Best Via Ferratas in the Dolomites, Italy: our guide

Stretching along the provinces of Belluno, Trento and South Tyrol in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites are one of the most dramatic mountain landscapes in the world. Huge towers, pinnacles, spires and vertical limestone walls are the distinctive features of this mountain range that extends almost to the Austrian border.  

These Italian mountains are mainly divided into Western Dolomites and Eastern Dolomites, but also split in a wide number of smaller ranges and isolated massifs that rise between green valleys and high mountain passes. Sella, Pale Di San Martino, Civetta and Marmarole are some of the most popular mountain groups. The highest point is Punta Penia, a 3343 m peak of the Marmolada massif, known as ‘the Queen of the Dolomites’.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, the Dolomites are a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and skiers. However, one of its most outstanding attractions are the more than 170 via ferrata routes you can find here.

Dolomites, the mountains where via ferratas were born
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A nice journey climbing via ferrata Antermoia. © Enrico Geremia

During First World War, many battles between the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian forces took place in the Dolomites. Seeking a way to make the mountains accessible, both armies built several protected paths with iron steps, ladders and suspension bridges, known as ‘iron routes’ (or via ferratas).

After World War II, the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) reequipped these historical routes ―nowadays they are not built with iron but commonly with steel― and turned them into a safe way of leading non-expert climbers to some of the most stunning summits in the Alps. In recent years, new via ferrata routes were created.

Best via ferrata routes in the Dolomites

From children to expert climbers, almost anyone in a good physical condition can climb a via ferrata. In the Dolomites there are routes for every level: beginners, intermediate and advanced climbers.

Traveling with a guide is recommended in all cases, specially if it’s your first time or you don’t have much previous experience. A local certified mountain guide will make you feel safe throughout the whole journey and teach you the basic via ferrata techniques. Besides, you’ll have the opportunity to learn interesting facts about the place.

Together with certified mountain guides from the Dolomites ️we came up with a list of top via ferratas that you should definitely consider if you are planning a visit.

>> Via ferratas for beginners, family and kids 
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Via ferratas are a great mountain activity for families and kids. Here’s via ferrata Cascate di Fianes. © Enrico Geremia

Ferrata degli alpini in Col dei Bos

A 400m via ferrata route on the south face of Col dei Bos, built in the 2000’s. It’s an easy route, ideal for beginners and also  for families with kids. Even though it has a few difficult sections, there are several ways to elude them.

  • How to get there: the via ferrata route is located at only 4km from the town of Cortina D’Ampezzo, close to the road that leads to Passo Falzarego.
  • Duration: 3-5 hours.
  • Length: 400 meters.

 

Via ferrata Bepi Zac al Costabella

Bepi Zac via ferrata follows Costabella ridge, near San Pellegrino Pass. This is a historical path from World War I and you’ll find buildings and trenches along the way. It’s is a fairly easy route, with many alternative trails to make the trip shorter if you get tired.

  • How to get there: a lift from San Pellegrino Pass (a high mountain pass at 1918 m) will lead you to the beginning of this route.
  • Duration: 5 hours.
  • Length: 470 meters.

 

Other recommended via ferrata routes for beginners are:

>> Via ferratas for intermediate climbers
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A climber on via ferrata Punta Anna. © Enrico Geremia

Via ferrata Punta Anna  

A very scenic and exposed via ferrata in Punta Anna (2731 m), a pillar of the Tofane mountain group. Only recommended for experienced and very fit climbers. If you’re up for an extra challenge, you can combine this route with via Ferrata Gianni Aglio, that will lead you towards the summit of Tofana di Mezzo (3244 m). In fact, these two via ferratas are known as via ferrata Gianni Olivieri. Expect wonderful views of the Cortina Valley, Antelao and Cinque Torri along the way.

  • How to get there: starting from Cortina D’Ampezzo, you can take a cable car to Pomedes Hut or drive to Dibona hut. Then, you’ll hike for 30 min to the beginning of the via ferrata route.
  • Duration: 4-6 hours.
  • Length: 600 meters.

 

Via ferrata Marmolada west ridge

This classic via ferrata route has both historical and a mountaineering value. It’s the chance of reaching the highest peak in the Dolomites through its west ridge. Besides, it’s also one of the oldest via ferratas in the area (it was built in 1903) and was the scene of a battle during World War I. Another highlight is that the route involves crossing a glacier section on Marmolada, so you’ll need to wear ice crampons!

  • How to get there: the best starting point is Val di Fassa. From there, you’ll need to drive to Campitello di Fassa (a village in Trentino). You can also head directly to Fedaia Pass (at the base of Marmolada).
  • Duration: 11-13 hours.
  • Length: 850 meters.

