week of September

Map from Cicerone guide

Culturally, the area is home to distinct Austrian influences. Until World War I, it was part of Austria, and, geographically, feels like a part of the Tyrol which is evident in the common use of German among the inhabitants, as well as the duplicate names of settlements in both Italian and German. The local food likewise reflects Austrian influence, with classic Austrian dishes such as schnitzel and strudel to be found in abundance.

Many hiking trails cross the Dolomites and among them are the 10 famous altitude trails (Alta Via in Italian) numbered 1-10. The AV1 is the most popular among them.

Walking on the well-marked trail is comfortable and provides amazing views of mountains and valleys and plenty of accommodation options in fine huts with excellent food.

The hike is not especially difficult, relative to mountain hiking, and anybody with reasonable physical fitness and motivation should be able to complete it. In addition, the many huts throughout the route enable flexible planning regarding the amount of time you wish to spend on the trail (one would typically complete the route in 8-12 days).

On the last day of the trail there is the option of Via Ferrata. The information here concerns the regular end of the route but anyone interested in a more challenging way to finish the route will find the necessary information in the recommended guidebook.

The starting point of the trail is at the enchanting lake, Lago Di Braies, and the endpoint is at the bus station La Pissa on the main road to the city of Belluno.

The nearest community to the starting point of the trail is the town of Villabassa-Niederdorf.

The nearest community to the endpoint of the trail is the city Belluno.

Costs: The cost for half-board, including lodging in the dormitory, an indulgent supper with first course and dessert and basic breakfast costs around 50 euros (a little less in the public Rifugios and a little more in the private ones).

Credit cards: as of 2018, all of the Rifugios accept credit cards, however it is recommended to bring cash in the event of some hitch, since there is no way to take cash out throughout the length of the trail.

Equipment: The best advice for someone preparing for a hut to hut hike in the Alps is to  bring minimal equipment. This is not a survival journey in a wild outback region and there are no apres-ski parties in the huts in the evenings. What there is plenty of is climbing, and you will feel every additional kilogram in your backpack on your back.

There is no need for a sleeping bag, but rather just a light liner (for hygiene purposes) and a light jacket should also suffice as the days are warm and the nights inside the huts are pleasant. Rainproof gear, however, is necessary.

As a rule of thumb, there is no reason that the collective weight of your bag should exceed 9 kg/20 lbs (not including water).

Recommended Guide:

https://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/820/title/trekking-in-the-dolomites#.WjKV0N8jQ2w

Where to fly and how to get to the start of the hike with public transport:

From Italy

Verona: the easiest way to get to the start of the trail is from the city of Verona, 250 km away.

From the airport, take a bus to the train station Verona Porta Nuova. The bus station is right by the exit from the terminal. The first bus of the day leaves at 5:35 am. The next bus is at 6:30 am, after which there are buses every 20 minutes until 23:30 (11:30 pm). Travel time is about 15 minutes.

The total travel time from the train station in Verona until Villabassa is about 3.5-4 hours (regular/passenger train).

Routes to the start of the trail from other central cities in Italy will also lead you through Verona. Two additional nearby cities are:

Milan: Milan is 190 km from Verona and the total travel time by train to Villabassa is about 5.5 hours.

Venice: Venice is 120 km from Verona and the total travel time by train to Villabassa is about 4.5 hours.

Link to the Italian railways website: www.italiarail.com

Please note that in Italy you must swipe your train ticket in the yellow machine on the platform before boarding the train. Boarding the train without punching your ticket in the machine may result in a fine to the ticket holder.

From Austria

Innsbruck is 130 km from the start of the trail and is the nearest big city. The train from Innsbruck to Villabassa takes about 2.5 hours.

From Germany

Munich is 330 km away from the start of the trail and is also a good starting point. From there you take a train to Fortezza, in Italy, and from there a train to Villabassa. The total travel time is about 4.5 hours.

Link to the European railways website: https://www.raileurope.com

Villabassa

From the pretty, quiet town of Villabassa, you can take bus number 442 in the direction of Lago Di Braies. Travel time is 20 minutes. The bus station is located in Von Kurz square in the center of town, a short walk from the train station.

As of the 2018 schedule (LINK), the bus runs between the hours of 7:09 (am) to 19:09 (7:09 pm) and for most of the day leaves every half hour, except at noon and in the evening when there is a bus every hour.

