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Dolomites cycleway: from Dobbiaco to Calalzo di Cadore by bicycle

The railway of the Dolomites, later become Dolomites cycle path, was opened in 1921 to connect Calalzo di Cadore, Dobbiaco and Cortina d'Ampezzo. With the passing years and the development of motorization and technologies it was gradually abandoned. It had its time of glory during the year 1956 on occasion of the Cortina Winter Olympics, but then its decline was inevitable especially when, in 1960, there was a serious accident in which two persons died. 65 kilometers long, the railway was dismantled in 1964. Today, as mentioned before, the railway has become the cycleway of the Dolomites and connects Calalzo di Cadore in the Veneto region to Dobbiaco in the Alto Adige region.

Map

 
The railway of the Dolomites was active for more than 40 years: from Calalzo, in the Venetian Cadore, at a height of 741 meters, reached Cortina D'Ampezzo at 1,230 meters and eventually ended its run in Dobbiaco, in the Puster Valley, for a total of 65 km. The highest station reached by the railway was called Cimabanche and was located at a height of 1,530 meters.vecchia stazione ferrovia delle DolomitiDuring winter time the railway was often interrupted due to the intense snowfall and it was necessary to intervene to clean up the railway line. The steam train of 1921 was replaced in 1929 by electric trains that showed themselves to passengers with wagons tinged with white and blue.

The Dolomites cycleway

segnaletica ciclabile delle dolomitiThe railway of the Dolomites, or we’d better call it the Dolomites cycleway, is an cycling tour itinerary inaugurated in 2003 that follows almost constantly the route of the old tracks of the Calalzo di Cadore – Dobbiaco line, detaching from the dismantled railway only to let cycling tourists avoid crossing the state road a couple of times. Travelling along this route from Dobbiaco to Cortina and then to Calalzo, the overall uphill difference in height almost touches 300 meters, while downhill almost 850 meters. The cycle route of the Dolomites, also known as Lunga Via delle Dolomiti (Long Way of the Dolomites), is indicated throughout its length by clear, explicative signage tables and in Dobbiaco inserts in the cycle path of the Puster Valley to the east and in the Dobbiaco-Lienz cycle path to the west along the Drava.
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From Dobbiaco to Cortina d'Ampezzo you face the longest and most demanding stretch since between the two places there is the station of Cimabanche at a height of 1,529 meters. With a constant uphill, mild and then around 3,5%, you reach Cimabanche cycling on gravel.

ciclabile delle dolomiti

Just after Cimabanche you pass by Ospitale, once a shelter for pilgrims, and you cross the iron bridge on the gorge of Austrian construction and two evocative galleries before arriving in Cortina. Going along the old track of the railway of the Dolomites by bike from Dobbiaco you skirt the Natural Park of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo and those of Fanes, Sennes and Braies in the Alto Adige territory too.

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From Cortina d'Ampezzo to Calalzo the Dolomites cycle path is all a slight downhill and the bottom is almost entirely asphalted and in good conditions. You go down passing through the Boite Valley till the old customs and San Vito di Cadore. From Borca the Antelao and Pelmo, two massifs of the Belluno Dolomites, show themselves. You cross many galleries all however rather illuminated and, following the signposts, you get to your destination.

Paesaggi del Cadore
 

When to go and why

In summer the Dolomites cycleway is rather popular among locals who drive along even just to move from one village to another by bicycle. Temperatures here are quite cold but on the hottest days of the year it can even bother.
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Spring and autumn (or the end of summer) are, as usual, the best time for facing this cycle path: temperatures are mild (I mean end of spring and beginning of autumn!), roads are little crowded, lodging prices low, the colors of the autumn forest or blooming fantastic... the cycle path is accessible until the first snowfalls and starting when the snow melts! If you want to travel along the cycle path of the Dolomites in an alternative way you can take on facing the stretch from Dobbiaco to Cortina in winter with cross country skis!

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Our Dolomites cycleway

Arriving from the Cibiana Pass and Val di Zoldo valley, we met the Dolomites cycle route close to Venas where we took it as soon as we read the sign indicating its presence. Tired but happy because of the uphill just overcome, we cycle in parallel to the stream Boite, going beyond the many abandoned stations of the old railway of the Dolomites: Venas, Valle di Cadore, Pieve di Cadore and Calalzo where the cycle path ends.
pista ciclabile delle dolomiti

The cycle path of the Dolomites isn’t totally flat. Along the route there are often signs indicating which way to go. You go beyond some stone galleries, short and not claustrophobic at all, for a while you flank the state road and manage to see the Lake di Centro Cadore on the right. The cycle path ends at the station of Calalzo where we had a short stop and then continued towards Domegge, Lorenzago di Cadore and the Mauria Pass leading to the Friuli region. The Dolomites cycleway is quite an easy route (also depending on the direction you are travelling!!!), the only difficulty is length but you can remedy this trap dividing the trip in more days. On occasion of our two days in the Dolomites of Fanes, Sennes and Braies by mountain bike we traveled another stretch of the cycle path of the Dolomites going up from  Alto Adige towards Cimabanche.

ciclabile delle dolomiti cimabanche

If you want to find out other cycle routes along the old dismantled railways, you can have a look at our article. The Dolomites cycleway is a part of the longer Friendship Cycle Trail, from Munich to Venice.