 

Other recommended intermediate via ferrata routes in the Dolomites are:

  • Cesare Piazetta via ferrata in Piz Boè, the highest peak in the Sella group. The starting point is Pordoi Pass, at 12 km from Canazei.
>> Via ferratas for advanced climbers
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Only for advanced climbers: a 6-day traverse in the Dolomites combining hiking and via ferratas.      © Enrico Geremia

Via ferrata Mesules

A very demanding via ferrata route in the Sella Group. It begins with an exposed climb on the north wall of Piz Ciavazes, and continues with an easier part that leads to the summit of Piz Selva. This is also a historical route, from 1912.

  • How to get there: starting at Sella Pass (a high mountain pass at 2244 m), you’ll need to follow the trail to the base of Towers of the Sella (30 min hike).
  • Duration: 7 hours.
  • Length: 1080 meters.

 

Via ferrata Constantini

With an easy 30 min approach, this via ferrata in Moiazza peak provides amazing views of the southern part of the Dolomites. Pale di Lucano group and Mt Agner (2872 m) are some of the peaks you can see from here. Due to its difficulty — it’s one of the hardest via ferrata routes in the Dolomites — it’s only suitable for advanced climbers. The first section is the most difficult.

  • How to get there: the best towns to stay at are Alleghe and Agordo.
  • Duration: 10-12 hours.
  • Length: 1250 meters.

 

Other advanced via ferrata routes in the Dolomites are:

  • Via ferrata Alleghesi. A mountaineering challenge that will lead you to the summit of Civetta mountain (3220 m). A popular alternative is to combine it with Tissi via ferrata to go down.
  • Via ferrata Lipella.  An amazing ferrata for expert climbers, that will take you to the summit of Tofana di Rozes. Expect around 7 hours of climbing.

The most adventurous can join a several-day traverse that combines hiking and climbing on via ferratas. Here’s a programme for a 6-day hiking and via ferrata trip in the Dolomites, which involves crossing a section of the famous Alta via 1 footpath.   

Where to stay for a via ferrata trip in the Dolomites
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Click here to navigate the map of best via ferrata routes and villages to stay in the Dolomites

The best starting point for your trip will depend on which climbing area you plan to visit. It’s important to mention that the Great Dolomites Road (Grande Strada della Dolomiti, in Italian) crosses a large part of this mountain range, connecting the towns of Bolzano (to the West) and Cortina D’Ampezzo (to the East).

Here’s a guide of the best locations to stay at:

>> Towns in South Tyrol
Corvara-dolomites
A view of Corvara (South Tyrol), with Mt Sassongher at the back.
  • Bolzano: usually called ‘the gateway of the Dolomites’, this large-populated town is the capital of the province of South Tyrol.
  • Ortisei: nestled in Val Gardena ―one of the top ski areas in the Dolomites― this lovely village is a great choice to approach the Sella group.
  • Corvara: this town at the heart of the Dolomites lies in the Alta Badia valley (Val Badia), with an easy access to the Sella Group and at the base of Mount Sassongher. Colfosco village belongs to Corvara municipality and it’s also a great starting point for a via ferrata trip.
>> Towns in Belluno
  • Cortina D’Ampezzo: entirely surrounded by Dolomite peaks (Pomaganón, Cinque Torri, Tofane, among others), this elegant ―and quite exclusive― alpine town is the most renowned international destination of the Dolomites.
  • Auronzo di Cadore: this alpine town is a perfect starting point for trips heading to some Dolomites’ highlights like Tre Cima de Lavaredo, Croda di Toni, Monte Paterno and Cadini.  
  • Agordo: a small elegant town, with easy access to Pale di San Lucano and Mount Agnér. In the distance, you can see the Marmolada and Mt Civetta.
  • Alleghe: a village on the border of a lake, with Mount Civetta (3220 m) as a backdrop. Great location if you intend to visit this peak, one of the highest in the Dolomites.
>> Town in Trento
  • Canazei: lying in Val di Fassa, on the border between the Italian provinces of Belluno and Bolzano, this village boasts an strategic location for a trip in the Dolomite mountains. The Marmolada ―the highest mountain in the whole range― and Piz Boé are accessible from here, as well as the mountain passes of Pordoi and Sella.
Via ferrata equipment: what do I need?
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Full equipped climber in Tridentina via ferrata. © Enrico Geremia

Basic via ferrata equipment should include the following items:

  • Climbing harness: sit-harnesses are the most common, though full-body harnesses are also a good option (specially if you’re carrying a heavy backpack).
  • Via ferrata set: a lanyard and two carabiners, used to connect the harness to the steel cable of the ferrata.
  • Helmet: this is mandatory to protect your head from potential rockfall.
  • Via ferrata gloves: they provide a better grip and also protect your hands from friction with the steel cable.
  • A climbing rope and belay: may be necessary in some cases to provide extra security.
  • A good pair of hiking/mountaineering boots.
  • Occasionally, some via ferratas may involve crossing a glacier, so you will need ice crampons and an ice axe too.