Please note that the first and second buses of the day (leaving at 7:09 and 7:29 respectively) and the last bus of the day (at 19:09) do not get to the final station at the lake, but rather to the station one before last. Therefore, the first and last bus that get to the lake and to the start of the trail are the buses of 8:09 and 18:09 (6:09 pm), respectively.

Another option is to take a taxi to the start of the trail which should take about 10 minutes and cost around 25 euros.

Lago Di Braies

Beginning hiking the trail – timing for the first day

  1. For those who arrive by plane and want to begin walking on the same day they land – traveling from a distant airport and changing trains and buses means a late arrival to the start of the trail. For hikers that wish to do so anyways, there are 2 options: the first is lodging at the basic but wonderfully-located Rifugio Biella (3 hours of hiking). The other option is to continue until the fabulous and more luxurious Rifugio Sennes – about an hour and a quarter more (total hiking time of a little over 4 hours).

In terms of daylight hours, the sunset in Italian summer is around 21:00 (9 pm) in July and around 20:00 (8 pm) in August. So anyone arriving to the start of the trail up until 16:00 (4 pm) could still manage to get to one of the Rifugios by daylight.

Although this option is doable, it is not at all convenient. You must take into account that the start of the trail is a prolonged ascent (cumulative climb on the first day of 870 m/2,854 ft) and that is after a full day of travel. Furthermore, dinner at the Rifugio is served at 19:00 (7 pm) and whoever is late will have to make do with leftovers.

As such, we recommend starting the trail on the second day of the trip with fresh energy, taking your time to enjoy the beautiful views along the way, and arriving to the Rifugio at a reasonable hour.

Of course the best option is to simply use the day that you land to get to Villabasa / Lago di Brais in which there is an abundance of lodging options.

A recommended option for anyone who can manage it with regard to the train and bus schedule, is to stay at the historic Hotel Pragser Wildsee Lago di Braies, with the perfect location at the shore of the beautiful alpine lake, where you can wake up the next

morning and head straight to the trailhead after a good breakfast.

Rifugio Biella

  1. Anyone coming from Verona, Venice or Milan could break up the journey by stopping at the charming city of Bolzano. Bolzano is located on the way to Villabassa, about 2 hours away. One could stay the night there and get back on the train to Villabassa the following morning. Bolzano’s train station is just a short walk from the old city at the heart of Bolzano.

Bolzano is about 1 hour and 45 minutes of train travel from Verona, 3 hours from Venice, and 3.5 hours from Milan.

The way back is different, of course, since you end up over 100 km South, as the crow flies, from the starting point and also because the number of destinations by train from the city of Belluno at the end of the hike are relatively limited.

Travel distances by train from Belluno to main cities include:

-to Venice: 2 hours

-to Verona: 3.5 hours

-to Innsbruck: 8 hours

-to Munich: 9 hours

Lake Lagazuoi

Public or private Rifugios

The Rifugios on the route can be divided into 2 categories: publicly owned Club Alpino Italiano Rifugios and private Rifugios. As a rule of thumb, the public Rifugios are a little cheaper with a good atmosphere while the private ones are more indulgent in terms of the facilities, usually offering private rooms in addition to the dormitory, as well as sheets and more elaborate food.

There are 40 different Rifugios along the route, most private, and the variety of huts allows flexibility in deciding the number of days of the trip. That said, it should be taken into account that the hike has become very popular in recent years, which limits spontaneity, certainly for a group of several people. So particularly in peak season in mid-summer, it is recommended to reserve space in advance for the huts in which you wish to stay.

Important notes regarding the Rifugios along the route

Rifugio Lagazuoi – this most famous Rifugio in the Dolomites has an exquisite view. The place is efficient, spacious and comfortable with good food. It tends to be very busy throughout the day since there is a direct cable car to it and is usually completely full so space should be reserved some time in advance.

Rifugio Scoiattoni – the location is fantastic, overlooking the gorgeous view of the Cinque Torri. five impressive stone bluffs rise above the valley and there is an open museum of World War I. During World War I the region was an epicenter for battles between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire, and home to the area’s Italian artillery headquarters.

Rifugio Averau – the best Rifugio on the route, amazing location and gourmet food.

Rifugio Passo Staulanza – a fancy road hotel with amazing food, private rooms, and one not-so-big dormitory room.

Rifugio Tissi – the hidden pearl of the trail. This is a public Rifugio with basic amenities (there is a hot shower) but with a wonderful atmosphere and an amazing panoramic 360 view which is visible from the viewpoint just a few meters above the hut.

Rifugio Vazzoler – this Rifugio has a nice location in the forest but lodging conditions are a bit cramped and not the most comfortable.

