Aiming high: your guide to the Dolomites in summer
The Dolomites are like no other mountain range - enormous hulking peaks that take on a pinkish tinge when the sun hits them. Their beauty is otherworldly, and even the regions where they're set - South Tyrol and Trentino - are unlike other parts of Italy.
Thanks to its Austrian legacy and mix of languages - including its own regional language of Ladin - it's an enchanting blend of cultures and cuisines. Surrounding these UNESCO-listed rock stars are some of Italy's loveliest villages, valleys and lakes, starting with these five.
Getting to the Dolomites: TUI Lakes & Mountains offers holidays throughout summer to destinations across the Dolomites, departing from a number of UK airports - check out the latest online deals* and start planning 2020 adventures today.
Selva Val Gardena
Skiers will know the famous World Cup downhill black run at Val Gardena, but the villages in Gardena Valley really come into their own once the snow disappears.
Selva, Ortisei and Santa Cristina all cluster around the imposing 3,181 m Sassolungo peak, one of the highest in the Dolomites.
Hikers have 800 km of trails to explore, from easy walks through mountain meadows to seriously challenging treks. You won't go hungry either - plan a route that takes you past one of the many mountain huts and fill up on a fantastic melange of Italian and Austrian food.
Ski lifts and cable cars stay open all summer, so you can also take your bike along and bomb down some of the mountain bike tracks.
Get a glimpse into the area's history with a walk around the evocative medieval ruins of Wolkenstein Castle, which cling to the Stevia Mountain overlooking Selva.
Meanwhile, a stroll through the Tyrolean streets of Ortisei reveals the work of the village's highly skilled craftspeople, with beautifully carved wooden sculptures adding an artistic note.
Val di Fassa
Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites, towers over the Val di Fassa and its enchanting collection of pretty alpine villages.
Along with a huge network of hiking trails, there are plenty of paths for mountain biking along the Dolomites Cycling Route as well as bike parks where you can hone your skills.
While the Sella Ronda circuit is one of the ski world's greatest routes, it's just as exhilarating in the summer when you explore it by bike.
For something a bit less challenging, take advantage of the many charging stations around the valley that are used for electric bikes.
And there's always the option to do a "hike & bike": a special lift pass allows you to take your mountain bike on a circular route from Alba di Canazei or Pozza di Fassa and walk through the lush landscapes between the villages of Buffaure and Ciampac.
If you want an unforgettable way of exploring the whole Val di Fassa, soar across this extraordinary landscape in a tandem paraglider.
Madonna di Campiglio
With its luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, Madonna di Campiglio is one of the most glamorous resorts in the Dolomites.
Once you tear yourself away from the sophisticated shops, discover the area's intoxicating beauty on a summertime hike.
Easy routes take you round exquisite mountain lakes such as Nambino and Valagola, many of them via mountain huts for scenic refuelling stops. Adventurous types can get into the heart of the mountains along a via ferrata, a network of climbing routes which winds all through the Dolomites.
Join a guided hike along one of these breathtaking climbing routes and you'll be fully kitted out for a safe but challenging trek. And if you're in the mood for a change of scenery, take advantage of the Dolomiti Garda Express, which can take you to Lake Garda for the day.
While Italian lakes such as Como and Garda get all the attention, just a bit further north is the relatively undiscovered scenery of Lake Molveno. Its glittering waters at the foot of the Brenta Dolomites offer many ways of having fun, starting with 30 acres of Blue Flag beach.
Here, you'll find a water park, children's play areas and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Try some of the watersports on offer including paddle-boarding and sailing, or rent a canoe for a gentle glide across the lake. Take a boat tour and let someone else do the work for you.
Hop on the cable car and whizz up to the Pradel plateau for astonishing views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
You'll also be well placed to tackle the mountain bike trails and climbing routes that twist through the Natural Park Adamello-Brenta.
If you enjoy exploring by via ferrata, the Brenta Dolomites have more routes - nearly 50 km - than any other part of the Dolomites. And if you want something less taxing, walk along the footpath that takes you all around the lake.
Looking more like a fjord than a lake, and with gorgeously sparkling clear waters, Lake Levico is one of the most laid back corners of the Dolomites.
Follow the footpath that curves around its Blue Flag beach surrounded by thick pine forests. If you're feeling energetic, have a go at some of the watersports - the sight of the trees reflected on the waters is even more impressive when seen from a paddleboard or a canoe.
Tucked into Lake Levico's southeastern corner is the spa town of Levico Terme, whose thermal springs are a wonderfully relaxing place for a long, therapeutic soak. There's also a lido on the lakeshore that's popular with families.
If you're keen for more exercise, follow the hiking trails that take you past First World War forts, or cycle along the 80 km Valsugana cycle path, part of which follows the path of an old railway line and will be a bit easier on the legs.
Weather in the Dolomites
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Given the altitude, the weather in the Dolomites is quite different to that of the Italy well known further south. Expect warm, sunny summers and cold, snow-laden winters.
Dreaming of the Dolomites? Don't miss the latest deals with TUI Lakes & Mountains on exploratory holidays to this glorious region of northern Italy - special online-only offers for 2020 included.
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