THE BLOG
07/19/2012 07:44 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

3 Most Popular Valleys To Hike In The Dolomites

The Italian Dolomites, with over 90,000 acres of breathtaking mountainous terrain, offer a glimpse of nature at its very best. With towering peaks, rolling green pastures and a truly unique ancient culture that still exists to this day, the area provides visitors with an experience unlike any they've had before.

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Historians delight in the rich traditions and deep-routed heritage found there, while adventure travelers revel in the multitude of available outdoor activities. One of the most popular ways to experience the Dolomites is by hiking. And while there are several valleys to choose from, here are the three most popular among hiking enthusiasts.

Val Gardena
Nestled beneath the alpine summits of Langkofel, Sellastock and Geisler-Puez mountains, this charming valley is comprised of a maze of tiny villages and peaceful pastures just waiting to be explored. Signs of the area's 2,000-year history are evident, particularly in the language spoken and the ancient traditions still carried on by the friendly people who call it home. Nearly 90% of the population speaks the ancient dialect of Ladin, carrying on the legacy of generations that came before.

Val Gardena is also home to some of nature's most beautiful landscapes. Serene pastures welcome leisurely summer strolls while picturesque trails make way to challenging mountain passes. Experience the rich culture of the locals as they celebrate in their brightly colored Gardenesi costumes, and listen to the enchanting primitive language as it is spoken around you. Spend the night in a mountain rifugio and dine on the delectable local fare. One thing's for certain: The Val Gardena atmosphere will have you coming back for more.

Val Badia
Also known as Alta Badia, the views from this quaint ski resort village can only be described as breathtaking. An outdoor enthusiast's dream, the terrain in this region is perfect for hiking, biking and skiing or for simply taking in the spectacular nature that surrounds it. There are more than 400 km of trails to explore, certainly enough to keep you busy during your stay. Try your hand at a Via Ferrate climb, using unique iron ladders built into protected mountain paths.

Val Badia is not just about outdoor activities, however. The area is also home to several award-winning hotels and restaurants that serve first class cuisine. Take some time to enjoy the local artwork or take in a local folk festival. There's so much to do in Val Badia, it's almost impossible to fit it all in.

Cortina D'Ampezzo
This valley is welcoming in more ways than just the friendly locals who live there. The climate is mild and inviting and makes for a pleasant stay regardless of the time of year thanks to the shelter provided by the surrounding mountains. Cortina is home to a large national park which protects the natural beauty of the magnificent countryside. People from all over the world come to Cortina to enjoy the outdoors and participate in the huge variety of available open air activities.

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The hospitality here is unmatched, with an impressive selection of high quality accommodations, fine dining and world-class shopping. For those so inclined, there is also exciting nightlife to enjoy after the sun goes down behind the mountains. With so much to see and do there, it's no wonder Cortina remains one of the most well-known valleys in the Dolomites.

A visit to the Dolomites is certain to be filled with excitement, wonder and amazement. You can experience a new culture, commune with nature and get your adrenaline pumping all in one incredible place. If you're planning a hike through the Dolomites, be sure that these three valleys are on your travel itinerary.

To learn more about the Dolomites, or book your custom adventure in the region, visit www.DolomiteMountains.com