The Dolomites cycleway runs between Veneto and outh Tyrol province: from the Dolomites to the alpine and artificial lakes, from the most characteristic villages to more touristy destinations like Cortina d'Ampezzo.

  • Dobbiaco: this small municipality in Alto Adige is more a crossing point than a stopover but in half a day it is possible to visit its most characteristic buildings like, for example, the five chapels of the Via Crucis that make up what is known as Mount Calvary. The castle of Herbstenburg where once a painting by Tiziano was guarded, now disappeared. The manor can be seen only from the outside because belongs to private citizens. The evocative nature park of Fanes, Sennes and Braies where to visit the Lake Braies, recalling an emerald nestled in the mountains and follow some hiking trails. From the lake we reached the Biella hut crossing over in Veneto and we recommend all trained hikers to do this trek wishing you to spot some fleeting ungulate animal as it happened to us! Be prepared to sweat but fun and wild mountain landscapes are for granted!!! Also the park of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo is a place to visit! From the Fiscalina Valley the excursion to the three peaks is not particularly demanding but, in return, picturesque and funny!
  • Cortina d'Ampezzo: according to collective imagination Cortina is an extraordinary but really expensive town not suitable for all. Lately we’ve been right in Cortina and we must confess that this is a myth to debunk: it’s not excessively expensive (you need to spend some time to find the proper facility!) and isn’t just shopping and VIP people... but I would say especially Dolomites with funny vie ferrate, paths for excursions and treks not very crowded and our cycle path of the Dolomites passing through the town center offering views that must absolutely be photographed!
  • Cadore in Veneto: the real surprise of this Dolomites cycleway. Travelling along stretches of the old railway of the Dolomites you go beyond the old stations, now partly abandoned, galleries and stretches somewhat uphill or downhill (we’re in the mountains and the lowland, after all, almost never exists!). The stream Boite flows into the Lake Valle di Cadore and then disappear in the river Piave just below Pieve di Cadore.
  • Lagole: in this district of Calalzo di Cadore you can visit the archeologic thermal area following a marked path you find to the right of the cycle path.
  • The Lake of Centro Cadore is artificial but due to its specific position, closed between two mountain ranges in the narrow Piave Valley, almost looks like a fiord. Starting from the lake in one hour you can reach the retreat Eremo dei Romiti of Mount Froppa.
  • Itinerary: in order to face less altitude, I recommend taking the Dolomites cycle path from Dobbiaco to Calalzo (300 m difference in height instead of 850 m)
  • From Calalzo di Cadore station you can take the bus service with bike to Dobbiaco or other destinations nearby and then return to the starting point by bike. More information on the Dolomitibus site (in italian(

Along the Dolomites cycleway there are all kinds of accommodations: bed and breakfasts, campsites, hotels and apartments on airbnb which can be booked with a discount if you are not yet registered.

In Veneto the Regional Law n. 40 of 1984 to the art. 12 provides for the absolute prohibition of camping outside specially equipped areas

  • At Cortina and in Belluno province you can taste typical mountain dishes such as: red casunziei (typical stuffed ravioli from Cortina), goulash with polenta, wild meat with polenta and Kaiser Schmòrn, the Ampezzo version of the Tyrolean dessert Kaiser Schmarren.
  • In South Tyrol you can taste typical dishes of the Austro-Hungarian tradition: from canederli to Spätzle, from soups to strudel. In Val Pusteria, excellent malga cheeses are also produced
  • Tourism Veneto: the official site of tourism in the Veneto region with events and useful information
  • Tourism in South Tyrol: the official tourism website in the province of Bolzano with events and useful information
Veronica

Correva l'anno 1983: anch'io vidi per la prima volta la luce del sole estivo e sorrisi. 
Da sempre col pallino per l'avventura (nessun albero poteva resistermi!) ho avuto la fortuna di girare l'Europa e l'Italia con i miei genitori e poi, per la maturità, mi sono regalata un viaggio in 2 cavalli da Milano a Praga (un fiorino ha interrotto il nostro viaggio verso Mosca facendoci ribaltare, senza gravi conseguenze, su una strada slovacca).
Ho vissuto 6 anni in Trentino lavorando in tanti luoghi diversi, scoprendo la bellezza della Natura, delle sue montagne e, devo ammetterlo, della MTB! Al momento che ritenevo giusto, ho mollato il lavoro senza alcun rimpianto per volare in Nuova Zelanda dove ho viaggiato per cinque mesi in solitaria. Nel 2007 ho provato per la prima volta l'esperienza di un'avventura a due ruote e, da quel momento, non ne ho potuto più fare a meno... così, dopo alcune brevi esperienze in Europa, nel 2010 sono partita con Leo per un lungo viaggio in bicicletta nel Sud Est asiatico, la nostra prima vera grande avventura insieme! Da 3 anni scorrazziamo in MTB sui sentieri del Lago di Iseo, ma la prossima partenza per il #noplansjourney è alle porte...:) 
 Su lifeintravel.it trovi tutti i nostri grandi viaggi insieme (e non)!
Carpediem e buone pedalate!

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