When you travel with a certified mountain guide, equipment is generally included in the price. If not, it can also be available for rent at an extra cost.

What is the best period for a via ferrata trip in the Dolomites?
Paterno
Via ferrata in Monte Paterno, with the famous Tre Cima di Lavaredo as a backdrop. © Enrico Geremia

Even though the Dolomites are an all-year-round destination, the best months for a via ferrata trip are between May and early October. However, it’s possible to climb during the winter season at some lower altitude peaks.

 

Are you ready for an exciting via ferrata adventure in this stunning Italian mountain range? Then check out all our via ferrata trips in Italy and start planning your next trip to the Dolomites!

An enlightening journey to the top of Mt Fuji

Ten years ago, while he was climbing in the Italian Alps with a group of friends, Matteo kept asking himself one single question: ‘what did I get myself into?’. Besides suffering from vertigo from time to time, there was something about the mountains that made him feel uncomfortable. So he thought he would never do something like that again.

However, last August, this now 31-year-old Italian traveled to Japan and made it to the top of Mt Fuji (3,776 m) -a perfectly symmetric volcano, the highest and most beloved peak in the country- together with Chikako, a JMGA-certified mountain guide.

Climbing Mt Fuji: why not?

“My trip to Japan was a last-minute trip. I was able to find a very cheap flight and said, ‘ok, it’s in one week but, why not?’. Some friends told me that in summer you could climb Mt Fuji, which I didn’t know. I was traveling on my own, so I thought: am I really sure that I don’t want to climb a mountain anymore?”, says Matteo.

Climbing Japan’s worldwide symbol (and one of the country’s three holy mountains) popped into his mind as a personal challenge. So he contacted Explore-Share and -within a couple of days- he was already exchanging emails to set up his 2-day ascent to Mt Fuji with Chikako.

Mt Fuji

Matteo told her about his anxieties during his previous mountain trips, along with his fear of heights and voids: “she really understood my kind of fear and how to build a relationship with me”, he says.

Chikako also gave him some advice about clothes and weather. During the summer months (from June to August), temperature in Tokyo can rise over 30°, while at the top of Mt Fuji it can be as low as 0°. “This conversation with her was very important, otherwise I would have freezed -he says-. In the articles on the web, almost nobody mentions things related to the weather and clothes. You need to be prepared and get the right stuff”.

As he didn’t have much time before the trip, he decided to buy his mountain gear in Tokyo. It was very easy for him to find a store and he even sent some pictures to Chikako to ask for her opinion!

A hiking trip to the top of Japan

A 2-hour bus ride from Tokyo took Matteo to the beginning of Mt Fuji’s trail. He met Chikako at a red torii, a traditional Shinto gate. She briefed him about the different routes to the top and showed him their route on a map.

She also gave him some valuable advice to deal with altitude sickness to lower his fear: ‘drink some water every 45 minutes, make sure you breathe deeply, you’ll probably feel a little headache tomorrow when you wake up, but it will be fine’. For Matteo, ‘these simple tips were important because they gave me the feeling that everything was under my control”.

The first hour of the trail was like walking on the moon: everything was grey, there were no trees. It rained the whole day.

Climb Mt Fuji
Matteo, on the first part of the ascent to Mt Fuji. © Chikako Hayashi

“I climbed Mt Fuji but I never saw it, it was so humid you couldn’t see anything! But that added some charm to the trip: I never saw how big Mt Fuji was until I got to the top and saw the clouds at my feet, he remembers.

They arrived at the mountain hut by 5 PM, with their clothes completely wet. They had dinner all together and slept for a few hours. “At night, there was a little Japanese child who was very scared. She couldn’t breathe properly because of the altitude. If Chikako hadn’t told me you could feel altitude sickness, I would have panicked as well, but since I knew it was normal I woke up and gave her some chocolate…imagine, me!”, he recalls between laughs.

Climb Mt Fuji
Crowds heading to the top at night to watch the sunrise from the summit. © Chikako Hayashi

By midnight they were already hiking to the top: “it’s always super crowded, but we arrived very early and had time to eat some hot noodles to restore our energy a bit before watching the sunrise. It was perfect”.

