The Val Gardena valley has three main villages, all good-value and attractive. Selva is at the head of the valley, Santa Cristina a little further down, and then the main town, Ortisei. The mountainscape of the Italian Dolomites makes a startling change from the Alps – here the pink cliffs rise vertically into bare, jagged peaks.
The villages are typically South Tyrolean, with chalets and beautiful churches. Several of the après bars have staff in traditional dress, and the food and drink is a winning mixture of hearty Austrian and classy Italian – definitely one of the highlights. Nightlife is liveliest in Ortisei, and there’s a night bus between the villages. The mountain restaurants are excellent and many are accessible for pedestrians too.
The Sella Ronda ski circuit is a treat – an on-piste mileage challenge of intermediate pistes, arranged in a ring through the Sella Massif, a UNESCO-recognised mountain range. It is truly vast – 500km of interconnected piste – and best accessed from Selva. On the other side, Santa Cristina and Ortisei share another ski area called Seceda, calm away from the sometimes-busy circuit. If the Sella Ronda’s not enough, the Dolomiti Superski pass gathers together 1220km of slopes in 12 zones throughout the region! Explorers will be in heaven.