And you can do just that in the stunning South Tyrol region of Northern Italy – home to the dramatic Dolomites mountain range – a UNESCO World Heritage site. This small region combines the best of Alpine and Mediterranean cultures through its design, architecture and food. The region has more than 300 days of sunshine on average every year and a wide range of active pursuits are available, including climbing, Nordic walking, hiking and mountain biking, as well as snow sports in the winter months.
So come out here… and make the most of your summer!
The hardest mountain bike race of Europe is set in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, the Dolomites. The day before the Sellaronda Bikeday two courses crossing over the four legendary Dolomiti passes – Gardena, Campolongo, Pordoi and Sella – as well as the Duron Pass, leading around the spectacular Sella and the Sassolungo Massifs. The course, 90km long and with 4,200m of difference in elevation will confer the title Hero of the Sellronda, while the other course – 50km long and with 2,600m of difference in elevation – is for those who like to enjoy the breathtaking mountain scenery.
Biking the Sellaronda
The Sellaronda is a destination that draws mountain bikers, road cyclists and skiers with equal enthusiasm. Located in Northern Italy, with Bolzano/Bozen to the west and Val Gardena/Gröden Valley and Cortina d’Ampezzo to the east, the Sellaronda (which derives from the local Ladin word Sellarunde) connects four existing passes: Passo di Sella/Sellajoch, Passo di Gardena/Grödnerjoch, Passo Pordoi/Pordoijoch and Passo Campolongo/Campolongo-Pass.
The Sellaronda Mountain Bike panoramic tour is a guided full-day ride, accompanied by experienced mountain bike guides from Gardena Valley. The Sellaronda was only recently made accessible to mountain bikers wanting to enjoy the area away from the tarmac roads. By making use of the mountain trains, three of the four passes – Passo di Sella, Passo Pordoi and Passo di Gardena – can be easily managed if tackled in the anti-clockwise direction. The descents into the valleys are mostly on single trails and only occasionally follow the road. Tour times: 8.30 – 16.00.
The Sellaronda Circuit
Cyclists can start their Sellaronda circuit from one of the villages of Selva Val Gardena, Corvara, Arabba, Canazei and Campitello, and can follow the four-pass route clockwise (58km) or anti-clockwise (53km), accompanied by expert professional guides. The downhill sections are quite technical in nature and for the most part are along single trails which partly follow the road system.
Going clockwise from Selva/Wolkenstein village, for example, you climb endless switchbacks via Plan de Gralba to Passo di Gardena (7,001 feet). Then it’s a fast descent all the way to Corvara. With only 985 feet in vertical, the next stretch of the route up to Passo Campolongo (at 6,152m, the lowest of the Sellaronda passes) is straightforward enough. But it’s a good idea to save some breath for the passes that follow.
In fact, after the descent into Arabba, you work your way up, from one switchback to the next, until you reach Passo Pordoi, a regular choice as one of the stages in Italy’s most famous cycle races, the Giro d’Italia.
Yet another climb follows, up to the Passo di Sella at 7,362 feet. It’s definitely worth taking a break here: while you feast on Ladin specialties you can take in the breathtaking mountain panorama, all the more enjoyable as it’s all downhill from here!
Sitting on the terrace, overlooking Gardena Valley, it is hard to imagine that, 250 million years ago, the pale rock face of the Sella Range wasn’t populated by cyclists, but by marine creatures colonising – what was then – a gigantic coral reef. During sunsets here the white rock face glows in a warm orangey red, transforming it, for a brief moment, into what seems a wonder world with millions of sea anemones.
OFF YOUR BIKE
Hike around the Sassolungo/Langkofel Mountain
If you’re a hiking lover, you’ll find the Dolomites a wonderful place to explore on foot as well as by bike. This four-and-a-half-hour, moderately difficult hike goes around the main summit of the Sassolungo Group in the Gardena/Gröden Dolomites. www.suedtirol.info
Getting to South Tyrol
Inspired already? You too can get there… fly from the UK to Verona, Milan-Bergamo, Milan, Venice, Treviso or Innsbruck. Car hire and low cost coach transfers will then get you to Bolzano (the gateway to the Dolomites and South Tyrol region). More information can be found at www.suedtirol.info/fly
Holiday Offer to South Tyrol
Or take the hassle out of it and let Neilson arrange a trip for you. Packages start from as little as £369, including return flights and 3 nights 4-star B&B. Departures: 1 to 19 July or 31 August to 20 September. Book online at www.neilson.co.uk/southtyrol
*All offers are subject to availability and change.
WIN A SUMMER ADVENTURE HOLIDAY!
South Tyrol, Neilson and Berghaus have teamed up to offer one lucky winner a fantastic summer adventure holiday to South Tyrol in the Italian Dolomites. The winner will receive two return flights and seven nights at the Hotel Flora in Selva/Val Gardena, including breakfasts and South Tyrol transfers. The winner will also receive £250 worth of Berghaus gear + a signed shirt by Sir Chris Bonington!
Click here to enter