Rifugio San Sebastiano – a fancy road hotel with good food

Link to information about the Rifugios along the way and the trail map :

http://rifugios.net/

Rifugio Lagazuoi

8-day route suggestion

As previously mentioned, the route can be completed between 8 days for those in good shape, and up to 12 days, per the advice of the recommended trail guide (Cicerone).

Each according to his/her desire and ability. To our tastes, 12 days is too long since on some of the days the hike between huts only takes a few hours which makes the trip feel overly stretched.

Following are the details of a recommended itinerary for those interested in hiking the trail in 8 days:

  1. Rif Sennes
  2. Rif Lagazuoi
  3. Rifugio Cinque Torri / Rif Averau / Rif Nuvolau / Rif Scoiattoli
  4. Rif Cita di Fiume / Rif Staulanza
  5. Rif Tissi / Rif Vazzoler
  6. Rif Carestiato / Rif Passo Duran / Rif San Sebastiano
  7. Rif Pian de Fontana

Cinque Torri

Rifugio Scoiattoni

Notes for this route:

  • The hike from Rifugio Sennes to Rifugio Lagazuoi takes 7 hours for those in good shape and in dry weather.
  • The weak point in the proposed route is that it is hard to find places for lodging at Rif Lagazuoi so another good option is to stay at the excellent Rif Scotoni, which is right along the way to Rifugio Lagazuoi, on trail number 11.
  • Another possibility is to shorten the second hiking day and to lodge at Rif Fanes or Rif Lavarella instead of staying the night at Rif Lagazuoi. These Rifugios are a distance of about 4.5 hours from Rifugio Biella or 3.5 hours from Rifugio Sennes.

This means that the walking distance to Rif Lagazuoi the following day is around 3.5-5.5 hours, depending on physical fitness and walking pace, so someone setting out after breakfast at 8:00 on the third day from Rif Fannes should arrive between 11:30-13:30 to Rif Lagazuoi. At the Rifugio you can have a meal break, eat and take in the amazing views, and afterwards take the cable car straight from the Rifugio to Road 48 to Passo Palzargo (operating in summer until 17:00/5 pm). Turn left at the road and after walking about 2 km, you will get to the cable car that goes up to Rif Scoiattoli and to Cinco Torri (the last cable car goes at 17:00).

The third night will be spent in one of the Rifugios along the trail, according to your itinerary.

Link to the cable car website:

http://lagazuoi5torri.dolomiti.org/dengl/cortina/laga5torri/info/impianti.html

Rifugio Averau

SHORTCUT

Suggested 6-day condensed route

Those who are short on time can do the core of the trip in 5 nights and still enjoy the best of the experience the trail has to offer.

5-night route hut itinerary:

  1. RIf Sennes
  2. Rif Lagazuoi
  3. Rif Cita di Fiume / Rif Staulanza
  4. Rif Tissi / Rif Vazzoler
  5. Rif Carestiato / Rif Passo Duran / Rif San Sebastiano

Rifugio Passo Staulanza

Rifugio Tissi

Rifugio San Sebastiano

Notes for this route:

  • On the third day, take the cable car next to Rif Lagazoui down and take the cable car to Rif Scoiattoli up, as described for the 8-day route.
  • The hike from Rif Scoiattoli to Rif Cita di Fiume / Rif Staulanza takes about 6-7 hours and about 1-1.5 hours of travel and transfer between the cable cars. Whoever chooses this option can comfortably descend from Rif Averau in the dirrection of Passo Giau without having to climb up to RIf Nuvolau. That is to say, those who take the first cable car down from Rif Lagazoui at 9:00 in the morning will arrive between 16:00-17:30 to one of the two Rifugios.
  • On the morning of the sixth day, there is a convenient walking path from the road next to Rif Carestiato / Rif Passo Duran / Rif San Sebastiano that will lead you from Passo Duran in the direction of the city of Agorado (about 2 hours) and from there you can take a bus towards Belluno. You can consult with the owner of the Rifugio regarding the path.

Bottom Line:

What we loved: gorgeous hike with great, comfortable lodgings and excellent, high-quality food. Not too hard, well-marked and mostly lovely weather.

What we did not love: the hike is nearly perfect, the only complaint being that it passes through quite a few spots where it meets with “civilization”, giving the overall route somewhat less of a wild feeling.

Overall: one of the best, most beautiful hikes in the world which has, in recent years, justifiably become very popular with travelers from all over the world.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here