‘Goraiko’, the sunrise at Mt Fuji
Sunrise at Mt Fuji
Above the clouds: magical sunrise at Mt Fuji. © Matteo Franza.

Japan is usually referred to as ‘the land of the rising sun’. Watching the sunrise from the top of Mt Fuji certainly illustrates this in a perfect way. Witnessing this moment can be so overwhelming that there’s even a Japanese word to describe it: ‘goraiko’.

For Matteo,

“It was a breathless experience. I don’t think I have the knowledge to describe it, I won’t give justice to this experience with my words. But what I really appreciated was that I earned it by working for a day and half. I was there, I had planned it with days in advance, I spent a whole day in the rain, and all that really prepared me to appreciate this moment of beauty”.

Climb Mt Fuji
Matteo at the top of Mt Fuji, enjoying the breathtaking view. © Chikako Hayashi

After watching the beginning of a new day from the top and still with a great sense of achievement, Matteo and Chikako made a 2-hour tour around the crater of the volcano and reached Kengamine peak, the actual highest point of Mt Fuji.

They started their descent at 7 AM and got back to the Fifth Station 3.5 hrs later: “by the end I was exhausted but my legs were OK. Chikako really helped me, we stopped frequently and did some stretching”, he says .

Traveling with a guide: why it’s a good choice

For Matteo, traveling with a local mountain guide was key for the success of the trip.

“You can be a beginner and climb Mt Fuji, but the information you may read on the web never advises you to get a guide. And I think I would have never enjoyed the trip as much as I did without a guide”, he admits.

Climb Mt Fuji
Traveling with a mountain guide makes you feel safe. © Chikako Hayashi

Here are some of the main values he highlights from his experience with Chikako:

  • Communication & trust. “I think Chikako and I were really able to build a good communication so even before meeting her I already trusted her. For me, Japan is on the other side of the world. But during the 2 days that I spent with Chikako, I never felt unsafe”.
  • Empathy. “What I really appreciated in Chikako was that she knew how to handle me…she made me realize that I could do it, and she was always there to give me support. She had this kind of empathy, she really took care of me”.
  • Knowledge of the place. “Climbing with her allowed me to learn about the history of Mt Fuji: why people started climbing it in the past and how it’s related to Japanese culture and traditions. That really made it meaningful to me”.

He also highlights the work done by the Explore-Share team, who were very supportive and managed to arrange a trip with very little time ahead: “It’s the small things that make the difference. I really found the Explore & Share experience and service beyond my expectations”.

A new perspective
mt fuji summit
Another view from the summit, with a Torii gate. © Matteo Franza.

Matteo’s enlightening experience at Mt Fuji led him to another point of view about the mountains and how he relates to them:

“I took this journey and in the end I discovered myself. It may sound naive, but I’m now aware that I can do it… I gained some awareness about myself, I learnt more about myself. I spent 2 weeks in Japan on my own and what I really recall are these 2 days in Mt Fuji”.

His plans for the future include giving the Dolomites and the Italian Alps another chance:  I want to try to do the same things I did years ago but with the new perspective I now have. I even have proper clothes to do that now!”.

 

Want to live a life-changing experience in the mountains like Matteo did? Check out all our programs in Mt Fuji, as well as many other options for guided hikes in Japan.

Rock Climbing in Corsica: the top 5 spots. Where to climb in Corsica?

The French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea, has the ideal mountainous landscape, filled with rock climbing opportunities. And the options are not limited to one of the island’s regions. In fact, you can climb all over the Corsican territory. Another fantastic advantage is that the mild climate makes it possible to climb year-round!

The peaks in Corsica rise up to 2000 meters. The rock variety is ample: you can choose between granite, limestone or sandstone walls.

Perhaps more associated with the GR20 hike, Corsica is not the most popular rock climbing destination. But this is actually an advantage! You will be amazed at the potential that Corsica has for rock climbing, allowing you to discover stunning landscapes along the way. Besides, it is a great option if you want to avoid the crowds.

Getting to Corsica is easy. You can fly to one of the main airports on the island, which are Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio and Figari. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from continental France (Marseille, Nice or Toulon) or from Italy (Livorno, Genova or Savona), arriving to Calvi, Bastia or Ajaccio.

Rock climbing in Corsica.
Cédric enjoys a break at the top of one of Corsica’s towers. Photo: courtesy of Cédric Specia.

Cédric is one of the few local IFMGA certified mountain guides in Corsica, and he is part of the Explore-Share community. He considers himself lucky to live in Corsica, his home since 1995. In fact, he still feels like a pioneer when he climbs in this land he knows so well. We asked him to share with us his 5 favourite climbing spots, and here they are!

