Dolomites (Italy) – Val Gardena
At least 4 reasons why you should visit the Dolomites and the Val Gardena region:
- You get the chance to cycle the “Maratona dles Dolomites” (organised or by yourself)
- Famous cols and climbs such as the Passo Pordoi, Passo Fedaia and the Passo delle Erbe
- Inviting and really friendly people that will help you out anyway they can
- Amazing views on top of the mountains and passes of the UNESCO world heritage site (and decor of the Sylvester Stalone movie Cliffhanger)
Val Gardena is mostly known for its fabulous ski area. However, it is also a great starting point for a cycling holiday. That goes for the entire Dolomites by the way! There are three villages in Val Gardena of which Ortisei and Selva Gardena are the largest. From the valley there are a number of ways to start your daily exercise.
The Dolomites are pretty much on the agenda for the Giro every year and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountains are completely different from those in central Europe or the Pyrenees. Even if, after a week of cycling in the Dolomites, you cannot remember the magnificent views, you will likely remember how you struggled up that stretch of road with a 16% gradient halfway on the Passo della Erbe! There are unexpected turns, silent roads and steep parts which make cycling in this area so nice.
Just to name a few of the climbs in the area: Passo Pordoi, Passo Fedaia, Passo Gardena and the Passo Giau! It is very easy to climb a lot of difference cols without cycling that many kilometers so value for money! If you are tired or road cycling go mountain biking for a day. There are a lot of nice well marked trails or hire a guide for a day.
The price level is moderate and the food is great so enjoy a hot plate of spaghetti in the afternoon on one of the mountain passes and some nice dinner in the town’s restaurants in the evening.
Below we have included some suggested routes.
Ortisei – Passo delle Erbe / Wurzjoch – Passo Gardena – Ortisei
There are a number of alternative ways to go to the Passo delle Erbe If you prefer ending downhill (as we do) then you need to descend all the way to either Ponte Gardena (i.e. where you left the highway to start your ascend to Val Gardena) or Tschövas and subsequently Santa Caterina. The first road goes over the busy main road and the second takes a detour but drops less in altitude. In any case when you reach either Ponte Gardena or Santa Caterina follow the road back up the mountain to Laien / Lajon and thereafter Gudon / Gufidaun. On your way to Laien / Lajon you will have two kilometers of steep climbing to do regardless of the route you take.
From here it is a 20 kilometer climb to the Passo delle Erbe. The scenery is really beautiful which you have plenty of time to enjoy. Once you reach Santa Maddalena / San Pietro things become harder but you can chill afterwards when the incline drops. At the top of the Passo delle Erbe there is a nice restaurant to have lunch.
After lunch descend towards Santa Martino in Badia and Corvara. In between there is some climbing to do but short and not that steep. In Corvara turn right and follow your way to Passo Gardena / Grödnerjoch. A nice 10 kilometer steady climb to the top. Afterwards descend towards to Wolkenstein and Ortisei.
Ortisei – Alpe di Suisi – Ortisei
The route takes you to Alpe di Suisi / Seiser Alm with great views of the Val Gardena valley. Start your way down to the village’s entrance on the main road and follow the road up to Castelrotto. There is no way to go wrong as long as you follow the signs up Alpe di Suisi. On top of the mountain enjoy the views and head back down towards Ortisei.
Ortisei – Passo Nigra – Passo di Sella – Ortisei
- 2500m +
Before you start this road we recommend to cycle a short round on the main road to get warmed up as you will immediately start to climb once you start this route. Start your way down to the village’s entrance on the main road and climb the road up to Castelrotto. This time do not follow the signs that lead to Alpe di Suise but follow the road to Seis am Schlern and San Costantino. Then descend all the way down to Prato Isarco / Blumau. We recommend to make your way to Prato Isarco as the road up to the Passo Nigra from this village is the most scenic and challenging route. This road is really beautiful and has a lot of (un)expected steep parts!
There is a good less steep alternative road if you are coming from Ortisei. From San Costantino follow the road to Presule and Aica di Sopra and then on to Passo Nigra.
When you reach the top continue to follow the road towards Passo di Costalunga / Karerpass. Stop for some refreshments if you like. You can also continue and start the descend towards Canazei. Canazei is a larger village with more eating / drinking options.
In Canazei the climb towards the Passo di Sella / Sella Joch starts. A nice climb on a perfect road. Steady average incline of 7.2% over 11 kilometers. On the top of the Passo Sella (2200m) you can get some refreshments before you start your descend towards Ortisei. Please note that during the summer period it can be a bit busy with traffic so watch out and descend responsibly!