An Explore-Share user who climbed with him in May 2017, recently wrote us the following: “I had 2 amazing days climbing in Corsica with Cédric as my guide. Cédric introduced me to the Corsican backcountry that he lovingly called his garden: massive towering mountains, emerald waters of roaring streams, beautiful wild flowers. I highly recommend Cédric to anyone looking for a guide be it in Corsica or anywhere else. I miss this incredible place already and look forward to coming back!”

In order to help our users choose among the wide variety of climbing options in Corsica, we asked Cédric to share with us his 5 favorite climbing spots, and here they are!

Restonica

The Restonica valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in Corsica, extending to the southwest of Corte, in the northern part of the island. The granite peaks enclosing the valley are impressive and the mountain lakes are captivating. Together with the Restonica river itself, the setting is simply stunning.

The terrain is extremely varied, offering all kinds of routes where you can practice different climbing styles. Going there with a guide will ensure you climb the walls best suited to your level and to what you want to achieve.

Rock climbing in Corsica Restonica
Winter is a great time to climb the Lombarducciu (2261m), in Restonica. Photo: Cédric Specia.

Cédric enjoys several climbing routes in the Restonica valley. Some examples are the Amandulina route, in Monte Leonardo, an exciting multi-pitch route, and the Lombarducciu, a great choice for the winter. Check them out on this page, which also includes options in other great locations around Corte. In fact, one of them is Tavignanu, of which you will learn more about below.

Tavignanu

The Tavignanu river runs north to the Restonica river. The sites for rock climbing in the valley are also conveniently located near the small town of Corte.

A true gem of Tavignanu is the Ombra di l’omu, a multi-pitch route at the Punta Finosa (1855m). Another option is climbing at the Rossolinu (908m), where the granite rock is splendid. Ombre et lumière and Le bonheur est dans le pré are two fantastic routes. Here you can climb on very well-equipped routes, which will allow you to appreciate the beauty of the valley.

Rock climbing in Corsica Tavignanu
Ombra di l’omu is a route opened in 1992 in Tavignanu. This wall beautifully dominates Corte. Photo: Cédric Specia.

Bavella

The Aiguilles de Bavella, shaped as needles, are a characteristic landscape of the area, located in the center of the massif of the same name. Located in the South of the island, Bavella’s red granite walls are waiting for you. There is also limestone rock, mainly at lower altitudes.

Bavella is full of intricate routes, perfect for adventurous climbers. It is a wilder terrain than Restonica, with more complex approaches. There are both single-pitch and multi-pitch routes here. It is probably the most popular destination for rock climbing in Corsica. Cédric can take you on an organized 6-day rock climbing trip in the region, or you can check out this program to see many of the climbing options in Bavella and choose your favorite to climb with him.

With so many options, you will for sure find one that tempts you and is appropriate for your climbing skills. In fact, it will be hard to choose just one!

Rock climbing in Corsica Bavella
Rock climbing the Jeef route of the Punta di u Corbu (1157m), in Bavella. Photo: Cédric Specia.

Asco

Located in northwestern Corsica, the Asco valley is only 15 km away from Corte. This area is splendid for rock climbing, with various orientations on different faces. The landscape is impressive and the valley has a beautiful air of high mountain.

In particular, Marcia (2003m) is one of the few summits that are not accessible for hiking. Therefore, rock climbing there will give you a unique perspective! In particular, the southeast ridge is a fantastic climb.

Rock climbing in Corsica Asco
Climbing the southeast ridge of the Petite colonne de Marcia (2003m). Photo: Cédric Specia.

Check out the routes that you can climb with Cédric in the Asco valley here.

Niolu

Finally, Cédric has chosen the splendid Niolu valley for rock climbing. The scenery there is breathtaking. Besides, there are routes with a wide range of climbing difficulty, making it a destination that will please everyone. Monte Cintu dominates the landscape of the area, rising at over 2700 meters.

The highlights at the Niolu valley include Capu Tafunatu, Paglia Orba, Punta Castelluccia, Punta Licciola and Cinque Frati. In particular, at the northwest face of Paglia Orba, the Surella d’Irlanda route is beautiful, though steep and demanding.

Rock climbing in Corsica Niolu
Contemplating the challenge of the north face of Paglia Orba, at the Niolu valley. Photo: Cédric Specia.

These are Cédric’s top picks for rock climbing in Corsica. But there are so many more! Check out all the options for guided rock climbing on the island offered on Explore&Share.